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My parents named me for my father’s sister, Alison. She was a beautiful woman, inside and out, who met an Irish man named Hugh in the days before WWII broke out in Europe. My dad’s family were living in Scotland at the time, but were forced to evacuate as the danger increased. For five years Hugh and Alison wrote letters to each other across an ocean. They were reunited and married in 1947 and lived a long and happy life together.
At some point in my childhood, I began receiving a holly wrapped package from my Aunt Alison each December. Since I was her namesake and she lived so far away, she wanted to have some kind of special contact between us. So each year she would choose a special book for me, post it, and instruct my parents to place it beneath the Christmas tree. I so looked forward to my Irish books. And usually on Christmas afternoon, after the detritous of torn paper had been cleared, the feasties consumed, I would find a quiet corner, tuck a blanket over my knees, and begin to read.
I don’t remember many specific gifts from my childhood, but I sure remember those books.
The gift of books was something that I wanted to pass on to my own children. So each year, I would choose a brand new book for each of them to open on Christmas morning. Sometimes they loved them. Sometimes the bigger, expensive gifts got all the limelight. But each of those many Christmas books was chosen and inscribed just for them.
Giving a book at Christmas is an old tradition, and maybe some of you keep it already. But if you don’t, or if you are looking for some bookish ideas for your children or grandchildren, read on. I have put together my own list of age-appropriate tomes for girls and boys.
This is my very favorite board book, ever. It is such a sweet rhyming story, with cut outs for your kids to ‘peek a boo’ through. And the illustrations are delightful. I still have this book and often buy it to give at baby showers.
How can I possibly choose just a few? There are so many wonderful picture books to be found, but I’m going to share a few that are older (i.e., from my childhood) that might be unfamiliar to you.
Most of you are familiar with a few P.D. Eastman books, like Go Dog Go! But if you haven’t yet had the fun of reading A Fish Out Of Water with your kids yet, you’re missing out. It’s a hoot, and one of those books you won’t mind being asked to read eleventy million times.
No picture book list would be complete without this aging gem. Mike Mulligan and Maryann have been charming kids for decades with their old-timey story and charming illustrations.
You’ve probably heard of Tomie dePaola because he’s a prolific children’s writer. But you might not have read this one. This is my favorite dePaola book because it is such a sweet story about the special relationship between a grandpa and his grandson. Just a warning, you will shed a tear or two whilst reading this one. Another great dePaola story is Clown of God.
I could go on and on, but my final recommendation for the younguns is Arch Books.
These are books that have been made since the late 60s and new ones are still being printed today. I favor the originals, which are sadly out of print, but that’s because they are near and dear to my heart. I still have many of my own Arch books. These are retellings of bible stories with illustrations. They are accurate and fun to read. The link in the photo above is to a collection of the originals, which is only about $10,.But if you want to buy newer individual ones, they are about $3 each. Perfect for stockings.
So many chapter books, so little time.
I’m sure you know of my love affair with dollhouse miniatures by now. So how could I not include this delightful book about dollhouse people who come alive and have adventures? If you grew up on The Borrowers, you’ll love this one.
The Book of Three is the first in a five book series about an orphan boy growing up in a medieval setting. Sort of a cross between Narnia and Lord of the Rings. My sons absolutely loved these books and you will too.
While Anne of Green Gables gets all the attention, there’s another L.M. Montgomery heroine who deserves some attention. Jane is an almost-orphan who lives a very dreary life in her grandmother’s mansion until a stranger sends for her to come spend a few weeks on Prince Edward Island. This story is everything you would expect from Lucy Maud, with a little romance, a lot of charm, and some humor thrown in. Your daughter will love it.
Madeleine L’Engle will always be one of my favorite authors. And the first book of hers I ever read was A Wrinkle In Time. From that book on, I was in her thrall. Boys and girls alike will love it, especially if they are fans of books like The Giver.
There’s my list, folks. Not particularly long, but hopefully something on this list will be just the thing you didn’t know you were looking for.