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Books to Give for the Holidays

By December 6, 2019May 13th, 2021The Kerlan Blog

Holly Weinkauf 

from the Red Balloon and I have selected more books than we have time to talk about on MPR today Friday December 6, 2019 at 11:00 am. Here is just a taste.


The Shortest Day by Susan Cooper, illus. Carson Ellis

Based on a poem by Susan Cooper, this is a stunningly beautiful celebration of the Winter Solstice. A perfect winter holiday gift!

A Map into the World by Kao Khalia Yang, illustrated by Seo Kim

A Hmong family has moved to a new house and neighborhood. In developmentally relevant lyrical language interwoven with mixed media illustrations depicting the seasons, we witness the “big picture” of family and community during life-changing events of the year.



 Rat Rule 79 by Rivka Galchen

Clever, quirky, magical and fully entertaining!  Full of wordplay and puzzles, Rat Rule 79 is a delightful story that both kids and their grown-ups will enjoy. 

New Kid by Jerry Craft

An honest and at times hilarious graphic novel that deals with issues of race, class and privilege. A great gift for any kid going through the challenges of middle school.



Other Words for Home by Jasmine Warga

A beautifully written novel in free verse that tells the story of a young teenager from Syria trying to find her way in America.  Her new life is full of the challenges of learning a new languagage and experiencing discrimination as well as with the joys of making new friends and discovering new talents. Thoughtful, powerful and insightful.



Look Both Ways by Jason Reynolds

This collection of ten short stories is told by ten teenagers, set on ten different blocks, all in the same neighborhood. The stories stand alone but are cleverly connected. Each story is a snapshot of these middle school lives and reminds us that there is always more to everyone’s story. 



The Thing About Bees: a love letter by Shabazz Larkin, Readers to Eaters

A fiction/ non-fiction hybrid in picture book format, Larkin explains in the afterword, he wrote this book to conquer his fear of bees. It is a love letter to bees and the work that they do in creating the food that we eat. Shabazz’s playful language, animated illustrations, fact-filled pages are a love letter to joy, family, storytelling, science, and art.  


Into the Deep: An Exploration of Our Oceans

By Annika Siems and Wolf gang Dreyer

In this coffee-table sized volume we investigate the ocean and its inhabitants through photo-realistic oil paintings supported by  up-to-the-minute factual information, starting from the surface with whales and plankton and diving deeper and deeper to examine the camouflage, biolumenescence, and life under pressure on the ocean floor.

Your Amazing Digestion: from mouth through intestine by Joanne Settel, PhD illustrated by Steve Björkman

We all know that kid. The one who cannot be bothered with stories, real or imagined. The kid who wants just the facts. Everything you wanted to know about how food goes through our bodies and turns to poop is here. And also the answers to frequently asked questions like, “ Why do spicy foods make you sweat?” “What happens if you swallow gum?” and “ What does a piece of pizza look like going down?”




Every year I am asked what makes a good teacher gift. As grateful as I am for any gift, I am pretty sure teachers don’t need another mug with an apple on it. We do love books. We love books that support our classroom practice whether social emotional or curriculum.

Here are a few suggestions:

Thanku: Poems of Gratitude edited by Miranda Paul, illustrated by Marlena Myles

This richly illustrated collection connected thematically through gratitude demonstrating poetic forms by award-winning poets of diverse cultures is the perfect gift for every home and classroom.

The editor Miranda Paul has selected poems in a variety of formats making this the perfect mentor text for any teacher from 3rd grade through high school.

Marlena Myles expressive and dynamic illustrations welcome all to experience the music and joy of the verse. Her art is modern with references to traditional motifs.

To see more of Myles art go here 

 We need to five thanks

every dawn

for the gifts of life,

for each breath drawn.

For everything

that keeps us living,

we speak our words

of true thanksgiving

_from the poem “Giving Thanks”

by Joseph Bruchac

Writing Boxes: The Reading/Writing Connection in Libraries

by Lisa Von Drasek

Yes this is not so shameless self promotion. I have taken 25 years as a writing mentor and created a book that serves as a guide for any teacher or librarian or parent or grandparent to support and inspire free writing. Self selected writing improves not only literacy skills but self expression.

A handbook full of recommended titles and activities to encourage  and guide librarians and teachers, parents and caregivers inspire writing by children and young adults.

The e-book is a free download from the University of Minnesota Libraries Publishing.


“The author combines superlative credentials, including experience as a school and academic librarian and teacher, with knowledge of children’s literature and child development, and offers an abundance of “hands-on” information in this practical guide.” Jean M. Stevenson, PhD, University of Minnesota Duluth. 





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