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Books Make Great Holiday Gifts for Kids – A Roundup




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cover illustration from Drawn Together by Minh Lê with art by Dan Santat
Interior art from Drawn Together by Minh Lê and illustrated by Dan Santat
Interior illustrations from Drawn Together written by Minh Lê and illustrated by Dan Santat, Disney-Hyperion ©2018.
Written by Minh Lê

Illustrated by Dan Santat
(Disney Hyperion Books; $17.99, Ages 3-5)


Drawn Together is one of my favorite picture books of 2018 and not just because it has a clever title. Lê’s spare text perfectly captures the tale of a boy and his grandfather who are separated by words but find a way to connect through drawing—a feel-good story that crosses cultures and time.
int spread by Dan Santat from Drawn Together by Minh Lê
Interior spread from Drawn Together written by Minh Lê and illustrated by Dan Santat, Disney-Hyperion ©2018.

Santat’s gorgeous art alternates between vivid modern color for the grandson’s images and a black-and-white traditional style when the grandfather draws. The book’s beauty will move you. The publisher includes clever details such as a sharp pencil on the spine and a surprise image beneath the cover; the two characters’ contrasting art styles serve as lovely bookends.

This book would make an ideal gift for that special child in your life who speaks a different language than you do, although any child will find it speaks to them about connectivity and family ties. It is also befitting for kids who love to draw because the book shows how pictures open up worlds. 

Starred Review – BooklistKirkus Reviews, Publishers WeeklySchool Library Journal and The Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books

THE DAY YOU BEGINThe Day You Begin book cover illustration
Written by Jacqueline Woodson

Illustrated by Rafael López
(Nancy Paulsen Books; $18.99, Ages 5-8)


Interior spread from The Day You Begin
Interior spread from The Day You Begin written by Jacqueline Woodson and illustrated by Rafael López, Nancy Paulsen Books ©2018.

The Day You Begin isn’t about the day you’re born. Instead, this heartening 32-page picture book invites you to make a space for yourself in the world. Woodson grabs the reader from the empathetic first line, “There will be times when you walk into a room and no one there is quite like you.” Those words give voice to the uneasiness we all experience. Yet, to forge connections we must learn to take a chance and open up. López takes the story beyond the words. His colorful artwork imaginatively captures the emotional tone, showing conflicting feelings of hope and despair, isolation and togetherness.This lovely tale reaches hearts of all ages. The Day You Begin would be an ideal gift for graduates, people seeking to begin anew, or anyone who needs a nudge to remember that life is a beautiful blend of our differences.This story was inspired by a poem in Woodson’s New York Timesbest-selling memoir, Brown Girl Dreaming.

Starred Review – Kirkus Reviews, Publishers Weekly, Shelf Awareness, School Library Journal and The Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books



cover art from Atlas Obscura Explorer's Guide for the World's Most Adventurous Kid


Interior spread from The Atlas Obscura Explorer’s Guide for the World’s Most Adventurous Kid by Dylan Thuras and Rosemary Mosco with illustrations by Joy Ang, Workman Publishing ©2018.

Written by Dylan Thuras and Rosemary Mosco
Illustrated by Joy Ang
(Workman Publishing; $18.99, Ages 8-12)


int. spread from The Atlas Obscura Explorer’s Guide for the World’s Most Adventurous Kid
Interior spread from The Atlas Obscura Explorer’s Guide for the World’s Most Adventurous Kid by Dylan Thuras and Rosemary Mosco with illustrations by Joy Ang, Workman Publishing ©2018.

The Atlas Obscura Explorer’s Guide for the World’s Most Adventurous Kid is THE book for that kid on your holiday shopping list who loves extraordinary facts. Who knew there was a school in Iceland dedicated to the study of elves, or that fireflies in Tennessee blink in sync with one another?Travel to destinations in forty-seven countries on every continent in this entertaining journey to 100 real places. The book opens with a clever Packing List and Adventure Plan (Table of Contents). Readers can randomly choose places to explore, or read the book straight through. Each two-page spread highlights segments that are stand-alone entries, yet there’s a teaser at the end connecting a topic from that country to the next one. For example, after reading about how Cambodians built their own bamboo trains called “norries” (when the war damaged their rail system), you’re invited to read about another do-it-yourself system of transportation in Colombia—homemade zip lines! Parents who find themselves unable to put this book down can ask Santa for the adult version: #1 New York Times best-seller, The Atlas Obscura: An Explorer’s Guide to the World’s Hidden Wonders. Whether young or old, the Atlas Obscura books take you on a fascinating spin around the globe delivering strange facts in the most delightful way.

Starred Review – Booklist


  • Reviewed by Christine Van Zandt

Writer, editor, and owner of Write for Success


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A Year’s Worth of Top Picks for Book Gifts

It’s a Most Wonderful Time To Give Books as Gifts

Reviewer Ronna Mandel shares her selection of favorite books from 2012 to help make filling those stockings less stressful. There are really tons more I’d love to mention, so if  you are hankering to expand your list, just click here now to browse through the covers on our Pinterest page for more ideas.

  • 9780399256653_large_The_InsomniacsMost Original and Pro Mom Picture Book

The Insomniacs (G. P. Putnam’s Sons, $16.99, ages 3-5)
by Karina Wolf and illustrated by The Brothers Hilts.

  • Best Science Book

What Color Is My World?:
The Lost History of African American Inventors,
($17.99, Candlewick, ages 8 and up) by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar,
co-written with Raymond Obstfeld and illustrated by Ben Boos and A.G. Ford.

  • Best Board Books to Teach Colors and Opposites

9781419701801PANTONE: Colors ($9.95, Abrams/Appleseed, ages 1 and up).

Hippopposites ($14.95, Abrams/Appleseed, ages 2 and up) written and illustrated by Janik Coat.

  • Most Clever Follow-up Book

This Is Not My Hat ($15.99, Candlewick, ages 4 and up)
written and illustrated by Jon Klassen.

  • Most Uplifting Picture Book

Because Amelia Smiled ($16.99, Candlewick, ages 3-7) by David Ezra Stein.

  • Favorite Family Cookbook

9780761166030The Mom 100 Cookbook: 100 Recipes Every Mom Needs in Her Back Pocket  ($16.95, Workman Publishing) by Katie Workman with photographs by Todd Coleman.

  • Best Middle Grade Novels

LIAR & SPY ($17.99, Random House, ages 9-12) by Rebecca Stead.

Wonder ($15.99, Knopf Books for Young Readers, ages 8-12) by R.J. Palacio.

  • Best Young Adult (YA) Novel

shadesofgray_bookBetween Shades of Gray ($8.99, Penguin paperback; ages 12 and up) by Ruta Sepetys.

  • Best Silly Books for Preschoolers

image.phpIcky, Sticky Monster: A Super Yucky Pop-up Book  ($12.99, Nosy Crow, ages 3 and up) by Jo Lodge.

Poopendous!: The Inside Scoop on Every Type and Use of Poop ($16.99, Blue Apple Books, Ages 4 and up)  by Artie Bennett.

  • Best Classics

51i9SMWImyL._SL160_BabyLit board book series including Dracula: A BabyLit Counting Primer and  A Christmas Carol: A BabyLit Colors Primer both by Jennifer Adams with illustrations by Alison Oliver ($9.99, Gibbs Smith, ages 1 and up).

  • Favorite Biographies

A Boy Called Dickens $17.99, Schwartz & Wade, ages 4-8) by Deborah Hopkinson with illustrations by John Hendrix.

Hanging Off Jefferson’s Nose: Growing Up On Mount Rushmore ($16.99, Dial Books for Young Readers, ages 5 and up) by  Tina Nichols Coury with illustrations by Sally Wern Comport.


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Our Favorite Books of the Year: Holiday Book Wish List

We read so many wonderful books here at Good Reads with Ronna that it’s sometimes overwhelming. We know how you feel as parents, grandparents and teachers when it comes time to choose books for the children in your lives – confused! So to help you out a bit, we decided to take the time to share our favorite titles of the year with you in the hopes that your literary gift giving for the holidays will be fun rather than stressful. Today reviewer, Debbie Glade shares a list of her Ten Favorite Titles . . .

Asking me to pick my favorite books is like asking me to pick my favorite child. Well, actually I only have one child, but you know what I mean! Every year I read well over one hundred books, and there are many terrific ones. But there are always a handful that really stand out. You really cannot go wrong with any of these titles:

Best Gift Book for Christmas

Author Henry Cole knows how to tell a story with a few words and a lot of gorgeous illustrations in The Littlest Evergreen. This book is about a tiny tree that grows to become a Christmas tree, and is such a charming story. It teaches us about ecology and tugs at our hearts.

Best Gift Book for Hanukkah

I Will Come Back for You: A Family in Hiding During World War II introduces young children to the struggles of WW II and in particular, one Jewish Italian family’s account.  The illustrations are colorful and inviting, and the story is wonderfully told by author, Marisabina Russo.

Best Illustrations

Kadir Nelson, who wrote and illustrated Heart and Soul, the Story of America and African Americans, is so talented that you will be in awe of his life-like illustrations made from oil paintings. The book is also well written and teaches kids about the history of African Americans.

Best Book About Health

I was thrilled when Beverly McMilan, the author of A Day in the Life of Your Body: An Around the Clock Guide to How Your Body Works agreed to do an interview with me. The amount of research, writing and editing that went into this book is to be commended. It not only teaches your children the basics about the human body, but you will learn a lot too when you read this together and admire the detailed illustrations.

Best Biography

You don’t have to love science as much as I do to love Albert Einstein and Relativity for Kids: His Life and Ideas with 21 Activities and Thought Experiments.  Einstein’s life was fascinating and his contribution to science has been unparalleled. Gifted middle readers and older kids and adults will love this book. I interviewed author Jerome Pohlen to find out what it took to write such an excellent biography for kids. I can’t say enough about how well-written this book is and how much I enjoyed reading it. I raved so much about it that my husband read it too and loved it as much as I did.

Best Non-Fiction for Young Readers

I spent a lot of time savoring the words and admiring the illustrations of My Uncle Martin’s Words for America. It was written by Angelina Farris Watkins, PhD, the real life niece of Martin Luther King, Jr. Just look at that book cover! I was so impressed with the illustrations that I interviewed the artist, Eric Velasquez. With books like these, the legacy of MLK shall never fade.

Best Humor for Young Readers

Call me immature if you wish, but I can’t seem to get enough poop humor. Poopendous: The Inside Scoop on Every Type and Use of Poop by Artie Bennett is just plain hilarious! It’s also educational, but the real reason you’ll want to read this is so you can giggle with your children.

Best Photography

I have a passion for bugs, and an appreciation for good photography. Step Gently Out is written as a poem by Helen Frost and is extraordinarily photographed by Rick Lieder. You can see details of insects that are impossible to see with the naked eye. You’re sure to be as impressed as I was with this unique book.

Most Charming Picture Book

Oliver Jeffers is one of my favorite authors and illustrators. He just seems to know how to push the limits of cuteness when he writes and illustrates picture books. This Moose Belongs to Me is so creative and darling, it will put a smile on your face and will make a perfect gift for the young child in your life.

Most Creative Book

Food Stylist Carl Warner wowed me with his food landscapes in A World of Food: Discover Magical Lands Made of Things You Can Eat. You and your child could spend an hour on every page trying to figure out what types of foods are in each photographed landscape. This book will inspire you to be creative and teach you that there are no limits when it comes to using your imagination!

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