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Easy Gift Guide: Books & Companion Toys
For parents who want a quick & easy holiday & birthday wishlist
Quick Things You Need To Know:
- I thought it’d be opportunistic to create a gift list of all the books I think you should buy (as opposed to get from the library) but Rebekah L., one of our Co-Conspirators, told me a list like this would be super-duper helpful to guide grandparents during the holidays. So here it is!
- These are the books I super wish we owned, because I’d read them every week for my kids’ entire childhood if we could. But full transparency, I don’t own most of these, we just can’t afford to buy books unless we get them as gifts.
- I’m trying to cut down on plastic, so while the first version of this post includes some plastic toys, I’m finding more sturdy & sustainable options to add as we go
Gisela (Luke’s mom and the founder of Luke’s Lights), gifted R2 a free light when he posted in our local Buy Nothing group asking for a solar light to handle his zombies-in-the-dark fears. It’s nice and durable, works perfectly for my late-night-readers, and pairs perfectly with Chandra’s Magic Light.
- West Meadows Detectives Ages 7+
- Shirley And Jamila Save Their Summer Ages 8+
- Find more Kids Books Celebrating Neurodiversity
Pair them with:
- A swanky plastic-free magnifying glass
- An official-looking evidence notepad.
- If you can manage this without spoiling the ending of West Meadows Detectives: A racoon plush.
- If they’re sporty like Jamila: a basketball if you’ve got access to a court, or indoor basketball kit if not.
- For sensory-seeking kiddos, pick up stim toys or jewelry from the Autistic-founded & employed company, Stimastic.co. 10% of proceeds from sales go back to the autism community in the form of charitable donations and direct giving.
Give back: Donate to the Autistic Women & Nonbinary Network
For kids with big feelings
Read: The Rabbit Listened (ages 2.5+)
Pair it with: Natural wooden blocks, stripy pajamas (we like Hanna Andersson for our kid with sensory issues if we can find it at the thrift shop, but Leveret is soft enough if we have to buy new), and a plush rabbit.
Give back: Donate to the Mass Adoption Resource Exchange, which supports kids awaiting adoption who are traditionally overlooked by adoptive families – including kids of color, siblings, kids with disabilities, and teens.
For kids getting hand-me-downs
We read this before every holiday and birthday, to remind kids that when they get gifts, it’s the thought that counts
Pair it with: A nice toy from the thrift store, and whatever supplies you need to clean & repair it. For older kids (6.5+), consider getting a kid-sized tool kit.
Give back: Support Cradles to Crayons’ Emergency Essentials Fund to get diapers, hygiene supplies, and other urgent supplies to our most vulnerable families, or to the main fund to support holiday gifts and school supplies for kids in need.
For sensory artists
Read: Morris Micklewhite And The Tangerine Dress (ages 3-7)
Pair it with:
For kids defiant kids
Read: I Dissent
Give back: Donate to the ACLU to support civil rights advocacy through the US court system.
For science nerds
Pair with: Honestly – the toys are built in, so you won’t need companion gadget to get kids excited.
Give back: Choose a class to support through Donors Choose. Use the search function to support students and teachers in underfunded schools who need support in a topic your kids are excited about – like lab equipment and field trips to a science museum.
Support Members of the Raising Luminaries Community & Friends
- The neurodivergent kiddo goes through lots of chew necklaces – so every year, we buy our stim toys from the Autistic-owned Stimtastic. I’ve worked with Stimtastic in the past, who helped me provide chew stims for a local group home for displaced kids, and they’re great.
- A neighbor in our local buy-nothing project generously gifted a solar-powered light for R2 when he asked “Hi, I’m R2. I’m scared of people saying ‘Braaaiiins’ in the dark. Can I have a solar-powered flashlight? Please?”
It turns out she runs an organization that donates these to kids without access to clean & reliable electricity. Initiatives like this transform environmental, health, and wealth-equity justice. If you buy a Luke’s Light for your kids, they’ll donate another. While you’re at it – pick up a copy of Chandra’s Magic Light to talk about this concept with your family.
- Check out Paper Liberated for your adult friends, and Real Life Bricks for your kid friends – both of these are small businesses founded by members of our patreon community. We’re in cahoots! If you’re a patreon supporter and make good giftables, tell us in the comments!
- For your kyriarchy-smashing friends who are big readers: Check out our Luminary Brain Trust #GrownUpBookClub list of recommended reads for adults.
All The Books You Need To Own
Books I adore, in no particular order – I’ll have to sort it into ages later
Both me and my kids enjoy reading these over and over and over and over
- The Library Lion
- Noni Speaks Up
- The Smallest Girl In The Smallest Grade
- How To Be A Lion
- Seaver The Weaver
- Where Oliver Fits
- The Book Of Mistakes
- The Dot
- What You Do Matters
- On A Magical Do Nothing Day
- Everybody Needs A Rock
- The King And The Sea
- Crazy Horse’s Vision
- Julia’s House For Lost Creatures
- Peaceful Fights For Equal Rights
- Hiawatha and the Peacemaker
- We Are Brothers
- Sweet Briar Goes To Camp
- What’s My Superpower
- The Araboolies Of Liberty Street
- Seeds of Change
- The Belly Book
- The Umbrella
- Sophie’s Squash
- Quickest Kid In Clarksville
- Findus Plants Meatballs, When Findus Was Little and Disappeared, Findus And The Fox, The Birthday Cake, and so on.
- Hush, Little Dragon – this might be too dark for some of you, but I find the implied hunting and eating of humans hilarious, when couched in a baby’s lullaby. I’ll admit this is more for me than for the kids.
- Real Cowboys
- We Don’t Eat Our Classmates
- Last Stop On Market Street
- Drawn Together – my kids like the illustration, but this is really for me. For anyone who feels the ache of losing their childhood language, and faces barriers connecting with non-English-speaking grandparents…OOF. I can’t read this book, or even think about this book, without choking up and turning into a crying, boogery mess.
- The Story of Little Babaji – In this less problematic version of Little Sambo, it’s still whitewashed. But OH. MY. GOSH. – the illustrations. I pee a little every time we read it because the illustrations make us laugh so hard.
- After The Fall
- The Wild Robot (both books)
- Tough Chicks
- The Red Lollipop
- King For A Day
- The Nian Monster
- Red: A Crayon’s Story
- The Red Lemon, Where Oliver Fits, Strictly No Elephants
- Not Quite Narwhal
- I Like It When
- Jaden Toussaint Series
- Ana Hibiscus
Books for kids
- Goofy books that we can count on for a laugh
- Books For The Next Generation Of Kind & Brilliant Leaders
- Kids Books About Radical Kindness
- Books About Girls of Color Are Not Just For Girls
- Wordless Picture Books To Buy You A Few Minutes of Quiet
- Q has been working on this list of Graphic Novels for Elementary-Aged Kids all year
- The Winter Favorites we’ve enjoyed over 8 years of reading so many winter books.
- Head to my Bookshop page to find recommendations by age.
- I just LOVE Coloring Without Borders. If I was rich, I’d give this as a gift to every kid I know. The proceeds support families separated at the border.
- Books for Teens & Adults
Big Kid Book Club (10+) Books my kids are still too young to enjoy – but maybe you know older kids & teens who can!
Interactive Books To Give New
Interactive books tend arrive tattered and falling apart in the library, so these are worth splurging on
- Cook In A Book – Pizza, Pancakes & Tacos (yes, get all three, R2 makes me at least one different dish each night for storytime). They are actually real recipe books, too! OH MY GOSH THERE’S A COOKIE ONE NOW!!
- The Robot Book – Admittedly there is one page where hte gears don’t line up and the arm broke, but it’s more solid than most fidget books, and my kids still love it. Avoid the board book, as it’s not interactive like the hardcover version.
- If You’re A Robot And You Know It – R2 loved this so much he saved up and spent his own money on a new copy to keep.
- This Book Is A Planetarium
- Chomp! – Surprisingly sturdy, and the kids loved this years beyond what I expected.
- It’s Useful To Have A Duck – not so much for the ‘story,’ as the many uses an accordion-fold book has in building forts, walls, barriers, and being dragged through the house. Both kids despaired when I had to bring it back to the library.
- Beautiful Oops and the companion are steady classics.
Gift Books That Pair Well With Toys
Because even though books are awesome, kids want toys, and this will smooth the path for being the nerd who gives books as gifts.
- Changes, Changes + Set of blocks or magnetic tiles
- Chalk + glitter chalk
- Where Oliver Fits + jumbo world puzzle
- Seeds of Change + gardening kit + DIY your own seed bombs
- The Book Of Mistakes + nib, ink & thick paper (Q is REALLY into this at age 6 – walnut ink is easier to wash up than india ink, btw.)
- Big Snow + Indoor snowballs
- Iggy Peck + modular waldorf-style building toys, like this rainbow set, this castle set, or this Da Vinci Bridge set
- Ada Twist + lab gear
- Rosie Revere + design & engineering kit or flying machine kit
- If I built a house + beginner’s drafting kit + large-square graph paper
- Rot, The Cutest In The World + Mr. Potato head set
- Sugar Cookies + play cookie set or real baking kit
- Red: A Crayon’s Story
- Carmela Full Of Wishes + wish jar, flying wish paper, or wishing craft kit
- Claymates + modeling clay kit
- Chickens To The Rescue Series – (particularly if you get the entire series, it’s mostly funny, but with a super sweet ending on the last book) & a farm animal toy set
- Little Robot + kids tool belt kit
- Hug Me + felt succulent kit, big or mini cactus squishable
- Ron’s Big Mission + library card
- The Robot Book + Robot Toy
- If You’re A Robot And You Know It + Robot Building Game
- Fix It! + toddler-friendly toy tools
- Cook it! + felt pizza set
- Clean it! + Dusty the talking vacuum
- Dorothea Lange or Gordon Parks + kid-proof camera (or like this one)
Gift Books For Graduates, Moves & Adventures
Practical Books That Are Handy To Have Around
- Little Tree – For first-day jitters, pre-medical checkups & operations,
- The Most Magnificent Thing – For frustrating, no-good, days
- A Sick Day For Amos McGhee – for sick days
- Bob, Not Bob! – for sick days
- Sun Bread – for those neverending, frigid, dark days of winter
- Let’s Talk About Body Boundaries, Consent And Respect – because you’re going to need to read this at least a few times a year, every year.
- Goodbye Mousie and The Fall Of Freddie The Leaf – super helpful to have around for sudden bouts of anxiety about death, and if/when a pet or loved one passes away.
- Finklehopper Frog – For when kids make fun of them at school.