Shhh! Book Gifts for Kids and Teens
A Bossy book-buying note: If you're buying books this holiday season, please support your local independent bookstore. They need and appreciate our business now more than ever! (The book covers on this site link you to Bookshop, a site that supports the beloved indies that keep us swimming in thoughtful book recommendations and excellent customer service all year round.)
Happy early holidays!
01 This Book Is a Planetarium by Kelli Anderson
This unusual, usable, interactive book turns into six tools (a planetarium, a "musical instrument," a drawing generator, an infinite calendar, a message decoder, and a speaker that amplifies sound).
I like to give This Book Is a Planetarium to hard-to-buy-for giftees, especially teens who might especially enjoy receiving something unexpected in the book department.
This is a beautiful book published by Chronicle Books.
02 Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman
Author Neil Gaiman has long been inspired by Norse mythology while imagining his novels' many fantastical worlds.
Here, Gaiman takes the reader through Norse mythological characters and tales, fashioning them into a fluid narrative starring Thor, Loki, Odin, and more, and adding his signature charm and humor.
The book is 300 pages, but with its short chapters, Norse Mythology lends itself to short bursts of reading or gobbling it up all at once.
03 Atlas Obscura: Explorer's Guide for the World's Most Adventurous Kid by Dylan Thuras
Here's a little pseudo travel for Pandemic Times: Atlas Obscura's book for kids offers gorgeous images and factoids (in high quality Atlas Obscura style) of "100 surprising, mysterious, and weird-but-true places on earth."
From glittering crystal caves in Mexico to the site of an ancient meteor crash and many compelling places in between, the absorbing information and illustrations take the reader over mountains, into forests, and under the sea to see aspects of the natural world they may never have imagined.
04 Springfield Confidential by Mike Reiss
In honor of the thirtieth anniversary of The Simpsons, Reiss, who's written for the show since episode one in 1989, wrote his account of the writing and creation of this beloved, mischievous show. He answers fan questions, offers behind-the-scenes looks at experiences with celebrity guests, and reveals why the characters are yellow and where Springfield is located.
Reiss shares gossip and information of interest to any Simpsons fan, and he interviews cast members and key players like Conan O'Brien, Al Jean, Nancy Cartwright, and Dan Castellaneta.
05 Gmorning, Gnight! by Lin-Manuel Miranda
This little book was written by a household legend of ours, Lin-Manuel Miranda. (I think it almost wouldn't matter to certain giftees what's inside, as long as Miranda wrote it.)
Gmorning, Gnight: Little Pep Talks for Me and You contains lovely thoughts, inspiring poems, and daily greetings from the cheery fellow who wrote the musical Hamilton, and it's sweetly illustrated by Jonny Sun. The book's contents are based on the morning and evening tweets of encouragement Miranda posts on Twitter each day. I love the idea of giving a set of short, joyful boosts for the little people in my life.
06 How to Be a Person by Catherine Newman
The subtitle of How to Be a Person is 65 Hugely Useful, Super-Important Skills to Learn Before You're Grown Up. Newman touches on everything from how to fold a T-shirt to how to stick up for someone and lots of basic tasks in between.
So, are my giftees going to enjoy receiving this book full of practical advice and step-by-step methods for building independent skills? I think so, and here's why:
Newman is also the author of Bringing Up Birdy (I should post a glowing review of this book on this site; I loooooved reading it while I was expecting my second child); she writes the lovely blog Ben and Birdy (in which she shares recipes, thoughts, and things she loves--and where she keeps it real by including things like photos of her house taken during quarantine); and she's the down-to-earth, kind, and funny etiquette expert for Real Simple magazine. I would read anything Newman wrote, and I suspect that she's the perfect playful but practical author for this book.
Plus, while kids might not love chores, they do like leaving out the middleman (parents) and feeling independent. Ding ding ding!
Side note: Newman is also the editor of the James Beard Award-winning quarterly kids' cooking magazine ChopChop, which I am also giving as a gift this year.
What books are you gifting your younger people this holiday season?
I'm Bossy about buying and merchandising fiction for my kids during the year, as in: "Here is a tableau of wonderful books that are now fanned beautifully across your bed or stacked at your bedside to tempt and delight your brains!”
But for holiday book gifts, other than providing the first in a fiction series I think they'd like, typically I give my own kids and the other kids in my life nonfiction books. I feel as though nonfiction topics can either be easily targeted toward a kid's known interests or just generally potentially interesting to anyone willing to dip into a subject.
I hope the ideas here (and those in the lists to come) will help you with ideas for beautiful book gifts for anyone on your list!
You might also like the list Shhh! Books I'm Giving as Gifts This Holiday.