14 Books Kids Will Love to Get as Gifts

If you know a kid who loves to read, you know a book makes a wonderful present. What you may not know is how to find a great one from the many titles on the bookstore shelves. And who is the right person to ask when you need help picking out books? A librarian!

In my quest for great kids’ books, I spoke with Mary D’Eliso, the librarian at University Elementary School. A native Californian, Mary came to Bloomington to earn her master’s degree in Indiana University’s library science program. After graduation, Mary and her husband, Ken, headed back to Newport Beach. “We were sad to leave,” she says. “We loved it here and thought we would probably never be in Bloomington again.” But this town has a way of drawing people back. A year later, Mary got a call from the Monroe County Public Library, where she had worked as an intern, and was offered a job. “I was really grateful for the work [at MCPL],” Mary says. “I got to continue my education while working with a crack team of librarians.” After 15 years in the children’s department at MCPL, Mary got her teaching certificate and became the librarian at University Elementary School in 2004.

In short, this librarian knows her stuff. As Mary says, “I’ve been working in libraries since I was 16 years old. I’ve worked in the gamut: school libraries, public libraries, university libraries, even specialty libraries [a stint at the Lilly Library]. I’ve got the library thing covered!”

D'Eliso works with University School students in the Media Room. | Photo by Natasha Komoda

D’Eliso works with University School students in the Media Room. | Photo by Natasha Komoda

Check out a few of Mary’s favorite children’s books and suggestions [Editor’s note: For ease, we’ve linked all of the books to Amazon, but be sure to check out local bookstores, such as The Book Corner, Boxcar Books, and Caveat Emptor, before buying online!]:

ClassicsSnowy Day2

Picture Books
1) Make Way for Ducklings by Robert McCloskey
2) The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats
The Snowy Day is a favorite classic picture book of mine — exploration and inquiry at its finest!”

Early Readers (K through 2nd grade)
3) Frog and Toad books by Arnold Lobel
“This classic still delights kids.”
Charlottes Web2

Middle Grade Reader (3rd through 6th grade)
4) Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry by Mildred D. Taylor
5) Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White
“Of course, everyone must read Charlotte’s Web — it’s the greatest book ever written!”

Advanced Reader (5th through 8th grade)
6) The Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling
7) The Chronicles of Prydain series by Lloyd Alexander
“For someone who enjoys Potter and The Hobbit, a fine classic series is The Chronicles of Prydain, beginning with The Book of Three.”

Newer FavoritesMr Tiger2

Picture Books
8) Mr. Tiger Goes Wild by Peter Brown
9) The Day the Crayons Quit by Drew Daywalt
“Two recent favorites, these both hold up to repeated readings.”

Early Readers (K through 2nd grade)
10) The Elephant & Piggie books by Mo Willems
“Nothing fits the bill better than these books — kids can’t get enough of them!”

Middle Grade Reader (3rd through 6th grade)Flora and Ulysses2
11) The Tale of Despereaux by Kate DiCamillo
12) Flora and Ulysses by Kate DiCamillo
“I’ll call Despereaux a modern classic, and Flora and Ulysses has been a wonderful recent work for this age group.”

Advanced Reader (5th through 8th grade)
13) One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams-Garcia
14) Wonder by R.J. Palacio
Wonder has really intrigued our students. They keep coming in and asking for other books just like it, but, of course, it’s an original.”

Jen Hockney Bratton
Jen Hockney Bratton started her career in television, working on everything from local PBS productions to the Kentucky Derby. When the Internet came calling, she went to work for Oprah Winfrey as a content producer for Oprah.com. One move to Bloomington and two kids later, Jen followed another passion and now teaches fitness classes at Bloomington Body Bar. She loves to write, read, spend time with her husband and daughters, and cheer on the Hoosiers.
Natasha Komoda
Natasha Komoda is an editorial and commercial photographer based in Bloomington. She is devoted to portraying her subjects with complete authenticity and presenting to the viewer the unique essence that lies beyond physical appearance. Natasha is also the founder of Femmeography, a photographic service that uses the art of portraiture to heal body image negativity. Natasha puts a lot of heart and compassion into her work and cherishes every person she has the opportunity to photograph. View more of Natasha's work at www.natashakomoda.com.