2017-12-21 / Editorial

Books: Perfect last minute gifts for children

Library Links
By Leslie Rounds

It’s usually not too hard to shop for the children you know best – your own. But we often have to come up with gifts for children who we don’t know quite as well. Books are the perfect gifts for kids. There are lots of reasons for this, but one of the best is that children who grow up with ready access to books become better readers. Better readers do better in school. Better students do better in life. What is there not to like here?

But what books to buy? Fortunately, every year children’s librarians in Maine read far and wide and come up with a list called, “Cream of the Crop” of what they believe are the very best children’s books of the year. Just as nicely, they divide the books according to the age children that would best enjoy them. Each listing includes a brief description of the plot so you can match books to children’s tastes. If you would like to see the whole list, you can find it at your public library. Just ask a children’s librarian. Or you can access it online here: http://www.maine.gov/msl/libs/services/cream/index. shtml.

Here are just a few suggestions. For the youngest listeners, try “Goodnight Everyone” by Chris Haughton. This picture book features a quiet getting-ready-for-bed story that’s illustrated with vibrantly colored pictures of sleepy animals. “Tree” by Britta Teckentrup offers peekthrough pages that all include a small tree, but animals come and go and seasons pass, all gloriously illustrated in a way that encourages careful exploration. “Crossing Niagara” by Matt Tavares explores the story of a circus acrobat, the Great Bondini, as he walks over Niagara Falls on a tightrope – a true story. The suspense is incredible! This one is perfect for readers and listeners in grades kindergarten through three.

For readers in the upper grades of elementary school, try “Ms. Bixby’s Last Day” by John David Anderson, about three sixth grade boys (with some issues) who decide to give their sick teacher a best last day of school ever. Patricia MacLachlan (rather famous for writing moving books for grade schoolers,) has crafted “The Poet’s Dog,” told from the point of view of a dog grieving for his owner, who rescues two children from a fearsome snowstorm. “The Skeleton Tree” by Ian Lawrence is for slightly older readers and offers the suspenseful tale of two teens and an adult who become stranded on the Alaskan coast during a storm.

It’s not easy to recommend (or choose) books for high schoolers. By that age, most readers have developed favorite genres and authors. However, since many in this age have yet to get a driver’s license, why not offer a year of weekly rides to the library? In fact, wouldn’t that be the perfect last minute gift for any child? You can search for books together, encourage reading, encourage literacy and encourage a solid future for the children in your life. What a gift!

Leslie Rounds is executive director of Dyer Library/Saco Museum.

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