Free Library: The best kids books for gifts this season

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Narwhal: Unicorn of the Sea by Ben Clanton would make a great gift for elementary school-aged children.

Today’s guest bloggers are Christopher Brown, Curator, Children’s Literature Research Collection; Teresa Arnold, Children’s Material Selector; and Rachel Fryd, Young Adult Material Selector from the Free Library of Philadelphia.

The holiday season is upon us — the perfect time of year for gifts, and what makes a better gift than books?  Here are some of the favorite books to give as gifts from our team of children’s and teen book selectors at the Free Library of Philadelphia:

Recommendations for Toddlers/Preschoolers (Pre-K/Early Elementary)

Sleepover with Beatrice and Bear (Monica Carnesi)

This seasonal picture book connects friendship with STEM-based learning about the environment and the seasons. Beatrice may also inspire children to journal or scrapbook their memories. This is an overall winner. As an added bonus, author/illustrator Mônica Carnesi is a Philadelphian and is a Children’s Materials Selector for the Free Library of Philadelphia. 

How Do You Say? / ¿Cómo Se Dice? (Angela Dominguez)

Two young giraffes who speak different languages learn that they have a lot in common in this bright, engaging picture book. Children will learn simple phrases in Spanish while reading about the giraffes’ adventures. 

Golden Domes and Silver Lanterns: A Muslim Book of Colors (Hena Khan and Amini Mehrodakht)

Introduce young children to colors and Islamic culture in this vibrantly illustrated picture book.  Simple text and lush illustrations will please all readers, and a glossary/dictionary in back will help non-Muslim families with pronunciations while reading. 

Recommendations for Elementary School (Grades 2-5)

Juana & Lucas (Juana Medina)

In this colorful chapter book for early readers, readers take a look inside a young girl’s world in Bogota, Columbia. Juana is not very interested in learning English until her grandfather gives the incentive of a trip to an amusement park in Florida. Spanish words, explained in context, are sprinkled throughout the text. 

Narwhal: Unicorn of the Sea (Ben Clanton)

In this light, silly graphic novel for young readers, we meet Narwhal and his friend, Jelly, a jellyfish. There are three stories, exploring themes of friendship, community, and reading, along with some facts about narwhals and jellyfish. This joyful ocean adventure will appeal to both children and adults!

When the Sea Turned to Silver (Grace Lin)

Set in ancient China, this is an imaginative retelling of traditional Chinese folklore. Shy Pinmei sets out on a magical trip to rescue her grandmother, Amah, a storyteller. Evocative language and full-page, full-color illustrations transport readers into another world. This book is a companion to the author’s Newbery Honor book, Where the Mountain Meets the Moon (2009) and Starry River of the Sky (2012). 

Recommendations for Middle School and High School (Grades 6-12)

Paper Girls Volume 1 (Brian K. Vaughn) – If there is a teen in your life obsessed with the Netflix series Stranger Things, then Paper Girls will be a home run as a gift.  Set in the 1980s, complete with Walkmen, BMX bikes and salty language, we follow four pre-teens as they deal with suburbia, bullies and of course, an alien invasion.

Little Brother (Cory Doctorow) –  This pulse-pounding tale of national security, underground resistance, and computer hackers follows Marcus Yallow and his friends on their quest to find the truth after being held in a secret prison after a 9/11-style attack on San Francisco.

All American Boys (Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely) – This is an award-winning and timely novel chronicling the aftermath of violent incident told from multiple points of view.

Don’t forget that we have ebooks and downloadable audiobooks at the Free Library PLUS tons of great programs at all of neighborhood libraries. So grab your library card or sign up for a new one, and we’ll see you this winter!


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