I somehow missed submitting any suggestions for the official GeekMom Gift Guide on Books. Nor did I submit to the GeekDad list. But here I had planned a whole library program around gift book suggestions, and it seemed like too much good information to waste.
My program focused on books published in 2016 that we have in the children’s section of our library. But it also focused on how you select a book for giving. There are thousands of books published each year, not even including reprints. And as Ranganathan’s Third Law of Library Science states, “Every book its reader.” ANY of them might make a good gift for somebody. And since (as the Second Law states) “every reader their book,” it’s just a matter of matching. WHO are you buying for? Here are some suggestions of 2016 books that might make good gifts, sorted into who might be good recipients.
For Families That Love to Share a Good Fairy Tale
Probably my favorite book of 2016 was When The Sea Turned to Silver by Grace Lin, the final book in a trilogy of companion books that weave Chinese myths and folktales together into overarching stories. The trilogy as a whole (with Where the Mountain Meets the Moon and Starry River of the Sky) would make a lovely gift for a family that likes to read aloud together, as my children and I did with them this year. As the overarching theme is about the power of storytelling, the books are tailor-made for this purpose. Each book stands alone, but there are connections woven between them, and we had a lot of fun catching those connections.
This wasn’t the only gorgeous fantasy trilogy to reach its conclusion this year. Return wraps up the wordless picture book series Aaron Becker began with Journey and Quest. These are books that should sit on your coffee table for constant browsing, or for cuddling up together to tell each other the stories you see carried out in the pictures.
Of course, a new illustrated edition of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets came out this year, too, to match last year’s new Sorcerer’s/Philosopher’s Stone. A family of fantasy lovers needs these gorgeous editions on their communal book shelves. And paperbacks of the original editions on their own private bookshelves in their rooms, too. For those times you just need to reread alone.
And speaking of reading alone:
For Beginning Readers and/or Elephant and Piggie Fans (Because Who Isn’t)
But never fear! Elephant and Piggie are now hosting a new series of similar easy readers written by other writers. We are Growing! by Laurie Keller and The Cookie Fiasco by Dan Santat are the first volumes of Elephant & Piggie Like Reading!, and while they may not star Elephant and Piggie, they shine with the same brilliantly entertaining yet super-easy-to-read fun that made the original series.
For Babies! And Their Caregivers!
SPOILER WARNING FOR MY SISTER-IN-LAW IF YOU ARE READING THIS: You should probably skip this section until after we see you over the holidays. You know. Just in case.
Some day—it’s been in draft stages for nearly a year now—I’m going to write a post all about the different kinds and purposes of board books. But one thing all board books have in common: they do not get destroyed quite as quickly as any other format would if you give them to a baby.
I must cheat and direct you to superstar librarian-blogger Betsy Bird’s recent list of best new board books, because it definitely helped me out a lot buying gifts for my husband’s 8-month-old nephew. Here’s what I got him from this list:
Tinyville Town by Brian Biggs is a neat new series. Tinyville Town Gets to Work! is a classic picture book for sharing. But the companion books, focusing on different members of the community, are board books for exploring more, um, hands-on. Even the youngest citizens can start researching what they might grow up to be someday!
Speaking of future aspirations, Ruth Spiro’s new Baby Loves Science books sound like joke books, with titles like Baby Loves Quarks! But they’re actually quite good little overviews if you want to instill interest in these things early. Baby Loves Aerospace Engineering! seemed like a perfect fit for the son of an architect and Navyman. I can’t wait to see what next year’s topics will be!
Blue and Other Colors: with Henri Matisse: every baby needs a book about colors, and I figured his artist mother would appreciate the classy context.
One, Two, Three, Mother Goose by Iona Opie. Every child also needs a book of Mother Goose, and Iona Opie has one of the very best. But now she’s put together a short, board book version to hand to even the smallest of children!
For Your Relatives on Facebook
So with all the issues of fake news and social media, it…may not be just kids who need some practice separating news from scams. Real or Fake?: Far-Out Fibs, Fishy Facts, and Phony Photos to Test for the Truth is kid-safe, but presents real viral “news” stories and urban legends and asks the reader to determine their validity (the answers are given on the next page).
Or maybe your relatives just need a more subtle look at differences in perspective. They All Saw a Cat by Brendan Wenzel is a picture book that shows, through a variety of artistic styles, how different the same cat appears depending on who’s looking at it.
Inspiration for the Young Scientist
GeekMom/Dad is always on top of these kinds of reviews, so I know you’ve heard about Ada Twist, Scientist. Another one you should look at for those with aspirations of science glory is The Darkest Dark, a picture book memoir of sorts from famed Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield: what’s a kid to do when he loves the idea of flying into space but he’s afraid of the dark? Here’s to courage in the pursuit of discovery!
Another one I know you’ve heard about is the Science Comics series, for the graphically-minded young universe explorers out there. But when you were a graphically-minded science-loving kid, do you remember The Way Things Work by David Macauley? Let’s be honest: I was NOT graphically-minded and I leaned toward the humanities over STEM, but even I couldn’t get enough of pouring over that book, with its detailed looks at the inner workings of, well, everything, interspersed with tales of a society that inexplicably ran on wooly mammoth power. A lot has changed about the way things work since The Way Things Work was published. In 1998 The NEW Way Things Work came out to update it, but technology kept rolling on. So I have excellent news for you. The Way Things Work NOW came out this fall, fresh for a new generation of curious minds. A must-have.
For the Pink-Obsessed…Young Scientist
Pink Is For Blobfish: Discovering the World’s Perfectly Pink Animals, by Jess Keating, is a definite switch from princesses and ponies. I’m not sure if it’s an obnoxious gift choice (“Here! You SAID you love everything pink!”) or an absolutely awesome one. My own pink-fanatic has the sense of humor to appreciate rather than take offense at the bizarre fish face on the cover, and the curiosity to be fascinated with the content inside. Which is the point, of course.
For the Makers
Ideas Are All Around, by Philip C. Stead, is one of those picture books that will probably be just as inspirational for a grownup creative as for a younger one. The book came out of the author’s own search for inspiration, and how he found it just by taking a walk.
This is My Dollhouse, by Giselle Potter, is nice for someone who wanted a dollhouse but didn’t get one. Okay, that might be a bit cruel. But the dollhouse in the book is homemade, from boxes. Be inspired as the protagonist constructs her own house and furniture, and find instructions printed right inside the dust cover (this is another aspect that makes it a good purchase, actually, rather than a library check-out. When my library processed this book for the shelf, they attached the dust cover and covered right over the instructions). Your young architect/interior designer will go nuts. And with all the cardboard boxes you’re sure to have lying around, they can start right away.
For that matter, here is either a really brilliant or really annoying gift idea. Get a big box. Put a slightly smaller box inside. Put another smaller box inside that. Put another smaller box inside that. Inside the smallest box—maybe a nice shirt gift box— put Jane Yolen’s What to do with a Box. You’re welcome.
What I’m Getting MY Kids, Thanks For Asking
For my 7.5-year-old kick-butt-princess lover, I need to update her Princess In Black collection. The Princess in Black and the Hungry Bunny Horde and The Princess in Black Takes a Vacation both came out this year. We also discovered Ursula Vernon’s Hamster Princess this year. Since our library isn’t getting it until next month, I figured I’d just go ahead and buy the third book, Ratpunzel, for her now. She loves to read, and these books are at a perfect level for her to read comfortably to herself.
My 9.5-year-old Minecraft obsessive is not a “reader,” in the stereotypical sense. He won’t seek out a story to read for fun. So I play to his obsessions, then. He’ll gladly pour over books written by his favorite YouTube gamers: DanTDM: Trayaurus and the Enchanted Crystal by DanTDM and Stampy’s Lovely Book by Stampy (Joseph Garrett). Thanks for those reviews, fellow GeekMoms! I might have missed them otherwise!
Because while I might snobbishly see a couple of books dashed off by flash-in-the-pan pseudo-celebrities instead of real writers, he sees books he’ll want to dig into. And that’s what book giving is about.