These Are the Books We Bought Our Daughter for Christmas (Don’t Tell Her)

by Tom B.

Every year, my wife and I have the same problem around Christmastime – “How many books are too many books?”  We’re lucky enough to have a kid that actually, honestly appreciates books as a gift (provided that there are other gifts as well), so she’s come to both expect and love the books she receives on Christmas morning. (Don’t believe me? Check this video out.)

Our only issue is making sure that we’re not overloading her with SO many books that she gets overwhelmed and the really good ones get lost in the crowd. So, this year, we tried to restrain ourselves, but… we still got her some very, very cool books. These are the ones we landed on and, if you somehow run into my daughter between now and the 25th (which would be super-weird), just play along and don’t spoil the surprise, OK? Here’s what we got her:

The Search for WondLa and A Hero for WondLa by Tony DiTerlizzi

These were my daughter’s most requested books for the year. She’s a HUGE fan of Tony DiTerlizzi, a fantastic author and illustrator who (along with Holly Black) is responsible for The Spiderwick Chronicles, which are among my daughter’s favorite books of all time. AND we checked out The Search for WondLa from the library a few months ago and she LOVED IT. It’s a really cool, very engaging science fiction story about a resourceful girl named Eva Nine, who is raised in an underground sanctuary by a robot and eventually ventures out into the strange outside world. Eva is a great character and it’s a fun, classic quest with beautiful illustrations and, I realized later, it is one of the first sci-fi stories that my kid ever read all the way through. (They make a lot of fantasy for younger readers, but not a lot of science fiction.) She loved the first WondLa book and wanted to know where the story went, so now she’ll have her own copy of the first book along with the second chapter, A Hero for WondLa. I think she’ll adore them.


The Animal Book by Steve Jenkinsanimal

I’m excited about this one. We discovered The Animal Book at Literati Bookstore in Ann Arbor and my wife and I knew we were going to buy it immediately. Steve Jenkins makes some of the coolest nonfiction books I’ve ever seen. He’s a remarkable scientist and artist and his book Never Smile at a Monkey: And 17 Other Important Things to Remember is one of the most read titles in our home library. This encyclopedic look at the “fastest, fiercest, toughest, cleverest, shyest, and most surprising animals on Earth” is BEAUTIFUL and I know my daughter will spent hours combing over every page.


Queen Victoria’s Bathing Machine by Gloria Whelan, illustrated by Nancy Carpenterqueen

I will be 100% honest with you – I have not read this book. But I can tell you why I bought it. First, my daughter LOVES weird true stories from history. She loves knowing about how President Taft got stuck in the bath, she loves hearing about Annie Taylor, the woman who went over Niagara Falls in a barrel, and, as such, I think she’ll love this true story about Queen Victoria’s real-life bathing machine, which allowed her to swim in sea water in private. The second reason I think she’ll love the book (and the main reason why this title caught my eye) is the fact that it was Nancy Carpenter who illustrated it – Carpenter illustrated two of my daughter’s most beloved picture books, 17 Things I’m Not Allowed to Do Anymore and 11 Experiments That Failed.


Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Long Haul by Jeff Kinneywimpy

Sigh… This may not win me any friends in the children’s lit world, but I am not a fan of the Diary of a Wimpy Kid books. I can see why kids like them, but I just don’t care for Greg Heffley as a character and I don’t find the stories very sympathetic or engaging. And I know that Diary is one of the most frequently imitated books of the past ten years, but I actually prefer some of the imitators (Jeffrey Brown’s Jedi Academy books bring way more heart and artistic merit to the table in my opinion). But… my daughter enjoys the Wimpy Kid books and asked for this one specifically, so… yeah, I caved. Merry Christmas, kid.


The Astonishing Adventures of Awesome Man by Michael Chabon, illustrated by Jake Parkerawesome

This may surprise you, but I actually bought this book more for the art than I did for its Pulitzer Prize-winning author. I think Chabon is a fine writer (I’ve only read The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay and his Sherlock Holmes novella, The Final Solution), but I have to say – I really dig Jake Parker’s artwork. He does a fantastic job of making the book feel like a hybrid between a traditional picture book and a comic book, and Chabon’s charming story is a perfect fit for this format.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Megan August 14, 2015 at 12:54 pm


Per your reccommendation here, we bought the Spiderwick Chronicles. Actually, we bought 2 sets — one for Finn (age 7), and one for me (mom, 38). So, we are reading them at the same time. What a fabulous series! The books are simply written with interesting & creative concepts. The chapters include some drawings, which not only help with comprehension, but increase Finn’s sense of accomplishment when he finishes “20 pages!” The transition from picture books to chapter books has been a rough one. Most of the early readers are so boring and it was hard to maintain Finn’s joy of reading. This series is not boring at all. I am so glad you directed us to this series. Thank you!

And, FYI, I strongly dislike the Wimpy Kid books too. I would not cave on that. Stay strong. That kid is horrible.

Thanks again! – Megan


Renee January 8, 2015 at 10:07 pm

Has your daughter devoured all of her Christmas books yet, and if so, which ones did she enjoy most?


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