The Best Children's Books for Holiday Giving

Duncan Tonatiuh's new book is 'The Princess and the Warrior' (Photo: Courtesy of Duncan Tonatiuh)

art_nerd-holidayguide-2016

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.

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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).

Sponsored

Here's a list of books from co-owner Valerie Lewis:

'A Hat For Mrs Goldman' by Michelle Edwards; illustrated by G. Brian Karas
'A Hat For Mrs Goldman' by Michelle Edwards; illustrated by G. Brian Karas (Photo Courtesy of Michelle Edwards)

A Hat for Mrs. Goldman: A Story About Knitting and Love 

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.

'Me and Annie McPhee' By Olivier Dunrea; Illustrations by Will Hillenbrand
'Me and Annie McPhee' By Olivier Dunrea; Illustrations by Will Hillenbrand (Photo: Courtesy of Penguin Random House)

Me and Annie McPhee

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.

'Ghost' by Jason Reynolds
'Ghost' by Jason Reynolds (Photo: Image courtesy of Simon and Schuster)

Ghost

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.

A page from 'March: Book Three' by Congressman John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, and Nate Powell
A page from 'March: Book Three' by Congressman John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, and Nate Powell (Photo: Courtesy of Top Shelf Productions)

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.

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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.'"

'They All Saw a Cat'
'They All Saw a Cat'

They All Saw a Cat 

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.

'Frazzled'
'Frazzled'

Frazzled 

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.

The Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill
The Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill (Photo: Courtesy of Algonquin Young Readers)

The Girl Who Drank the Moon 

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.

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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.

Beautiful Moon: A Child's Prayer
Beautiful Moon: A Child's Prayer (Photo: Courtesy of Abrams Books)

Beautiful Moon: A Child's Prayer

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.

'Hiawatha and the Peacemaker' by Robbie Robertson, illustrated by David Shannon
'Hiawatha and the Peacemaker' by Robbie Robertson, illustrated by David Shannon (Photo: Courtesy of Abrams )

Hiawatha and the Peacemaker

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.

Radiant Child:The Story of Jean Michel Basquiat by Javaka Steptoe
Radiant Child:The Story of Jean Michel Basquiat by Javaka Steptoe (Photo: Image courtesy of Hachette Book Group)

Radiant Child: The Story of Young Artist Jean Michel Basquiat

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.

Malcolm Little The Boy Who Grew Up to Become Malcolm X By Ilyasah Shabazz
Malcolm Little The Boy Who Grew Up to Become Malcolm X By Ilyasah Shabazz (Photo: Courtesy of Atheneum Books for Young Readers)

Malcolm Little: The Boy Who Grew Up to Become Malcolm X

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.

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Green Apple Books in San Francisco

Sponsored

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.

'Mi Familia Calaca: A Mexican Folk Art Family' in English and Spanish by Cynthia Weil and illustrated by Jesus Canseco Zárate
'Mi Familia Calaca: A Mexican Folk Art Family' in English and Spanish by Cynthia Weil and illustrated by Jesus Canseco Zárate (Photo: Image courtesy of AK Press)

Mi Familia Calaca: My Skeleton Family

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.

The Princess and the Warrior by Duncan Tonatiuh
The Princess and the Warrior by Duncan Tonatiuh (Photo: Courtesy of Duncan Tonatiuh)

The Princess and the Warrior

by Duncan Tonatiuh

Exquisite illustrations accompany this heartbreaking Aztec legend about the origin of the volcanoes Iztaccihuatl and Popocatepetl near Mexico City.

'How Do You Say? Como se Dice?' by Angela Dominguez
'How Do You Say? Como se Dice?' by Angela Dominguez (Photo: Courtesy of Angela Dominguez)

How Do You Say? Como se Dice?

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?

'Lila and the Crow' by Gabrielle Grimard
'Lila and the Crow' by Gabrielle Grimard (Photo: Courtesy of Annick Press)

Lila and the Crow

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.

'The Cow Who Climbed a Tree' by Gemma Merino
'The Cow Who Climbed a Tree' by Gemma Merino (Photo: Courtesy of Albert Whitman and Company)

The Cow Who Climbed a Tree

by Gemma Merino

Never let anyone tell you that your dreams are impossible, ridiculous, or nonsense.

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