It’s gift giving time! If you’re looking for gifts or stocking stuffers for an inquisitive kid or tween, or if you just want to encourage reading this Christmas, check out these thirteen books (and their sequels!)
For me, The Baby-Sitters Club and The Allison Chronicles (by Melody Carlson) got me hooked on reading as a kid. But as long as I’ve been a reader, I’ve been in this situation: you finish a book. You Google similar books. And there are not enough results!
Now, about 80% of the books I read are still children’s books. Because, well, writers must read. But I love recommending new books to people looking for them. And in all my reading, I’ve got some standout favorites that I’d encourage anyone to read. I’m hoping you will discover that perfect new book to gift your book-loving kid or tween this Christmas!
100 Dresses Series: If The Magic Fits by Susan Maupin Schmid
Darling Dimple is an orphan who works as a scrubber in a magical castle. But when she gets promoted to the Head Presser, she moves up in the castle. Darling discovers all sorts of new people and things–including a closet full of 100 beautiful dresses that can transform her into another person. Darling must use the dresses to stop a conspiracy against the princess. If The Magic Fits is great for fans of Shannon Hale.
Top Elf by Caleb Zane Huett
This book is my favorite Christmas movie. Yes, you heard that right. When they make it into a movie, it will be my favorite. It’s about an elf named Ollie and his BFF Celia, whose job is coming up with new games and puzzles in Santa’s workshop. When Santa announces that the position of Santa will no longer be hereditary after he retires, there is uproar in the North Pole. Celia and Ollie enter a reality show-like competition — open to elves and Kringles — to find out who will be the best Santa.
The depiction of the North Pole in this book rivals that of The Santa Claus and Elf. PLUS, the cover is so shiny it’s like eating a candy cane while opening presents and drinking hot chocolate and watching a Christmas movie.
The Naughty List by Bradley Jackson and Michael Fry
This Christmas book was created by screenwriter Bradley Jackson and Michael Fry (co-creator of the comic strip Over the Hedge). The Naughty List tells the story of Bobbie Mendoza, who didn’t hate Christmas…until she was accidentally thrown out of her window by an inflatable Santa. Oh, and her dad works out of town and won’t be home for Christmas. But Bobbie’s family won’t let her forget Christmas exists–her crazy Uncle Dale claims to be personally acquainted with an elf named Phil. When Phil shows up at their house needing help saving Christmas, Bobbie and Uncle Dale must save Christmas from an evil robot computer program that wants to put everyone on the naughty list.
This uplifting book has a sequel that I discovered while writing this post, so be sure to also check out Bobbie Mendoza Saves the World (Again). There are unicorns.
The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart
Whether you share the first book or the boxed set, after meeting Reynie, Kate, Sticky, and Constance, your favorite reader will be hooked. The Mysterious Benedict Society is a New York Times-bestselling book about a team of four kids (and a sweet old narcoleptic named Mr. Benedict) who fight against the evil would-be dictator Mr. Curtain, solving puzzles and using smarts to battle Mr. Curtain’s frightening Ten Men.
This series finally had a new release this year! So if your book-loving tween already loves The Mysterious Benedict Society, be sure to gift them The Mysterious Benedict Society and the Riddle of Ages. The series is also on its way to Disney+ in 2021!
The Baby-Sitters Club Graphic Novels by Ann M. Martin and Raina Telgemeier and Gale Galligan
These graphic novels bring The Baby-Sitters Club to a whole new generation! Raina Telgemeier illustrated and adapted the first four books (starting with Kristy’s Great Idea), and Gale Galligan picks up where she left off with book 5, Dawn and the Impossible Three, through book 8, Logan Likes Mary Anne. If you loved The Baby-Sitters Club–or just the Netflix series–this is a great way to bring Kristy, Mary-Anne, Stacey, Claudia, and Dawn’s baby-sitting adventures (and hopefully eventually Mallory and Jessie!) to your kids or tweens.
Gabriela Epstein (who also illustrates some of the Baby-Sitters Little Sister graphic novels) will be releasing Claudia and the New Girl in February 2021. The great thing about these books is that even if kids aren’t big fans of reading, these graphic novels meet them where they are.
Welcome to Wonderland Series by Chris Grabenstein
The Welcome to Wonderland books follow P.T. Wilkie’s (and his best friend Gloria’s) business ideas to keep P.T.’s family’s Florida motel, The Wonderland, afloat. Throughout the series, P.T. and Gloria start a snack shack, a Pirate Chest treasure hunt, and convince a movie star to film at their motel. They might even stop a pair of jewel thieves.
The first book, Home Sweet Motel, is a great book to start with, but don’t stop there. Also check out Beach Party Surf Monkey, Sandapalooza Shake-Up, and Beach Battle Blowout. P.T.’s crazy stories and inventive schemes will be entertaining for boys or girls.
The Book Scavenger Series by Jennifer Chambliss Bertman
This New York Times-bestselling book is like The Mysterious Benedict Society meets Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library. Emily is obsessed with Book Scavenger, a geocaching-like game where users hide books, then solve puzzles to find them. The game is the only thing that helps her cope when her family moves to San Francisco, and it also helps her make friends with her neighbor James. When an attack on Book Scavenger’s creator threatens to derail the launch of a new game, Emily and James use their puzzle solving skills to save the day.
Framed by James Ponti
Florian Bates is twelve years old, and he just happens to work for the FBI. How? He came up with a theory called T.O.A.S.T.–the Theory of All Small Things–that makes Sherlock Holmes look like an amateur. Along with his best friend Margaret, Florian solves the mystery of a priceless painting stolen from the National Gallery, catches the criminals, and still has time to help Margaret find her birthparents. The characters are likeable and the plots are adventurous. Framed will be a book the reader in your life will re-read countless times.
When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead
This book is a Newbery Award Winner. When Miranda begins receiving mysterious letters, she is tempted to ignore them. But as things progress, the letters begin to predict the future. They also warn that one of Miranda’s friends is in danger. Miranda solves the mystery in a twist ending that will break your understanding of reality.
On a completely unrelated subject, and on a more geeky level, this book completely disproves Captain America’s Endgame ending scene. (But that’s a story for another day.) I really loved this book, so be sure to share it with the reader in your life.
Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library by Chris Grabenstein
Kyle Keeley isn’t much of a reader, but the one thing he’s good at is games. So when game inventor extraordinaire Luigi Lemoncello builds the new library in Kyle’s town, Kyle knows it’s going to be good. Kyle wins a school essay contest to take part in a lock-in the night of the library’s grand opening–literally a lock-in. Mr. Lemoncello turns the whole library into a game board, and Kyle and his new friends must find out how to escape.
Anne of Green Gables, Little Women, Heidi, and A Little Princess Boxed Set
This boxed set is a great introduction to classic children’s literature for the little girl in your life. Or, if she already loves these classics, it would make a great collectors’ item. Plus OH MY GOSH LOOK AT THOSE COVERS. I’ve read all these books, and I want to buy them just for the covers.
The Story Girl & The Golden Road by L.M. Montgomery
Speaking of Anne of Green Gables… The Story Girl was actually L.M. Montgomery’s favorite of her own novels. The Story Girl and its sequel The Golden Road are about Sara Stanley and her cousins, who spend a few years together on the beautiful King homestead in Prince Edward Island. Sara tells beautiful stories, and the kids get themselves into hilarious scrapes. (Being snarky around someone they thought was deaf. Convincing themselves the judgment day has come. Serving sawdust in the pudding.) This double gift (the link above includes both books) would be great for anyone who loves Anne of Green Gables or classic literature.
Masterminds by Gordon Korman
Okay, be glad you stuck around until the end. Because Masterminds is the best book on this list. Eli Frieden has never left his perfect hometown of Serenity, New Mexico. But when he accidentally goes too far out of town and gets freakishly sick, he makes a chilling discovery about his hometown–and his parents. All is not as it seems in his picture-perfect town, and Eli must convince his friends to help him escape from the lie their parents have created.
Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, and happy gifting!