Holiday gift ideas…. Great books for your favorite reader

I love to talk books, and I am constantly on the hunt for books that will get students talking. I know I have found a winner when my younger students break into applause at the end or my older students create a list for who is next to borrow a chapter book.

The following recommendations are a few of my hot-off-the-press favorites, all published in the last two years, and books my students keep talking about.  A holiday break is around the corner – a time just begging for a new book. These would all make excellent holiday gifts or great finds at your library.

Picture Books

The Day the Crayons Came Home by Drew Daywalt

In 2013, author Drew Daywalt wrote The Day the Crayons Quit. This bestseller had children all over the country laughing out loud as Duncan’s box of crayons threatened to quit due to mistreatment. In the newly released companion book, Duncan has a whole new group of crayons to deal with – the forgotten crayons, begging to be cared for and returned to their position as creators of art. Each page of this book is a letter, written by a crayon longing to be brought home. Children won’t be able to resist these delightful yet ridiculous crayons.

Finding Winnie: The True Story of the World’s Most Famous Bear by Lindsay Mattick

Believe it or not, it didn’t all start deep in the Hundred Acre Wood, but there really was a Christopher Robin and a Winnie. In this true story, we read about veterinarian and soldier Harry Colebourn, who was fighting in Europe during WWI, and rescued a young black bear, Winnie. Harry is heartbroken when he is shipped out to France and must leave Winnie behind in the hands of the London Zoo.  Find out about the real bear who inspired the honey loving, chubby little tubby all stuffed with fluff Pooh Bear we all adore.

The Bear Ate Your Sandwich by Julia Sarcone-Roach

When a bear finds himself in the middle of the city, he makes the best of it – exploring, climbing, and smelling his way to new adventures. Sure enough, his nose leads him to an unattended sandwich. After gobbling up the sandwich, he quickly flees the scene and heads back home to the forest. Just when you think this delightful story is wrapping up, you will be shocked when you turn the last page. Shhh. My lips are sealed. I’m a sucker for a surprise ending.

The Book With No Pictures by B.J. Novak

This one doesn’t quite make the two-year cut off, but it is too good to leave off my list! Author B.J. Novak proved he could make adults laugh when he wrote, produced, and starred in the hit television show, The OfficeThe Books With No Pictures is his first crack at children’s literature, and Novak proves he knows how to get kids howling. This clever and hilarious book has no pictures. Sounds boring, right? The catch is that whoever reads this book aloud, MUST read every word written on the page, including nonsense words like Blork, ridiculous voices, and silly sentences like “My head is made of blueberry pizza.” Check out this clip of Novak reading his book to a gym full of students.

Pink is for Blobfish by Jess Keating

As both a teacher and mom, I have found that weird, disgusting animals never cease to enthrall children of all ages, and Pink is for Blobfish won’t disappoint. If you thought pink was only for tutus and princesses, you will be amazed by all the pink creatures roaming around the animal kingdom. This nonfiction picture book is filled with pink – pink dolphins, slugs, insects, and rats. Excellent photographs and chock-full of interesting facts!

Chapter Books

Circus Mirandus by Cassie Beasley

My true confession – I wasn’t expecting to like this book. I’m not usually drawn to fantasy, so when the back of this book asked me “Do you believe in magic?” I said “Nope,” and moved on. But it wouldn’t go away. People kept talking about – teachers, students – it was spreading like wildfire. I had to see what all the hype was about. As it turns out, I couldn’t put it down.

Micah’s dying Grandpa is ready to cash in on a miracle owed to him by the most powerful magician in the circus. Micah is the only one who believes his Grandpa’s stories about Circus Mirandus, so it is up to him to find this circus and the man who can save his Grandpa.

The Terrible Two by Mac Barnett

Fans of Diary of a Wimpy Kid or the Big Nate series have found their next read! Miles Murphy moves to a new school only to find his role as prankster is already taken by Niles Sparks. After dueling it out, these terrible two decide to team up for the ultimate prank. Their comical friendship creates a page turning, hilarious novel. Good news! A second novel, The Terrible Two Get Worse, is equally hilarious and a third book is due out next year.

Fish In a Tree by Lynda Mullaly Hunt

“Everybody is smart in different ways. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its life believing it is stupid.” –Albert Einstein

Ally knows what it feels like to struggle in school, and she has become an expert at distractions and excuses even if it means causing trouble. Ally is desperately trying to fly under the radar, but that all changes when her new teacher, Mr. Daniels, sees past her low grades and lack of participation. With his help, Ally begins to see herself differently and is opened to a world of possibilities. This is the kind of novel we all need. It is a story of persevering even when we feel like we’re just not cutting it.

Crenshaw by Katherine Applegate

Ever since reading The One and Only Ivan, I have been waiting for Katherine Applegate to write another novel, and I’m happy to say Crenshaw did not disappoint.  In this story, ten-year-old Jackson and his family are once again facing financial difficulty. Despite a pending eviction notice, Jackson’s family would rather laugh off their troubles then face them. Jackson tries to dismiss Crenshaw, an old imaginary friend who shows up to help, but it isn’t easy to ignore a seven-foot cat. Young readers will relate to the fears and vulnerability in this story. Applegate does an excellent job exploring a difficult topic.

Happy holidays and happy reading!


Written by Joy Becker, 44 & Oxford  and Connections Blog Contributor