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Holiday Gifts for the Young Reader in Your Life

little boy reading on couch

Need a gift for the reader in your family? Below are several award-winning titles recommended for children, middle schoolers, and teens.

Books For Young Adults 

When Our Worlds Collided by Danielle Jawando

Image by Simon & Schuster

Winner of the YA Book Prize (2023) and the Jhalak Children’s & YA Prize (2023)

Genres: young adult, contemporary fiction, crime, LGBTQ

For fans of Angie Thomas, Gayle Foreman, and Alice Oseman

Summary: When fourteen-year-old Shaq is stabbed outside of a busy shopping centre in Manchester, three teenagers from very different walks of life are unexpectedly brought together. What follows flips their worlds upside down and makes Chantelle, Jackson, and Marc question the deep-rooted prejudice and racism that exists within the police, the media, and the rest of society.

When the Angels Left the Old Country by Sacha Lamb

Image by Levine Querido

Winner of the Stonewall Book Award for Children’s & Young Adult Literature (2023), Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Adult Literature (2023), Sydney Taylor Book Award for Young Adult (2023), Michael L. Printz Honor Book (2023), National Jewish Book Award Finalist (2023)

Genres: young adult, fantasy, historical fiction, LGBTQ, religion

For fans of Good Omens and The Chronicles of Narnia

Summary: Uriel the angel and Little Ash (short for Ashmedai) are the only two supernatural creatures in their shtetl (which is so tiny, it doesn't have a name other than Shtetl). The angel and the demon have been studying together for centuries, but pogroms and the search for a new life have drawn all the young people from their village to America. When one of those young emigrants goes missing, Uriel and Little Ash set off to find her.

Along the way, the angel and demon encounter humans in need of their help, including Rose Cohen, whose best friend (and the love of her life) has abandoned her to marry a man, and Malke Shulman, whose father died mysteriously on his way to America. But there are obstacles ahead of them as difficult as what they’ve left behind. Medical exams (and demons) at Ellis Island. Corrupt officials, cruel mob bosses, murderers, poverty. The streets are far from paved with gold.

Himawari House by Harmony Becker

Image by Macmillan Publishers

Winner of the Asian/Pacific American Award for Young Adult Fiction Literature (2023)

Genres: young adult, contemporary fiction, graphic novel, Asian American

For fans of They Called Us Enemy and Almost American Girl

Summary: Living in a new country is no walk in the park―Nao, Hyejung, and Tina can all attest to that. The three of them became fast friends through living together in the Himawari House in Tokyo and attending the same Japanese cram school. Nao came to Japan to reconnect with her Japanese heritage, while Hyejung and Tina came to find freedom and their own paths. Though each of them has her own motivations and challenges, they all deal with language barriers, being a fish out of water, self-discovery, love, and family.

How to be a (Young) Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi and Nic Stone

Image by Penguin Random House

Genres: young adult, nonfiction, education, social justice

Summary: The New York Times bestseller How to be an Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi is shaping the way a generation thinks about race and racism. How to be a (Young) Antiracist is a dynamic reframing of the concepts shared in the adult book, with young adulthood front and center. Aimed at readers 12 and up, and co-authored by award-winning children’s book author Nic Stone, How to be a (Young) Antiracist empowers teen readers to help create a more just society. Antiracism is a journey–and now young adults will have a map to carve their own path. Kendi and Stone have revised this work to provide anecdotes and data that speaks directly to the experiences and concerns of younger readers, encouraging them to think critically and build a more equitable world in doing so.

 All My Rage: A Novel by Sabaa Tahir

Image by Penguin Random House

National Book Award (2023) and Printz Award for Excellence in Young Adult Literature (2023)

Genres: young adult, romance, realistic/contemporary fiction, Pakistani

For fans of Victory, Stand! and A Very Large Expanse of Sea

Summary: Lahore, Pakistan. Then.
Misbah is a dreamer and storyteller, newly married to Toufiq in an arranged match. After their young life is shaken by tragedy, they come to the United States and open the Cloud’s Rest Inn Motel, hoping for a new start.

Juniper, California. Now.
Salahudin and Noor are more than best friends; they are family. Growing up as outcasts in the small desert town of Juniper, California, they understand each other the way no one else does. Until The Fight, which destroys their bond with the swift fury of a star exploding.

Now, Sal scrambles to run the family motel as his mother Misbah’s health fails and his grieving father loses himself to alcoholism. Noor, meanwhile, walks a harrowing tightrope: working at her wrathful uncle’s liquor store while hiding the fact that she’s applying to college so she can escape him—and Juniper—forever.

When Sal’s attempts to save the motel spiral out of control, he and Noor must ask themselves what friendship is worth—and what it takes to defeat the monsters in their pasts and the ones in their midst.

From one of today’s most cherished and bestselling young adult authors comes a breathtaking novel of young love, old regrets, and forgiveness—one that’s both tragic and poignant in its tender ferocity.

Books For Children/Middle Grade 

Srta. Quinces by Kat Fajardo

Image by Scholastic Book Clubs

Genres: middle grade, graphic novel, realistic fiction, family, Latinx

For fans of Raina Telgemeier and Shannon Wright

Summary: Sue just wants to spend the summer reading and making comics at sleepaway camp with her friends, but instead she gets stuck going to Honduras to visit relatives with her parents and two sisters. They live way out in the country, which means no texting, no cable, and no Internet! The trip takes a turn for the worse when Sue's mother announces that they'll be having a surprise quinceañera for Sue, which is the last thing she wants. She can't imagine wearing a big, floofy, colorful dress! What is Sue going to do? And how will she survive all this "quality" time with her rambunctious family?

A History of Me by Adrea Theodore; illustrated by Erin Robinson

Image by Holiday House

Genres: children’s, picture book, history, African American

Summary: Who do you see when you look in the mirror?

Life can be hard for the only brown girl in a classroom full of white students. When the teacher talks about slavery, she can feel all of her classmates staring at her. When they talk about civil rights, she is the one that other kids whisper about on the playground. In those moments, she wants to slip away or seep into the ground; and she wonders, is that all you see when you look at me?

What really matters is what she sees when she looks at herself. She is a reflection of the courage, strength, intelligence and creativity that's been passed down from generation to generation through her ancestors.

 Inspired by the author's daughter's experience in school as well as her own.

Wildoak by C.C. Harrington

Image by Scholastic Inc.

Winner of the Schneider Family Book Award (2023)

Genres: middle grade, nature, historical fiction, disability

For fans of The One and Only Ivan and Pax

Summary: Maggie Stephens's stutter makes school especially hard. She will do almost anything to avoid speaking in class or calling attention to herself. So when her unsympathetic father threatens to send her away for so-called "treatment," she reluctantly agrees to her mother's intervention plan: a few weeks in the fresh air of Wildoak Forest, visiting a grandfather she hardly knows. It is there, in an extraordinary twist of fate, that she encounters an abandoned snow leopard cub, an exotic gift to a wealthy Londoner that proved too wild to domesticate. But once the cub's presence is discovered by others, danger follows, and Maggie soon realizes that time is running out, not only for the leopard, but for herself and the forest as well.

Told in alternating voices, Wildoak shimmers with beauty, compassion, and unforgettable storytelling as it explores the delicate interconnectedness of the human, animal, and natural worlds.

Just a Girl: A True Story of World War II by Lia Levi; illustrated by Jess Mason, translated by Sylvia Adrian Notini

Image by HarperCollinsPublishers

Winner of the Mildred L. Batchelder Award (2023)

Genres: children’s/middle grade, WWII, biography, nonfiction, history

Summary: 1938, Italy. Six-year-old Lia loves to build sandcastles at the beach and her biggest problem is her shyness and quiet, birdlike voice—until prime minister Mussolini joins forces with Hitler in World War II, and everything changes.

Now there are laws saying Jewish children can’t go to school, Jews can’t work, or go on vacation. It’s difficult for Lia to understand why this is happening to her family. When her father loses his job, they must give up their home and move from city to city.

As war comes closer, it becomes too dangerous to stay together, and Lia and her sisters are sent to hide at a convent. Will she ever be “just a girl” again?

Where Wonder Grows by Xelena González; illustrated by Adriana M. Garcia

Winner of the Pura Belpré Award for Illustration (2023)

Genres: children’s, picture book, nature, family, fiction, Latinx

Summary: Grandma knows that there is wondrous knowledge to be found everywhere you can think to look. She takes her girls to their special garden and asks them to look over their collection of rocks, crystals, seashells, and meteorites to see what marvels they have to show. “They were here long before us and know so much more about our world than we ever will,” Grandma says. So they are called grandfathers. By taking a close look with an open mind, they see the strength of rocks shaped by volcanoes, the cleansing power of beautiful crystals, the oceans that housed their shells and shapes its environment, and the long journey meteorites took to find their way to them. Gathered together, Grandma and the girls let their surroundings spark their imaginations.

Hot Dog written by Doug Salati

Image by Penguin Random House

Winner of the Randolph Caldecott Medal (2023)

Genres: children’s, picture book, animals, fiction

Summary: It's summer in the city, and this hot dog has had enough! Enough of sizzling sidewalks, enough of wailing sirens, enough of people's feet right in his face. When he plops down in the middle of a crosswalk, his owner endeavors to get him the breath of fresh air he needs. She hails a taxi, hops a train, and ferries out to the beach.

 Here, a pup can run!

With fluid art and lyrical text that have the soothing effect of waves on sand, Doug Salati shows us how to find calm and carry it back with us so we can appreciate the small joys in a day.

Listen: How Evelyn Glennie, a Deaf Girl, Changed Percussion by Shannon Stocker and illustrated by Devon Holzwarth

Image by Penguin Random House

Winner of the Schneider Family Book Award (2023)

Genres: children’s, picture book, nonfiction, music, disability

Summary: This picture book tells the true story of world-famous deaf percussionist Dame Evelyn Glennie.

This is a story of music.
Of obstacles.
Of strength and hard work.
Of all you can accomplish when you dream.

As a child, Evelyn Glennie's ears began to hurt. Voices became distant whispers. Ringing phones sounded like muffled crunches in her ears. But when she was told that she would need to wear hearing aids for the rest of her life, Evelyn was determined that this would never stop her from playing music. Instead of giving up on her dreams, Evelyn found new ways to listen.

Yoshi’s Big Swim: One Turtle’s Epic Journey Home by Mary Wagley Copp; illustrated by Kaja Kajfex

Image by Capstone

Genres: children’s, picture book, nonfiction, animals

Summary: Yoshi’s Big Swim chronicles the impressive true story of Yoshi, a loggerhead turtle who was rescued by fishermen, then rehabilitated and cared for by scientists for many years. The scientists adored her, and Yoshi was happy in her aquarium home. But then, many years later, Yoshi let them know that it was time for her to move on. Would Yoshi be safe? Would she know what to do? After lots of preparation—and plenty of friendly back scratches for Yoshi—the determined loggerhead set off on her journey.

Maizy Chen’s Last Chance by Lisa Yee

Image by Penguin Random House

Newberry Honor Award Winner (2023)

Genres: middle grade, realistic fiction, family, Asian American

For fans of the American Girl series

Summary: Maizy has never been to Last Chance, Minnesota. . . until now. Her Mom’s plan is just to stay for a couple weeks, until her grandfather gets better. But plans change, and as Maizy spends more time in Last Chance (where she and her family are the only Asian-Americans) and at The Golden Palace—the restaurant that’s been in her family for generations—she makes some discoveries. For instance:

You can tell a LOT about someone by the way they order food.

And people can surprise you. Sometimes in good ways, sometimes in disappointing ways.
And the Golden Palace has Secrets.

But the more Maizy discovers, the more questions she has. Like, why are her mom and her grandmother always fighting? Who are the people in the photographs on the office wall? And when she discovers that a beloved family treasure has gone missing—and someone has left a racist note—Maizy decides it’s time to find the answers.


Brenna Taitano is a recent graduate and current staff member at Indiana University Kokomo.

Title Image: Karolina Grabowska from Pexels

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