Wednesday, December 27, 2006

BOOKS: Let the Wild Rumpus Start!

Ahhh, there's nothing like cruising into the last week of the year with the assurance that you're well into your fiftieth book and nothing -- no, nothing! I defy fate to get in my way! HA! -- will keep you from your goal. More on that in the next day or so, but for now let's engage in a time-honoured ritual as ancient as this sacred festival itself: tallying up our loot.

Before I start, I must recant something I posted a short while back. Remember when I said that it's impossible to shop for a book person (i.e. me) without reference to a cheat list? I was wrong -- and happy to be so. It turns out that if you know someone really well and you're prepared to do some clever lateral thinking you can totally knock the socks off a book person (i.e. me).

You could do what my mom did, and give me a vegetarian cookbook. Now, I already have a healthy number of these, but you can never have too many cookbooks. And getting a vegetarian cookbook from my mother -- a woman who gets vegetarianism about as well as I get Keynesian economics -- well, that touches me a fair bit.

Or you could do what my awesome friend Libby did, and give me a newly released novel that she'd read and loved so much that she wanted me to read it, too, so that we could talk about it together on a book date (a date I'm keenly looking forward to, especially now that I'm two-thirds of the way through the book). It shouldn't have come as a surprise that Libby was able to think around me so deftly; I've known since pretty much the inception of our friendship that she's much, much smarter than I am.

Or you could do what my wonderful Doppelsis did and send me a book that was one of my favourite first books, a book that I loved, a book whose title I didn't even remember, a book that I have only ghost memories of reading, and a book that I never in a million years thought would ever cross my path again. I read it to Sam from start to finish as soon as I opened it. The ending was even more touching than I remember. Fortunately, Sam's too young to mock his poor mom for being too choked up to do more than whisper the words.

Or you could do what I did and totally cheat by getting gifts for other people that you secretly want to read yourself. (What? Don't you look at me like that. We've all done it, and don't you deny it. It's a matter of public record that Baby Jesus weeps over your lies.) In this case, it was new books for ol' Sam, mostly to replace many of the baby board books that we're all just done with, because I have to tell you something: if I read Baby's Favourite Toys one more time I'm going to tell Baby exactly where she can put her bloody toy horn, and I'm not going to feel bad about myself afterward.

Shopping for real story books was ridiculously fun. I stuck mostly to the 3-to-5-year-old section, where Sam scored such classics as Where the Wild Things Are and Corduroy, as well as newer titles like Walter the Farting Dog, Olivia Forms a Band, and Knuffle Bunny: A Cautionary Tale. And oh my lord, people, it's such a relief to have real stories in the house -- stories written by people who love words and sounds, and illustrated by people with an eye for the beautiful and the weird -- I can't even begin to describe it. I don't mind re-reading books, if they're good books, so even though we've already read all Sam's new titles more times than I can count, I still find these stories and pictures delightful. Luckily, so does Sam.

Words and pictures, beautiful and weird. What did you get or give along these lines? Anything that amazed and delighted you? I'm home for the week, I have a steady supply of peppermint mocha and mango martinis on standby, and I've got nothing but time to enjoy your comments.


Anonymous said...

I was just visiting my baby cousin, and Knuffle Bunny is one of her favorites. She's a VERY quiet kid, doesn't talk much, but she'll always yell "KNUFFLE BUNNY!" at the end when the eponymous toy is finally recovered. And a second-grader I babysit for loves Walter the Farting Dog with all his heart. You chose well, grasshopper.

Beth said...

I admit it - I got a friend a book that I wanted to read myself - The Gospel of the Flying Spaghetti Monster. And I read a fair chunk of it in the lineup at Chapters, waiting to pay for it.

Anonymous said...

I got one book for Christmas despite pretty much my entire wishlist being made up of presents of the page number variety and I was so upset that my boyfriend is taking me on a used bookshope scavenger hunt all over Vancouver on Saturday which is especially touching because he gets the whole book thing about as well as I get Keynesian economics. The fact that he supports my chronic reading habit so wholeheartedly ALMOST makes up for the fact that he's not a reader. Still don't know if I could bring myself to marry a bookphobe though ;)

Anonymous said...

I got no books for Christmas. Literally, the first time in 15 years, I think, that I haven't gotten a book for christmas. (That said, I'd gone to a used book shop to show a friend around and ended up walking out with three myself and if someone could reassure me that there's a light at the end of the tunnel that is "The Mysterious Flame of Queen Loana" I'd appreciate it.)
In the meantime, what's the book that doppelsis got you? And is Sam too old for "The Hungry Caterpillar" and "Chicka Chicka Boom Boom?" I just remember those as vividly as "Where The Wild Things Are."

Anonymous said...

I totally lucked out on the book front this holiday, with a healthy combination of non-fiction and fiction -- "The Upside of Down", "When She Was Queen", "Through the Children's Gate" and a few others.

Even better, I feel like I am making a good dent in my book backlog. As you know, I love politics, social and cultural analysis and, even, Keynesian economics. So you can imagine how happy I am to finally be making my way through Obama's "The Audacity of Hope". It is so simple, so Let's Be Friends, but oddly compelling. And, soon, I'll get to tackle the Richard Dawkins versus Francis Collins debate by reading each of their books. I love the holidays!

(PS - I am flattered, Dopp, but there is *no* doubt that you are the smarty-pants in this friendship. ;) And, I can't wait to chat about the book...)

Anonymous said...

Speaking of farting and Canada, you and Sam need to read Good Families Don't by Robert Munsch.

Tammy said...

As you know, I love politics, social and cultural analysis and, even, Keynesian economics.

And you think I'm wearing the smarty pants, Libby? Holy smokes. I had to look up the spelling of "Keynesian economics" when I wrote my original post. Heh. But let's keep up the mutual flattery -- this is fun!

Solaana, Doppelsis got me a Little Golden book called Charlie, which has been out of print forever. It's about a skinny little stray cat who decides to leave the alley in search of a better life. It's a simple but hugely satisfying story. And the cover art makes me teary and smiley at the same time. As for Sam's other books, we do have (and love) Chicka Chicka Boom Boom, which Doppelsis also gave Sam, as well as The Very Hungry Caterpillar. But we need more. Or as Sam would say, "Mowah! Mowah! MOWAH!"

And Anonymous's post reminds me that I meant to pick up some Munsch for Sam. Good Families Don't is definitely on the list, but my favourite is still The Paper Bag Princess.

Anonymous said...

I very much recommend Click Clack Moo for Young Master Sam, though he might be a little too Young just yet. But I guess kids don't stay that Young for that long.

It was a good holiday for book-giving at our house, too. Hurrah!

Anonymous said...

We gave Nora a lot of Dr. Seuss, which she loves, and the Canadian relatives sent on a lot of Robert Munsch. Sam might really love Maira Kalman's What Pete Ate--do you have it? It's quite long, but lots of fun (for the parents and the kid), and Nora (at 18 months) will sit happily and listen to the whole thing, pointing out the objects Pete (a dog) has eaten.

Dave said...

I'm nowhere near the hallowed 50 books this year (other than lurking away on site of same name). But I have... resolved? resoluted? read twice as many books next year, which would put me within sight of 50. Maybe the year after that I'll get within spitting distance. Then? Touching.

swatcher, polish-ranger said...

For Christmas I received books that had mostly been on my list for a while and I had yet to read (The Wonder Boys, In Cold Blood, The Accidental and A Spot of Bother.) As for gifts, I mainly went with things I thought my friends would like. One friend is taking Canadian Studies at UBC with a particular interest in native women so I bought him Stolen From Our Embrace. Another friend is a pirate fiend like I am so in the humour section at Chapters I found a book called The Pirates in an Adventure with Communists. Both seemed to go over really well.

Anonymous said...

I work in a bookshop, you see, and so people refuse to buy me books any more. Which is so, so sad. (I enjoyed Christmas hugely, by the way! Not complaining!)

I did get 'The Ladies of Grace Adieu' by Susannah Clarke (I was enticed by the pretty pretty cover) and my grandma gave me Howl's Moving Castle and the new A. A. Gill book, whatever it may be called... since she's housebound, I bought those for myself, so I'm not sure they count. Hmmm.

I gave my good friend three books by Oliver Jeffers: Lost and Found, The Incredible Book-Eating Boy and How to Catch a Star. (I recommend these for Sam! I have no ideea if they're age appropriate but they are so pretty and interesting. LOVELY.)

I bought my sister The Vesuvius Club by Mark Gatiss, because I got it for me and read the first page and thought we could discuss it at a later date! (The book, not the first page.)

I've also got her birthday books sorted since she's on a big Donna Tartt kick at the moment: the two Curtis Sittenfeld and Special Topics in Calamity Physics. Babbling.

spacepotatoes said...

This is actually the first year that I did much of my gift shopping for other people at the book store (or Amazon), and the feedback so far has been good. I do tend to agree, though, that it can be tricky finding just the right book for someone who's tastes may be different from your own.

My book-ish loot consisted of the new Postcards From Mars, a beautiful coffee table style book chornicling the Mars Exploration Rovers' mission and Space: A History of Space Exploration in Photographs, which is a bit similar. A bit of a theme happening this year, I think :)

Dimestore Lipstick said...

My 15yo nephew and I do this all the time. We're always buying each other books we'd like ourselves, and them swapping them back and forth. And my 13yo niece (who isn't much of a reader but gets tons of encouragement from me) understands her Auntie well enough to get me a Borders gift card, and to share with me a book that SHE loves--Ann M. Martin's "The Meanest Doll in the World".

I love being the aunt with whom the kids feel free to share their books. They know I'll never let a recommended reading age keep me from a good book. And their joy and excitement at having someone to share with is some high-powered soul food for me.

Anonymous said...

"Frank Was a Monster Who Wanted to Dance" by Keith Graves

Anonymous said...

I am required to read SkippyJohn Jones to my 5-year-old niece every time she visits. This year, I decided she needed her own copy (along with a SkippyJohn doll - complete with mask and cape) and it was a big hit. We both love that book so much. The sequels are decent enough, but the original is magic.

If Master Sam enjoys Walter, you might check out Flawed Dogs by Berkeley Breathed. He may still be a tad too young to really understand all the humor, but the pictures alone are priceless. Every class I've ever shared it with - kindergarten to high school - has loved it. (Though, sometimes it does make me a little misty at the end. But it's well documented that I am a sap. ;)

Edward Fudwupper Fibbed Big, also by Berkeley Breathed, is another big hit with my niece. It's second only to SkippyJohn on her list of favorites. She got a copy of that as well this year, along with another book I've just discovered called If..., by Sarah Perry. I had to buy it for the cover art alone, but the inside is even better. And my niece loves to make up her own "What if..." as we read it.

BabelBabe said...

You need to get a hold of Kiss Goodnight Sam. Sam would dig it; if he's anything like my guys, he will enjoy the protagonist sharing his name. And it's a heartwarming book.

My boys got I Love You Stinky Face (I love reading this: )), and a anthology of the original Rev. Awdry Thomas the Tank Engine stories - and they are fine, even fun, for reading. The trains are snarky and catty and funny, and not too overly didactic. And both my three-yo and six-yo dig them.

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