Educational Gift Guide for Kids: Books

So you want to give your kids books as gifts, right? But what are the best children’s books of the year – from picture books to middle grade to young adult? I managed to narrow down my favorite kid books to give as holiday gifts — see what you think.

*2012 Gift Guide for Kids: Learning Toys and Games

Product

Description

Hidden Animals! | $6.29 | Ages 0 – 3

A surprise awaits with every turn of the page as patterns magically transform into monkeys, zebras, butterflies, and other colorful creatures! Featuring Lazoo’s bright, fanciful award-winning design, Hidden Animals! is the perfect interactive read for children and their parents to share.

Mini Wheels: Mini Fire Engine | $9.95 | Ages 2 and up

Mini Wheels: Mini Fire Engine is chunky, colorful doors that open, packed with adorable characters and rhyming action. Fully mobile through the addition of real wheels.

Buy Mini Fire Engine

YOU WILL BE MY FRIEND! | $11.31 | Ages 3 – 6

Today is the day the exuberant Lucy is going to make a new friend! But she finds it’s harder than she had thought—she accidentally ruins the giraffe’s breakfast and is much too big for the frogs’ pond. Just when she’s about to give up, an unexpected friend finds her, and loves her just the way she is.

This heartwarming story offers a unique and humor-filled spin on the all-important themes of persistence and friendship.

King Hugo’s Huge Ego | $13.70 | Ages 3 – 6


Hugo is a tiny king with a very large ego. But when he mistreats a villager who also happens to be a sorceress, the spell she casts causes his head to literally swell. The more he boasts, the bigger it gets, until it finally topples the mini monarch right off his castle! Who will cut this royal pain down to size? And, more important, will anyone live happily ever after? Chris Van Dusen’s hilarious story is matched only by his outrageous illustrations. Together, they make for a picture book that is sometimes fairy tale, sometimes cautionary tale, and always laugh-out loud funny.

Hooray for Amanda & Her Alligator! | $10.97 | Ages 3 – 6

6½ stories about 2 surprising friends.

Having a stuffed alligator for a best friend can be surprising.

Sometimes Amanda surprises her alligator with books. Sometimes Alligator surprises Amanda by eating them.

But what happens when Amanda brings home a special—and not entirely welcome—surprise? The result might be unexpected indeed.

Beloved author-illustrator Mo Willems has created a funny and tender portrait of friendship that readers of any age will love.


Is Everyone Ready for Fun? | $12.99 | Ages 4 – 8

  Chicken has some unexpected and exuberant cow visitors who have exciting plans for jumping, dancing, and wiggling on his teeny-tiny couch, and Chicken is none too happy about it. That is until the fun concludes with a quiet, cozy and delicious nap for all!


Fairly Fairy Tales|$14.11 Ages 3 – 6

Kids and parents alike will love this wonderful read-aloud collection of fractured fairy tales from former teacher and well-known author of Educating Esme . Incorporating the use of “question” games, Fairly Fairy Tales encourages parent-child interplay that makes for a fantastic reading experience at bedtime or anytime!

Nursery Rhyme Comics | $11.77 | Ages 3 – 8

  Featuring fifty classic nursery rhymes illustrated and interpreted in comics form by fifty of today’s preeminent cartoonists and illustrators, this is a groundbreaking new entry in the canon of nursery rhymes treasuries.
Stand Up for Yourself and Your Friends |$8.95 |Ages 8 – 11
  This book helps girls learn how to spot bullying and stand up and speak out against it. Quizzes, quotes from real girls, and “what would you do?” scenarios give readers lots of ideas for dealing with bullies, including clever comebacks and ways to ask adults for help. Includes an anti-bullying pledge for girls to sign, plus tear-out tips to share with their parents.



Vordak the Incomprehensible: Rule the School | $9.99 | Ages 4

Greetings, goobers! After my latest experiment worked a little too well—transforming my rather fetching figure into something significantly smaller—I’ve been forced to return to those halls of horror better known as . . . school. But going back to junior high may be my greatest opportunity for mayhem in many a month! Try to keep up as I:• Dramatically defeat the daily dangers of schooldom—even though everyone is against me.
• Strive to win the junior high presidential election by alerting my fellow students to the wonderfulness of Vordak the Incomprehensible, as well as the yuck-ness of my opponent, Marlena Lurchburger.
• Mastermind a catastrophic career day, where that disgusting do-gooder Commander Virtue will finally, fiendishly be foiled.Fortunately for you, I have recorded every mischievous moment within these carefully crafted covers so that you may bask in my brilliance as I plot to RULE THE SCHOOL . . . and, eventually, THE WORLD! MUAHAHAHAHA!!!

Sister’s Eight Series | $5.99 and up | Ages 7 – 9

A rather large problem has befallen the Huit girls. (Sisters, actually. Octuplets to be exact.) One particular New Year’s Eve, the girls wait for their mommy to bring them hot chocolate and their daddy to return with more wood for the fire. But they don’t. Mommy and Daddy, that is. They’re gone. Poof! Maybe dead—no one knows for sure.
You must see the problem here. Eight little girls on their own, no mommy or daddy to take care of them. This is not a good thing.
So now these little girls, must take care of themselves. Get to school, cook the meals, feed the cats (eight of them, too), and pay the bills. They can’t ask for help, oh no. Any self-respecting adult would surely call in social services, and those well-meaning people would have to split them up. After losing their parents, being split up would be completely unbearable.

The Cats in the Doll Shop| $11.98 | Ages 7 – 9

When Anna spots a cat in the yard behind her parents’ doll shop, she is excited. Then she realizes the cat is about to have kittens-even better! And Anna has something else to look forward to: her cousin Tania is coming from Russia to stay with Anna’s family. Anna already has two sisters, but she and Tania are the exact same age-eleven-and she imagines they will get along perfectly. But Tania doesn’t respond to Anna’s friendly overtures, and her sisters don’t seem to like Tania at all. Luckily, Anna finds a creative way to use her love of dolls and cats to bring everyone together.

Around the World | $24.99 | Ages 9 to 12

As the nineteenth century wound down, a public inspired by the novel Around the World in Eighty Days clamored for intrepid adventure. The challenge of circumnavigating the globe as no one ever had before—a feat assuring fame if not fortune—attracted the fearless in droves. Three hardy spirits stayed the course: In 1884, former miner Thomas Stevens made the journey on a bicycle, the kind with a big front wheel. In 1889, pioneer reporter Nellie Bly embarked on a global race against time that assumed the heights of spectacle, ushering in the age of the American celebrity. And in 1895, retired sea captain Joshua Slocum quietly set sail on a thirty-six-foot sloop, braving pirates and treacherous seas to become the first person to sail around the world alone. With cinematic pacing and deft, expressive art, acclaimed graphic novelist Matt Phelan weaves a trio of epic journeys into a single bold tale of three visionaries who set their sights on nothing short of the world.

Re-Craft: Unique Projects That Look Great (and Save the Planet) (Green Crafts) | $11.65  | Ages 8 – 14

Teens with a passion for crafts and our planet will love this book! Transform old jeans into a fashionable new purse, make an old t-shirt into a chew toy for your dog, or use bottle caps to make a picture frame. With easy instructions and inspiring photographs of finished products, Re-craft provides the earth-minded reader with creative ways to be green, look good and have fun.

The Christmas Creativity Book | $11.10 | Ages 6 to 10

 
Topping Barron’s growing series of activity-packed Creativity books for kids, The Christmas Creativity Book stands out as the most colorful, most fun-filled, most overflowing-with-ideas volume yet. Its lively pages sparkle with everything kids love best about Christmas–Santa and his reindeer, glittering holiday-theme decorations, games to play, puzzles to solve, songs to sing, pictures to color–and even directions for baking delicious treats from the recipe collection of Mrs. Claus. Here’s just a small sample of delights kids will find when they open this wonderful book–

  • Two sticker sheets and a big, colorful gatefold scene where boys and girls can attach the stickers
  • Glittering sheets of Christmas wrapping paper with templates on their backs for cutting and decorating several of the book’s special illustrations
  • Directions for making a Christmas lantern to hang in the window
  • Instructions for making a map with landmarks that show Santa how to travel from the North Pole to the house where the children live

Sur La Table’s Baking Kids Love| $17.10 | Ages 5 +
  Ready, set, bake! Baking is fun, a great way to connect with kids, and the results are delicious. Whether you’re slathering fluffy, white frosting over a decadent chocolate cake, or forming soft ropes of dough into creative shapes, time spent together in the kitchen creates memories that last a lifetime. Both young and old love a warm surprise when it comes out of the oven. Baking Kids Love brings the magic of baking alive through thirty delicious recipes, designed for 8 to 12-year-olds, that are totally a blast to make–and eat!


Highlights Hidden Pictures 2012 | $6.25 | Ages 4 – 8

  This delightful new book features Highlights’ most popular activity for hours and hours of fun. Includes picture clues, word clues and answers.

The Familiars #2: Secrets of the Crown $9.65 | Ages 8 – 12

 
 When every bit of human magic disappears suddenly from Vastia, it falls on the familiars—Aldwyn the telekinetic cat, Skylar the know-it-all blue jay, and Gilbert the gullible tree frog—to find the Crown of the Snow Leopard, an ancient relic that can reverse the curse. They learn that the only way to do this is by following in the paw prints of Aldwyn’s missing father, who went searching for the Crown several years earlier. This magical spirit trail extends into the Beyond, where our heroes encounter new enemies and danger, while Aldwyn learns about his mysterious past.
Chop Chop Cooking Magazine for Families|$14.95 |All Ages 
  ChopChop, The Fun Cooking Magazine for Families is a quarterly food magazine and website for kids aged 5-12 and their families.


You’re Finally Here! | $12.99 |Ages 3 – 6

A bunny bounces through a range of emotions in this funny picture book about how difficult it is to wait. At first he’s ecstatic that you, the reader, has arrived. But then he can’t help letting you know that waiting for you took too long, was way too boring, and even became insulting. The bunny is ready to forgive everything if you will promise to stay. But hold on–he has to take a phone call. Wait! Come back !Where are you going?

Underneath this book’s silly, in-your-face humor are feelings true to every child who has had to wait for someone’s attention.


Weird but True! 3: 300 Outrageous Facts | $6.95 | Ages 6 – 11
   Did you know that a lion’s roar can be heard up to five miles away? That an astronaut’s heartbeat slows down in space? That about $50 billion of Monopoly money is printed each year? Three hundred wacky facts pop from the colorful, compact pages of Weird but True! 3, an irresistible trove of facts and fun, based on the top-scoring feature in the country’s premier children’s magazine—National Geographic Kids. Brain-bending information entertains as it educates, covering topics such as science, animals, food, pop culture, weather, geography, and everything else under the sun. Plus, for the first time, this edition contains fun facts generated by readers! The original Weird but True book was an overnight success, selling tens of thousand of copies through bookstores in its first month on the market. The third edition is poised to follow, as it explodes with all-new facts, whimsical design, and even more eye-popping features that kids will love.


Curious Critters | $19.99 | Ages 4 +

  In his children’s picture book CURIOUS CRITTERS (November 7, 2011, Wild Iris Publishing, hardcover) photographer David FitzSimmons turns his camera on a variety of animals common throughout North America. Curious Critters presents stunning images of everyday animals, including a red flat bark beetle, an Eastern spiny softshell turtle, a spotted salamander, and many other intriguing creatures. Each Curious Critter is photographed against a white backdrop, showcasing the animals’ colors, textures, and shapes with precision and clarity.


Wonderstruck | $29.99 | Ages 9 +

Ben and Rose secretly wish their lives were different. Ben longs for the father he has never known. Rose dreams of a mysterious actress whose life she chronicles in a scrapbook. When Ben discovers a puzzling clue in his mother’ss room and Rose reads an enticing headline in the newspaper, both children set out alone on desperate quests to find what they are missing.

Set fifty years apart, these two independent stories–Ben’s told in words, Rose’s in pictures–weave back and forth with mesmerizing symmetry. How they unfold and ultimately intertwine will surprise you, challenge you, and leave you breathless with wonder. Rich, complex, affecting, and beautiful–with over 460 pages of original artwork–Wonderstruck is a stunning achievement from a uniquely gifted artist and visionary.


Daughter of Smoke & Bone |$11.31 | Ages 14 +

Meet Karou. She fills her sketchbooks with monsters that may or may not be real; she’s prone to disappearing on mysterious “errands”; she speaks many languages—not all of them human; and her bright blue hair actually grows out of her head that color. Who is she? That is the question that haunts her, and she’s about to find out.

When one of the strangers—beautiful, haunted Akiva—fixes his fire-colored eyes on her in an alley in Marrakesh, the result is blood and starlight, secrets unveiled, and a star-crossed love whose roots drink deep of a violent past. But will Karou live to regret learning the truth about herself?


Variant |$10.98 | Ages 4

Benson Fisher thought that a scholarship to Maxfield Academy would be the ticket out of his dead-end life.

He was wrong.

Now he’s trapped in a school that’s surrounded by a razor-wire fence. A school where video cameras monitor his every move. Where there are no adults. Where the kids have split into groups in order to survive.

Where breaking the rules equals death.

But when Benson stumbles upon the school’s real secret, he realizes that playing by the rules could spell a fate worse than death, and that escape—his only real hope for survival—may be impossible.


Okay for Now | $10.98 | Ages 9 +
As a fourteen-year-old who just moved to a new town, with no friends and a louse for an older brother, Doug Swieteck has all the stats stacked against him. So begins a coming-of-age masterwork full of equal parts comedy and tragedy from Newbery Honor winner Gary D. Schmidt. As Doug struggles to be more than the “skinny thug” that his teachers and the police think him to be, he finds an unlikely ally in Lil Spicer—a fiery young lady who “smelled like daisies would smell if they were growing in a big field under a clearing sky after a rain.” In Lil, Doug finds the strength to endure an abusive father, the suspicions of a whole town, and the return of his oldest brother, forever scarred, from Vietnam. Together, they find a safe haven in the local library, inspiration in learning about the plates of John James Audubon’s birds, and a hilarious adventure on a Broadway stage. In this stunning novel, Schmidt expertly weaves multiple themes of loss and recovery in a story teeming with distinctive, unusual characters and invaluable lessons about love, creativity, and survival.


The Absolute Value of Mike$12.67 Ages 8 – 12
  Mike tries so hard to please his father, but the only language his dad seems to speak is calculus. And for a boy with a math learning disability, nothing could be more difficult. When his dad sends him to live with distant relatives in rural Pennsylvania for the summer to work on an engineering project, Mike figures this is his big chance to buckle down and prove himself. But when he gets there, nothing is what he thought it would be. The project has nothing at all to do with engineering, and he finds himself working alongside his wacky eighty-something- year-old aunt, a homeless man, and a punk rock girl as part of a town-wide project to adopt a boy from Romania. Mike may not learn anything about engineering, but what he does learn is far more valuable.


Red Glove (Curse Workers, Book 2) | $10.98 | Ages 14 +

The cons get craftier and the stakes rise ever higher in the riveting sequel to White Cat—now in paperback!After rescuing his brothers from Zacharov’s retribution and finding out that Lila, the girl he has loved his whole life, will never, ever be his, Cassel is trying to reestablish some kind of normalcy in his life. That was never going to be easy for someone from a worker family that’s tied to one of the big crime families—and whose mother’s cons get more reckless by the day. But Cassel is coming to terms with what it means to be a transformation worker, and he’s figuring out how to have friends.

Except normal doesn’t last very long. Soon Cassel is being courted by both sides of the law and is forced to confront his past—a past he remembers only in scattered fragments, and one that could destroy his family and his future. Cassel will have to decide whose side he wants to be on, because neutrality is not an option. And then he will have to pull off his biggest con ever to survive….


The Emerald Atlas (Books of Beginning) | $11.98 | Ages 8 – 12

Kate, Michael, and Emma have been in one orphanage after another for the last ten years, passed along like lost baggage.

Yet these unwanted children are more remarkable than they could possibly imagine. Ripped from their parents as babies, they are being protected from a horrible evil of devastating power, an evil they know nothing about.

Until now.

Before long, Kate, Michael, and Emma are on a journey to dangerous and secret corners of the world…a journey of allies and enemies, of magic and mayhem.  And—if an ancient prophesy is correct—what they do can change history, and it is up to them to set things right.

The Emerald Atlas (Books of Beginning) brims with humor and action as it charts Kate, Michael, and Emma’s extraordinary adventures through an unforgettable, enchanted world.


Keep Reading . . . 

 Holiday Gift Guide: Games, Building Sets, and Maps

 Big Picture Book Round-Up November 2011

 Holiday Gift Guide: Writing