Books 2008: A Gift for the Ages (Updated – 10 December)

As mentioned previously in lots of places, Colleen Mondor (Chasing Ray) has expanded her annual 12 Days of Book Recommendations into a Holiday Open House for book bloggers. She will be updating this post with recommendations for the first 12 days of December.

We have been invited to offer our suggestions for gift books that go beyond the “best of” lists. Our goal is to help you discover a book that will have meaning for the person you’re giving it to. Among all the recommendations, you’re likely to learn about book that match the interests of your recipient.

Reading is a gift that lasts a lifetime. It begins with sharing simple stories sitting with a child on your lap and grows to your child filling the chair by himself and reading independently. With that journey in mind, each of our “days” is going to represented by the age of the intended audience.

We ‘ll get you started with infant to age 3 and add a few more each day. These are books meant to share together.

Age (0 to) 1Baby Gym series illustrated by Sanja Rescak. Bounce and Jiggle, Touch and Tickle, Wiggle and Move. (Child’s Play, 2008)

  • These are sturdy board books with nursery rhymes and songs. Parent activity ideas (simple instructions) complement each poem to encourage an infant’s movement with the rhyme.
  • These books are great tools for a first-time parent learning how to interact with an infant at a stage in the child’s life where rhythm, limb movement, and eye contact are critical for brain development.

Age 2Dr. Hippo Books written by Charlotte Cowen, MD, illustrated by Susan Banta. The Little Elephant with t he Big Earache, Peeper has a Fever, Katie Caught a Cold, and Sadie’s Sore Throat (Hippocratic Press, various dates)

  • When the animal kids get sick, they need to visit Dr. Hippo. He has just the right advice for their fever, a cold, an earache, and a sore throat. These books are designed to explain sickness to kids and give real advice to parents. Every book comes with a handy pullout card in the back.
  • These stories are the equivalent of comfort food for sick little ones and would be handy for parents-to-be to have at the ready.

Age 3Alphabet Book (Usborne Barnyard Tales) written by Heather Amery, illustrated by Stephen Cartwright (Usborne Publishing, 1998)

  • This is an interactive way to help kids learn their ABCs. There is a seek-and-find element for each letter of the alphabet.
  • If your child isn’t ready (or interested) in learning the alphabet, the action-filled illustration will keep them interested in exploring the book. Reading doesn’t always have to be about words.

Age 4Shelby written by Stacy A. Nyikos, illustrated by Shawn N. Sisneros (Stonehorse Publishing, LLC, 2006)

  • Shelby is a lemon shark who is timid. She’s trying to find courage to help her friends. This is an excellent read-alike for kids familiar with The Rainbow Fish.
  • The story offers preschoolers a nice lesson, without browbeating them or talking down to them with silly names. You won’t hear “Shelby the Shark.”

Age 5Noises at Night written by Beth Raisner Glass and Susan Lubner, illustrated by Bruce Whatley (Abrams Books for Young Readers, 2005)

  • Kids who are afraid of the dark will enjoy listening to this sing-song, rhyming story.
  • Page by page, the sounds of night are demystified … inviting a good night’s sleep and happy dreams.

Age 6Mercy Watson series written by Kate Di Camillo, illustrated by Chris Van Dusen (Candlewick Press, various): Mercy Watson Fights Crime, Mercy Watson Thinks Like a Pig, Mercy Watson to the Rescue, and Mercy Watson Goes for a Ride.

  • These are illustrated stories heavy on illustrations, light on text. They are great books to get kids ready to read and transition to longer stories.
  • The stories offer humor, a fun twist, and great illustrations meant to be explored.
  • Simple text make these fun to read together, particularly as partners. Because there is a lot of dialogue, readers can take “parts.”

Age 7I Love My New Toy (An Elephant and Piggy Book) written and illustrated by Mo Willems. (Hyperion Books for Children, 2008)

  • This easy reader series will encourage emergent (kindergarten) and early (first grade) readers.
  • Elephant and Piggy share fun, humor, and work through the ups and downs of friendship.
  • The text is written in different colors and font sizes to help readers add emotion to their reading and allow you to share roles.

Age 8 Humpty Dumpty Jr., Hard-boiled Detective series written by Nate Evans and Paul Hindman, illustrated by Vince Evans and Nate Evans (Jabberwocky, an Imprint of Sourcebooks, Inc., 2008): The Case of the Fiendish Flapjack Flop and The Mystery of Merlin and the Gruesome Ghost.

  • These transitional readers are lightly illustrated … perfect for kids not ready to read “real” chapter books. It is a good first choice for someone who is ready to be an independent reader.
  • The writing is crisp and clever. There are plenty of egg puns, sure to induce laughter in parents and kids.
  • The story moves fast, so it can be shared chapter-by-chapter or all at once.

Even as kids become independent readers, they still enjoy — and benefit from — books that are read aloud. The titles in this last group are books that can be read independently or shared. We have selected books that everyone can enjoy, so they don’t break down as “boy books” or “girl books.”

Age 9The Notherland Trilogy, written by Kathleen McDonnell (Second Story Press, various): The Nordlings, The Shining World, and The Songweavers.

  • This is a wholesome, fantasy adventure trilogy for readers 9 to 12. The reading level (as evaluated for The Songweavers) is 4.1.
  • Peggy is a 15-year-old girl who, while dealing with a variety of teenage issues, is drawn back into an imaginary world she had created as a child. The story is a metaphor for tweens who are trying to let go of “little kid” stuff and yet aren’t sure about “big kid” stuff.
  • Although the protagonist is a girl, the events that transpire are gender-neutral. The story is largely plot-driven, making it appealing to boys.

Age 10 The Gollywhopper Games written by Jody Feldman, illustrated by Victoria Jamieson (Greenwillow Books, an Imprint of HarperCollins Publishers, 2008)

  • This is an illustrated chapter book that lets the reader participate in the puzzles the main character (Gil) solves. The reading level is 5.2.
  • Gil Goodson (12) has been training for a year to enter the “Mind and Muscle” competition sponsored by the Golly Toy and Game Company. He has very strong feelings about this year’s event, and he is determined to win so his family can move.
  • This book is a compendium of creative and out-of-the-box problem-solving challenges. It will spark a lot of interest in finding alternative solutions to problems.

Age 11The Dragon’s Child written by Laurence Yep with Dr. Kathleen S. Yep (HarperCollins Publishers, 2008).

  • This is a novel for pre-teens and teens. The reading level is 5.9.
  • The story, set in 1922, focuses on the life of Gim Yew Lep and his family, who are emigrating from China to California. The immigration process is rigorous, and because Gim stutters and is left-handed, it will be particularly difficult for him. If Gim Lew cannot pass the test, he will be sent back to China.
  • This is a powerful story with solid characters and a strong plot. Even though this story is set 1922, it has relevance today as it recounts the effort, danger, courage, and heartbreak that immigrants experience as they try to provide a better life for themselves and their children.

Age 12 (and up) – The Galahad series by Dom Testa (Profound Impact Group, various): The Comet’s Curse, The Web of Titan, and The Cassini Code.

  • This is a science fiction adventure series. The crew of the spaceship is a group of teens, with personalities their peers will relate to.
  • A comet contaminates the earth beyond habitation. As a result, 251 teens (with the help of a computer) are forced into space. As the teens explore space, there are external forces that could rocket them to oblivion, as well as the internal issues that come with leadership and teamwork.
  • This is a wholesome series, and the characters are responsible and capable young people, “not Brittanys or Jasons.”

We wish you a wonderful holiday … and all thegreat memories that come with sharing a book.