Introducing Paper Gains: A Guide to Gifting Children Great Books from Modern Mrs Darcy

Today I’m thrilled to introduce something new. It’s called Paper Gains: a Guide to Gifting Children Great Books from Modern Mrs Darcy. It’s meant to be a fantastic resource for any of you who have wee ones on your gift list this holiday season.  paper gains a guide to gifting children great books from modern mrs darcy

There’s an expression I’ve heard my dad say a hundred times: “paper gains, paper losses.” He likes to keep an eye on his investments, and as he watches their value rise and fall, he likes to remind me (and himself, I suspect) that you haven’t truly won or lost anything until you cash out.

This guide is called “Paper Gains” because you can’t lose with the books listed here. There are no losses. And these days, that’s a rare investment opportunity.

This guide will steer you towards good books for the young people on your gift list. It’s full of books that they’ll love reading–again and again. Books that will turn them into readers. (Hey, it’s full of books you’ll probably love, too!)

Categories include:

This list certainly isn’t exhaustive–but it doesn’t have to be. Because once a kid develops a taste for good books, they’ll be able to find plenty more of them. The challenge is in learning to recognize what makes for a good book in the first place.

By reading great books, kids learn to recognize great literature. Help out a young reader by gifting them a good book this year.

Here’s wishing you—and the young readers in your lives—a very happy holiday.

 View the new, expanded guide here.

paper gains a guide to gifting children great books from modern mrs darcy

What’s your favorite book to gift to young readers?


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  1. Niki says:

    I love your book lists!! If you haven’t read it yet, my absolutely favorite children’s book is “Amos and Boris” by William Steig about a whale and a mouse becoming friends. I mainly use it as a read-aloud, but it does make me get choked up at the end! My kids love it and I like to give it as a gift.

  2. Tim says:

    Mike McClintock’s “A Fly Went By” is my favorite to give to a young young reader. It has a great story, captivating pictures, and is one of the few books for kids that young which has a satisfying Aristotelian structure to it (beginning, middle and end which work together).

    Plus it’s a hoot.


  3. 'Becca says:

    I think you mean “books to pore over” (examine closely) rather than “books to pour over” (use as a sauce?), but aside from that nitpick, this sounds like a great resource! My second-grader has been resistant to reading on his own, so we are hoping to find the right books to inspire him this Christmas.

  4. Grace says:

    Oh, cool! I love this idea. Do you give age recommendations in the guide? What would you say the age range is for all the books? I have 3 nieces who are 12,13, and 14, and I always have the hardest time with them at that age.

    • Anne says:

      Grace, there are age recommendations in the guide. Teens are tough (in my opinion) because they’ve had so many years to read already, they’ve had a decade-plus to build up their bookshelves, and because many of them won’t go near anything they might consider “babyish.”

      I’d flip straight to the “books to fire young imaginations” (which are fiction reads for all age levels) and “series kids love.” Both contain teen-appropriate books.

      Also, there are several movies coming out this year that are based on classic lit: perhaps a beautiful edition of The Hobbit/Lord of the Rings or The Great Gatsby (maybe not for the 12-year-old, but it’s commonly assigned high school freshman reading)? They’re probably a bit young for Anna Karenina.

  5. Katie says:

    LOVE this times a bajillion! Thank you so much for such a fantastic resource.

    Just this past week, my parents brought down a large plastic tote they found in their attic. It was filled with books, all things from my childhood that I’d put back as favorites. I didn’t even remember that they were still there, but it was so exciting to stock my daughter’s bookshelf with things I’d loved and treasured so much.

  6. Corrie Anne says:

    I love this. I try to buy books for my nieces & nephews every year. I bought the girls this book with Nutcracker paper dolls last year, and it was a big hit:

    This year, I’m dying to buy them some of the Penguin Threads books (like this:, but I might wait another year — a little young still!

    • Anne says:

      I love those two suggestions! We’re turning The Nutcracker into an annual tradition at my house, and I think my kids would love that book of paper dolls.

      And that is a gorgeous version of Little Women! That’s definitely an excellent book for young creatives!

  7. As an author of a YA novel for girls and mom of daughters who love to read, I recommend the Mother-Daughter Book club series. It starts when the girls are in sixth grade. Each book centers around a classic book that a group of girls and their mothers read together. There is a lot of high drama, interesting characters, and fun. The latest book is coming out and the characters are now in tenth grade.

    • Anne says:

      I love those Baby Lit books! They’re totally more for the grown-ups reading them than for the kids, but I think that’s perfectly okay. They’ve been cranking out the new titles really quickly, too–just a year ago all they had available were Romeo and Juliet and Pride and Prejudice! A good beginning, but just a beginning.

      I very nearly included a section in Paper Gains entitled “Personal Favorites” (MY favorites!) but I thought the guide would only be useful if it didn’t drag on and on and on….

  8. My gift to you: For teen girls above age 15, I highly recommend Irene Hunt’s Up a Road Slowly, the best coming-of-age-but-in-a-refreshingly-good-way novel I know.

    My request to Anne and her readers: Visit my blog today and help me find apps for my new phone, a device which is soooo much smarter than me it is scary. Scary.

  9. Jennifer H says:

    Great List! We’ve already gone to the library website to request one of them. Here is my contribution: The Melendy quartet by Elizabeth Enright. The first book in the series is The Saturdays – S and I both really loved these. S just recently read The Phantom Tollbooth and asked for another copy to give at his school book exchange this year.

    • Anne says:

      Jennifer, I love the Melendy books! They very nearly made the cut in the “Series Children Love” section. The only reason they got axed was I haven’t read the last one, and I had to narrow it down somehow! I’m glad to hear S loved them–Jack’s only read The Four Story Mistake and we haven’t gotten around to the others yet. (So many books, so little time!) But I’ll tell him S loved them and that might get him motivated to dive back in 🙂

  10. Wendy says:

    I have never seen ‘No such thing as a Dragon” on any book list. I love that book. I think I bought it through one of those scholastic flyers when I was in grade school. Such a great list. Even a couple new to me.


  11. Ally says:

    We gave our 9 year old “The Not for Parents Travel Book” last year and he has LOVED it. A great gift for those fact obsessed, non fiction loving kids.

  12. Michelle O. says:

    Thank you for this list – there were a couple of books there I had forgotten about 🙂

    A couple of series loved by our reading-loving family (ages 42, 40, 11, 9, 4, 2):

    Edward Eager’s (in this order) Half Magic, Magic By The Lake, Knight’s Castle, and The Time Garden.

    The Magic Tree House series by Mary Pope Osborne.

    The Canadian Flyer series by Frieda Wishinsky.

    • Anne says:

      Thanks for the suggestions, Michelle! Edward Eager nearly made this list (I just ran out of space!) and the Magic Tree House books turned my firstborn into a strong reader.

      I don’t know the Canadian Flyer series–thanks for the introduction!

  13. Katie says:

    Interesting list . When I was a teenager I read Daphne Du Maurier – My Cousin Rachel, Rebecca, Jamaica Inn and Frenchman’s creek as well as Moonfleet, Swallows and Amazons series. I also loved Penelope Lively books – The ghost of Thomas Kemp.

    What about Tom’s Midnight Garden, or The Secret Garden or Goodnight Mr Tom – these are children’s classics.

  14. Beth says:

    Anne, thanks so much for this! So helpful! I’ve already purchased books for my cousins for this year (tradition demands books from me for them for Christmas, and I love it!), but my Amazon “save for later” cart is full of your suggestions for next year, and the years to come!

    Also, the book I bought for my youngest cousin, a boy age 6, is of note. They recently visited me and then left from my house to visit the Smoky Mountains for the very first time as a family (I live about an hour away from the park). And, when I was shopping, I found a book called We’re Going to the Mountains, about the joy a family can have when they visit the park. It’s written by a local author, and proceeds benefit the park. I thought this was a really cool opportunity to get a book my cousin will love, that will sort-of commemorate their trip, and benefits the beautiful community I’m a part of!

    Thought I would share this as an idea, if you live in a place that is unique and/or meaningful to people in your life, to look for books that benefit those areas and will also be meaningful on the shelf. 🙂

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  16. Rebecca says:

    I keep coming back to this list. Love it! I love giving Chicken Soup with Rice by Maurice Sendak. The song by Carole King is great, too.

    Looking for a book for a 3rd grade dog lover. Open to suggestions!

    Thanks for sharing!

    • Anne says:

      What about Ribsy by Beverly Clearly? Henry’s dog Ribsy is a fixture in all the Henry Huggins books, but Ribsy is narrated by the dog himself. It’s a great story! My 2nd and 4th grade readers both love the stories (and are able to read the books independently, though they do need help with the occasional word).

      Also the Henry Huggins audiobooks are recorded by Neil Patrick Harris (Doogie Howser) and they’re great 🙂

      • Rebecca says:

        Great idea. I could only think of sad ones (A Dog Called Kitty, Trouble with Tuck, etc). Love that Neil Patrick Harris narrates the audiobooks! Thanks!

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  18. Suzette @ jambalaya says:

    Just skimmed over my copy of Paper Gains! What a wonderful guide! Thanks Anne for consolidating great literature for quick referencing!

  19. R says:

    Sometimes a great book is reflected by a great publisher. Usborne, Kingfisher, and DK Publishing rank up there as putting out consistently enjoyable and interesting books, especially when it comes to non-fiction subjects (history, science, etc). There are a lot of good books out there for girls too but with three boys, we’ve been on a hunt for good boy books. The Sugar Creek Gang series (Paul Hutchens) and Wilderking Trilogy (Jonathan Rogers) are both wonderful. Other favorites: Daddy Long-legs (chapter, girls); all books by Elizabeth George Speare (chapter, both genders, historical fiction); Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm (chapter, girls), Carry on Mr. Bowditch (chapter, historical) children’s books by George MacDonald (The Light Princess, The Princess and the Goblin, The Princess and Curdie, etc – chapter fantasy books; Sir Gibbie is also excellent but for an older child or a read along and discuss book)..

  20. R says:

    PS – I would be careful about classifying “Holes” as a silly book. The first half of the book was silly but the last half was rather dark and frightening. My kids won’t be reading it until they are adolescents at least and maybe not even then.

  21. Jennifer H says:

    I had already read some of them with Samuel, and I checked out some others. I just put another one on my reserve list at the library. I wanted to let you know about another great book I just read to Samuel – The Incredible Journey by Sheila Burnford. I do recommend reading aloud because of the vocabulary and themes, but it’s a great story of love. And I was crying the last few pages so it might be too much for really sensitive children. But for 9 and up, I think it’s a great story.

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