Raising a reader this holiday season

Hayley DeRoche, our resident librarian, gives us tips for what to gift the kids in your life and what to gift yourself, too.

Oh my stars, it’s the most wonderful time of the year for librarians. The Best Of- lists are rolling out, and everyone is begging their favorite local librarian for tips about what books to give to loved ones for the holidays.1 What’s that? You don’t recall asking your favorite librarian for this information? Well, buckle up cuz I’m gonna give it to you anyway.

OK, fine. Very few people have flagged me down in the streets begging for my obviously-expert opinion on books to give or get. To be honest, the mere act of getting my Amazon wishlist primed2 for the holiday season this early is kind of bumming me out. It’s not that I feel the cold sheet of winter’s despair when I think about adding this book or that book to the list. It’s that it’s so soon. Aren’t we supposed to still be slogging our way through the watermelon-laden festival streets of Carytown instead of getting irrationally annoyed at charming horse-drawn carriages slowing a whole lane, dammit? It’s too early for this, it’s too early for all of this!

But here we are. You, me, and this list of holiday books you know you need to pay attention to. So let’s get to it, shall we?

For the Littlest Readers

The Princess and the Pony

by Kate Beaton

An adorable fat pony that farts a lot. A Viking princess. Battles. Sweaters. These are the ingredients that make up The Princess and the Pony and the end result is a sweet confection of a book.3 It is literally the best book ever. Bonus: it features a multiracial family and that fact is not the subject of the book in any way. These things are hard to find. Also, did I mention a pony? You can never have too many pony books. It is known.

Llama Llama Gram and Grandpa

by Anna Dewdney

Llama Llama books never fail to charm with their delightful rhymes and sweet rhythms and LLAMAS. This story features Llama Llama’s first overnight at Gram and Grandpa Llama’s house. What I love about Dewdney’s books is that she tells a story with extreme detail but in a way that almost doesn’t make you realize she’s doing it. For toddlers, the process from start to finish of any particular activity is laid out in clean, neat order and described. Example: Who will take good care of Llama? Llama Llama’s Gram and Grandpa! Bag and Fuzzy? In the car! Buckle up! The drive seems far…. Hugs and kisses. Big hellos. Mama loves you! Off she goes. A glass of milk. A yummy snack. Now it’s time to go unpack. If you’re preparing a little one for a first overnight, this book will charm and prepare them for every step of the way.

For Elementary-School Readers

Kristy’s Great Idea, The Truth About Stacy, & Mary Anne Saves the Day: Full-Color Editions (The Baby-Sitters Club Graphix #1-3)

by Ann M. Martin and Raina Telgemeier

People. PEOPLE. Graphic novels of The Baby-Sitters Club. In full color. SQUEAL WITH MEEEEEEE. If you’re looking for a way to introduce a young person to the wonder of the BSC but were correct in thinking the outdated horrendous covers of ye olden times would scare them off in fits of laughter…well, now that is not a problem! Full disclosure, these are re-issues of black-and-white graphic novels of the BSC by Telgemeier, but having them in full-color is enough to put them on the must-buy list for 2015. They’re completely delightful, and Telgemeier managed to capture the essence of Kristy, Claudia, Mary Anne, and Stacey4 so well, it’s uncanny. These are old-school, but in the best possible way: new and modern!

Tweens and Teens

Carry On

by Rainbow Rowell

OMG, the “Harry Potter/Draco fanfic that’s totally not Harry/Draco but totally is” that was the foundation for Rowell’s DELIGHTFUL Fangirl. This is mega-meta.


by Noelle Stevenson and Grace Ellis

I cannot contain my utter delight with the Lumberjanes. These books about tween girls away at summer camp “for hardcore lady-types” are chock-full of feminist references, pop-culture asides, and pro-female fun. Each girl is unique. They value math but not in a “math isn’t so hard, girls” way but rather in a “math is so interesting because it can tell us so much about the world” way. They also value puns, and this is just as important as valuing math. Full disclosure, I put the big Lumberjanes To The Max edition containing issues #1-8 on my own wishlist because I don’t know any tweens who need it.

Adults, aka, books you want to add to your list, or get other old people you care about, idk

Modern Romance

by Aziz Ansari

This has everything I want out of a book: Aziz Ansari (so many books lack an Aziz Ansari, and this is troubling; the publishing industry needs to address this problem); in-depth sociology research; references to Flo Rida; ramen. What more could a book need? I particularly recommend the audiobook version of Ansari reading it himself, even if it means you miss out on the charts and graphs which is a legitimate concern since charts and graphs are like the delicious coconut cream cake of the visual world.

Tim Gunn: The Natty Professor: A Master Class on Mentoring, Motivating, and Making It Work!

by Tim Gunn

Have you ever wanted Tim Gunn to stand near your desk while you work and remind you that no matter your obstacles, you should strive to make it work? This book is the next-best thing to having Gunn mentor you IRL, which, can you even imagine? Gunn is charming as ever, and unlike a lot of celebrities-turned-authors, he’s got the academic cred to give his work some gravitas, even while he dishes casually about other celebs here and there while being his delightful self. Buy this for someone who needs some encouragement, or buy it for you if you’re having a rough year at work. Or even a good year. I can think of no better way to start a new year than with Tim Gunn offering gentle reminders to make it work.


You were about to close out this tab and I’m over here flailing to say wait for one more second!

Let’s say you’ve stocked your cart and wishlist with all these books, and you still have that nagging feeling of ennui. Maybe you want to do something good beyond buying your niece a Baby-Sitters Club graphic novel because your heart is already several sizes larger than normal. Well, did you know the Children’s Museum of Richmond collects books to give away to people in need? I didn’t know this until right now! According to the Museum, “your book donations are distributed directly to underserved children and organizations that serve at-risk children.”


If that’s not a surefire way to banish ennui, I don’t know what is.

  1. And just as important, what books to add to their own wishlists! 
  2. That was an Amazon joke, thank you for noticing. 
  3. Yes, even with copious farts! 
  4. So, I always used to think of myself as a Mary Anne but now I think I’m more of a Kristy. Weird. 
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Hayley DeRoche

Hayley DeRoche is a librarian with a penchant for cardigans and corduroys. Luckily, her professional life revolves more around technology & information than fashion.

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