November 25, 2011

Children's book suggestions for Christmas giving

Well, that was fast. It's time again for our annual Christmas shopping post. You probably know how it works: if you click through any of the Amazon links here, place an item in your shopping cart (whether it's something we've linked to or not) and eventually purchase it, we will get a small percentage from Amazon that doesn't add to your cost. We greatly appreciate any purchases you may throw our way.

I've tossed various irresistible electronics, cheese baskets (by popular demand), favorite DVDs and CDs (not just Sinatra), and of course books into our Amazon store. I've organized the books into categories: non-fiction, fiction, parenting, cookbooks, etc.

The titles I'm most enthusiastic about are the children's books. Our large family loves to read. I've highlighted some of our favorites.

Recommended books for children: 

Little Britches: Father and I Were Ranchers by Ralph Moody: When boys were boys. Think of this autobiographical book and its sequels as Little House with a male protagonist. Thank goodness no one had yet come up with Ritalin in the early 1900s when Ralph was a boy; if they had, he would have been dosed early and often, and these great American stories wouldn't exist. Young Moody possessed what they once called "initiative" in spades. He was a cowboy, a farmer, and an entrepreneur par excellence. Little Britches makes an excellent read-aloud, along with Man of the Family, Mary Emma and Company, and The Fields of Home. (There are more titles in the series, but these are the best.)

The Tripods series by John Christopher: A riveting four-book series about what happens when horrifying aliens take over the earth with the help of mind-controlling "caps" that destroy the human will. A tale for our time. (Read the prequel last.)
The White Mountains
The City of Gold and Lead
The Pool of Fire
When the Tripods Came

Tintin in America and others by Hergé. Entice that reluctant reader with non-stop adventure, humor, and great drawings. These comics could never have been written today. My kids have read them over and over.

Have Spacesuit, Will Travel by Robert Heinlein: Aliens, faster-than-light travel, and sliderules. #3 son says it's the second best book ever. (Best: The Hobbit.)

The Wonderful Flight to the Mushroom Planet and others by Eleanor Cameron. Irresistible:
WANTED: A small spaceship about eight feet long, built by a boy, or by two boys, between the ages of eight and eleven. The ship should be sturdy and well made, and should be of materials found at hand. Nothing need be bought. No adult should be consulted as to its plan or method of construction. An adventure and a chance to do a good deed await the boys who build the best space ship. Please bring your ship as soon as possible to Mr. Tyco M. Bass, 5 Thallo Street, Pacific Grove, California.
I rest my case.

Anything by Marguerite Henry: We hope the current disturbing obsession with vampires hasn't killed off the American girl's passion for horses and horse stories. My daughters loved Misty of Chincoteague, Stormy, Misty's Foal, Sea Star, Orphan of Chincoteague, and King of the Wind, among others.

Swallows and Amazons by Arthur Ransome. The first book of a dozen about imaginative British children who live in the Lake District, sailing about in boats and having adventures. A much-loved classic. #2 daughter has collected all twelve.

All Creatures Great and Small by James Herriot. This book and its sequels were written for adults but teens will also fall in love with Herriot's Yorkshire and its inhabitants, both human and animal. Hilariously funny as well as dramatic and poignant. Try to save the excellent BBC series for viewing after you and your kids have finished the books. Like dessert.

The Hound of the Baskervilles by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. A teenager I know recently remarked of the current cinematic incarnations of Holmes, "They had to change the stories to make them interesting." Wrong! For Sherlock Holmes fans or mystery lovers in general, it doesn't get any better than this suspenseful, other-worldly tale set on the desolate moors. (See Roger Kimball's How to Reform Primary Education.)

Also not to be missed:

Half Magic and others by Edward Eager. A huge favorite of daughter #4. Maybe I can get her to say a few words about it. (Asked her -- she says Edward Eager is like E. Nesbit but better.)

The Moffats and others by Eleanor Estes. The Moffats books make my top-ten list of kids' fiction.

The Freddy books by Walter Brooks. Silly old-fashioned American fun with a multi-talented pig as the main character. Twenty or so books in the series.

The Snow Queen by Hans Christian Andersen. One of the most beautiful stories ever written.

The Princess and the Goblin and others by George MacDonald. An enthralling read-aloud.

For pre-schoolers:

Little Bear by Else Holmelund Minarik: Don't let your kids or grandkids grow up without Little Bear. No need to bother with A Kiss for Little Bear, but the three linked above are required reading.

Frog and Toad by Arnold Lobel: Also necessary to childhood. You have no idea how often we've finished up a house-wide search for missing keys with the phrase, "What a lot of trouble I have made for Frog."

Little Fur Family by Margaret Wise Brown. I love this book. I've tried to link to the tiny, fur-covered edition but it's hard to tell, so buyer beware.

A House is a House for Me by Mary Ann Hoberman. A tour-de-force in ballad form, in which everything is a house for something else. Infectious, in a good way.

Browse here for many more titles. I'll be adding others to our Amazon store in the coming days so check back if you've got young readers on your list.

A few other items recycled from last year's post:

Classic television:

Get Smart -- Kids watched and found out where dad got all his jokes.

All Creatures Great and Small -- Wonderful, and not just for anglophiles.

The Prisoner -- Be seeing you!


3 Godfathers (1948) directed by John Ford and starring John Wayne. One of my all-time favorite westerns, and a Christmas movie to boot.

Gaslight (1944) starring Ingrid Bergman at (perhaps) her most incandescently beautiful. Excellent villain played by Charles Boyer. Very satisfying.

Ingrid Bergman in Gaslight

Bye Bye Byrdie (1963) starring Ann-Margret, Dick Van Dyke, Janet Leigh, and Bobby Rydell. What's not to like?

More movies and TV here.

Our Amazon store categories:
Books: non-fiction
Books for children
Books: fiction
Music: Various
Music: Sinatra
Toys & Games

Again, your Amazon purchases through this site are greatly appreciated. They're also sometimes surprising, like the reader who purchased not one but two Red Green video collections. I hadn't thought of that in decades. I think we might have an old taped-off-the-TV video cassette of Mr. Green and co. lurking in the recesses of our basement. Is it possible the show has improved with age?

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  1. The Children of the Famine, a three-book series by Marita Conlon-McKenna -ages 9 and up - very well written.

  2. Boy, you have mentioned nearly all of our family's favorite books! I would add The Wheel on the School and The Return of the Twelves as a couple of others that are great reads, but are not widely known.

  3. Ha -- The Return of the Twelves is a big favorite of #4 daughter!

    Lots more of our favorite titles here:

  4. Turns out the Tintin movie was pretty good, according to my kids, who are really picky and critical. :-)


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