This post is written for two groups of people: those of you who start thinking about Christmas shopping about now. I’ve heard from a few of you – with questions like: what were the big children’s books this year? And the second group I was thinking about are readers who enjoy finding the overlooked gem. They know all about The Year of Billy Miller and Flora and Ulysses and Journey, but they want to know about wonderful books that did not receive as much attention.
Here are three gift ideas:
Bunnies on Ice by Johanna Wright
Wright had me on the first line: “The best thing about my family is that we’re really good at ice-skating, but I’m a champion.” In this family of bunnies, the daughter waits all year for the first snow when ice-skating season begins. She explains the life of a champion: wearing “lots of clothes,” and having “a lot of fans.” It doesn’t matter one bit to this single-minded bunny that the “fans” are her family and friendly birds or that her figure eights are less than perfect. She knows what she likes. The illustrations in this quiet book are are cozy and sweet – and the colors are beautiful. If you know a young ice skater, this would be a perfect gift.
Architecture According to Pigeons by Stella Gurney/Speck Lee Tailfeather
This engaging book is described as a “lively introduction for children to the world’s most beautiful buildings,” but I don’t think it’s just for kids. Written from the perspective of our guide, Speck, the book is a tour of notable monuments and buildings. Speck has a distinctive voice. Here he is describing the Taj Mahal: “Pigeons know what love is. When a pigeon finds a mate, we stay together for life. So I understand how Emperor Shah Jahan must have felt when his wife, Mumtaz Mahal, died young.” You want to keep reading, right? Speck goes on to describe the day he spent “marveling at the Taj’s beauty.” One of my favorite parts of the book is that our curious guide makes up names for each of the landmarks. For example, he refers to the Great Wall of China as “The Great Worm.” Remember we are getting a pigeon’s eye view. Of course, he sees the Wall as a worm. This would be an awesome gift for someone of any age who is interested in travel or architecture.
Ballad by Blexbolex
One of the things I’m most looking forward to over the holiday break is spending more time with Ballad, one of the most intriguing books of 2013 – for kids and adults. Ballad can be described as a story or a puzzle, but most of all, it’s beautiful. Blexbolex is a French graphic artist, and I loved his other two books (People and Seasons) just as much. Ballad makes me think of those Russian nesting dolls; each of the 280 pages leads to the next one – as if the reader is uncovering the story. The basic premise is a child walking home from school, but his journey parallels the way we grow up. The world gets larger and more complex as we turn the pages. There are very few words in the book, but there are enough layers here to keep a child or adult captivated – and thinking – for a long time. A lovely gift for a thoughtful child, a graphic design student, or anyone who appreciates beauty.