On Bainbridge Island, located in Puget Sound just a short ferry ride from Seattle, Alison Webb is gearing up for the holiday season at Eagle Harbor Book Co., where she is children’s book buyer and gift buyer. As in past years, she has compiled a Christmas Gift List to help guide customers in search of books for the young readers on their own holiday shopping lists. Webb has selected a handful of recently published titles in five age categories, which she will feature in a dedicated display in the store’s children section. Webb shared her enthusiasm for some of her suggestions for gift giving this year.
In the baby and toddler category, I chose 123 Dream by Kim Krans, a counting book featuring animals and the natural world. The book has incredible illustrations, just like the author’s earlier book, ABC Dream, which we did very well with. Also on my list for this age group is What’s in My Train?, a counting board book with flaps by Linda Bleck. It’s a follow-up to What’s in My Truck?, which my two grandsons insisted on reading every day for six months when it came out in 2014!
For ages 4–8, I always try to include a couple of funny picture books, and to include some books more likely to appeal to girls, some geared to boys, and some for both. One funny new book that I’m excited about is Panda Pants by Jacqueline Davies, about a little panda who wants to wear pants. When his father tells him that pandas don’t wear pants, they have a very funny exchange. The graphics by Sydney Hanson are really nice – this is a very cute book. Another favorite picture book that will be popular as a gift is A Child of Books by Oliver Jeffers and Sam Winston. It’s about a girl and boy who journey through landscapes that are made up of words from classic children’s stories. I think kids will love this, but adults who love books, and love words, will be over the moon.
My favorite middle grade book of the season is The Inquisitor’s Tale: Or, The Three Magical Children and Their Holy Dog by Adam Gidwitz, illustrated by Hatem Aly. It’s set in France during the Inquisition, and tells of a man who encounters travelers in an inn, and tries to get information from them about three children and a dog. People start speaking up, sharing what they know, in a way that reminds me of Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales. It’s an intriguing book – both funny and sad – and I’ve never read anything quite like it. I’m also excited about selling Furthermore by Tahereh Mafi during the holidays. It’s about a girl searching for her father in a dangerous, magical land where there are rules that you absolutely cannot break. This is a novel that works well for both boys and girls.
In YA, I had a hard time finding new fall novels with strong main boy characters – novels that aren’t romances – but I did come up with one that I like very much: This Is Our Story by Ashley Elston. It’s a good mystery whose main character is actually a girl, trying to discover the truth about a boy’s death, but there are key male characters as well, so it is a good choice for both boy and girl readers. I also chose Our Chemical Hearts by Krystal Sutherland, which has a main boy character, and though it does involve romance, it’s more a story of a mutually supportive friendship. It’s about a wonderful kid who has never been in love, but finds himself falling for a new girl at school who dresses like a boy. This is a very interesting story, with wonderful dialogue.
The final category on my list focuses on books I especially recommend for kids and adults to share together, often nonfiction. This year, I selected I Dissent: Ruth Bader Ginsburg Makes Her Mark by Debbie Levy, illustrated by Elizabeth Baddeley; and DK’s My Encyclopedia of Very Important Things.
And though these books are not on my list, I’m also anticipating strong holiday sales of Jeff Kinney’s new Wimpy Kid book, Double Down; The Hammer of Thor, Rick Riordan’s second installment of Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard; and the illustrated edition of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, which has beautiful art by Jim Kay. I am hoping for a busy holiday season, since we usually do very well at Christmas, but we just never know. Since a lot of people come to the island by ferry, the weather can really work against us!