If you look on any best-selling toy list this year, you'll find 42 items from the movie FROZEN and they, like most other gifts, will do something amazing like make noise, connect with other things in your house, suck the imagination out of every member of your home.

This year, your kid will want things that make noise and require every battery you've ever purchased.  Your kid might not know it, but the most important gift you could give is the ability to create wonder from within.  After the ten minutes they spend with the latest robot or the two months they spend playing with the new doll, those things will become more clutter in your home and quickly forgotten.  Books, though, are forever.

I remember reading the Velveteen Rabbit and it haunting me with beauty and sadness.  I remember reading about the joy and the struggles in that Little House on the Prairie.  I solved crimes with Nancy Drew and fantasized about living in a tree house on a lonely island.  All these things and the thousand other things I learned from books live in me far longer than the Cabbage Patch doll I got in 1984.  Her name was Carrie Odetta and she sat next to me the first time I cried when Ender discovered his brilliance was used to wipe out an entire race of beings.

It's not the most exciting gift -- but giving it -- and encouraging kids to read, will give them a future that is more than then next big fad.

So, with all that, you might like some recommendations.  Below are some of my favorites from my childhood.  Some are favorites I have read to my nieces or my stepson.  Some you need to read again and again.  I've highlighted my absolute favorites below.

First Books for Non-Readers

  • The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle
  • Where The Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak
  • Jamberry by Bruce Degen
  • Cars and Trucks and Things That Go by Richard Scarry
  • Freight Train by Donald Crews
  • Sheep in a Jeep by Nancy Shaw
  • Green Eggs and Ham by Dr. Seuss
  • Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day by Judith Viorst

Books for Elementary Readers

  • Eloise by Kay Thompson
  • The Mouse and the Motorcycle by Beverly Cleary
  • The Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum
  • Are You There God?  It's Me, Margaret by Judy Blume
  • Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling
  • The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis
  • The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan
  • Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH by Robert C. O'Brien
  • The Cricket in Times Square by George Selden and Garth Williams
  • Charlotte's Web by E.B.White
  • James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl

Books for Advanced Readers (Older Elem, Tween, HS)

  • The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie
  • The Birchbark House by Louise Erdrich
  • To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
  • The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare
  • Watership Down by Richard Adams
  • Because of Winn-Dixie by Kate DiCamillo
  • The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank
  • Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt
  • The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman
  • The Borrowers by Mary Norton
  • Sarah, Plain and Tall by Patricia MacLachlan
  • The Wee Free Men by Terry Pratchett
  • The Phantom Toolbooth by Norton Juster and Jules Feiffer
  • Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card
  • The Twenty-one Balloons by William Pene Du Bois