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Gift Books

Author John Cech
Air Date 12/16/1999

Gift Books Transcript

We always give books to the young people in our family for the holidays and birthdays. The books don’t have batteries (usually) or need any assembling–and if they’re good enough, they’ll last for a long, long time.

This year, I’m giving all the toddlers books by Rosemary Wells, especially her board books about Max and Ruby, which are among the best first books I know–mini-story masterpieces with wonderful, rich pictures about brother and sister rabbits who manage to pack more lasting drama into their twelve thick pages than some novels I’ve read. Wells’ two big Mother Goose books, the award-winning My Very First Mother Goose and the brand new Here Comes Mother Goose are also a must for filling the nursery with rhythm and rhyme.

Once kids begin experimenting with words, using nursery rhymes to launch their own language play, they’re ready for Maurice Sendak’s incomparable boxed set of four small books in his Nutshell Library, — Chicken Soup With Rice, One Was Johnnie, Alligators All Around, and Pierre. The books are just right for a child’s hands, they’re a tactile delight, and the poems–well, don’t be surprised if you aren’t chanting these around the house, too.

All the buddy naturalists and artists in the family are getting the Caldecott Award-winning Snowflake Bentley by Jacqueline Briggs Martin with the subtle, lyrical illustrations of Mary Azarian–it’s about Wilson Bentley, a Vermont farmboy who had a passion for snowflakes and discovered how to take some of the first pictures of these crystallline miracles.

If the children on your list don’t already have their own fresh copies of E. B. White’s Charlotte’s Web and Stuart Little, or the boxed set of Winnie-the-Pooh, or the The Complete Stories of Two Best Friends, James Marshall’s delightful saga about the two hippopotamuses, George and Martha, or The All Jahdu Storybook, a collection of Virginia Hamilton’s tales about a boy trickster, or, for older kids, the classic fantasy series by C.S. Lewis, The Chronicles of Narnia, or to stretch the Potterians a little, Phillip Pullman’s superb new fantasy trilogy, His Dark Materials, then you have some can’t miss choices.

We even give books to adolescents in the family, who make their appearances for dinner and then drift out with friends for movies. Try one of the new Pocket Pulse books, like Fearless by Francine Pascal, or MTV’s premier in publishing for teenagers, The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky. And then there is Francesca Block’s already classic series of novels about growing up in contemporary Los Angeles, Dangerous Angels, which is about teenagers moving into adulthood, and their lives filled with pain and joy and magic.

Posted in Holidays, Literature