When you buy a special book for a child at Hanukkah, Christmas, or Kwanzaa, it helps your child to create emotional connections linking family, tradition, and reading. It also sends the message that receiving books is as pleasurable an experience as receiving toys.

I asked Natacha Liuzzi, librarian and book buyer, for some age-pertinent book suggestions for gift giving this year. Natacha’s youthful appearance belies the fact that she has years of experience connecting kids to books. For eight years, Natacha was the Children’s Services Librarian at the Hinesburg Public Library in Hinesburg, Vermont. There she was responsible for buying all the children’s, middle grade, and young adult materials, servicing children from toddlers through to high school students. Natacha also operated the independent Brown Dog Books and Gifts in Hinesburg, Vermont for many years. She has served on a committee that nominates picture books for the Red Clover Award, Vermont’s annual student choice awards. She also served as the RIF coordinator for the Hinesburg Community School, providing each student with a free book three times yearly, and she was the Hinesburg Literacy Team coordinator working with area preschool and reading teachers throughout Chittenden County.

Finding a special book for the child you love can be an overwhelming task given the selection available at your bookstore. Natacha offers the following advice:

  • Find out what the child or teen has read already. Ask them what authors they like to read.
  • Discover the subjects and topics that interest them.
  • Find out if they prefer fiction or nonfiction, fantasy or reality.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask your neighborhood children’s librarian or children’s books seller for suggestions and advice.
  • Read your local newspaper’s book section. Many newspapers and magazines feature book suggestions this time of year.
  • Be consumer savvy. The books with biggest marketing budgets are not necessarily the best books for you child or teen. And conversely, a book you’ve never heard of may contain the story that changes your child’s or teen’s life. Natacha says, “Just because a book jacket may look promising does not mean the story is going to live up to it. We all fall victim at one time or another to ‘judging a book by its cover.'”
  • Take into consideration the content and age recommendation. I think great care needs to be taken, especially if a young reader is at a higher reading level. Even though the child can read the material the content is not always appropriate.
  • No one is ever too old for a picture book!!

Consider all possibilities: great literature and fun, entertaining books. Says Natacha, “Think of books in terms of chocolate mousse and a Hershey kiss. There are moments for both!”

© 2023 The National Children’s Book and Literacy Alliance