FOR LOVE OF BOOKS: Vermont librarians select their top holiday gift-giving favorites

Thursday December 6, 2012

BRATTLEBORO -- Holiday booklists abound this time of year. From Amazon to the New York Times 100 Best Books, there is no lack of someone telling us what we might want to purchase as gift books. Vermont librarians Amy Howlett (Vermont Department of Libraries), Kat Redniss, (Young Adult Librarian, Brownell Library, Essex Junction) and Judy Simpson of WCAX offer their selection of holiday books.

The selective booklist below features both fiction/nonfiction and adult/teen/children’s titles, and are so noted in each entry. The titles below were reviewed on "Across the Fence" TV program on WCAX, on Dec. 3. A link is available at All of the books are available from local libraries or may purchased through your local bookstore. A two-page pdf of this list may be downloaded from

* Bingham, Kelly, "Z is for Moose," illustrated by Paul O. Zelinsky. Hardcover. Greenwillow. Preschool-Grade 2. An obstreperous moose takes center stage, barely contained by the referee, a zebra, of course. Each letter features plenty of action and details to delight the young.

* French, Tana, "Broken Harbor." Hardcover. Viking. A young family, their first home and a deadly murder. Challenging territory for an Irish cop who has his own demons to slay. Tana French is a deft novelist of our times.

* Gellman, Ginger, "Historic Photos of Vermont." Hardcover, Turner Publishing. Available at the Vermont Historical Society store. Wonderful photos to help us savor the changes wrought over the years by highways, floods, tourism and the passage of time in Vermont. Conversation starter for families?

* Hoberman, Mary Ann, "Forget Me Knots: Poems to Learn By Heart." Illus, Ed Emberly. Hardcover. Little, Brown. Grades 2-6. The classic gift to a child: remarkable poems, paired with warm illustrations, to read, marvel over, and perhaps memorize. Good mix of traditional and new.

* Howe, James, Otter and Odder: A Love Story." Illustrated by Chris Raschka. Hardcover. Candlewick. K-Grade 4. Otter falls madly in love ... with his food source, Myrtle the fish. This story is a beautiful testimony of how the power of love perseveres in spite of judgment and difference.

* Johnson, D.B., "Magritte’s Marvelous Hat." Hardcover. Houghton Mifflin. K-Grade 4. An introduction to surrealism, completely lighthearted and charming. No inside knowledge required: enjoy this picture book without knowing a thing about art.

* Lee, Suzy. "Shadow." Hardcover. Chronicle. Preschool to Grade 4. A wordless astoundingly beautiful picture book will inspire readers to dream, play and wonder through the world of shadows. A light bulb and quiet room create shadows.

* Morgenstern, Erin. "The Night Circus." Anchor. Adult fiction. Morgenstern uses a magical duel, a circus alive with illusion and secrets set in the dark of the nighttime, to create an involved novel for adults. If you loved Harry Potter, try this.

* Ness, Patrick, "A Monster Calls," Illustrated by Jim Kay. Hardcover. Candlewick. Grades 7 and up. A monster haunts one boy’s dreams; another comes to call. A novel with amazing illustrations that offers myth, truth, reflection, loss, and finally, healing.

* Perl, Erica S., "When Life Gives You O.J." Hardcover. Knopf. Grades 4 and up. Zelly Fried wants a dog so so so bad! What 10-year-old doesn’t? Her grandfather suggests a "practice dog," an OJ container on a leash! A family story set in Burlington.

* Roth, Veronica, "Divergent." Katherine Tegen Books. Young adult fiction (series). Teenager Beatrice must make the choice that determines her life. Lovers of "The Hunger Games" will enjoy the terrifying, exhilarating world of violence, courage and mayhem.

* Tabor, James M., "The Deep Zone." Hardcover. Ballantine. Adult fiction. Microbiologist Hallie Leland leads a team well below earth’s surface in pursuit of a deadly virus. Vermont author Tabor adds his knowledge of caves to an engrossing novel.

* Tolkien, J.R.R., "The Hobbit." 75th Anniversary Edition, Houghton Mifflin. Grades 6 up. Bilbo Baggins will entertain and enchant stay-at-homes who dream of adventure and struggle. Let’s make sure audiences know the original tale as well as the movie.

Funding for this service and distribution of the booklist is supported by the Institute of Museum and Library Services, a federal agency, through the Library Services and Technology Act.

For Love of Books is a column written by readers of notable books which may be found in local libraries and bookstores. "Guidelines for Reviewers" may be requested from Brooks Memorial Library at 802-254-5290 or


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