Books as Gifts
Holiday Buying Guide 2012
What better gift to give than one that can be shared again and again?
Books are just that kind of gift. They create memories, too, when read by and with children. This year's list was carefully crafted with just one idea in mind — to find books so engaging that the TV is happily turned off and the iPad and electronic games are put away.
Season's Readings from Reading Rockets!
Browse through the 2012 holiday buying guides online or download and print the PDFs before you head out to the library or store.
- Download 2012 Books as Gifts Buying Guide (456K PDF)
- See books for 0-4 year olds or download the list (408K PDF)
- See books for 4-5 year olds or download the list (413K PDF)
- See books for 6-7 year olds or download the list (423K PDF)
- See books for 8-9 year olds or download the list (455K PDF)
- See audio books for the whole family
For 4-5 year olds
A Home for Bird
Vernon, a toad, is a steadfast friend. He stands by stoic Bird until they find Bird's perfect home. Expressive, softly colored, informal illustrations are worth close examination and complement the tender tale of friendship and faithfulness.
Bear Has a Story to Tell
Bear wants to share his story though his friends are preoccupied with winter preparation. When they gather again at winter's end, Bear's friends remind him of his story. Tender text and gentle illustrations by the Caldecott-medal winning husband & wife team is sure to engage.
Bird Talk: What Birds Are Saying and Why
Birds communicate by the sounds they make and the way they act. Playful illustrations and text combine to present a range of birds and their behavior not only is a visual treat but is sure to enliven everyday observation of our feathered neighbors.
Birds of a Feather
The oversized book opens with white on black outlines of a part of a bird. Lift them up to find a full-color illustration of the bird with brief information about it followed by flaps of feathers, eggs that pop up into a bird, and other interactive devices to keep readers engaged.
Cock-a-Doodle-Doo, Creak, Pop-Pop, Moo
There's a lot going on around the farm from sun-up to sundown. It's described here with onomatopoeic sounds, jaunty rhymes, and illustrations reminiscent of times past. Children are sure to join in and laugh with the sprightly telling.
Count Me In! A Parade of Mexican Folk Art
Join the parade and count from one to ten in Spanish and in English. Numbers and a one-sentence description of the ceramic figures in regional dress from Oaxaca, Mexico are presented in both languages, punctuated by lively folk art figures.
Annabelle finds a box with colorful yarn from which she makes sweater for all, adding color and life to a dull landscape. The box is empty when stolen by a greedy man but is yarn-filled when it returns to Annabelle. Textured pictures and understated text on open pages tell an engaging yarn.
Goldilocks and the Three Dinosaurs
The author turns the familiar tale around in this funny take-off. Here, Goldilocks goes to the home of three dinosaurs who would like nothing more than a chocolate-filled little girl. Goldi and the dinos take away very different lessons — all to the delight of well-read children!
I Am So Handsome
The arrogant wolf's self-confidence is bolstered by his encounters with family characters from fairy tales, until he meets a small dragon whose father has taught the tiny lizard a very impressive skill. Comic illustrations and understated text create a very funny and satisfying tale.
Into the A, B, Sea
Readers are invited into the ocean to see some of its colorful inhabitants from A to Z. Arresting, textured collage illustrations enhance the rhyming couplets that move through the alphabet. Additional brief information about each creature concludes this attractive and informative book.
Lemonade in Winter
An entrepreneurial sister and her brother decide to make and sell lemonade on a snowy winter day. It's a chance for Pauline to help John-John learn about money, have a bit of fun, and meet some neighbors. Playful language and quirky illustrations turn a dull day into an adventure.
When a downcast magpie is given a single marble by a mouse, it starts its accumulation of many more things until its nest crashes to the ground. Magpie and mouse determine that more isn't necessarily best. Their tale is told with few words but lush, detailed, and expressive illustrations.
As midnight strikes, he appears: "Hand over hand, the ninja climbed and clambered." Just as the ninja reaches his target, he's caught by his mother with ice cream and spoon in hand! Textured collage illustrations and spare language dramatically evoke a satisfying nighttime mystery
Ribbit-oops! Frog falls into a deep hole, followed by other animals who try to help. Oh, no! Stalked by a hungry tiger, saved by a gentle elephant the drama of the story is enhanced by richly hued illustrations and lots of playful patterns of sounds and language sure to be repeated.
Olive and the Big Secret
Molly told Olive a secret which Olive promised not to tell anyone. Secrets have a way of bubbling out though and so Molly's secret comes back to her. This familiar dilemma is humorously presented with cartoon illustrations and short text with an unexpected conclusion.
Oliver is a curious child with lots of questions and a penchant for exploration. During quiet time at home, Oliver builds a contraption to find out if there's a monster in the tub drain. His imaginative jaunt is presented with droll, naïve drawings, filled with Oliver's child-like ideas.
Lyrical language combines with luminous illustrations to detail the life cycle of a male seahorse from small fry (the term for babies) to father. Surprisingly, seahorses change color with the surroundings and males carry the eggs. An author's note provides additional information.
A polar bear journeys from one exotic setting to another winding up with a friend looking at the stars. The bear's expedition is revealed without words, using soft-lined, expressive, whimsical illustrations.
This Is Not My Hat
The narrator, a very small fish, snitches a much larger fish's hat and hides out where he thinks no one can see him. The wordless conclusion is humorous and satisfying in this stylized, expressively illustrated book sure to generate conversations among readers. (2013 Caldecott Medal Winner)
Z is for Moose
Zebra lines up participants to begin this very funny alphabet book. As A bounds up stairs to take the stage, Zebra peeks out. All goes smoothly until Moose says D is for Moose, bouncing Duck; Moose continues to irritate other letters until Z. Children who know the alphabet will delight in the slapstick humor and satisfying conclusion.
Zephyr Takes Flight
Zephyr's imagination takes off when her family is too busy to play or watch her fly her model plane do spectacular feats. Through a hidden door, Zephyr finds friends, flying ships, returning home in time for breakfast. Comfortable, old-fashioned illustrations complement the telling.
For 0-4 year olds
A Mary Blair Treasure of Golden Books
A collection of early Golden Books illustrated by an artist who (as stated in the introduction) influenced Disney films are presented in a new, larger format. Though retro in feel (and reality) the playful stories, poems and songs effectively capture the joy in simple things.
African Animal Alphabet
Stunning animal photographs are presented from Antelope to Zebra. The Jouberts share their expertise, insight and information along with the photographs in this attractive book that can be shared at different levels.
Rounded dinosaurs from A to Z are presented with an alliterative text sure to delight young paleontologists. Similarly, in Colorasaurus dinosaurs stampede across a colorful prehistoric landscape.
A cheerful, much loved baby hears everyday sounds when at play, on a walk outdoors, and in the car. Even the youngest child will enjoy sharing this sweet, simple book with an adult.
Bea at Ballet
Readers learn about what dancers wear as Bea and her friend, Sam, prepare for their ballet class. In the class of chubby preschoolers, they share the joys and humor along with other young dancers through simple language and crisply lined illustrations that capture the experience.
Lillian, Tilly, and William J. start their energetic adventure when "They choose a spot. They spot some ewes." The homophones and silliness continue until the exhausted cats relax with a good book. Boldly shaped, colorful illustrations illuminate the animated, rhythmic language.
Dini, a young dinosaur, desperately needs a bath after playing in the mud. Young readers will quickly figure out that before he washes, he must take off his shoes, pants, etc. The repetition is sure to delight the youngest as they identify what Dini has left. Text and simple, flat illustrations show "Dirty Dini Dinosaur" as he splashes in the tub and into his loving mother's arms.
Duck Sock Hop
Ducks don daring socks for their weekly Duck Sock Hop. Colorful, textured illustrations of ducks in top hats and amazing socks dance through the pages, an effective accompaniment to the alliterative, animated rhymes.
Fluid verse and detailed, bordered illustrations present the water homes of a range of fish. Those interested in finding out more about the individual creatures presented may want to locate Stockdale's informational picture book with the same title.
I Like Old Clothes
An imaginative child shares her pleasure in old clothing, repurposing them and finding joy in imagining the history, mystery surrounding them. Soft, expressive illustrations accompany the lively rhythmic, rhyming text.
A red sports car with an attitude challenges a train to see who can get to Chicago first. Even loaded with freight, the train handily wins but graciously offers the car a ride home. Train lovers of all ages will enjoy the humorous portraits of the vehicles' personalities and the staccato text.
In the Woods
Short, rhyming verse combines with outdoor scenes as a boy and his dad share a camping trip. Their day is presented from fishing to cooking their dinner, until the boy — with "Nodding head/Time for bed" — is carried into their tent by his dad.
Kite Day: A Bear and Mole Story
When Bear looked at the sky and smelled the air, he ran to get his friend Mole. Together they make and fly a kite. A sudden storm tears the kite away from them but disappointment turns to satisfaction in this affably illustrated story told with repetition and onomatopoeia.
Little Tug isn't the tallest, fastest or biggest boat in the harbor but he is able to push, pull and guide each of his larger friends to safety. And they respond with affection. Little Tug's day is presented in simple language and carefully crafted, expressive illustrations.
Look Look Outside
Just outside a baby's window there is a world of activity and goings-on. Stylized illustrations in bold black and white line with text in green are just right to share with very young children, perhaps to encourage conversation and observation.
Mice on Ice
Colorful mice are shown skating when the outline of a cat appears on the ice. The cat with a hat winds up joining the skating party. Limited vocabulary is enhanced by vibrant illustrations that together create mild tension to move the tale to its sunny conclusion.
Poetic language introduces a moonlit evening when "Moonlight slides like butter", touching sleeping rabbit, “butters Rabbit's dreams/.../shakes him out of bed..." to dance in the field. Darkly hued illustrations touched by butter yellow evoke the gentle night and its wonder.
Snowboy 1, 2, 3
One snowboy all alone begins the count to 10 then reverses to count down to where it started. Computer-generated art is colorful with patterned, wintery icons and images. The sound of language and the interesting visuals make the counting — and the book — satisfying.
Ten Tiny Toes
It's hard to resist babies and baby toes which are "a hundred times sweeter than one could suppose." A sweet, rhyming homage to babies, families, and a lifetime of affection is presented here with textured, softly colored illustrations.
The Big Book of Words and Pictures
On each sturdy, oversized page appear numerous pictures and labels generally grouped by subject such as music and musical instruments, things that go, etc. Though small, the illustrations are distinct and clear, often with a story imbedded.
Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star
Additional verses are added to the familiar ditty and illustrated in the artist's signature naïve style. The little star sparkles, flickers, shimmers, and glistens around the whole world watched by animal parents and their young in different settings ending with a human baby and mother.
Morning routines may never seem the same after sharing day's start with a small, chubby knight in armor and his long-eared dog who climb a ladder to wake up large dragons. Cheerful, bright, amusing illustrations and catchy rhymes propel readers to the satisfying start of the day.
For 8-9 year olds: To read on their own
A Place for Bats
The benefits of human actions to help bat survival are introduced in this readable, realistically illustrated and well-sourced introduction. A variety of bats are included with their range identified on clear maps.
Dinosaurs Before Dark
Time-traveling siblings, Jack and Annie, are celebrating their 20th anniversary in print. Join them on their first fantastic Magic Tree House adventure to the time of dinosaurs. The occasion is celebrated with new illustrations, updated dino info, and a letter from the author.
Halfway to Perfect
Dyamonde Daniel is confident, perceptive and willing to figure out what is really bothering her friend Damaris. Lively language captures the angst and joys of 3rd grade, friendships, even and the feelings of a plausible character with juvenile diabetes.
Make Your Mark: The Drawing Book for Children
Making a mark is easy, just do it! literally. Beginning with tools of the trade (paper, pens, etc.), children are encouraged to explore the language and techniques of drawing. From basic to sophisticated, the brief text and black/white illustration are sure to engage while they inform.
Meat-Eating Plants: Toothless Wonders
Stunning full-color photographs and crisp text introduce plants that gain nutrients by capturing unsuspecting insects and small animals. Locations where they grow are placed on maps, brief experiments, and additional resources conclude this engaging look at hungry plants.
Ringtale: Miner's Cat
Who was the uninvited guest found munching in a California office? It was a ringtail! Though sometimes called a cat, the small, winsome mammal is related to the raccoon. Meet David Hyatt as he studies ringtail habits and habitat, all presented in affable text and striking color photos.
Snakes are presented through up-close and personal image and text for and engaging, informative look at a host of colorful and handsome reptiles. The photographer, also a biologist, concludes with insight into his experiences photographing the sometimes uncooperative subjects.
The Boy Who Cried Alien
Larry, like the boy who cried wolf, is known for his prevarication. He winds up a hero, however, when he tells the truth about space aliens. Illustrations in comic book format and jazzy rhyming text and coded alien-speak are sure to tickle funny bones.
The Hero of Little Street
A red-shirted boy is pursued by boys angered when their soccer ball winds up in a fountain. He takes refuge in an art museum which begins a fantastical adventure involving paintings-come-to-life, a wicked butcher, a dog, and lasting friendship — all through expressive, comic illustrations.
The Legend of Diamond Lil: A J.J. Tully Mystery
J.J. Tully, retired search-&-rescue dog, continues to protect a flock of chickens. But trouble is afoot! Is there a connection between the attractive new canine next door and the villain who is after the chicks? Will J.J. figure it out in time? Readers will laugh as they solve the mystery.
For 8-9 year olds: To read with you
A Strange Place to Call Home
Textured collage and paint illustration and various poetic forms are used to introduce creatures that live in difficult, dangerous places. Ice worms in "Frozen Solid," for example, "…If lurking in the deepest seas,/Why not between the glacial ice,/helped by their own antifreeze?"
Hide and Seek
Complex engineered paper constructions create a series of worlds in which viewers are encouraged to locate various objects. In one, "Five black spots, four blossoms blue" and more are hidden in a lush garden that emerges from a red page. Each spread deserves many examinations.
I Have a Dream
Perhaps one of the best known speeches of the 20th century, Martin Luther King's "I Have a Dream" has been combined with lush paintings in a large format for a new generation. Included in this stunning book is a CD of Dr. King's original speech.
Moby Dick: Chasing the Great White Whale
Herman Melville's classic tale of the great white whale and the sea captain who sought him has been recast and simplified. The rhyming ballad is reminiscent of a sea chantey, capturing essential plot elements. Lush illustrations lighten the tone for young, contemporary readers.
Return to the Willows
Toad, Mole, Rat and Badger are back in this sequel to Kenneth Grahame's 1908 Wind in the Willows. Though several new characters are introduced, the lush language evokes the original saga and may lead readers to revisit the original.
Starry River of the Sky
Rendi, a self-centered, unhappy boy runs away from home and winds up in a sad town. Storytelling, however, instigated by a mysterious newcomer allows Rendi to mature and help the villagers. The rich narrative incorporates tales inspired by Chinese tales in this worthy companion to Where the Mountain meets the Moon.
The Arrow Finds Its Mark: A Book of Found Poems
Words are everywhere and so, too, are poems; that is, if you know how to look. Those included in this small, illustrated anthology have been compiled from words in likely and unlikely locations to present a range of topics, sure to inspire young readers to find poems of their own.
The One and Only Ivan
Ivan lives in a "domain" at the Exit 8 Big Top Mall. In evocative language and gentle illustrations Ivan's story unfolds through his touching, taut, yet hopeful narration. It's a chronicle of friendship, loyalty, and the power of art. (2013 Newbery Medal Winner)
Tilly's Moonlight Garden
A fox lives near the old house where Tilly and her parents have moved far from friends and the familiar. She follows the fox one night into a secret, moonlit garden where she finds friendship. Rich language, a calm pace, and a suggestion of magic create a memorable story.
For 6-7 year olds: To read with you
Abe Lincoln's Dream
When Quincy leaves her tour of the White House, she sees a tall man standing over the Gettysburg Address. Quincy shares jokes with the ghost and helps him realize that the states are indeed united. The tall, pale ghost of Abe Lincoln can now rest easy.
Dreaming Up: A Celebration of Building
Recognizable constructions from childhood such as blocks and sandcastles and playful verse are juxtaposed to actual photos of architectural landmarks from around the globe. A note about the structure and the architects conclude this imaginative look at art and architecture.
Lydia tires of her electronic devices while her parents and brother are enmeshed in theirs. A small leaf beckons the girl outdoors, propelling her into an imaginative outdoor adventure. Sure to start conversations among plugged-in family members, this genial fantasy is playful and light.
Jangles: A Big Fish Story
Jangles is the fish of legendary proportion. He's evaded everything from special lures to dynamite from fishermen on Big Lake. The narrator shares his father's story about Jangles, realistically illustrated in deeply hued colors for a fish tale of gigantic proportion.
An observant girl shares her observations and appreciation of ducks as she and her mother walk and watch. Information appears on open pages that sport informal illustrations and lively language for a memorable look at these feathered delights.
Land of Milk and Honey
The author recounts her family's move by train from Oklahoma to California, the "land of milk and honey." Evocative language and luxurious illustration create a warm recollection from a child's perspective.
Magical Life of Mr. Renny
With the help of a little bit of magic, Mr. Renny's paintings come to life, literally. But when his friend Rose wants a painting, how will the floppy-eared canine artist reverse the charm? A touch of traditional tales is sure to delight adult sensibilities but the book is sure to charm children.
Ostrich and Lark
Vivid paintings by San artists, an artists' project of Botswana, accompany an original story about the ostrich that finds his voice and changes the veld. Lyrical language will read aloud well and evokes a strong sense of place.
Seed by Seed: The Legend and Legacy of John "Appleseed" Chapman
John Chapman, better known as Johnny Appleseed, changed his world "seed by seed, deed by deed" as this handsome book encourages readers to do. Children are encouraged to celebrate Johnny Appleseed's anniversary every autumn by planting seeds literally and figuratively.
The World's Greatest Lion
The story of Zamba, an orphaned lion is dramatically told in highly realistic watercolors and a vibrant narrative. Named for his native Zambia, Zamba's gentle nature made his a film star but he became a hero rescuing animals from a flood. This touching tale is based on an actual lion.
Unspoken: A Story from the Underground Railroad
Readers are encouraged to tell the story of a brave farm girl who provides food to someone who has escaped in this sophisticated, expressive, wordless book. Inspired by family stories, the author allows adults to fill in the historical detail while children recognize the story's power.
For 6-7 year olds: To read on their own
Every day you do so many things. How does your body do them? begins this brief, informative look at the human body and its systems (e.g., digestive, skeletal, etc.). Color photographs with overlays further enhance the engaging presentation.
As a young shoeshine boy tries to return the red scarf that floats down to him, he meets a host of people from different backgrounds. He finally locates the rightful owner of the scarf and winds up with a happy surprise. Illustrations in comic book style move the satisfying story quickly.
Let's Go for a Drive (An Elephant and Piggie Book)
Elephant and Piggie gather everything they might possibly need when they decide to go for a drive. They have every possible thing except…the car! Humor abounds as the dynamic duo prepare and then adapt their travel plans.
Look! Another Book
Solid colored pages with die-cuts to peek through to busy spreads and cheery rhymes encourage readers to look closely to try to find what is hidden. Settings differ and objects abound in this playful game book.
Penny and Her Song
Henkes' first easy reader introduces Penny and her mouse family in two appealing chapters. Penny must wait to share her original song until after dinner. When she does, not only do her parents join in, the babies respond in a surprising way. Henkes' signature illustrations expressively complement the well-paced narrative.
Saving Yasha: The Incredible True Story of an Adopted Moon Bear
The rescue and return to the wild of an orphaned moon bear (aka Asiatic black bear) is documented in clear language and action-paced photographs. A map of Yasha's homeland as well as a note from the scientist who worked with her and additional resources are included.
The Sneaky Snow Fox
Could the ears and tail be the frightening fox that Jilli was just reading about? When her dog, Fiercely, takes off is he chasing the fox? Jilli and her friend Jim venture out into the snow to find out in this gently mysterious wintery tale.
There's a Fly Guy in My Soup
In this latest installment about a boy named Buzz and his pet fly, Fly Guy, takes readers on a slapstick journey that gives new meaning to the old joke about the fly in the soup. Bug-eyed characters and absurd situations with easy language propel readers to the silly, satisfying end.
Who Has This Tail?
Animal tails have different uses. A scorpion's tail is used to sting its prey while a beaver uses its tail to navigate in water. A close-up of a tail and the titular question is followed by a picture of the animal and its tail in action for a playful but edifying book.
The classic story of friendship and how a spider named Charlotte saves Wilbur, a small pig, from certain death with words in a web is now more than 50 years old. Nonetheless, it remains as fresh as the day it was first written.
Cheshire Cheese Cat: A Dickens of a Tale
Dickens's England comes to life from the perspective of an alley cat.
In this 3rd book about Pacy, she and her family plan to go to Taiwan to celebrate her grandmother's birthday.
Malcolm at Midnight
Malcolm the rat narrates his adventures in Mr. Binney's fifth-grade class. At night, the school comes alive with the Midnight Academy, a secret society of classroom pets that protects the school. When the leader (an iguana named Aggy) goes missing, Malcolm sets out to find Aggy to ensure her safety and to clear his name.
The Wonderful Wizard of Oz
This beloved fantasy begins in Kansas when Dorothy Gale and her dog, Toto, are transported to another land by way of a cyclone. There she meets the Scarecrow, Tin Woodsman, and Cowardly Lion as well as a host of other extraordinary characters. The movie classic, released in 1939, retains the essence of this quintessentially American tale which was first published in 1900.
Proceeds from the sale of books purchased at Amazon.com help support the Reading Rockets project. Thank you!