Eek!! It’s December! The only month of the year that seamlessly blends that “all is calm” feeling with that “all is in an outright panic because there are only three shopping weekends left and I SWEAR ON THE LITTLE DRUMMER BOY that next year I won’t procrastinate but for now I let me tear through Amazon like a wild beast, licking my chops for anything labeled ‘Prime’ ” feeling. Amid all the cocoa and tinsel and Away in a Manger, there sure is a lot that needs doing. If you’re on the hunt for last minute gift ideas for the young or young-at-heart, this picture book gift guide contains my current favorites. Some of these books are new, some of these books are old. All of these books are charming and I want to snuggle them (it sounds weird but I’m a librarian so I’m allowed). Now, let’s get down to business…
2015 Picture Book Gift Guide
The Dark // Lemony Snicket and Jon Klassen – I loved this quiet little story about Laszlo, a boy who comes face to face with the dark when his nightlight burns out. It’s great for reading slow and spooky-like and has that perfect dose of scary-but-not-actually-scary that young readers really enjoy. I wasn’t sure how my students would feel about this book– it’s short and sweet and Laszlo’s encounter with the dark is more calm and thoughtful than it is action packed– but they LOVED it. Lots of great conversation starters here, too (Where are Laszlo’s parents? Why would the author choose to leave them out of the story?). I adore everything Jon Klassen does and when you add Snicket to the mix, it only gets better. (K-3rd grade)
Piggies // Don and Audrey Wood – This is a childhood favorite of mine and now Simeon adores it. It’s basically a variation of “This little piggie went to market…” with an ending that makes it a perfect bedtime book. The illustrations are just the cutest and young kids can follow along with their own fingers while you read . And good news, moms and dads! IT’S SHORT (which is my number one requirement for bedtime stories!). (Preschool – 2nd grade)
A Boy and a Jaguar // Alan Rabinowitz – This book is breathtaking, you guys. In it, the author tells the true story of his experience growing up with a severe stutter and how his connection to animals changed his life. Really though, it’s about believing you are broken and what can happen when you realize you are not. The themes are big and important and great for older elementary kids or any child living with differences in their own life. If you can read it aloud to your child without crying, you get a gold star. (3rd-5th grade <— Yes, I said 5th grade. Big kids like picture books too. Trust me– I’m a librarian).
The Day the Crayons Quit // Drew Daywalt and Oliver Jeffers – This book is a series of letters written by disgruntled crayons who demand everything from better working conditions to more opportunities for coloring pink dinosaurs. It’s absolutely hilarious and I have yet to find a kid that doesn’t love it. It’s never on the shelf at the library because my students have it checked out 100% of the time. They can’t get enough. (K – 4th grade)
This is a Moose // Richard T. Morris and Tom Lichtenheld – I saw this for the first time at our book fair and I fell in love. A film director tries unsuccessfully to document a day in the life of a noble moose– only problem? The moose in question isn’t interested in doing regular old moose things. He has dreams! Plans! Aspirations!! The action becomes increasingly more ridiculous as the director slowly loses control and learns a bit about following your dreams in the process. Most of this story is told through dialogue bubbles so be prepared to do the voices! (K – 3rd grade)
That is NOT a Good Idea! // Mo Willems – I think this is one of the most underrated Mo Willems books of all time. His Pigeon books are genius, Elephant and Piggie are a hoot, but this particular book packs an “ah-ha” moment that just can’t be beat. It’s formatted to look like a silent film and follows a fox and a goose after the two meet during a chance encounter one afternoon. It quickly becomes clear that one of these characters is headed for big trouble but who that character is may surprise you. This one is great for reading aloud with lots of repetition that you and your kids can say together. (K – 3rd grade)
Freight Train // Donald Crews – This is a dream book for very young readers who dig trains. The illustrations are distinct and simple (Caldecott honor book) but they manage to capture the motion of the train as it travels over different landscapes. Each train car is a different color so it’s nice for working on colors with little ones. I like reading this one at bedtime and Simeon loves it too. Short and very sweet! (Preschool – K)
School Bus // Donald Crews – Yes, this is the second Donald Crews book I’m including but my kid loves his books and is currently obsessed with school buses so I had to share this one as well. If your kid likes school buses, buy this book. This book has pages and pages crammed with pictures of buses. It begins in the parking lot where you see rows of bright yellow buses waiting to start the school day. It follows the buses as they pick up students, drop them at school, and return for them at the end of the day. Lots of stopping and going, which my kid loves. And it’s SHORT! Bedtime win! (Preschool – K)
Chalk // Bill Thomson – My students beg me to read them this book every single year. It’s a wordless picture book about three friends who find a mysterious bag of chalk at the playground. Turns out, the chalk has a bit of magic in it and anything the children draw comes to life. It starts out calmly enough, but turns into quite the adventure when one of the characters decides to draw a dinosaur. They all must scramble to find a solution to this very big problem. Don’t be intimidated by the wordless aspect– kids adore these books because there is so much room for discussion (What are the characters doing? What might happen next? How the heck can they get rid of that dino???). This one is a lot of fun and very creative! (K – 2nd)
And if you’re looking for something fresh and fun and completely different, here’s my Bookroo review:
I’ve never tried a book subscription until last month when I learned about Bookroo. I have to say it was quite a treat! Bookroo is a subscription service that delivers quality children’s books right to your door. They have 1-month, 3-months, and 6-months subscription options so you can try it out based on what fits into your budget. Here’s how it went:
What I loved:
- Getting a package in the mail with his name on it, was big news for my 3-year-old and I love the idea of kids taking ownership of their reading. Receiving a box of books addressed just to them is a great place to start!
- The boxes come with a nice little handwritten note for your child and each book is individually wrapped in adorable paper (that my daughter couldn’t stop tearing and crunching and generally falling in love with) and tied up with string. So cute. I die.
- The element of surprise! I can’t resist a mystery box or goodie bag so this is right up my alley. I actually liked not knowing what was in the box until it arrived.
- Bookroo offers a picture book and a board book option so you can choose less fragile based on your child’s age. If you have big and little kids in your home, you can choose to alternate between picture books and board books each month.
- We received two hardback picture books (Two Shy Pandas by Jarmin and Fly Blanky, Fly by Lewis) that Simeon has enjoyed reading so far.
- The pricing is REALLY good. A 1-month subscription is $19.99– with that you get two hardback books or three board books, plus shipping is free. I looked up the price of each book we got on Amazon and Bookroo’s prices are very competitive. Ordering these individually online would have cost quite a bit more.
- Since I’m a weirdo and a snobby librarian, I also looked up editorial reviews on both the books we got in our box. Each one had positive reviews, which made me feel like the folks at Bookroo did their homework and sent us quality items.
What I didn’t love:
- Books are not tailored to my child’s preferences. This is more like a book-of-the-month situation so books are pre-selected.
- There’s a chance that you could get a book you already own (if so, they’ll give you $5 off your next subscription, if you take a photo of yourself gifting the book to someone else).
Obviously, my “love” list is way longer than my “didn’t love” list. Can you really go wrong sending kids their very own books in the mail? I think not. All in all, Bookroo is tons of fun and the price is perfect. I’m already thinking of adding it to Franny’s birthday wish list!
Also, (and this part I’m really excited about) the folks at Bookroo have shared a coupon link for any lovely readers who want to give them a try. If you use this link HERE (or any of the Bookroo links in this post) you’ll see $4 off your total at checkout. Woot!
Alright my little Christmas elves! Get out there and spread some holiday cheer. And, if you must shop, buy books. Online. While sitting on your couch drinking a bucket of eggnog. You deserve it.
Anyone have other book suggestions? It’s was painful having to whittle this list down to just 9 books with so many great reads out there for kids. What book would you add?? New or classic suggestions welcome!