Thursday, December 06, 2012

Hard-To-Buy-For Kids: A Book-Giving Guide

It's Christmastime and you might still have a few kids to shop for, since Amazon Prime free 2-day shipping allows you to procrastinate even further than you would have. You might want to get a book for said kid, but are not sure what to get. THEN, you read something like this and not only do you bemoan your complete lack of creativity, you now have the distinct desire to buy books so you can give an inexpensive but sugary treat that you know won't be duplicated... at least, not with a book that isn't an unabridged version of "The Adventures of Tom Sawyer" for a struggling 8 year old.


Seriously, you really, really shouldn't have.
So what do you get? There are quite a few best-of lists (here, here, and here) that can help you out, but what if you have a kid who is really hard to buy for-- even, GASP, a non-reader?

The Kid from a Conservative Family: You know, the one who you would love to see read Harry Potter but you're hesitant to give a child the wonderful gift of Satanic Witchery for Christmas?
What Not to Get: The Left Behind series. Assuming we'll still be around for Christmas (thanks, MAYANS), no use stressing the kid out with even more end-of-days talk.
What to Get Instead: Anything by Sharon Creech. With this year's The Great Unexpected, she blends some magical-seeming mystery into a realistic fiction storyline, but it's more "Boo Radley" mysterious than "I may be part vampire" mysterious. Walk Two Moons is also a good bet, having been a Newbery Award winner.

The Kid who will Only Read Harry Potter: Let's face it, this kid has been out of commission for awhile when it comes to new books. But the world building that this kid has internalized can open him/her up to a great detail of other well-written fantasy worlds.
What Not to Get: Anything that a publisher swears is "the next Harry Potter." Spoiler Alert: it's probably not; "the next Harry Potter" really just means "it's a fantasy novel and it has quirky British sayings."
What to Get Instead: Artemis Fowl, a series about a genius criminal mastermind; or The Search for WondLa by the same author as the Spiderwick Chronicles. Both just came out with new books this year, and take place in complex fantasy worlds that will satisfy any Muggle looking for a new secret land.

The Reluctant Reader: Huffs when approached about reading, thinking it to be a chore. Has probably only been allowed to read books at his or her reading level since Zygote Status.
What Not to Get: Anything with large walls of text, any "classic".
What to Get Instead: Any book from the Ology series, or a graphic novel like Zita the Spacegirl or Big Nate: In a Class By Himself. If more a middle school age, try Charlie Joe Jackson's Guide to Not Reading or The Strange Case of Origami Yoda, both high-interest easy reads with characters at that grade level.

The Struggling Reader who Wants to Read: These kids are especially deserving of a book, and a lot of people might not think to get them one. Learning disabilities, limited English, reading well below their age level.
What Not to Get: A picture book, for the love of all that is good and holy. They may be able to read it, but if its intended audience is preschool, your poor friend will be able to tell and will probably be super embarassed.
What to Get Instead: Robot Dreams. 150 pages long, it has almost no words, and has a beautiful story of friendship to boot. When they finish this book, no one can tell them they didn't read it. The Owly series is another one similar.

The High-Performing Elementary Kid: reads anything and everything, tests at a teen level. Blows through most age-appropriate books in an hour.
What Not to Get: Teen Romance, but you probably knew that already.
What to Get Instead: The Thief Lord is a good pick at 376 pages; Dead End in Norvelt is also a great bet. I'm also a fan of Storybound which weighs in at a whopping 416 pages.

Too Young for the Hunger Games: Saw the movie and liked it, but dude if you let an 8 year old read those books you're going to have to deal with nightmares.
What Not to Get: Something bubbly, or realistic fiction.
What to Get Instead: Gregor the Overlander, which is also by Suzanne Collins. An 11 year-old patron came in and said, "I need the second one. I loved Chapter 8." Why Chapter 8, you ask? "That's where the blood is." In sum, not completely without gore, but definitely the more kid-friendly series.

The Sensitive Kid: A mom came in the other day and needed a book for her son who said, "you know, there's just no good people in books anymore." What the hell do you get a kid who's already questioning the moral fabric of humanity?
What Not to Get: Anything about war, or fantasy that shows the only nice place to be is a world that doesn't exist.
What to Get Instead: Wonder, which spawned the Choose Kind movement, or The One and Only Ivan, which shows the triumphant of individual spirit and affection through an imprisoned gorilla.

The Super Villain: This is the kid who dresses up as Darth Vader for Halloween for the sole purpose of practicing choking people using the Force.
What Not to Get: books about dealing with bullies.
What to Get Instead: The Ultimate Top Secret Guide to Taking Over the World, Vordak the Incomprehensible: How to Grow Up and Rule the World. Both of these books have villains as protagonists and are crazy fun to boot.
Okay! Our choices are looking better already! Source

That's all I have for this gift-giving season-- Good Luck! Got any better ideas? Leave a comment!


  1. Great recommendations. Now I'm writing a blog post based on this. I'm sorry I have lost any originality!

  2. Thanks; glad I could give you some blog fodder! Looking forward to reading your post.

  3. Awesome list! I just had a relative ask what to get for an 8-year-old who wants to read the Hunger Games... I'm going to suggest Gregor (and a B&N gift card- who doesn't like to choose their own books?!).