BookLovers: New kids books to give this year— Plus it’s almost time for Century Club Lists! | Bookynotes Blog blog

BookLovers: New kids books to give this year— Plus it’s almost time for Century Club Lists!


Attention, BookLovers, we are officially T-minus six days until Christmas — but don’t hit the Panic Button just yet. I have gift suggestions here.

But first: We are also T-minus two weeks until Century Club lists are due! I’ve already received a few lists— keep ‘em coming, SouthCoast.

Each year, I challenge my BookLovers to read at least 25 books to make the BookLovers Century Club. Reading 25-49 books qualifies you for the Quarter Century Club; 50-99 makes the Half-Century Club; 100+ makes the Century Club.

It’s easy to join: If you hit 25 books, e-mail me— at the address at the end of this column — by Jan. 2. Be sure to include your name, hometown, and total number read. Boom, done.

And now, to my book picks:

I look on my shelf now and see memories: a nature picture book from my uncle Brendan “Happy Christmas 1990!!” later, a Harry Potter. Books from my parents’ friends, Eric Carle books from Santa.

Stories last a lifetime — if not physically on a shelf, in hearts, and by shaping malleable minds.

Today’s tots have been born into screens and pixels. So a gift book is also a subliminal message: to value the tangible. Printed words, hand-drawn art, imagined stories.

With that in mind, my suggestions…

I love any kids’ book that impresses the beauty of nature. And so I loved “The Night Walk,” by Marie Dorleans. Translated from French, a mother wakes her kids in the night to explore what nature holds. “We threaded through the whispering forest. The earth was damp, the bark smelled comforting.” Love this.

Fatima’s Great Outdoors," by Ambreen Tariq
Fatima’s Great Outdoors," by Ambreen Tariq

"Fatima’s Great Outdoors," by Ambreen Tariq, illustrated by Stevie Lewis carries a powerful message: nature belongs to all of us. Tariq, the founder of @brownpeoplecamping, tells the story of an immigrant family going camping for the first time — a welcome break for Fatima, who had a hard week as the new kid at school.

“Outside In,” by Deborah Underwood illustrated by Cindy Derby. The 2021 Caldecott Honor Book is a stunner. Love this ode to nature: “Once we were part of Outside and Outside was part of us. There was nothing between us.”

“We are Water Protectors,” Carole Lindstrom, illustrated by Michaela Goade. This 2021 Caldecott winner and New York Times No. 1 Bestseller is masterful. The watercolor illustrations by Goade — whose bread and butter is illustrating books “celebrating Indigenous voices” — could be framed. I love this: “We fight for those who cannot fight for themselves. The winged ones. The crawling ones… We are all related.”

“It Fell From the Sky,” by the Fan Brothers. I loved this whimsical tale of a dropped marble that intrigues a neighborhood of insects from Terry and Eric Fan. With black and white illustrations and the marble in color, it’s got Oz-in-technicolor magic, with a dash of Pixar’s “A Bug’s Life.” The Fans are fantastic, from their acclaimed 2016 gem “The Night Gardner,” to their almost-haunting “The Barnabus Project.”

“Little Witch Hazel: A Year in the Forest,” by Phoebe Wahl. This is exactly the type of book I would have gotten lost in as a kid — a charming forest filled with friendly wild creatures. It reminds me a bit of the old “The World of David the Gnome” cartoon from the early ‘90s. #NickJrShoutOut

"The Little Wooden Robot and the Log Princess" by Tom Gauld. This reminded me of “Adventure Time” meets “Over the Garden Wall.” Oddly charming and fantastical.

“A Is For Oboe: The Orchestra’s Alphabet,” by Lera Auerbach and Marilyn Nelson; illustrated by Paul Hoppe
“A Is For Oboe: The Orchestra’s Alphabet,” by Lera Auerbach and Marilyn Nelson; illustrated by Paul Hoppe

For an ABC book, this one struck me. Because it’s not a straightforward “A is for apple.” In fact, “A Is For Oboe: The Orchestra’s Alphabet,” by Lera Auerbach and Marilyn Nelson; illustrated by Paul Hoppe is more geared toward teaching older kids, maybe 6-9, about music, just using the alphabet as a skeleton.

A is for oboe, for example, because “The oboe insists that he can’t adjust his tuning to anyone else. Everyone has to tune to him… That’s why the first note you hear as you take your seat in the concert hall is a stubborn oboe playing his ‘A.’ And then the whole orchestra tuning in.”


Or “D”: “The world’s oldest instrument is the drum. Drums have existed since the birth of humankind, palpitating, counting off life’s seconds…”

Or “I” for “You or I… We sit sometimes dazzled…grateful to the composers who conjured and wrote the thousands of little black notes…to ignite in us chrysanthemums of neural fireworks.”


I laughed out loud reading “The Rock From the Sky,” by Jon Klassen. It’s as if the Coen Brothers directed a kids’ book. Klassen is brilliant, delivering his unique brand of clean sparse imagery, stylized writing, and dry wit. Every toddler should grow with Klassen’s “Hat” books. Buy the “hat box” packed with his trademark deadpan humor.

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