25+ Holiday Gift Books for Children: Beyond the Best-Seller Lists (Mostly)

Are you gift shopping for a child in your life? Books are great gifts for kids of all ages. Gift books give importance to books and reading, provide tired kids and their adults with a quiet activity among all the treats and excitement of the holiday season, and keep on giving as the books are enjoyed and read and re-read.
Here are a few suggestions for excellent children’s books published in 2014:

Board Books for babies and toddlers:

You Are My Baby: Pets. By Lorena Siminovich. ISBN 978-1452134307. You Are My Baby: Woodland. By Lorena Siminovich. ISBN 978-1452134314. Both of these board books and others in the series offer the full size version of the book with a built-in small copy of the book. Very clever! Gentle, repetitive language and lively illustrations make for a cuddly treat.

Tickly Toes. Illustrated by Barroux. ISBN 978184786522. In rhyming text and simple, appealing drawings of happy babies, all showing the fun parents and babies enjoy together, this little book delights.

Roar: A Big-Mouthed Book of Sounds! By Jonathan Litton. ISBN 9781589255937. Zoom: A Fast-Paced Book of Colors! By Jonathan Litton. ISBN 9781589255944. Bright illustrations and lively text combined with die-cut holes for texture and fun are great for infants through toddlers, in these titles and others in the series.

Picture Books for children:

Hunters of the Great Forest. Written and illustrated by Dennis Nolan. ISBN 9781596438965. On a warm night, a band of hunters sets out on a journey. As they travel adventurously over hills, through thickets of trees, and around mountains, nothing will keep them from their ultimate goal. What that goal is may surprise you, and it will certainly make you smile. The illustrations are exceptional in their whimsy and detail, and carry the entire story in this wordless picture book. Ages 3-7.

Once Upon an Alphabet. Written and illustrated by Oliver Jeffers. ISBN 9780399167911. From an Astronaut who’s afraid of heights, to a Bridge that ends up burned between friends, to a Cup stuck in a cupboard and longing for freedom, this series of silly, wry, interconnected stories and characters explores the alphabet. By the award-winning creator of The Day the Crayons Quit. Ages 5-8.

Big Bug. Written and illustrated by Henry Cole. ISBN9781442498976. In this ideal introduction to the concept of scale, young readers will love the lush illustrations of the animals, objects, and scenery of a farm, and they’ll delight in seeing how something “big” can suddenly seem “little” with the turn of a page! Preschool-Grade 1

littleroJacket.aspxLittle Roja Riding Hood. Written by Susan Middleton Elya, illustrated by Susan Guevara. ISBN 9780399247675. While Roja picks flowers on the way to her grandma’s, a mean wolf sneaks away with her cape to surprise Abuelita. But Grandma’s no fool and Roja’s no ordinary chica. They send that hungry lobo packing with a caliente surprise! Written in English with Spanish words and definitions. Preschool-Grade 2.

My Bus. Written and illustrated by Byron Barton. ISBN 9780062287366. This celebration of vehicles and animals introduces basic concepts of addition and subtraction to very young children in the story of a busy bus driver who picks up and drops off colorful passengers at the airport, the harbor, and the train station. Preschool- Grade 1.

Quest. Written and illustrated by Aaron Becker. ISBN 9780763665951. Two children are swept up in an imaginative quest to save the king and his realm from dark forces when the king emerges from a magical door at the park and presses a map and strange objects into their hands before being captured and disappearing. Stunning, fascinatingly detailed artwork shows the same boy and girl from last year’s award-winning picture book, Journey, in a new adventure. Ages 4-8.

Sam and Dave Dig a Hole. Written by Mac Barnett, illustrated by Jon Klassen. ISBN 9780763662295. Sam and Dave are on a mission– a mission to find something spectacular. So they dig a hole. And they keep digging. And they find . . . nothing. Yet the day turns out to be pretty spectacular after all. Attentive readers will be rewarded with a rare treasure in this witty story of looking for the extraordinary — and finding it in a manner you’d never expect. Ages 4-8.

The Book With No Pictures. Written by B.J. Novak. ISBN 9780803741713. Okay, this book is all over the best-seller lists, but is such a sensation I had to mention it! You might think a picture book with no pictures seems boring and serious. Except . . . here’s how books work. Everything written on the page has to be said by the person reading it aloud. Even if the words say . . . BLORK. Or BLUURF. Even if the words are a preposterous song about eating ants for breakfast, or just a list of astonishingly goofy sounds like BLAGGITY BLAGGITY and GLIBBITY GLOBBITY. Cleverly irreverent and irresistibly silly, The Book with No Pictures is one that kids will beg to hear again and again. (And parents will be happy to oblige.) Ages 3-8.

Children’s Novels:

rainJacket.aspxRain Reign. By Ann M. Martin. ISBN 9781250064233. Grades 4-6. Struggling with the challenges of OCD and Asperger’s syndrome, Rose, a homonym enthusiast, shares an inseparable bond with a beloved dog, but when the dog goes missing during a storm, Rose is forced to confront the limits of her comfort levels, even if it means leaving her routines and safe places in order to search for her pet. By the Newbery Honor-winning author of A Corner of the Universe. Ages 8-12.

Hilda and the Black Hound. Written and Illustrated by Luke Pearson. ISBN 9781909263185. In Hilda’s new adventure, she meets the Nisse: a mischievous but charismatic bunch of oddballs who occupy a world beside but also somehow within our own, and where the rules of physics don’t quite match up. Meanwhile, on the streets of Trolberg, a dark specter looms . . . Cartoon/Graphic Novel. Ages 7-9.

Leroy Ninker Saddles Up. Written by Kate DiCamillo, illustrated by Chris Van Dusen. ISBN 9780763663391. Forging an instant bond with spaghetti-loving horse Maybelline, horseless cowboy Leroy Ninker inadvertently risks eternal loneliness when he forgets a vital third rule about Maybelline’s care. This new series features characters from DiCamillo’s popular Mercy Watson books. Ages 6-9.

The Princess in Black. Written by Shannon Hale and Dean Hale, Illustrated by Leuyen Pham. ISBN 9780763665104. Princess Magnolia is having hot chocolate and scones with Duchess Wigtower when the monster alarm rings because a big blue monster is threatening the goats! Stopping monsters is no job for dainty Princess Magnolia. But luckily Princess Magnolia has a secret —she’s also the Princess in Black, and stopping monsters is the perfect job for her! Can the princess sneak away, transform into her alter ego, and defeat the monster before the nosy duchess discovers her secret? Here is the first in a humorous and action-packed early reader chapter book series for young readers who like their princesses not only prim and perfect, but also dressed in black. Ages 5-8.

Absolutely Almost. Written by Lisa Graff. ISBN 9780399164057. His parents are brilliant, but Albie has never been the smartest kid in his class. He has never been the tallest. Or the best at gym. Or the greatest artist. Or the most musical. In fact, Albie has a long list of the things he’s not very good at. But then Albie gets a new babysitter, Calista, who helps him figure out all of the things he is good at and how he can take pride in himself. Ages 8-12.

Half a Chance. Written by Cynthia Lord. ISBN 9780545035330. Lucy, with her mother and her photographer father, has just moved to a small rural community on a lake in New Hampshire, and with her new friend Nate she plans to spend the summer taking photos for a contest, but pictures sometimes reveal more than people are willing to see. A moving new middle-grade novel from the Newbery Honor author of Rules. Ages 8-12.

The Iron Trial. Written by Holly Black and Cassandra Clare. ISBN 9780545522250. Warned away from magic all of his life, Callum endeavors to fail the trials that would admit him to the Magisterium only to be drawn into its ranks against his will and forced to confront dark elements from his past. This is the first book in the new Magisterium series. Ages 9-13.

chickenJacket.aspxThe Chicken Squad: The First Misadventure. Written by Doreen Cronin and illustrated by Kevin Cornell. ISBN 9781442496767. Dirt, Sugar, Poppy, and Sweetie are the Chicken Squad. These chicks are not your typical barnyard puffs of fluff, they’re too busy solving mysteries and fighting crime. So when scared Squirrel comes barreling into the chicken coop, the chicks know they’re about to get a case. There might even be extraterrestrials involved! Good thing these chicks are professionals. Funny text and frequent illustrations make this first entry in a new series a great early chapter book choice. It includes familiar characters from the J.J. Tully mystery series about a retired watchdog. Ages 6-9.

Children’s Nonfiction:

The Iridescence of Birds: A Book About Henri Matisse. Written by Patricia MacLachlan. Illustrated by Hadley Hooper. ISBN 9781596439481. If you were a boy named Henri Matisse who lived in a dreary town in northern France, what would your life be like? Would it be full of color and art? Full of lines and dancing figures? Find out in this beautiful, unusual picture book about one of the world’s most famous and influential artists by acclaimed author and Newbery Medal-winning Patricia MacLachlan. With its brief child-centered view of the artist, and the gorgeous, colorful illustrations, this picture book biography is a personal favorite. Ages 4-8.

Neighborhood Sharks: Hunting With the Great Whites of California’s Farallon Islands. Written and illustrated by Katherine Roy. ISBN 9781596438743 An up close look at the ocean’s most fearsome and famous predator and the scientists who study them–just twenty-six miles from the Golden Gate Bridge. Alert: There is blood in some of the gorgeous paintings; the sharks do eat seals. Ages 7-10

Winter Bees & Other Poems of the Cold. Written by Joyce Sidman, illustrated by Rick Allen. ISBN 9780547906508. A tribute to the winter season in the wild combines fact-filled verses about how animals survive the cold with sumptuous, realistic illustrations. Grades K-4.

Little Poems for Tiny Ears. Written by Oliver Lin, illustrated by Tomie de Paola. ISBN 9780399166051. For babies and toddlers, each moment is full of wonder and discovery. This delightful collection of original poems celebrates the everyday things that enthrall little ones, such as playing peekaboo, banging pots and pans, splashing at bath time, and cuddling at bedtime. Full of contagious rhythm and rhyme, this inviting picture book introduces young children to the sound of poetry, and beloved illustrator Tomie de Paola’s engaging children are the perfect match for Lin Oliver’s lighthearted poems. Together they’ve created a book to be treasured that captures the magic and fun of being new in the world. Perfect for reading to babies! Babies, Toddlers, Preschool.

National Geographic: Everything Mythology. Written by Blake Hoena, with National Geographic explorer Adrienne Mayor; illustrated by Gonzalo Ordoñez and Margaret Salter. ISBN 9781426314995. Yet another great children’s nonfiction book from National Geographic; this one is jam packed with fascinating facts and awe-inspiring imagery that brings your favorite fierce mythological heroes to life. Have fun introducing kids to gods of ancient worlds, including Greek, Norse, Chinese, America Indian, African cultures, and more. Packed with facts, colorful illustrations, and infused with humor, this fun journey through ancient lore will keep kids fascinated with every turn of the page. Grades 3-6.

Chasing Cheetahs: The Race to Save Africa’s Fastest Cats. ISBN 9780547815497. Part of the award-winning Scientists in the Field series, Chasing Cheetahs gives young readers a fascinating account of the efforts by the Cheetah Conservation Fund in Namibia to save the world’s fastest—and Africa’s most endangered—land animal: the cheetah. As with other books in this fine series, the reader learns first-hand through exceptional photographs and text showing exactly how and why these scientists are seeking to learn more about cheetahs and take specifics steps to help them survive in the wild. Every time I read a Scientists in the Field book, I want to be a field biologist! Ages 10 and up.

Check them out at the library before you buy them!