The Big List: Part Two (Books for Young Readers)

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Just as they do with food, clothes, and, well, pretty much everything, children and teens have specific tastes when it comes to reading, which can make it seem daunting to give books as gifts. Never fear! The good news is that if you can tell us a bit about their personality or a book they’ve liked in the past, we can help you find a whole pile of others they’ll love. And don’t fret if you have a young person on your list who’s a more reluctant reader. We can help you introduce them to the fun of reading by selecting books about the things that interest them.

So please come visit and chat with any of our expert children’s booksellers in the store. Meanwhile, here’s a list to get you started, with suggestions for a wide range of ages. If you’d like to shop right this minute, just click the title to toss the book into your online cart. We’d be glad to gift-wrap your books for free (just indicate in the notes section at checkout that you’d like them wrapped). Then we can hold your gifts for pickup here or ship them to you or your recipient. Easy!

 Two books that belong on every young person’s bookshelf:

Some Writer!: The Story of E.B. White Cover ImageSome Writer! The Story of E.B. White

Karen gave me this book and if she hadn’t I never would have read it. It’s an illustrated birth-to-death biography of E.B. White, and while it’s written for children in middle school I can’t imagine who wouldn’t like it. For any busy reader who would like a shot of joy in their life. – Ann Patchett

Before Morning Cover ImageBefore Morning

Beth Krommes won the 2009 Caldecott Medal for her book, The House in the Night, and her illustrations here are equally exquisite. Those illustrations, paired with Joyce Sidman’s spare winter invocation, elevate this to a must-have for every child’s library. – Stephanie Appell

Especially for baby:

An Incomplete Book of Awesome Things Cover ImageAn Incomplete Book of Awesome Things

The perfect gift for any new baby, this celebration of the awesome things in our world (elbows! tacos! confetti!) is adorable and delightful. – Niki Coffman

A Child of Books Cover ImageA Child of Books

This might be the most enchanting picture book to come out this year. I’ll be gifting it to book-loving children and adults alike. – Niki Coffman

A is for Activist Cover ImageA is for Activist

For everyone! A brilliant picture book for any age. – Grace Wright

Real Cowboys Cover ImageReal Cowboys

You might think you already know what this book is about, but I can almost guarantee that you don’t. Kate Hoefler’s text is all about upending your idea of what makes a “real cowboy,” while Jonathan Bean’s dreamy illustrations evoke not just images of the West, but also its spirit. This is one of the most beautiful picture books of the year. – Stephanie Appell

This Is Our Baby, Born Today Cover ImageThis Is Our Baby, Born Today

Books about new babies are a dime a dozen, so this gorgeous benediction stands out. Varsha Bajaj’s rhythmic prose roots the new baby in both its environment and community, as we see the lagoon, the herd, the neighbors, and more. Eliza Wheeler’s ink and watercolor illustrations are full of elegent, naturalistic details. A wonderful, original addition to a baby’s library. – Stephanie Appell

Picture books you’ll never want them to grow out of:

The Bear Who Wasn't There Cover ImageThe Bear Who Wasn’t There

My grandchildren are going to crack up when I read them this story. The bear doesn’t seem to be there at all, but all the other creatures in the story weigh in on what’s happening on every page. I expect to hear cries of, “Read it again!” (My only problem is waiting until Christmas, because I want to read it to them NOW.) – River Jordan

Douglas, You Need Glasses! Cover ImageDouglas, You Need Glasses!

This book is great for young readers who wear glasses or enjoy stories about dogs. Who wouldn’t want to see an adorable picture book about a nearsighted dog whose life changes after a trip to the eye doctor? – Rae Ann Parker

The Darkest Dark Cover ImageThe Darkest Dark

This book is for young readers who dream of going into space. It’s about overcoming fears and chasing your dreams. Bonus: It’s written by a real-live astronaut! – Rae Ann Parker

The Night Gardener Cover ImageThe Night Gardener

For picture book fans and anyone who might enjoy a gorgeously illustrated book for their coffee table. This is beautiful story about a boy and a town whose lives transform overnight thanks to a kind gardener. – Rae Ann Parker

In Plain Sight: A Game Cover ImageIn Plain Sight: A Game

This book is perfect for grandparents to read to grandchildren. It is beautifully illustrated by Caldecott medalist Jerry Pinkney. – Rae Ann Parker

The Snurtch Cover ImageThe Snurtch

For anyone who has ever been in trouble at school. All is explained when you find out every student has a snurtch. – Rae Ann Parker

Also an Octopus Cover ImageAlso an Octopus

The perfect gift for the budding author in your life (or your child’s teacher). This is the story of a ukelele-playing octopus who wants to build a purple spaceship. As we read of his adventures and how he accomplishes his goal, we learn how to build a story. – Ashley Herring Blake

I Don't Like Koala Cover ImageI Don’t Like Koala

Perfect for your lovable, strong-willed child, this picture book is about a little boy who absolutely does not like his stuffed koala. A heartwarming story with simple, beautiful illustrations. – Ashley Herring Blake

Are We There Yet?: A Story Cover ImageAre We There Yet? A Story 

For any child (or adult) who has ever sat through the family trip and asked more than once, “Are we there yet?” Original, funny, and a great read aloud book. – River Jordan

Toby Cover ImageToby

This story about a boy who adopts a dog from a shelter has spare text and simple, unadorned illustrations, but the sweetness at its center is perfect for anyone who’s ever loved a rescue animal. – Stephanie Appell

The Bear and the Piano Cover ImageThe Bear and the Piano

Incredibly, The Bear and the Piano is David Litchfield’s first picture book, but I hope it’s just the beginning of an incredible career. Every element of this book — the endpapers, the text and its placement on the page, the way illustrations are framed and draw the eye — is masterful, and the illustrations themselves are gorgeous. It’s just perfect, and I loved it. – Stephanie Appell

A Small Thing . . . But Big Cover ImageA Small Thing . . . But Big

What I love about picture books is how much can be contained in 32 pages and a few hundred words of text. A Small Thing … But Big is the perfect example. It’s a story about a little girl who overcomes her fear of dogs at the park one day. But in Tony Johnston’s hands, every word speaks volumes, and accompanied by Hadley Hooper’s utterly charming illustrations, this picture book becomes exquisite. You might even say it’s a small thing … but big. – Stephanie Appell

Sleep Tight Farm: A Farm Prepares for Winter Cover ImageSleep Tight Farm: A Farm Prepares for Winter 

If you love the gentle prose and broad, landscaped illustrations of The Ox-Cart Man, you’re going to love Sleep Tight Farm. Eugenie Doyle sketches out all the ways a farm family gets ready for winter, and every detail is brought to loving life by Becca Stadtlander. The “good night” refrain (“Good night, raspberries, resting below,” “Good night, fields, peaceful and still”) makes this a perfect bedtime book for a chilly night. – Stephanie Appell

Mama's Nightingale: A Story of Immigration and Separation Cover ImageMama’s Nightingale: A Story of Immigration and Separation 

According to the author’s note, more than 70,000 parents are separated from their American-born children by immigration officials in the United States. This is the story of one such child, Saya, whose undocumented mother has been discovered and sent to an immigration detention facility. It’s a beautiful, essential story of hope, family, and the ability of words to bring people together. – Stephanie Appell

A Unicorn Named Sparkle Cover ImageA Unicorn Named Sparkle 

Lucy sends away for a 25-cent unicorn, but what comes in the mail isn’t exactly what she expected. This hilarious tale is a heartwarming reminder that life doesn’t always go according to plan, and Sparkle is definitely the most charming picture book unicorn ever. – Stephanie Appell

Madeline Finn and the Library Dog Cover ImageMadeline Finn and the Library Dog

Madeline Finn wants a star sticker from her teacher for reading out loud, but instead she keeps getting heart stickers that say, “Keep trying!” One day at the library, she meets someone who might be able to help her. Lisa Papp’s first person narration captures Madeline’s personality through wonderfully observed details, and the story hits all the right notes. – Stephanie Appell

Who Wants a Tortoise? Cover ImageWho Wants a Tortoise?

Look, if I had been waiting my whole life for a puppy and got a tortoise for my birthday instead, I’d be pretty upset too. But my story wouldn’t be half as funny and endearing as this. One of the best things about K.G. Campbell’s illustrations are the expressions on the tortoise’s face (pay extra close attention to the page where he gets his nails painted Sparkling Raspberry Delight). This has been a great year for picture books about pets, but Who Wants a Tortoise tops the list. – Stephanie Appell

City Shapes Cover ImageCity Shapes

Rhyming text describes various shapes around the city. Bryan Collier’s watercolor and collage illustrations provide opportunities for young readers to search for examples of different shapes on each page. This is a lovely book for young children. – Jackie Gregory

Dragon Was Terrible Cover ImageDragon Was Terrible

This is a hilarious book about a really bad dragon. He does really awful things. What finally tames him? A good story can be a powerful thing. Perfect family read aloud for pre-K or elementary kids. – Jackie Gregory

Because Penguins with People Problems is not for kids, but these two are. Each darling in its own way, these two illustrated stories about your favorite flightless friends are fun to read year-round, but especially cute in winter when we might hope for a snowflake or two. Penguins for everyone! – Mary Laura Philpott

Penguin Problems Cover ImagePenguin Problems

For right now — some seasonal selections:

The Jolly Christmas Postman Cover ImageThe Jolly Christmas Postman 

Welcome to the interactive holiday book of your dreams. There are actual envelopes inside to open filled with letters and other surprises for the Jolly Postman to deliver on Christmas Eve. This is THE book to crack open by the fireplace and enjoy with the whole family. – Katherine Klockenkemper

And more holiday books, recommended by our manager of books for young readers, Stephanie Appell:

The Day Santa Stopped Believing in Harold Cover ImageThe Day Santa Stopped Believing in Harold

Why Christmas Trees Aren't Perfect Cover ImageWhy Christmas Trees Aren’t Perfect

The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey Cover ImageThe Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey

Dear Santa, Love, Rachel Rosenstein Cover ImageDear Santa, Love, Rachel Rosenstein

The First Christmas Cover ImageThe First Christmas 

The Wild Christmas Reindeer Cover ImageThe Wild Christmas Reindeer

On That Christmas Night Cover ImageOn That Christmas Night

Great Joy Cover ImageGreat Joy

The Story of Holly and Ivy Cover ImageThe Story of Holly and Ivy

By Rumer Godden, Barbara Cooney (Illustrator)

For younger independent readers:

Because of Mr. Terupt Cover ImageBecause of Mr. Terupt

I’ve read the first book in this series and would like to read the others. It was recommended to me by my 4th grade teacher last year, Ms. Gift, who is awesome. I liked it because I read it with a friend, and we talked about it. It is a little bit sad, so it’s for readers who can handle sad books. – Gennie, junior bookseller (age 10)

The Wild Ones Cover ImageThe Wild Ones and The Wild Ones: Moonlight Brigade

This book is about a racoon who moves to a town that is full of animals who are pick-pockets and thieves. There are domestic pets who also live in the town, and they don’t get along with the wild ones. This one is great for younger readers who liked the Warriors and Survivors series. – Gennie, junior bookseller (age 10)

The Girl Who Could Fly Cover ImageThe Boy Who Knew Everything Cover ImageThe Girl Who Could Fly and The Boy Who Knew Everything

I like these because they’re fantasy but they’re written so well that it seems like the story could be real. They are really, really, really good. – Gennie, junior bookseller (age 10)

Fish in a Tree Cover ImageFish in a Tree

I read this in my book club at the end of 4th grade. It was good. You would like this if you liked the characters and drama of the Percy Jackson but could do without all the mythology and fantasy. – Gennie, junior bookseller (age 10)

Rain Reign Cover ImageRain Reign

This one was suggested to me by my school librarian. It’s about a girl with autism who loves homophones. I don’t want to spoil what happens, but this story is a really tense read. I liked it. – Gennie, junior bookseller (age 10)

The Secret Horses of Briar Hill Cover ImageThe Secret Horses of Briar Hill

This book is perfect for Narnia fans. It contains winged horses behind secret mirrors and a girl with faith in magic. – Rae Ann Parker

Roller Girl Cover ImageRoller Girl

For your favorite niece or your favorite book drive for kids, this Newbery Honor graphic novel about roller derby, sticking with a dream, and not giving up on friends is perfect for almost anyone. – Rae Ann Parker

Booked Cover ImageBooked

Grab a copy of Booked for the soccer players in your family and anyone who likes books about sports, friendship, or family. – Rae Ann Parker

Waiting for Augusta Cover ImageWaiting for Augusta

For your fans of family stories with a dash of magic, wrap up a copy of this book about a boy trying to fulfill his father’s last request to spread his ashes at the famed Augusta National Golf Course. Ben travels by any means necessary with the help of a runaway named Noni and perhaps a little magic. – Rae Ann Parker

The Wild Robot Cover ImageThe Wild Robot

A robot named Rozzum Unit 7134, or Roz for short, finds herself stranded on an island full of wild animals. The animals call her a monster at first, and she realizes she must adapt and become wild to survive. This book is a fun adventure story for a middle grade reader to enjoy independently, or it could be a great family read aloud to introduce discussions about technology, nature, or the environment. – Jackie Gregory

When the Sea Turned to Silver Cover ImageWhen the Sea Turned to Silver

An epic quest, magical creatures, and ancient folklore. A lovely tale for strong middle grade readers who love fantasy, adventure, and folktales. A companion novel to Where the Mountain Meets the Moon and Starry River of the Sky. – Jackie Gregory

Two Naomis Cover ImageTwo Naomis

A beautiful story about how blended families become, well, blended. This book is perfect for the kids in your life going through some family transition. Heartwarming, humorous, and hopeful. – Ashley Herring Blake

The Water and the Wild Cover ImageThe Water and the Wild

For fans of C. S. Lewis’s The Chronicles of Narnia, this story follows Lottie through an apple tree into another world where she seeks a cure for her best friend’s incurable disease. Along the way she also finds something important: herself. – Ashley Herring Blake

The Land of Forgotten Girls Cover ImageThe Land of Forgotten Girls

If you love a great sister story, this book is for you. Both heartbreaking and hopeful, this story about two Filipino sisters and the challenges they face without their parents is such a beautiful portrait of finding the good even when things are tough. – Ashley Herring Blake

For older independent readers:

The Goose Girl Cover ImageThe Goose Girl

I love Shannon Hale’s books. (The Books of Bayern series includes The Goose Girl, plus Enna Burning, River Secrets, and Forest Born.) – Gennie (junior bookseller, age 10)

The Secret Keepers Cover ImageThe Secret Keepers

This one is on my wish-list! I really want to read it because I loved the Mysterious Benedict Society books by this author and have re-read them several times. – Gennie (junior bookseller, age 10)

A Drowned Maiden's Hair: A Melodrama Cover ImageA Drowned Maiden’s Hair: A Melodrama

This book is not new, but I feel like not enough people know about it. The main character starts out in an orphanage but then she gets adopted by three women who try to get her involved in a scam. There’s lots of drama. I loved it. – Gennie (junior bookseller, age 10)

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child - Parts One & Two (Special Rehearsal Edition Script): The Official Script Book of the Original West End Production Cover ImageHarry Potter and the Cursed Child: The Official Script Book of the Original West End Production

If you’ve read all the other Harry Potters, it’s fun to find out what happens in the future for the characters. – Gennie (junior bookseller, age 10)

Beautiful Blue World Cover ImageBeautiful Blue World

The perfect book for the advanced 9-12-year-old reader. It is the story of two best friends in a fictional war-torn country who become more involved in the war effort in a surprising way. I loved the beautiful language, the memorable characters, and the questions it sparks in readers. I couldn’t put it down. – Catherine Bock

My Seventh-Grade Life in Tights Cover ImageMy Seventh-Grade Life in Tights

For the middle schoolers in your life who like funny books, pick up a copy of My Seventh Grade Life in Tights. – Rae Ann Parker

Awkward Cover ImageAwkward

If you love Raina Telgemeier’s graphic novels, you’ll love this book about a girl trying to find her place in middle school while trying to mend a wrong she did a fellow student. A fun, realistic story about all the awkwardness and fun that comes with middle school! – Ashley Herring Blake

It Ain't So Awful, Falafel Cover ImageIt Ain’t So Awful, Falafel

For fans of historical middle grade books like Wolf Hollow, this book follows an Iranian-American girl during the late 1970s when Iran is in crisis, finally taking American hostages. Finding a place in California is harder than ever for Zomorod (Cindy) in this heartfelt and humorous book. – Ashley Herring Blake

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Stocking stuffers GALORE: adorable apparel, journals, games, puzzles, mugs, jewelry, pencil cases, candy . . . you name it.

Nonfiction for youngsters who tell it like it is:

Rad Women Worldwide: Artists and Athletes, Pirates and Punks, and Other Revolutionaries Who Shaped History Cover ImageRad Women Worldwide: Artists and Athletes, Pirates and Punks, and Other Revolutionaries Who Shaped History

A book for young people about rad women. Need I say more? – Halley Parry

Courage to Soar: A Body in Motion, a Life in Balance Cover ImageCourage to Soar: A Body in Motion, a Life in Balance

I love Simone Biles!  Obviously the perfect gift for someone who loves the sport of gymnastics, this is also a great book for someone who loves elite sports and the sacrifice it takes to be a champion. – Ginger Nalley

Maps Cover ImageMaps

This big, beautiful book of maps is a lot of fun. The illustrations are fantastic and the snippets of information are perfect for kids who want to look for just a little while as well as those inclined to look for hours. – Ginger Nalley

Giant Squid Cover ImageGiant Squid

This book is perfect for anyone who loves science or is a frequent visitor to aquariums, as it reveals the mysteries of a sea creature as big as a bus with eyes as large as soccer balls. – Rae Ann Parker

March, Book One Cover ImageMarch, Book One + Book Two + Book Three

Regardless of age or political leanings, I doubt there is anyone on your holiday gift list whose life wouldn’t be vastly improved by reading Congressman John Lewis’s wonderful graphic memoir. – Lindsay Lynch

Dream Treehouses Cover ImageDream Treehouses 

I’m really into architecture, real estate, and floor plans, so I love to flip these pages and imagine living in some of these places. These books are great for anyone of any age. – Cameron (bookselling intern, age 13)

Cottage and Cabin Cover ImageCottage and Cabin

By Linda Leigh Paul

Microshelters: 59 Creative Cabins, Tiny Houses, Tree Houses, and Other Small Structures Cover ImageMicroshelters: 59 Creative Cabins, Tiny Houses, Tree Houses, and Other Small Structures

By Derek “Deek” Diedricksen

(Ed. note — You’ll find these books in our art and architecture section. Cameron believes older kids and teens can find great things to read all over the store. Consider browsing in sections such as Animals, History, and Cooking.)

Strong Inside: Perry Wallace and the Collision of Race and Sports in the South Cover ImageStrong Inside: Perry Wallace and the Collision of Race and Sports in the South

I liked how this book is history but it reads like a novel. When I finished it, I thought a lot about how persistent Perry Wallace was. I read the adult version, which I think is appropriate for high schoolers and mature middle schoolers. – Cameron (bookselling intern, age 13)

Strong Inside (Young Readers Edition): The True Story of How Perry Wallace Broke College Basketball's Color Line Cover ImageStrong Inside (Young Readers Edition): The True Story of How Perry Wallace Broke College Basketball’s Color Line

The young readers version comes out later this month. (Available Dec. 20)

F for Effort!: More of the Very Best Totally Wrong Test Answers Cover ImageF for Effort!: More of the Very Best Totally Wrong Test Answers

I found the F in Exams series in the humor section, and it’s a good, fun read, although not for little kids. This is a great stocking-stuffer for anyone eighth grade and up. – Cameron (bookselling intern, age 13)

Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power Cover Image

Cameron also recommends teenage history buffs check out the biography and history sections. He enjoys reading about World War II, the Cold War, and US Presidents. “I especially like books by Jon Meacham,” he says.

 Young adult fiction (for actual young adults and the YA-at-heart):

My True Love Gave to Me: Twelve Holiday Stories Cover ImageMy True Love Gave to Me: Twelve Holiday Stories

This short story collection is for anyone who likes holiday stories. It’s now out in paperback and will get you into the holiday spirit, whether your favorite holiday is Christmas, Hanukkah, or New Year’s Eve. – Rae Ann Parker

Gone Cover ImageGone + Hunger + Lies + PlagueFear + Light

This series is my big recommendation for the year, and it’s all out in paperback now. A modern-day retelling of Lord of the Flies, with a twist, it takes place in a town in California where all the adults have gone missing. All the children are trapped in the town under a 20-mile dome, and they have to survive and create their own society by themselves. I like it because it’s a  mix between sci-fi, action, and horror, with a touch of humor. – Cameron (bookselling intern, age 13)

Tell the Wind and Fire Cover ImageTell the Wind and Fire

For fans of Cassandra Clare, this is urban fantasy in which a city is divided by the opulence and luxury of the Light and the fierce and dangerous power of the Dark. It’s a poignant, sweeping story full of romance, sacrifice, secrets, and both good and evil. – Ashley Herring Blake

Labyrinth Lost Cover ImageLabyrinth Lost

If you think you’d love Alice in Wonderland with a dark, modern twist, you’ll love this fantasy about a bruja determined to resist her powers. When she casts a spell to reject her own magic, she makes her family disappear. Then she must venture into Los Lagos, a land in-between, with a boy she’s not sure she can trust, in order to save her family and herself. – Ashley Herring Blake

Making Pretty Cover ImageMaking Pretty

For fans of Rainbow Rowell, this book is about the complexities of family, love without boundaries, and the fierce body expectations put upon women by the world, their families, and themselves. Full of heart, romance, and wisdom. – Ashley Herring Blake

The Only Thing Worse Than Me Is You Cover ImageThe Only Thing Worse Than Me Is You

If you like your YA with a side of Shakespeare, this Much Ado About Nothing retelling is for you. Comics, witty banter, and an exploration of the emotional deficits of intellectually rich characters makes this book a rollicking good time. – Ashley Herring Blake

Everyone We've Been Cover ImageEveryone We’ve Been

Fans of The Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and Adam Silvera’s More Happy Than Not, this book is for you. After an accident, Addison has memory lapses, talks to a boy who keeps disppearing, and worries that she’s going crazy. As she delves deeper into what’s happening to her, what she discovers are choices and secrets she never imagined were possible. – Ashley Herring Blake

The Weight of Zero Cover ImageThe Weight of Zero

For teens and adults alike who might be struggling with mental health issues or loving someone who is: Catherine is dealing with bi-polar and knows that “Zero” (depression) will eventually come for her. As she tries new treatments, sees a new doctor, and opens herself up to new relationships, we readers see something Catherine herself doesn’t yet realize — she’s getting better. A beautiful, authentic portrait of the amalgam of treatments and love and work needed to thrive and the hope that comes from knowing it is possible. – Ashley Herring Blake

Illuminae Cover ImageIlluminae

For your sci-fi lover: This book and its sequel, Gemina, are the perfect balance of genre standbys and dazzling twists on the conventional. Kady and Ezra could give Han and Leia stiff competition — and I don’t say that lightly! – Grace Wright

Six of Crows Cover ImageSix of Crows

If only there were a gorgeously written book that was half Ocean’s Eleven, half stunningly imagined and masterfully crafted magic . . . Oh, there is! This book is for you — or for the person who would appreciate such a perfect mix.- Grace Wright

If I Was Your Girl Cover ImageIf I Was Your Girl 

For the young person who needs a little girl-power in her life. As Amanda faces some of life’s hardest challenges, her inspiring strength and the true faithfulness of her friends gives this novel a huge heart that is not to be missed. – Grace Wright

Girl Mans Up Cover ImageGirl Mans Up

For the young woman finding her place in the world — or even the young man: Pen’s story is all about learning to rise and stand up for what you know is right. – Grace Wright

The Female of the Species Cover ImageThe Female of the Species

For the social justice minded recipient on your list: This novel will grab you by the heart from page one and refuse to let you go. Darkly beautiful and utterly captivating. – Grace Wright

Spontaneous Cover ImageSpontaneous

For the someone in your life about to graduate — whether it be from high school or college or even just the next step in their lives. Wickedly funny and daringly incisive. – Grace Wright

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ParnassusNext: The Can’t-Go-Wrong Gift

This special delivery is for the teen or YA fan who’s always in the know. It’s our monthly subscription box, curated by our YA experts. Always a first-edition hardcover new release. Always signed — straight from the author’s hands to the reader’s. Select a 3, 6, or 12-month prepaid subscription, let us know who it’s going to, and we’ll take care of the rest. No membership fee!

Come by and let us wish you a happy holiday season and wrap up something for every young reader on your list. We’d love to!

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Coming up next week: Ann Patchett’s picks for Best Books of the Year!