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HOLIDAY GIFT GUIDE: Non-Fiction Picks for Young Readers


When you think books for tweens and teens, most often fiction works come to mind. But there are so many great real-life stories out there that are perfect for young readers, too.

Proud by Ibtihaj Muhammad

My first pick in this category is Proud by Ibtihaj Muhammad. This is a story of chasing your dreams, of overcoming obstacles, and of learning what it means to stand proudly in the spotlight. It is the story of a little girl who would go on to not only compete in the 2016 Olympics, but to become the first American woman to do so wearing a hijab. More than that, she went on to be the first Muslim-American woman to win an Olympic medal (she is a fencer).


Growing up in New Jersey, Ibtihaj struggled to find her place. She was often the only African-American Muslim in her class. When she discovered the sport of fencing, her differences stood out even more in a world that is typically dominated by an affluent white population. She had an uphill battle to not only fit in, but to succeed in that world, facing bigotry and preconceived notions that stacked the deck decidedly against her. Would she have what it took to beat those odds?

It turns out the answer to that is a resounding, unequivocal, unqualified, yell-it-from-the-mountaintops YES!

I requested this book because our daughter loves fencing, but it's an inspirational tale perfect for any young person. It teaches perseverance and the importance of embracing who we are and shooting for our dreams, even when the world seems determined to derail our efforts.

Endurance, by Scott Kelly (Young Readers Edition)

I read the adult version of this book and absolutely loved it (read my review here). So, when I discovered that Penguin Random House Canada was publishing a version of the book perfectly suited to young readers, I was so excited to be able to share this incredible story with my tween daughter. I think you will find that the young readers in your life will love it, too.


This is an inspiring memoir from NASA astronaut Scot Kelly, who spent an unprecedented year in space aboard the International Space Station. In this version of the book, which strikes the perfect balance between being engaging for young readers without "dumbing down" the content. Readers will discover how Scott became an astronaut, the challenges of living aboard the International Space Station and the emotional struggles of being so very far away from home.

If you have a young astronaut-in-the-making on your gift list, or simply want to inspire a young person in your life to reach for the stars, whatever that looks like in their own lives, this is the perfect book. (While you're at it, get the adult version for yourself. It's a great read, too!)

I love it when publishers put out "young readers" editions of adult books like these, so that we, as parents, can share these incredible real-life, inspirational stories with our children. Will you be gifting either of these this year?


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