Why, yes! The clock is ticking. Hanukkah begins on Wednesday night, and Christmas is right around the corner. If you are still hunting down the perfect gift for a toddler, preschooler, emerging reader, or anyone who enjoys picture books, you have come to the right place! Forget trying to figure out which Lego set or which character toys they already have (hint: they don’t need more Elsas). No need to know sizes. Do they already have every toy and game known to mankind? Well, it’s impossible to have too many books for children to enjoy. Here are eight wonderful board books and picture books that any child (and family) will love… and, of course, everything listed is currently available via Amazon Prime to make your shopping quick and easy. Tuesday, I’ll share a gift guide of chapter books for school-aged children. Get your pretty wrapping paper ready!
I do indeed note the irony of including this book in a gift guide, but bear with me. The Gift of Nothing is a great book with a great moral and features Mooch and Earl, animals from the Mutts comic strip. Mooch struggles to find the perfect gift for Earl, who needs nothing. McDonnell enjoys playing with the concept of “nothing” as a gift, sending Mooch on a search for nothing and discovering that nothing isn’t something you can buy. He does eventually wrap nothing up for his dearest friend. The book is very charming and simple and not at all preachy or overbearing, but it packs a wallop of a message that all kids and grownups need to hear.
Perfect for: Kids 5-10, especially, but enjoyable for all.
Is there anything funnier than anthropomorphic letter-writing? The answer is, “No.” Have you ever wondered what a crayon on strike would say? Surely we all have! In The Day the Crayons Quit, you can see for yourself how the black crayon feels typecast, how the oft-ignored crayons feel about being in the shadow of popular colors, and how certain colors are rivals. They air their grievances in letters and drawings. It’s a Crayola soap opera, and it’s hilarious. Main character Duncan has to solve the problem of appeasing all the crayons (and making them feel understood and valued) so that he can enjoy coloring once more.
Perfect for: Kids 4-8; families who celebrate Festivus; adults who like to color.
It’s an almost-scientific fact that 94% of children are afraid of the dark to some degree. Lazslo is among that group, but in The Dark, he meets… The Dark. The Dark is a character who speaks to him and encourages him on a journey through the creaky house into the dark basement. There, The Dark instructs Lazslo to open a dresser drawer, where he makes a discovery that gives him calm and teaches him to trust and coexist with that murky, lurking darkness. This is definitely not a book for children who are going to be too scared to get to the end — it’s not a scary book, but there is a bit of suspense that might overwhelm truly dark-phobic kids. There is a happy, peaceful ending that’s a great payoff for those with a typical childhood fear. Jon Klassen’s wonderful illustrations pay respect to how children really feel about the dark — it’s big and heavy and absolute — but does so without making the story scary or ominous.
Perfect for: Kids 3-8; anyone who loves an unconventional bedtime story.
Winter is a time when many of us feel housebound and limited by the weather, but Outside offers a different perspective. A boy is bored and is told to go outside and play. Yes, in the winter. Yes, when it’s snowy and freezing. What he finds before him is a truly blank, quiet canvas of winter. He has a new perspective, his imagination gets to work, and he has many wonderful moments outside. The illustrations are really the star of this book. You feel the chill, the warmth of the house, the excitement of the little boy as he steps outside and experiences the wonder of winter. It’s a seasonally appropriate reminder of the joys of simply going outside.
Perfect for: Kids 3-8; kids who need encouragement to go outdoors to play.
Joyce’s text was created after the award-winning short film of the same name, but that doesn’t make it any less fantastic. We meet Mr. Morris Lessmore [puns!], who is writing his own memoir while sitting on a balcony when a storm hits and sends all the pages of his life story flying away. How he recovers from that great loss and the upending storm is a story filled with magic, love for books, and references to great literature. The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore will fill children with wonder and delight, and grownups who love books will appreciate every moment, as well.
Perfect for: Anyone of any age who loves books, reading, and writing.
I feel like wonderful classics often get forgotten when shopping for kids’ books, but Burton’s Katy and the Big Snow is a perfect, timeless book. Originally published in 1943, this large board book features a big red tractor named Katy who becomes a hero through her care and enduring spirit. Katy dons a plow in response to cries for help from all of Geoppolis’ city leaders, and she clears the roads so life can resume after a rare snow storm. The illustrations remain perfectly modern and exciting. A map offers great details that preschoolers and early readers can enjoy relating to the story, giving the book an added layer of depth and adding a secondary older audience. And, as usual, I love any book that features a female tractor! This is a book that shows boys and girls that big machines and heroes are not “boy things.” Katy and the Big Snow is also available as a paperback and in hardcover, depending on your recipient’s age.
Perfect for: Kids 0-6.
There is an amazing story behind Goodnight Songs. A few generations ago, Brown, author of the ubiquitous Goodnight Moon, died unexpectedly after a routine surgery. In the 1990s, her family found a trunk stored in an old barn on her property, Inside were stacks of unpublished stories, poems, and songs. Publisher Sterling Children’s Books selected twelve of the poems and songs to publish as a lullably, and they recruited twelve award-winning illustrators to provide the visuals for each one. The result is a remarkable collection of pictures and song, and it feels like a special treasure to read these. It truly was finding a trunk full of gold, just in literary form. The book comes with a lovely cd of the poems/songs presented as lullabies. It’s a beautiful gift for babies, toddlers, young children, and their parents.
Perfect for: Kids 0-8; music lovers; poetry lovers; fans of Margaret Wise Brown.
Very Little Red Riding Hood by Teresa Heapy
I love a new spin on a familiar favorite, and Heapy’s take on the fairy tale is pretty terrific. Very Little Red Riding Hood is indeed very little — she speaks in toddlerese — but she is brave, stubborn, and feisty. Big Bad Wolf? Hardly! Very Little Red Riding Hood calls him Foxie when she encouters him in the forest, and she is absolutely, totally unafraid of him. He joins her on a sleepover at her grandmother’s, and we get to see him and the entire family in a whole new light. The illustrations by Sue Heap (not to be confused with author Teresa Heapy) are sweet and balance tradition and contemporary styles very well. Very Little Red Riding Hood will become a series with more titles to follow, so you have a great opportunity to be a trendsetter!
Perfect for: Kids 0-6.