IT’S A GIFT
by Rob Lopresti
’Twas the week before Christmas and my wife and I were wandering around the bookstore where she works, looking for gifts. The interesting part is, we had no idea who we were shopping for.
I don’t know if every independent bookstore does this, but I doubt that it is unique. At this shop they put up a tree with paper angels, and each angel says “Boy, age 5” or “Girl, age 10” and so on. Each one links to some kid in our part of the country whose folks don’t have the money to buy them a book for Christmas.
You can take an angel off the tree and go to the children’s book section looking for an appropriate gift. Or – most people figure this out eventually – you can find a book you like and then find an appropriate angel.
The bookstore gives a discount on such purchases, so that they cover their overhead, but don’t make a profit on these gifts. The store also arranges for the books to get to the kids.
As a writer/reader/librarian/citizen I feel a quadruple obligation to encourage literacy in the next generation. I want them to think beyond Tweets, Super Mario, and the Simpsons. I am happy to donate a few books to the cause every December.
So here’s what my wife and I contributed this year:
D’Aulaires Book of Greek Myths. My favorite book when I was about eight, still very much in print. As an adult I love the way the authors handle, shall we say, the naughty sections of the stories, so that parent’s understand what was is going on but it goes right over the heads of the target audience. My daughter’s copy fell apart from over-use so I bought another one last year. And the angel tree always gets one from us.
Frog and Toad Are Friends. Arnold Lobel does something amazing in the books of this series. Working in a vocabulary of about 100 words he manages to create two unique and unmistakable characters. Frog is the cheerful straight man; Toad is the gloomy blunderer. Many writers can’t invent such memorable people in hundreds of pages.
The Crab With The Golden Claws. I have writtenbefore about Herge’s Adventures of Tintin. This is the book that introduces Captain Haddock. What child doesn’t love a book about drunken sailors and opium smuggling? Blistering blue barnacles!
The Book of Lost Things by John Connolly. I don’t know anything about this book except that my wife liked it enough to purchase it for the tree two years in a row. She was determined to find YA books that were not part of a series, and that turned out to be hard.
Nation. A young adult book by Terry Pratchett, inventor of Discworld. We suddenly realized we hadn’t read it yet, so we picked up another copy for ourselves. Hey, we deserve a gift too.
Which brings up the ancient question…is it more fun to give or to receive? I got an unsolicited opinion on this subject from one man in his thirties, who came up to the tree with an armful of books and started yanking angels to match his choices. He grinned at me, a complete stranger, and said “I’m having a ball!”
Hoping your holidays were as much fun.