a peek inside the fishbowl

18 Dec, 2009

Christmas gift idea #3: Books

Posted by andrea tomkins in: Easy ways to make kids happy|Oh! Things!

It’s the last week before Christmas,
And all through the town,
All the mothers and fathers,
Were wearing a frown.

Overwhelmed by the holiday,
and the whole Christmas season,
It was time to get serious,
And appeal to some reason.

Poem over.

I don’t know where I was going with that, but can I ask for your help? We all know that BOOKS are one of the best gifts to give and to receive. But many of us don’t have a clue which ones are good right now. What’s hot? What’s big? What are people enjoying?

Can you help? Please share your favourite books in the comments below, and/or your children’s faves too. Help out those of us who still have shopping to do! (Eek!)

Please include title and author info as well as the age of the child enjoying it. Links are good too!

i.e. We’re reading Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix right now by J.K. Rowling. It’s been most interesting to two girls 8 and 10 as well as their parents. :)

I’ll throw in some of my own suggestions too.

Over to you!

21 Responses to "Christmas gift idea #3: Books"

1 | karen at virtually there

December 18th, 2009 at 6:44 am


My five-year old daughter’s two favourite books right now are Scaredy Squirrel Makes a Friend and Chester. Both books are by Melanie Watt (a Montreal native). Both are very funny for kids and adults. Chester is particularly post-modern with the cat, Chester, rewriting the story with his red marker, as the book goes along. I highly recommend it!

2 | karen at virtually there

December 18th, 2009 at 6:45 am


And for an adult woman who wants a good read but something that is simply a great yarn, anything by Marian Keyes is great. She’s Irish and creates really deep characters, great plots and will get laughs as well as some tears.

3 | Just An Ottawa Dad

December 18th, 2009 at 7:47 am


Not horribly exciting for the older crowd, but my daughter is on a Robert Munsch kick right now. Previous favorites have been any of the Jillian Jiggs books (author Phoebe Gilman).

4 | andrea

December 18th, 2009 at 8:19 am


Emma (10) says: the “Dear Canada” series is really good reading for girls. Each book is written like a diary which looks into someone’s life at moments in history, like during wars and other important points in Canadian history. It’s neat to get different perspectives on how kids lived in the past. Sometimes the books are sad, but I like them because they’re realistic. I like the end because you find out how the people lived the rest of their lives.

I like the ones about war, because when you hear about war it’s always from the perspective of the grown-ups but in these books you get the story from the kids point of view and how they feel about it.

The Amulet (book one and two) is also really good. Everyone in my family read it! They’re graphic novels. I’m waiting for book three to come out.

5 | Lynn

December 18th, 2009 at 8:58 am


Oh my goodness, I could spend all day writing this comment and STILL not be done. I love to give books more than anything in the world and it’s always a huge score when I hit something that the recipient really loves.

Here’s what I am giving out this year:

Little Miss Sunshine — age 2 — she is getting Ballerina by Peter Sis and a touch-and-feel ballerina bear book (sorry I don’t have the title handy). She is also getting a Toopy and Binoo book because she LURVES them. Current other faves include Olivia by Ian Falconer (now available in a board book version) and Toddle Waddle by Julia Donaldson.

Gal Smiley, age 5 — she is getting Eloise (the classic) and a Scardy Squirrel book (by Melanie Watt as noted above by Karen). Another of her current favourites is Wild About Books by Judy Sierra which I cannot recommend enough.

The Captain, age 6 1/2 — he is into longer stories now and loves loves loves the Sideways books (the first is Sideways Stories from Wayside School) by Louis Sachar. For Christmas he is getting the first two Ricky Ricotta books (by Dav Pilkey), Flat Stanley by Jeff Brown, and I also have in reserve The Mouse and the Motorcycle by Beverly Cleary, but it’s a little longer so I might hold it for his birthday.

Sir Monkeypants loves a TV show called Top Gear, which is a very funny British show about fancy cars. The host is a comic writer named Jeremy Clarkson and he is getting two of Jeremey’s non-fiction essay-style books (he is not a big fiction reader).

My sister FameThrowa loves non-fiction too and she is getting Bill Bryson’s A Walk In The Woods, because she so so loved his A Short History of Nearly Everything (an excellent title for fathers and fathers-in-laws). I’d also recommend any of Malcolm Gladwell’s books in this catetgory.

My sister in law loves novels like me and she is getting Sacred Games by Vikram Chandra. Last year I gave her my most favourite novel ever, The History of Love by Nicole Krauss, and every sister and sister in law needs a copy of that one.

My brother in law is not a big reader but is really into tennis, and he is getting Open by Andre Agassi, which I hear is really great.

My eight-year-old nephew is getting the newest Diary of a Wimpy Kid book — I think it is called Dog Days.

My twelve year old nephew is an AvidReader and reads at a very high level. Last year we bought him The Hobbit and he loved it, so this year he is getting the full Lord of the Rings set.

My other brother in law likes science fiction/fantasy and he is getting Perdido Street Station by China Miellville…I admit I searched for this one online, I know next to nothing about it, but I hear it is good and it’s in his genre.

My sister’s boyfriend is also not a big reader but loves to travel so he is getting Lonely Planet’s 1000 Ultimate Experiences, which has a bunch of funny lists in it (“Top 10 places to have a mid-life crisis”) and it’s a burst of short reading so I think he will like it.

I have to run, but I’ll probably be back :).

6 | Alison in Ottawa

December 18th, 2009 at 9:14 am


My 7 year old is obsessed with the Rainbow Fairies, I am glad she can read on her own as I am sick of reading them :)

Stella, Fairy Of The Forest by Marie-Louise Gay (Canadian author for ages 2 to 5) amazing watercolours
Yuck, A Love Story same author ML Gay

Ballet Shoes by Noel Streatfeild ages 8 to 12? THis author is a little old fashioned and her most famous book is Ballet Shoes which I loved when I was younger and will start reading to my 7 year old over Christmas maybe the 4 year old too.

Carbonel by Barbara Sleigh ages 7-12

The Complete Adventures of the Mole Sisters (Hardcover)
by Roslyn Schwartz (also Canadian, ages 2 to 6ish)Great pencil crayon drawings, makes my kids snort with laughter

Boo And Baa On A Cleaning Spree (Hardcover)
by O Landstrom
Cute Swedish sheep get confused (can be found in Englich, Swedish, french) ages 2 to 5

The Dark Is Rising (Boxed Set): The Dark Is Rising, Greenwitch, Over Sea, Under Stone, Silver on the Tree, The Grey King (Paperback)
by Susan Cooper ages 9 plus

The Enchanted Forest Chronicle: Boxed Set (Paperback)
by Patricia C. Wrede 9 plus

For an adult…..
Things My Girlfriend And I Have Argued About (Paperback)
by Mil Millington

Not a book, a DVD series from BBC – very gritty.
MI-5: Volume One

7 | Meagan Miller

December 18th, 2009 at 9:27 am


The Book Thief by Marcus Zusak

Hands down the best book I’ve read this year. And it’s a children’s novel. It’s an incredible, moving story and I couldn’t possibly recommend it any more. It’s beautiful.

8 | Karen

December 18th, 2009 at 10:26 am


My daughter is eleven now but last winter at ten and a half she read Twilight. I was a little worried about her reading it, thinking she was too young. I asked some friends about it and then decided to let her read it. She loved it. She has always been a reader but was going through a period where she had better things to do then read. In our house she can either read until 9 or go to bed at 8. When she was reading Twilight she never complained about this rule. I have since read and fell in love with the series. My daughter loves that we both enjoy it so much.

9 | Dagne

December 18th, 2009 at 10:31 am


The New York Review of Books has some amazing titles for all ages, but I particularly love their children’s list, here: http://www.nybooks.com/nyrb/browse?subcategory_id=73

Our stand-out favourites from NYR as a family would be Uncle and Uncle Cleans Up by J.P. Martin, a Brit. These titles were only reprinted by NYR very recently, and there are four other titles by Martin about Uncle and his clan that we hope and hope they will be able to carry some day. These books are rarer than hen’s teeth and they are so gloriously funny and outrageous. (The Ottawa Public Library has a couple of copies of Uncle kicking around, by the way.)

My favourite new find this year has been Toys Go Out and its sequal, Toy Dance Party, by Emily Jenkins. Amazon lists the reading level as 9-12, but this is a book that’s difficult to categorize. My 6 year old son was wild about the book, but I can see kids and adults of different ages and perspectives liking it. The books will appeal to anyone who is fascinated by the secret life of toys; it’s perhaps a bit more “girly” (especially the second book which includes a hilarious episode with barbies), if I can say that, but as I said my six year old boy who is big on imaginative play and loves creatures of all kinds was enraptured by these books.

For kids who like to play with words and ideas, The Phantom Tollbooth by Norman Juster is another old book that I can’t say enough good things about.

10 | Mary Lynn

December 18th, 2009 at 10:37 am


For Hana (5 years) I’ve bought Little House in the Big Woods, the first of the Laura Ingles Wilder books, which I absolutely loved when I was a kid. I also got her Travels with my Family by Marie-Louise Gay, which looked like fun. I love all her Stella and Sam books. I also got her a few of the Rainbow Magic Dance fairies books, since she loves the Fairies series.

For Jamie (3 years) I’ve bought How to Catch a Star by Oliver Jeffers, which is such a sweet story–I love it. I also got him a book about Vehicles of various sorts, since the boy is very into cars, planes, trains and all that these days.

For my friend’s daughter (4 years) I’ve bought Only in Dreams, which is a Paul Frank book Hana owns and loves.

For my nephew, who is 12, I bought a book from the Dear Canada series that you mention, since apparently he quite enjoys them. The series looks great, but one of my pet peeves about it is that they seem to be aimed only at girls. I wish they had at least a few that we told from a young boy’s perspective. I’m actually quite impressed with my nephew that he still is interested enough in history that he reads them anyway.

I’ve also bought the same nephew The Ultimate Book of Top 10 Lists, since apparently he’s really into trivia. The book looks really cool…my husband keeps teasing me that I’m going to end up keeping it for myself.

For Ed (my husband), I’ve bought The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind, which is a memoir by William Kamkwamba, a young Malawian man who as a teenager taught himself to build a windmill using scrap parts in order to bring power to his small community. The Toronto Star recently ran a story about him and just reading their brief article made me cry, it was so inspiring.

I’ve also ordered Ed a history book called Cod: The History of a Fish that changed the World. It’s written by Mark Kurlansky who also wrote Salt: A World History, which Ed’s already read and very much enjoyed.

I buy a history book for my dad every year, as do both my brothers, because he’s never as happy as when he’s got piles of new books surrounding him on Christmas morning, just waiting to be read. This year I got him The Fourth Part of the World, by Toby Lester, which tells the story of the map that gave America its name. Looked very interesting.

I have a bunch of books on my wish-list, too. I love books!

11 | Nicol

December 18th, 2009 at 10:41 am


I just finished reading the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series and loved them. They would be perfect as a family read-aloud or alone.

The Book of Bayern Series by Shannon Hale are fantastic. The first book is called the Goose Girl. She is a fantastic author with several other books I would recommend like “Book of a Thousand Days” and “Princess Academy.” For adults she wrote “Austenland” and I enjoyed that one too.

The Fablehaven Series by Brandon Mull are wonderful. Full of faries, mystery and fun.

An older one but fantastic is “The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle” by Avi. He is a wonderful author!

12 | Danielle

December 18th, 2009 at 11:01 am


I remember around the age of 10 getting Graeme Base’s Animalia and LOVING it! I spent about a year making a hand written list of everything I could find on each page! A couple years later I got the Eleventh Hour and enjoyed trying to solve the mystery.

13 | Amy

December 18th, 2009 at 6:48 pm


I just lent my 9 year old nephew all 4 books of the Enchanted Forest Chronicles by Patricia C. Wrede. It’s funny and well-written, most of her stuff is. He loved them.

14 | betsy mae

December 18th, 2009 at 9:41 pm


All great GREAT suggestions!

Lynn you are amazing. What thoughtful choices your have made for everyone on your list.

I was hoping someone might suggest some books that I could ask for this Christmas!!!!! I have only cookbooks on my wish list which is unusual, I love receiving books at Christmas. Any great suggestions? The last book I read that I loved was Water for Elephants.

I need to find my husband a few thrillers or true crime stories, I’m done my shopping but Santa always puts a book or two in his stocking. Any good suggestions?

15 | Valerie

December 19th, 2009 at 11:21 am


Sue makes great lists:

If you look at the left side of her in-active blog, there are book lists – unfortunately only from toddler – 3.5 yrs, but there are great suggestions.

17 | coffeewithjulie

December 19th, 2009 at 6:13 pm


I’m late in responding, but this is such a great post with such great ideas from commentors that I don’t want to miss out!

I can also vouch for the Scared Squirrel and Harry Potter books for a girl aged 7.

Some other ones to consider are:

Ivey & Bean series — a chapter book series available in most Canadian book stores. I’ve read these books with my daughter, they’re good fun.

Henrietta the Great Go-Getter series — these have been by far my daughter’s favourite books ever. I found these thin chapter books in Australia, but hopefully can be sourced here too. Henrietta is a very imaginative, fun girl who goes on adventures to the Land of Lost Socks with her baby brother and her best friend. I love the humour and illustrations too!

Under the Christmas tree for her this year will be:

A bazillion Pokemon books because that is her true love and passion. The ones available in stores are written at a level below her now (plus she pretty much has them all), so I pounced on a series in the Scolastic flyer for grades 3-6.

Some French versions of LeapFrog Tag books so help her along with her French pronounciation and vocab.

Happy holidays every one! And I hope we all get lots of reading time! (I’m working my way through the David Sedaris humour essays at the moment. Loving them!)


18 | coffeewithjulie

December 19th, 2009 at 6:17 pm


I almost forgot! Here are some fun resources to use for tracking down great children’s books, including a podcast site by an Ottawa couple:


19 | Dina

December 21st, 2009 at 9:48 am


My daughter’s ( she’s 1) favourite books right now are Come here Cleo and Bear on a Bike both published by Barefoot Books. I fell in love with the books and decided that I wanted to share them with my community as well so now I sell from my home in Ottawa. The books focus on respect for the planet and respect for different cultures. The artwork in the books is also exceptional. Check out my website for some more information or email me for some suggestions http://www.barefootkidsbooks.ca . Most of our books can also be found at your local library – take a look you won’t be disappointed.
Some great titles for the Holidays: Ballet Stories, Fireside Stories, Stories from the Opera, Shakespeare’s Storybook, Yoga Pretzels and Kids’ Kitchen among many more…

20 | Tried and true Christmas gifts for tweens and young teens >> a peek inside the fishbowl

December 1st, 2012 at 8:07 am


[…] case you’re also thinking about buying books for your tweens and teens, here are a few past posts regarding some of our favourite books… with lots of reader suggestions […]

21 | Brien

December 14th, 2012 at 11:07 am


If you have an outdoor adventurer and a history buff, I would highly recommend “Into the Silence: The Great War, Mallory, and the Conquest of Everest”. It is so meticulously researched from diaries and journals and provides great insight into the character of those men who first attempted to climb Everest in 1921, 1922 and 1924 expeditions. It is interesting to contrast the challenges faced by climbers back then with today, where there is, literally, a lineup of climbers waiting their turn to summit. It’s now in paperback I believe, and was just awarded the top non-fiction prize in Britain. The author, Wade Davis, is Canadian, and has written some other great books.

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My name is Andrea and I live in the Westboro area of Ottawa with my husband Mark and our dog Piper who is kind of a big deal on Instagram. We also have two human daughters: Emma (20) and Sarah (18). During the day I work as a writer at The Royal Ottawa Mental Health Centre. I am a longtime Ottawa blogger and I've occupied this little corner of the WWW since 1999. The Fishbowl is my whiteboard, water cooler, and journal, all rolled into one. I'm passionate about healthy living, arts and culture, family travel, great gear, good food, and sharing the best of Ottawa for families. I also love vegetables, photography, gadgets, and great design.

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