Written by Catriona Coote Tuesday, 13 December 2011 18:07
Apart from my personal beliefs, Christmas for me has always meant books. As a child it was a time of year when I was given precious additions to my bookshelf – books that I didn't have to return to a library, that I could treasure for as long as I had room to keep them. The bookshelves might have changed but some of the books are the very same ones I delighted in all those years ago. I've reviewed about two hundred and twenty books this year and amongst those that are 2011 releases, there are some very gift-worthy titles:
Younger Readers: Note on the Door; The Travelling Restaurant; Ministry of Pandemonium; Barry; The Naughty Corner; The Ivory Rose; Muncle Trogg; Troubletwisters; A Monster Calls; Hiding Edith; Bungawitta; The Wide-Awake Princess
But never forget that for readers from 0-16years, five years is a very long time, so that books published only five years ago, unless it's Harry Potter or something similarly high profile, will probably be just as unknown – and interesting – to your children today. The Boy In Striped Pyjamas is still a remarkable, thought-provoking book and there is now a film of the same name. Inkheart, published in 2003, has also been made into a film that stands up in its own right, based on Cornelia Funke's novel of the same name. Her Inkworld trilogy is one of those series that gifted readers tend to rave about – once they've discovered it. Christopher Paolini has just released the fourth book in his Eragon series and they're heavily favoured by young fantasy fans, especially boys.
I have only just caught up with Maggie Stiefvater's inventive imagination and lyrical writing, although she was first published in 2008. Your older readers are almost certain to enjoy her Wolves of Mercy Falls trilogy (2009-2011), Ballad and Lament, or The Scorpio Races which was released last month. She is an outstanding and apparently prolific writer of beautifully crafted novels and the hardback editions are appealing to the reader's hand, eye and imagination.
Bloomsbury has republished Elizabeth Beresford's Wombles stories of the 1970s and these are a delight yet to be introduced to a new generation of environmentally aware readers. The whimsical characters of Great Uncle Bulgaria, Tobermory, Bungo, Orinoco, Madame Cholet, Wellington and Tomsk, amongst others, make for great shared reading.
And don't forget the classics. I have, sitting on my bookshelf waiting to be reviewed, magnificent hardback editions of The Secret Garden and The Wind in the Willows, illustrated by the great Robert Ingpen. Random House has recently released some of Colin Thompson's early works and for those who love his detailed illustrations, Pictures of Home and Looking for Atlantis are entrancing ways to spend an afternoon.
Then there's the joy of the second-hand bookshop. My local Lifeline bookshop holds a wealth of stories waiting to be adopted and about this time of year I often dive in, green bags in hand, and emerge several hours later weighed down by dozens of children's novels for various nieces, nephews and child friends. One of the blessings here is that for rapid readers who tend to inhale, rather than nibble, at books, it is possible to obtain a couple of weeks' worth of reading material for the cost of only two or three brand new books. I'm sure that Santa believes in reduce, reuse and recycle as much as the rest of us do, so don't hesitate to look for good clean copies at the local fete – the text is just as well written as it was ten years ago even if the cover isn't quite as glamorous as the latest edition. The transformative journey of Rowan of Rin, the thought-provoking narrative of Momo, the fascinating dip into history offered by Shakespeare's Scribe are just as absorbing in slightly age-stained pages as they are in the whiter, brighter, larger print and increased spacing of more recent reprints.
But the most important thing about giving a book (preferably several books) for Christmas – or for any gift, for that matter? You give not merely a cheerfully wrapped parcel but an experience. Writers allow their readers to travel from the comfort of their favourite chair or nest of pillows into a world of people and places they might never otherwise meet. A good book gives not once, nor even twice, but each time it is read because it the reader's experiences is influenced and enriched by their own life experience.
Give a book. Feed your child's heart and imagination.
On the to-be-read pile: too many to list but ones I've piled beside the bed for more immediate consumption include Richard Dawkins The Magic of Reality. I'm not a huge fan of his fundamentalist atheism any more than I am of fundamentalists of any creed but he has a gift for explaining scientific concepts clearly in a way that is accessible to readers from 10-110yrs.
Read but haven't yet reviewed: The Song of the Quarkbeast (Jasper Fforde, sequel to Drangonslayer and very clever and funny it is, too, even admitting my bias as a dedicated Jasper Fforde fan) One Day (David Nicholls: definitely for 16+ but a thought-provoking novel about the relationship between two friends over some twenty years; there are touches of When Harry Met Sally but much more interesting)
Currently Reading: The Fry Chronicles (Stephen Fry; his usual witty, wordy style but the humour, for me, is rather tragic, as his entire life seems to be driven by his constant self-doubt, which often ramps up to self-hatred. Creativity and mental health issues often go hand-in-hand but it is terribly sad to know that someone who gives so many people so much pleasure still doubts his contribution to the world; nevertheless a fascinating insight into his career – who would have known that he wrote the book for the musical Me and My Girl!); Wonderstruck (Brian Selznick; something new in novel structure, combining narrative and graphic novel; a very present-worthy book); Just My Type (which seems to be taking me forever to read but not because it's boring; it's so fascinating I won't read another chapter until I'm sure I'm going to actually have time to reflect on what I'm reading; definitely a book for geeks... or is it nerds?)
Until next time - happy reading!
- Useful links for non NSWAGTC Events
- Gifted with Learning Disabilities or Differences
- Seemed gifted when younger, but has lost interest lately…
- October 2012 Newsletter
- New Zealand pulls out of hosting World Gifted Conference in 2013
- Upcoming Events for Parents and Teachers
- 2012 Financial Statement
- Teachers Wanted
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