Dear readers, I need your help! I have a huge number of nieces and nephews, and every year I struggle with Christmas gifts for them. This year, for the first time, most of them are old enough to read or to enjoy being read to, so I’ve decided to get each of them a book.
Here’s where you come in. I am no longer a kid myself, I don’t teach school, and I’m not entirely aware of what books children are getting excited about these days. But I know that some of you are well-versed in kid’s books, so I’m hoping you can offer some recommendations.
Here’s the list of kids that I’m buying for:
- Newborn boy: His mother claims he’s advanced and ready for War and Peace (ha!), but what I really want is a great book that his parents will love to read to him. (He has plenty of Dr. Seuss already.)
- Two-year-old girl: Another good read-to-me book. I’m not sure what characters she’s really into, but I know her family is into horses.
- Two-year-old boy: Twin brother to the girl above. So ditto.
- 1st-grade girl: Learning to read. One suggestion from her mom was The Princess and the Pea by Lauren Child, but another aunt may be getting that one. She also likes Littlest Pet Shop, Biscuit, and Scooby Doo.
- 2nd-grade girl. Reading chapter books at 3rd-grade level. Her mom has suggested a series or a classic—maybe something with fairies or animals, but that’s not a requirement.
- 2nd-grade boy. Enjoying the Warriors series by Erin Hunter. Also into college football.
- 2nd-grade girl. I don’t know if she’s reading much, but I gather she’s caught Twilight fever from her mom. (Obviously Twilight won’t do, but if there’s a good kids’ book involving vampires, I’d consider it). She’s part of the horsey branch of the family, so a horse book could work.
- 3rd-grade boy. Now reading Harry Potter with his mom and liked the Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan when his teacher read it in class. Also likes Garfield books.
- 6th-grade girl: Loves Harry Potter and is getting into Nancy Drew and just started the Percy Jackson and the Olympians books by Rick Riordan.
- 12th-grade girl: Not much of a reader, but she’s recently developed an interest in Shakespeare. She’s also really into horses. I might go with Manga Shakespeare for her but I’m open to good YA suggestions.
So that’s the shopping list. I’d love your ideas!
Notes from a Reading Life
- Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen (reread)
- The Regency by Cynthia Harrod-Eagles
- The Boy in the Striped Pajamas by John Boyne (audio)
- The English Major by Jim Harrison. For my book club.
- The Mill on the Floss by George Eliot (reread). I haven’t read this since college, even though I consider it my favorite Eliot book. (Would be great for the Women Unbound challenge, for those who are participating.)
- Ghost Hunters by Deborah Blum (audio). Scientific investigation of Victorian spiritualists.
- The Ode Less Traveled by Stephen Fry. Lessons in writing poetry. I’ve reached the chapter on odes, but I’m taking a break for a few weeks until the semester is over.
- The Day the Falls Stood Still by Cathy Marie Buchanan. From Library Thing Early Reviewers.
- Shutter Island by Dennis Lehane (audio). Jenny loves Dennis Lehane, and I want to read this before the movie.
- Through the Heart by Kate Morgenroth. An unsolicited review copy. I’m not sure if I’m going to read it, because I’m not familiar with the author, but it looks like it has potential. It claims to be a twisty romantic thriller, which could go either way.
Books on My Radar
- The File by Timothy Garton Ash. The author’s account of reading his file kept by the East German government. Reviewed at Lizzy’s Literary Life.
- A Kind of Intimacy by Jenn Ashworth. An unreliable, possibly unlikable narrator obsessed with her neighbor. Sounds dark and interesting—just my thing. Reviewed at Stuck in a Book.
- Elizabeth Gaskell: A Habit of Stories by Jenny Uglow. Jane GS’s post at Reading, Writing, Working, Playing about Elizabeth Gaskell’s life got me interested in learning more about her. This is the bio Jane recommended.
- Making the Cat Laugh: One Woman’s Journal of Single Life on the Margins by Lynn Truss. A collection of essays about single, cat-owning (or cat-owned-by) life. Doesn’t sound at all whiny, which is a common pitfall of books about single women. I don’t generally feel my life is something to whine about (well, maybe when I need to carry something heavy up two flights on stairs), so I don’t want to read other single women’s whines. Simon’s review at Stuck in a Book made this sound like there might be “companion on the page” material here. (“Companion on the page” is a term a writing workshop friend used years ago about the pleasure of reading about ordinary experiences similar to your own.) And Truss is a grammar geek, too!