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12 Children’s Books Gift Ideas for 2022

2022 TMS Holiday Gift Guide with six of many books for kids under 11. Image: collage from various publishers.

With Fall in full swing and people soon buying gifts for various winter holidays (religious and secular), this is the perfect time to share some of my favorite recent children’s books! Like last year’s list, I’ll be excluding celebrity books, and these books were chosen for their ability to act as literary stepping stones to future feminists and geeks—books I’m super jealous I didn’t grow up reading and that have also been recommended by librarians!

Each book selection notes some general themes and age recommendations. However, all of these books targeted for kids in elementary school or entering middle school. While you know best for the kids in your life, this can help if you’re looking for some help or to donate a book to a family you might not know.

Run, Little Chaski! by Mariana Llanos & Mariana Ruiz Johnson

Run, Little Chaski! by Mariana Llanos & Mariana Ruiz Johnson (Image: Barefoot Books)
(Barefoot Books)

This story follows one child who gets the opportunity to deliver a very important message from the Qoya (queen) to the Inka (king). Throughout the journey, he comes across animals that need his help making him worried he won’t be on time to deliver the message. This is a great introduction to Incan heritage and history in an adventurous setting.

This story touches on Mesoamerican Indigenous heritage and values like kindness. The recommended age range is three to seven, or those in preschool to second grade. This book is accessible in English and Spanish.

Owl and Penguin (I Like to Read® Comics) by Vikram Madan

Owl and Penguin (I Like to Read® Comics) by Vikram Madan. (Image: Holiday House)
(Holiday House)

Owl and Penguin is a great entry both for early readers and early comic book lovers as it follows a simple panel format. The duo finds creative ways to address their difference and make plenty of jokes along the way.

This story touches on friendship, diversity, and (loose) bird science. The recommended age range is four to eight, or those in preschool to third grade.


GIBBERISH by Young Vo (Image: Levine Querido)
(Levine Querido)

There are few books that are able to capture the frustration of learning a new language at such a young age, that also manage to tell a compelling story. Gibberish is one of those stories. Dat is at a new school, in a new country, and must learn a new language. In this story, he overcomes fears and makes new friends as they find alternative ways to communicate.

This story touches on friendship, school, and moving. The recommended age range is four to eight, or those in preschool to third grade.

Bonnie’s Rocket by Emeline Lee & Alina Chau

Bonnie’s Rocket by Emeline Lee and Alina Chau (Image: Lee & Low Books)
(Lee & Low Books)

Inspired by the history of the author’s grandfather, Bonnie’s Rocket follows a young child’s dream of becoming an engineer as her father works on the Moon-landing module for Apollo 11. Through correspondence with her Baba, she builds and tests her own mini rockets.

This story touches on history, failure, and science/space. The recommended age range is four to seven, or those in preschool to third grade.

Where Are You From? by Yamile Saied Méndez & Jaime Kim

Where Are You From? by Yamile Saied Méndez & Jaime Kim (Image: HarperCollins)

This year I learned that famous YA author Yamile Saied Méndez also writes children’s literature! Like a lot, not just this warm story that serves as a great introduction to lyrical poetry. While adults (more often than not) use questions of “Where are you from?” in an othering way, kids often ask this unfiltered and with as little baggage as “Why is the sky blue?” because they have little concept of space, time, politics, and more. While great, this makes the question fairly hard to answer. This story features a young girl asking her abuelo this question and getting a long and beautiful answer.

This story touches on migration, prejudice, and family. The recommended age range is four to eight, or those in preschool to third grade.

The Ghoul Hardcover by Taghreed Najjar & Hassan Manasra

The Ghoul Hardcover by Taghreed Najjar & Hassan Manasra (Image: Crocodile Books)
(Crocodile Books)

With inspiration taken from Arabic folk tales, this story takes an important message and wraps it up in an adventurous tale. After hearing about this mysterious and deadly “Ghoul” at the top of the mountain, Hassan decides he is going to confront this creature. Instead, what he finds is that this creature is just as afraid of his neighbors as they are of him.

This story touches on fear and prejudice. The recommended age range is three to eight.

Bessie the Motorcycle Queen by Charles R. Smith Jr. & Charlot Kristensen

Bessie the Motorcycle Queen by Charles R. Smith Jr. (Image: Orchard Books)
(Orchard Books)

I’ll be the first to admit that these holiday lists—and really, The Mary Sue, in general—are devoid of sports (except the rare eSports article.) However, now, I present to you a book about motorsports and the historical figure Bessie Stringfield! She became famous for evading danger and driving in style, by herself, on a motorcycle across the country at age 18! Later in life, she also served as a domestic courier for the U.S. Army during WW2.

This story touches on lesser-known American history, courage, and geography. The recommended age range is from five to eight, or first to second grade.

The Hospital: The Inside Story by Dr. Christle Nwora & Ginnie Hsu

The Hospital: The Inside Story by Dr. Christle Nwora & Ginnie Hsu (Image: Neon Squid)
(Neon Squid)

I bought this months ago as a gift for children who will spend much of their lives around doctors due to a hereditary disease, however, this is really a must for most kids. From routine visits to more, hospitals are often perceived by children as a place where scary things happen. Written by a Johns Hopkins Hospital doctor, this book demystifies this place by showing the range of types of care and occupations at a hospital. Those kids that have 1000 questions that you don’t always know what to say? Yeah, this is the book for them.

This book touches on anatomy, health, and family. The recommended age range is from six to eight, or first to third grade.

The Deep & Dark Blue by Niki Smith

The Deep & Dark Blue by Niki Smith (Image: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers)
(Little, Brown Books for Young Readers)

After a devastating coup destroys their family, a pair of royal twins are forced into new identities for survival and join a magical order of women that thread reality. While hidden, the siblings plot to avenge their families and make plans for the future. The only issue is that while one wants to resume his previous identity, the other finds that living in hiding has finally given her the freedom to live as the girl she is.

This book features fantasy/adventure, and touches on gender identity. The recommended age range is from eight to twelve, or third to seventh grade.

Frizzy by Claribel A. Ortega & Rose Bousamra

Frizzy by Claribel A. Ortega & Rose Bousamra (Image: First Second)
(First Second)

Between Ghost Squad and The Witchlings, Claribel Ortega is a rising star in children’s literature. This graphic novel follows a young Dominican girl, Marlene, who is at odds with her mother’s insistence on going to the salon and straightening her hair every weekend. After all, every hour in the chair and under the hot iron is an hour she could be spending time with her fun aunt, best friend, or reading. (Shout out to books about kids who love books!) As someone that wasn’t fully comfortable with my hair texture until I was almost 19, I cannot recommend this book enough.

This book touches on self-esteem, hair politics, and familial relationships. The recommended age range is 9+, or third to seventh grade.

1-2-3-4, I Declare a Thumb War by Lisi Harrison & Daniel Kraus

1-2-3-4, I Declare a Thumb War by Lisi Harrison & Daniel Kraus. (Image: Union Square Kids)
(Union Square Kids)

On the 100th anniversary of an infamous murderer’s death in the town of Misery Falls, Oregon, a text leads a group of girls to the cemetery of that killer. What they find creates a bond between the girls and is the start of a spooky but adventurous book series. This book is perfect for kids who are fans of the Troll Hunters and Tales of Arcadia (Kraus’s previous work with Guillermo del Toro) and is the first in a new series!

This book centers on friendship and death. The recommended age range is eight to twelve, or fourth to seventh grade.

The Magical Imperfect by Chris Baron

The Magical Imperfect by Chris Baron (Image: Square Fish)
(Square Fish)

The Magical Imperfects is a great pick for mature readers who love down-to-Earth fantasy novels or reluctant readers, since the book is very intimate. The main character Etan has selective mutism since his mother left him, and everyone that loves him is at a loss to help him. In running an errand, Etan meets another ostracized child, Malia, who many call “the creature.” Outcasts together, they form a strong friendship.

This book centers on friendship, identity, fantasy, and Jewish identity. The recommended age range is 10+, or fourth to sixth grade.

Honorable Mentions

Something that helped narrow down from a massive list was including books and bookish gifts throughout the year. Here are some articles that feature great gifts for young readers.

(featured image: collage from various publishers)

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(she/her) Award-winning artist and blogger with professional experience and education in graphic design, art history, and museum studies. Starting as an Online Editor for her college paper in October 2017, Alyssa began writing for the first time within two months of working in the newsroom. This resident of the yeeHaw land spends most of her time drawing, reading and playing the same handful of video games—even as the playtime on Steam reaches the quadruple digits. Currently playing: Baldur's Gate 3. Still trying to beat Saxon Farm on RCT 3 (so I can 100% the game.)