With so many holiday books out there, it is difficult to choose the best. This is by no means an exhaustive list, just a few that I think you can’t go wrong buying for your child.
The Night Before Christmas by Jan Brett
In this book, the classic poem by Clement Moore is retold with beautifully rendered illustrations by beloved children’s book author, Jan Brett. While Brett has several other Christmas and winter-themed offerings (The Mitten, The Gingerbread Baby, The Wild Christmas Reindeer, and The Animal’s Santa), this classic will be a favorite in your house for years to come.
An Otis Christmas by Loren Long
If you are not familiar with the Otis books by Loren Long, you are in for a treat. Otis is a friendly little tractor who lives on a farm. Along with his friends, the farm animals, Otis is always helping those in need. The stories are told beautifully, with the most gorgeous pictures to match, and this Christmas tale is no exception. In this story, Otis, the farmer, and all of the animals are excited for the holidays, and the impending birth of a new foal. On Christmas Eve, a big snowstorm arrives. The horse is ready to have her baby, but something is wrong. Otis knows he needs to help his friend. Only a miracle will save the horse and her foal. Will Otis come through? As in all of the Otis stories, this book is about being selfless and helping others. It is a book the whole family will enjoy!
Simon and the Bear: A Hanukkah Tale by Eric A. Kimmel
This newest book from storyteller Eric A. Kimmel (Hershel and the Hanukkah Goblins, Hanukkah Bear) is a beautiful book that spins a fantastic story of Simon, who leaves his home to immigrate to America. His mother packs him a menorah, candles, and latkes for his long journey. When Simon’s boat sinks after hitting an iceberg, his Hanukkah provisions, a friendly polar bear, and many miracles help Simon along the way, and lead to a happy ending. While the story is a little far-fetched, the illustrations are striking and my own children ask to read it again and again.
The Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg
If you are not already familiar with Van Allsburg’s books (Jumanji, Zathura, The Stranger), he is a magical and mysterious storyteller. In this Christmas classic, a young boy, awake on Christmas Eve, gets whisked away on the Polar Express train to see Santa and send him off on his sleigh ride. The narrator’s meeting with Santa and the events that follow make him a true believer for life. Be warned, this book brings up the possibility that Santa does not exist. While the message is one of belief, if you do not wish to bring up this possibility too early in your house, you may choose to wait a few years for this classic. It is perfect, however, for children who have begun to ask questions about Santa.
Gift Books for Second Grade Readers
If you are looking for some gifts for your reader this season, there are some wonderful books and series available right now that would make terrific gifts for your favorite reader.
The Kingdom of Wrenly series by Jordan Quinn
We just finished the first book of this series in my house, and it’s safe to say that my boys are hooked! While I enjoyed reading this book to my own children, it is a great book for second graders. It is a bit easier than the Magic Tree House books. The characters and story are engaging, and the illustrations help bring the story to life. This series would definitely hook kids who enjoy fantasy, or who are interested in knights, castles, ogres and fairies.
Mercy Watson series by Kate DiCamillo
All of my students know how much I love Mercy. They all love her, too. They know that Mercy is a pig who lives with human parents, in a house just like you or me. They know that Mercy loves toast with a great deal of butter on it. In these early chapter books by renowned children’s author, Kate DiCamillo, we are introduced to Mercy, her family, and a rollicking cast of characters who live on Deckawoo Drive. These books are funny and appealing, and while they are easy chapter books, they contain interesting and sometimes unusual vocabulary words (ahem, porcine), which is characteristic of all of DiCamillo’s books. Your child will read these favorites again and again.
If your second grader has already read and loved the Mercy Watson series and can handle something a bit more challenging, try DiCamillo’s new spin-off series, Tales from Deckawoo Drive. These chapter books are a bit more difficult than Mercy, but with familiar characters from the original books. There are only two books in this series so far, but rumor has it there are more to come.
Check out Leroy Ninker Saddles Up (full disclosure: my class has already heard this as a read aloud) and Francine Poulet Meets the Ghost Raccoon. If these books seem to be a bit too hard for your second grade reader to tackle, try reading it together as a family. I’m sure you’ll enjoy it!
Many other series books come in box sets for your reader. Try these:
A favorite picture book is always a welcome gift:
Exclamation Mark! by Amy Krouse Rosenthal
Journey by Aaron Becker
One by Kathryn Otoshi
Which holiday books are your favorites?
Happy holidays and happy reading!