The BIG Gift List, Part 2: Books for Young Readers

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“Young readers” covers a lot of territory, and so does this list. From sweet picture books to exciting novels to fascinating nonfiction and the best young adult literature, these are the books we recommend. Want to build a custom stack of books for the young reader in your life? Come by and chat with our booksellers, who’d love to help you find stories that will thrill all sorts of tastes. 

Click any title to read more about it or to put it in your online shopping cart. (We gladly offer free giftwrap + fast shipping!)

For little ones (and big ones, too) who like the pictures as much as the words:

The Wonder by Faye Hanson

This is the most beautifully illustrated book I’ve seen in a long time. – Stephanie Appell

To the Sea by Cale Atkinson

My favorite picture book about the power of friendship to change our lives. Gorgeously illustrated. – Stephanie Appell

Last Stop on Market Street by Matt De La Pena, Christian Robinson (Illustrator)

A perfect read for grandparents and grandchildren who love spending time together (or wish they could). – Stephanie Appell

And a few more:

Lenny & Lucy by Philip C. Stead, Erin E. Stead (Illustrator)

The Fox and the Star by Coralie Bickford-Smith

Thank You and Good Night by Patrick McDonnell

 For introverts in this extrovert-friendly time of year:

Mother Bruce by Ryan T. Higgins

A bachelor bear finds himself the unexpected parent to a gaggle of goslings in this laugh-out-loud tale. – Stephanie Appell

For the toddler who’s a little rough with paper pages:

Go to Sleep, Little Farm (Padded Board Book Edition) by Mary Lyn Ray, Christopher Silas Neal (Illustrator)

For the child who’s going to ask you to read it again and again and again — so it might as well be a fun one for you, too:

Three Little Owls by Emanuele Luzzati, Quentin Blake (Illustrator), John Yeoman (Translator)

If you or your child have grown tired of the typical children’s storybook, you’ll love this very silly Italian Christmas story. – Sissy Gardner

For the siblings who asked Santa for a puppy . . . How about a dog book instead, kids?

A Lucky Author Has a Dog by Mary Lyn Ray, Steven Henry (Illustrator)

Goodnight, Good Dog by Mary Lyn Ray, Rebecca Malone (Illustrator)

Sad, the Dog by Sandy Fussell, Rhian Nest James (Illustrator), Tull Suwannakit (Illustrator)

For readers who fancy distinctive characters:

The Story of Diva and Flea by Mo Willems, Tony DiTerlizzi (Illustrator)

Oh, I loved that book! It’s really cute and good for little kids who are starting to read chapter books. – Gennie Philpott (age 9)

Stick Dog Dreams of Ice Cream by Tom Watson

A graphic/comic novel series that’s perfect for fans of Big Nate and Wimpy KidSee all the Stick Dog books here.

And its predecessor, The Princess in Black
 For everyone with an imaginary friend:

The Adventures of Beekle: The Unimaginary Friend by Dan Santat

Nonfiction can be just as much fun as fiction!

For the child who loves to write notes and letters:

I Will Always Write Back: How One Letter Changed Two Lives  by Martin Ganda, Caitlin Alifirenka, Liz Welch (With)

For an older reader whose favorite subject is history:

Symphony for the City of the Dead: Dmitri Shostakovich and the Siege of Leningrad by Matthew Tobin Anderson, M. T. Anderson

For the animal-lover:

The Wonder Garden: Wander Through 5 Habitats to Discover 80 Amazing Animals by Jenny Broom, Kristjana S. Williams, Kristjana S. Williams (Illustrator)

For the kid who’s always yelling, “Guess what?!” from the back yard:

For Rick Riordan fans:

Percy Jackson’s Greek Heroes by Rick Riordan, John Rocco (Illustrator)

For kids at that age where they’re fascinated by true tales of dark things:

Terrible Typhoid Mary: A True Story of the Deadliest Cook in America by Susan Campbell Bartoletti

For the child who would go to the zoo every day if they could:

Koala Hospital by Suzi Eszterhas


For the athlete or future sportscaster:

Legends: The Best Players, Games, and Teams in Baseball by Howard Bryant

For the boy or girl who begs to wear the costume eye patch and hook-hand to school:

The Ultimate Pirate Handbook by Libby Hamilton, Mathieu Leyssenne (Illustrator), Jason Kraft (Illustrator)

For the police / ambulance / fire truck -obsessed individual:

Emergency Vehicles by Rod Green, Stephen Biesty (Illustrator)

For the young dancer and artist:

Swan: The Life and Dance of Anna Pavlova by Laurel Snyder, Julie Morstad (Illustrator)

For children in older elementary grades and middle school:

For the child who gets emotionally absorbed in what she reads:

The War That Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley

This is my favorite middle grade novel of the year. – Stephanie Appell

For fans of Roald Dahl-type characters:

Nooks & Crannies by Jessica Lawson, Natalie Andrewson (Illustrator)

For the older middle schooler who likes to swipe books from mom and dad’s biography shelf:

Steve Jobs: Insanely Great by Jessie Hartland

This was better than I thought it would be. I’ve read it twice now. – Cameron Philpott (age 12)
 For the dude who prefers reading in small doses, like short stories:

Guys Read: Terrifying Tales by Jon Scieszka, Adam Gidwitz, R. L. Stine

I like this whole series. This is the latest one. – Cameron Philpott

More for middle-grade readers: 

The Honest Truth by Dan Gemeinhart

A Tale of Highly Unusual Magic by Lisa Papademetriou

Want more tips for your elementary- and middle-school-age readers? Stop by the store on two Saturdays, December 5 from 12-2 p.m., and December 19, from 11 a.m.-1 p.m., when a couple of our bookstore interns will be reporting to the store as Kid Booksellers on Duty. They’d love to show you the books they recommend!

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Now on to young adult fiction — just the thing for older teens and mature readers (or grownup YA fans).

For fans of dystopian fiction:

The Scorpion Rules by Erin Bow

This is ultimately about true and terrifying love — love of self, of family, of country, and of course, of that special person who opens your eyes to the world. – Grace Wright

For anyone who might relate to coming-of-age story that’s also a coming-out story:

Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli

Simon is fictional, so he can’t be your best friend, but this book will make you feel like he’s real. – Grace Wright
For the prolific note-writer:

Because You’ll Never Meet Me by Leah Thomas

A book told entirely in letters between two very unusual teenagers. Perfect for anyone who’s ever felt a little odd. – Stephanie Appell


For anyone who has ever wished fairy tales had more space ships:

Winter by Marissa Meyer

The triumphant conclusion to an out-of-this-world series. (Sorry — couldn’t resist the pun. We’ll show ourselves out now.)

For anyone who loves ghost stories, ballet, or Orange Is the New Black:

The Walls Around Us by Nova Ren Suma

For readers with broken hearts and/or full hearts:

Kissing in America by Margo Rabb

book with emotions as wide as the road its characters travel. – Stephanie Appell
For the teen having a crisis of faith:

Devoted by Jennifer Mathieu

This book tackles its subject with the thoughtfulness and depth it deserves. – Stephanie Appell
For someone who might identify with a clever heroine (because she is one herself):

A Thousand Nights by Emily Kate Johnston, E. K. Johnston

This masterful tale, inspired by The Arabian Nights, features a wonderful story, but it’s Johnston’s writing that will stick with you. – Stephanie Appell
For those who can’t resist a possibly-doomed romance:

The Game of Love and Death by Martha Brockenbrough

Gorgeous, lyrical prose and perhaps my favorite ending of the year, despite how much I ugly-cried. – Stephanie Appell

For the teen or YA reader who can finish a book a day — more great novels to add to the stack:

The Death and Life of Zebulon Finch, Volume One: At the Edge of Empire by Daniel Kraus

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How to WOW a book-lover: Give ParnassusNext — our subscription box that delivers the hottest new YA novel, in a first edition hardcover, signed by the author, every month. Prepaid gift memberships are available for 3, 6, or 12 months — and if you sign up now, we can deliver the December selection by 12/24! BOOM, you’re the greatest gift-giver ever.


Happy reading to kids of all ages!