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Buy books

"She is too fond of books, and it has turned her brain."
~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.

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( 28 comments — Leave a comment )
Nov. 25th, 2008 04:25 am (UTC)
Thanks, Kelly! We're having an "all book Christmas" except for a few *cough* Lego exceptions, so I'll bookmark (no pun intended) this list.

Is that a pun if I'm really marking books?

Nov. 25th, 2008 04:32 am (UTC)
Bookmark. You're punny!
Nov. 25th, 2008 04:30 pm (UTC)
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Nov. 25th, 2008 04:50 am (UTC)
Obviously, your customer and I think alike.
Nov. 25th, 2008 04:44 am (UTC)
I've buying books too for gifts. My son is getting quite a few. So are some others on my list.
Nov. 25th, 2008 04:50 am (UTC)
They're so much fun to shop for, too!
Nov. 25th, 2008 05:15 am (UTC)
Makes good economic sense to me!

So...do you have a poetry book you could recommend for my poet friend who writes exquisite haiku/tanka style poetry?
Nov. 25th, 2008 01:54 pm (UTC)
Not sure about your budget, but, there's a new book out entitled Classical Chinese Poetry: An Anthology, translated and edited by David Hinton, that looks marvelous. It is not haiku, but it contains many short, image-rich poems, and, as it's new, it seems unlikely he/she would have it yet. Full disclosure: I've only looked at it in brief at the store, and haven't actually spent any time with it. But oh the swooning imagery of the poems. Here's an example:

"Back Home Again", by Tu Mu:

Kids keep tugging at my robes, asking:
Why did it take you so long to come back?
And who were you fighting all these months
And years to win all that silk-white hair?

For an interesting take on haiku, I still like last year's Baseball Haiku, which I reviewed. If you think he/she might enjoy learning about sijo, a Korean form, try Linda Sue Park's Tap Dancing on the Roof or the adult title, The Book of Korean Sijo, translated and edited by Kevin O'Rourke.
Nov. 25th, 2008 04:45 pm (UTC)
Thanks, Kelly! The anthology looks wonderful--I might just have to ask Santa for that one myself. ;)
Nov. 25th, 2008 05:46 am (UTC)
Little Hoot and A Kitten Tale were two of my favorite pbs of 2008.

(And you know cats freak me out so that's really saying something.)
Nov. 25th, 2008 01:57 pm (UTC)
How could you not love those colorful kitties, though?

I'm excited for your next pbs to be out. You know I was a huge fan of Cowboy Camp, so I can't wait for No Baloney!, Chicken Dance and Yucky Valentine (if that's still the title).
Nov. 25th, 2008 02:47 pm (UTC)
That's just it. THESE kittens I could handle. Plus, what a tightly written picture book!

And, thanks, for your excitedness. I am sooo with you! :)

Yucky Valentines is now Mostly Monsterly. I should be seeing Scott Magoon's preliminary sketches any day now. I can't wait to see his vision for Bernadette and company.
Nov. 25th, 2008 06:41 pm (UTC)
Ooh! Me neither. I wonder what color she'll be. I picture her as purple, but I've been known to be wrong.
Nov. 25th, 2008 02:18 pm (UTC)
You're not "hare-brained." You're brilliant. The Fineman Plan to revive the economy! Hear! Hear!

I want How to Paint a Portrait of a Bird. (If any of my immediate family is reading this.)

So far, I've bought three books as gifts, and I've just begun to shop.
Nov. 25th, 2008 06:41 pm (UTC)
Might I suggest the distribution of a list with books you'd like? (Okay, and maybe more than books. Giftcards for books.)
Nov. 25th, 2008 04:01 pm (UTC)
Love your picks here, Kelly. I've bought How to Paint a Portrait of a Bird for several adults (including myself). I'm anxious to see your recs for 10-12 year old boys. My nephew has already read all the well-known fantasy series, and has done the Wimpy Kid funny books, and now I'm stumped. He did mention liking Kira Kira (a surprise to me), and has a very sensitive streak.
Nov. 25th, 2008 06:43 pm (UTC)
Ooh - I hope I can come up with something. Can you tell me which series he's read? (I'm assuming HP and Narnia and Golden Compass and Charlie Bone based on your descriptor, but I'd love to know so I can be sure to come up with specific ideas.)
Nov. 25th, 2008 10:26 pm (UTC)
All the ones you mentioned, plus Lemony Snicket, Artemis Fowl, Gregor the Overlander (?), Percy Jackson. As far as I know. Since I don't see him at all, and don't really correspond with him, I'm always trying to guess what he's already read. I'd like to find some realistic fiction for him. Right now he's a lonely kid in a new middle school who has trouble making friends. He also liked Stanford Wong, so humor would be appreciated as well.
Nov. 26th, 2008 02:46 am (UTC)
Yes! I'm anxious for some 10-12 picks as well! My 10 year old loved Hugo Cabret and I am trying to get him to read Mike Lupica's "Heat" which has a baseball theme. But he's tough to entice to try something new.
Nov. 26th, 2008 04:22 am (UTC)
I gave Jama some suggestions, so if you stop back and look at the response just above this, you'll see that list.

I just thought of a few more fantasy books to add: Game of Sunken Places by M.T. Anderson, as well as his Thrilling Tales! books. The first is Whales on Stilts!. The Thrilling Tales are funny. GoSP is made of awesome, in my opinion.

Ooh! And for sci-fi, I adore the Jimmy Coates books by Joe Craig.

If you want additional realistic fiction picks, Lupica is good. He has other books, if you're son is a "series" reader. They aren't a series, but they are similar, which might work well.

Carl Hiaasen's Hoot and Flush are good, too. Thoughtful and well-written. And Holes can't be beat (it's a nearly perfect novel). It combines realistic fiction with folktale and historical fiction in a remarkable way.
Nov. 26th, 2008 04:16 am (UTC)
Most of my recs are going to be this year's books, so here's what I have to say:

1. Three by Jordan Sonnenblick: Drums, Girls, & Dangerous Pie; Notes from the Midnight Driver; and Zen and the Art of Faking It. The last one involves a kid at a new school. All three tackle serious topics, with lots of funny.

2. Fantasy: Jonathan Stroud's Bartimaeus Trilogy, beginning with The Amulet of Samarkand. The trilogy is available as a boxed set, which is an excellent gifty-gift.

3. More fantasy/boxed sets: When I was nearly 12 and in 7th grade, my favorite aunt gave me a boxed set of the Tolkien books (The Hobbit plus The Lord of the Rings). I fell in love then, and remain thus.

4. Funny, realistic: David Lubar's Sleeping Freshman Never Lie. Also? Involves changing schools, in a slightly different guise, so he might not think of it as a "message."

5. Nina Nelson's Bringing the Boy Home. Excellent adventure.

6. For pee your pants funny fantasy, you cannot beat The Wee Free Men by Terry Pratchett, and the other two books in the Tiffany Aching sequence. Whether he'd be willing to give it a go with a female MC is the real question.

7. Oh - more fantasy: D.M. Cornish's Monster Blood Tattoo books: First book is Foundling.

8. More still, and extremely popular with angeladegroot's 11 yo boy, Garth Nix's Keys to the Kingsdom series, beginning with Mister Monday. The series is not yet finished, but nearly.
Nov. 26th, 2008 04:22 am (UTC)
See also my comments to poolhallace
Nov. 26th, 2008 12:44 pm (UTC)
Wow!! Thank you SO much, Kelly. So many possibilities. Will check all of them out. :)! I feel much relieved now . . .
Nov. 25th, 2008 06:46 pm (UTC)
"She is too fond of books, and it has turned her brain."
~Louisa May Alcott, Work: A Story of Experience

I'm afraid I might have this affliction as well ;) Books are a most excellent idea for gifts! We also buy bookstore gift certificates for those that like to browse or are hard to buy for. (We are lucky to have readers in the family; they like books as gifts.)
Nov. 26th, 2008 04:23 am (UTC)
Forget snow. To borrow from Charlie and Lola: "Books are my favorite and my best."
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Nov. 26th, 2008 04:24 am (UTC)
Book store gift cards are perhaps my very favorite gift. But lots of folks like to give actual present-presents instead of cash-equivalent presents.
Nov. 26th, 2008 02:42 am (UTC)
Amen. My kids know that "Mom, can I get a book? will get a resounding "YES!" every time! I love that my kids love to read and I love finding new books to share with them both old and new. We've been reading "Homer Price" and it's so fun to revisit one of my old favorites and make it new for my kids. I am a big giver of books and gift cards to bookstores and I swear, I get palpitations when I get a new book. Can't wait to read the rest of your picks!
Nov. 26th, 2008 04:25 am (UTC)
I love books, too. And have skimped on groceries to get them, on occasion.
( 28 comments — Leave a comment )

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