~Louisa May Alcott, Work: A Story of Experience
I'd very much like a pretty icon with that Alcott quote, but I digress.
Today, I'm talking about books for holiday shopping. There are a few aspects to this post. First, an exhortation to purchase books as gifts, with my own (probably false-premised economic theory as to why this makes sense). Second, a list of possible books for various folks on your holiday lists.
Kelly's hare-brained economic theory:
Like many folks I know, I've been cutting back on spending this year in general, and I plan on cutting back on holiday purchases in particular. There is, after all, very little that we actually need for the holidays, apart from some family time and holiday cheer. But presents are still nice to give and receive, so I've been trying to figure out how to balance economy with giving, and how to make a statement about the economy with my purchases.
And I've worked out that it makes sense to buy books.
Why? Let me count the ways:
1)(And here's where it most likely gets hare-brained) The amount I am spending this year will be relatively modest. If I spend $20 at 10 stores, it will spread a very little wealth around. But if I spend $200 at one store, it makes a bigger impact for that particular store and/or industry.
2) I cannot "save" any one store or industry with my purchases; I don't have that kind of buying power. But I think that by putting most of my cash into book-store purchases, I'm "voting" for bookstores and, more importantly, the publishing industry, as an ongoing concern.
3) Books are the gift that keeps on giving: they take most people a few hours to read, and then the reader has the opportunity to discuss the book they read with whomever they choose. If they're a re-reader (like, say, me with Tolkien, M with the Twilight series, and both of us with Harry Potter), they have lots of hours of enjoyment between those covers. Plus, they can be passed around (this practice still occurs, although M has learned to be careful what she lends, in case it doesn't return - we are all still mourning the copy of Luna by Julie Ann Peters that S loaned out, but which never came back). And, in the case of my mother-in-law, who is, like me, a gentle reader (no page folding or stains, no broken spines), books can be re-gifted).
4) Books are suitable for pretty much every age and interest. Audiobooks count here, too.
Book gift ideas for the year
I am going to attempt to demonstrate the "every age and interest" bit starting today, and beginning with the very young.
Soft, board and bathtub books
Recommended for the little bitty babies in our lives.
For seasonal fun, there's Jingle Bells by Kaori Watanabe. It's one of the "taggies" books put out by Scholastic.
For fun in the tub, my money's still on Sandra Boynton's Bath Time!, which I reviewed last year.
Now, my favorite board book this year is Swing! by Rufus Butler Seder, the guy who came out with the book about animal motion called Gallop!. These books are board books containing "scanimation" images. A sales clerk tried to convince me that within the pages were the same sorts of pictures as in a zoetrope, although I don't quite believe her, as the basic technology (something sliding between two pages) looks more pop-up related to me, and less "fun with circular motion"-ish. But I digress.
The good folks at Workman Publishing sent me a copy of the book back in early October. And I can give this book the highest sort of recommendation: Within hours of its arrival in my house, it was gone, sent off into the world with my children's brother-from-another-mother, who is nearly four. B was willing to hand off his Thomas the Tank Engine trains in order to carry the book, which he has since spent lots of time happily looking through, watching as the player hits a ball and the ball comes right at you, or as the skater pirouettes upon the ice, or the boy shoots a foul-line throw. High praise indeed. This one is a line-blurrer, since it's really for kids older than the baby set. Great for toddlers and the preschool set, as well as young school students.
Books for little kids
For kids that are bigger than a baby (or breadbox), but not ready to read alone.
Some of my favorite picture books this year, in no order whatsoever, with links to my reviews where they exist. Lengthier mini-reviews for the two I've not posted reviews of on my blog. Yet.
Wabi Sabi by Mark Reibstein, illustrated by Ed Young.
Pretty pictures, excellent text, about a cat named Wabi Sabi on a quest to find the meaning of her name. The book is printed sideways, so that you hold the front cover up and the back cover down in order to read it. The pictures and text are both lovely, and each spread incorporates as well a haiku written in Japanese (translations in the back), some of the images for which are incorporated into the art. Wabi sabi is a philosophy, essentially, of finding beauty in simplicity, and both the text and the artwork echo the philosophy. A complete delight.
How to Paint the Portrait of a Bird by Jacques Prévert, illustrated by Mordicai Gerstein. This poem, translated from the French with minor alterations, is a study in patience and persistence. The artwork is gorgeous, helping to show Gerstein's range.
A Kitten Tale by Eric Rohman is, at its core, a story about fear of the unknown, told by some of the cutest, most colorful kitties you'll ever want to pet. Er, read about.
Frankenstein Takes the Cake, etc. by Adam Rex is one of the funniest picture books I read this year, full of poetry and parodies and all that one might expect from the author/illustrator of Frankenstein Makes a Sandwich. I still miss the Phantom of the Opera, but kids will be only too happy with the monsters inside this book.
Wave by Suzy Lee
I spied this one at ALA early on this year, and favored it for a Caldecott then, assuming it's eligible, a finer point on which I remain unclear.
Little Hoot by Amy Krouse Rosenthal, illustrated by Jen Corace is the story of a young owl who'd really like to go to bed.
Traction Man Meets Turbodog by Mini Grey picks up where Traction Man is Here! left off. A fun romp and a hugging book to boot!
Not a Stick! by Antoinette Portis celebrates imaginative play, using a similar formula as Antoinette's earlier book, Not a Box.