20+ book gifts for cool kids – and adults, too!

Books for cool kids
Just a few of the books on our list…read on for more!
Got a kid on your holiday shopping list? Want to introduce them to the Beats, modern design, the ’60s, jazz, folk, or rock & roll? Learn about your favorite musicians & places? Or, just give ’em something fun? Check these way cool tomes for tots (and grown-ups, too).

Most of these are picture books; a few are available for Kindle, too.

Click on any title to learn more or to purchase.

1. Hit the Road, Jack
Jack is a jackrabbit (what else would he be, right?), and, inspired by Kerouac’s On the Road he road trips across the United States. He loves jazz, sings scat, visits NYC & San Francisco and more. A cool cat, for sure! Oh, sorry – cool, um, rabbit. This book is so much fun for kids (its ostensibly for ages 4-8) – and would be a cool gift for the adult Kerouac fan on your list, too. (It’s on my wish list!)
2. Goldilocks and the Three Bears: A Tale Moderne
Yep – it’s the story we all know and love – but these bears don’t live in a cabin in the woods. They’ve got a cool mid-century modern split-level full of furniture by Eames and Noguchi. There are pages with drawings of many mid-century household items by famous designers. Cool for kids (it’s a picture book aimed at ages 3-7) – and a fun gift for mid-century design aficionados too.
3. The Three Little Pigs: An Architectural Tale
This book is by the same author as Goldilocks and the Three Bears: A Tale Moderne.

This time around he tackles another classic story, with the three pigs inspired by three famous architects: Frank Gehry, Frank Lloyd Wright, and Phillip Johnson. No traditional straw houses here!

4. Charlie Bird Counts to the Beat
This is part of a bunch of books that have animal characters based on famous jazz musicians. The author has his own record label and is the former head of A&R for Columbia Jazz. He knows his stuff – and this book is adorably illustrated by Andrew Cunningham. It’s a board book (for approximately ages 2-6) and includes a CD. A great way to introduce little ones to jazz.

The other books in the series are: Ella Elephant Scats Like That, Duck Ellington Swings Through the Zoo, Mingus Mouse Plays Christmastime Jazz, Louis Lion Sings Goodnight, Philly Joe Giraffe’s Jungle Jazz, and Miles the Crocodile Plays the Colors of Jazz. (There’s also On the Road Jazz, which has nothing to do with Kerouac’s On the Road but is cute all the same; the animals road trip from Seattle to New York.),

See all the books here.

5. Color this Book: San Francisco
Here are San Francisco places to color: The street signs at the corner of Haight & Ashbury, City Lights Bookstore, Amoeba Music, the Sea Lions at Fisherman’s Wharf, and all sorts of other local attractions. Fun for kids & adults alike!

Also available: Color this Book: New York City

6. Max Said Yes! The Woodstock Story
The tale of 1969’s legendary Woodstock music festival, told in rhyme with vibrant, colorful ilustrations.

Kids will learn how Max Yasgur very generously agreed to host the festival on his dairy farm, and what happened, capturing the spirit of the event in a safe, age-appropriate (5-7 years) way. Peace, love & music!

7. Hepcat
Hepcat is a jazz pianist (and yes, he’s a cat!) who, on the night of his big concert finds out he’s lost his groove. Stage fright and worries get the best of him. How will he find it again, so he can perform?

The Beatles, Elvis, and Little Richard have cameo appearances. This book is a blast. Dig?

8. Real Love: The Drawings for Sean
John Lennon’s love of drawing comes through in these sweet drawings done for his young son, Sean. Each has a simple caption. The drawings will capture children’s attention and imagination, and each has a brief caption. A charming gift for children of all ages, from preschool on up.
9. Octopus’ Garden
Ringo Starr’s song was my favorite when I was a little kid; I remember riding in the back of my parents’ aqua blue ’64 Ford Fairlane singing along.

If only this book, playfully illustrated by Ben Cort, had been available then, I would have demanded it be read to me over and over.

10. The Teddy Bears’ Picnic
This is the classic childrens’ song, illustrated. Jerry Garcia and David Grisman covered this song on their album, Not for Kids Only. In this picture book, illustrated by Bruce Whatley, two of the bears are depicted as looking like Garcia and Grisman. There’s Jerry, in his trademark black t-shirt and glasses! A fun book for kids (3-8), and their Deadhead parents as well.

Two more kids’ books also came from this collaboration: There Ain’t No Bugs on Me and What Will You Wear, Jenny Jenkins?

11. What a Wonderful World
The song was written by George David Weiss and Bob Thiele, and made famous by Louis Armstrong.

Each page of this picture book, boldly and colorfully illustrated by Ashley Bryant, each page shows children, animals – and Louis, with his trombone – discovering another wonderful thing in the world. Life affirming!

12. This Land is Your Land
Woody Guthrie’s best-loved song is illustrated by Kathy Jakobsen.

This book has been beloved by adults and kids alike for years. This special new 10th anniversary edition of the book even comes with a bonus poster!

13. Riding in My Car
Another of Woody Guthrie’s songs, this time made into a fun interactive book with flaps to lift, tabs to pull up, and pop-ups to delight. A family of dogs takes a road trip, touring the nation’s landmarks. Under the flaps are fun facts about America’s places,and about Woody Guthrie’s life.

14. Blowin’ in the Wind
One of the greatest songs of the 20th century, Bob Dylan’s powerful yet beautiful lyrics are illustrated by Caldecott Honor Medal-winning illustrator John J. Muth, in a picture book that can be appreciated by young and old. The book also includes a CD of Dylan’s original 1963 recording, plus a special note by renowned music writer Greil Marcus (he’s written books about Dylan and others), putting the song in historical context.
15. Man Gave Names to All the Animals
“Man Gave Names to All the Animals” is a track on Bob Dylan’s 1979 album, Slow Train Coming. Jim Arnofsky’s illustrated it beautifully for this picture book. Over 170 animals are shown in the illustrations, and, at the end, the child can name an animal for themselves.

Included is a CD of the original recording. 32 pages.

16. If Dogs Run Free
Bob Dylan’s song celebrates children’s freedom and creativity, and Mark Campbell’s colorful illustrations in this picture book capture its joyful spirit. Here, we’ve got kids, well, running free – and doing what kids do.

If Dogs Run Free may not be one of Dylan’s best-known songs, but it makes for a great little picture book.

17. Forever Young
Bob Dylan wrote the song for his son, Jakob, as a wish and a blessing for his life. The illustrations in this book, by Paul Rogers, capture Dylan’s life. In the photos, look carefully – you’ll see Joan Baez, Jack Kerouac, Greenwich Village, a big brass bed (through a window), a peace march, DA Pennebaker, and lots more fun stuff. The little ones won’t catch these things – they’ll be mesmerized by the images – and, hopefully, touched by the book’s words – but adult Dylan fans will really appreciate all the detail and wonderfully evocative images.

18. One Love
Bob Marley’s song is about unity, friendship, and love – perfect for a children’s book. Adapted by Bob’s daughter Cedrella (his eldest child), and illustrated by Vanessa Newton, One Love presents the story of a little girl who enlists others to change their neighborhood for the better – testament to the power of cooperation.
19. So Many Stars
For the littlest ones, here’s a board book full of stars and other delights. Andy Warhol’s fanciful drawings are not only of stars, but of dogs, cats, strawberries, treats, fanciful flies and other little joys of everyday life, some accompanied by his distinctive (but readable) script. These colorful line drawings are simple enough to be engaging for babies.
20. Uncle Andy’s: A Faabbbulous Visit With Andy Warhol
James Warhola is Andy Warhol’s nephew; his father sold junk (real junk, the type that clutters up the yard). When they went to visit Uncle Andy, James discovered all the cool things you can make with things that others consider to be junk. Andy’s house is stuffed with art, a multitude of cats, many blonde wigs, and possibilities – potent stuff for a kid. It’s a great story, all the better for its being true, that celebrates imagination and creativity. Both written and illustrated by James, the story and illustrations alike will draw the reader in. Recommended for kids about age 5 and up.

What do you think?

Do you know other great kids’ books? Let us know below!

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