Give the Gift of Reading 2021
While 2021 has not quite been the breeze we were yearning for after the year that wasn’t, the good news is that we are back with our annual list of great titles for all the children and teens on your holiday gift list. Our selections include diverse spines and covers to honor Juneteenth, Indigenous Peoples Day, and more LGBTQ+ visibility, books celebrating the outdoors where we have spent more time of late, new releases honoring the 20th anniversary of 9/11, titles by and about painters, politicians, and pundits whose passing we mourned, and of course lots of fun, escapist adventures to transport young readers away from the present pandemic.
Seeking something from years past? Please have a look at our other gift guides from 2020, 2019, 2018, 2017, 2016, 2015, and 2014. We also recommend you check out these options for book lovers of all ages and our list from last summer celebrating Black Joy.
Worried about everything arriving in time for the holidays? If the children on your list live in New York City, consider giving their families a membership to the NYSL, where they will find all these books as well as engaging programs from our Children’s Library throughout the year. Bonus: no issues with supply and demand or shipping delays!
Fiction and Graphic Novel Recommendations
Moimoi: Look at Me! | Ichihara Recommended for ages 0-2
Shapes, colors, and sounds that will soothe your crying baby as scientifically determined by the University of Tokyo’s Baby Lab.
Woke Baby | Browne, Mahogany L. Recommended for ages 0-3
A lyrical and empowering book that celebrates both what it means to be a baby and what it means to be woke.
If I Had A Unicorn | Dawnay, Gabby Recommended for ages 2-4
In this playful tale, a little child finds out firsthand what it's like to have a magical creature as a pet. This series also features similar tales about dinosaurs, sloths, and octopuses.
13 Stories about Harris | Schwartz, Amy Recommended for ages 2-4
Thirteen vignettes reveal the everyday life of Harris, leading up to his start at preschool in his city neighborhood.
Foodie Faces | Wurtzel, Bill and Claire Recommended for ages 2-4
Explore a world of vibrant and expressive emotions through an array of cleverly crafted edible faces.
In the City | Lipniewska, Dominika Recommended for ages 2-6
Take a journey through a bustling city. Seek and find buildings, transportation, streets, parks, playgrounds, zoos, and so much more.
Animals Brag About Their Bottoms | Saito, Maki Recommended for ages 2-6
From the tiniest rabbit to the largest elephant, animals have every reason to be proud of their bottoms.
Honey for You, Honey for Me | Rosen, Michael Recommended for ages 3-4
This collection introduces children to the world of nursery rhymes—from the more well-known ones to forgotten gems.
By the Light of the Moon | Preston-Gannon, Frann Recommended for ages 3-6
A little frog starts singing to himself and invites other animals to join in. Nothing sounds right until the littlest voice joins the song, that of a tiny firefly.
If You Come to Earth | Blackall, Sophie Recommended for ages 3-6
A child writes a letter to an imagined alien, explaining all the things they will need to know about Earth and the people who live here.
We All Play | Flett, Julie Recommended for ages 3-7
Animals and kids love to play! This wonderful book celebrates playtime and the connection between children and the natural world.
Bedtime for Sweet Creatures & Off to See the Sea | Grimes, Nikki Recommended for ages 3-7
Two wonderful titles from a fabulous poet make a great pair: In the first, a beloved and very sleepy child resists going to bed. In the second, an imagination-fueled adventure on the high seas is just what it takes to get a little one clean.
The Rock from the Sky | Klassen, Jon Recommended for ages 3-7
This book is about friendship, fate, shared futuristic visions, and that funny feeling you get that there's something off somewhere, but you just can't put your finger on it.
A New Green Day | Portis, Antoinette Recommended for ages 3-7
Evocative riddles and bold imagery take readers on a tour of the sights and sounds of nature.
Tyrone O'Saurus Dreams | Howe, James Recommended for ages 3-7
Tyrone dreams of becoming a dancer and finds unexpected support from the strongest dinosaur he's ever met, who inspires him to follow his heart.
Peanut Goes for the Gold | Van Ness, Jonathan Recommended for ages 3-7
Whether it's cartwheeling during basketball practice or cutting their own hair, this little guinea pig puts their own special twist on life.
Bodies are Cool | Feder, Tyler Recommended for ages 3-8
Illustrations and easy-to-read, rhyming text celebrate bodies of all shapes, sizes, ages, and colors, with different kinds of hair, eyes, spots, scars, and more.
The Little Mermaid | Pinkney, Jerry Recommended for ages 3-8
In this reinvention of a classic tale, a little mermaid trades her voice for legs and makes a new friend on land but must return to the sea to save her family.
The Midnight Fair | Sterer, Gideon Recommended for ages 3-8
As darkness falls on the fairgrounds, the animals venture out of the woods for one magical, memorable night in this wordless wonder.
We Became Jaguars | Eggers, Dave Recommended for ages 4-7
When Grandma comes to visit and a young boy's parents leave, the rules of the house—and the world—change: grandson and grandmother transform into jaguars!
Ty's Travels (series) | Lyons, Kelly Starling Recommended for ages 4-7
In this series for the newest readers, we meet an adventurous lad unafraid to explore the world around him.
I'm On It! | Tsurumi, Andrea Recommended for ages 4-8
When Frog and Goat turn a simple game into an all-out competition, things get out of hand...until finally, they're over it. FYI, this book is endorsed by your pals Elephant and Piggie!
Doggo and Pupper | Applegate, Kathrine Recommended for ages 6-8
Doggo is used to things being a certain way in his family. He likes routine. Cat says he’s become boring. That is, until Pupper shows up!
Baloney and Friends | Pizzoli, Greg Recommended for ages 6-8
Meet Baloney! He's a pig. This book is about him. And also Peanut, his best friend. There's Bizz, too, of course. And Krabbit. He'd rather not be here, but what can you do?
Stand Up! Speak Up!: A Story Inspired by the Climate Change Revolution | Joyner, Andrew Recommended for ages 7-9
Inside this book you will find that standing up for what you believe in can start with a single step. Saving our future one step at a time!
When You Look Up | Decur Recommended for ages 7-10
Lorenzo isn't happy about moving. But in his new room, he finds an old desk with mysterious contents that lead him to discover all kinds of curious things.
Sisters of the Neversea | Smith, Cynthia Leitich Recommended for ages 9-12
In this magical, modern twist on Peter Pan, stepsisters Lily and Wendy are spirited away to Neverland by a mysterious boy and must find a way back to the family they love.
The Silver Arrow | Grossman, Lev Recommended for ages 9-13
Kate's humdrum life is transformed when her eccentric uncle gives her a colossal locomotive train as her eleventh birthday gift.
Blackout | Clayton, Dhonielle, Tiffany D. Jackson, Nic Stone, Angie Thomas, Ashley Woodfolk, and Nicola Yoon Recommended for ages 14+
Six YA authors bring the glowing warmth and electricity of Black teen love to this interlinked novel of sweet short stories.
The Box in the Woods | Johnson, Maureen Recommended for ages 14+
In this standalone companion to the Truly Devious trilogy, Stevie Bell helps a summer camp owner work on a true-crime podcast about a cold case from years ago.
Firekeeper's Daughter | Boulley, Angeline Recommended for ages 14+
Daunis, who is part Ojibwe, reluctantly becomes involved in the investigation of a series of drug-related deaths in this groundbreaking thriller about a Native teen who must root out the corruption in her community.
Non-fiction and Biography Recommendations
Nacho's Nachos | Nickel, Sandra Recommended for ages 3-9
Ever wonder where the popular Mexican snack got its name? Find out in this biography of Ignacio “Nacho” Anaya, the waiter who invented them!
Mars! Earthlings Welcome | McAnulty, Stacy Recommended for ages 4-9
After hearing from the Earth, Sun, and Moon via the Our Universe series, it’s time to meet Mars, in this entertaining nonfiction picture book about the red planet.
Becoming a Good Creature | Montgomery, Sy Recommended for ages 5-9
Learn about the many surprising lessons animals have to teach us about friendship, compassion, and how to be a better creature in the world.
Secret Engineer: How Emily Roebling Built the Brooklyn Bridge | Dougherty, Rachel Recommended for ages 6-9
This is the story of Emily Roebling, the secret engineer behind the Brooklyn Bridge, who assisted her husband, the chief engineer.
This Very Tree: A Story of 9/11, Resilience, and Regrowth | Rubin, Sean Recommended for ages 6-9
A deeply moving nonfiction picture book about the 9/11 Survivor Tree and the spirit of America.
Teatime Around the World | Waissbluth, Denyse Recommended for ages 6-10
This book celebrates a beloved drink—tea!—and all the wonderful ways we can enjoy a cup (or two) while exploring traditions among various global cultures.
The Next President | Messner, Kate Recommended for ages 7-10
This exploration of the presidents before they took highest office makes obvious that the future commanders-in-chief could be anyone, perhaps even the kid on your list!
Nicky & Vera: A Quiet Hero of the Holocaust and the Children He Rescued | Sis, Peter Recommended for ages 7-10
In 1938, Nicholas Winton saved the lives of almost 700 children trapped by the Nazis. His heroic story remained unknown until a reunion in the 1980s with some of the children he rescued.
The Last Straw: Kids vs. Plastics | Hood, Susan Recommended for ages 7-10
An unique book of poetry highlighting the threat of plastic and how it is hurting our planet. Also features young activists who are standing up and speaking out for change.
Woke: A Young Poet's Call to Justice | Browne, Mahogany L. Recommended for ages 7-11
A collection of poems by women that reflects the joy and passion in the fight for social justice, tackling topics from discrimination to empathy and acceptance to speaking out.
Amazing Treasures: 100+ Objects and Places That Will Boggle Your Mind | Long, David Recommended for ages 7-11
Giant gemstones, precious artworks, architectural wonders, intriguing ruins, moon rocks, and more! Take a tour which stretches across thousands of years and all around the globe.
Outdoor Scientist: The Wonder of Observing the Natural World | Grandin, Temple Recommended for ages 8-12
Dr. Temple Grandin introduces young readers to geologists, astrophysicists, oceanographers, and many other scientists through a series of projects to understand the world around them.
Noise Makers: 25 Women Who Raised Their Voices and Changed the World | Kazoo Magazine Recommended for ages 8-12
A collection of inspiring comics about twenty-five extraordinary women who made a racket, a bang, and uproar! Get to know some familiar heroes better and meet some new ones, too.
Top Secret: Spies, Codes, Capers, Gadgets, and Classified Cases Revealed | Boyer, Crispin Recommended for ages 9-13
Read about cold cases and hidden places, cool disguises and wicked surprises, menacing mysteries, undiscovered histories, and so much more!
Exploring the Elements | Thomas, Isabel Recommended for ages 9+
A comprehensive introduction explaining what the various elements are and the design and purpose of the periodic table.
A Shot in the Arm! | Brown, Don Recommended for ages 10+
This book that details the history of vaccinations and the struggle to protect people from infectious disease was being written before the pandemic. Its publication was delayed so that it could include COVID-19 research!
The Lost Spells | Macfarlane, Robert Recommended for ages 11-Adult
Following upon The Lost Words, this new collection from the same team evokes the wonder of everyday nature, conjuring up red foxes, birch trees, jackdaws, and more.
Becoming RBG | Levy, Debbie Recommended for ages 11+
This graphic biography explores the life of celebrated Supreme Court justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, a modern feminist icon.
The Rise and Fall of Charles Lindbergh | Fleming, Candace Recommended for ages 13-Adult
Winner of 2021 YALSA Award For Excellence In Nonfiction For Young Adults: A truly riveting biography of one of America's most celebrated heroes, and most complicated, troubled men, Charles Lindbergh.
Run: Book One | Lewis, John and Andrew Aydin Recommended for ages 13-Adult
Following upon the graphic history trilogy March comes the continuation of the life story of John Lewis and the struggles seen across the United States after the Civil Rights Movement.