Have you managed not to get caught up with the gift-buying frenzy so far? I hope this process is a meaningful one for you, one that reminds you of your connection with the recipient of your gifts.
Like all the other book-lover bloggers, I am going to put in a plug for buying books as gifts.
For suggestions, you can go to lists such as the Publisher Weekly's list of Best Children's Books in 2009, or the New York Times list of the 100 Notable Books of 2009, and the one-stop List of Lists.
You can also get ideas from the comments section at Nathan Bransford's blog asking for his readers' top book in 2009, or find out how Davin at The Literary Lab chooses books as gifts, or read through the many wonderful reviews of YA novels at Finding Wonderland.
Here are my suggestions of books that feature a boy as the protagonist. (I hesitate to use the term "boy books" because I wouldn't be able to defend how I know if a book will appeal to a boy and not a girl, or a teacher, or a librarian, or a mom, or a dad.)
The Alvin Ho books by Lenore Look
I love these early middle grade books because of their breezy style, humor, and the underlying--completely unpreachy and unnoticeable--message of acceptance for every child.
Here is a review I wrote of the first Alvin Ho book.
Another wonderful early middle grade (this level is so very difficult to pull off) novel about a young boy not quite sure where he stands in the world, but finds people (and in his case, a Dodo Bird) he can trust and ends up having to do something that proves his own courage to himself. I am so glad this is a series.
Summer Ball by Mike Lupica
This book is aimed at the older end of the middle grade reader spectrum. Mike Lupica is obviously writing for the basketball fan and although I am not one, I enjoyed the book tremendously. He writes friendship so convincingly that I can handle passages of play-by-play without glazing over because I wanted to follow the boys' stories. Lupica has written books on other sports so if the kid you're buying this book for loves baseball or football instead, you're in luck.
If you're not buying for a sports-lover, here is a book about a boy and his beetle, Masterpiece by Elise Broach. James has to deal with a distracted mother, a talking beetle, a love of drawing, and solving a mystery involving a masterpiece.
For the older reader, I offer the three following books. Each writer has a different style, yet each one gets to the heart of things. None of these authors shy away from dealing with difficult issues, each deals with it honestly.
Drums, Girls and Dangerous Pies by Jordan Sonnenblick
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian by Sherman Alexie
Staying Fat for Sarah Byrnes by Chris Crutcher.