You can never go wrong giving a classic book to the children and young adults on your gift giving list. But why not really dazzle them with the latest and greatest book reads?

I love giving books for the holidays. I gave books to my children every year when they were growing up and I’m continuing that tradition by giving books to my grandchildren. Books are a lasting reminder of how much I adore sharing the gift of literature with those I care the most about.

If you aren’t around children and young adults regularly, it is hard to know what books for these age groups are new, popular, and meaningful to give and receive. Being on a school board, belonging to the community of Good Reads, talking with other book lovers, attending the LA Times Festival of Books, and checking the current NY Times Bestseller list all provided me with some great titles to investigate. The following are my latest favorite choices; books that would make great gifts for the children and youth on anyone’s list:

Board Book (Age 18 months-2 Years)

The Baby Lit Series by Jennifer Adams

The Baby Lit Book Series are a fashionable way to introduce children to basic concepts through the world of classic literature. This title uses Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland to teach colors.

These sturdy board books, published by Gibbs Smith, are a treat for literature-loving parents to read to their children. I believe they are also appropriate for babies and toddlers (and secretly, I think they make a nice change for babies who receive too many Peter Rabbit and Winnie the Pooh treasuries).

The books can be enjoyed from a young age, but their classic nature and beautiful styling ensure that they will be treasured keepsakes for a lifetime.

Jennifer Adams, the author, has cleverly introduced babies to some unlikely authors (Lewis Carroll, William Shakespeare, Jane Austen, and Charlotte Bronte) by selecting appropriate settings, concepts, characters, and basic plots from well-known classics.

Early Reader/Read Along Book (Age 3-5)

The Book With No Pictures by B.J. Novak

“At once disarmingly simple and ingeniously imaginative, The Book With No Pictures inspires laughter every time it is opened, creating a warm and joyous experience to share—and introducing young children to the powerful idea that the written word can be an unending source of mischief and delight.”

I had preconceived notions about a children’s book with no illustrations; would it be boring? Would it captivate their attention in the same way that a picture book does? I couldn’t have been more mistaken. BJ Novak’s book is brilliant.

As entertaining as this book is, it is also a good tool for introducing children to the power of the written word. It’s not a literary work of art, but it demonstrates to children the power of a few well-chosen words.

Early Chapter Book (Age 7-11)

The Princess In Black by Shannon Hale and Dean Hale

A new chapter book series starring Princess Magnolia, who, when trouble calls, trades her frilly dresses and glass slippers for a black mask and cape to become The Princess In Black.

In so many books, princesses are princesses and superheroes are superheroes. But author Shannon Hale and her sidekick/husband/sometime writing partner, Dale, have a proposition: what if a girl can be both a princess AND a superhero?

Princess Magnolia is everything a princess should be: proper, delicate, dressed in pink fluffy dresses. She has hot chocolate and scones for afternoon tea. She hosts duchesses. She does everything she’s supposed to do.

Except, Princess Magnolia is secretly the Princess in Black, rescuer of threatened goats (and goat boys).

The Duchess Wigtower has other ideas: she has stopped by the castle to make sure that Princess Magnolia is keeping to the Princess Code and not doing anything unbecoming. So, what is Princess Magnolia supposed to do when she gets a call that the Big Bad Monsters are sneaking out to eat goats? Well… sneak out of the castle herself, of course! A superhero *always *needs to come to the rescue.

In The Princess in Black, the Hales (along with the illustrator, LeUyen Pham) give girls (and boys, too!) a princess/superhero they can cheer for and laugh with. Liberally illustrated with cheerful pictures, this book is perfect for those who loved Kate DiCamillo’s Mercy Watson series. It’s a simple story with simple words disguised with a lot of silliness.
All of which will make beginning readers very happy.

Young Adult Book (Age 13 and above)

Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand

“A masterfully told true story… nothing less than a marvel (Washingtonian). The new Common Core Standards requires young adults to be able to read and understand non-fiction. This book spent three years on the New York Times Best Seller List and is soon to be a major motion picture. Inspiring, powerful, and moving.

When a book produces as much pre-publication buzz as Laura Hillenbrand’s Unbroken, I’m naturally prejudiced against it. I’ve discovered that books rarely live up to the expectations I’ve formed for them predicated on the press they’ve received. But I was pleasantly surprised to discover that Unbroken not only stays true to, but far outperforms, the hype. I honestly can’t recall the last time a non-fiction book managed to hold my interest from beginning to end as well as this one did. It’s the first book I’ve read in a long time that I felt compelled to force on all of my friends.

These books will engage the young readers on your list and provide pleasurable reading experiences for years to come. Give and enjoy!!

What is your favorite children’s or young adult book to read and/or give away?

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