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Book Time: Kids, adult, cookbooks, coffee table books that make the perfect holiday gift

Reviewer Lisa Day offers her gift guide to what else — books
Supplied photo/Lisa Day

You might have noticed I like books. I also like giving books even to those who claim they don’t like to read. I go with the theory: “Everyone is a reader….some just haven’t found their favourite book yet.”

So here is a list of books I would/have bought and encourage you to do the same.

Picture Books

Bye, Penguin

Bye, Penguin made me laugh despite the fact there are no words in the is picture book. Instead, we see a penguin just about to swallow a fish and the ice it is standing on breaks off and penguin floats throughout the word as its piece of ice get smaller and smaller. I loved the ending.

Bye, Penguin is by Seou Lee and from Raincoast Books.

If You Come to Earth

In this picture book, Quinn describes Earth to visitors from outer space. She tells people about the people and creatures who call this planet home. She tells visitors that Earth is made up of towns and cities, and just like those locations, the people who live in them are different, too. But ware also similar. She tells visitors that some people have enough, but others don’t, how the world has bad things like war, but how there are people out there who are willing to help each other.

If you Come to Earth is by Sophie Blackall and Raincoast Books.

The Lady with the Books

I have mentioned this book on this blog before. The Lady with the Book is an amazing story and one that every person should read. It shares the story of Jella Lapman, who fled Germany during the Second World War because she was Jewish. When she returned, she was given a job of helping children affected by war. She decided what would help was provided children books because stories “create bridges of understanding” between people. We learn about Jella through two children, Anneliese and her brother Peter, who are starving, but find themselves lost in stories found in a travelling book exhibit. As a person who believes in the power of stories, this book is highly recommended for people of all ages.

The Lady with the Books is by Kathy Stinson and Kids Can Press.

Little War Cat

Through The Little War Cat, we see how Aleppo, Syria, goes from a beautiful location to one that is dark, scary and miserable. One day the little cat follows a man with a quiet voice home. The little cat finds other cats being cared for by this man. Until one day, little cat finds a little boy who is also scared and alone. This is a beautiful book, based on a true story.

The Little War Cat is by Hiba Noor Khan  and PGC Books .

Oh What a Busy Day

I have read Oh What a Busy Day to almost every child who has come into my house. I myself have been reading it since I was a kid, getting it out of the library as often as I could. Eventually, I bought my own copy.

Oh What a Busy Day is beautiful, both in words and illustrations. It’s not one story, but rather each double page spread offers its own something – a poem, some sort of adventure the characters are going on or some way to use your own imagination.

Oh What a Busy Day is by Gyo Fujikawa.

Other beautiful picture books:

  • Once Upon A Balloon by Bree Galbraith
  • Pandora by Victoria Turnbull
  • The Uncorker of Ocean Bottles by Michelle Cuevas

Middle grade

I am a big fan of middle grade. They often touch on some serious issues, but an accessible way. What is also great about books for this age group is there isn’t a lot of love stories.

Cleo Porter and the Body Electric

Cleo Porter and the Body Electric was written before the pandemic struck, but it’s eerily similar.

Like everyone else, Cleo Porter is sealed into an apartment without doors and windows to protect her from Influenza D, which ripped through the population, killing many people before finally, as a way to stop the spread, residents were forced into large apartment buildings, unable to leave. Fast forward into the future, and people haven’t been outside in decades, receiving everything they need – food, furniture, clothing – via drones that drop items off into a chamber, sealing the spot back up behind them. Even Cleo’s mom, who is a doctor, performs operations using drones remotely. But one day, medicine is delivered to Cleo’s house by mistake and Cleo, training to be a doctor, decides she has to leave in order to get the medicine to the person before it expires – and that person dies.

Despite living through COVID-19 and its restrictions, including the request not to leave home, Cleo’s world still seems science fiction, which likely makes the read interesting without being scary. The length of which Cleo goes to ensure the medicine reaches the right person is impressive and the ending couldn’t have been more perfect.

Cleo Porter is by Jake Burt and from Raincoast Books.

The List

The List is amazing. Considered a dystopian middle grade, The List is set after a major environmental disaster. Letta, a wordsmith, is the keeper of The List, 500 words that residents of the Arc can use. When the Arc’s leaders shorten the List, Letta worries about the lost language. “Before it’s too late, Letta must ask what is life without language?”

The book is a fast read and a great way to talk about the importance of language, and the problem without having it. The Lie, its sequel, is also good, and wraps up the duology nicely, but we enjoyed The List more.

The List is by Patricia Ford and from Raincoast Books

Other middle grade

  • A Box of Bones by Marina Cohen. I also loved her book The Inn Between.
  • Harry Potter. I read it the series as an adult. I read the series to my son a couple of years ago and it was equally magically reading it to him as it was reading it myself 20 years earlier.
  • The Mystery of Black Hallow Lane. What a great series. The second book, The Secret of White Stone Gate, was amazing as well. We are looking forward to Book 3.
  • Magyk by Angie Sage follows the story of Septimus Heap. There are six other books in the series and they held our interest from start to finish: Flyte, Physik, Queste, Syren, Darke and Fyre. My son is desperate for the movie to come out and while the rights were purchased, the movie hasn’t been created yet.


Confessions of a Forty-Something F**K Up

Confessions of a Forty-Something F**K Up by Alexandra Potter was my favourite adult book this year. It made me laugh at a time when I needed a good laugh. It also helped that Neil was roughly the same as me and much like the rest of us, she hasn’t figured it out either. Her friend, 80-year-old Cricket, was also an amazing character.

Confessions of a Forty-Something F**K Up is from PGC Books.

Midnight Sun

Midnight Sun is Stephenie Meyer’s long waiting book from the Twilight Series, but this time from Edward Cullen’s point of view. The book was a monster – around 700 pages – and unlike a number of other books, where I could only get about 84 pages in, I read this one from start to finish in over a couple of days. I liked it. It was really interested to read the story from Edward’s perspective. Actually, it would be interesting to read the story from each of the main character’s perspectives. I also liked getting to know Edward more.

The Harpy

Other than recommending you read The Harpy by Megan Hunter, I can’t tell you anything else about it without potentially blowing the ending. The book is about Lucy and Jake, who have been together since their early 20s. “Then one afternoon, Lucy receives a phone call from a man who informs her Jake has been having an affair with his wife.” To show how sorry he is, Lucy and Jake make a deal – Lucy can hurt Jake like he hurt her.

The Harpy is from PGC Books.


Just Crumbs Baked

York Region resident Suzie Durigon cookbook is about my favourite type of cooking – mainly baking like lemon curd cookies and pumpkin spice sticky buns, but also savoury meals such as mini Southern chicken pot pies and baked polenta pie with garlic rapini and smoked provolone.

Each recipe contains a photo – important to me in a cookbook – and served with Durigon’s sense of humour. Comments often make me laugh out loud. Many recipes also include crumbles, ways to change up the recipe provided. I have tried a number of recipes in this book and they have all turned out well.

DK’s Complete Children’s Cookbook

This DK cookbook has a variety of recipes that are easy to make with ingredients you often have around. Each recipe offers a photo of the completed dish as well as step-by-step photos. It’s a cookbook I often turn to and recipes always work. DK’s step-by-step vegetarian cookbook is also great. It inspired me to try more vegetarian dishes.

Coffee table books

DK Wonders of Nature is a beautiful book showcasing some of this planet’s wonders, including the traveller’s tree. (“There is a myth that the traveller’s tree leaves always point in the same direction, so travellers can use them to find there way) and the wombat. Each creature gets a double page spread with a mix of real photographs and illustrations. There are a couple paragraphs of information about the creature as well.

DK’s The Wonders of the Universe is also beautiful.


Lisa Day is the author of two book blogs, Book Time, where she reviews a variety of books for a variety of readers and offers author Q&As, and, book reviews that inspire armchair travel.