IPR's 2014 Children's Holiday Book Guide

Dec 8, 2014

Do you have a young bookworm on your Christmas list?

If you’re looking for suggestions for gift ideas, you’re in luck. Charity Nebbe talked with Barb Stein, who used to be a children’s librarian and now works at Prairie Lights Bookstore in Iowa City, and Sue Davis of River Lights Books in Dubuque about the best new books for this year during Talk of Iowa. Find their recommendations below.

Barb’s List:

Picture Books:

A Library Book for Bear by Bonny Becker

“This book is beautifully designed, and it’s by a great author. The perspectives in the pictures make this book great.”

My Teacher is a Monster! by Peter Brown

Once Upon an Alphabet: Short Stories for all the Letters by Oliver Jeffers

“This book is oversized and sophisticated. It’s one of those that’s not just good for the very young and is great for bedtime.”

Lindbergh: The Tale of a Flying Mouse by Torben Kuhlmann

A Book with No Pictures by B.J. Novak

“If you’re familiar with ‘The Office’, you might recognize B.J. Novak’s name. This book is exactly what is says it is, a book with no pictures. But, this would be a great read-aloud. There’re lots of weird words, and the author is talking directly to the reader.”

Max and Ruby at the Watrhogs’ Wedding by Rosemary Wells

Waiting is Not Easy! By Mo. Willems

“Mo. Willems is a treasure in the U.S. His books are tender and funny, as is this one. It’s a great read for a child ages 3-6.”


The Wise Fool: Fables From the Islamic World by Shahrukh and Micha Archer


Manger by Lee Bennett Hopkins

“This is a great holiday book. It’s got breathtaking illustrations, and is a wonderful holiday treasure. It’s themed around the nativity scene.”

Transitional (Grades 1-3)

Frank Einstein and the Antimatter Motor by Jon Scieszka

“Jon Scieszka has been a champion for young boys when it comes to reading. This is a great book.”

Ellray Jay Rocks the Holidays by Sally Warner

“There aren’t many transitional books with African-American lead characters. This one does and is a series. It’s unique in a lot of ways.”


Tiny Creates: The World of Microbes by Nicola Davies

“With all the news about microbes lately, this is a great beginner science book. It is illustrated, but I would recommend it. It’s great about showing how microbes multiply.”

World of Birds by Kim Kurki

“I’m getting this for an adult birder on my list. It’s not just an identification guide.”

Here is the World: A Year of Jewish Holidays by Leslea Newman

“This is great for a very young reader. It has a great explanation of all the holidays, and it has crafts in the back.”

Bedtime Math 2: This Time it’s Personal by Laura Overdeck and Jim Pailot“This is the second book of its kind. The family who wrote it noticed their kids weren’t as strong in math as in reading, so they wrote some story problems to do before bedtime. The paragraphs are funny, and there is a great website with lots of resources that go with this book.” 

Fiction (Grades 5-8):

The Night Gardener by Jonathan Auxier

“This is one that could win the Newberry medal this year. It’s about two children who go work at what could be a haunted manor in England. It’s full of mystery and ghosts.”

The Misadventures of the Family Fletcher by Dana Levy

“This is a somewhat old fashioned book but has a progressive plotline. It follows a family with two dads and four adopted boys who are each struggling with their own issues.”

The Boundless by Kenneth Oppel

“I was entranced by this book from day 1. It’s about a boy who saves his dad’s boss from an avalanche. Wonderful for 4-5 graders; there are lots of great characters.”

Nuts to You by Lynne Rae Perkins

Sisters by Raina Telgemeier

“This one is about relationships. It really nails family.”


Vango: Between Earth and Sky by Timothee De Fombelle

“This one is very high adventure. It’s set in 1934 Paris and follows a character everyone is after, but we don’t know why.”

The Glass Sentence by S.E. Grove

Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson

Iowa Connections:

The Ghost in the Attic: The Haunted Library by Dori Butler

White House for Kids by Katherine House

Alice Waters and the Trip to Delicious by Jacqueline Briggs Martin

The Magic Thief: Book 4 by Sarah Prineas

Mr. Willowby’s Christmas Tree by Robert Barry

Sue’s List:

Board Books:

Who is Driving? By Leo Timmers

“In this book, the reader is trying to figure out who is driving the vehicle. It’s a fun matching book; great for 2 year olds.”

Peek-a-Zoo! By Nina Laden

“This is one of the books in the “Peek a Who?” Series.

It's a book of previously unpublished lullabies with a CD that's included for all of us well-meaning but off key singers. - Sue Davis, talking about "Goodnight Songs"


Goodnight Songs by Margaret Wise Brown

“I feel in love with this the first moment I saw it. It’s a book of previously unpublished lullabies with a CD that’s included for all of us well-meaning but off key singers.”

Picture Books:

Windblown by Aedouard Manceau

“This one is great for the future artist in the family. It’s open ended enough to leave you feeling inspired.”

It’s an Orange Aardvark by Michael Hall

Telephone by Mac Bernett

“This book is based on the old children’s telephone game. It’s fun to track the illustrations and where the mistakes in the message come in throughout the book.”

Maddi’s Fridge by Lois Brant

“I can’t stop selling this book. It came out in September and has a very important message about children’s hunger without being preachy. It follows two friends, and when one is at the other’s house, they look in the fridge and it’s practically empty. My favorite moment is at the end of the book when the girl who was visiting brings food to the other’s family.”


Ashley Bryan’s Puppets: Making Something from Everything by Ashley Bryan

“Ashley Bryan is an artist and has been making puppets from debris on beaches and city streets. There’s a poem with a photo for nearly every one that has been made, and they’ve been put together into this book. The puppets are mind blowing.” 

Big Magic for Little Hands by Joshua Jay

“This book was created by a magician. It’s got 25 great illusions, lots of fun for kids ages 7 and up.”

The Right Word by Jen Bryant

Chapter Books:

Nuts to You by Lynne Rae Perkins

“This book is great for the beginner chapter reader. It’s also a great read-aloud and is about the adventures of squirrels.”

Scavengers by Michael Perry

“This is the first of two. The second book will be out next fall."

Rain Reign by Ann Martin

“This one is about a high functioning autistic girl. Her teachers don’t understand her. Her classmates make fun of her. There’s a dog that’s a key character in this book, and it’s really a heart rendering story that will give you faith in people.” 

Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson

“This book is getting a lot of press and is a memoir of a young black girl growing up in the South in the 1960’s. Do not miss this book. I was so touched by this having grown up in that era, and I’ve heard of lots of adults passing this around amongst themselves.”

Young Adult:

Belzhar by Meg Wolitzer

“Meg is a favorite adult fiction author. I heard she was writing a young adult book and was both excited and concerned. She really nails it with this one and really gets at the feelings and emotions of teens. This is about a young girl sent to school for the intelligent but fragile. It’s magical how the story unfolds. I would recommend this book for the sophomore girl – paired as a girt with Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar.”


The Animal’s Santa by Jan Brett

I know an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Dreidel by Caryn Yacowitz