Holiday Gift Ideas: Batteries Not Required, The 26 Best Kids’ Books for 2011

Best Books 2011

Best Books 2011

By Noelle, Librarian Extraordinaire

Yes, it is that time of year again, when wish lists are everywhere and bank accounts are being emptied on the shiniest gadgets and toys of the year.  You can check out these wonders on Dad Does’ Best Toys of 2011 Gift Guide.

But I like to point out that sometimes, kids end up playing with the box more than the toy that was inside of it.  We don’t always need bells and whistles to have a good time.  And we DO always need to learn how to read (that is, if you ever want your kid to graduate from school, get a job and move out of the basement).

Thus I present some of my favorite books of 2011 which are sure to make great gifts for those favorite little bundles of joy in your life (here are my picks from 2010).

Picture Books and Easy Readers

Three By The Sea

Three By the Sea by Mini Grey. A dog, a cat and a mouse all live happily in a house by the sea, but they become quite discontented when an unexpected guest arrives and stirs up trouble.

Little White Rabbit

Little White Rabbit by Kevin Henkes.  A bunny imagines what it would be like to be tall like a tree or as still as a rock or as green as the grass.  A quiet book that explores the wonders of imagination.

Blue Chicken

Blue Chicken by Deborah Freedman.  There are some interesting results when a chicken accidentally spills a can of blue paint.  Eye-catching and fun!

Press Here

Press Here by Herve Tullet.  There is nothing but a yellow dot in the middle of the page reading “Press here.”  When you do (and turn the page), something has happened to our dot!  There’s a new command and new surprises on each page.  Be prepared for a VERY fun read.

Is Everyone Ready For Fun

Is Everyone Ready For Fun? By Jan Thomas.  The cows are ready to have a great time dancing, jumping, etc., and they invite you to do it, too!  Only problem is, they want to do it all on mouse’s sofa.  Not only is this book (and all of Jan’s books) hilarious, but your little ones will be jumping and dancing, too.

Mo Willems

I Broke My Trunk!

Should I Share My Ice Cream?

Happy Pig Day!

Elephant & Piggie books by Mo Willems

I would be remiss to not mention my favorite easy readers and happily, there were 3 in the series this year.  All you need to know is that they are funny, charming and soulful.  Go and buy them already.


Amelia Lost

Amelia Lost: The Life and Disappearance of Amelia Earhart by Candace Fleming

What is more interesting that a famous woman pilot who disappears on her last flight?  Stunning and well-researched, sure to grab the attention of any readers ages 8 to 12.

Titanic Sinks!

Titanic Sinks!  By Barry Denenberg. It is the centennial of the tragedy of the Titanic in 2012, and this is the perfect book to celebrate it.  Written as though it is a collection of newspaper or magazine articles, filled with quotes and artifacts, it is both an entertaining and unique way to look at the disaster.  If your kid loves a good disaster story, they’ll eat this one up.  Great for ages 9 and up.


Okay For Now

Okay for Now by Gary D. Schmidt. I don’t care what anyone else says, this is by far the best book I read in 2011.  I was actually upset when the pages grew few in number because I didn’t want it to end.  It is 1968 and Doug is forced to move to a tiny new town with his abusive family.  Starting over is never easy, and especially isn’t when you are already down for the count.  But Doug very slowly and very surely makes friends and learns how to be better than his circumstances.  The story will make you happy and break your heart at the same time.  Fabulous all the way through.  Great for 5th grade on up to 8th grade.

A Tale of Two Castles

A Tale of Two Castles by Gail Carson Levine.  If you like mysteries and fantasies, this hybrid will catch your attention.  Elodie gets taken on as an assistant to a dragon who likes to try and solve mysteries a bit like Sherlock Holmes.  The pair try to solve the mystery of who tried to kill the gentle ogre, Count Jonty Um.  A great tale with the possibility of sequels.  For readers in grades 4 to 6.

Midnight Tunnel

The Midnight Tunnel: A Suzanna Snow Mystery by Angie Frazier.

Zanna helps her parents at the resort hotel up in New Brunswick, Canada in 1904, but her real desire is to become a detective like her famous Uncle Bruce.  When the daughter of one of the guests goes missing, Zanna can finally flex her crime solving muscles.  There are lots of twists and turns and help in the form of her Uncle Bruce’s young assistant.  This is a promising beginning to a new series and perfect for mystery fans in grades 4 to 6.

Sparrow Road

Sparrow Road by Sheila O’Connor

Fans of Because of Winn-Dixie will love this story.  When Raine is dragged out to the country for the summer with her mother to look after a bunch of crazy artists, she doesn’t understand why.  But as she settles in, Raine discovers the power of art in herself, a mystery in the big old mansion, and the REAL reason her mother brought her there for the summer.  A wonderful, moving story for kids in grades 4 to 7.

The Super Sluggers

The Super Sluggers: Slumpbuster by Kevin Markey

If you like your baseball stories mixed with some tall tale silliness, you will love the Super Sluggers series.  While there are plenty of “heavy” sports writers out there like Mike Lupica and Tim Green, these are much more carefree baseball tales that are fun and feel good.  Great for sports reading fans in grades 3 to 5.  Other titles in the series include Wall Ball and Wing Ding.

And If You Have a Teenager…


Divergent by Veronica Roth is for those who love dystopian novels like The Hunger Games.  It isn’t quite as good (what is?), but if you like fighting the status quo, a somewhat destroyed Chicago and a fistful of violence, you’ll be drawn right in.  It will keep your reader busy while they are waiting for The Hunger Games movie to come out.


Sidekicks by Jack Ferraiolo.  Do you like action? Superheroes? An evil plot?  A touch of romance?  Then you’ll like this book filled with the life of a teen superhero sidekick and the darker side of heroism.  Fast-moving and fun.

Relic Master

Relic Master series by Catherine Fisher. Fisher actually published this a few years ago in the U.K., but it is fresh for us here in the U.S.  If your teen likes their fantasy tinged with quite a bit of darkness, plenty of action, and good characters, this is a great series to try out.  Start with The Dark City.

And For Those Who Like a Series…

We’ve mentioned entries in these series in other posts, but now there are additions, so if your kids liked the others, try out:

  • Darth Paper Strikes Back by Tom Angleberger (Origami Yoda series to wean your kids from Diary of a Wimpy Kid)
  • Sammy Keyes and the Night of Skulls by Wendelin Van Draanen (Sammy Keyes mysteries)
  • The Emperor of Nihon-Ja by John Flanagan (last in the Ranger’s Apprentice fantasy series)
  • Goliath by Scott Westerfeld (last in the steampunk series of Leviathan)
  • Web of Air by Philip Reeve (next in the Fever Crumb scifi series)
  • A Very Babymouse Christmas by Jennifer L. Holm (Babymouse graphic novel series)
  • Ladybug Girl and the Bug Squad by David Soman (Ladybug Girl picture book series)
  • Fly Guy vs. the Flyswatter by Tedd Arnold (Fly Guy beginner reader series)

If That STILL Is Not Enough For You…

That’s what I’ve got for now, but if you want more ideas or suggestions, always feel free to drop me a line.  I’m happy to recommend more titles.  Until then, happy holidays and happy book buying!

NoelleNoelle has been a children’s librarian for over 15 years. She’s also been a student teacher, worked as an online account manager, worked in a pet shop and as a supermarket checkout clerk, and as a dishwasher and fry cook. She is the proud mom of a beautiful daughter. You can read more of Noelle’s book reviews at Rave Reviews Log
Noelle can be reached at “Noelle @ DadDoes.Com”

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