make way for ducklingsLeave it to a word nerd like me to get a little huffy around the holidays. When hot toy lists get all our attention, is it any wonder our mission to raise a reader goes out the window for the month?

I've made it my mission to make sure there's at least one new book in the pile of goodies under my family Christmas tree every year, and so far it's been a hit. Want to get in on the action? I've come up with a list of can't-fail hits for your tots. After all, each one is a favorite of one of the writers on The Stir staff!

Make Way for Ducklings by Robert McCloskey; $12.91 -- Amazon

The Mallard family are looking for just the right place to raise their brood, but who knew it would be the middle of Boston where they found the right fit? The Caldecott winner is a hit with little ones who love to see wildlife in their midst. Have it? Try: Ollie & Moon, the tale of two kitty friends on an adventure with the backdrop of another famous city: Paris! My 6-year-old's current fave, the cartoon kitties laid over the photos from gay Paree will tickle their funnybones.

Are You My Mother?

Are You My Mother? by PD Eastman; $8.99 -- Amazon

Baby bird's path through the animal kingdom in search of his mama bird will leave your kids in stitches as they ponder the ridiculousness of a dog being mom to a little bird! Have it? Try: Hopper and Wilson. What do you think is at the end of the world? Follow an elephant and his mouse companion as they try to find out!

The Polar Express

The Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg; $9.99 -- Amazon

So they've seen the movie, but it's hard to compare the story of a little boy reaffirming his belief in Santa to the one drawn by Chris Van Allsburg. Jump aboard the train, and you'll get a taste of the magic of childhood yourself. Have it? Try: The Carpenter's Gift, a Christmas Tale About the Rockefeller Center Tree. The title says it all, doesn't it? My daughter loved this book all the more because she'd gotten to see the tree up close and personal, but a jump online to check it out will work too!

Llama Llama Red Pajama

Llama, Llama Red Pajama by Anna Dewdney; $10.97 -- Amazon

It's just a few years old, but this is a must-have for any mom whose child refuses to stay in bed! Little llama soon learns that mama is always in the house watching over him, even when she isn't RIGHT THERE. Trust me, this one will save your sanity (it did mine!). Have it? Try: Any of the other Llama books are good for soothing little souls! I can't wait for the Llama Llama Wakey-Wake and Llama Llama Nighty Night board books.

the mitten

The Mitten by Jan Brett; $12.23 -- Amazon

Your kids will always want to wear their winter mittens after they hear the tale of how just one of these little gloves kept a bunch of critters cozy and warm! Have it? Try: Home for Christmas, Brett's newest tale takes kids into the woods on an animal adventure with a mischievous elf -- kind of like them!

Where the Sidewalk Ends

Where the Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein; $11.39 -- Amazon

You haven't experienced silly until you've taken a walk on Shel Silverstein's sidewalk. Poetry and doodles that are as off-the-wall as they are on-the-mark, there's a reason this is a classic. Have it? Try: Every Thing On It, the first book from the late Silverstein to hit shelves since his death in 1999 brings the same bits of silly as the old favorites.

Harold and the Purple Crayon

Harold and the Purple Crayon by Crockett Johnson; $6.99 -- Amazon

A little boy reminds us there's a whole world out there at the other end of your crayon, you just have to imagine it so. Have it? Try: Little Blue and Little Yellow, the story of two colors who jump and play and come together for a big hug only to find out they make green!

The Monster at the end of the book

The Monster at the End of This Book; $8.99 -- Amazon

The ever-neurotic but ever-lovable Grover from Sesame Street tries to keep kids from reading to the end of a book because there's a monster awaiting them! Perfect antidote for kids who are insisting there's somebody hiding in that closet. Have it? Try: Jim, a Cautionary Tale (for older kids), the story of a little boy who learns some of the darker things in life that happen when you don't listen to mom and dad!

What books will be among your kids' holiday gifts this year?