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Monthly Archives: December 2009

Speaking of Christmas . . .

Hey, what’s Christmas without a little bit of shameless self-promotion? Dandelion Fire releases in paperback on December 7. Yes, that’s Monday. And yes, that’s well in time for Christmas. So there. And it’s cheaper than the hardback, so you can give a copy to that not-so-favorite cousin. But he’ll (it is a he right?) need the first one, too.

Christmas is Coming (Two Gift Suggestions)

I know that Traditional Consumerist Wisdom believes books to be bad Christmas gifts. But I’m not sure why. Is it because they aren’t made of plastic, don’t require batteries, and won’t be destroyed before next Christmas, thereby needing to be replaced in the annual zeitgeist of spending? No. None of that has to do with anything. The simple problem is that most kids (we were talking about kids weren’t we?) don’t want to read. Especially not on Christmas. That might be an overgeneralization, but I’m comfortable with those, so let’s move on.

Anyhowzit, if you happen to know a young reader, one who would be happy to curl up with a book on Christmas day (or Christmas night, or Boxing day), then I have a couple ideas for you.

For Girls: The Penderwicks and The Penderwicks on Gardam Street by Jeanne Birdsall
Now, strictly speaking, these books don’t have to be for girls. I mean, I read them and that was okay, right? But girls will be a lot more comfortable with them, seeing how they swirl around the relationships and adventures of a pack of sisters. Both books are great fun, crowded with great characters, and completely sidestep the ‘tortured, self-obsessed, juvenile’ angst that many people seem to find necessary to dwell on in literary stories for the maturing young. The first book is a National Book Award winner, and (this is where I’m hoping to get some reflected glory) I’m friends with the author and she’s terrific. Get your daughter or niece or granddaughter or cousin or friend the hardbacks. She’ll want them on her shelf when the next generation rolls around.

For Boys (and Girls): The Thief, The Queen of Attolia, and The King of Attolia by Megan Whalen Turner
The one thing better than being given a great book is being given a great author–a string of books together that can guarantee a much longer vacation for the imagination. I never felt as despairing after rushing through the first book when there was another one waiting in the wings. And another two? Even better. These stories are not just well-written, they are set in a world that is more creatively and completely imagined than almost anything else you will find. They are not easily tagged as fantasy, even though they draw on the fantastic. To my mind, the setting brings together alternative history elements of an early Renaissance relocated into a BC Greek city-state social structure, accompanied by the existence of the ancient Greek (or even Norse) supernatural. Am I being confusing? In texture and tone, the books are like C.S. Lewis’ Till We Have Faces, but not as dark . . . and for kids. Does that help? Let’s just say that I like them. In this case, I’ve never met the author. But my wife did send her a fan letter.

Final note: As a kid, I liked gadgets, too. On Christmas morning, a book can be exciting for later, while blinking lights are exciting for now. If you’re worried about an anticlimax, give the book early. (Early presents are never an anticlimax.) Let a kid tear off some wrapping paper and stay up as late as they want, reading by the tree. That experience is unbeatable.