I’ll confess that as I receive books to review, my 9-year-old voracious reader works through them much faster than I do, so I asked Olive’s help with this gift guide. She endorses the gift-worthiness of this list.
Amulet by Kazu Kibuishi
I’ve only read the first few books of this beautiful graphic novel series, but I’ll say that it’s like a beacon to the kids who come over. It’s our most borrowed set of books, and more than once I’ve heard when the kids are looking at review shelf, “OMG IS THAT BOOK SIX HOW DO YOU HAVE BOOK SIX ALREADY CAN I BORROW IT?” Olive says what she likes about Amulet is how people who are your enemies can become your friends. I like that it stars a girl protagonist.
Sisters by Raina Telgemeier
This was one of my favorite books of the year. The latest graphic novel by Smile creator Raina Telgemeyer tells the story of her trek from only child to oldest of three, and a cross country road trip she took with her mom, sister, and brother. Maybe it hit a soft spot because the sibling genders and age split were almost identical to that of me and my siblings, but it’s also laugh-out-loud funny. It’s a great book to hand to any kid with sibling struggles. I gave my copy, of course, to my sister.
Origami Yoda by Tom Angleberger and Star Wars: Jedi Academy by Jeffrey Brown
If you have a tween that has even a little awareness of Star Wars, these books are great. Both series deal with school and teachers and members of the opposite sex in a tween-friendly way while setting them in the context of Star Wars. In Tom Angleberger’s series, kids make origami versions of their favorite Star Wars characters to give each other life advice, particularly the wise Origami Yoda. Olive and I both recently read the hilarious Emperor Pickletine Rides the Bus, but The Secret of the Fortune Wookiee remains my favorite. Star Wars: Jedi Academy is a journal-like graphic novel that follows the funny, relatable adventures of a young padawan as he trains to be a Jedi.
Audrey (Cow) by Dan Bar-el
I bought this book for Olive because it’s illustrated by a high school friend (yay, Tatiana Mai-Wyss!). Olive tells me it’s about a cow that’s trying to escape the place where it lives where they want to kill it and make it into grocery store food. She likes that all of the different animals could talk to each other and understand what the people are saying, but the people couldn’t understand the animals. I noticed that while Olive was reading it she would often talk to me about the writing style, reading me passages that she thought were funny.
Phoebe and Her Unicorn by Dana Simpson
This book is about a 4th grader named Phoebe who meets a unicorn that grants here one wish. After trying to wish for infinity wishes or infinity dollars, she settles on wishing the unicorn was her best friend. Olive says this book is “funny because the unicorn is walking in front of a whole bunch of people and the people aren’t all excited that it’s a unicorn. And the unicorn’s name is Marigold Heavenly Nostrils.” This book is also a nice study in making friends.
Loot by Jude Watson
Olive says, “it was interesting because it was about a thief that was raising a son, and the son has to figure out how to do things. Then the dad dies and the son is sad and needs money so he’s figuring out how to steal things with his twin sister that he didn’t know existed.” She says it’s a little sad but exciting.
Minecraft: The Complete Handbook Collection by Stephanie Milton
For any kid that wants to start or is relatively new to playing Minecraft, these guides are super handy. Minecraft wasn’t set up with kid tutorials in mind, and these books cover all of the necessary basic information to use the different tools and bricks to make masterful Minecraft creations.
My niece will also tell you to get anything by Rick Riordan.
For a comics-loving older teen or adult in your house, go for Jill Lepore’s The Secret History of Wonder Woman. I’m reading it now and it’s fascinating, a deep look into our country’s feminist history and its most iconic female superhero.
For a design nerd that also happens to be a parent of young children, pick up Alphabetics: An Aesthetically Awesome Alliterated Alphabet Anthology by Patrick and Traci Concepcion. Pair with twee illustrations by Dawid Ryski is alliterative text for each letter of the alphabet. Paired with the cover image is: “Cc / colossal Cornelius captures curious carnie companions on his classic Contaflex camera.”