I’m sure at least a few people who celebrate holidays and gift-giving rituals of various sorts at this time of year can relate to the position I always find myself in, which I call gift-giving perfectionism: just getting to the end of that list of people to buy for is not enough; I aim to choose every single person’s gift with enough thought to keep me from running across something I wish I’d gotten instead a few months later. For the recipient, it should be the sort of thing that, years later, he or she will still have and will remember as having been what I got for him or her this particular year.
For that reason, I hardly ever give books. Many of the people I’ve bought for in the past already own more books than I do, still haven’t gotten to most of the what was on their overburdened shelf of books they’ve been planning to read since last December. As far as most of my family goes, they’re proud of me for being the first to pursue any education and reading experience beyond the demands of daily life and state law, even more proud and ever thankful since I’ve stopped trying to persude them to engage in such endeavors.
Two of my nephews, however, ages 6 and almost 9, now love books, so I’m considering books as gifts after all. My brother and sister-in-law would probably assume that since books are important to me, to say the least, I’d do a good job of picking them out.
The fact of the matter is that I am completely ignorant about children’s books, but if I had a few titles to work with, I know these kids well enough to pick the ones that were best for them personally and fit their reading abilities. I am looking for something that enhances children’s love of reading, is highly enjoyable for them, and will be kept and remembered in years to come.
I don’t think anyone ever gave me a book like that, but it would be nice if someone had. (Well, there was “Oh, the Places You’ll Go” by Dr. Seuss, but I was graduating from grad school by then). Using various lists compiled by folks in the know about this kind of thing, I could start with dozens of titles to work with, but I’d prefer to take a more personal approach.
Besides, now that I’ve thought about this a bit, I’m no longer just interested in what will work for my nephews in particular, but rather in what various other people consider to be these timeless childhood books that really make an impact that extends into adulthood–whether these be what people are giving to kids in their lives, what adults remember from their own childhoods, what adults who simply enjoy reading children’s literature consider to be the best they’ve read, or what people would tell someone like me with no knowledge of children’s literature to take a look at, first things first. So what comes to mind and why? Let me know in the comments.