America’s Picks for Christmas

I am part elf.

No, seriously; I worked at a Christmas tree farm for 10 years as an apprentice farmer and loved every aspect of this upcoming holiday. This time of year is hard to enjoy due to the hustle and bustle–the to-do lists, the holiday parties, the wrapping and all the other traditions that we are tied to despite swearing off of them the previous year.

I have various readers on my list… hesitant readers, avid readers, and everyone in between. Here’s what they’re receiving.

For the little people (2-5)

  • Mother Goose  Bruce by Ryan Higgins Hatchette  — An adorable story of a bear who has found himself “mother” to a flock of ducks. Beautiful illustrations and a humorous story of mistaken identity.
  • Little Tree by Loren Long — This would also be a perfect gift for your upcoming graduates. It is about a son going away to college, or a child experiencing something new. It is about growing up and becoming something big.
  • Happy! by Pharrell Williams — The song has been made into a beautifully illustrated children’s book. Fabulous message about being happy with who you are.
  • Bug in a Vacuum by Melanie Watt — If you liked the Scaredy Squirrel series this is one to grab up. This poor little bug gets swept up and goes on quite an adventure in a vacuum. I had never thought about what goes on in a vacuum, but thanks to the clever illustrations I will never wonder again.

For the middle-aged people (6-10)

  • Upside Down Magic by Sarah Mlynowski, Lauren Myracle, Emily Jenkins — Poor Nory finds her magic going wonky. She can’t figure out how her magic works and turns herself not into a dragon or a kitten, but a dritten. A totally cute and innocent tale of a girl finding her own way in a wonky world. I passed this book on to my 8-year-old niece, and she cannot wait for the second in the series to come out.
  • Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone: The Illustrated Edition by J. K. Rowling & Jim Kay — For those parents who are apprehensive about letting their child read the series, this book is the perfect introduction. It is a hefty book, with a bit higher of a price tag, but is worth its weight (literally). It is beautiful, it is graphic, and it is easy to read and understand.
  • A Year in the Life of a Complete and Total Genius by Stacey Matson — Arthur believes he is going to grow up and become a rich novelist. He is a competitive guy who knows the cute girl will fall for him, his story will win the contest and his mother will not die. A fun story with depth on struggles of this age group.

For the tweens (11-12)

  • Coding Games in Scratch by Jon Woodcock — Thanks to a preview copy, I just finished this book last week. It took me a while to finish the book because I was not just reading it, but following each page step by step. I had to create a game in order to fairly review this book. And it is time: I wanted to let you know it is ah-mazing.
  • I am technologically challenged and I created a game in Scratch similar to Pong, but WAY better! The step-by-step instructions, with carefully placed illustrations were phenomenal. My 10-year-old son is a huge gamer and now I can give this book to him and know he is learning on the computer and challenging his brain instead of rotting it. A perfect gift for the computer gamer in your life–young and old–who aspires to create his or her own games.
  • Fuzzy Mud by Louis Sachar — Sachar has done it again. His Newbery award-winning book, Holes, put him on the map and he does not disappoint with his latest. Fuzzy Mud ties in environmental issues with adolescent problems: bullying, friendship and parents. It is a thought-provoking book that allows its readers to dig deeper into their own morals as they battle those found in the book.
  • Woof by Spencer Quinn — A dog story. Need I say more? It is laugh-out-loud funny.

For the young adult (13-40+)

  • Circus Mirandus by Cassie Beasley — Micah, a young man, goes in search of the long-lost art of the circus, for he believes miracles and magic can be found there. The legends come to life in this story: the tigers, the human oddities and the mystery beyond the big top.
  • Need by Joelle Charbonneau — A powerful book inspired by the age of social media. This book draws upon the fear of rejection and the power kids find behind a screen. Excellent and thought-provoking.
  • A Wonderful Death by Sarah Schmitt — I was handed this book at a trade show a few months ago and just now sat down to read it. Perfect timing: It is a version of A Christmas Carol with a cast of “mean girls.” Seventeen-year-old RJ is the queen of the girls and ends up dead–fighting everyone from the Grim Reaper to St. Peter as she tries to salvage her life. I enjoyed RJ’s snarky personality and her attitude. I felt like I was living with a sassy-mouthed teenager.
  • RJ has three chances to go back to her past and rectify her wrongs. I’m glad I finished this book, as I am, as I mentioned, part elf, and truly felt called to this tale of how the past can jeopardize your present–but also about how you have the ability to change who you are.


America Grelinger

America Grelinger doesn’t mind if you call her Ms. America. It makes her head swell and she loves the title. America is a former English teacher and has a Masters in Curriculum and Instruction, now retired to raise two crazy little boys who think the funniest thing on the planet is to burp and toot… which is why she reads. Because it’s cheaper than counseling. Amy and her husband live with those two crazy little boys in Derby, Kansas.