Books as Gifts

Holiday Buying Guide 2021

Cartoon bears reading in the snow

Even the short days of winter can be brightened when giving, sharing, and enjoying books with others. From the youngest to the oldest, children and adults can find tales of fact or fiction to warm up even the coldest day. Books make lasting gifts and memories that last a lifetime.

Happy Holidays from Reading Rockets!

 

For 0-3 Year Olds

5 Wild Homes

By: Happy Yak
Illustrated by: Natasha Durley
Genre: Nonfiction
Age Level: 0-3
Reading Level: Pre-Reader

Cheerful animal homes are depicted in bold shapes and bright colors accompanied by simple rhyme. A sturdy disc in a durable track on each page encourages readers to trace the outline of the home. Jolly animals are similarly presented in 5 Wild Animals .

A House

By: Kevin Henkes
Genre: Fiction
Age Level: 0-3
Reading Level: Pre-Reader

A house has windows, doors, etc. through day and night and seasons. However, it only becomes a home when a family arrives. A series of simple, straightforward questions combine with sunny, simple, elegant illustrations sure to engage even the youngest.

A Troop of Kangaroos

By: Lisa Mundorff
Genre: Nonfiction
Age Level: 0-3
Reading Level: Pre-Reader

Groups of animals are introduced ranging from a party of jays to a camp of bats. With a turn of the page, a sprightly, detailed illustration interprets the word literally on double page spreads. The result is a humorous but informative look at words, their various meanings, all while building vocabulary.

Animal 123

By: Nikolas Ilic
Genre: Nonfiction
Age Level: 0-3
Reading Level: Pre-Reader

Comical, colorful critters from one to 12 are illustrated. Cardinal numbers in both word and symbol are presented on sturdy double pages. Equally humorous are Animal Colors which looks at color while Animal ABC provides a bit of animal information along with the alphabet. 

Everybody in the Red Brick Building

By: Anne Wynter
Illustrated by: Oge Mora
Genre: Fiction
Age Level: 0-3
Reading Level: Pre-Reader

Baby Izzie’s middle-of-the-night awakening starts a chain reaction that wakes up everyone in the red brick apartment building. This cozy cumulative tale is filled with alliteration and onomatopoeia and illustrated in richly hued, textured collage illustrations.

Hungry Pets

By: Carly Madden
Illustrated by: Natalie Marshall
Genre: Nonfiction
Age Level: 0-3
Reading Level: Pre-Reader

Young readers can feed animals in these clever books. As sturdy pages turn, a pop-up mouth (or beak) opens just the right size for the “food” attached (by ribbons) stored at the back. Children will enjoy feeding the critters and may learn a thing or so along the way. Also in the series: Hungry Animals.

The Perfect Pet for You!

By: Estelle Laure
Illustrated by: Amy Hevron
Genre: Fiction
Age Level: 0-3
Reading Level: Pre-Reader

The child narrator asks practical questions about what kind of pet would be just right. Comfortable with a very quiet pet, the child chooses a turtle. Though not for the very youngest, childlike illustrations and gentle queries are sure to engage and start discussion.

Where’s Baby Elephant?

By: Ali Khodai
Age Level: 0-3
Reading Level: Pre-Reader

The simple question is addressed as flaps twice unfold to reveal different animals with their parents. Sturdy pages support lush illustrations which conclude when baby elephant is found — with mommy, of course!

Who Loves Little Lemur?

By: Ann Whitford Paul
Illustrated by: Jay Fleck
Age Level: 0-3
Reading Level: Pre-Reader

The smallest lemur in the troop is reassured by parents, siblings, grandparents, and all the lemurs that he is loved in this gently rhyming tale. Expressive illustrations combine with a surprisingly informative text to reassure family bonds as well as lemur habits.

Zoom: Construction Site Adventure

By: Susan Hayes
Illustrated by: Susanna Rumiz
Age Level: 0-3
Reading Level: Pre-Reader

A skyscraper is built from the ground up, surprising readers when the finished building pop-ups (literally!). The last image shows the boy who is satisfied after completing his tabletop structure. Real and imagined combine in the sturdy format sure to inform and delight.

For 3-6 Year Olds

A Hundred Thousand Welcomes

By: Mary Lee Donovan
Illustrated by: Lian Cho
Genre: Nonfiction
Age Level: 3-6
Reading Level: Beginning Reader

Many languages and cultures are used in a poetic journey around the world, each affirming that people welcome others. Warm watercolors show diverse people in a variety of settings. An afterword and pronunciation guide conclude this gentle, encouraging book.

Aaron Slater, Illustrator

By: Andrea Beaty
Illustrated by: David Roberts
Genre: Fiction
Age Level: 3-6
Reading Level: Beginning Reader

Although he loves stories, Aaron has trouble reading but has been an artist his whole life. With the help of Miss Greer, his astute 2nd grade teacher, Aaron’s gifts are realized and he gets help with reading. The rhyming text and illustrations call to mind the creators’ other collaborations and are equally captivating.

At This Very Moment

By: Matthew Hodson
Genre: Fiction
Age Level: 3-6
Reading Level: Beginning Reader

At this very moment, “a small mouse wakes up in the early morning sun”, a ripe plum that a worm will eat for tea, and more in this soothing look at one moment in time. Gentle text is complemented by evocative illustrations from various perspectives for a memorable, calming book.

Awake

By: Mags DeRoma
Genre: Fiction
Age Level: 3-6
Reading Level:

When a child realizes the small spider she finds in her room may be just as frightened of her as she is of it, rather than stomp it, she carefully moves it. Even the youngest spider-saver (or phobic) will appreciate the textured collage illustrations while building empathy.

Bear Is a Bear

By: Jonathan Stutzman
Illustrated by: Dan Santat
Genre: Fiction
Age Level: 3-6
Reading Level: Beginning Reader

Bear is all things to the child as she grows until Bear is put in a chest. However, Bear is not forgotten but is loved again by another child. Expressive illustrations and short text combine for a touching tale of one much treasured teddy over time even into the next generation.

Every Little Kindness

By: Marta Bartolj
Genre: Fiction
Age Level: 3-6
Reading Level: Beginning Reader

No words are needed in this quiet but handsomely illustrated story of the impact of one simple kindness as a girl searches for her lost dog. Quiet but captivating sequential art is reminiscent of a graphic novel and sure to resonate with careful readers.

I Will: A Book of Promises

By: Juana Medina
Genre: Nonfiction
Age Level: 3-6
Reading Level: Beginning Reader

Cartoon illustrations that use strong line and vivid color combine with a rhythmic text to present ways that encourage good choices. The diverse cast of characters engage in familiar activities which confirms the power of an individual. The book concludes with two kids holding hands saying, “I will join with you to make this a better world for everyone.”

Inside Cat

By: Brendan Wenzel
Genre: Fiction
Age Level: 3-6
Reading Level: Beginning Reader

Just when a big-eyed indoor cat thinks it knows all that it sees through various windows, it steps outside to discover a very different world. Illustrations in various media and staccato text are used to create a rich real and imagined world, perfect for multiple readings and close examination. 

Looking for a Jumbie

By: Tracey Baptiste
Illustrated by: Amber Ren
Genre: Fairytales, Folk Tales, and Tall Tales, Fiction
Age Level: 3-6
Reading Level: Beginning Reader

Naya’s mom says jumbies aren’t real but on a night with a full moon, the little girl goes out to find one. Instead, she meets other creatures straight from Caribbean folklore. Rich colors and not-too-scary characters combine with an engaging narration ideal for sharing aloud.

My Magic Wand: Growing with the Seasons

By: Pat Mora
Illustrated by: Amber Alvarez
Genre: Poetry, Fiction
Age Level: 3-6
Reading Level: Beginning Reader

Join a young child as she shares her magic wand — a pencil. Short poems celebrate the pleasures of a year of family, celebrations, and everyday experiences. Mixed-media illustrations complement the bright tone. A note by the author reminds readers that not all poems rhyme and will likely encourage writing.

Terrific!

By: Sophie Gilmore
Genre: Fiction
Age Level: 3-6
Reading Level: Beginning Reader

Five friends — owl, mandrill, anteater, turtle, and badger — try to decide what is terrific. When snake decides it is eating together, well, the other four must save themselves. Highly detailed, textured illustrations, and text reminiscent of a folktale create a tense but satisfying story of cooperation and friendship. 

The Fox and the Forest Fire

By: Danny Popvici
Genre: Fiction
Age Level: 3-6
Reading Level: Beginning Reader

A child narrates the move from city to country that he and his mother make. Though initially resistant, the boy soon learns to love his new environment even bonding with a fox. When a fire destroys all that was familiar, the forest, the family, and the fox rebuild. Dramatically illustrated, this is a story of resilience and hope; includes an afterward from the author.

The Littlest Yak

By: Lu Fraser
Illustrated by: Kate Hindley
Genre: Fiction
Age Level: 3-6
Reading Level: Beginning Reader

Gertie is the smallest yak who attempts to achieve bigness and learns size is not just on the outside. Only Gertie with her small stature can save a yak in danger in this droll, rhyming tale. While the story isn’t new, humorous hat-wearing yaks with large expressive eyes add freshness and fun. 

Training Day

By: Raúl The Third
Genre: Fiction
Age Level: 3-6
Reading Level: Beginning Reader

What can Kooky Dooky do help to inspire El Toro to train as a luchador for his next wrestling match? The first in a lively new series features animated characters and Spanish words for a fun romp. After the match, El Toro and his friend Oink Oink clean up in El Toro’s next adventure in Tag Team.

Wishes

By: Muon Thi Van
Illustrated by: Victo Ngai
Genre: Fiction
Age Level: 3-6
Reading Level: Beginning Reader

Lyrical text describes wishes as a family leaves its homeland in search of a better life. The boat wishes it was bigger, the home wishes it was closer, and the young narrator wishes they didn’t have to wish any more. Detailed illustrations in a muted palette evoke both the difficulty and hope of the journey. 

For 6-9 Year Olds

A True Wonder: The Comic Book Hero Who Changed Everything

By: Kirsten W. Larson
Illustrated by: Katy Wu
Genre: Nonfiction
Age Level: 6-9
Reading Level: Independent Reader

She’s been around since 1941 but remains perhaps the best known and most popular female superhero. Wonder Woman’s evolution is also a look at women’s history presented here in lively illustration and accessible informative text with excellent backmatter.

Audrey L and Audrey W: Best Friends-ish

By: Carter Higgins
Illustrated by: Jennifer Mann
Genre: Fiction
Age Level: 6-9
Reading Level: Independent Reader

Things are changing at the start of second grade for Audrey Locke. Her best friend Diego seems to have found other friends and to make matters worse, another Audrey is joining the class. Kids will recognize the minor crises in this recognizable, appealing, and generously illustrated story.

Britannica First Big Book of Why

By: Britannica Books
Genre: Nonfiction
Age Level: 6-9
Reading Level: Independent Reader

Readers are invited to dip in, browse, or read from cover to cover! This authoritative, fully sourced, informative, and positively fun book is filled with facts, all generously illustrated. 

Child of the Flower-Song People: Luz Jimenez, Daughter of the Nahua

By: Gloria Amescua
Illustrated by: Duncan Tonatiuh
Genre: Biography, Nonfiction
Age Level: 6-9
Reading Level: Independent Reader

Luz Jimenez would not forget her Nahua culture even after the Mexican Revolution. When she and her family resettled in Mexico City, Luz became a resource for artists and scholars as an Indigenous voice. Illustrated in Tonatiuh’s signature traditional style, the straightforward narrative is enhanced by complete backmatter.

Definitely Dominguita: All for One

By: Terry Catasús Jennings
Illustrated by: Fatima Anaya
Genre: Fiction
Age Level: 6-9
Reading Level: Independent Reader

With her favorite hat atop her head, Dominiguita visits the library to borrow The Three Musketeers. Thus begins the latest adventure of the Cuban American girl and her imaginative friends in this standalone book in the Dominguita series. Other titles include Knight of the Cape and Captain Dom’s Treasure.

Gizmos, Gadgets, And Guitars: The Story of Leo Fender

By: Michael Mahin
Illustrated by: Steven Salerno
Genre: Biography, Nonfiction
Age Level: 6-9
Reading Level: Independent Reader

Even as a kid, Leo was a tinkerer, always interested in fixing and inventing things. And although he wasn’t a musician, he built the first electric guitar! Illustrations capture the joy as well as the difficulties Leo confronted as he grew from a farm boy into a lauded inventor. Backmatter completes this absorbing book.

Haylee and Comet: A Tale of Cosmic Friendship

By: Deborah Marcero
Genre: Fiction
Age Level: 6-9
Reading Level: Independent Reader

Haylee wishes on a falling star for a friend and finds one when she catches Comet. Together Comet, a yellow coma shaped celestial being, and Haylee make a Friend Ship to celebrate. Simple shapes in comic book format depict the warmth of their unique but recognizable friendship in short chapters.  

Niki Nakayama: A Chef’s Tale in 13 Bites

By: Jamie Michalak, Debbi Michiko Florence
Illustrated by: Yuko Jones
Genre: Biography, Nonfiction
Age Level: 6-9
Reading Level: Independent Reader

Readers are invited to “Come. Sit. Taste…” a female chef’s determination to succeed. Chef Niki became known for the fusion of Japanese and American foods bringing a unique flavor to America. A brief discussion of kuyashii (defeated feeling) and kaiseki (a traditional Japanese feast) plus a Wonton Pizza recipe concludes this fascinating book.

One Moment in Time

By: Ben Lerwill
Illustrated by: Alette Straathof
Genre: Nonfiction
Age Level: 6-9
Reading Level: Independent Reader

When Javier is having breakfast at 7 a.m. in Mexico, it’s 8 a.m. in New York City and Kayla is getting her backpack ready for school. Meet kids from around the world and find out what they’re doing one hour at a time. This brief look at different places, times, and cultures is expressively illustrated punctuated with visual and textual detail. 

Pigskins to Paintbrushes: The Story of Football-Playing Artist Ernie Barnes

By: Don Tate
Genre: Biography, Nonfiction
Age Level: 6-9
Reading Level: Independent Reader

Ernie always had an interest in art but that was not a good thing when he was a kid. He grew up to become a professional football player, but a career-ending injury opened the door to art. Ernie’s story is sure to inspire young readers that more than one career is possible. Complete backmatter includes additional information including a bibliography and where to see Ernie’s artwork.

Playing at the Border: A Story of Yo-Yo Ma

By: Joanna Ho
Illustrated by: Teresa Martinez
Genre: Nonfiction
Age Level: 6-9
Reading Level: Independent Reader

Music is the intersection of cultures as this hopeful story of cellist Yo-Yo Ma reminds readers. He played Bach’s cello suites for people in two countries near the Rio Grande River, “a boundary dividing two countries that used to be one.” Sweeping illustration and lyrical text are completed by an afterward and additional information about the actual event. 

Shapes and Patterns in Nature

By: Stepanka Sekaninova, Jana Sedlackova
Illustrated by: Magdalena Konecna
Genre: Nonfiction
Age Level: 6-9
Reading Level: Independent Reader

Look closely. Notice the recurring shapes that create patterns that abound in nature. Senses are sure to be heightened when examining the highly realistic illustrations accompanied by minimal text in this attractive oversized volume just right to inspire.

Starla Jean Takes the Cake

By: Elana Arnold
Illustrated by: A.N. Kang
Genre: Fiction
Age Level: 6-9
Reading Level: Independent Reader

Starla Jean and her parents are preparing for Willa’s first birthday celebration. But will her pet chicken, Opal Egg, lay the needed egg in time? Though Starla Jean and Opal Egg were first introduced in Starla Jean, this lighthearted adventure stands alone and is equally engaging. 

Sydney and Taylor Take a Flying Leap

By: Jacqueline Davies
Illustrated by: Deborah Hocking
Genre: Fiction
Age Level: 6-9
Reading Level: Independent Reader

Hedgehog Taylor wants to fly despite his skunk friend, Sydney’s trepidation about it. This funny, warm tale of friendship is generously illustrated with complementary illustrations that augment the tone. Young readers may have met the duo in their other adventure, Sydney and Taylor Explore the Whole Wide World.

Tiny Tales: Shell Quest

By: Seph Waldo
Genre: Fiction
Age Level: 6-9
Reading Level: Independent Reader

A small shell-less slug wants a shell like a snail. The slug and a kindhearted snail share an adventure and find friendship in this early graphic novel just right for newly independent readers. Humorous art of comical critters populates the pages for a lighthearted look at camaraderie.

For 9-12 Year Olds

Absurd Words

By: Tara Lazar
Genre: Nonfiction
Age Level: 9-12
Reading Level: Independent Reader

Written by a vocab virtuoso, this book is sure to add oomph to even the most blasé reader. A host of less often used words are presented with their meaning, a pronunciation guide, and roots all formatted to engage and entertain. 

Ancestor Approved: Intertribal Stories for Kids

By: Cynthia Leitich Smith
Genre: Short Stories, Fiction
Age Level: 9-12
Reading Level: Independent Reader

Short stories by well and lesser-known Indigenous writers present a range of tales about contemporary young people from different tribes and regions at a Michigan powwow. They range from humorous to serious, but each provides a glimpse at the power of community support. Created in partnership with We Need Diverse Books.

Beasts and Beauty: Dangerous Tales

By: Soman Chainani
Illustrated by: Julia Iredale
Genre: Short Stories, Fairytales, Folk Tales, and Tall Tales
Age Level: 9-12
Reading Level: Independent Reader

Sophisticated readers will recognize the bones of 12 well-known European folktales, recast here with a decidedly 21st century sensibility. Not for the fainthearted, the stories presented are more diverse with few “happily ever afters” as the subtitle suggests.

Black Ballerinas

By: Misty Copeland
Genre: Nonfiction
Age Level: 9-12
Reading Level: Independent Reader

Prima ballerina Misty Copeland was 16 years old before she saw a Black ballerina on a magazine cover. In short, personal essays each accompanied by a stunning portrait, trailblazing dancers are introduced.

Chunky

By: Yehudi Mercado
Genre: Biography
Age Level: 9-12
Reading Level: Independent Reader

Hudi’s dad is athletic, but Hudi is not. Hudi is funny and well, chunky. In this fictionalized memoir, Hudi confronts his family’s expectation, school bullies, and how to be true to his real interests. The graphic format captures the tone, tensions, and wit of the story.

Garlic and the Vampire

By: Bree Paulsen
Genre: Fiction, Fantasy
Age Level: 9-12
Reading Level: Independent Reader

Everyone knows that garlic repels vampires and so it falls to Garlic to rid her vegetable community of the newcomer. This delightfully illustrated tale with anthropomorphized plants with a kindly witch is more charming than spooky concluding with very satisfying if unexpected friendships.

Jailbreak at Alcatraz

By: Tom Sullivan
Genre: Nonfiction, Mystery
Age Level: 9-12
Reading Level: Independent Reader

Alcatraz prison was considered inescapable. So how did three men get out and what happened to them? The unsolved mystery is presented in illustration and text in an open format. Actual period photographs and other graphics are included. The author presents another unsolved mystery in Escape at 10000 Feet: B.D. Cooper and the Missing Money.

Listified!

By: Andrew Pettie
Illustrated by: Andres Lozano
Genre: Nonfiction
Age Level: 9-12
Reading Level: Independent Reader

Readers of all ages are sure to find a topic to intrigue in one of the eight chapters in this large volume. From Whiz Kids to Game Changers, the information is presented in digestible portions perfect for browsing. The lighthearted tone is enhanced by many illustrations.

Marshmallow and Jordan

By: Alina Chau
Genre: Fiction
Age Level: 9-12
Reading Level: Independent Reader

An accident puts an end to Jordan’s basketball playing but after she finds wounded white elephant, things change. Jordan names him Marshmallow and helps her discover a new sport. The lush Indonesian setting comes alive in charismatic, sprightly illustrations.

Once Upon a Camel

By: Kathi Appelt
Illustrated by: Eric Rohmann
Genre: Historical Fiction
Age Level: 9-12
Reading Level: Independent Reader

Zada, an old camel now living in the Texas desert, entertains two baby birds with stories of her old life in the Middle East. Inspired by real historical events (camels in Texas), this fascinating tale unwinds in rich language and realistic but expressive sketches throughout.

The Beatryce Prophecy

By: Kate DiCamillo
Illustrated by: Sophie Blackall
Genre: Fiction, Fantasy
Age Level: 9-12
Reading Level: Independent Reader

It all started when a king learned of that a girl would unseat him and change the world. How a girl, a monk, and a goat named Answelica come together for a riveting tale handsomely illustrated to create a medieval world in which the unexpected can and does occur.

The Insiders

By: Mark Oshiro
Genre: Fiction, Fantasy
Age Level: 9-12
Reading Level: Independent Reader

When Hector and his mom leave their San Francisco home, the 12-year-old becomes an outsider, bullied because of his dramatic flair and love of theater. He takes refuge from his tormenters in a janitor’s closet where he meets two other outsiders — from different schools in different states. The contemporary fantasy is heartwarming with a gratifying conclusion.

The People Remember

By: Ibi Zoboi
Illustrated by: Loveis Wise
Genre: Nonfiction
Age Level: 9-12
Reading Level: Independent Reader

Art and lyrical language weave together a history of African Americans from the time when they were taken from their homeland to the Black Lives Matter movement. The history is intertwined with principles of Kwanzaa which was first celebrated in 1966. This handsome book is meant to be shared.

We Can: Portraits of Power

By: Tyler Gordon
Genre: Biography, Nonfiction
Age Level: 9-12
Reading Level: Independent Reader

A teenaged artist who was deaf until he was six years old shares his story and how the lives of well-known figures have inspired him, including the painting of Vice President Kamala Harris. Tyler’s inspirations come from many people, each presented here with a commentary from the artist about the subject and their impact on him. 

Whales: Diving into the Unknown

By: Casey Zakroff
Illustrated by: Pat Lewis
Genre: Nonfiction
Age Level: 9-12
Reading Level: Independent Reader

Fiction and fact combine as a young beaked whale shares information about his pod, whales, and other aspects of marine biology as he talks to other ocean inhabitants. Backmatter includes additional source notes, a whale glossary, and a human impact glossary. Altogether, this is an unusual approach to a key environmental issue. (Part of the Science Comics series)

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