Bookish End-of-Year Teacher Gifts

We’re about to enter into those lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer, but before your children peace out of school, it’s now customary to present their teacher with an end-of-year gift. It’s natural to gravitate towards a candle or a basket of body lotions, but if your kid’s teacher isn’t in their first year, chances are they have a closet full-to-bursting with those well-intentioned but likely useless items, lovingly bestowed on them from students past. They keep these gifts out of guilt or sentimentality, but wouldn’t you rather your hard-earned dollars go to something they could truly enjoy?

Here is a list of bookish end-of-year gifts for the teachers in your life!

Books

Now, this is a bit of a gamble. Unless you know this teacher’s taste, genre preferences, or what is already in their library, it might be tough to select just the right book. However, here are a few suggestions. (Extra credit: Have your child write a sweet note in the inside cover to their teacher, expressing what the previous school year meant to them. The tears, they will a-flow!)

We all need to be inspired. And who needs inspiration more than a teacher who has spent 10 months smack dab in their own personal Lord of the Flies?

IN CONCLUSION: DON’T WORRY ABOUT IT BY LAUREN GRAHAM

In this expansion of the 2017 commencement speech she gave at her hometown Langley High, Lauren Graham, the beloved star of Gilmore Girls and Parenthood, reflects on growing up, pursuing your dreams, and living in the here and now. “Whatever path you choose, whatever career you decide to go after, the important thing is that you keep finding joy in what you’re doing, especially when the joy isn’t finding you.” In her hilarious, relatable voice, Graham reminds us to be curious and compassionate, no matter where life takes us or what we’ve yet to achieve. Grounded and inspiring—and illustrated throughout with drawings by Graham herself—here is a comforting road map to a happy life.

MAKE GOOD ART BY NEIL GAIMAN

In May 2012, bestselling author Neil Gaiman delivered the commencement address at Philadelphia’s University of the Arts, in which he shared his thoughts about creativity, bravery, and strength. He encouraged the fledgling painters, musicians, writers, and dreamers to break rules and think outside the box. Most of all, he encouraged them to make good art.

THE LAST LECTURe BY RANDY PAUSCH

When Randy Pausch, a computer science professor at Carnegie Mellon, was asked to give such a lecture, he didn’t have to imagine it as his last, since he had recently been diagnosed with terminal cancer. But the lecture he gave—”Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams”—wasn’t about dying. It was about the importance of overcoming obstacles, of enabling the dreams of others, of seizing every moment (because “time is all you have…and you may find one day that you have less than you think”). It was a summation of everything Randy had come to believe. It was about living.

YEAR OF YES: How to dance it out, stand in the sun and be your own person BY SHONDA RHIMES

With three children at home and three hit television shows, it was easy for Shonda to say she was simply too busy. But in truth, she was also afraid. And then, over Thanksgiving dinner, her sister muttered something that was both a wake up and a call to arms: You never say yes to anything. Shonda knew she had to embrace the challenge: for one year, she would say YES to everything that scared her.

WHEN WOMEN WERE BIRDS: fifty-four variations on voice by terry tempest williams

“I am leaving you all my journals, but you must promise me you won’t look at them until after I’m gone.” This is what Terry Tempest Williams’s mother, the matriarch of a large Mormon clan in northern Utah, told her a week before she died. It was a shock to Williams to discover that her mother had kept journals. But not as much of a shock as it was to discover that the three shelves of journals were all blank. In fifty-four short chapters, Williams recounts memories of her mother, ponders her own faith, and contemplates the notion of absence and presence art and in our world. When Women Were Birds is a carefully crafted kaleidoscope that keeps turning around the question: What does it mean to have a voice?

A beautifully bound classic is a joy forever.

THEIR EYES WERE WATCHING GOD by zora neale hurston

One of the most important and enduring books of the twentieth century, Their Eyes Were Watching God brings to life a Southern love story with the wit and pathos found only in the writing of Zora Neale Hurston. Out of print for almost thirty years—due largely to initial audiences’ rejection of its strong black female protagonist—Hurston’s classic has since its 1978 reissue become perhaps the most widely read and highly acclaimed novel in the canon of African American literature.

ALICE’S ADVENTURES IN WONDERLAND by lewis carroll

During a boat trip up the Isis River with Reverend Robinson Duckworth and the three young daughters of Henry Liddell, one of whom is named Alice, Lewis Carroll, the pen name of Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, invents a story about a bored little girl named Alice who goes looking for an adventure. Several years later this tale would be forever immortalized as “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.”

THINGS FALL APART by chinua achebe

Things Fall Apart is the first of three novels in Chinua Achebe’s critically acclaimed African Trilogy. It is a classic narrative about Africa’s cataclysmic encounter with Europe as it establishes a colonial presence on the continent. Told through the fictional experiences of Okonkwo, a wealthy and fearless Igbo warrior of Umuofia in the late 1800s, Things Fall Apart explores one man’s futile resistance to the devaluing of his Igbo traditions by British political and religious forces and his despair as his community capitulates to the powerful new order.

THE COUNT OF MONTE CRISTO by alexandre dumas

A popular bestseller since its publication in 1844, The Count of Monte Cristo is one of the great page-turning thrillers of all time. Set against the tumultuous years of the post-Napoleonic era, Alexandre Dumas’s grand historical romance recounts the swashbuckling adventures of Edmond Dantès, a dashing young sailor falsely accused of treason.

ONE HUNDRED YEARS OF SOLITUDE by gabriel garcia marquez

One of the twentieth century’s most beloved and acclaimed novels, One Hundred Years of Solitude tells the story of the rise and fall, birth and death of the mythical town of Macondo through the history of the Buendia family. Inventive, amusing, magnetic, sad, and alive with unforgettable men and women—brimming with truth, compassion, and a lyrical magic that strikes the soul—this novel is a masterpiece in the art of fiction.

Gorgeously illustrated children’s books with a capital M Message

WHAT DO YOU DO WITH AN IDEA BY KOBI YAMADA, ILLUSTRATED BY MAE BESON

This is the story of one brilliant idea and the child who helps to bring it into the world. As the child’s confidence grows, so does the idea itself. And then, one day, something amazing happens. This is a story for anyone, at any age, who’s ever had an idea that seemed a little too big, too odd, too difficult. It’s a story to inspire you to welcome that idea, to give it some space to grow, and to see what happens next. Because your idea isn’t going anywhere. In fact, it’s just getting started.

SHE PERSISTED: 13 AMERICAN WOMEN WHO CHANGED THE WORLD BY CHELSEA CLINTON, ILLUSTRATED BY ALEXANDRA BOIGER

Chelsea Clinton introduces tiny feminists, mini activists and little kids who are ready to take on the world to thirteen inspirational women who never took no for an answer, and who always, inevitably and without fail, persisted.

LOVE by matthew de la pena, illustrated by loren long

In this heartfelt celebration of love, Newbery Medal–winning author Matt de la Peña and bestselling illustrator Loren Long depict the many ways we experience this universal bond, which carries us from the day we are born throughout the years of our childhood and beyond. With a lyrical text that’s soothing and inspiring, this tender tale is a needed comfort and a new classic that will resonate with readers of every age.

JULIAN IS A MERMAID by jessica love

While riding the subway home from the pool with his abuela one day, Julián notices three women spectacularly dressed up. Their hair billows in brilliant hues, their dresses end in fishtails, and their joy fills the train car. When Julián gets home, daydreaming of the magic he’s seen, all he can think about is dressing up just like the ladies in his own fabulous mermaid costume: a butter-yellow curtain for his tail, the fronds of a potted fern for his headdress. But what will Abuela think about the mess he makes—and even more importantly, what will she think about how Julián sees himself? Mesmerizing and full of heart, Jessica Love’s author-illustrator debut is a jubilant picture of self-love and a radiant celebration of individuality.

A DAY IN THE LIFE OF MARLON BUNDO by jill twiss

HBO’s Emmy-winning Last Week Tonight with John Oliver presents a children’s picture book about a Very Special boy bunny who falls in love with another boy bunny.

Meet Marlon Bundo, a lonely bunny who lives with his Grampa, Mike Pence—the Vice President of the United States. But on this Very Special Day, Marlon’s life is about to change forever…

With its message of tolerance and advocacy, this charming children’s book explores issues of same sex marriage and democracy. Sweet, funny, and beautifully illustrated, this book is dedicated to every bunny who has ever felt different.

Remind your child’s teacher that their contribution is immeasurable with a book celebrating their chose profession.

TO SIR, WITH LOVE by e.r. braithwaite

With opportunities for black men limited in post–World War II London, Rick Braithwaite, a former Royal Air Force pilot and Cambridge-educated engineer, accepts a teaching position that puts him in charge of a class of angry, unmotivated, bigoted white teenagers whom the system has mostly abandoned. When his efforts to reach these troubled students are met with threats, suspicion, and derision, Braithwaite takes a radical new approach. He will treat his students as people poised to enter the adult world. He will teach them to respect themselves and to call him “Sir.” He will open up vistas before them that they never knew existed. And over the course of a remarkable year, he will touch the lives of his students in extraordinary ways, even as they in turn, unexpectedly and profoundly, touch his.

THANK YOU MR. FALKER by patricia polacco

Patricia Polacco is now one of America’s most loved children’s book creators, but once upon a time, she was a little girl named Trisha starting school. Trisha could paint and draw beautifully, but when she looked at words on a page, all she could see was jumble. It took a very special teacher to recognize little Trisha’s dyslexia: Mr. Falker, who encouraged her to overcome her reading disability. Patricia Polacco will never forget him, and neither will we.

BECAUSE I HAD A TEACHER by Kobi yamada, illustrated by natalie russell

We all remember our favorite teacher. Where would we be without them—those special people who inspire us, support us, and encourage us? Whether they’re an educator, a coach, or a mentor, this book is for them. To celebrate the worlds they open up for us and to thank them for the difference they make.

UP THE DOWN STAIRCASE by bel kaufman

Never before has a novel so compellingly laid bare the inner workings of a metropolitan high school. Up the Down Staircase is the funny and touching story of a committed, idealistic teacher whose dash with school bureaucracy is a timeless lesson for students, teachers, parents—anyone concerned about public education. Bel Kaufman lets her characters speak for themselves through memos, letters, directives from the principal, comments by students, notes between teachers, and papers from desk drawers and wastebaskets, evoking a vivid picture of teachers fighting the good fight against all that stands in the way of good teaching.

MY TEACHER by james ransome

A great teacher is the best gift of all, according to the narrator of this warm look inside an urban classroom. Her teacher encourages the students to write stories, listen to jazz music, help in their neighborhood, celebrate different kinds of families, and build their own class library. The narrator recognizes that her teacher could be working in a nicer school, but the teacher reveals that she was a student in that very class and that she works in the school to help the children achieve their dreams the way she was able to.

Gift them an interesting book on the subject they teach.

History: SHOW WAY by jacqueline woodson, illustrated by hudson talbott

From slavery to freedom, through segregation, freedom marches and the fight for literacy, the tradition they called Show Way has been passed down by the women in Jacqueline Woodson’s family as a way to remember the past and celebrate the possibilities of the future. Beautifully rendered in Hudson Talbott’s luminous art, this moving, lyrical account pays tribute to women whose strength and knowledge illuminate their daughters’ lives.

Art: GEORGIA by dawn tripp

A breathtaking work of the imagination, Georgia is the story of a passionate young woman, her search for love and artistic freedom, the sacrifices she will face, and the bold vision that will make her a legend.

Literature: OUT OF WONDER by kwame alexander, illustrated by chris colderley

Out of gratitude for the poet’s art form, Newbery Award–winning author and poet Kwame Alexander, along with Chris Colderley and Marjory Wentworth, present original poems that pay homage to twenty famed poets who have made the authors’ hearts sing and their minds wonder. Stunning mixed-media images by Ekua Holmes, winner of a Caldecott Honor and a John Steptoe New Talent Illustrator Award, complete the celebration and invite the reader to listen, wonder, and perhaps even pick up a pen.

Science: ASTROPHYSICS FOR PEOPLE IN A HURRY by neil degrasse tyson

What is the nature of space and time? How do we fit within the universe? How does the universe fit within us? There’s no better guide through these mind-expanding questions than acclaimed astrophysicist and best-selling author Neil deGrasse Tyson.

Music: LADY SINGS THE BLUES by billie holiday and william duffy

Lady Sings the Blues is the fiercely honest, no-holds-barred autobiography of Billie Holiday, the legendary jazz, swing, and standards singing sensation. Taking the reader on a fast-moving journey from Holiday’s rough-and-tumble Baltimore childhood (where she ran errands at a whorehouse in exchange for the chance to listen to Louis Armstrong and Bessie Smith albums), to her emergence on Harlem’s club scene, to sold-out performances with the Count Basie Orchestra and with Artie Shaw and his band, this revelatory memoir is notable for its trenchant observations on the racism that darkened Billie’ s life and the heroin addiction that ended it too soon.

Math: ADA’S ALGORITHM: how lord byron’s daughter launched the digital age through the poetry of numbers by james essinger

It’s a remarkable tale, starting with the outrageous behavior of her father, which made Ada instantly famous upon birth. Ada would go on to overcome numerous obstacles to obtain a level of education typically forbidden to women of her day. She would eventually join forces with Charles Babbage, generally credited with inventing the computer, although as Essinger makes clear, Babbage couldn’t have done it without Lovelace. Indeed, Lovelace wrote what is today considered the world’s first computer program—despite opposition that the principles of science were “beyond the strength of a woman’s physical power of application.”

Bookish gifts

Avoid mugs, candles, desk knick-knacks. Your best bet is to get a bookish gift that can be used in their everyday lives. (Extra credit: Put these items together in a reusable basket perfect for classroom organization.)

Pencils/pens with literary quotes

A bookish tote to bring home all their graded papers

Book magnets

Personalized book plates

Tea inspired by literary figures

Donations

The subject of inadequately equipped classrooms is very topical right now. So help your child’s teacher keep some of their all-too-few duckets by donating items to their classroom. (Extra credit: Commit to donating once a month for the next year so the teacher’s classroom stays fully supplied!)

DonorsChoose.org

Amazon.com wishlist

Wishlist at her local indie

Let them go on their own little book shopping spree with gift cards to their local indie…

…or Amazon

…or Target

(Extra credit: include a Starbucks gift card so they can stay caffeinated to put up with your…sweet angel.)

H.A.G.S! (Have a Great Summer!)

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