Holiday Gift Guide

7 great book recommendations for young readers

Michele Landsberg and Ken Setterington share their favourite children's literature, from YA to middle-grade reads and picture books.
Listen14:24

The children's book panel with Michele Landsberg and Ken Setterington is a long-standing tradition at The Next Chapter. Our trusty panel recommends seven books for young readers this holiday season.

A World of Kindness edited by Ann Featherstone

A World of Kindness is a collaboration by a number of children's book illustrators. (Pajama Press)

Ken says: "Normally I hate books that teach children. It's not a formula for a great book. But I think we need this book right now. This is a collection of beautiful art, with the theme of kindness. The illustrators involved donated their art and time and the editor Ann Featherstone worked to put it all together. And we need to help our children learn how to be kind." (For ages 3 and up)

Door by JiHyeon Lee

JiHyeon Lee is a South Korean artist and author. (Chronicle Books)

Michele says: "It has a theme of inclusiveness that isn't very obvious, but it's richly portrayed. You see first in black-and-white pencil drawings. The pages then begin to fill up with detail and colour... and lots of impish children dancing around page by page." (For YA readers)

Wicked Nix by Lena Coakley, illustrated by Jaime Zollars

Lena Coakley is an author of children's books. (Lena Coakley/HarperCollins)

Ken says: "This is a novel for middle-grade readers. It's about a fairy — the foulest fairy of the forest. Now when one thinks of fairies, there are a lot of different meanings. But this is the traditional old English folk tale fairy who can be pretty mean. It's an enchanting story and enchanting in the very best sense of the word. It's funny and it's got a wonderful twist at the end." (For ages 9-12)

The Promise by Pnina Bat Zvi and Margie Wolfe, illustrated by Isabelle Cardinal

Margie Wolfe has published books for young people and adults since 1977. (Margie Wolfe/Second Story Press)

Michele says: "This is about instilling empathy and kindness in children. We do live in a strange and difficult world where fascism is on the rise. This book may not be particularly holiday-ish but it is remarkable. The story of two little girls whose parents have been snatched away by the Nazis and end up in Auschwitz and the older sister saves the little one. Finding courage in oneself is a big theme in the story — in the midst of abject terror and menace and potential death. It's a true story which is all the more astonishing." (For teens)

Inkling by Kenneth Oppel, illustrated by Sydney Smith

Inkling is a middle-grade novel by Kenneth Oppel. (Mark Raynes Roberts)

Ken says: "This is the story of a blob of ink. From the very beginning, we start with just a blob of ink and it goes across the page and gets bigger and bigger. It befriends a young boy, who names it 'Inkling' and it is fed great books and literature until it can read and write. This wonderful story is about the power of literature and it's a great adventure." (For middle-grade readers)

Sweep by Jonathan Auxier

Jonathan Auxier is the author of Sweep. (Courtesy of Penguin Random House)

Michele says: "This book is about a girl, Nan Sparrow, who is 11 years old. She's the best climber in all of Victorian London — doing that perilous grimy work of chimney sweeping and it de-romanticizes that work. It's filled with love and imagination. It ends with a big demonstration by all the chimney sweeps, thousands of them, demanding justice and fair treatment. It's beautifully told." (For middle-grade readers)

Meet Viola Desmond by Elizabeth MacLeod, illustrated by Mike Deas  

Elizabeth MacLeod is the author of a children's book about community leader and early civil rights trailblazer Viola Desmond. (Scholastic Canada)

Michele says: "This is all about Viola Desmond, who is on our $10 bill now. It's a biography of her, and it's so good to have that in a children's book right now." (For ages 6 and up)

Michele Landsberg and Ken Setterington's comments have been edited and condensed.

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