Kids’ Books for Gifting

Kids' Books

I’m a little late with this list, but there’s still some time to shop for Christmas, if not Thanksgivvukah.

Our family reads a lot. I tried to come up with a list of kids’ books we love that you might not have heard of. These have all been extensively road-tested.

The first two are novels for elementary-age kids. In this age of Harry Potter, my daughter is not a big fantasy fan. Not sure why, but realistic fiction is her bag. Maybe that’s because it’s what her mom writes. Haha!

First up is The Year of the Dog, the first in a series of three (I think, unless there’s a new one?) about a Chinese-American girl and her friends and family. I love these, and was so happy my daughter did, too. In fact, she re-reads them often. I’d say they’re for ages 7 and up, most likely. They’re written by Newbery honor winner Grace Lin. (BTW, Ms. Lin used to work in Harvard Square with my good friend Jamie. So there! I’m tangentially famous).

Summer of the Wolves is the first in a series written by my friend Lisa Williams Kline. The books follow two newly-minted stepsisters in their adventures together, and my daughter doesn’t know it yet, but she’s getting two more of them for Christmas. She has read and re-read the ones she already owns. If you live here in Charlotte, you can get   Lisa’s books (usually signed ones) at Park Road Books.

Me…Jane by Patrick McDonnell is a picture book biography of Jane Goodall. I love a good picture book bio, and this one has all the ingredients of a winner: great illustrations, engaging text (but brief enough for small kids) and real-life snippets that kids can really relate to. My six-year-old has often asked for this one over the last year.

If I Built a Car by Chris Van Dusen is the first book my son tried to memorize, he loved it so much. It’s full of zany flights of fancy and imaginary gadgetry, which is perfect for someone who likes machinery, as my boy does.

Tumble Me Tumbily is excellent for toddlers, and I can honestly say it holds up after nightly readings for a looong period of time. This was my son’s first favorite book, from the time he was one.

Finally, The Buffalo are Back by the great Jean Craighead George (she of Julie of the Wolves and My Side of the Mountain fame) is the true story of buffalo in America. It gets very sad, but there’s a hopeful ending. It totally made me want to go out west to see buffalo in the wild. The illustrations are lovely.

For more recommendations, you can check out some kids’ craft books we love in this post.

If you value bookstores and want them to stick around, please consider buying from your local shop, or ordering them from an independent retailer.

And by the way, my own books are available at Park Road Books in Charlotte, as well as online! Have a great weekend.

5 Simple Gifts to Make, With or Without Kids

Nearly every year, I like to make a bunch of one kind of gift that I can give to any number of people: relatives, neighbors, friends. It’s always good to have some on hand. I try to keep it something fairly simple so it’s not a stressful process.

Here are a few of my favorites:

1) Hand-Rolled Candles

I just discovered rolled beeswax candles (above) and have only actually made them with the kids at a bazaar. They’re dead easy but so pretty, and the kids loved the process. Instructions here. We did not prime the wicks, as suggested in the link—not sure if ours were pre-primed or what but they burned just fine.

2) Hand-Decorated Cloth Totes:

This is another fun one that’s useful, too. For information on materials, click here.

3) Self-Mixed Loose Teas:

I like to make Rooibos Chai, but over the years I’ve also made up various combinations involving spices, citrus peel, even dried cherries. Get creative with your favorite flavors.

4) Body Balm:

Another good, easy one is Lavender Body Balm. You melt beeswax with some oils and voila!

5) I don’t have a picture of this one, but Spice Rubs are another good gift, especially if the recipient likes to grill. I love Stephen Raichlen’s basic barbecue rub, from his book, How to Grill. Penzey’s is a good place to get the bulk spices.

Cardboard Christmas Trees:

This one’s more a craft than gift but it’s so easy to do with the kids or to make a bunch for table decorations. Make them fancy or plain. You can recycle them and make them again next year, which is one of the things I love best about them. Instructions here.