Holiday Giving – Part 6

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Even if you decide to sit out the Black Friday shopping frenzy, you may still be writing your list and weighing the pros and cons of online shopping vs. joining the crowds. However you decide to shop, I assume you’ll be purchasing a few books.  Today’s spotlight is on gift books.  It may be a  fun conversation starter or a picture book or a book to place on the coffee table, but what’s great is that normally these are not the kinds of books people purchase for themselves, and they often appeal to a wide age range.  I always judge a gift book by its “pick up” quotient. In other words, if it was laying on the table, would you pick it up?  All of these pass the test…

The Gift of Nothing by Patrick McDonell (Minimal text, but this is a sweet story about what gift giving should really be about.)

Star Wars: A Scanimation Book by Rufus Butler Seder (Seder is the creator of the enormously popular moving picture book Gallop!  I have a couple of Seder’s books in the school library, and it is not just kids who are tempted by his wonderfully low-tech creative books.)

Shadow by Suzy Lee (Another inventive magical book by Suzy Lee. In this one, the picture on one page casts a shadow onto the facing page.)

Dogs by Tim Flach (This is the book I’d like to put in a waiting room, set up a hidden camera, send people in and see how long it takes them to pick it up. Talk about pick-upability! )

Great Migrations by K.M. Koystal (I just saw a little of this National Geographic series on TV, but oh my gosh! I sat there with my mouth open in awe of what animals have to endure to move from one place to another. Get this one for the nature lover on your list.)

Race to the End: Amundsen, Scott and the Attainment of the South Pole by Ross MacPhee (This is the companion book to the exhibit at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City. When the temperature begins to get into the single digits this winter, pull this book out and remind yourself what “cold” really is.  Although the story of Roald Amundsen and Robert Scott is told in many books, it is the incredible photographs that make this book amazing.)


Holiday Giving – Part 3

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Today’s gift recipient is a child.  He or she is eleven or twelve-years-old and they love sports. They think about box scores and recent trades and sometimes miss what their teacher just said because they are mentally calculating the number of days before spring training begins.  Fortunately, there are authors who write really good books for them.  Fred Bowen, John Feinstein, Tim Green and Mike Lupica all write sports-based novels that combine sports and adventure and sometimes mystery.

Each author has written lots of books, but I chose two recent titles by each author. Any young sports fan would be happy to find one of these in shiny gift wrap:

The Big Time: A Football Genius Novel by Tim Green

Rivals: A Baseball Great Novel by Tim Green

The Rivalry: Mystery at the Army-Navy Game by John Feinstein

Change-Up: Mystery at the World Series by John Feinstein

The Batboy by Mike Lupica

The Big Field by Mike Lupica

Winners Take All by Fred Bowen

No Easy Way: The Story of Ted Williams and the Last .400 Season by Fred Bowen

No list of sports novels would be complete without the classic book by Bette Bao Lord, In the Year of the Boar and Jackie Robinson – a wonderful story about a young girl who moves from China to New York where she learns many new things, including the story of Jackie Robinson and the Brooklyn Dodgers.

In case you’re counting – there are 104 days before spring training!

Recommendations for Holiday Giving


One of my favorite parts of the holidays is selecting books for my family and friends.  There is no greater gift than when one of them tells me that they loved a book I had chosen. Over the years, many friends have begun asking me to recommend books for their own holiday giving ,and I’ve had great fun writing lists for them.  I’m a list maker by nature (kind of like Santa without the supernatural powers) and, for years, I have written book lists for friends to take along on their own holiday shopping missions.  So, I have an idea that could be mutually beneficial.  Between now and the end of December, this blog will be devoted to holiday gift ideas.  I’m going to make up imaginary relatives and friends and provide a few reading suggestions for the cold months ahead.  Kind of like a reading doctor!  This will serve you (I hope) by giving you a few places to start and give me an outlet for my list-making obsession.

Today’s imaginary recipient is expensive to buy for. They love big art books. I understand these people because I’m one of them. This list includes a few of my own favorites and a couple I’m hoping my husband will read about here and get the hint! 

Stickwork by Patrick Dougherty (We were in Phoenix a few years ago, and during a walk around the Desert Botanical Garden, we came across sculptures made from tree saplings.  This was my first encounter with Patrick Dougherty, and I’ve been a fan ever since.  The North Carolina-based artist constructs whimsical sculptures that can now be found all over the world.) 

Yin Yu Tang: The Architecture of Daily Life of a Chinese House by the Peabody Essex Museum (I love this book. It’s about a house that a Chinese merchant built for his family in the Chinese countryside. After seven generations of his family lived in the house, it was taken down, piece by piece, and painstakingly moved to Salem, Massachusetts where it was put back together again. Now, visitors to the Peabody Essex Museum can stand in the house’s courtyard and almost hear the voices of the families who lived there.  This is a grown up version of Virginia Lee Burton’s classic, The Little House.)

Holland Frozen in Time: The Dutch Winter Landscape in the Golden Age (I’m not a big fan of snow and ice, but this book almost makes winter look fun! )

Luis Melendez: Master of the Spanish Still Life  (This is the catalog from an exhibit that was in Boston last winter. Melendez painted everyday objects like food and pottery, but his paintings make them feel otherworldly in the way they use color and light.  Melendez’s paintings glow.)

Henri Matisse: Rooms with a View by Shirley Blum  (My favorite Matisse paintings all feature interiors with windows and this is a whole book of them!  If the view outside your window is getting too grey, Matisse’s vivid colors could be the cure.)