Are you beginning to panic, just a little bit? It’s less than three weeks until Christmas and you don’t even have ideas for everyone! I’m here to help! Here is a list of some of the best picture books for holiday gifts, no matter what age the recipient might be.
picture books for holiday gifts: friendship
It Came in the Mail By Ben Clayton
This picture book is about a very unique and caring friendship between a little boy and his mailbox. Liam really wants mail, but he never receives a thing. Then, one day he had an idea! Maybe if he wrote a letter, the recipient would write back.
Max and Marla are great friends, even though Marla is an owl. Their dream is to be winter Olympians! This story tells the tale of their perseverance and teamwork as they work together to overcome the many obstacles they encounter as they struggle to achieve their goal. In the end, they realize the real prize they have earned is their friendship!
Strictly No Elephants by Lisa Mantchev, illustrated by Taeeun Yoo
This little boy and his elephant show everyone the true meaning of friendship. Friends “help each other, lift each other over cracks, brave the scary things with you, and never leave anyone behind.” May our kiddos find friends, as well as be one.
Be a Friend by Salina Yoon. The story of Dennis and Joy, how they express themselves and the friendship that follows will encourage your children to reach out to others and to “be a friend.”
The Adventures of Beekle, the Unimaginary Friend by Dan Seekle, won the Caldecott Medal for best picture book of the year in 2014 and is truly a gem. Beekle was born on the island of imaginary friends and was awaiting his turn to be imagined by a child, but his turn never seemed to come. So he did the unthinkable –he sailed through some very scary waters to the real world. It turned out to be such a strange place and he struggled to find something familiar. When he stumbled upon a playground filled with children he felt much happier, but he still didn’t find his child. When he had just about given up hope, his child found him, and together they found that the world seemed to feel a little less strange! Not surprisingly, the illustrations are amazing, extremely colorful and somehow very comforting. Especially at the end when Beekle’s child finds lots of friends – real and imaginary. This is definitely a book that deserves a special place on your bookshelf!
Bear and Bunny by Daniel Pinkwater. This is a sweet story about friendship, as the two friends are on their quest through the forest to find the perfect pet. As they consider each possibility, it’s a great opportunity to talk with your child, or with a class, about the reading strategy of comparing and contrasting that occurs in the story as Bear and Bunny comes to a conclusion.
The Uncorker of Ocean Bottles by Michelle Cuevas. I was initially drawn to this story by the intriguing title, because I’ve always been fascinated by the magic and mystery of finding a message in a bottle. Then when I realized it was illustrated by Erin Stead, one of my favorite illustrators, I was sold! However, that all came before I read the charming story. Michelle Cuevas’s lyrical language pulled me into the book and it was as wonderful as I hoped. The Uncorker of Bottles leads a lonely life as he rescues, and then delivers the bottles he finds which have washed ashore. Until one day he opens one that leads him to the best surprise of all: friendship.
picture books for holiday gifts: kindness
Sidewalk Flowers by JonAmo Lawson and Sydney Smith. A little girl walks through a gray city with her distracted father and picks flowers along the way. The flowers become gifts to those she encounters, and in the process transforms the city and it’s inhabitants. May your children find beauty in their world and share it with others.
My Heart Will Not Sit Down by Mara Rockliff and illustrated by Ann Tanksley. Kedi, although she and everyone else in her African village have very little, is inspired to help the children of New York City during the depression, because her heart “will not sit down.” Perhaps Kedi’s story will inspire your little ones’ hearts “to not sit down”, so that they will want to help those around them in a way that they can.
Seeds of Freedom, The Peaceful Integration of Huntsville, Alabama, by Hester Bass, illustrated by E.B. Lewis.We can work together peacefully to make big changes. “It starts with one person; that could be you.”
Good People Everywhere, by Lynea Gillen and illustrated by Kristina Swarner. “Today millions and millions of people will do very good things. And so will you. I wonder what you will do?”
The Three Questions is a beautifully written and illustrated story by Jon J. Muth and is based on Leo Tolstoy’s short story, The Three Questions. Tolstoy’s story was written for adults, and in this version, Mr. Muth tells the story with kindness and warmth so that children can understand Tolstoy’s ideas.
Boxes for Katje by Candace Flemming. The historical fiction story is set in Holland immediately after the second World War. Food and clothing were extremely scarce, due to the fact that nothing could be farmed or manufactured during the war. One day, a little girl, Katje, receives a box from America containing socks, soap and chocolate. It caused a huge celebration in Katje’s family, and she sent a thank you note to the little American girl who sent the package.This prompted another box to arrive, which was so large that Katje could share the contents with her neighbor. This continued, until the Americans had sent enough food, soap, warm clothing and chocolate for the entire town! And then Katje sends a thank you gift to America. This story will lead to an understanding of conditions after the war, and how the kindness of a few people can help so many.
Because Amelia Smiled, by David Ezra Stein. It’s a delightful story about the magic of a little girl’s smile and how that magic traveled the world. This is an enchanting story which describes how one little girl’s act of kindness can change lives.
A Girl with a Cape, by Amy Logan. Amy was inspired to write this book after becoming very concerned about adults lack of kindness and courtesy toward others. She is a big believer that children model adult behavior, so this was very distressing to her. She was also concerned about the bullying that was occurring in schools and increasing every year. Out of this concern, came the idea for her book. It explains how a child’s small acts of caring and kind words, and an adult’s response and praise for those acts can add up to make a real difference.
How to Heal a Broken Wing by Bob Graham. This book is great for a read aloud and gives the kids the opportunity to create a conversation for each page. The story describes a little boy’s kindness and his parents support as he helps a bird with a broken wing.
Each Kindness by Jacqueline Woodson. This book is a beautiful illustration of the impact that kindness can make in the world when a little girl learns that “each kindness makes the world a little bit better.”
Enemy Pie by Derek Munson. In this story a little boy learns how to turn a “best enemy” into a best friend with his dad’s help.
picture books for holiday gifts: Ones you don’t want to miss
Waiting by Kevin Henkes. This tells the story of some toys who are happily waiting on a windowsill. They are all waiting for marvelous things, but they are very happy to patiently wait until something amazing happens! This is a Caldecott Honor Book and I certainly understand why. The pastel illustrations draw you into this charming story and leave you with a warm and cozy feeling.
When Spring Comes by Kevin Henkes. The latest book from Kevin Henkes, is beautifully illustrated by his wife, Laura Dronzek (I’m not familiar with her illustrations, but this book definitely makes me want to see more. Actually, I think I’d like for her to decorate my house!). This is a lovely, sweet story that pulls you in through the beautiful and vibrant illustrations covering the end papers and then keeps you turning each page to learn what’s coming next. It made me feel so joyful and cozy, as it engaged all of my senses. It’s a wonderful read aloud for preschool children, which will lead to an understanding of what to expect as Spring emerges all around them.
Night Gardener by Terry Fan and Eric Fan. A wonderful new picture book that has received starred reviews in Kirkus, School Library Journal and Publisher’s Weekly. It has amazing illustrations and is a charming story about the magic of how a young boy brings a small town together.
What to Do with a Box by Jane Yolen. Have you ever searched for the perfect gifts for your little one for the holidays, and then when all of the presents were opened and the wrapping paper scattered everywhere, all they really want to do is play with the boxes? Especially, if they are really large boxes? To the character in this story, a box can become anything, and provide hours or even days of entertainment, when he lets his imagination go. It’s muted illustrations and imaginative text will make you want to rush out, find a box and sail away to some far off destination!
Last Stop on Market Street by Matt De La Pena. This book won almost more awards than you can count. In addition to the 2016 Newbery Medal, it also won a 2016 Caldecott Honor Book Award, a 2016 Coretta Scott King Illustrator Honor Book Award, a New York Times Book Review Notable Children’s Book Award of 2015 and a Wall Street Journal Best Children’s Book of 2015. It tells the story of a boy and his grandma’s bus ride through the city on a Sunday after church. Grandma’s appreciation of everyone and everything they encounter helps CJ to find the beauty in the world that he never thought about before.
Finding Winnie: The True Story of the World’s Most Famous Bear by Lindsey Mattick. From the amazing end papers, through the family photo album at the end of the book, the story and the illustrations in this year’s Caldecott Winner, tell the story of the little bear who inspired the Winnie the Pooh books, It was written as a true story for the author’s son about his great great grandfather and his bear who became Winnie in the A.A. Milne books. I think this is going to be my new “go-to” gift! This is one to keep!
Ask Me by Bernard Waber. The illustrations in this book by Suzy Lee captivated me when I first saw it on the book store shelf. The golds, oranges, and reds are so alive and so happy. Ask Me is a heartwarming story about a walk that a father and daughter take through the park and woods. We learn that this is just an ordinary walk on an ordinary day, but each of them are delighted to be with one another, to be outside and to be enjoying and observing everything around them. The little girl keeps up a running narrative telling her dad to ask her lots of questions about everything from ice cream cones to lightening bugs. This continues until Daddy tucks her in with a good night kiss.
I Wish You More by Amy Krouse Rosenthal and Tom Lichtenheld. This is a charming story that would be a perfect graduation or baby gift. The narrator wishes the children many things from “I wish you more ups than downs,” to “I wish you more stories than stars.” And each wish is accompanied by a darling picture which perfectly illustrates the wish.
The Dark by Lemony Snicket. It tells the story of Laszlo who is afraid of the dark. It would be a great read aloud with your child who might be feeling the same way. It brings up lots of thoughts and ideas about the dark and why we need it. A wonderful bonus for this book, are the illustrations by Jon Klassen. You may recognize his style from another very popular book during the last year, Sam and Dave Dig a Hole.
Families, Families, Families! By Suzanne Lang and Max Lang. This is a heartwarming book that will help all children understand that families don’t have to be just like their family. In fact, it doesn’t matter who makes up a family, but what actually matters is “if you love each other, then you are a family.” The delightful illustrations of all kinds of animal families march through the pages of this book. The story will bring lots of giggles, as it offers opportunities for discussions about their friends, and how their families might be different than their own. Hopefully, these conversations will lead to acceptance, understanding and kindness toward others. I am a strong believer that our little ones can lead us to this end, if we give them the guidance. This book is a great place to begin!
The Journey by Francesca Sanna. Our world is struggling with the refugee crisis and our children are hearing about it. Unfortunately, during the past year in our own country, many unkind things have been said about refugees, which might leave our kids with a poor understanding of what it really means to be a family who must flee their country to save their lives. Journey helps children learn what it truly feels like to be forced to travel to an unknown country to insure their safety and to not be frightened any more. This book is based upon many refuge stories the author heard at a refugee center in Italy. She made a collage of these personal tales to create this touching book.
Have you Seen Elephant by David Barrow. This book is sure to become a favorite that you will reading over and over again. The charming illustrations from this first time author just give you a happy feeling. You might notice that it is all dialogue, with the best line being when the elephant tells the little boy that “I must warn you though. I’m VERY good.” when they begin to play hide and seek together. Your children will soon be emphatically (and probably very loudly) pointing out the elephant in each hiding place, as the dog is doing on each stop along the way, but the little boy just can’t find Elephant.
This is Sadie by Sara O’Leary. The charming illustrations of this book pulled me in and then the story captivated me. As you can tell, I love this book! It describes all of the places and all of the things a child can do with imagination. It’s tells about the childhood that we dream about, and wish for all of our children. It’s definitely on my baby gift list!
This list is a lot longer than I planned, but 2016 has been a great year for picture books, and I don’t want you to miss any as you search for the perfect books for the little ones on your list! What picture books are you giving for holiday gifts this year? Please let us know in the comments below!
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