Christmas Ideas for Book Lovers

Now that November is here, Christmas is just around the corner. It's a good idea to start shopping early this year; with Covid related closures so prevalent, getting to a mall may be difficult and with so many relying on online shopping, availability could be a problem.

If you-like me- tend to over buy at Christmas time, it's good to remember the four gift guideline:  something they want, something they need, something to wear, something to read. This post is dedicated to the last item on that list. Read below to find a slew of gift items for the book lover in your life!

Fun Finds for the Book Obsessed

Have a book lover on your shopping list? If so, bring a smile to her face with these Amazon finds that embrace the love of books in whimsical style. Spruce up her desk with a trompe l'oeil pices like this organizer or kleemex box holder disguised as antique books. Or try a fun pillow with her mantra: Just One More Chapter. Blue light glasses and an unbelievably soft faux fur blanket and you've made a reader very happy...

There is nothing like curling up with a good book and a cup of tea on a precious snow day! We love the "Bookmarks are for Quitters" mug and the generous tea cup and saucer (my favorite). Don't forget the tea: Novel Teas offers tea bags tagged with literary quotes. And finally, a face mask that advertizes love of books and The Book Lover's Cookbook. Click on the links below to get a start on your Christmas shopping. 

The Importance of Reading International Literature to Children

by Isabelle Hanno

Stories. Humans are a social animal with a love of storytelling. For many of us, the world unfolded on our parent’s lap as we listened to them read us stories. It would be difficult to overstate the importance of stories in the lives of our children. To that end, and in order to expand my experiences with international literature, I viewed and reflected on four stories on Storyline Online and the International Children’s Digital Library: A Tale of Two Beasts, The Tooth, Bakit Matagal ang Sundo Ko?, and Black Ear … Blonde Ear. These stories reinforced to me the value of including international children’s literature in the classroom to teach valuable lessons. Encompassing themes such as empathy, perspective, and fear, these stories encouraged me to think about the unique and creative ways that I could use them in the classroom.

Children are, by their nature, egocentric; they struggle to see and acknowledge the feelings and perspectives of others. As they develop, they learn empathy and perspective, but their progress in this regard can be helped along by reading and discussing literature. An excellent choice in this regard would be the story, A Tale of Two Beasts, written and illustrated by Fiona Robertson, and available on Storyonline. Written in two parts, this is a creative story that introduces young readers to empathy in a heartwarming way. Part one of the story is in the perspective of a girl who finds an animal in the woods, who she refers to as a “beast.” She takes the “beast” as a pet and treats him as she imagines a pet would like to be treated: clothing him in a sweater and hat, taking him for walks, and showing him to her friends. She grows to love her “pet,” and takes pride in teaching him the ways of her world. She is so certain she is taking good care of him, that she is shocked and worried when he runs away! At the end of the night, the animal comes back and she is relieved and happy to see him; she decides he isn’t a beast after all. In a novel twist, part two of the story explores the perspective of the animal. In his story, he is minding his own business, hanging by tail in the woods when he is abducted by this beast! She kidnaps him, forces him to wear clothes, forces him to walk for no reason, and forces him to be around her friends. The animal escapes his “beast,” but once he is back in his habitat, he reflects on his experiences and comes to realize that she wasn’t a beast, afterall. She had become a friend. This adorable story could be used in a classroom to teach about point of view, and how different perspectives change the story. But not only is this story creative and engaging, it encourages young children to think about how there are always two sides to every story.

Another book that explores and provides opportunities for discussions on empathy is The Tooth, written by Avi Slodovnick and illustrated by Manon Gauthier. Many of us remember with fondness the excitement of waiting for the tooth fairy. In this story, a girl named Marissa goes to the dentist for a toothache. On the way, she sees a homeless man sitting on a heating grate, with a shoebox open for money. Although she notices that most people, including her mother, avoid this man, the image of him haunts her even as her tooth is being pulled. On Marissa’s way home, her sense of empathy leads her to give the man her tooth and tell him that if he puts it under his pillow, the tooth fairy will come to bring him money. This endearing story would be useful in a classroom to discuss empathy and kindness. Marissa demonstrates the ability to put the needs of others over her own desires. Marissa’s selfless act encourages readers to consider the importance of helping others who are less fortunate than we are. In addition, students could be asked to think about key details in the text and how they, as the readers, and Marissa realized that the man was homeless. Doing so will help students think about the clues in a text and how they can lead us to understand what is implied. The simplicity of the story, juxtaposed with the complexity of the topic of homelessness, makes the book stand out as an insightful children’s book.

Appreciating our differences is explored in the story, Black Ear … Blonde Ear, by Haled Jumá, available at the International Children’s Digital Library. This tale focuses on two groups of cats: black and blonde. Separated by a physical and social barrier, the cats are constantly quarreling. When an unbiased gray cat becomes the ruler, he teaches the other cats a lesson about listening to one another. He tells the cats to take their ears off and they experience a time without being able to hear the mice that they hunt. Once both groups of cats are experiencing the same loss, they return to the ruler, frustrated with their struggle. When the gray cat returns their ears to them, however, he gives the blonde cats black ears and the black cats blonde ears. In this way, they are encouraged to listen to one another. The story ends with the gray cat reminding them that listening to each other will help solve their problems. Though complex in its symbolism, this story could be used in a classroom to encourage students to work through problems collaboratively, by listening to one another and accepting our differences. Additionally, the changing illustrations of this text could be discussed in a classroom to emphasize the dynamic character change of these cats. Students could be asked to recognize the difference between the arguing cats at the beginning, to the peaceful cats at the end. Not only do the cats have each others’ ears on, but they look happier too. Black Ears… Blonde Ears encourages students to listen to one another and see the benefits of understanding that, though we may look different, we may be more similar than we believe.

The last book I explored on the International Children’s Digital Library was Bakit Matagal ang Sundo Ko?, written by Kristine Canon and illustrated by Mariano Ching. This tale reflects on a concern that many children would relate to. In this story, a girl’s mother is late to pick her up from school, a situation that would clearly invoke panic and anxiety in a young mind. The girl begins to worry that her mother forgot her, but then she starts to imagine all of the funny situations that her mom could be in while she's trying to get to her! She imagines that her mom, stuck in traffic, must find an alternate mode of transportation to reach her child: via a turtle, elephant, whale, and eagle. This whimsical story could be very useful in a classroom. Not only is it entertaining in its humorous portrayal of a child’s worries, but it also provides reassurance. As the child imagines the mother’s crazy attempts to get to the school, the worries of this frightening situation are lost in the imaginative unfolding of the narrative, showing how imagination and creativity can ease anxiety when you are afraid. This story could be used to practice visualization, and the students could draw pictures of the crazy situations that she imagines her mom in. Students could be encouraged to use their imagination and be creative when telling or writing stories. Students could reflect on something they are afraid of and be encouraged to use their imagination to ease their anxiety. This book has won three awards for its bright and colorful illustrations that accompany a story that many young children can connect to.

These stories remind me of simple values that are universal. Around the world and for all time, empathy, perspective, and fear are themes that will always be relevant to developing children. Including this international literature in my class would not only teach these lessons, but also encourage students to think about the importance of listening and reading words from people around the world. 

Links to Some Great Books for Children

And for the Adult Book Lover in Your Life

(Even if it's you...)

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