As promised, here’s our list of giftable middle grade and young adult books with that little extra something that will make them memorable gifts. For starters, if you have a middle-grader in your family, I hardly need to sell you on the Lemony Snicket series. Little, Brown and Company’s latest edition, Lemony Snicket: "Who Could That Be at This Hour?" is a true celebration of the love of books. Sub-librarian Dashiell Qwerty figures large in this mystery about the power of literature. You’ve got to love a detective story about a town where you can pay your taxi fare by recommending a good book to your driver.
Tales of a Sixth-Grade Muppet: The Good, the Bad, and the Fuzzy (Tales of a 6th Grade Muppet)
with story and art by Kirk Scroggs is a witty follow-up to last year’s Tales of a Sixth-Grade Muppet. Our hero, Danvers Blickensderfer got his wish to hang out with his favorite Muppet pals by being turned into a Muppet himself (better known as Muppetmorphosis). And now he’s found himself at the mercy of school bully Beebus Spracklin. Luckily, Danvers’s pals Gonzo, Miss Piggy and the rest of the Muppets have his back.
The Expeditioners written by S. S. Taylor and illustrated by Katherine Roy is the first middle-grade novel from McSweeney’s McMullens. In this world, computers have failed, electricity is extinct, and the race to discover new lands is underway. Brilliant explorer Alexander West has just died under mysterious circumstances, but not before smuggling half of a strange map to his intrepid children. You can see this book’s trailer here:
Zom-B by Darren Shan Little is the first installment of Little, Brown Company’s ambitious 12-book series, which will run until 2015 and see a new book published every three months. Zom-B is a clever mix of horror, fantasy and realism but it’s really about the damaging “virus” of racial hatred and social paranoia. The key relationship in the book is between teenager B Smith and his rancidly prejudiced father. B’s dad is a convincingly volatile and unpredictable bully and yet one capable of deft manipulation. The book is a carefully crafted attack on those who pull the strings to incite hatred.
A great choice for a family gift is the Atlas of the Great Irish Famine edited by John Crowley, William J. Smyth, and Mike Murphy. This is an extraordinary book: beautifully produced, brimming with color plates, photos and illustrations. You’ll hardly believe such lush texts are still produced. Any Irish-American family would treasure this book, but any student of European history will find this a fascinating text. While the subject matter is harrowing, it nonetheless represents the defining modern episode of the Irish people. A joint venture of Cork University and New York University Press, this is a rare find—a combination of scholarship and high production values that feels rich in every way, but I found it on Amazon for less than $65. When you consider the price of the average hard-covered book, this one’s an absolute steal.