The 2021 Talk of Iowa holiday book guide for kids - Iowa Public Radio

There is no better feeling than seeing a child's face light up when you give them just the right book. But there are so many children's books out there to choose from. As the gift-giving season begins, three book lovers joined Charity Nebbe on Talk of Iowa and shared their favorite kids’ books of the year.

Guests

  • Devin Redmond - Iowa City-based teacher and librarian
  • Amanda Lepper - Dog- Eared Books

Responses have been edited for length and clarity

Children's Picture Books

Caution! Road Signs Ahead written by Toni Buzzeo and illustrated by Chi Birmingham
“This is the perfect book for transportation-obsessed children, and the very best book to bring along in the car. With 86 pages, this chunky book features 35 common road signs and what they mean, offering nearly endless entertainment. Plus, your child will thank you when they go to take their learner’s permit exam a decade later.”
Recommended by Amanda Lepper
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The Children’s Moon written by Carmen Agra Deedy and illustrated by Jim LaMarche
“A playful new fable that personifies the sun and the moon and explains why we sometimes see the moon in the sky during the day. The back pages of the book also include some fantastic moon facts, including tips on when we can expect to see the 'children’s moon.'"
Recommended by Amanda Lepper
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Desmond Gets Free by Matt Meyer and illustrated by Khim Fam
“It's dedicated for all those working to build a new world of justice, equality and compassion. It's based on a speech by Edmund Desmond Tutu, and it's about a tiny little mouse in the jungle that has his tail stepped on by an elephant who fell asleep. The mouse is trapped, and all the other animals that he reached out to help him just walked away until he was finally saved….a sweet little book that's got a big message in it.”
Recommended by Louise White
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How the Big Bad Wolf Got His Comeuppance by Lisa Wilke Pope and illustrated by Arthur Geisert
"The author is an educator in Iowa, and the illustrations are spectacular. They're produced from a copperplate etching that are first hand-painted and then hand-colored using watercolor. The story is a retake on the big bad wolf, and is written by Lisa Pope, who's a librarian in Elkader. It's really a wonderful exposure to Iowa farms and a hilarious retelling of the story of the big bad wolf.”
Recommended by Louise White
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I Eat Poop: A Dung Beetle Story written and illustrated by Mark Pett
"This picture book is EVERYTHING — adorable and communicative illustrations, hilarity, morality and educational information all rolled into a picture book that’s sure to become a read-aloud favorite. Dougie Dung Beetle is a perfectly happy bug with one exception: he’s worried about his classmates judging his eating habits. His story is one of courage, friendship and learning."
Recommended by Amanda Lepper
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Outside, Inside written and illustrated by LeUyen Pham
"A beautiful book to help kids process the massive change in their lives as a result of the pandemic. The book does not explicitly refer to COVID-19, but it does an excellent job of acknowledging all the ways in which our patterns of interacting with the world changed, the emotional impact of those changes, and the hope that all will someday change again."
Recommended by Amanda Lepper
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12 Days Of Christmas (LEGO) written by Margaret Wang
"It's just a fun book to get ready for Christmas."
Recommended by Louise White
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Maybe... written and illustrated by Chris Haughton
Recommended by Devin Redmond
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Sounds like School Spirit written by Meg Fleming and illustrated by Lucy Ruth Cummins
"This is the ultimate read-aloud, with call and response cheers to sing back and forth between reader and listeners: 'We say BOOK, you say BAG… BOOK! BAG! BOOK! BAG!' After more than a year of disruptions to their school lives, instilling the enthusiasm back into once well-known routines is a welcomed gift for students."
Recommended by Amanda Lepper
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A Tiny Star written by Mem Fox and illustrated by Freya Blackwood
“A duo of Australian children’s book makers, including legend Mem Fox, team up for this soothing book about the human life cycle. A star falls to earth one day and becomes a baby, because isn’t a baby’s arrival as miraculous as a shooting star? It grows, living life to the full, and “the longer it lived, the more it was loved.” The star eventually grows old and small and disappears altogether; those who loved it mourn the loss but are comforted when they realize the star had returned to its home in the heavens. What a beautiful statement it makes about the acceptance of death and the celebration of a life well-lived.”
Recommended by Amanda Lepper
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Bright Star, written and illustrated by Yuyi Morales
“It reminds us about the beauty and the innocence and the awe experienced at a new life being brought into the world. The reader is initially shown often as it moves through the desert landscape, with beautifully illustrated saguaro cacti and other plants and flowers and animals that you might find in the desert. With the good, though, comes the bad, and the creature comes face to face with the border wall and its environmental and human impact. The end of the book is hopeful because we realize that we're not alone and we are all in this world together. But there is a sense of urgency. I think Bright Star is kind of a love letter to children everywhere."
Recommended by Devin Redmond
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I is for Immigrant, by Selina Alko
Recommended by Devin Redmond
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Tomatoes for Neela written by Padma Lakshmi and illustrated by Juana Martinez-Neal
"The pictures are warm, and it will give you that cozy kitchen feel that hopefully you're feeling today or tomorrow (Thanksgiving)? And it's also, I think, the opportunity to give kids a chance to talk about foods that they like to make with their families."
Recommended by Devin Redmond
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A Walk in the Words written and illustrated by Hudson Talbott
"It’s about a boy who loves a story. He loves comics. He loves visualizing what's going on in the book, but he struggles with reading a certain number of words per minute, and he can't read fast enough for the tests at school. He wishes he could be like the kid who read fast, but he also knows that slowing down is a really important way to savor the story. I'm not sure there can be enough books out there about people learning at different paces. So I would recommend this for lots of classrooms, and it's also going to be on our schools list of books for the next word of the month, which is empathy.”
Recommended by Devin Redmond
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Watercress, written by Andrea Wang and illustrated by Jason Chin
"A picture book that made me feel all the feelings."
Recommended by Devin Redmond
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Where’s Waldo? Santa Spotlight Search written and illustrated by Martin Handford
Recommended by Louise White
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Early Readers

Diary of a Wimpy Kid (new 2021 edition - a novel in cartoons with movie tie in) by Jeff Kinney
"I'm sure everybody has heard about it, but Disney is going to be coming out with the movie."
Recommended by Louise White
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Egg Marks the Spot, a Skunk and Badger Story written by Amy Timberlake and illustrated by Jon Klassen
“It's a delightful, sturdy little book for a beginning reader, not intimidating at all. Lovely cover and binding."
Recommended by Louise White
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Popcorn Bob by Maranke Rinck
"Bob is a kernel of corn, the main character, and they refer to him as an explosive character."
Recommended by Louise White
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Perestroika in Paris by Jane Smiley
Perestroika in Paris is like a bedtime story for adults about a good-natured racehorse that leaves the stables and makes her way to the City of Lights, where she settles into a life lived by her own whims alongside a stray German shorthaired pointer, an aging raven and a couple of mallard ducks. The book is told primarily from the perspective of the animals, but human friends become loosely connected by their encounters with Perestroika and the dog, in particular Etienne, a lonely 8-year-old boy living with his great-grandmother. This is a beautiful story about love and the need for belonging and it filled my heart with hope! It can easily be read aloud to the whole family.”
Recommended by Amanda Lepper
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See the Cat and See the Dog by David LaRochelle and illustrated by Mike Wohnoutka
“Mimicking the staid sentence structure from books like Dick and Jane, the book invites the reader to See the Cat when the reader can clearly see by the illustration that this book’s main character is a DOG! In speech bubbles, the dog objects to the book’s inaccuracies. See the Dog follows a similar pattern, this time with a cat being asked to play the role of the dog.”
Recommended by Amanda Lepper
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The Treasure Troop, by Dori Hillestad Butler
“I think kindergarten through third or fourth graders would enjoy solving the clues and helping find the treasures in this book.”
Recommended by Devin Redmond
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Middle Grades

Ancestor Approved: Intertribal Stories for Kids, edited by Cynthia Leitich Smith
Recommended by Devin Redmond
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The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse by Charlie Mackesy
Recommended by Louise White
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Daughter of the Deep by Rick Riordin
“Rick Riordin has made an empire for himself with Percy Jackson, Magnus Chase and countless other bestsellers. These series, like Harry Potter, have the power to make readers of whole generations of children. They have that perfect blend of fantasy, suspense, and characters in whom you invest. Riordin’s most recent project, “Daughter of the Deep,” succeeds on all of these fronts. The story is inspired by Jules Verne’s “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea” and introduces main character Ana Dakkar, a freshman at an elite high school for aspiring underwater explorers and scientists. She, her brother, and her classmates will find themselves in the middle of a long-simmering, now-boiling cold war with a rival school. The adventure is thrilling, but what makes this book truly excellent is the ways in which Riordin blends so many educational components and social issues: STEM, history, literature, neurodiversity, policing, abuses of power, climate change, gender and sexual identity, etc.”
Recommended by Amanda Lepper
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Enola Holmes and the Black Barouche by Nancy Springer
Recommended by Louise White
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Gone to the Woods by Gary Paulson
“Part Roald Dahl’s “Boy,” part Louis Zamperini’s “Unbroken,” Gary Paulson’s memoir recounts a lost childhood that shaped a career writing survivalist books for children. What a gift it is that Paulson saw this story into the world before his death earlier this year. This is a story that can show a child what it is to be raised in a home of volatility with little regard for the child -- if the reader is well-cared for themselves, it will open their eyes and create understanding; if they struggle similarly, it can offer hope for survival and a life defined by their own efforts. “Gone to the Woods” is equal parts heartbreaking and inspiring.”
Recommended by Amanda Lepper
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The Legend of Auntie Po by Shing Yin Khor
Recommended by Devin Redmond
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Maya and the Robot, Ewing
"It tells the story of a young girl who enjoys everything science. When helping at her neighborhood corner store, Maya discovers and is then gifted a robot who was created by the store owner's son. As she learns about the robot, works on her science fair project and tries to deal with her best friend not being in her class, Maya actually learns what it means to be part of a helpful and caring community."
Recommended by Devin Redmond
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One Life: young reader’s edition by Megan Rapinoe
"It's an autobiography of Megan Rapinoe, the Olympic soccer champion…she tells stories of her growing up and becoming an activist. She champions the rights of the LGBTQ community, equal pay movement and Black Lives Matters."
Recommended by Louise White
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We are Family, by LeBron James; Andrea Williams
Recommended by Devin Redmond
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Witches of Brooklyn: What the Hex? by Sophie Escabasse
Recommended by Devin Redmond
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Teen and Young Adult

All the Girls I’ve Been by Tess Sharpe
“Nora O’Malley was raised by a con-artist mother, always forced to play a role in her current act. But when her mother ends up in jail after a job gone wrong, Nora sees an opportunity to start over as just another normal girl. Five years of normalcy come to an end when Nora and two friends/love interests find themselves caught in the midst of a bank robbery, and Nora falls back on her long buried con-artist tools to find a way out. Told with suspense by blending Nora’s past and present, this is an incredibly inventive and successful YA novel — soon to be a Netflix movie.”
Recommended by Amanda Lepper
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The Genius Under the Table, Eugene Yelchin
Recommended by Devin Redmond
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How Do You Live? By Genzaburo Yoshino
Recommended by Louise White
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Instructions for Dancing by Nicola Yoon
“Nicola Yoon is a PROVEN powerhouse in YA writing, and “Instructions for Dancing” is no exception. Our booksellers and customers have unanimously adored this unique romance about a girl who, upon seeing a couple, has visions depicting how they met and foretelling how their relationship will end. These psychic skills convince Evie that true love doesn’t exist, but when she meets X and becomes his partner for a ballroom dancing competition, she begins to wonder if a chance at love might be worth the risk. This is a creative approach to a page-turning romance, and we love seeing Black characters represented in beautiful storytelling without trauma.”
Recommended by Amanda Lepper
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Killers of the Flower Moon: the Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI, adapted for young readers written by David Grann
“It’s a story that I never heard of, but it takes place in the 1920s, and the Osage Indian Nation were among the richest people in the world because their reservation was on top of oil. But one by one, the Osage people began dying under suspicious circumstances. This is the first FBI major investigation exposing a terrible conspiracy… a very intense moving story.”
Recommended by Louise White
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Sunny Song Will Never Be Famous by Suzanne Park
Recommended by Louise White
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You can hear this entire discussion on the Talk of Iowa podcast.

You can find other great books for kids using our summer book guide. And be sure to check out this The 2021 Talk of Iowa holiday book guide for adults



source: https://www.iowapublicradio.org/arts-life/2021-11-24/the-2021-talk-of-iowa-holiday-book-guide-for-kids

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