The Perfect (Signed!) Book for Everyone on Your List

It’s been a dream come true seeing At Your Service on bookshelves this year, I’m having a blast in my Author-in-Residence role at my local middle school and leading writing workshops for dozens of Girl Scout troops, Mother/Daughter book clubs, and libraries, and have only messed up one kid’s name (so far) while signing books! But the part that I still struggle with is finding that balance between doing the part of my J-O-B that requires me to promote my book, and not being one of those obnoxious people jumping up and down all over the internet shouting, “Hey, buy my book!”

I’d so much rather shout about all the other books people should buy instead (or also? Let’s say also!) Oh wait. I can totally do that! Scroll down to see recommendations for every kid on your holiday list (plus a couple for their grown-ups). Each recommendation includes a “who” and a “why” to help you out.

But wait! There’s more! I’ve contacted the authors of the fabulous books below and worked out something special for you. Because books make the very best “kid-loved, parent-approved” gifts, but signed books make you a rockstar gift-giver. So, if you spot a perfect book(s) on the list and drop me an email indicating the name of the recipient and your mailing address, I’ll make sure you get a signed/personalized bookplate from the author of the book(s).

(And of course, if you’d like a signed/personalized bookplate for At Your Service, you know I’ll be happy to send one- or ten- your way.)

Ready? Here we go (by age group):

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Perfect For: Kids ages 2-6, anyone who loves a good rhyme and cuddly friends

Why: Every December my family counts down to Christmas by unwrapping one holiday book a night (these stories only come out once a year so they’re “like new” each time! My kids are getting a little old for some of them, but they don’t care one bit and we all snuggle on the couch to read!) This year, Monster will be hanging out under our tree because the rhyming is a sheer joy to read aloud and the premise (a boy’s monster needs a tree for the holidays, but chaos ensues) is giggle-inducing.

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Perfect For: Kids ages 7-12, anyone who loves funny and sweet, ice hockey, or cats in bathtubs

Why: I read this one aloud to my twins’ 6th grade class this spring and it went over HUGE! There are tons of laugh-out-loud scenarios in this sweet story that is reminiscent of Beverly Cleary or The Penderwicks, but with a Modern Family sensibility (the family it follows through a school year is made up of four adopted boys and their two dads). I love the way it portrays an untraditional family in such a traditional setting- it’s very non-preachy but includes a lovely lesson on what it means to be a family today.

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Perfect For: Kids ages 7-11, anyone with an annoying sibling

Why: My twin boys complain a lot about how annoying their little sister can be, but at least they’ve never woken up with plastic flowers superglued to their hair! Not so for Masha, who has the injustice of having a certifiable genius (she would say “evil genius”) as a little sister. This is a very sweet story (pun intended) about sibling rivalry that includes a ton of outrageous and funny scenarios.

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Perfect For: Kids ages 9-13, anyone who loves NYC, mysteries, or art

Why: Marcia Wells and I both participated on a Books of Wonder panel called “Only in New York” this fall, which highlighted books that were love stories to the Big Apple. This book is definitely that and her hero, Eddie, is a great little detective. Eddie’s sketch artist drawing skills land him a job helping the police scout out a potential museum heist and I adored the sketches throughout the book. Those, plus the fast pacing, make this one great for reluctant readers!

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Perfect For: Kids ages 9-13, anyone who loves presidential history and/or girl power

Why: This is one of my top picks for the year. It follows a First Daughter who is not so thrilled about how her mom’s new job as President is cramping her social life. When Audrey uncovers Alice Roosevelt’s diary in her bedroom’s floorboards she discovers she’s not the first rebellious daughter to occupy the White House Residence. Alice’s diary entries were absolutely my favorite part of this book- her voice jumps off the page and it’s a perfect mix of history meets modern!

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Perfect For: Teens ages 12 and up, anyone who loves travel, reality TV, or has a sister.

Why: My 2016 YA is all about a younger sister doing something crazy for her older sister, so I’d be pre-disposed to love this book even if I didn’t already love its author even more. But I promise this story doesn’t require any bias to adore- it’s a hilarious trip around the world as two sisters compete in an Amazing Race-style reality contest, hellbent on getting revenge on the cheating ex-boyfriend (who happens to be on an opposing team) of the older sister. This is So. Much. Fun!

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Perfect For: Kids ages 12 and up, anyone who loves superhero movies and plenty to action

Why: We listened to this on audiobook as we drove from Boston to Buffalo this summer and, even after nine cramped hours, my kids didn’t want to get out of the car when we got there! We kept trying to find a place to pause, but every chapter ended on a cliffhanger. This one is Oceans Eleven meets The X-Men and is full of characters with supercool abilities and fast-paced action.

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Perfect For: Kids ages 14 and up, anyone who loves teen romance from the hottest YA authors.

Why: This is what I plan to recommend to anyone who isn’t sure which books their gift recipients have already read. This one is brand new and includes twelve stories from bestselling YA authors (Rainbow Rowell, Stephanie Perkins, Gayle Forman…), so there’s something for everyone! Plus holiday romance- what could be better? Bookplates will be signed by the adorable Myra McEntire, who is credited with helping inspire the book (and contributes a fantastic story).

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One for the Adults!

Why: While I can attest from a few short meetings that Rainbow Rowell is one lovely human being, we’re not yet on bestie terms (don’t worry; it’s on my bucket list). Therefore, I can’t offer signed bookplates for this one, BUT this book is a Top Five of 2014 for me (apparently others agree as it was just voted a Goodreads Readers Choice) and I couldn’t resist the chance to share it. While the premise is a bit “rom-com” (a woman having marital problems retreats to her childhood home where she finds a telephone that lets her speak with her husband pre-wedding, pre-kids), it packs a huge emotional punch that had me shedding tears.

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Another for Adults!

Why: Technically a young adult novel, I think this would appeal equally- if not more so- to adults. The writing is BRILLIANT. It left me sweaty, and scrubbed-clean, and very, very humbled. Jandy Nelson is a genius. That’s really all I can say about this one. Sadly I can’t offer signed bookplates for this either, but hopefully the awesome cover will make up for that.

HAPPY HOLIDAYS TO ALL! I hope your season includes a few stolen moments for reads by the fireplace or under cozy covers!

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