My kids' wish lists both are packed with books - and gift cards to book stores so they can pick out more books all year.
We're a family of readers. And, through my work, I've had a chance to read a lot and also meet and chat with lots of North Carolina authors, who are weaving the stories my kids and their friends love to read.
If you're looking for that one final gift or another recommendation to send over to grandma, here are some fantastic books by North Carolina authors for children (and their adults) - from picture book to middle grade to young adult.
Thanks so much to Quail Ridge Books and Amy Kurtz Skelding, host of the fun and informative Raleigh-based KidLit Drink Night podcast for helping me to compile this list. The KidLit Drink Night podcast has all kinds of great information for adults who are interested in children's books, including how they're made and how they're written.
We'll start with the youngest and move on up to young adult books ...
"Tea Cakes for Tosh," by Kelly Starling Lyons
"Anyone who’s listened to our podcast for more than five seconds already knows that I’m a ginormous Kelly Starling Lyons fangirl," Skelding from the KidLit Drink Night podcast. "I’m unable to even think about her picture book, "Tea Cakes for Tosh," without tearing up. It’s the story of a special relationship between a grandchild and grandparent. It's sweet yet powerful, and contains a recipe at the end. Illustrations by E.B. Lewis illuminate this wonderful book."
"The Knights Before Christmas," by Joan Holub
In this fun play on "Twas the Night Before Christmas," three pretty silly nights battle an unexpected foe - Santa Claus. And, as Holub writes, "no matter their efforts, they just wouldn't go!" My seven-year-old has big belly laughs every time she reads this one. (Older readers will enjoy Holub's "Goddess Girls" and "Heroes in Training" middle grade series).
"Beautiful" by Stacy McAnulty
I featured McAnulty on Go Ask Mom earlier this fall. She's had a bunch of books come out this year, including "Beautiful," which is all about redefining what beautiful really means for young girls. McAnulty described her intent in that interview: "When a girl is doing something kind or challenging or fun, her inner beauty overwhelms her exterior, no matter what she wears or how her hair looks," she wrote. "When a girl feels empowered or strong or smart, the same thing happens." And that's exactly the kind of beauty this book portrays.
"Hey, Coach," by Linda Ashman
Another North Carolina picture book author with a flurry of books this year, Ashman was featured on Go Ask Mom this spring. Her latest book, "Hey, Coach," is perfect for the young sports lover. It captures the enthusiasm - and attention span - of the typical youth soccer player. And it will resonate with just about any parent and coach who has done their time on the sidelines. With two sports-loving girls, I love that this book shows both girls and boys enjoying being part of a team.
Middle Grade (ages 8 to 12)
"The Goblin's Puzzle" by Andrew Chilton
"Few things in life bring me greater pleasure than a middle grade fantasy adventure novel. It’s as if Andrew Chilton wrote "The Goblin's Puzzle" with me in mind," writes Skelding of the KidLit Drink Night podcast. "This clever and funny book is populated by a loveably oddball cast of heroes who are up against an even stranger bunch of baddies and bureaucrats. Dragons, goblins, and logic puzzles keep readers entertained and engaged. And, the book has a map in it. A MAP. Enough said."
"The Secret Horses of Briar Hill" by Megan Shepherd
This was a page turner for my 11-year-old daughter. The book, by the New York Times bestselling author and Asheville resident, tells the story of the winged horses who live in the mirrors of Briar Hill Hospital, which is filled with sick children. One of those children, Emmaline, however, finds a horse that has left the mirror world. The book was recently featured in Time magazine and is a Kirkus Reviews Best Book of 2016.
Mo & Dale series by Shelia Turnage
The New York Times bestselling author has three books, so far, in the series - "Three Times Lucky," "The Ghosts of Tupelo Landing," and "The Odds of Getting Even." The great people who make up the children's book department at Quail Ridge Books in Raleigh are huge fans of the author, who helped the store celebrate its new location in North Hills.
Of the latest book, "The Odds of Getting Even," they wrote: "How does she do it? Sheila Turnage's Mo & Dale Mysteries just get better and better (and when you start with Three Times Lucky as a base, that's saying a lot). Mo, Dale, family and friends are back and dealing with trouble close to home. Dale's no-good daddy is on the run, and Tupelo Landing, NC is suffering a serious and escalating crime spree. Is Dale's belief in his dad's innocence overoptimistic?"
Serafina series by Robert Beatty
With two bestsellers to his name, Beatty's book take place in and around the Biltmore estate in Asheville. It tells the story of Serafina and the magical world she lives in. "Serafina and the Black Cloak" arrived at book stores in 2015, followed by "Serafina and the Twisted Staff," which came out this summer. On the second book, the Kirkus review says, “even better than its predecessor, a sequel that delivers nonstop thrills from beginning to end."
Young Adult (ages 12 and up)
"This Girl is Different," by JJ Johnson
"The thing I admire most about Durham YA author JJ Johnson is her ability to craft stories that are both captivating and important with a capital ‘I,'" writes Skelding from the KidLit Drink Night podcast. "If I had to pick just one of her books (which is wicked hard) my choice would be 'This Girl is Different.' The book’s themes include social justice, standing up for one’s beliefs, and dealing with the consequences of your actions. It’d be a great read as a group for the engaging discussion that would ensue. And if you do have a discussion, invite me!"
"A World Without You," by Beth Revis
This one is on Skelding's list of books to be read very soon. The psychological thriller by Revis, another New York Times bestselling author, is about a boy who believes he's lost his girlfriend and that he has superpowers to travel through time to save her. Says the School Library Journal review: "A compelling peek into the darkest corners of mental illness."