Holiday Book Buying Guide

This year I invited some of my very favorite bloggers to help me with the gift guide. If you want more specific recommendations please allow me to be your personal shopping helper. You can email me at

Every single recommendation on this list comes from dedicated readers who are eclectic and whose opinions I look to in order to pick what I should read as well. I hope you enjoy the titles they have chosen for you, and the ones I talk about as well.

All links will lead you to the website of the contributor, or to the book description at Hicklebee’s Books in San Jose California. I receive no benefit for your orders there, feel free to buy and spread the goodwill of the season to my favorite indie store.

Picture Books

From: Danielle at There’s a Book

I Want My Hat Back by Jon Klassen – By far, our favorite book published this year. This story about a bear who has his hat stolen is full of dry humor that adults will love and will help teach children the importance of honesty. I Want My Hat Back is destined to be a new Classic in Children’s Literature and one that readers, regardless of their favorite genre, should have on their shelves.

Should I Share My Ice Cream by Mo Willems – Another favorite of ours, in this case the author Mo Willems, came out with three new books in the popular Elephant & Piggie series: Should I Share My Ice Cream, I Broke My Trunk and Happy Pig Day! Each is worthy of your purchase, but this is our favorite of the bunch. It teaches children about sharing & friendship in a way that they can relate to and want to read again & again. Not only that, but as a parent this is a series I pre-order because I love it that much!

From: Debbie’s World of Books

Press Here by Herve Tullet – My four year old loves to read and when she finds a book she really enjoys we end up reading it over and over and over (I’m sure you know what I mean). So when we ended up reading Press Here by Herve Tullet four times in a row on the first night I knew we had a winner.

It starts off simply enough with a yellow dot and instructions to press it and voila!- the dot has turned into two yellow dots. This is usually where the first “whoa!” comes out and then as she presses more dots, shakes the book, tilts it, blows on it and more, the amazement and laughs always grow. This book is truly magical in my daughter’s eyes and she cannot get enough of it.

The book is wonderful on so many different levels from encouraging young readers to physically interact with the book, to learn their left from their right and to engage their minds by trying to predict what will happen next all the while making a fun learning experience.

Truly this book makes the perfect gift and any child is sure to love it.

Rhyming Dust Bunnies by Jan Thomas – I find it is hard to go wrong with Jan Thomas if you are looking for wonderful children’s books. One of our favorites is Rhyming Dust Bunnies. It has been out for a couple years now but it is still a part of my daughter’s favorite books rotation.

Ed, Ned, Ted and Bob are dust bunnies who love to rhyme. In fact, Ed, Ned and Ted get so involved in their rhyming game they can’t seem to understand any of Bob’s warnings about a broom and vacuum cleaner because his warnings don’t rhyme.

As a three year old my daughter loved the humor in the story watching poor Bob be told again and again he just isn’t rhyming correctly. As a four year old she enjoys figuring out the rhyme and sounding out the rest of the words. The illustrations are very cute and she loves just going through the pages and talking about how the dust bunnies look different and whether or not Bob is the baby dust bunny.

Her fascination with this book does not appear to be waning even after more than a year of reading. This is definitely a book that can grow with your child and remain a part of their library for years to come.

Middle Grade

From: April at Good Books & Good Wine

When Pam asked me to pick out two middle grade books for her Gift Buying Guide, I was stumped for all of two seconds, but then I immediately remembered my favorites so far this year.You see, I have been reading SO MUCH middle grade in the vein of speculative fiction that I’m starting to feel kind of like an expert. I mean, I’m actually not a real life expert or a professor or anything.

The very first book that came to mind without hesitation was The Aviary by Kathleen O’Dell, a book that I have not seen a whole lot of love and hype for. The Aviary is about a twelve year old girl named Clara who lives in a big old mansion with her mom, a maid named Ruby and old Mrs. Glendoveer.Clara is a lonely little girl, isolated from the other children by her heart condition. When Clara enters the aviary and one of the birds says Elliottttt, it sparks an adventure, weaving friendship, magic, and an old mystery. I think this book is absolutely perfect for 9-14 year old girls interested in historical fiction and fantasy.

The second book I instinctively want to recommend is Peter Nimble And His Fantastic Eyes by Jonathan Auxier. One of the best things about a book is when it can completely transport you from your life and into another world. Peter Nimble And His Fantastic Eyes is about an orphan boy named Peter who has no eyes, they were pecked out by ravens you see. Anyways, Peter is one of the greatest thieves of all time. He happens to steal a pair of fantastic eyes, which transport him into another world. In this world, Peter is the only hope of a people living under a tyrant. Auxier blends wit, fantasy, and old school storytelling to create an fantastic read for boys and girls alike. I’d recommend this to children with big imaginations who love Peter Pan.

From: Me

Breadcrumbs by Anne Ursu is the perfect holiday gift. Hazel is surrounded by snow and ice and mystery. A retelling of the Snow Queen, the world inside this book is a variable winter wonderland just waiting to be explored. When Hazel’s friend goes missing it is up to her to find him. Even if that means a jaunt through a cold and vast magical forest in the dead of winter. Along the way we learn -along with Hazel- that things aren’t always as they seem and danger lurks beyond every river, tree or forest bed. Perfect for the cold winter months and a cup of hot chocolate.

My second choice is Starcrossed by Elizabeth Bunce. Digger is a thief and her last job didn’t go so well. She was stealing meaningless letters when the greenmen catch her. Her partner in crime gives his life for her escape and the reader is taken on an adventure across a fantastical globe that is breathtaking in its beauty and enormity. In her rush to escape the local 5-0 Digger finds herself in service for a sweet – but magical – girl. Magic is forbidden and when it comes down to the wire, Digger must decide if she will help her newfound friend or sell her out to ensure her own freedom. Perfect winter setting stuck in a fjord type mountain and incredible writing make Starcrossed a perfect pick.

Young Adult

From: Shanyn at Chick Loves Lit

Virtuosity by Jessica Martinez
Virtuosity is sincerely one of the most beautiful contemporaries written this year (and by a debut author nonetheless).

The main storyline of this book revolves around Carmen and her life playing the violin. She is amping up to perform in the biggest competition of her life, which means lots of practice, concentration, and maybe a few pills that help with anxiety. What Carmen doesn’t expect is to be interested in her biggest competition, who happens to be a cute boy.

It would be easy to assume that Virtuosity is mainly about the violin, but Martinez flawlessly weaves in realistic, deep relationships and authentic emotion which will have you riveted to the page. It’s not a book with obvious conclusions to all of the issues in Carmen’s life, and you’ll find yourself wondering what’s best for her and what will actually happen.

With Virtuosity, not only do you get a musical journey, but a self discovery as well. An exquisitely well rounded and satisfying read.

Catching Jordan by Miranda Kinneally
There are a few topics not often covered in contemporary young adult literature, and football is one of them. In Catching Jordan, Jordan Woods is the quarterback of her football team, and is the best quarterback in the entire state. She dreams of playing quarterback at the college level.

Interesting premise, no? Of course, Catching Jordan doesn’t revolve solely around football – in fact, it’s much more about a girl’s life (who happens to play football). There are interesting dynamics in this one because it’s not often a girl is the leader of a male dominated sport, and Jordan has to come to terms with whether she should be dating someone from her team, how she does in practice, and where she will go to college.

Kinneally writes in an engaging way, enough so that those not interested in football will still enjoying reading. The author also doesn’t pick predictable outcomes, which shows the book has more substance.

Great for a sports minded reader (or even one just looking for something a little different in the contemporary genre), Catching Jordan is a great debut.

From: Stacey at Girls in the Stacks

Every You, Every Me by David Levithan
David Levithan is one of the best YA authors of our generation. His writing is beautiful and soulful, making him a master of the written word. To read a David Levithan novel is to read greatness. His newest release (9/2011), Every You, Every Me is no exception. This psychological thriller is told from main character Evan’s point of view, and it’s emotionally raw. Filled with strike-through styled writing, Levithan perfectly honed in on Evan; his plight, his struggles, his pleas for help and was able to convince readers we we’re in his head. We also get to witness Evan on the edge of breaking, while wondering is he crazy, is he sane, is he suffering from PTSD? It’s intense, to say the least. The end is surprising, heart-pounding and it’ll make you want to go back and do a re-read!
Don’t forget to read the acknowledgments. The genesis of this story is unique and interesting and gives readers a glimpse into the writing process of David Levithan.
side note: this book is best read in a tangible format, consider a physical book over an e-version.

Texas Gothic by Rosemary Clement-Moore
Looking for a light paranormal read that’s reminiscent of Nancy Drew? Than look no further. Welcome to the Goodnight Ranch, your hostess is Amy Goodnight. She, her sister, and her mad cap friends will lead you on a ghostly journey a la Scooby and the gang and their sleuthing will unveil a masked villain. But wait, there’s more…this book is replete with humor, magic, the obligatory hot Texas cowboy and great one-liners. Still, that’s not all! Texas Gothic is a stand-alone!* That’s right; once you close the book the story’s done, which means no waiting a year for the sequel!
Highlights include: goat fetching in underwear with obligatory hot Texas cowboy, kissing in a truck with obligatory hot Texas cowboy, and sly flirting with said hot Texas cowboy. *sigh*
*small print: While this novel is a stand-alone, there is a companion novel planned featuring another member of the Goodnight family!

Stacy from Girls in the STACKS (with a “S” on the end, cuz we are in many stacks, not just one!)


From: Kathy at Bermuda Onion

When Pam asked me for a couple suggestions to include in her Holiday Shopping Guide, I was really excited – this would be my chance to be an evangelist for books that I love! After I thought about it a little while, I started to panic – how in the world would I whittle my list of books down to two? I’ve decide to concentrate on a genre I love – memoirs. It’s been a while since I’ve read this books, but they’ve both stayed in my heart and mind and, to me, that makes them stellar.

PRAYING FOR STRANGERS by River Jordan is Jordan’s story of how she coped with having both of her sons deployed at the same time – she prayed for a different stranger every day. It seems that, quite often, she and a stranger crossed paths at the perfect time for both of them. This book moved me to tears and made me want to be a better person. Buy it for those with a spiritual bent and those who are searching for answers.

THE BLUEBERRY YEARS by Jim Minick tells about the years Minick and his wife toiled to live their dream of owning a pick-your-own blueberry farm in Floyd County, Virginia. They lived through frustrations, setbacks, and triumphs and their farm helped them become part of the community. Written in a quiet, gentle manner, this book is sure to strike a chord with those with unfulfilled dreams and may even inspire them into action. As an added bonus, blueberry facts, photos and recipes are included.

From: Jen at Devourer of Books

The Heroine’s Bookshelf by Erin Blakemore
Paperback – Harper Perennial, an imprint of HarperCollins
Released November 15, 2011

In times of trouble, sometimes our most valuable assets can be the books dearest to our hearts. Based on this reality, Erin Blakemore wrote The Heroine’s Bookshelf, an homage to some of her favorite heroines and the amazing woman who wrote their stories. The Heroine’s Bookshelf is divided into twelve sections with titles such as “Self,” “Dignity,” and “Compassion” and covers women like Jo March, Scarlett O’Hara, and Lizzy Bennet. Each chapter briefly outlines the life of the author and the premise of the book, weaving in the arguments for why the author and character exemplify and can teach us the stated virtue of the chapter. The Heroine’s Bookshelf would make an idea gift for the heroine 13-113 in your own life, whether she has read all the books Blakemore covers or not.

Jen’s review.

The Scrapbook of Frankie Pratt by Caroline Preston
Hardcover – Ecco, an imprint of HarperCollins
Released October 25, 2011

Filled with gorgeous vintage 1920s ephemera, Frankie Pratt is not only an endearing story of a young girl coming of age, but also a visual feast. Frankie’s scrapbook doubles as her diary, and tells her story from her high school graduation, through college at Vassar and her attempts to make it as a writer first in New York, and then in Paris. The Scrapbook of Frankie Pratt will make a lovely gift for women of all ages.

Jen’s review.

Bookish Stuff

The Book Book from Twelve South is awesome for the bookish techie. I have one myself on my MacBook Pro. They also come for iPhone and iPad! They seem to back order a lot so if ordering do so soon.

Modern Books Necklace from one of my new favorite shops on Etsy. I bought the Penguin Classics necklace a few months ago. Super comfy and light, I don’t even realize I am wearing it. Great quality and a smooth glossy finish.

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10 Responses so far

  1. Gravatar

    Oh my gosh, that Mac cover is gorgeous…. *must have*

  2. Gravatar

    This is one fabulous idea, Miss Pam! And I love your sources, your Santas, your joy. Plus, I really really really want Breadcrumbs. Thank you for reminding me of what I’ll buy myself this year. :)

  3. Gravatar

    Thank you for including children’s books in your list. They are expensive and I love having reviews of them from someone with kids before I buy them.

  4. Gravatar

    I have just immediately added the Book Book to the top of my Christmas list! I’m jealous that you already have one! Such a great gift idea. Do you have the red or the black?

  5. Gravatar

    Amy – I have the red! I love the splash of color!

  6. Gravatar

    This for inviting me to participate – I’m flattered to be included with such awesome bloggers!

  7. Gravatar

    great suggestions from some trusted sources.

  8. Gravatar

    Thanks for including me! Love the list.

  9. Gravatar

    This is a great list! I especially love the necklace–and I can’t wait to read The Heroine’s Bookshelf. I hope somebody gets that for ME.

  10. Gravatar

    thanks for the recommendations! just bought “Want my Hat” based on your review. The “dot” book is practically sold out, so i opted for “hat.”

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