Holiday Book Giving Guide
CHILDREN'S PICTURE BOOKS
Goodnight, Goodnight Construction Site by Sherri Duskey Rinker -recommended by Kari Harren
The perfect gift for little ones! Say goodnight to all the big trucks in the construction site: Crane Truck, Cement Mixer, Dump Truck, Bulldozer and Excavator. Wonderful illustrations and rhyming text will have truck lovers charmed.
This set of four children’s books is a wonderfully illustrated lesson in the beauty of nature. The books follow a Grandmother as she takes her grandchildren on outdoor adventures to discover all the little treasures in the world around them. These books are wonderful teaching tools to help both children and all nature lovers learn and identify bugs, flowers, trees, leaves and woodland creatures. Each book is a gift in itself; the full set is a bonus!
Christmas in the Trenches by John McCutcheon, SJU '74 -recommended by Ann Jonas
This wonderful book and CD is based on a real event that happened on Christmas Eve 1914 during World War I. It’s a great book to take out and read/listen to every Christmas as it beautifully portrays peace and unity in the midst of conflict. The CD features John reading the story, which is based on his song of the same title and also includes recordings of him singing “Silent Night” and “Christmas in the Trenches,” along with the music and words to his song. A keepsake book!
Flowers for Sarajevo by John McCutcheon, SJU '74 -recommended by Ann Jonas
In 1992, during the height of the Balkan War, a bakery in Sarajevo was bombed and 22 people were killed. The following day and for 21 additional days, Vedron Smailovic plays his cello near the site of the bombing, to honor the people who perished. When John McCutcheon heard this true story, he was inspired to write a book and song about it. His book tells of a fictional boy who lives in Sarajevo and witnesses the bombing and the cello music that follows, realizing the power of music and kindness in the face of war. The CD features John narrating the story, singing the song and giving some background information on the Balkan region. The CD also features a special guest performance by Vedran Smailovic playing the song he played at the bombsite, Tomaso Albinoni’s “Adagio in G Minor.”
Wonder by RJ Palacio -recommended by Krista Lindstrand
10-year-old August Pullman is going to school for the first time in his life, and he has to navigate new rules, learn to interact with teachers, and figure out how to make new friends. In addition, he also has a severe facial deformity. The book is told from six different first-person narratives to give readers varied perspectives of the story. Readers will root for Auggie, who has a loveable, spunky and often, self-deprecating personality. The book explores the nature of friendship and kindness and is well-written and engaging. Recommended for readers age 10-14, but adults will find this a compelling read, too.
How to Hang a Witch by Adriana Mather -recommended by Margaret Sucher
I recommend this book to anyone who is fascinated with history especially early American history. The main character, Samantha Mathers, is a direct descendant of Cotton Mathers, the famous judge who sentenced many people to die during the Salem Witch Trials in 1693. The author added direct descendants of the original accused witches as the antagonists but they are targeted also by a mysterious force that only Samantha can break. I enjoyed this quick read as it was a mixture of mean girls, a mysterious stepmother and history. The book is a depiction of a modern day witch hunt where it all began. It was a compelling read.
A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles -recommended by Ann Jonas
This is a splendid historical tale, set in Moscow, shortly after the Bolshevik revolution. Count Alexander Ilyich Rostov, a 30-year-old Russian aristocrat, has been accused of writing a poem that was seen as disloyal to the ruling party. Rostov avoids the firing squad and instead is sentenced to house arrest. The tribunal tells him that if he sets foot outside the grand Metropol Hotel, which has been his home since 1918, he will be shot. The book follows Count Rostov’s life in the Metropol, which is across the street from the Kremlin, from 1922 to the summer of 1954, through some interesting years in Russian history. Towles’ writing is rich, clever and entertaining. This sophisticated but charming novel has intrigue, romance, literary and cinematic references and is a delight to read.
Bear Town by Fredrik Backman -recommended by Krista Lindstrand
Beartown is a tiny community nestled deep in the forest. Their junior ice hockey team is about to compete in the national semi-finals, and they actually have a shot at winning. All the hopes and dreams of this place now rest on the shoulders of a handful of teenage boys. There is a variety of characters who each have their own personal stories to tell. Many of them will demonstrate what it means to have a big heart, show courage in the face of danger, and even give up their dreams if it means survival for their small town. Whether or not you like hockey, I can almost assure you that it will grow on you after reading this. The book is hard to put down once you start.
Commonwealth by Ann Patchett -recommended by Krista Lindstrand
When Bert Cousins saw Beverly Keating it was love at first sight. Never mind that they met at the christening party for her second child. Never mind that Bert had a wife and several progeny of his own. He wanted this incredibly beautiful woman. This was the start of his life. It was also the end of two marriages, beginning a ripple that would continue spreading its impact over the next half century. The story is written going back and forth in time, and we follow several family members in their personal lives at some point. It's a story full of emotion, tragedy, and love. I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It was interesting and makes you think about your own family dynamics. Great read!
Hawk and the Dove by Penelope Wilcock -recommended by Ann Jonas
I discovered this series of books on the recommendation of the Sisters of St. Benedict’s Monastery and I have truly enjoyed the three I’ve read so far (there are a total of 9.) The books are set in 14th century Yorkshire at a Benedictine abbey. In this first book, Father Peregrine has been appointed Abbot; he is considered to be a hawk—in his looks, but also in his demeanor. The book is a series of short stories about the men in the monastery, their struggle with each other, themselves and God. Wilcock is a gifted writer; these short books are incredibly interesting though not terribly lengthy. A good solid read!
Wounds of God: Volume 2 of The Hawk & the Dove Series by Penelope Wilcock -recommended by Ann Jonas
I discovered this series of books on the recommendation of the Sisters of St. Benedict’s Monastery and I have truly enjoyed the three I’ve read so far (there are a total of 9.) The books are set in 14th century Yorkshire at a Benedictine abbey. In this second book, Abbot Peregrine suffers physical and mental harm when he is attacked by old enemies. The book is again a series of short stories that tell of Peregrine’s struggle as he deals with his many physical limitations after the attack. Wilcock is a gifted writer; these short books are incredibly interesting though not terribly lengthy. A good solid read!
Long Fall: Volume 3 of The Hawk & the Dove Series by Penelope Wilcock -recommended by Ann Jonas
I discovered this series of books on the recommendation of the Sisters of St. Benedict’s Monastery and I have truly enjoyed the three I’ve read so far (there are a total of 9.) The books are set in 14th century Yorkshire at a Benedictine abbey. In this third volume, Wilcock no longer uses the contemporary characters of a mother telling stories to her daughter, but the book still contains connected short stories. Abbot Peregrine has suffered a stroke and is now in the abbey’s infirmary. The book chronicles Peregrine’s deepening friendship with Brother Tom, a young monk who cares deeply for his abbot, who struggles to recover from his debilitating stroke. Wilcock is a gifted writer; these short books are incredibly interesting though not terribly lengthy. A good solid read!
One in a Million Boy by Monica Wood -recommended by Ann Jonas
This is book is a quirky but beautifully told tale about a fragmented family and a 104-year-old woman. Ona Vitkus, the elderly but very wily woman, still lives by herself; an 11-year-old boy, whose name is never disclosed in the book, has just started as Ona’s helper. He is a strange, lonely, observant boy, obsessed with Guinness World Records and lists with ten items. Ona takes an immediate liking to him, but one day he doesn’t show up. Soon after, Quinn, the boy’s father arrives to finish his son’s good deed. Despite himself, Quinn becomes friends with Ona. This book about friendship is a beautiful example of rich storytelling. “The One-in-a-Million Boy” has many moments of sadness, but also contains a large amount of clever humor, even chuckle-out-loud passages. The characters in the story are very real -- with flaws, but certainly likeable. It is a poignant, heartwarming narrative with a beautiful, meaningful ending.
Rules of Magic by Alice Hoffman -recommended by Kari Harren
This is a wonderful prequel to Hoffman’s Practical Magic. The elderly aunts from Practical Magic are coming of age in the summer of 1960, along with their younger brother, Vincent. The three Owens siblings are increasingly recognizing their family's quirkiness—ability to levitate and read each other’s thoughts among other things. When Franny turns 17, they are all shipped off to spend the summer with their mother's aunt in Massachusetts. Here, they learn more about the magic they possess, as well as the curse set in motion by their Salem-witch ancestor, Maria Owens. Any man who falls in love with an Owens will die. The curse does little to stop the siblings from love, and the results are tragic. If you enjoy a little magic mixed in with love stories, you will be delighted by Rules of Magic!
Little Minnesota in World War II by Jill A. and Deane L. Johnson -recommended by Ann Jonas
This nice book is a tribute to 140 brave men from very small Minnesota towns who lost their lives serving our country in World War II. The authors did extensive research and interviews to provide a brief history of the fallen heroes, the battles they fought in, along with some photographs and maps. This book is a great read for anyone interested in WWII and Minnesota history.