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Books as Gifts

M

y son recently turned 13. For his birthday gift, I gave him A Drifting Life, a memoir in manga form by mangaka (manga artist) Yokishiro Tatsuma. My son is an avid reader, the type that is pale at the height of summer. He reads all things hungrily, including manga, yet he hasn’t touched A Drifting Life, though it has sat stolidly on the coffee table for weeks, inches from where he reads. That “stolidly” may explain things. The book is, after all, 850 pages thick. Reviewers describe it as “gargantuan,” “mammoth,” “monstrous.” One Goodreads reviewer suggests “using it to press the water out of tofu when you get done reading it.” Is my boy overwhelmed? Perhaps. But there’s something more, I think. What 13-year-old kid wants to be told what to read—by his mother, no less? Being “prescribed” a novel in high school made me sullen and contrary: let me choose what will forever alter the shape of my soul. Besides, a novel approved by school isn’t going to rock the world! (I’ve grown up some since then). The wait now is for my son’s birthday tome to lose the gleam of my implicit benediction. He will forget its provenance and absent-mindedly open it, and tumble in (as I did one day when he was at school, gobbling down 40 pages before worrying I had cracked the spine or had in some less identifiable way sullied its generous spirit). I try not to fret about the $40 I spent. After all, that money supported a writer, a publishing company, and an independent bookstore, and I can eventually donate the book to the library for its shelves or fundraising book sale. December is the season of gift giving, and books, while not often on our children’s lists, are on parents’ lists. We want the traditions of Christmas, Hanukkah, and Kwanzaa to augment our children’s minds not just their Lego collections. I’ve bought hundreds of books for three children, now

teens. I’ve failed lots, but there have been some successes. First, know your child. To honour such a rich time of year, it is tempting to give ennobling books, “special” books. Perhaps books that have endured, or a beautiful edition of a classic, or a book with deep family connections—maybe a book that rocked your world when you were a kid, or a book that your parents gave you for Hanukkah. If your child is interested in books, in family reading traditions, go for it! A book with resonance can give a child roots. But the holidays also allow for lots of light, fun reading, too. There’s something for every reader. Alongside serious fiction and non-fiction, don’t forget the joy of a comic book, or a trivia-filled almanac, or cookbooks, or magazines (a magazine subscription is a gift that gives for a year), even a book of crossword puzzles. Graphic novels make excellent, low pressure reads for reluctant and serious readers alike. Take stock of your children’s interests. Does she like hockey? Is she interested in gender? Dogs? For any subject, there are likely fiction and non-fiction options—how about one of each? December is an opportunity to start traditions. Maybe your family can spend the evening of the longest night of the year— winter solstice—reading an entire novel aloud to each other. Maybe the family outing on Boxing Day is to a local bookstore to spend the gift certificate that always comes rolled up in the Christmas morning stocking, followed by an hour in a café, reading together over hot chocolates. Maybe you can build up a collection of holiday-themed books for the end table for the month. Or, after all gifts are opened, you can start a tradition of pulling a blanket off a huge box of library books checked out a few days earlier; make some cider and settle in. A tradition in my family was a gift, when we were about 10 years old, of an early edition of a classic novel. My mother’s intent was to seed a lifelong collection: we were now tasked with the mission of finding every edition of that classic, and thereby always have a reason to enter a secondhand bookshop and paw its beautiful vintage books. My sister, for example, received an ancient copy of Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women,

IslandParent.ca

Island Parent December 2016  

Gift & Book Recommendations

Island Parent December 2016  

Gift & Book Recommendations

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