By TERRI Schlichenmeyer
The one person on your gift list that’s hardest to buy for seems to have everything.
He has every toy known to the civilized world. Her dolls’ closets rival that of any supermodel. He’s played (and won) all video games ever made. It’s enough to make any parent or grandparent crazy.
But hold up. Why not stop your eye-rolling and your head-whirling by giving a gift you can both love? Something you can feel really good about wrapping up? Why not give a book?
FOR A FUTURE READER
I’ve said this before: for infants and very small children, the book you give to the child is really for the mother. So wrap up a cute board book you know Mom won’t mind reading seven thousand times. Tuck a cloth book under the tree (bonus: they’re washable and can be used as a wordy teether). Or give a can’t-resist picture book, maybe something that really sends a message (such as “Grandma Loves You” by Helen Foster James and Petra Brown).
Another idea I like for this age is to pick a classic that the child can grow into — the Bront ´ sisters, Mark Twain, Laura Ingalls Wilder, Jack London — and wrap it up. Think about it: this builds a library for your future reader, and your gift list problem is solved for years to come.
FOR A READ-TO-ME TODDLER
Here’s where the fun starts.
For kids who are just learning the appeal of books, the world is a very good place indeed. Open that world with “NO PIRATES ALLOWED! Said Library Lou” by Rhonda Gowler Greene, illustrated by Brian Ajhar and be sure to put your best pirate forward when you read it. Or find “The Man with the Violin” by Kathy Stinson and Dusan Petricic, which is a really beautiful book about paying attention. I also got quite a kick out of “Memoirs of a Hamster” by Devin Scillian and Tim Bowers, which is “written” by a hamster who’s not happy with what he’s got.
If you’ve got your heart set on giving a holiday book, look for “Arturo and the Navidad Birds” by Anne Broyles, illustrated by K.E. Lewis. It’s a story of love at Christmas, and it’s written in both English and Spanish. Or look for “Boris and Stella and the Perfect Gift” by Dara Goldman, an O. Henry-like book about gift-giving, no matter whether it’s Christmas or Hanukkah.
The world expands a little for kids this age, because there are so many really good nonfiction books available for them.
Look for the Dorling-Kindersley books for early readers and you’ll find books on sharks, horses, history, art, science and more. You’ll find biographies for new readers, books about really gross stuff (perfect for this age group), and … well, pretty much anything that they might be interested in. And that’s the key: What does the child like to do? Where are his interests? If you can tap into that, you can truly help create a lifelong reader.
But don’t let nonfiction be your only guide. Look for series books for this age group, like the Magic Tree House books, the Little House on the Prairie series, or the Dork Diaries books. Or go with a classic, such as the Boxcar Children books or something you loved yourself at that age.
Please step back and read the paragraph above, because kids who can read themselves quickly become middle-readers. They often like the same things and they generally don’t stop devouring a series they fall in love with until they’re way more grown up.
In addition to the books above, look for the Uncle John’s Bathroom Series books for kids (which will appeal to a huge variety of interests). Go find the “Diary of a Wimpy Kid” books by Jeff Kinney. The Ripley’s Believe It or Not! books are actually better than they were when you were a kid (more pictures, more to read), and what’s nice is that there are two or three new ones each year. Time for Kids puts out some great trivia-type books, too. Or find the latest sci-fi or fantasy book for this age group; kids that are advancing as readers really like that genre.
I love finding books for the 13-to-18-year-old reader. Here’s why:
Lots of adult authors write books for young adults. Go find the books that Jodi Picoult writes with her daughter, Samantha. Look for Jacqueline Mitchard’s YA books. Take a peek at Linda Godfrey’s werewolf books.
But don’t stop there: go back and look at Suzanne Collins’ “Hunger Games” trilogy. Go find “The Chronicles of the Imaginarium Geographica” series by James Owen. Pick up the “Langdon Prep” novels by Kimberly Reid. Look for “Inside MAD,” a retrospective look at MAD magazine, including interviews with celebs who love it, too. Look at any of the books written for young women or for young men, read them and (here’s the best part) discuss them with your favorite teen.
And therein lies the best part about giving a book as a gift to anyone in this age group: You probably can (with a few caveats) share your own latest favorite book, or maybe find a great suggestion you can love, too.
And if all else fails — for any book gift, for any age group — you can always go with a gift certificate and a promise to go book-shopping together. Or hie thee to a bookstore and throw yourself at the mercy of the bookseller with a smile. He or she knows how to help; I guarantee it.
Seasons readings, y’all.
Schlichenmeyer is with The Bookworm Sez, LLC, in LaCrosse, Wis.