Gifts for young book lovers

Admit it: Adults enjoy a good picture book just as much as the children they are sharing it with. Those colourful tales and whimsical illustrations have a way of staying with us — and, if we’re lucky, so too does a love of reading.

If you’re looking for some books to share with the youngsters in your life (and the young-at-heart), here are some titles worth a read.

Kids’ books to curl up with

On the Night You Were Born by Nancy Tillman

Don’t say we didn’t warn you: this sweet story may bring tears to your eyes. The book celebrates a new life and emphasizes to little ones how wanted and loved they are. Indeed, through the poems and illustrations, nature itself stops to welcome the new child with celebrations. While a little young for older children, this title makes a good gift for any new baby in your life.

The Runaway Bunny by Margaret W Brown

“If you run away, I will run after you. For you are my little bunny,” says the mother bunny in this illustrated game of hide and seek. Still popular seven decades after its first publication, Brown’s classic story tells of a little bunny and all the creative ways he thinks of to run away. In the playful dialogue, his mother matches his every attempt with an equally creative response. While available in hard cover and paper back, you’ll often find this title packaged with Brown’s other famous story, Goodnight Moon.

Goodnight Ipad by Ann Droyd

Love when writers include jokes for the adults too? Chances are you’ll love this parody of Goodnight Moon. The book matches its original in terms of text, tone and illustration, but gets a smart update for tech-savvy generations with lines like “Goodnight, Facebook friend” and “Goodnight, MacBook Air.”  While adults and older children will understand the jokes and references, this is one parody that’s still appropriate to read to youngsters too. (And yes, it’s available as an e-book too.)

Tumford the Terrible by Nancy Tillman

If the child in your life has a pet, they’ll enjoy some animal mischief. Tumford the cat — or Tummy — gets into all sorts of trouble and has a hard time saying he’s sorry. In the season of “naughty versus nice”, it’s good to know that you’re loved no matter how much trouble you get into.

Along similar lines is Eli, No! by graphic design duo Katie Kirk and Nathan Strandberg. This pup can’t help but get into mischief, but his owners love him anyway. (Besides, it’s fun to scold “Eli, no!” as you read together.)


The Complete Tales And Poems Of Winnie The Pooh by A.A. Milne

What child hasn’t dreamed up stories for his or her toys? Long before Disney, an orphaned bear cub named “Winnipeg” charmed young Christopher Robin Milne at the London Zoo — and the rest is history. His bear, “Winnie the Pooh”, would soon become the centre piece of his father A.A. Milne’s classic tales about a lovable collection of stuffed animals. Milne’s stories have been made widely popular by Walt Disney — whose daughters reportedly adored the tales — but the original illustrations and stories have a charm of their own.

The Paper Bag Princess by Robert Munsch

Consider it the antidote to classic princess fairytales — and appropriate for today’s economic climate. Elizabeth had it all… Until a dragon smashed her castle, burned her fancy clothes and stole her prince. Now she has to outsmart the dragon and rescue her fiancé, all while wearing a less-than-fashionable paper bag. The happy ending is as unconventional as the story — but we won’t spoil it for you.

Munsch has many popular titles worth adding to any library, including Love You Forever and Mortimer.

Ten Birds by Cybele Young

Winner of the 2011 Governor General’s Award for Illustration, this tale teaches more than counting. Ten birds come to a river and try to figure out how to get to the other side — each with an ingenious invention or solution. Soon, one bird is left — the one labeled “Needs Improvement” — who might just outsmart them all. The pen and ink illustrations offer a nice change from the stylized cartoons found in other books and invite invention and creativity.

How the Grinch Stole Christmas by Dr. Seuss

You can’t go wrong with any Dr. Seuss title, but this holiday tale continues to leap off the pages. The 1966 TV special still airs every Christmas — likewise the live action version from 2000 — and more recently the story hit the Broadway stage. With all the pressures and commercialization of Christmas, it’s easy to see why the Grinch wants to spoil all the fun. However, for more than 50 years now the Whos have shown the Grinch — and all of us — what the holidays are really about.

A Porcupine in a Pear Tree by Helaine Becker

If “10 lords-a-leaping” and a “partridge in a pear tree” aren’t things you see every day, take heart. Becker offers a distinctly Canadian spin on the traditional “Twelve Days of Christmas” with things we Canucks can relate to — like “eight mounties munching” and “five Stanley Cups”. Of course, Werner Zimmermann’s illustrations are as playful as the poem (and the porcupine is available as a plush toy too). Chances are you won’t read this best seller so much as sing it — or at least get the tune stuck in your head.


The Elf on the Shelf by Carol V. Aebersold

If you haven’t already picked up on this story/tradition, it’s a fun way to surprise the little ones. The story is about an elf who helps Santa decide who is naughty or nice. The elf hangs out in the child’s room, usually on a shelf, and disappears each night to report to Santa. In the morning, he or she has picked a new hiding spot. (Shh! Don’t tell, but it’s the parents who supply the elf’s nightly antics.) Kids get to name their elves and can even register them online in the “adoption centre” to access fun features like a scrapbook.

Hallmark Recordable Books

You can’t always be there to share a story, but this line of books has a built-in recording to let your recipient hear your voice anytime.  (Don’t worry – you can re-record if you make a mistake.) The books are available in a variety of titles including classic Christmas tales (like A Charlie Brown Christmas), favourite children’s stories (like Goodnight, Moon), Disney titles (such as What Makes a Princess?) and Hallmark original stories. The books usually retail for $29.95, but they’re a good buy during the holiday season when promotions are offered.

Record Their Stories

What if your favourite tale isn’t a recordable book, but an oral story from a friend or relative? For about $1.00, this app for the iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad lets you record voices and save a story or interview as an audio file. You can then share it through iTunes and upload it to your computer. (For more information, visit

For big kids too

Oh the places you’ll go! by Dr. Seuss

You’re never too old for the wisdom of Dr. Seuss. This colourful tale is all about finding your way in life — and all the adventures and misadventures along the way. Contrary to what you might expect, the book isn’t all pep talk — it acknowledges those tough times when “bang ups and hang ups can happen to you.” While the book is appealing for children, it also rings true for kids of all ages — including new graduates and anyone embarking on a new journey.

The Elf Off The Shelf: A Christmas Tradition Gone Bad by Horace the Elf

So what’s it really like to be a member of “Santa’s spy squad”? This parody of the ubiquitous The Elf on the Shelf offers a glimpse into the life of Horace, a disgruntled elf whose plum assignment didn’t pan out as he hoped. Be warned that this isn’t an innocent tale to share with the kids — in fact, you’ll probably want to hide it — and the original author wasn’t part of its creation. Instead, it pokes fun at the popular tradition and is geared towards holiday-weary parents.


Go the f*ck to sleep by Adam Mansbach

Undoubtedly one of last year’s most talked about titles, this “children’s book for adults” has the singsong rhymes and colourful illustrations of a child’s bedtime tale — but for a much older audience. The brainchild of award-winning novelist and frustrated parent, Adam Mansbach, this tale covers all the tricks a youngster will use to avoid going to sleep. As the title indicates, expect some profanity — you might want to preview it first on YouTube to decide if your recipient would appreciate the humour.

What children’s books are your favourites? Share your suggestions and we’ll keep this list going in a companion article.

Photo © Miodrag Gajic

Canadian Christmas reads
8 travel books for a great escape
Beautiful books for foodies
Books to inspire your holiday entertaining
Business books with buzz