Skip to main content

December 2014 Newsletter for Parents December 2014 Gets in the Holiday Spirit
Image from the German edition of Minedition's LITTLE RED RIDING HOOD
Image from the German edition of Minedition's LITTLE RED RIDING HOOD

Happy holidays!

While this is one of the most exciting times of year for your kids (if not the most exciting), we know that it can be a lot of stress for you --- decorating, cooking, planning family gatherings, and, of course…buying presents. Unless you were Black Friday superstars (in which case, I salute you), there’s a good chance you still have quite a large portion of your list to get through.

At Kidsreads, we’re going to attempt to make this task a bit easier --- at least when it comes to literary loot. Below we list some books and bookish accessories that will be good for everyone on your list:

Little ones:
There are some beautiful editions of classic fairy tales that kids will not only treasure now, but also for years to come. I’m personally a bit obsessed with this Minedition version of LITTLE RED RIDING HOOD, which has layers of patterns, paper cuts and bright colors that will entertain kids time and time again. I also love pretty much every book that Tango makes, including this version of ALADDIN --- the size is great for little hands, and the dramatic black paper cuts over bright backgrounds add a dramatic edge.

Wannabe writers:
Who better to learn from than famous authors themselves? Written in verse, National Book Award winner BROWN GIRL DREAMING shares Jacqueline Woodson’s childhood in the south and New York and her journey to becoming a writer. I loved this one, and anyone with a drive for storytelling will find it relatable. Katherine Paterson --- author of such perennial favorites as BRIDGE TO TERABITHIA, JACOB HAVE I LOVED and THE GREAT GILLY HOPKINS --- recently came out with a memoir called STORIES OF MY LIFE, which shares the experiences that inspired her novels and is terrific for her young fans.

Reality reads:
There have been a ton of great literary middle grade novels this year. For kids that love realistic, character-driven fiction (that is sometimes sprinkled with a bit of magic), here are titles that have come up again and again, both with reviewers, in conversation with other librarians, and my own favorites: CARTWHEELING IN THUNDERSTORMS, RAIN REIGN, ABSOLUTELY TRULY, A SNICKER OF MAGIC, GREENGLASS HOUSE and WEST OF THE MOON.

Kids who feel a bit different:
Last year’s WONDER by R.J. Palacio is the crown prince of this category, but there have been several books this year that are perfect for kids who might feel like they stand out from their peers for one reason or another. They’re also terrific stories that will make any reader a bit more empathetic to those around them. RAIN REIGN (also mentioned above) features a dog-loving protagonist with autism, EL DEAFO is a simultaneously funny and poignant graphic memoir about Cece Bell, who lost her hearing as a child, and GRACEFULLY GRAYSON follows the story of a young transgender boy. These aren’t “issue books” --- just good ones that add some much-needed diversity to the children’s literature landscape.

Graphic Novel Lovers:
2014 has been a great year for graphic novels for kids. A team of talented illustrators each tackled a different chapter of the two-volume graphic novel edition of Neil Gaiman’s THE GRAVEYARD BOOK, turning an already magnificent story into a visual masterpiece. Readers will fall in love with the characters and enjoy comparing the artwork in each section. For those with a taste for history, legend and adventure, the gift set edition of George O’Connor’s Olympians series fits the bill perfectly. It includes paperback editions of graphic novels dedicated to Zeus, Athena, Hera, Hades, Poseidon and Aphrodite, plus a poster readers can hang in their room. For middle graders, think about SISTERS by Raina Telgemeier, which captures the author's look back at life with her own sister. Anyone with a sister will have thoughts about this one!

Budding Scientists:
There have been a lot science-themed books that came out in 2014, so they’re the perfect companion to any chemistry set. The Nick and Tesla series by "Science Bob" Pflugfelder and Steve Hockensmith follows 11-year-old twins Nick and Tesla, who live with their brilliant inventor uncle. Not only do they go on a series of zany, science-fueled adventures, but the books include experiments and projects that readers can build alongside the dynamic siblings. If your child has more of a nonfiction bent, consider HELLO FROM 2030: The Science of the Future and You by Jan Paul Schutten. Investigating homes, cars, computers and more, this fascinating tome will give them a vibrant glimpse into the future and spark possible future career plans.

Bookish Accessories:
We’re all for books (of course), but sometimes kids would prefer gifts dedicated to their tried and true favorites. If you have rabid Harry Potter fans in your house (and who doesn’t?) consider these fun candles from Fandlemonium. Hermione’s smells like “new parchment, freshly cut grass and spearmint toothpaste,” which she once lists as her favorite smells, while Harry’s is “pumpkin spice, butterbeer and broomsticks.” If they’re jewelry wearers, Cara’s Bookish Charms on Etsy is bursting with sparkly homages, including necklaces that look like miniature bookshelves, a charm bracelet decorated with popular YA covers, and pendants with famous literary quotes.

And of course, we have some other helpful tips later in the newsletter, including a roundup of “best of lists” from outlets like The New York Times, Publishers Weekly and NPR, and our own reviewers' favorites of the year --- they’re sure to give you some fresh ideas that might be just right for someone in your family.

We also have some treats that are just for you from, including our Holiday Cheer contest, Holiday Author Blogs and information about upcoming Winter Reading contests. And there's still time to take the Brightly survey about reading with your children and grandchildren, where you'll have the chance to win one of my favorite picture books --- THE DAY THE CRAYONS QUIT by Oliver Jeffers.

So enjoy, happy holidays (and holiday shopping, if such a thing exists!), and we'll talk again in the New Year!

--- Shara Zaval (

P.S: Looking ahead to January, we wanted to get a new holiday on your radar, which will be celebrated for the first time on January 24, 2015: National Readathon Day! The goal of this day is to have an many people as possible read between noon and 4pm, and many bookstores and libraries are hosting related events. Be sure to check out your local book-related venues and participate with your kids! We will have more about this next month!

Kidsreads Reviewers Pick Their Favorite Books of 2014!
There's no better way to start an argument with self-proclaimed book nerds than to ask "what is the best children's book of 2014?" We decided to get our lovely reviewers and Teen Board members involved in the debate by asking them to tell us a few of their favorites. See here for their picks, and a few fun quotes. Do you agree with their choices?
Click here to read the special feature!

Take This Survey About Reading with Your Kids!

Do you have children or grandchildren you read with, or who read on their own? If so, we’d like to know more about what’s important to you, and how you encourage them to love reading as much as you do. Let us know by taking the Brightly Reader Survey here. You’ll also have the chance to enter to win a copy of THE DAY THE CRAYONS QUIT, the charming children's book written by Drew Daywalt and illustrated by Oliver Jeffers. Plus, sign up to be a charter member of Brightly, a community of parents and grandparents, connected by their love of reading and their dedication to inspiring that passion in their children.

Click here to take the survey!

Holiday Books Picture Book Roundup
Whether you are looking for stocking stuffers or just some new books to curl up with and read on a cold, snowy day, this is the list for you. Here is a list of holiday books that we are sure will warm the hearts of readers both young and old.
Click here to read our Holiday Picture Book Roundup!

Quirky Celebrations --- December: Write a Friend Month

What's the best way to celebrate Write a Friend month? Well, one way would be to pen letters to your pals near and far (of course). But since we're a book website, we decided to get a bit more literary and ask some authors to write imaginary letters to their characters. Read below for entries from Kirkpatrick Hill (BO AT IDITAROD CREEK), Catherine Jinks (HOW TO CATCH A BOGLE), Sharon Lovejoy (RUNNING OUT OF NIGHT) and Jane Yolen (A PLAGUE OF UNICORNS)

Click here to read the full special feature!

December's New Picture Books Roundup

Our December roundup includes I LOVE DOGS! by Sue Stainton and New Yorker cartoonist Bob Staake, which celebrates canines of all shapes and sizes; the vibrantly illustrated VIOLENT AND VICTOR WRITE THE BEST-EVER BOOKWORM BOOK by Alice Kuipers and Bethanie Murguia, where a pair of twins are determined to write the best book in the whole world; and FIRST SNOW by Caldecott Honor-winning author-illustrator Peter McCarty, which features loving animal characters guiding Pedro through his first snow angel, sled ride and snowball fight!

Click here to see December's New Picture Books roundup!

December’s Cool & New Books Roundup

In December’s Cool & New roundup, we have A PLAGUE OF UNICORNS by Jane Yolen, where the monks at Cranford Abbey must hatch a plan to stop the unicorns from eating all of their golden apples; THE UNTOLD HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES VOLUME 1: Young Readers Edition, an adaptation of Oliver Stone and Peter Kuznick’s groundbreaking book about some little known (and not-so-positive) events in America’s past; and HOUSE OF ROBOTS: My Brother, The Robot by James Patterson and Chris Grabenstein, the first book in a new illustrated series about an extraordinary robot in an ordinary fifth grade class.

Click here to see December's Cool & New Books roundup!

December's New in Paperback Roundup

The December paperbacks this month are HOW TO CATCH A BOGLE by Catherine Jinks, where 10-year-old Birdie assists Alfred the Bolger, a renowned monster-catcher in Victorian England; and THE CATS OF TANGLEWOOD FOREST by Charles de Lint, where Lillian Kindred is transformed into a kitten and must go on a perilous adventure through untamed lands to make things right.

Click here to visit our December New in Paperback feature!

"Best Of" 2014 Lists
This is the time of year when “Best Of” lists are everywhere. Although we at don’t have a “Best Of” list of our own, we’ve compiled a number of them for you here. See which of your top picks appear on these lists and which titles you feel should've been included but weren't. Perhaps you’ll even find some books to add to your reading list as we head into the new year!

New York Times
Goodreads: Middle Grade | Picture
School Library Journal: Middle Grade | Picture | Nonfiction
Publishers Weekly: Middle Grade | Picture
National Public Radio
Huffington Post
Click here to read the special feature!'s Author Holiday Blogs: Authors Write About Their Favorite Holiday Memories of Giving or Receiving Books

For the seventh consecutive year, is featuring new blog posts from authors every day talking about the books that they have given and received. We've already heard from many, including Lacy Crawford, Ann Hood and Kristin Harmel, and are looking forward to even more in the days ahead. Click here to read the 2014 Holiday Author blogs --- they're sure to get you in the holiday spirit!


Books on Screen

Looking to watch something musical this December? Check out the new modern-day version of Annie. Featuring some of your favorite songs from the classic musical, updated for a modern retelling, this looks like it's going to be a lot of fun! With a star-studded cast and a great soundtrack, you’ll definitely be singing along to “It’s The Hard Knock Life” and "Tomorrow!"

So try not to dance in the aisles when you go see December's books on screen!

Click here to read Books on Screen!

Holiday Cheer Contest for YOU on

At, we kick off the holiday season in style with our Holiday Cheer Contests and Feature. This year’s Holiday Cheer titles include books that you want to give and get, as well as a couple of “hot” 2015 titles. The contests kick off at noon ET on select days in November and December, and run for just 24 hours, so you will have to check the site to see what is being featured. As always, we’ll be sending our special Holiday Cheer newsletter on the days when there are contests. Click here to sign up for these email alerts.

Today's prize book is THE BROTHERS' KEEPERS by NLB Horton. To enter, please fill out this form by Tuesday, December 16th at 11:59am ET.

For more information on Holiday Cheer, click here!

Looking Ahead --- Winter Reading Dedicated Contests
As one round of daily contests end ('s Holiday Cheer contests, that is), another will begin --- specifically our "Winter Reading Dedicated Contests." On select days in January and February, we’ll be awarding new and upcoming releases to lucky readers. Our Winter Reading newsletters will be coming soon, so be sure you’re signed up to receive them so you know what book we’re giving away on each of the contest days!
Click here to sign up for our Winter Reading Dedicated Contests newsletters!
New Reviews!

NEW! KID PRESIDENTS: True Tales of Childhood from America's Presidents written by David Stabler, illustrated by Doogie Horner (Youth Nonfiction)

The kids who grew up to be president were like a lot of other children. Some struggled with schoolwork and got into fights; others pranked their teachers and infuriated their parents. Kid Presidents features 20 captivating true stories from the childhoods of American presidents, complete with lively text and more than 200 cartoon illustrations. Reviewed by Christine Irvin.

NEW! THE US CONGRESS FOR KIDS: Over 200 Years of Lawmaking, Deal-Breaking, and Compromising, with 21 Activities by Ronald A. Reis (Youth Historical Nonfiction)

Providing a historical perspective on all that is going on today, US CONGRESS FOR KIDS examines the major milestones in congressional history, including the abolition of slavery, extending the vote to African Americans and to women and investigating misconduct in both government and private institutions. Educational, hands-on activities that illuminate the workings of the U.S. Congress include making a House ceremonial mace, creating congressional money, making a capitol dome and designing a Congressional Medal of Honor. Reviewed by Anita Lock.

NEW! THOMAS PAINE: Crusader for Liberty: How One Man's Ideas Helped Form a New Nation by Albert Marrin (Nonfiction)

Uneducated as a boy, Thomas Paine grew up to become one of the most influential writers of the 18th century. He brought the world Common Sense, Rights of Man and The Age of Reason --- simply written, verbal battles against political, civil and religious ignorance. Reviewed by Christine Irvin.

NEW! THE UNTOLD HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES, Volume 1: Young Readers Edition written by Oliver Stone and Peter Kuznick (Youth Historical Nonfiction)

This is not the kind of history taught in schools or normally presented on television or in popular movies. This riveting young readers’ edition challenges prevailing orthodoxies to reveal the dark reality about the rise and fall of the American empire for curious, budding historians who are hungry for the truth. Based on the latest archival findings and recently declassified information, this book will come as a surprise to the vast majority of students and their teachers. Reviewed by Anita Lock.

NEW! GUTS & GLORY: The American Civil War by Ben Thompson (Youth Historical Nonfiction)

From courageous cavalry rides deep into enemy territory to harrowing covert missions undertaken by spies and soldiers, the events of the American Civil War were filled with daring figures and amazing feats. This exhilarating overview covers the biggest battles as well as captivating lesser-known moments to entertain kids with unbelievable (and totally true) tales of one of America's most fascinating conflicts. Reviewed by Aimee Rogers.

NEW! THE MAP TO EVERYWHERE by Carrie Ryan and John Parke Davis (Young Adult Fantasy)

To Master Thief Fin, an orphan from the murky pirate world of the Khaznot Quay, the Map is the key to finding his mother. To suburban schoolgirl Marrill, it's her only way home after getting stranded on the Pirate Stream, the magical waterway that connects every world in creation. With the help of a bumbling wizard and his crew, they must scour the many worlds of the Pirate Stream to gather the pieces of the Map to Everywhere --- but they aren't the only ones looking. A sinister figure is hot on their tail, and if they can't beat his ghostly ship to find the Map, it could mean the destruction of everything they hold dear. Reviewed by Rebecca Czochor.

NEW GUILTY? Crime, Punishment, and the Changing Face of Justice by Teri Kanefield (Young Adult Nonfiction)

When some people kill, they are jailed or even executed. When others do, they are celebrated as heroes. Though this example is extreme, it’s just one of many that author and lawyer Teri Kanefield explores in depth. From an examination of what constitutes a crime to how citizens have reacted when they feel laws aren’t fair, this book will challenge young readers’ thinking about law, order, crime and punishment while giving them specific legal cases to ponder along the way. Reviewed by Anita Lock.

NEW! THE AGE OF AMY: Channel '63 by Bruce Edwards (Young Adult Fiction)

What if you could tune your TV to the year 1963, and watch --- live? A new theme park attraction allows visitors to not only observe, but talk with the people of that turbulent decade. For 16-year-old Amy, it's the perfect escape from her own time --- an era she doesn't seem to fit in with. Things get complicated, however, when Amy falls for a '60s teenage boy on the bewitching TV screen. Reviewed by Sarah Rachel Egelman.


Remember to be safe online. NEVER tell anyone personal information --- which includes your real name, age, address, phone number or school. Hey, pretend you are undercover when you go online and protect yourself at all times!

Keep reading!

Booker T. Worm and Friends
The Book Report Network
250 W. 57th Street - Suite 1228
New York, New York 10107
connect with us twitterfacebook