Category: Books We Love

2014 holiday give & get, list & links

unnamedToday we share gift ideas at many different price points in three categories: toys, books and whole family gifts. Thanks to those who responded to the survey with their kids’ faves.  We hope you find some inspiration below!

*indicates multiple votes / perennial favorites





For 3-5 year olds
Marble Run*
Water Wizard
Art Supplies*
Inflatable guitars
EZ steppers
How to Train your Dragon DVD and related costumes and sticker book

For 6-8 year olds
Minecraft (& Minecraft games, toys and books)
Lego sets*
Magic set
Science kit
Snap circuits*
Weaving loom
Razor scooter
Sockem Boppers
Sockem Bopper Power Bag
Nerf all conditions football
Frozen DVD

For 9-12 year olds
JD Bug Scooter
Perplexus Epic Maze
Bounce Back Net (for sports)
Taylor Swift concert tickets
Magazine Subscriptions (Muse, Ask, Cobblestone, Sports Illustrated Kids)
Razor ripstik
xBox 360

For 13+
Gift Cards (Starbucks, iTunes, GameStop, Target)
Make up / Sephora Gift Card
Frisbee (Ultimate regulation weight)
Handmade marbles
Magazine subscription (eg People StyleWatch)
Locket necklace
Concert tickets


For 6-8 year olds
Gooseberry Park
Ivy and Bean
Ramona series
Diary of A Wimpy Kid -The Long Haul
American Girl Smart Girls Guides
Scat by Carl Hiassen
Guys Read Other Worlds by Jon Scieszka
Skink: No Surrender by Carl Hiaasen

For 9-12 year olds
The True Meaning of Smekday by Adam Rex
City of Ember Series by Jeanne DuPrau
The Greenglass House by Kate Milford
The Mysterious Benedict Society Series by Trenton Lee Stewart
Ghost Hawk by Susan Cooper
Wonder by R.J. Palacio
Divergent series
Alex Rider series
Minecraft, The Complete Handbook Collection, by Stephanie Milton
The Giver, by Lois Lowry
The Invention of Hugo Cabret, by Brian Selznick
Holes, by Louis Sachar

“Movie Night” (share a favorite DVD, movie sized candy selections, microwave popcorn)
World Atlas
Holiday Concert tickets
YMCA / gym membership
Ice cream maker
Popcorn popper
Doodle dice
Badminton set
Bird bingo

what we’re sending (to welcome a new baby)

Screen Shot 2014-10-21 at 12.06.28 PMMy cousin and his wife just had a baby!  In deciding what to send to welcome her, I thought back to the gifts that brought our family the most lasting enjoyment: music and books. When my first child was born, a friend whose kids were a few years older sent us a CD of their family’s favorites songs. At first it seemed like a long time before this gift would be relevant, but soon we came to love the songs their family introduced us to. It’s an idea I have borrowed many times since. Similarly, when I was fighting to keep my head above water in the early days of new motherhood, enjoying books together seemed a long way off. Yet in the following months, each time we read a book we received as a gift, I thought about the sender and was grateful.

So today I’ll share the 5 books I’ve sent to welcome the new baby (spoiler alert to my cousin who occasionally reads this blog)–some of my family’s favorites:

  1. I Know a Rhino
  2. Is Your Mama a Llama
  3. Farfallina and Marcel
  4. Tumble Bumble
  5. Sometimes I Like to Curl Up in a Ball

Wishing you many hours of snuggly reading together, –n

let them see you cry

Screen Shot 2014-06-03 at 12.41.51 PMI am a sentimental crier. I was crying off and on while watching A Dolphin Tale with my kids. And, um, also during We Bought A Zoo. I well up almost every time I see a parent struggling to do their best by their kids, when I bear witness to someone going through a tough time with grace, or at pretty much any moment that highlights acts of true humanity. There are a couple of children’s books that, no matter how many times I read them, I hear my voice choked with emotion at certain points as I struggle to get to the bottom of the page. (For me these stories include The Summer My Father Was Ten by Pat Brisson, Lobstering with My Papa, by Billie Hancock and Joan Walsh, and Miss Rumphius, by Barbara Cooney.) These are all stories of aging, kids growing up, the passage of time–themes that resonate deeply with me as a parent. My kids’ reactions have been varied, sometimes they’ve just looked over and said nothing, other times they asked, “Mom, why are you crying?”  This has given me a chance to share what I find moving. I am glad for these opportunities with them. They get to see me cry not because I’m hurt or experiencing loss: just because I’m moved. It gives us all a chance to think about the emotions and how we experience and express feelings…good for everyone. –n

Favorite books as rated by readers’ kids

septimus heapWe hope you found some good ideas in last week’s “most used” toys post for your holiday shopping lists.

This week, it’s books. Once again, sorted by age: 3 and under; 4-5; 6-7; 8-9; 10-11; 12-13, 14+ so scroll down to find your target age (and peek above and below depending on your kids!).

Where possible we’ve provided links for easy exploring.




3 and Under 


Kevin and Katie

Goodnight Goodnight Construction Site

B is for Bear

CAT Book about trucks with Sounds


4 and 5 Year Olds

And Tango Makes Three

Batman Books

Dr Seuss: Did I Ever Tell You How Lucky You Are?

Froggy’s Baby Sister

Hello Kitty Phonics Books


6 and 7 Year Olds


Diary of a Wimpy Kid

Harry Potter

Highlights Magazine

Ivy & Bean**

Lucy Walks the Dogs

Mercy Watson Series

Ramona and Beezus**

Roal Dahl Books (BFG, James &GP)

Tacky the Penguin Series


8 and 9 Year Olds

A to Z Mysteries Series

American Girl (Smart Girls’ Guides) e.g. Friendship Troubles

Eragon Series – Christopher Paolini

Harry Potter**

How to Train Your Dragon


Molly Moon Series

Nancy Drew Series

Percy Jackson Series

Roal Dahl Witches

Stone Soup (Magazine)

Star Wars

The Wings of Fire Series


10 and 11 Year Olds

13 Planets

Canterwood Crest Series



Heroes of Olympus Series

Heart of a Samurai


Hunger Games**

Kids Discover (Magazine)


Lisa Frank Coloring Book

Naruto (Manga Series)

Out of My Mind

Ranger’s Apprentice Series

Septimus Heap Series

Stone Soup (Magazine)

Tales of Despereaux

The Genius Files**

The Lightening Thief

The Mysterious Benedict Series

The School for a Good and Evil

The Wanderer

When You Reach Me



12 and 13 Year Olds

Thirteen Reasons Why

Bobbi Brown Teenage Beauty

Bobbi Brown Beauty Rules: Fabulous Looks, Beauty Essentials, and Life Lessons


Just Listen

Hunger Games**

Out of My Mind


Liar and Spy

Under a Blood Red Sun

When You Reach Me

The House of the Scorpion

The Wanderer


14 +

Life of Pi

Divergent Series

Bobbi Brown Teenage Beauty

Maze Runner


People Style Watch (Magazine)


Game of Thrones

The Book Theif

The Fault in Our Stars


a list of great read alouds

Screen shot 2013-07-02 at 5.19.44 PMFor anyone looking to mark a summer vacation with a good read aloud for your kids, we thought we’d share some favorites of the past few years.  This handful of summer read-alouds include ones that are particularly lyrical, head outside, or are infused with high adventure. They are favorites because they worked well for everyone (i.e. a range of ages) and were long enough to dive into night after night.  They are listed best for younger ones first.

1. Toys Go OutEmily Jenkins. Whimsical, gentle, and funny stories from the perspective of a stuffed buffalo, a stingray, and a plastic ball. Fun for the youngest listeners, delightful for all.

2. The Boxcar ChildrenGertrude Chandler Warner. A large collection of adventures from the 1940’s of 4 orphaned children who go it on their own and care for one another.

3. The PenderwicksJeanne Birdsall. A story of friendship and filled with the gentle magic of a family’s summertime holiday in Western Massachusetts.

4. Tales of DespereauxKate DiCamillo. Lyrical fantasy with off-beat heroes: a mouse, a rat, and a unlikely princess

5. RascalSterling North. A lovely story about a boy’s friendship and outside adventures with an adopted raccoon.

6. Hoot Carl Hiaasen. A Floridian eco-mystery with of memorable characters, fast action, and brave kids. Also by Carl Hiaasen: Flush, Chomp, and Scat.

7. The WandererSharon Creech. A story of a journey, past and present, told through 2 kids’ travel logs during a transatlantic trip on their Uncle’s boat.

the start of “the talk”

a great book to launch discussions about sexuality with kidsRecently, I got the chance to hear Deborah Roffman, a very wise and funny sexuality educator speak about the role parents play in educating children about sex. I headed to the talk feeling pretty dang good about myself and the fact that I’d had “The Talk” with all of my kids by the time they were in 1st grade.

Right out of the box, Deborah put me in my place. “And to those of you who think you can just have The Talk,” she said, “you don’t just have The Talk and feel recused of providing further information! Instead it’s a lifelong conversation we must begin when our kids are little.”

Sitting in a room with other parents and listening to Deborah was engaging and inspiring. Her talk helped me reflect on ways in which my own upbringing, generation, and family culture took on the topics of sexuality, and what hurdles I had to get over to improve and enhance this communication. I began to understand ways in which I could be doing better by my kids, who I want to grow up with a strong sense of themselves and a clear understanding of sexuality in the context of relationships, media, and, of course, procreation.

We all bring complicated emotions and baggage to the topic of sex, and for me, having a way to introduce the topic of sex and “where babies come from” was very helpful. Uncomfortable shooting from the hip on this topic, I found a fantastic conversation starter and anchor in “It’s Not the Stork,” by Robie Harris. For me, it was a perfect beginning of The Talk with my kids…which I now know is only the beginning of talking with my kids. –n


wonder by RJ PalacioOnce in a while something comes along that, in such a deep and elegant way, can transport us to places of true revelation and discovery and offer perspectives that truly change the way we see the world. Wonder, by R. J. Palacio, is just such a thing. This book is the story of August, a boy who was born with a facial deformity, who enters a mainstream school for the first time as a 5th grader. Sections of the book are written from the perspectives of various people in the story: August himself, a new friend at school, August’s sister, her boyfriend…

We experience the richness and complexity of each character as they struggle with the conflicting emotions of fierce, unconditional love, the exhaustion of being different, and the desire to fit in; kids parse out the characteristics of true friendship from the shine of ephemeral popularity; everyone finds strength and grace in unsuspecting places. It is hard to come away from this story without a heightened appreciation for the courage of empathy, friendship, and kindness. A great book or read-aloud for kids from 10 years and up. -n&t

my side of the mountain

for foodies & their kids

great lessons, great art

Next Page »