The holidays are all about traditions. We have friends who have us over for a Christmas Day dinner every year, the main course always a closely guarded secret until it's served. My wife and I used to make our daughter (now 27) sit on the couch with her eyes closed when we gave her Hanukkah gifts. Here at KQED, I'm keeping the tradition of helping our readers find children's books for the holidays.
So here's the favorites from the children's book buyers at bookstores at the four corners of the Bay Area. Sure, you can buy them on Amazon, but I'll bet you'll find more shopping fun if you stop by the bookstores mentioned below.
Hicklebees in San Jose
The San Jose-based book store features a children's literature museum, with real and faux exhibits (a pair of jeans signed by Ann Brashares, author of the Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, one of Charlotte's webs).
Here's a list of books from co-owner Valerie Lewis:
By Michelle Edwards/G. Brian Karas For Grades PS-2
A book about gift giving. Mrs. Goldman knits hats for everyone in the neighborhood. Sophia thinks knitting is too hard so she helps her by making the pom-poms. When Sophia notices that Mrs. Goldman is too busy to knit one for herself, she takes on the task, with a delightful result.
By Olivier Dunrea; Illustrations by Will Hillenbrand Grades PS-2
This talented duo offers a counting book where the tranquility of a deserted island is disturbed by silly rhyming animals appearing at the turn of each page. There are two wee dogs who think that they're frogs, three perky pigs that are all wearing wigs, and more. Cheery read aloud where young listeners can't help but pipe in before the turn of the page.
by Jason Reynolds: Ages 10 and up
Ghost Crenshaw started running three years ago when his father chased him and his mother through the neighborhood firing a gun. After that he saw himself as "the boy with a scream inside". Now he's on an elite middle school running team with a shot at the Junior Olympics. Coretta Scott King/John Steptoe Award–winning author Jason Reynolds flawlessly delivers terror, anticipation and fear in this National Book Award finalist – clear to the finish line. I couldn't stop thinking about it.
March: Book 3
by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin and Nate Powell
The last of the powerful trilogy written by civil-rights crusader and Congressman John Lewis that brought back into focus the terrible struggles of the Civil Rights Movement. Sadly, it is still relevant today. For teachers of civil rights it should be a mandatory selection.
Diesel Books in Oakland and Larkspur
Children's Book Buyer Clare Doornbos says she loves it "when a kid comes back to the store and tells us that our recommendation was the 'best book ever.'"
by Brendan Wenzel
A catchy and deceptively simple book about a cat meeting other animals as it walks through the world. The illustrations and repetition have a classic quality, but the theme of understanding differences in perception is right up to date.
by Booki Vivat
Abbie Wu is the narrator of this very funny, heavily illustrated chapter book for ages eight and over. Wu is certain that nothing good ever comes of the middles including middle school. Abbie is an instantly lovable character, a comically neurotic heroine who gets school hilariously wrong and eventually starts to get it right.
by Kelly Barnhill
There is a witch who lives in the forest, she steals babies, raises dragons and casts a gloom over the village. Or so the stories say. Effortlessly lyrical and casually dark, this story is just like all the classic fairy tales. It's perfect for young readers aged 10 and up who understand that life is not often fair and that stories are not always true.
Marcus Books in Oakland
Co-owner Karen Johnson offers a rich assortment of books about at Marcus Books in Oakland, with an emphasis on books about Africans Americans and other people of color.
by Tanya Bolden, illustrations by Eric Velasquez
Beautiful Moon teaches that prayer is a path to find our humanity and compassion for others. The illustrations are as beautiful as the book's content.
by Robbie Robertson, illustrated by David Shannon
Musician Robbie Robertson (The Band), of Mohawk and Cayuga descent, tells this ancient Iroquois story about Hiawatha and his spiritual guide, the Peacemaker, who together bring unity to the warring Iroquois nations. This story shows how America might become great, again.
written and illustrated by Javaka Steptoe
Not everyone understood Basquiat's art, but Steptoe helps us to "get" both the artist and his vividly colorful work.
by Ilyasah Shabazz with illustrations by A.G. Ford
Malcolm was raised by a loving, spiritual father and a wise and beautiful mother. The memories of their happy home enabled Malcolm X to stand up for freedom and justice. Shabazz, the author, is Malcolm's own daughter.
Ashley Despain buys the kid's books at Green Apple, and tests them on his beloved nieces and nephews. And he specializes in one sentence reviews.
by Cynthia Weill and Jesus Canseco Zarate
A beautiful bilingual celebration of what it means to be a family, even if you are just a bunch of skeletons.
by Duncan Tonatiuh
Exquisite illustrations accompany this heartbreaking Aztec legend about the origin of the volcanoes Iztaccihuatl and Popocatepetl near Mexico City.
by Angela Dominguez
Angela and I went to art school together, and I love her work. I mean, who wouldn't love a Spanish-speaking giraffe?
by Gabrielle Grimard
As powerful as it is sensitive, this story is about embracing that which sets us apart, and how that kind of courage makes us magnificent.
by Gemma Merino
Never let anyone tell you that your dreams are impossible, ridiculous, or nonsense.