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Books for holidays, for winter days

By December 15, 2020September 16th, 2023No Comments

By Allison Campbell-Jensen

Alex TrebeckWhether you are looking for a last-minute gift or seeking a wintertime getaway for yourself, you may want to consider these books.

Amy Riegelman, Social Sciences Librarian, writes: Have a “Jeopardy!” fan in your life? “The Answer Is . . . Reflections on My Life” by Alex Trebek (RIP) was quite good.

Lisa Von Drasek, Curator of the Children’s Literature Research Collections, offers books to help cope with the pandemic — and more.

For grown-ups and grown-ups that work with children and teens: “Shelter” by Margaret Hasse, illustrated by Sharon DeMark. (Nodin Press, 2020) A collaboration between poet and artist, this exquisite volume of short poems and watercolor poems began as two friends to reflect and process isolation in pandemic time focusing on the theme of shelter and what that means to family, friends, and even animals.

Looking for Smile

Looking for Smile

Picture book for preschoolers: “Looking for Smile,” written by Ellen Tarlow, Illustrated by Lauren Stringer, Beach Lane Books. A book for all of us who have been experiencing big sad feelings during these pandemic times. Sweetly reassuring. Watch a video of the illustrator sharing how the illustrations are made.

The Most Beautiful ThingPicture book for 5 and up: “The Most Beautiful Thing,” by Kao Kalia Yang, illustrated by Khoa Le; Carolrhoda Books, an imprint of Lerner Publishing Group. Yang’s memoir of growing up with her Hmong migrant family that includes her brave and beautiful grandmother.

The author provides a pronunciation guide.

Easy reader: “See the Cat: Three Stories about a Dog,” by David LaRochelle, illustrated by Mike Wohnoutka; Candlewick Press, 2020. From the brilliant writer and illustrator team of Moo! Is an easy reader that will tickle the fans of Mo Willems’s Pigeon books.

These books suggested by Lacie McMillin, AIS, are not all new but they are all notable.

The Book of Longings“Book of Longings” by Sue Monk Kidd. Follow Ana, the rebellious daughter of a wealthy family in Sepphoris as she struggles to make her voice heard during an era when women are often silenced. It’s an inspiring work of historical fiction telling a story about strength, spirituality, and passion. I always describe it to my friends as: “What if Jesus had a feminist wife?”

“American Wolf: A True Story of Survival and Obsession in the West,” by Nate Blakeslee. Through the story of O-Six, a beloved alpha female wolf in Yellowstone, Blakeslee illustrates the power struggles between hunters, cattle ranchers, wildlife management, and environmentalists. Wolves had been hunted to near extinction in the 1920s and now return to the Rockies. It’s a fascinating non-fiction book that reads like a novel. (And who doesn’t love wolves? They’re so cool!)

They Called Us Enemy“They Called Us Enemy,” by George Takei, co-written with Justin Eisinger and Steven Scott and illustrated by Harmony Becker. A graphic memoir about George Takei’s experience as a child when he was forced to live in American concentration camps with his family during WWII. If you’ve never given graphic novels a try, or think they’re just comic books, check this book out. Graphic novels can be incredibly powerful.

“The Life We Bury,” by Minnesota author Allen Eskens. A mystery about a U of M student assigned to write a biography about someone interesting, and he chooses to write about a man who was in prison for 30 years for murdering a 14-year-old girl but now is dying of cancer. It’s a thrilling mystery, and I was really excited about how relatable it is that the main character is a U student. Eskens has written many other books too. Try this local author!

The Madwoman UpstairsThe Madwoman Upstairs,” by Catherine Lowell (from Becky Adamski). The last remaining descendant of the Bronte family arrives in Oxford for school. Once there, she is given residence in a tower room and receives editions of works from the Bronte sisters that were once in her late father’s library. This leads her on a literary treasure hunt for her ancestor’s long-rumored secret estate with reluctant help from her professor. It is an enjoyable read for fans of the Brontes or those who like literary mysteries.

And McMillin offers some more book-finding resources:

Give, enjoy, and share.


From left: Lisa Drasek is curator of the Children’s Literature Research Collections, Amy Riegelman is Social Sciences Librarian, and Lacie McMillin is in Access & Information Services at the University of Minnesota Libraries.


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