Watch out, BookLovers, it’s officially T-minus six days until Christmas – but don’t hit the panic button just yet. I have gift suggestions here.
But first: we’re also less than two weeks away from the Century Club roster expiration date! I have already received a few listings, go ahead, SouthCoast.
Every year I challenge my BookLovers to read at least 25 books to be part of the BookLovers Century Club. Reading 25 to 49 books qualifies you for the Quarter Century Club; 50-99 does the Half-Century Club; 100+ does the Century Club.
It’s easy to sign up: if you’ve hit 25 pounds, email me – at the address at the end of this column – before January 2nd. Be sure to include your name, hometown, and total number of reads. Boom, it’s done.
And now to my book choices:
I look on my shelf now and see memories: a nature picture book from my uncle Brendan “Merry Christmas 1990 !!” Later, a Harry Potter. Books from my parents’ friends, Eric Carle’s books about Santa Claus.
Stories last a lifetime, if not physically on a shelf, in hearts and shaping malleable minds.
Toddlers today are born into screens and pixels. A gift book is therefore also a subliminal message: to promote the tangible. Printed words, hand drawn art, imagined stories.
With that in mind, my suggestions …
I love any children’s book that impresses the beauty of nature. And so I loved “The Night Walk”, by Marie Dorleans. Translated from French, a mother wakes her children up at night to explore what nature has in store. “We sneaked into the whispering forest. The earth was damp, the bark smelled of comfort. Love it.
“Fatima’s Great Outdoors”, by Ambreen Tariq, illustrated by Stevie Lewis carries a strong message: nature belongs to all of us. Tariq, the founder of @brownpeoplecamping, tells the story of an immigrant family going camping for the first time – a welcome break for Fatima, who has had a tough week as a new student at school.
“Outside In”, by Deborah Underwood illustrated by Cindy Derby. The Caldecott 2021 Honor Book is mind blowing. I love this ode to nature: “We used to be part of Outside and Outside was part of us. There was nothing between us.
“We are protectors of water”, Carole Lindstrom, illustrated by Michaela Goade. This 2021 Caldecott winner and New York Times No.1 bestseller is masterful. Goade’s watercolor illustrations – whose bread and butter illustrate books “celebrating Indigenous voices” – could be framed. I like it: “We fight for those who cannot fight for themselves. Wings. Creepers… We are all related.
“It fell from the sky”, by the Fan Brothers. I loved this whimsical story of a fallen marble intriguing a neighborhood of insects from Terry and Eric Fan. With black and white artwork and colored marble, it has Oz-in-technicolor magic, with a hint of Pixar’s “A Bug’s Life”. Fans are fantastic, from their acclaimed 2016 gem “The Night Gardner” to their almost haunting “The Barnabus Project”.
“Little Witch Hazel: A Year in the Forest”, by Phoebe Wahl. This is exactly the type of book I would have lost myself in as a child – a charming forest filled with friendly wild creatures. It reminds me a bit of the old cartoon “The World of David the Gnome” from the early 90s. #NickJrShoutOut
“The little wooden robot and the log princess” by Tom Gauld. It reminded me of “Adventure Time” meets “Over the Garden Wall”. Oddly charming and fantastic.
For an ABC book, this one hit me. Because it’s not a simple “A is for the apple”. In fact, “A Is For Oboe: The Orchestra’s Alphabet”, by Lera Auerbach and Marilyn Nelson; illustrated by Paul Hoppe is more geared towards teaching music to older children, perhaps 6-9, just using the alphabet as a skeleton.
A is for the oboe, for example, because “The oboe insists that it cannot adjust its tuning to someone else. Everyone has to agree on it… That’s why the first note you hear when you take your seat in the concert hall is a stubborn oboe playing its “A”. And then the whole orchestra started to listen.
Or “D”: “The oldest instrument in the world is the drum. Drums have been around since the birth of mankind, pulsating, counting the seconds of life… ”
Or “I” for “You or me… We sometimes sit dazzled… grateful to the composers who conjured up and wrote the thousands of little black notes… to kindle chrysanthemums of neural fireworks within us.
I burst out laughing reading “The Rock From the Sky” by Jon Klassen. It is as if the Coen brothers have made a children’s book. Klassen is brilliant, delivering his unique brand of clear and sparse images, stylized writing and dry wit. Every toddler should grow up with Klassen’s “Hat” books. Buy the “hat box” filled with his tongue-in-cheek humor.
Lauren Daley is a freelance writer. she tweets @ laurendaley1. Learn more at https://www.facebook.com/daley.writer.