Last year, my husband and I found an Australian TV show on Netflix that we watched a grand total of one time. In the opening credits was the lofty-sounding phrase “based on an original idea,” with a person’s name following it who had obviously created the idea for the show.
Well, I’m stating up front that this blog post is NOT based on an original idea. Rather, it flows from an idea I read about in a magazine years ago: The writer suggested going creative with gifts for children at Christmastime and buying them a book with their name in the title. What a great idea, I thought. But she gave only one example (one that probably comes to all our minds): Harold and the Purple Crayon. I don’t know any children named Harold.
I’ve thought about that idea over the years and wanted to expand on it. You may have heard the catchy little quip about how to buy presents for your children at Christmastime–something they want; something they need; something to wear; something to read. (Yes, it’s meant to rhyme.)
So here are some suggestions for the “something to read” category. I promise that each title features a name of at least one child I know. I have not read all of these titles, but they all at least seemed positive, wholesome, and uplifting. Some are for pre-schoolers; some for middle schoolers. Read a book first before giving it to a child if you are not already familiar with it. But then, I don’t have to tell y’all that, do I? Remember Levar Burton’s line from Reading Rainbow–“But don’t take my word for it!”
- Charlotte’s Web, by E.B. White. A classic, of course. I read this aloud to my boys in 2015.
- Emily’s Runaway Imagination, by Beverly Cleary. Mrs. Cleary wrote much more than the “Ramona” books. I read this to my boys, and we found it laugh-out-loud funny.
- Addie Across the Prairie, by Laurie Lawler. We read this in our study of American history. It’s a sweet historical fiction account full of the pioneer spirit.
- Sarah, Plain and Tall, by Patricia MacLachlan. I read this as a child myself and read it to my children, too. It’s a beautiful story of healing after loss in the context of family.
- The Courage of Sarah Noble, by Alice Dalgliesh. Another “Sarah” book but lesser known than the previous one…In it, eight-year-old Sarah learns to be brave in the face of fear.
- Ruby’s Wish, by Shirin Yim Bridges. I have not read this one, but I love the description of the book and that it’s based on the author’s grandmother’s life in China.
- The Story of Ruby Bridges, by Robert Coles. Another “Ruby” story…Based on the real experiences of a 6-year-old girl who was the first Black child to attend an all-white school in New Orleans following desegregation–a worthwhile read.
- The Milly-Molly-Mandy Storybook, by Joyce Lankester Brisley. An endearing book about a little girl who goes by all 3 names (short for Millicent Margaret Amanda), it’s a great read-aloud.
- Grace for President, by Kelly S. DiPucchio. Young Grace decides to run for president in a school election. An inspiring story that’s educational, too.
- Heidi, by Johanna Spryi. Such a classic story! I read it as a young girl but haven’t read it aloud to my boys yet.
- Emma’s Rug, by Allen Say. Although my boys and I have read many of Allen Say’s other picture books, we’ve not read this one. It seems great for a little artist in the family, and the main character is an Asian child (like my boys).
- Thee, Hannah! by Marguerite de Angeli. We read this aloud in our U.S. history study this past school year. A chapter book that reveals a young girl’s courage and that highlights the value of family…
- Olivia, by Ian Falconer. There are quite a few titles in the “Olivia” series of picture books. These stories are loved by many!
- Lola at the Library, by Anna McQuinn. I like this picture book for many reasons: The main character is a person of color; it centers around family life; and it highlights the value of a local library.
- Keep the Lights Burning, Abbie, by Peter Roop. I’ve read this book to my boys twice, and I loved it both times. A tale of perseverance and courage–based on a true story.
- Kate Shelley and the Midnight Express, by Margaret K. Wetterer. Based on the true story of a young girl who saved lives in Iowa in 1881, this book is aimed at 1st through 3rd graders. Planning to read it with my boys this year…
- The Story of Holly and Ivy, by Rumer Godden. Adorable story of a doll and an orphan at Christmas. Lovely picture book illustrated by Barbara Cooney (who created illustrations for The Ox-Cart Man and Miss Rumphius, 2 children’s books I love.)
This list doesn’t include other gems such as Anne of Green Gables, Matilda, or books in the Madeline series. Maybe this will spark your imagination and you can find a just-right book to bless a young girl in your life.
- Calvin Can’t Fly, by Jennifer Berne. A “bookworm birdie” gets the chance to save the day! A sweet picture book that can be read aloud in less than 15 minutes.
- Henry and Ribsy and Henry Huggins, by Beverly Cleary. These 2 books center around Henry Huggins, another of Mrs. Cleary’s well-known characters (there are plenty more Henry Huggins titles, too). Both of these stories have been big hits with my boys.
- Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No-Good, Very Bad Day, by Judith Viorst. A picture book many of us grew up hearing (and relating to)…This story appeals to everybody, I think.
- Justin Morgan Had a Horse, by Marguerite Henry. I adored stories about horses growing up (and later had a cantankerous Shetland pony named Ginger, but that’s another story), but I didn’t read this chapter book until a few years ago, when I read it to my boys. It’s a longer read and probably better for slightly older children–and is also a Newberry Honor Book.
- Danny the Champion of the World, by Roald Dahl. We’re gigantic fans of Roald Dahl at our house, and this book definitely satisfies. It’s a heart-warming story of a father and son. As with all of Dahl’s works, there’s unexpected quirkiness in this chapter book. I suggest reading it together and discussing it if possible.
- Peter’s Chair, by Ezra Jack Keats. This book has been around for quite a while, and it’s great for any child, I think, especially those adjusting to new siblings.
- Look Out, Jeremy Bean!, by Alice Schertle. I have not read this book, but the description and reviews make it sound like a light-hearted and fun one. Perfect for read-aloud time.
- Jack, by Tomie dePaola. An imaginative riff on the “Jack and the Beanstalk” tale. A sweet read-aloud for toddlers and pre-schoolers.
- Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, by Roald Dahl. I enjoyed both reading this on my own (as an adult) and aloud to my boys. Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator is the book that follows this story.
- Sam and the Lucky Money, by Karen Chinn. A story full of heart that also gives a glimpse into Chinese New Year traditions. I have not read this one myself.
- Brian’s Winter, by Gary Paulsen. This is the third book in the “Brian’s Saga” series–that follows The Hatchet (the first in the series), which I read as a young teen and adored. This series is full of adventure. Good read for middle-school kids.
- Paul Bunyan Swings His Axe, by Dell J. McCormick. There are many incarnations of the Paul Bunyan story, but this is an old one–and I gravitate toward old books.
- When Miles Got Mad, by Sam Kurtzman-Counter and Abbie Schiller. Aimed at pre-schoolers, this book tells the story of Miles, a young boy learning to handle his anger.
- Leo the Lightning Bug, by Eric Drachman. A story about gaining self-confidence told through the life of Leo, a little bug who learns to light himself up.
- Andrew Drew and Drew, by Barry Satlzberg. Great for a little artist, this book is an imaginative story geared toward pre-schoolers.
- Max’s Dragons, by Kate Banks. This book leads off the “Max” series that include two other titles: Max’s Words and Max’s Castle. Lots of imagination (and rhyming) in this one!
- The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey, by Susan Wojciechowski. A heartwarming story of a widow and her son who bring love into the life of grumpy Jonathan. Both this book and The Story of Holly and Ivy mentioned above have a place on my shelf of children’s Christmas books. I am so looking forward to pulling those books out in a couple of months.
I had such fun putting this list together! Please let me know if you find these titles to be helpful in gift-giving to children in YOUR life.