"Never Underestimate a Gift Book" by Gladys Hunt

We’re nearing the end of this fantastic series by Gladys Hunt. If you’re just checking in, please do check out The Hive for a list of all the posts to date! In today’s installment, she reflects on gift books.

“Never Underestimate a Gift Book” by Gladys Hunt

It’s not easy to go into a bookstore cold and buy a children’s book—unless you have done some research and comparisons.  Visits to bookstores can be enticing and give you some idea about choices, but bookstores are also risky.

Roger Sutton of The Horn Book writes, “Skip the winsome, fairy-dusted extravaganzas that catch your eye in the bookstore—they look that way because publishers know you’re doing the buying, if not the reading. Likewise, bypass the soft-focus, pastoral fables of intergenerational friendship, cruelly but accurately known in the trade as ‘grandma traps.’ And as for books by celebrities, ask yourself this: does my skill with a forklift make me fluent in French?  Does my dab hand with griddlecakes mean I was born to yodel?” Which is a back-handed way to suggest that if someone is not a gifted writer, then they should stick with being a celebrity.

One of the best ways to visit a bookstore is to take a child with you.  Go after the holidays when the sales mania has subsided and the fancy book displays are down.  If you can find a bookstore that has a genuine bookseller (someone who actually reads the books) then ask for a tour of recommendations and possibilities.  The browsing fun can be part of the present!

The problem with this is that you may find the child enamored by exactly what you think is wrong—another princess book or a vampire mystery. But if this is a present, it is no time to impose your tastes on the sale.  It’s supposed to be a gift, not an imposition.

But what you may be giving, instead of a forever classic on the shelf is a choice and independence—which you have to admit are special gifts in themselves.  

On the one hand, maybe a visit to the library is not only less costly, but also a better place to educate about good books. On the other hand, the lure of the bookstore is in a class by itself and may be worth the risk.  

We’re big fans of books as gifts here at Redeemed Reader, and every year we publish a Christmas “Winter Book Fair” list along with several other lists throughout the year specifically designed for gift-giving. Our hope is that these books are timeless enough to satisfy the gift givers and will also be winners with the gift receivers! Check out our most recent Winter Book Fair list for some ideas to jumpstart your Christmas shopping this year!  If you’re hoping to start (or add to) the Greatest Christmas Book Tradition, check out our Giant Christmas and Advent Book List.

Gladys Hunt wrote these blog posts for Tumblon.com, a web app that helped parents understand children’s development. Graham Scharf, one of the co-founders of Tumblon, has granted permission for these posts to be published here to achieve Gladys’s aim: for children and their parents to explore and enjoy great books together.

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Betsy is the Managing Editor at Redeemed Reader. When she reads ahead for you, she uses sticky notes instead of book darts and willfully dog ears pages even in library books. Betsy is a fan of George MacDonald, robust book discussions, and the Oxford comma. She lives with her husband and their three children in the beautiful Northwest.

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