Best Books for Holiday Gifts: Tips from The Pratt | WYPR

Best Books for Holiday Gifts: Tips from The Pratt

Dec 12, 2018

Heidi Daniel and Paula Willey
Credit Enoch Pratt Free Library

Are you still searching for the perfect books to give your loved ones this holiday season? Or are you looking for a book of your own to relax with during the cold days of December?

On today's show, Tom considers some of the year's best books, invites listener picks, and solicits the expert recommendations of two very well-placed local book lovers who join us in the studio:

Heidi Daniel is the President and CEO of the Enoch Pratt Free Library

Paula Willey is the Children's Department Head at the Pratts's Southeast Anchor Branch in Highlandtown.

Today's conversation was live-streamed on WYPR's Facebook page, and you can watch the video here.

Here are Heidi Daniel's and Paula Willey's lists of books you should consider for your favorite readers this holiday season  -- or any other season:



Sunburn, Laura Lippman
-              New York Times bestselling author Laura Lippman returns with a superb novel of psychological suspense about a pair of lovers with the best intentions and the worst luck: two people locked in a passionate yet uncompromising game of cat and mouse.

Alternate Side, Anna Quindlen
-              The tensions in a tight-knit neighborhood—and a seemingly happy marriage—are exposed by an unexpected act of violence in this provocative new novel

An American Marriage, Tayari Jones    (An OPRAH’S BOOK CLUB Pick)
-              Roy and Celestial are college-educated and upwardly mobile — but they are also black, a fact that has outsized relevance in the toxic landscape of the American justice system.

Nine Perfect Strangers, Lianne Moriarty
-              Author of Big Little Lies is back with another thriller.  Nine strangers buy a ten-day spa package and emerge happier.  But Tranquility House isn’t exactly what they'd planned… and they may not be so pleased when they figure out why.


Dear America, Notes of an Undocumented Citizen, Jose Antonio Vargas
-              Pulitzer-Prize winning journalist Jose Antonio Vargas, called “the most famous undocumented immigrant in America,” tackles one of the defining issues of our time in this explosive and deeply personal call to arms.

The Library Book,  Susan Orlean
-              The story behind the devastating fire at the LA public library in 1986.  Celebrates the love of books and the wonder of public libraries.

I’ll Be Gone in the Dark, Michelle McNamara
-              The haunting true story of the elusive serial rapist turned murderer who terrorized California during the 70s and 80s, and of the gifted journalist who died tragically while investigating the case—which was solved in April 2018.

Becoming, Michelle Obama
-              The First Lady’s memoir


GMorning, Gnight, Lin-Manuel Miranda
-              An uplifting holiday gift from the creator and star of Hamilton, with beautiful illustrations by Jonny Sun: a book of affirmations to inspire readers at the beginning and end of each day.


Cravings: Hungry for More
-              Celebrity model, author, and John Legend spouse Chrissy Teigen’s new book is filled with her signature wit and bold cooking ideas.


Dear Martin, Nic Stone (STONE APPEARS AT NORTHWOOD BRANCH  TONIGHT  (12/12) @ 6PM! )
-              Justyce McAllister is a good kid, an honor student, and always there to help a friend—but none of that matters to the police officer who just put him in handcuffs. As he struggles to understand, he writes letters to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr as he tries to follow in his footsteps.

Ghost by Jason Reynolds (Appeared at last year’s Book Festival)
-              Running is all Ghost knows how to do and he does it well. Then he meets kids just like him on a track team.  the first book in the Track Series (audience: Middle School Chapter Book)

Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi   
-              A great epic fantasy: Zelie, a maji and strong female protagonist, wants to right the wrongs and saving her people who want magic back, book one of Legacy of Orisha series, great audio (audience: High School)

The Sun is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon
-              Told in two voices, of male and female Natasha and Daniel.  Love at first sight is not what these two strangers have in mind, but they are brought together by a single event that could change their lives and how they see love.   Great audio version.  (audience: High School ) 




The Day You Begin, by Jackie Woodson
-              First day of school is when you feel a little different.  National Book Award winner Jackie Woodson reassures the reader that everyone feels a little different sometimes but doesn’t forget to honor and respect the bravery.

Drawn Together, by Minh Le and Dan Santat
-               A boy and his Vietnamese grandfather spend the afternoon together. But they don’t share a language, favorite foods, or favorite TV shows. That all changes when the boy picks up a marker and starts to draw superheroes; grandfather then grabs a brush and ink and draws gorgeous Vietnamese folk heroes. So beautiful. Santat won the Caldecott Award for Beekle; Minh lives in the DC area

Mixed: a Colorful Story, by Arree Chung
-                        The Reds, the Yellows, and the Blues live side by side in harmony – until some jerko Red says “Red is the best!” and then they start drawing lines. Until a Yellow and a Blue fall in love...

We Don't Eat Our Classmates, by Ryan T. Higgins
-                      Just insanely funny. Penelope Rex eats all her classmates on her first day of school – spits them back out immediately, but damage is done.

Mary Poppins  (Based on the original 1934 novel by P. L. Travers)
-                      Beautifully illustrated by Genevieve Godbout, this collectable picture book will appeal to Mary Poppins, fans old and new.  If your people are entranced by the new Mary Poppins movie, this is the tie-in I suggest.

 I Am Enough by Grace Byers
-                     Author Grace Byers is on Empire. Biracial.  Child of deaf parents. Her strength really comes through in this book about respect and love.

Meet the Latkes, by Alan Silberberg
-                     This is a goofy Hanukkah story that gets the whole thing wrong – with the correct version in the back.

Hello, Hello, by Brendan Wenzel
-                   The simplest book on my list, matching gorgeous goofy animal illustrations with brief rhyming text.

Lyric McKerrigan, by Jacob Sager Weinstein
-                  The book-lover in your life is going to love the way Lyric saves the day with books on disguises and jailbreaks after the evil Doctor Glockenspiel holds all the books in the world ransom.

Trevor, by Jim Averbeck and Amy Hevron
-                   Lonely Trevor, the little yellow bird, mistakes a lemon for another bird. It seems unlikely, but he adjusts to his new friend’s silence and eventually finds he is not alone after all.

Sonadores  (Dreamers)  by Yuyi Morales
-                   Gorgeous story based on Yuyi’s experience immigrating to the U.S. with her baby son. She finds a welcome at the library. Sharp eyes will notice many favorite books on the shelves.

Julian Is a Mermaidby Jessica Love
-                     Julian sees 3 people dressed like mermaids on the subway one day, and he is entranced. Dresses up like them, abuela doesn’t freak out, takes him to the mermaid parade. Treats gender nonconforming behavior as perfectly reasonable - who wouldn’t want to be a mermaid?

Hey Black Child, by Useni Eugene Perkins and Bryan Collier
-                     Classic poem gets a new treatment full of energy and life.


Blank Comic Book (many versions available)
A Mother/Son Pass Back-and-Forth Journal by Shannon Foster and Hilary Weeks

-                       It’s always fun for a librarian to recommend books that we can’t have in the library - journals and activity books and stuff like that. Parent-child journals are a new thing, with writing prompts that they can pass back and forth. And the most tiresome part of making your own comics is drawing the panels, so this blank comic book is a great idea.

The Sun is Kind of a Big Deal, by Nick Setuk
-                     Title says it all. Science fact + science fun.

The Lego Zoo, by Jody Padulano
-                     The coolest thing about LEGO is not making the projects in the kits - it’s what you can put together with the bricks you have. This instruction book is notable for having 50 little easy to accomplish projects with extremely clear instructions.

Mission Python: Code a Space Adventure Game! By Sean McManus
-                      Computer Education Week has just concluded. Many kids participated in the Hour of Code at their schools. Keep it going with books like this from No Starch Press.

The LEGO BOOST Activity Book, by Daniele Benedettelli
-                     LEGO BOOST is another name for LEGO robotics, and this is the missing user manual. Guides you through making one robot from start to finish, and with what you’ve learned doing that, you can easily move on to your own modifications and commands.

This has been the year of the anthology. Compilations of stories of inspiring women, African Americans, immigrants, gender nonconforming and trans people. I especially like the two books by Vashti Harrison, Little Leaders and Little Dreamers - which are now available in a box set.

Herstory: 50 Women and Girls Who Shook Up the World, by Katherine Halligan and Sarah Walsh

First Generation: 36 Trailblazing Immigrants and Refugees Who Make America Great, by Sandra Neil Wallace and Rich Wallace;

We Rise, We Resist, We Raise Our Voices, by Wade Hudson and Cheryl Willis Hudson

Leaders and Dreamers: Bold and Visionary Women Around the World, by Vashti Harrison (Box Set) 

That kid who lays on the floor paging through the encyclopedia - or skipping around Wikipedia more like -- that kid needs giant oversize books about the wonders of the planet. I got Atlas Obscura for my own kid.

Atlas Obscura, by Joshua Foer and Dylan Thuras

I Spy the 50 States, by Sharyn Rosart and Sol Linero

Atlas of Adventures: Wonders of the World, by Ben Handicott (Illustrated by Lucy Letherland

The Wondrous Workings of Planet Earth: Understanding Our World and Its Ecosystems, by Rachel Ignotofsky


Nathan Hale’s Hazardous Tales’ Second 3-Book Box Set, by Nathan Hale

Zita the Spacegirl Trilogy Box Set, by Ben Hatke  (Zita the Spacegirl; Legend of Zita the Spacegirl; Return of Zita the Spacegirl

Amulet # 1-8 Box Set, by Kazu Kibuishi

Raina Telgemeier Collection, by Raina Telgemeier  

The Last Kids on Earth: the Monster Box, by Max Brallier and Douglas Holgate

The Track Series Box Set, by Jason Reynolds (Ghost, Patina, Sunny, Lu)

Spy School Top Secret Collection, by  Stuart Gibbs  (Spy School; Spy Camp; Evil Spy School; Spy Ski School; Spy School Secret Service)

The Hunger Games 10th Anniversary Box Set, by Suzanne Collins and Scholastic

To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before (3-book Collection), by Jenny Hahn

The Lunar Chronicles Boxed Set, by Marissa Meyer: Cinder, Scarlet, Cress, Fairest, Stars Above


Narwhal: Peanut Butter and Jelly, by Ben Clanton

Bad Kitty: Camp Daze, by Nick Bruel

Dog Man: Brawl of the Wild, by Dav Pilkey

Mr. Wolf's Class, by Aron Nels Steinke

Nightlights, by Lorena Alvarez

Aquicorn Cove, and The Tea Dragon Society, by Katie O'Neill

Hilda and the Stone Forest (Hildafolk)  by Luke Pearson

Sparks!  by Ian Boothby and Nina Matsumoto

Supernova (Amulet #8), by Kazu Kibuishi  

Lafayette! (Nathan Hale's Hazardous Tales #8): A Revolutionary War Tale, by Nathan Hale 

5 Worlds (Book 2): The Cobalt Prince, by Mark Siegel and Alexis Siegel 

Sanity & Tallulah, by Molly Brooks 

Kristy's Big Day (The Baby-Sitters Club Graphix #6): Full-Color Edition, by Ann M. Martin and Gale Galligan  

The Cardboard Kingdom, by Chad Sell      

 Bolivar, by Sean Rubin

The Prince and the Dressmaker, by Jen Wang

Be Prepared, by Vera Brosgol


The Princess in Black and the Science Fair Scare, by Shannon Hale and Dean Hale 

Rosie Revere and the Raucous Riveters: The Questioneers Book #1, by Andrea Beaty and David Roberts   

Jasmine Toguchi, Drummer Girl, by Debbi Michiko Florence and Elizabet Vukovic        

The Magical Unicorn Society Official Handbook, by Selwyn E. Phipps and Helen Dardik

Sasquatch and the Muckleshoot (The Unicorn Rescue Society), by Adam Gidwitz and Joseph Bruchac 

Dragons in a Bag, by Zetta Elliott and illustrated by Geneva B

Hamster Princess: Little Red Rodent Hood, by Ursula Vernon

Merci Suárez Changes Gears, by Meg Medina

Blended, by Sharon M. Draper

The Parker Inheritance, by Varian Johnson

Louisiana's Way Home, by Kate DiCamillo

9 From the Nine Worlds (Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard), by Rick Riordan

Front Desk, by Kelly Yang

Dactyl Hill Squad, by Daniel José Older

Amal Unbound, by Aisha Saeed

Aru Shah and the End of Time (Book 1 in the Pandava Series), by Roshani Chokshi

Just Like Jackie, by Lindsey Stoddard

The Night Diary, by Veera Hiranandani

In the Land of Happy Tears: Yiddish Tales for Modern Times: collected and edited by David Stromberg

Ivy Aberdeen's Letter to the World, by Ashley Herring Blake

The House in Poplar Wood, by K. E. Ormsbee