Children’s book recommendations for Christmas

NICK EICHER, HOST: Today is Friday, November 23rd. Good morning! This is The World and Everything in It from member-supported WORLD Radio. I’m Nick Eicher.

MARY REICHARD, HOST: And I’m Mary Reichard. Today is Black Friday—known as one of the busiest shopping days of the year.

And this year, it just happens to coincide with WORLD Magazine’s 2018 Books of the Year issue. You can find all the honorees at, but right now book reviewer Mary Jackson is on the line to talk about some great book recommendations for children.

Mary, I think you have more than a little bit of experience with this topic?

MARY JACKSON, REPORTER: Yes, my husband and I have four children, so we have three boys and a girl. They’re ages 15, 13, 10, and 3.  

REICHARD: Well, that’s quite an age range, Mary! Different children have different reading styles. I wonder how you go about choosing books for them?

JACKSON: My 15-year-old son is a voracious reader. So, finding enough books for him is always a challenge. He’s the reason I’ve had to educate myself on what is good, worthwhile reading material. My middle daughter and my son are a lot more particular, so it can be hard to find books that appeal to them. My 10-year-old I would say is a reluctant reader. He would only read graphic novels if I let him.

And then there’s my 3-year-old, who’s still a nice, clean slate, and with three older siblings and our family’s busy lifestyle, he’s easily distracted, so I’m always looking for books with engaging characters that will hold his attention.

REICHARD: Let’s dive into some of your favorite titles for different age ranges. Let’s start with babies and toddlers.

JACKSON: Yes, well, my son is still in the toddler stage, but we keep going back to the Baby Believer series by Danielle Hitchens and these are colorful board books. They would make great Christmas gifts. They’re infused with Scripture and basic Biblical truth. My son’s favorite is The Psalms of Praise: A Movement Primer.

Another one we just discovered is God Counts: Numbers in His World and His World by Irene Sun.

REICHARD: And what about picture books?

JACKSON: For picture books, I recommend The Dangerous Journey. It’s an abridged version of The Pilgrim’s Progress by Oliver Hunkin. And some of the images in this book might be too scary for young children, but I think every family should own a copy. They’ll go back over it every year.

REICHARD: Let’s move on to early readers. What titles can you recommend for them?

JACKSON: One book we really like is The Beginner’s Gospel Story Bible by Jared Kennedy. It has bold, colored illustrations, 52 stories from creation to Christ’s final return. I like that each story ends with an application question and a simple truth, and I plan to give this book to some early readers in our life this Christmas.

REICHARD: You mentioned you have a reluctant reader in your brood. What book was particularly good for him that might appeal to other reluctant readers?

JACKSON: Yes, for my son, chapter books need to be action-packed, so we really like and recommend S.D. Smith’s Green Ember series. It has sword-wielding rabbits and daring quests and all the things that reluctant readers enjoy. So, that’s a great one. And then my son also loves Kate Siber’s National Parks of the USA. It’s a feast for the eyes. It’s got colorful illustrations, it’s a great Christmas gift for a reluctant reader.

REICHARD: OK, now for the middle grades. Definite preferences for literature come out during that time. What books do you recommend for this age range?

JACKSON: Yes, my daughter loved the Penderwick series by Jeanne Birdsall. The last book just came out earlier this year, so a boxed set would make a really nice gift for a middle grade reader. And the series has a lot of appeal. It’s got a retro feel and strong family bonds. I think most middle grade readers would really enjoy this series.

REICHARD: Finally, what about teenagers? You have a few of those, too!

JACKSON: Yes, my teenage son is a sports fanatic. So, we came across Joshua Cooley’s The Biggest Win and that was a real hit for him. It features interviews with six Christian players from the Philadelphia Eagles, the 2017 Super Bowl champions, and they discuss things like faith, identity, and spiritual disciplines.

And then my daughter moved from tween to teen this summer, and we came across a great book that I think would be a real great gift for a tween or teen that is moving into caring more about looks and that is True Beauty by Carolyn Mahaney and her daughter Nicole Mahaney Whitacre. They address the lie that beauty is about what you look like. And the book was really relatable for my daughter, but I also liked that it’s pointing young girls to the truth of who God says they are and how He defines beauty.

REICHARD: Mary Jackson reviews children’s books for WORLD Magazine. Always great to have help choosing books! Thanks, Mary.

JACKSON: You’re welcome.

(Photo/Jeremy Hiebert, Flickr)

WORLD Radio transcripts are created on a rush deadline. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of WORLD Radio programming is the audio record.

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