Long before I first heard of the Icelandic tradition of Jolabokaflod (which roughly translates to Christmas Book Flood in English – and is the tradition of giving books on Christmas Eve, then sitting together as a family and reading), I created a little winter book tradition of my own.
Every year, right around the beginning of December, I buy myself a book. It’s almost always a hard copy – a rare treat for me – and something that serves only one purpose – to be a total and complete pleasure read. No craft books. No self-help. No keeping up with my genre books. Just pure pleasure coupled with the promise to set aside some time to curl up with a hot chocolate and read just for the pure joy of it.
Because I enjoyed this little treat so much, I decided to extend the giving to family and friends, and created a second tradition – a New Year’s Gift. Every year, I give the people closest to me a book that represents their dreams, goals, or desires for the upcoming year – and may serve as a launching-off spot – or a touchstone – for their plans. I’ve given everything from Axe-Man comics to books of Daily Rituals, to magazine subscriptions – anything that I think might help or inspire the person in the new year.
This year, I’ve added some new people to my giving list, so I turned to my own personal panel of experts – my middle grade author friends – for advice. I asked them what middle grade books they were giving as gifts this holiday season. Here are their suggestions:
Sally J. Pla, author of The Someday Birds and Stanley Will Probably Be Fine (coming Feb. 6, 2018!)
I think Xmas/the holidays are a great time to gift picture books, even to adults. The best of them are such beautiful works of art.There are two PBs I’ll gift to young families, because I think they should be in every kid’s library. PEOPLE, a classic PB by Peter Speier visually depicts the beautiful physical diversity of people around the world — spreads it out in a cornucopia of hundreds of images of noses, ears, hands, outfits, etc. The result is this beautiful mozaic of how wide and diverse and amazing the world is. Then: (2) COME WITH ME by my friend Holly McGhee is a sweet sensitive story about how even the tiniest, smallest acts of kindness can help address the bad stuff in the world. As for MG novels to gift: there are far too many wonderful ones to name, and I usually like to customize the book to the particular kid. But one particular Christmas-themed warm-and-fuzzy book that I think will have great general appeal is Karina Glaser’s wonderful THE VANDERBEEKERS OF 141st STREET.
Melissa Roske, author of Kat Greene Comes Clean
For the holidays this year, I will be bestowing copies of Jonathan Rosen’s hilarious MG adventure, NIGHT OF THE LIVING CUDDLE BUNNIES, on young readers here and abroad. Not only is it laugh-out-loud funny, CUDDLE BUNNIES has a likable and hugely relatable main character (Devin Dexter), plus slew of colorful supporting characters – including a sock-puppet-wielding warlock named Herb. I can’t recommend this title enough. It’s BUN-tastic! Hoppy holidays!
Supriya Kelkar, author of Ahimsa
I’m giving REFUGEE by Alan Gratz to an older MG reader. It is a powerful, gripping, eye-opening story that I am sure she will not be able to put down.
Jarrett Lerner, author of Enginerds
Just a FEW of the MG books I’m gifting — 1. Jodi Kendall’s THE UNLIKELY STORY OF A PIG IN THE CITY. Not only is it a wonderful (and wonderfully written) book, it is simply perfect for this time of year. It is full of warm, utterly lovely family scenes, and reading them serves as an always-welcome reminder of what matters most during this holiday season. 2. Caroline Carlson’s THE WORLD’S GREATEST DETECTIVE. Caroline’s prose sparkles, and her storytelling prowess is second-to-none. I absolutely loved her previous series, and was thrilled to hear she was penning a mystery. It is, as expected, impeccable. And who doesn’t love to curl up with a finely written, cleverly crafted mystery during their days off? 3. Jan Gangei’s THE WILD BUNCH. I didn’t keep count, but I’m fairly certain that this is the book that made me laugh out loud the most this year. Its zany characters leap off of the page, and get themselves into one hilariously outrageous situation after the next. Amidst all the silliness, however, there is a subtle thread of seriousness, there for the interested reader to unpack and consider.
Janet Sumner Johnson, author of The Last Great Adventure of the PB & J Society.
My sons have been dying to read the 3rd book in the Bounders series, THE FORGOTTEN SHRINE, by Monica Tesler. It releases on Dec. 12th, so perfect timing for Christmas!
Kristin Gray, author of Vilonia Beebe Takes Charge
My daughter (10) adores graphic novels, so she is getting ALL’s FAIRE IN MIDDLE SCHOOL by Victoria Jamieson and PASHMINA by Nidhi Chanani.
What books are you planning on giving this season – to yourself, loved ones, or even a perfect stranger? Let us know in the comments section below!