Got a young reader on your holiday gift list? Here are some options

A woman and a child read a book.
Debbie Marak reads a Curious George book to her five-year-old granddaughter, Hailey Krischak, at a Barnes & Noble book store in March 2006 in Arlington Heights, Ill.
Getty Images

The holiday season has arrived. Sure, there are the toys and cool clothes that young kids and teenagers have on their wish list. But two local experts say opportunities are endless to get a book for the young reader in your life.

On Friday, MPR News host Angela Davis was joined by Lisa Von Drasek and Holly Weinkauf to talk about some of the best books for kids and teens this holiday season.

They ran through titles from a range of topics, including bedtime stories, kindness, gaming and culture and diversity.

Von Drasek is the curator of the Children’s Literature Research Collection at the University of Minnesota Libraries. Weinkauf is owner of the Red Balloon Bookshop in St. Paul.

Both experts say 2019 was a great year for books for young kids and teens, noting that there’s more diversity and sensitivity to what younger age groups are experiencing these days.

Here are some of the titles they suggest:

“Hanukkah in a Book” by Noterie

The cover a book about Hanukkah.
“Hanukkah in a Book” by Noterie.
Courtesy of publisher

Weinkauf said this book is perfect for kids who want to experience something that goes beyond an e-book. “It’s a beautiful little package,” she said. Not only does it include prayers in Hebrew, but it’s also a multi-layered book that allows the cover to come off and the book transforms into a menorah to put on display.

“The Great Santa Stakeout” by Betsy Bird

The cover of a children's book
"The Great Santa Stakeout" by Betsy Bird.
Courtesy of publisher

Another holiday season book that both women say is perfect for interaction that can’t be found in an e-book. Von Drasek said the experience is hard to replace when reading it with a young child. “The drama of the page turns, you really can’t find that on a Kindle,” she said.

“The Shortest Day” by Susan Cooper

The cover of a children's book
"The Shortest Day" by Susan Cooper.
Courtesy of publisher

Another of the holiday-themed book recommendations. This one is about the winter solstice. It’s based on a poem written by Susan Cooper, the book’s author. Weinkauf notes that the words fit very nicely with the illustrations, enhancing the reading experience.

“Other Words for Home” by Jasmine Warga

The cover of a children's book
“Other Words for Home” by Jasmine Warga.
Courtesy of publisher

The experts say this book represents the emerging popularity of books written in “verse-style.” It’s about a young girl who must leave Syria to move to the United States. This one is recommended for kids ages 10 and up.

“Indigenous Originated: Walking in Two Worlds” by 826 MSP

The cover of a children's book
“Indigenous Originated: Walking in Two Worlds” by 826 MSP.
Courtesy of publisher

This one is a collection of writings by ninth and tenth grade students from the All Nations program at South High School in Minneapolis. They spent six months crafting these original poems, essays, short stories, and illustrations with guidance from the Mid-Continent Oceanographic Institute. “This book stunned me and it’s a gift I give many people,” Von Drasek said.

“Guts” by Raina Telgemeier

The cover of a children's book
“Guts” by Raina Telgemeier.
Courtesy of publisher

A graphic format book, “Guts” is a memoir about a child learning to process stress and anxiety. This one tells the biographical story of the author visiting her therapist, and the local experts say that gives the reader an opportunity to understand what that’s like.

“Smell My Foot” by Cece Bell

The cover of a children's book
“Smell My Foot” by Cece Bell.
Courtesy of publisher

Weinkauf says “Smell My Foot” is the perfect book for a child who is just starting to learn how to read. And the humorous tone really helps with that. “Humor goes a long way with kids when they are starting to get a handle on reading,” she said.

“Your Amazing Digestion” by Joanne Settel

The cover of a children's book
"Your Amazing Digestion" by Joanne Settel
Courtesy of publisher

Do you think you have a future doctor you’re buying for? The experts say this book is perfect for the kids — maybe those in second or third grade — who are curious about everything.

“Rat Rule 79” by Rivka Galchen

The cover of a children's book
"Rat Rule 79" by Rivka Galchen
Courtesy of publisher

This title is recommended for older kids. It’s described as “an adventure story of a girl on a quest through a world of fantastical creatures, strange logic, and a powerful prejudice against growing up.”

“Summer Of A Thousand Pies” by Margaret Dilloway

The cover of a children's book
“Summer Of A Thousand Pies” by Margaret Dilloway.
Courtesy of publisher

When a listener asked about a gift recommendation for a child being raised by same-sex parents, a listener shared this title. It’s described as a middle grade novel in which a girl goes to live with her aunt and her aunt's partner.

Want to learn about more book titles? Use the audio player above to listen to the program.

Subscribe to the MPR News with Angela Davis podcast on: Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify or RSS.


Before you go...

MPR News is dedicated to bringing you clarity in coverage from our reporters across the state, stories that connect us, and conversations that provide perspectives when we need it most. We rely on your help to do this. Your donation has the power to keep MPR News strong and accessible to all during this crisis and beyond.