Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Three bookish gift-ideas for traveling (and non-traveling) kids

Books always make lovely gifts, no matter what the occasion, and they also make great travel companions. Whether you bring along one or more paperbacks or hardcovers for a long trip, or whether you load up your e-reader or tablet with some bookish enjoyment, it's always a good way to pass the time: on board the airplane, at the airport, at the hotel, on the train, or wherever else you find yourself.

There are so many good books out there for children, but here are three that have really caught my eye lately, and have also received a stamp of approval from my kids.


The Fox and the Star, by Coralie Bickford-Smith

About the book:
"From the award-winning designer of the iconic Penguin Hardcover Classics comes a beautifully illustrated fable about loss, friendship, and courage."

My take:
This is an absolutely gorgeous book that should definitely be judged by its cover. The illustrations by Coralie Bickford-Smith are strikingly beautiful, and the story itself is touching, heart-warming, and wistful. This books is available in both ebook format, and as a hardcover, and it would make an amazing gift in any format, but the hardcover might be the way to go for this one: illustrations of this quality and caliber do look their best in actual paper-format. Its a book that would work well for kids who are reading by themselves or with some help, and it would also make a lovely book for reading out loud.


Wings of Fire Boxset, Books 1-5, by Tui T. Sutherland

About the book:
"A war has been raging between the dragon tribes of Pyrrhia for years. According to a prophecy, five dragonets will end the bloodshed and choose a new queen. But not every dragonet wants a destiny. And when Clay, Tsunami, Glory, Starflight, and Sunny discover the truth about their unusual, secret upbringing, they might choose freedom over fate -- and find a way to save their world in their own way."

My take:
I've just started reading this series of books with my 8 year old, and she absolutely loves them. At this point, she could read them herself (they are listed as being for kids 8-12 years old), but she still enjoys having her bedtime read-out-loud stories, and I'm not going to argue with that. The books are engaging, easy to read, and very well written: the dragons talk and behave much like human tweens and teens, but their struggles and their adventures all take place in the fantasy world of Pyrrhia, where dragons are the main characters and humans are only mentioned in passing as "scavengers". I would highly recommend these books to any and all young readers with an interest in fantasy, and especially for dragon-lovers! The box set contains the first five books: there are two more available right now, and an 8th one being published in early 2016.


Shadowshaper, by Daniel José Older

About the book:
"Sierra Santiago planned an easy summer of making art and hanging out with her friends. But then a corpse crashes the first party of the season. Her stroke-ridden grandfather starts apologizing over and over. And when the murals in her neighborhood begin to weep real tears... Well, something more sinister than the usual Brooklyn ruckus is going on.

With the help of a fellow artist named Robbie, Sierra discovers shadowshaping, a thrilling magic that infuses ancestral spirits into paintings, music, and stories. But someone is killing the shadowshapers one by one -- and the killer believes Sierra is hiding their greatest secret. Now she must unravel her family's past, take down the killer in the present, and save the future of shadowshaping for generations to come."


My take:
This young adult fantasy novel set in present-day Brooklyn is a terrific read for both young readers and adults. Daniel José Older weaves in some amazing magic into this tale as the young and talented high-school student and mural painter Sierra Santiago begins to realize that she has some extraordinary powers. There are good and bad spirits on the loose, and also good and bad human beings: determining who is good and who is not so good isn't always easy for Sierra, but she has to learn fast or the entire city is in peril. The book is full of real and likable characters that are also complex, the dialogue is often fast and funny, and the relationships - friendships, family ties, and some romance - are all written in a way that feels real and true to life. Shadowshaper pulls you in from the first page and moves at a very quick pace: some of the scenes here are rather breathtaking. It would make a great gift for any young reader on your list. Or pick it up for yourself: I hugely enjoyed this story and will be checking out more books by Older.

For some more reading- and book-tips, check out these posts:

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