It's been said that a book as a gift is something that keeps giving and giving. Following is my recommendation of books for gift-giving:
For the beginner, we want quality art and simple text. Storybooks should have short chapters that keep the interest (both for listener and reader, since you'll be reading them time after time!)
"Diary of a Spider," by Doreen Cronin and Harry Bliss. Don't worry, he's more scared of you and your stomping foot. A great read-aloud. One of my nominations for the Caldecott Award for 2005. (Ages 2-6)
"Zen Shorts," by Jon J. Muth. The meditations — which are short and in story format — hone our ability to act with intuition. The text is inspirational and the illustrations luminous. (Ages 5 and up)
"Once Upon a Time, the End (Asleep in 60 Seconds)," by Geoffrey Klaske and Barry Blitt. A father reads to his child who won't go to sleep. He skips pages, phrases and sentences to get to the end of the book. But to no avail. The child knows how the stories go and how they're being fractured. This is a delightful picture book for the whole family.
"Poetry Speaks to Children," edited by Elise Paschen. This is a collection of 95 poems from classic to contemporary. All ages for this anthology.
"The Little Engine That Could," by Watty Piper. New illustrations by Loren Long. A timeless story in a new big format that can be enjoyed time and again.
For older readers
Older readers want adventure and more adventure! We are in a deluge of fantasy/science fiction books, many in series format. Nonfiction is also popular and science-oriented topics are reading-pleasers. Biographies have to be "honest" stories with heroes that are exemplary. Of course, Harry Potter is the most popular title for this age. (It must be for all ages, since it was named outstanding book of the year for the Quill Literacy Award.)
I met a group of young readers in the bookstore this week, and they raved about "Eragon" and the sequel, "Eldest," by Christopher Paolini. An older boy was buying "Inkspell" because he enjoyed "Inkheart," by Cornelia Funke, so much. We both agreed that her "Dragon Rider' was going to become a classic.
When they asked me what I liked to read I told them I enjoyed "The Extraordinary Adventures of Alfred Kropp" by Rick Yancey because it's a fast-paced mystery. They reminded their father about their "want" list, which he laughingly admitted gets longer and longer.
Since I didn't find copies of "Minister's Daughter," by Julia Hearn, and "Under the Persimmon Tree," by Suzanne Fisher Staples, I had the store order them. The Hearn book is full of magic, and the other is a realistic fiction about the conflict in Afghanistan.
"Holes" by Louis Sachar still leads the list for middle-grade fiction. The movie tie-in has provided a new dimension.
The soon-to-be-released movie of C.S. Lewis' "The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe" is being highly publicized with new covers, activity books, picture book stories and illustrated big-books.
The picture book "Zathura" by Chris VanAllsburg is also a movie-hit this holiday season.
Other books that children are enjoying:
Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants series, by Ann Brashares (ages 8-14).
Junie B. Jones series (ages 6-9).
Magic Tree House series (ages 6-10).
A Series of Unfortunate Events series (ages 8-12).
Spiderwick series and "Arthur Spiderwick's Field Guide," by Tony DiTerlizzi and Holly Black (ages 8-12).
"Wizardology," "Egyptology" and "Dragonology," all three by Candlewick Press (all ages).
For friends who "have everything"
Every year I choose books to give to friends and family members who enjoy picture books as much as I do:
"Robert's Snowflakes: Artists' Snowflakes for Cancer's Cure," compiled by Grace Lin and Robert Mercer. Two hundred snowflakes were painted by artists and auctioned off for $100,000, the proceeds going for cancer research. Lin and Mercer replicated the snowflakes into a book where proceeds also go toward a cure for cancer. These are elegant and colorful, a visual feast. A punch-out snowflake can be used on the tree as a reminder of the good work of the artist/editors.
The other choice for friends who "have everything" is a picture book by Bagram Ibatoulline. It was difficult to choose from the more than a dozen titles, but "Hana in the Time of the Tulips" is my choice." I think it will be a welcome surprise to a few people I know.
What does your book list look like? Need some help? You can contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.