I love giving books as gifts. There’s something magical about those pages, especially when they land in the hands of a child.
I’ve put together lists of books paired with gift items in the past. You’ll find last year’s list here, some of my all time favorites here, and my first list (also some of my absolute favorites) here.
What made the list this year? Read on!
(Post contains affiliate links to Amazon, which send a small commission to the tip jar at Not Just Cute, with no additional cost to you. While I’m a huge fan of Amazon, I also use ThriftBooks when bargain shopping for used books.)
Giraffe’s Can’t Dance is a great book with a rolicking rhythm and rhyme that builds prereading skills, while also holding a fantastic moral to the story about not stereotyping and also not underestimating ourselves. Gerald the giraffe is told over and over that he can’t dance, simply because he’s a giraffe. But with a little encouragement, he finally lets loose! Pair with a snuggly giraffe like this and add your own personally-crafted playlist for some livingroom dance parties!
Jan Brett’s The Mitten and The Hat are timeless classics and perfect winter reads. I couldn’t even guess how many preschoolers I’ve read these stories to — and they always loved them! In each story, animals from the woods and the farm become curious about a child’s woolens. As they explore them, hilarity ensues. Pair either or both of these books with woolens of their very own like these so they can act the story out or simply remember the tale each time they wear them.
Bear Snores On has been a favorite of mine ever since I first read it at a friend’s house a decade ago. (Time flies!) The rhythm and rhyme in this book is perfect for young children and the story is captivating. Snuggle down for a great read with your favorite toddler and this adorable bear, or pair it up with these bear manipulatives (ages 3+) for sorting and counting.
It’s a Busload of Pigeon Books! Three of the best Pigeon books from Mo Willems. He’s one of my preschooler’s favorite authors — and possibly one of the only authors he knows by name besides Dr. Seuss. (This is listed as a board book on Amazon, but if it’s identical to the one I have, it’s three board book sized hard covers with paper pages.) Add any other Pigeon books (my son loves this one). Pair with a Pigeon Matching Game (with the coolest carrying case ever) or a Plush Pigeon Toy. Kids who love Pigeon (and they DO love Pigeon) will love to snuggle up with this guy.
Similarly, my preschooler loves the Elephant and Piggie Books by the same author, Mo Willems. You can find the Plush Elephant and Piggie set here and pair it with any of the Elephant and Piggie books –there are pages of them! (I’m also excited about this “Biggie” from Mo Willems, and will definitely be ordering that in the spring!)
One last add-on for any of the Mo Willems books, would be one of these read-along DVDs. Hearing Mo Willems read his own books is an absolute treat, and the author feature in the one we picked up from the library inspired my four year old to start sketching Pigeon on his own.
Ada Twist, Scientist is on my shopping list this year. (In fact, it’s on its way to my house right now!) I haven’t read it yet, but if Andrea Beaty’s last two that I featured here are any indication, it’s sure to be another must-have for our library! Pair this with a science lab set like this one. It’s perfect for little hands and comes complete with a set of cards full of science experiences for your preschool scientist! Another favorite would be this pocket microscope. We have LOVED ours. They actually work better than our full-sized microscope for a third of the price. Even I get mesmerized by it, checking out bugs, plants, even the skin on the back of my hand! Once you have one, you’ll find your little scientists (and yourself) constantly saying, “Let’s see what THAT looks like under the microscope!” At this price you can buy several, but check the delivery date. Mine took a while to get here (though that was years ago), so make sure they can arrive in time!
Beyond the Pond was a favorite we picked up at the library this year. Its gorgeous illustrations capture the essence of childhood imagination. Journey follows a similar imagination-fueled adventure theme, but in wordless form. Both books are beautifully illustrated and would pair perfectly with items to fuel your child’s imaginative and adventurous spirit, such as this binocular and compass set (the red color ties perfectly with the accent color in both books) and a sketch book (my boys love this style) for chronicling their adventures — both real and imagined.
Alphabet from the Sky was also a big hit with my preschooler (and his older brothers). We all enjoyed trying to spy the letters formed in the aerial shots. Pair with a toy airplane for your plane enthusiast. Depending on who you’re buying for, I like these options for different reasons: I love this brand because the toys are sturdy and made from recycled materials (bonus!). It’s better for smaller hands. This one is a perennial favorite that offers something a bit more appealing to older preschool-kindergarteners and may add to existing sets. Another option that pairs wonderfully with this alphabet book is this letter construction set. With a mix of straight and rounded pieces, young children can create a concrete concept of letter formation. For something on a smaller scale, try these small magnetic pieces with the same concept.
Last, but not least, is an old favorite from my own childhood. Caps for Sale was first published in the 40s, but my boys still love it today. Pair this gift up with a favorite hat (or a stack for a brood!). For my boys that would be this style. But others might love a classic cap in the peddler’s own style like this.
(I haven’t paired most of the chapter books with additional items, but in many of the cases, they come as part of a set or series. So the best thing to pair with these books…is more books!)
Early Chapter Books:
That first step into chapter books can be a bit daunting for some kiddos. These books bridge the gap from picture books to chapter books by having shorter chapters that keep their attention and in some cases, a high picture content to help engage young readers. Here are a few favorites from our house.
Captain Awesome has a huge fan in my second-grader. He breezes through these books in one day, which means he LOVES the story. Silly, action-packed, and right up his alley.
Galaxy Zack comes highly recommended, and I almost bought the boxed set, but I realized it’s a bit simpler reading than Captain Awesome, which my son has been reading. I may have missed his window for that one, but if your early reader is in the K-2 window you might want to check this one out.
My dog lovers have pored over the Puppy Place series. These easily pair with a plush dog similar to the one featured in the book. For my boys, I’d pair this book with this lab, this book with this Boston terrier, and this book with this husky (or this one from Melissa and Doug if you want to scale up and want it to be black like the husky in the book).
Graphic Novels/ Comics:
My second grader loves comics and graphic novels, but I wanted him to have a change of pace from his usual favorites. I picked up El Deafo , the story of a girl who loses her hearing and tries to fit in at school (based on the author’s personal experiences). I was pleasantly surprised to hear him say he LOVED it.
Vordack the Incomprehensible is definitely for older kids. It’s irreverent and funny, but the “hero” in this story is actually a villain, so it takes an older sensibility to understand the irony and recognize that you aren’t actually endorsing his bad behavior. My older boys love this super-hero spoofing series and think it’s hilarious.
When our boys first asked for comics a few years back, my husband and I pulled out our Calvin and Hobbes books. We weren’t sure that was quite what they were looking for, but they devoured them then, and still pick them up today. This is a timeless classic!
My chapter book recommendations this year come straight from the source: my two older boys. They are in sixth and fourth grade respectively.
His other favorite this year has been the Hunger Games series. This is a dystopian story, so it’s clearly not for young readers. Best for your Jr High-High School crowd. In fact, when my fourth grader saw how much his older brother liked them, he wanted to read them as well. His protective older brother however, recognizing his younger brother is a bit more sensitive, recommended that he wait. (Ha. That sentence sounds much more peaceful and diplomatic than the actual argument……..)
As a side note, I have heard great things about the Underland Chronicles by the same author, Suzanne Collins, and will be introducing those to my fourth grader as a consolation prize of sorts.
For his part, my fourth grader has been obsessed with Harry Potter. In my opinion, it’s a must-have series for any home library. My guy was so glued to them that I even found him reading during recess when I came to visit the school one day. He literally walked while reading to get through all seven books in record time.
To add to that collection, he’ll be getting Harry Potter and the Cursed Child and Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them as gifts this year. I haven’t read them yet, though, and they have mixed reviews. Both are written as screenplays, and while that’s not my cup of tea, it seems to fit very well with the way my son sees stories in his mind. The Cursed Child is set as a follow up to the HP series, and wasn’t written by JK Rowling herself, though she appears to have signed off on it. Word I hear from my literary friends is it’s definitely lacking Rowling’s magic touch. (I know my son will want to read it regardless, so I’ll add it to his shelf.) Fantastic Beasts, on the other hand, is JKR’s debut writing screenplays and is set up as a prequel to the days of Harry Potter. From what I’ve seen, has had a much better reception among Harry Potter die-hards. It appears to be much lighter in tone than the latter end of the original series, but also makes many connections and allusions to the story and characters that Potterphiles will appreciate. (Of the two, this is the one I’m most likely to borrow myself.)
Every year, I love to add to our game collection as family gifts during the holidays. Here are a few of our favorites.
Q-Bitz is fun as a competition or as a solo puzzle. Using cubes with a variety of patterns on them, players have to rotate the pieces until they can create the image shown on the pattern card. Even my preschooler enjoys figuring out the puzzles. (Bonus: Excellent for spatial skills.)
Uno or Uno Attack: My second grader dominates in this game and has even back when he needed this cardholder to keep a grip on a full hand. It’s a classic game that belongs in every collection. (I love when old things are new for our kids!)
Labyrinth is a unique game where players slide one tile in to shift an entire row of maze-like game pieces. Each move takes them closer to the goal. My boys prefer to play it cooperative-style where all the players are working toward the same goals and can make a move that puts another player in position (which makes the game go much more quickly). Another great game for spatial skills and planning and reasoning.
Tellestrations: Imagine the game Pictionary combined with the classic Telephone Game. That’s what you end up with here. Players draw a picture representing a word and then pass to the next person who then guesses the word. The next player draws something to represent THAT word and on and on until the often hilarious finish. Game recommendation says ages 12 and up, but my second grader on up all play. Even my preschooler jumps in sometimes with help.
For older kids, Pandemic is a cooperative, strategy game where players work together to cure the world’s diseases. Each player takes on a different role with different capacities and works together with the team to win.
What favorite books (plus!) do you love to give?