It’s getting down to the wire and Santa’s Elves are frantically packing his bag! Are you still looking for a great Christmas present for that book-loving kid in your life? Want to  inspire a child to read more? Give BOOKS!

Below I am listing some great books that caught my eye this holiday season and it’s not too late to run to your local bookstore!

But first A WINNER!

The winner of the Aaron Blabey Holiday Prize Pack (see my post about it HERE) chosen by random draw by my sister Josie is:


Congratulations Emerson! I will be contacting you to get you your prize!

BUT WAIT – there’s more!

Since it is a giving time of the year (and my mom said she’d pay for the postage), I have a second prize to give out!

I have a bunch of new release holiday kids books that I was sent to review and I usually donate to my local or school library but I will be sending this  Christmas book pack to – Dayna P!

Congratulations! I will be getting in touch to get you your books!

Now on to why we are all here –

Erik’s list of awesome books to get kids:


1. National Geographic Kids 2018 Almanac

By National Geographic Kids

Ages:8 – 12 years

Series: National Geographic Almanacs

352 pages
Publisher: National Geographic Children’s Books (May 9, 2017)

Publisher’s Synopsis:Kids can have fun keeping up with our quickly changing world with the New York Times best-selling Almanac, packed with incredible photos, tons of fun facts, crafts, activities, and fascinating features about animals, science, nature, technology, and more. New features include three chapters on engineering and technology, space and Earth, and life sciences; a guide to New Orleans, just in time for its 300th birthday; an updated Fun and Games chapter filled with all-new games, jokes, and comics; all new weird-but-true facts, crafts, and activities; 18 Facts for 2018 feature in every chapter; updated reference material, and much more.

What I thought: I am a huge fan of the National Geographic Kids yearly almanac. I really love how they are laid out – the fact boxes, vivid pictures and mixed fonts make it a feast for the eyes. With all that going on, you can tell it is very visually calculated not to be overwhelming but exciting and fun. The 2018 Almanac doesn’t disappoint.

There are updates in recent discoveries, like dinosaur classifications, geography, history, and science. I love how the reader learns as they are having fun digesting the book!

2. Tiny Town and Tiny Farm Board books

By SuzyUltman

Ages 4+

Board book: 16 pages
Publisher: Chronicle Books; Brdbk edition (November 7, 2017)


Publisher’s synopsis:Embark on a Tiny Tour! These adorable shaped board books take young readers on a tour through a teeny world with every turn of the page. Die-cuts on each page lead to the next adventure, finally ending in the comforts of home. Toddlers will delight in guessing what comes next while learning essential prediction skills. Shaped like buildings and featuring neon accents throughout, these cute books have great value and will prove irresistible to children eager to create their own tiny world.

What I thought: The books are adorable and just the right size for small hands. The board books are sturdy and will take use (and abuse) from preschoolers. The little peek-a-boo windows that lead from one page to the next are a great addition and invite the reader to turn to the next page. There are pictures and corresponding words on each page that will help beginning readers. The illustrations remind me of folk art. They are pleasing to the eye and offer a lot to look at and keep a child’s interest.

3. A Little House Picture Book Treasury: Six Stories Of Life On The Prairie

by Laura Wilder (Author),‎ Renee Graef (Illustrator)

4 – 8 years

Series: Little House Picture Book

Hardcover: 208 pages
Publisher: HarperCollins (September 19, 2017)

Publisher’s Synopsis:

Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House books have been cherished by generations of readers. Now the youngest readers can share her adventures with these illustrated adaptations of her beloved stories. This beautiful picture book treasury features six favorite stories about Laura and Almanzo.

Laura Ingalls lives in a snug little log cabin with her pa, her ma, her sisters, Mary and Carrie, and their bulldog, Jack. Almanzo Wilder lives on a big farm with his family and lots of animals.

Now young readers can go along with them on their adventures, which include trips to town, county fairs, spring snowfalls, new friends on the prairie, cozy winter days, and holidays with family.

What I Thought: I love the Little House stories. This collection is especially attractive. The binding is superb and the pages have gold edging. Graef’s illustrations are stunning and fill each page of the book with double spreads.

The text on each page is simple and in a large font, making it perfect for story-time or for early readers. The book is a collection of six adapted stories. The adaptations are excellent and captures the essence of Ingalls’ original text. THi would make a beautiful keepsake gift.

4. Origami Peace Cranes

by Sue DiCicco

Age Range: 5 – 9 years

Hardcover: 32 pages
Publisher: Tuttle Publishing (September 12, 2017)

Publisher’s Synopsis:

Origami Peace Cranes is a multicultural children’s story about the capacity for friendship in all of us and the power that small things have to make a big difference.

When Emma moves to a new town, she’s afraid she’ll never make friends. She tries her hardest to make a good impression on her new classmates. Through an origami crane project, her classmates show her that they really want to get to know her. Later, when a new family moves into her neighborhood, Emma has a great idea how to make them feel welcome!

Filled with fun pictures and ideas, this story addresses the anxiety that comes with new beginnings and shows kids a way to act as a diverse community. At the end of the book, instructions for making a paper crane are included so that kids can make their own cranes to share!

What I thought: This is a sweet story that reminds us of how we are all different and what a wonderful thing that is. The story addresses a child’s concern at starting a new school and the anxiety of wanting to fit in. I really love how all the kids at the school don’t try to “fit in” but just are who they are. The story introduces the reader to a diverse cast, each embracing who they are. Soon Emma, the main character, is feeling at ease with herself. The illustrations are bright with a mix of textures, illustrations and photos. The idea of the Peace Cranes is great! The cranes are left on Emma’s desk with a note of friendship folded in the wings. The book is part of a real Peace Crane project where kids are encouraged to make their own Peace Cranes and trade them with others around the world. There is some information on the program in the back of the book as well as origami paper included so kids can get folding right away!



5. The Nutcracker in Harlem

by T. McMorrow (Author),‎ James Ransome (Illustrator)

Age:  4 – 8 years

Hardcover: 32 pages
Publisher: HarperCollins (September 26, 2017)

Publisher’s Synopsis: This jazz-inspired reinvention of The Nutcracker is a worthy tribute to the dreamlike wonder and magic of the Christmas season.

In this original retelling, set in New York City during the height of the Harlem Renaissance, one little girl finds her voice as a musician thanks to her enchanting adventures with a magical toy.

This quintessential holiday tale is brought to vivid life by debut picture book author T. E. McMorrow and Coretta Scott King Award-winning illustrator James Ransome. An author’s note at the end provides additional information about the history of the Harlem Renaissance, and about the author’s inspiration for this musical retelling.

What I thought: This is a beautiful story. It captures the power of dance and music in a wonderful retelling of the classic Nut Cracker tale. The main character Marie, too shy to take part in her family’s celebrations by singing, dancing and playing music, finds her voice in the dreamy tale of the Nut Cracker. I really enjoyed the backstory included in the end pages of the book – McMorrow’s inspiration for writing the story. The illustrations are rich and convey a ton of emotion. I highly recommend picking it up.

6. Percy Jackson Coloring Book

by Rick Riordan (Author),‎ Keith Robinson (Illustrator)

Age Range: 8 – 12 years

Series: Percy Jackson & the Olympians

Paperback: 96 pages
Publisher: Disney-Hyperion; Clr Csm edition (August 15, 2017)

Publishers Synopsis: Demigods, brandish your pencils!

Over the past decade, millions of young readers, parents, and teachers have come to adore Rick Riordan’s classic series Percy Jackson and the Olympians, which made ancient Greek mythology contemporary, relevant, and entertaining as it turned kids on to reading. Now fans can literally color Percy’s world with the amusing portraits, dramatic scenes, and intricate designs on every spread of this large format paperback. This book is a great way to introduce young children to the series, to allow older fans to reminisce, and to augment classroom units on Greek mythology.

What I Thought: Percy Jackson. Need I say more? Okay, I will. I am a HUGE Riordan fan. I love his story-telling and the humor, history, sense of adventure and emotion he injects in his novels. So when I saw a Percy Jackson coloring book come across my desk, I though WHAAAT?? I was waiting for a jump the shark moment. BUT I have to say when I went paging through the book, I was pleasantly surprised at Robinson’s epic translation of the Lightning Thief.

Robinson captures the story in amazing detail and when you are coloring it, you are feeling like your own comic illustrator.

If you are a comic fan, Riordan fan or just a coloring fan – this is the book for you!

7. My Weird School Fast Facts

By Dan Gutman (Author),‎ Jim Paillot (Illustrator)

Ages: 6+

Print Length: 192 pages
Publisher: HarperCollins (June 20, 2017)

Publishers Synopsis:

Did you know that the word “independence” never appears in the Declaration of Independence? Did you know that soldiers in World War I collected thousands of glowworms in jars to help them see at night?!

Learn more weird-but-true U.S. history facts with A.J. and Andrea from Dan Gutman’s bestselling My Weird School series. This all-new series of nonfiction books features hundreds of hysterical facts, plus lots of photos and illustrations.

Whether you’re a kid who wants to learn more about our country’s history or simply someone who wants to know how many Americans are involved in toilet-related injuries each year, this is the book for you!

What I thought: Can we just agree Dan Gutman is a genius? I don’t know how the guy does it. He must have written like 10,837,942 books by now and I enjoy every one of them. I wonder if his kids know how cool he is. I digress. My list of awesome books wouldn’t be complete without a shout out to Gutman. First I have to say that his books translate across age, and reading level. My parents love reading his books to my little sister. My litter sister who struggles with reading due to dyslexia devours his books and you know how I feel about them. Gutman’s Weird School Fast Fact series is one of my favorites from him. Explorers, Presidents and Toilets is one of my favorites in the series, but I do recommend them all. Gutman had managed to make history a joy to learn in the book. The reader isn’t going to get an extensive history lesson, but there is enough there to make history cool and maybe pique the interest of kids to go and find out more.

And a shout out to another favorite of mine in this series –

8. The Little White Guide To Making Your Own Movie in 39 Steps

by Little White Lies (Author),‎ Matt Thrift (Author)

Ages: 13+

Hardcover: 144 pages
Publisher: Laurence King Publishing (September 19, 2017)

Publishers Synopsis: Whether you’re posting a clip on Facebook, making a presentation video, introducing yourself to others online, or just sending out a greeting to friends, today everyone is filmmaker.

This book cuts away the jargon to offer a highly accessible, no-fuss guide to getting the best results from the kit you already own. In just 39 steps, it offers essential instructions and tips to help amateur movie-makers—filming anything from family celebrations to no-budget horror movies—make their creations look and feel more cinematic.

Drawing on its vast network of professional filmmakers as well as on its unique style (with a compelling illustration language and direct, quotation-rich approach), Little White Lies presents the definitive, fun, and straightforward handbook for making films.

What I thought: Got a budding film maker in your life? This is a neat book that goes through the steps to making a movie. This isn’t a children’s book per se but older kids who like to make their own videos will really be into the book. The text breaks down movie making into 39 steps. The steps range from story boards to lighting  to finding an audience and everything in between.

Each step is easy to follow and gives practical information on how to make a quality movie using just your phone or tablet. Itma y not make you Spielberg, but there are some great tips here!

9. Main Street Magic

by Ingela Arrenhius (Author)

Age Range: 5+

Hardcover: 22 pages
Publisher: Chronicle Books; Ltf Pop edition (September 5, 2017)

Publishers Synopsis: Welcome to Main Street! Visit the bakery, fish market, hair salon, museum, and circus, lifting flaps to make extraordinary discoveries as you wander through this small town. Peer through the die-cut windows of the bakery to admire its mouthwatering croissants, then lift the gatefold to waltz inside where there are additional flaps—and marvelous delicacies—to uncover. Oh, but wait! There’s so much more to explore. With adorable, retro illustrations and smart novelty bookmaking, there’s always a whimsical surprise just around the corner.

What I thought: This book is super fun! There is so much going on, you can page through it over and over. The book takes you through different shops and places you’d fin on Main Street. Places like the bakery, hair salon, fish market and museum. THERE is simple text on each page and some hidden under the flaps. The flaps are sturdy and will take a lot of use. Some of the pages open up into wide spreads.

The illustrations are fun and full of color. I like the humor injected in the pages – like the silly hairdos hidden under the dryers at the salon. It’s a book parents and kids will love!

10. American Girl Like Sisters: Natalia Takes the Lead

Age Range: 8 – 12 years

Series: American Girl: Like Sisters (Book 2)

Paperback: 192 pages
Publisher: Scholastic Press (December 26, 2017)

by Clare Hutton (Author),‎ Helen Huang (Illustrator)

Publishers Synopsis: Several dogs are staying at the inn with their owners and there’s even going to be a wedding with dog ring bearers! Natalia is eager to help out because she loves dogs and wants to earn a little extra spending money. She volunteers to watch and walk all the guests’ dogs-and volunteers Zoe and Emma to help her.

But Zoe and Emma have their own commitments and Natalia is quickly overwhelmed. When one of the dogs involved in the wedding goes missing, Natalia is in Big Trouble. Can she find the runaway dog and save the guests’ big day?

What Josie Thought: This one is on Josie’s (my sister) list of awesome books, so I am giving her some blog space here :o)

This is the second book in the American Girl “Like Sisters” series. I really like this series. The books have a good story in just the right amount of pages. In this story I like how Natalia wants to help out but learns a lesson about making sure you don’t try to do too much. I like how Emma and Zoe help Natalia out to find  the lost dog. I like the characters in the book. You can’t get this book until after Christmas because it isn’t out yet but you can get the first book in the series, Emma Moves In, which I liked very much too!

11. The Secret Agent Training Manual: How to Make and Break Top Secret Messages: A Companion to the Secret Agents Jack and Max Stalwart Series

by Elizabeth Singer Hunt (Author),‎ Brian Williamson (Illustrator)

Age Range: 7 – 9 years

Grade Level: 2 – 7

Series: The Secret Agents Jack and Max Stalwart Nonfiction Series (Book 1)

Paperback: 112 pages
Publisher: Weinstein Books : Hachette Books (July 25, 2017)

Publishers Synopsis: Want to learn how to make and break TOP SECRET messages like a real spy? If so, this book is for you! In this exciting, award-winning nonfiction companion to the debut series SECRET AGENTS JACK AND MAX STALWART, readers ages 8 – 12 years old can learn behind-the-scenes codebreaking and spy skills.

Inside are more than 80 pages of tips, tricks, and practice exercises for writing and deciphering cryptic communications. You’ll learn how to make your own invisible ink, hide your messages, create unbreakable ciphers, and craft your own decoder gadgets. You can use this manual to learn how to exchange top secret notes with friends.

What I thought: This is a super cool book that is a companion the the Jack & Max Stalwart Secret Agent series. First off, I highly recommend the Jack & Max series. I’ve read the first two book in the series (third book is due out in July 2018) and they are awesome! Hunt’s storytelling is spot on for a young audience looking for an action packed adventure. I really love that there is a bit of geography and culture lessons hidden in the pages right along side the page-turning action.

As for the Secret Agent training manual, it is packed with fun ways to make and break codes! I especially loved learning how to hide a message in a  cross word puzzle! There is a history of cryptography at  the beginning, which s a great addition to the book. There are a wide variety of codes, and ciphers in the book – all with fun activities associated with hem. In the back there is a “Cryptographic Challenge” to test out what you have learned. An answer key is provided. This is a fun present for the budding secret agent in your life!

12. Sticky History of the World

by Caroline Selmes (Illustrator)

Age Range: 6 – 9 years

Series: Magma for Laurence King

Paperback: 32 pages
Publisher: Laurence King Publishing; Csm Stk edition (August 29, 2017)

Publishers Synopsis: Learn about the history of the world, stickering this inventive new format as you learn!

Sticky History of the World includes a large-format, eight-page sticker booklet and an intricately illustrated, eight-panel fold-out card carousel.

Each of the panels of the carousel is based upon an era of the history of the world, from the Big Bang and the age of the dinosaurs, via the Romans and the Egyptians, right up to the modern age, and even into the future. Use the stickers to decorate the panels and to create your own incredible picture of the world!

What I thought: History in stickers – who could ask for more? This is seriously fun! The text in the book is at the bottom of each sticker, describing what the sticker image is depicting. The end pages of the book are a time line of the times in history depicted in the book.

Each page depicts a different time in history like the age of Neanderthals, Aztecs, the 20th century, dinosaurs and much more! You find the corresponding stickers for each page and make a scene using the stickers. The text at the bottom of each sticker tells what each is about and reflects what was actually going on in the time period. It is a very cool way to get kids interested in history!


Categories: 13+ (YA), Age 1-5, Age 12+, Age 6-9, Age 9+

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4 replies

  1. What a thoughtful lists. Some great recommendations!

  2. Fabulous list, Erik! I went through it and now I wish I’d had it a week ago because it gave me ideas for Christmas presents for grandkids…but no matter…they’ll have b-days coming up and I can use your suggestions. Actually, I want a bunch of them for myself! Great post!

    • Sorry about that. :/ The sad thing was that over here, we got our shopping done the Friday and Saturday before Christmas. 😉 I just figured people in the same boat as us could use a hand. I bet your grandkids will be happy with their future b-day presents! 😀

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