105 Ways to Give a Book

Happy Festivus: The Airing of the Grievances

Yes, it’s Festivus, the holiday for the rest-of-us. The iron pole is up and the feats of strength are on the schedule (mine are primarily of emotional strength, as I’ll be hosting my family, including my divorced parents, in my smallish split-foyer). Now is the time for the airing of the grievances. You have free space in the comments — my gift to you this holiday season. I’ll start:
  • The high school’s decision to omit honors courses where AP ones are offered is killing my teen. There is no reason my fifteen-year-old sophomore needs to be taking college-level world history and it is completely dominating her homework schedule. And that’s even though she’s taking pre-calculus.
  • I’m still peeved at my county’s decision to have new part-time employees of the library work both Saturdays of the two-week pay period. So for those of you keeping track, that’s every Saturday. Since I can’t possibly do that with all of my family obligations — every other Saturday was bad enough — I cannot get my old job back. Which totally sucks, because I loved it.
  • My mom — who doesn’t read this blog, btw — has call to stop using our phone conversations to turn some event into something that is critically sad or upsetting. And then the next time I call, she tells me that it’s all fine. The last was a friend’s new marriage, which she might annul because it was so awful, and the follow-up call was that they “worked things out.” Seriously, I have enough in my life without adding second-hand drama.
  • I’m not sure I get to have a grievance about the Republican party, not being a member or supporter. But with all that is going on between the ridiculous primary nominees, the constant filibusters, the amazing hypocrisy and outright intolerance, the best case scenario is that it’s some elaborate performance art piece.
So how about you? None of your people are likely to see your grievances all the way over at my blog, so go nuts. Talk about your boss, your neighbor, your mother-in-law. Tomorrow we can get back into the spirit of the season, but now it’s venting time.

Ways to Wrap a Book

I really wanted to do a couple of reviews today, but I realized that I haven’t done Christmas cards, wrapped presents, or returned my library books from the Cybils reading. So instead it’s the return of creative ways to wrap a book. This is at the end of 150 Ways to Give a Book, but who knows how many people made it that far. At this point, I’m not sure I’d trust Amazon’s shipping in time for Christmas, but if you want to make the gamble or have post-Christmas day festivities, you can still take advantage of the pre-shopping done in that list and this.

Wrap a Book
  1. Wrap your book up in solid paper and tie a cool scarf around it. This is from Hanukkah gifts with Old Navy scarves — just look at how the silver wrapping paper sets off the gray in the scarf. Masterful!
  2. For just a little something extra, make headbands the ribbons around your wrapped package. Red and white dots for Christmas, blue and white for Hanukkah.
  3. Wrap a cookbook in photocopies of your favorite recipes. A knitting book with your own favorite patterns. Or hey, wrap a book about finances in real money.
  4. Wrap your book up in a clever Threadless t-shirt. Want a literary theme? They’ve got that covered. But my favorite shirt has to be the Harry Potter inspired Tee Which Shall Not be Named.
  5. If you’re going the book gift card route, give it in a cute coin purse.
  6. Tuck a book or two in an Aeropostale tote. Three things to know. One, pick the solids for teens and logos for tweens. Two, don’t pay over $15 because these things are almost always on sale. Three, don’t think you can use another brand of tote unless you are very confident in your teen tote radar. Believe me, I know of which I speak.
  7. Strawberry bags
  8. Try reusable shopping bags — wrap in one, attach another in its pouch as a gift. These bags fold up into little strawberries. Cute!
  9. Stick a book inside another book — a book box, that is.
  10. Find a little booklight to put in the gift bag for a little late-night reading.
  11. Maybe you just want to attach a little something to the gift for fun. I suggest a keychain, an ornament, bangle-bracelets, locker magnets, or lip gloss. You can find these online, but personally, I go to the very back of Claire’s stores where they often have incredible discounts on such little things for tweens and teens. Honestly, the dollar stores have potential for this kind of little extra thing too.

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Last Call to Give Books for the Holidays

Trying to get a present for Christmas? Today until 8:00 p.m. PST you can still get free two-day shipping at Amazon and take advantage of the helpful shopping I’ve done for you with 150 Ways to Give a Book. If you are overwhelmed by the choices for your younger readers, try ten top picture books with gift pairings. If you’re aiming for the end of Hanukkah, you’ve got just a little more time. I’m not sure this would be the best gift for the festival of lights, but it is...

The Number One Book Narrated by Death

(Picture from The Strand in New York City.)

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The Only Ones

This is a new one for me. I read the first chapter of this book online, switched to Amazon, and ordered it immediately.

To back up, I interviewed Aaron Starmer about darker middle grade books based on a fabulous conversation we had at the BEA KidLit Drink Night, but I hadn’t read the his book because the ARCs had been given out by then. I meant to go back to read it, but with Cybils on my plate, I lost track of it. But I do follow @AaronStarmer on the Twitter, and when he noted there that the first chapter was online, I thought I’d dip in and get a feel for the book. I was hooked.

I spent all day yesterday reading it. I resented the times I had to put it down. It’s darker than my usual middle-grade fare, skirting the edge of Young Adult. It’s realistic and dystopian and science fiction and old-fashioned and smart and sensitive all at the same time. Simply a fantastic book. So let’s do this for realsies.

The Only Ones
by Aaron Starmer

Delcorte 2011, purchased copy
The Only OnesMartin Maple is tucked away from the world on an island with only his father for company, and the occasional summer vacationers to observe. But on his eleventh birthday, his father sails away and doesn’t return. Self-sufficient, Martin waits for him for two years, and then in searching for his father on the mainland finds a world deserted of people. One strange traveler points him on his way to the village of Xibalba, composed of a group of misfit teenagers trying to get by and make a life. Threaded through the book is the mystery of what happened on The Day and what can possibly happen next for this new world. Intensely smart and constantly gripping, realistic characters combine with mystical elements in a perfect story of nothing less than humanity itself. The resolution lingers, tickling the brain with the continuing questions offered by the very best of literature.

Let me say two things here personally. One, I’m calling this as a movie waiting to be made. Two, this book would make a perfect gift, and you’ll have to trust me that its gift-giving potential has an element in the book. Right now, you don’t even need to leave the house, because you can buy The Only Ones with free two-day shipping at Amazon.

Note that free two-day shipping at Amazon and take advantage of the helpful shopping I’ve done for you with 150 Ways to Give a Book. If you are overwhelmed by the choices for your younger readers, try ten top picture books with gift pairings.

Links to material on Amazon.com contained within this post may be affiliate links for the Amazon Associates program, for which this site may receive a referral fee.

The Map of My Dead Pilots

The Map of My Dead Pilots: The Dangerous Game of Flying in Alaska
by Colleen Mondor

Lyons Press 2011, purchased copy

The Map of My Dead Pilots: The Dangerous Game of Flying in AlaskaThis book is simply the worst marketing campaign ever for arctic aviation. So you want to be an Alaskan pilot? Because it’s cold, lonely, boring, erratic, stressful, exhausting (very, very cold needs another mention), and you may die. Blending the adventure stories of plane trips both successful and unsuccessful with personal narratives, Colleen Mondor brings the reader into the last frozen frontier. With money at stake, planes fly in weather too cold, with cargo too heavy to be legal or safe. Everyone personally knows some pilot who died, yet the collected stories of deadly accidents don’t change the rules or risks. Published as adult nonfiction, there is crossover appeal for teens in the subject and — let’s be honest here — shorter page count then many nonfiction titles. There is some language throughout the book, but nothing that teens won’t have heard, read, and likely said before.

Personally, I read the book on a deadline, and now feel that it deserves a less rushed reader. Because when I could stop, I was able to process much more of the weight of what I had just read. For example, one anecdote detailed how the operations department was expected to lie on the official documentation for the flight — but in her job the author would write the correct weight on scrap paper, for only cargo and the pilot to see. Based on that real number, they would make the decision whether to take the flight. In a way, that number was the only thing that had substance, reality — in that everything else was faked (like the numbers), uncertain (like the weather) or precarious (like the aging planes): all but that one scrap of paper that would get thrown away. That’s something to think about, right? And that’s this book.

My fellow book blogger and good friend Colleen Mondor agreed to stop by to answer some questions about her book and new authorhood:

When did you start writing and/or seeing yourself as a writer?
I really started thinking that I could write as part of who I intended to be (as opposed to writing all through school and being told it was “a nice hobby”) after I left graduate school and realized that all the research I had done for my thesis was too valuable to shelve. The thesis was the longest thing I had ever written (160+ pages) that made sense and had a real beginning and ending. Once I had it in my hands I believed I could be more than just someone who writes after I do my “real work” every day (as I had always been told growing up) and that’s when I got serious. (I should note that my thesis was on pilot error accidents among Alaskan bush commuters — so it played right into Map.)
Who inspires you personally or professionally?
Ray Bradbury, Louis Armstrong, Hepburn & Tracy, Springsteen, Dan Eldon, Peter Beard, Barbara Hodgson (The Sensualist, Dreaming of East, etc.), Sara Vowell (!), Tim O’Brien (The Things They Carried), and so many more. Lately my life is filled with images of my great grandmother, Julia Lennon, whose photo albums recently came into my mother’s possession. Her life was incredibly hard and I find it amazing how she survived — her sheer force of will is the stuff of legend. If that isn’t inspiring (and she was my Nana!), I don’t know what is.
The narrative has an organic flow, elaborating on things previously mentioned and hinting at stories to come. With that structure, how did you organize the writing process?
Ha! Organization was something that came up all the time — sticky notes and index cards everywhere to keep straight what I wrote where and when I said what and on and on. (I have Scrivener now and I’m hoping it will help a lot in the future.) I wrote the book completely out of order and then, with the help of my agent and editor, put it in the final order you see now. I wish I could have been more straightforward when writing the book as it would have been easier from an organization perspective, but in terms of the actual creative process, easy was just not any part of the writing.
With such a personal and difficult topic, what was the hardest part to write?
Technically it was most difficult to make sure I protected the identities of all the people involved while still writing the complete truth. The hardest chapter though was a surprise for me — it was “The Good Pilot,” about my friend “Adam” who crashed due to pilot error but is still alive and well in Alaska. You would think as he is still here that would have been easier but the crash had such a detrimental affect on him and was so preventable that I really struggled with how not to let my frustration with the whole situation boil over. I wanted a different story for him — I still want a different story for him — and there is nothing that anyone can do about that. At one point I wondered if I could even include the chapter at all. It took forever to get it right.
You’ve had a longtime perspective on publishing from the reviewing side of things at Bookslut and Chasing Ray. What have you found surprising as a new author?
How quickly you become overwhelmed by the need to sell the book now that the book is written. I wish writers could just write and write and write and while I had some idea from friends how much work I would have to put into marketing Map after it came out, I was still surprised. It can overtake your life if you let it.
Where do you go next, either literally with author visits or figuratively as a writing path?
Literally, I will be going through several cities/towns in Alaska this spring and also hopefully in the Pacific northwest. To get the book on lots of shelves I have to help generate interest, and the best way to to do that is to show folks the pictures I have of flying up there and to talk about the job. There is a lot of interest in Alaska — a lot of curiosity — and I have found people very receptive to events where they can see what we saw and ask questions about what the Company was like. That is my plan for early 2012. For writing, I have several essay projects in the works and intend to continue with narrative nonfiction — more on that as it develops!
Be sure to check out other reviews and interviews:

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Thursday Three: Hanukkah

The Borrowed Hanukkah Latkes
by Linda Glaser

The Borrowed Hanukkah LatkesAs a family prepares for Hanukkah, more guests are due to arrive than expected. The daughter, Rachel, borrows potatoes and eggs from their elderly neighbor to make the latkes, each time hoping that by borrowing food she will convince the woman to join the family for Hanukkah. She can’t make her come over, but in the end comes up with another plan to bring Hanukkah to the woman. Light and bright illustrations complement the tone perfectly. A fun story that doesn’t feel the need to explain either the history or the specific celebration of the holiday. There a sequel, too: Mrs. Greenberg’s Messy Hanukkah.

Hanukkah at Valley Forge
by Stephen Krensky

Hanukkah at Valley ForgeIn the middle of the Revolutionary War, a soldier takes a quiet moment to celebrate Hanukkah. Spotted by General Washington, he explains the religious history of Hanukkah as we see the connection between the fight of the Maccabees and America’s fight with the British. The book has a historical basis, as the author’s note describes. Lovely book too, in its detailed watercolor illustrations.


Chanukah Lights
by Michael Rosen

There’s no need to review this new and spectacular book. I got the promotion piece at Book Expo America and was already sold on this title. Just watch.


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Christmas Books Lite

Today is another repost, but a good one. The focus is Christmas books that aren’t so very heavy on the Christmas — a trait I’ve found useful for classroom readings and library storytimes. Because as it turns out, I do live in the part of the country where — as Rick Perry see it — kids aren’t allowed to celebrate Christmas. I say that with sarcasm, but since the D.C. area is culturally diverse, there is great care to not offend. I agree with the logic, but it sure does make seasonal storytimes difficult.

In the past, I’ve focused on the cultural aspect of holidays around the world — including this set of Christmas books. I’ve pulled together books I liked that focus more on the gift-giving aspect of Christmas rather then Santa or — I can’t even imagine presenting this in this area — the Nativity. These are books about gifts and giving, that happen to be at Christmas but aren’t so much about Christmas. I haven’t done research on this in years, so many of them are on the older side. I’d appreciate some new title suggestions to explore. Oh, and I like them too.

My Penguin OsbertMy Penguin Osbert, by Elizabeth Cody Kimmel
Joe gets a penguin for Christmas from Santa after years of misunderstandings, but having a penguin turns out to be a lot of work. This is one of my favorite books for the “be careful what you wish for” message, but it is handled with humor and grace.

Shall I Knit You a Hat?Shall I Knit You a Hat? by Kate Klise
A mother rabbit knits a special hat for little rabbit, and together they decide to make some very creative hats for all of their friends. The book mentions Christmas, but otherwise is really focused on the giving aspect. A cute book, sweet and simple, with some humor in the illustrations as hats are made for the variety of animals.

Merry Christmas, Matty MouseMerry Christmas, Matty Mouse, by Nancy Walker-Guye
A little mouse is heading home from school with six Christmas cookies for his mom. On his way home he runs into some hungry friends and, one by one, gives all but one cookie away. In the end, mom and little mouse share that cookie, and then realize that they have the recipe to make more cookies. They make more and invite all the forest friends. Very sweet book about sharing and being kind.

Okie-Dokie, Artichokie!Okie-Dokie, Artichokie! by Grace Lin
A Monkey gets so mad at his giraffe neighbor below him for being noisy that he stops talking to him. One day, near Christmas, he gets a package meant for the giraffe. He delivers it to Artichoke and finds out that they are ceiling pillows. Artichoke hasn’t been banging the ceiling on purpose, he’s just too tall! A book about gifts and misunderstandings, with a little bit of Christmas thrown in.

The Perfect PresentThe Perfect Present, by Michael Hague
A bunny buys a toy for his sweetie, but it takes off without him. He chases it down the streets and around the town (letting kids look for it in the highly detailed pictures) and then it rolls in a snowball right to his sweeties house. There are Christmas colors and some decorations in the background, but actually only a couple of mentions of Christmas. Hague’s illustrations are amazing.

Jingle BellsJingle Bells, by Nick Butterworth
Two mice are threatened by The Cat. They make Christmas stockings out of glove fingers, but the Cat puts up a note at Christmas saying they went away. They decide to teach cat a lesson, that involves a noisy jingle bell as a present. A twist on the idea of the present, where the present they give the cat is actually much better for the mice.

The Christmas CrocodileThe Christmas Crocodile, by Bonny Becker
A crocodile is left under the tree at Christmas and he wreaks havoc on the family. There’s a lot more text to this one than many of the other picture books, making it a good choice for classroom reading. Illustrated by David Small and very funny.

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Christmas Around the World

Today didn’t go as planned in terms of writing, blogging, or doing useful things. Since I get pretty frequent searches for books about Christmas around the world I’m reposting those titles today, with apologies to others for my recycling.

What’s Cooking, Jamela?
by Niki Daly


What's Cooking, Jamela?Jamela’s family gets a chicken to fatten up for Christmas dinner, but Jamela gets attached to the chicken as a pet. Tension builds as a woman comes to prepare the chicken dinner, but in the end, Jamela’s mother finds something else for the Christmas dinner and gives the chicken to Jamela as a present. A fun story of a South African Christmas, conveying a sense of the culture along with a few words of the country.

The Magic Maguey
by Tony Johnson, illustrated by Elisa Kleven


The Magic MagueyA large maguey plant sits in the middle of a Mexican village providing many resources to the people of the town, as well as a gathering spot. As Christmas approaches, a rich man who owns that land says that he will get rid of the maguey and build a house there. Miguel, with the help of the other children, decorates the maguey so beautifully for Christmas that the rich man realizes his error and doesn’t cut it down. A great story about resourcefulness with a little bit of Christmas tradition and a smattering of Spanish words.

A Kenya Christmas
by Tony Johnson, illustrated by Leonard Jenkins


A Kenya ChristmasJuma’s Christmas wish is to see Father Christmas, and his special aunt brings a red and white suit to the village. She tells Juma to find someone to wear the suit so that the whole village can see Father Christmas for the first time. He does so, and Father Christmas surprises the village with his arrival. But it is Juma who is surprised later when he finds out that the man who was supposed to play the part didn’t do so after all. Who was that man on the elephant? A very different picture of Christmas in Africa with amazing pictures by Leonard Jenkins.

Cobweb Christmas: The Traditon of Tinsel
by Shirley Climo, illustrated by Jane Manning


A Cobweb ChristmasIn Germany, a old woman sets up a Christmas tree and cleans her house throughly, chasing the spiders outside. Let back into the house by Kris Kringle, the spiders are curious about this interesting tree, and end up “decorating” it with their cobwebs. What could be a holiday mishap becomes magical as Kris Kringle turns the webs into silver, making the first tinsel. A sweet story about the Christmas tree tradition.

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STEM Friday: Science and Stories Program II

There’s a new meme in town. STEM Friday focuses on books that promote Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math. The round-up this week is hosted at Wrapped in Foil.

Over the year I’ll be sharing the preschool program I created for the library and that I’m presenting once a month. The concept behind the program is to introduce science topics by combining fiction and nonfiction, songs and mini-experiments, action rhymes and hands-on times. The target age for the program is three to six years old, so the information and experiments are basic, and intended to encourage a questioning, observational approach to scientific topics.

Motion and Force

Book: Move! by Steve Jenkins and Robin Page

Song: “This Is the Way”
This is the way we walk to school
Walk to school, walk to school
This is the way we walk to school
So early in the morning.


(Repeat with: kids’ suggestions and/or run, hop, slide)

Book: Forces Make Things Move, by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley

Experiment: “Pushing, Pulling & Stopping”
Give each child a ball. Push the ball. Stop the ball. Both the push and the stopping were forces. Show other forces. Pull the ball with a rubber band. Drop the ball to show gravity. Push, pull, and stop on different surfaces to show the effect of friction.

Book: Hot Rod Hamster, by Cynthia Lord

Experiment: “Animal Crash”
Put a stuffed animal on a toy car and push against a stable object. The animal goes flying off, because objects in motion tend to stay in motion. (Which also shows why we need seat belts.)

Book: What is Velocity? by Joanne Barkan

Book: What’s Faster Than a Speeding Cheetah? by Robert E. Wells

Experiment: “Speed and Distance”
Set up toy cars on different-size ramps and of different surfaces. What changes the speed or distance the cars will go? The size of the ramp? The surface they roll on?

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Thursday Three: Holiday Books

My kids aren’t little anymore, and our taste in holiday picture books has changed. These are my favorite books for the season — even when it seems like everyone is too old for picture books. Never, my friends, never.

The Latke Who Couldn’t Stop Screaming
by Lemony Snicket


The Latke Who Couldn’t Stop ScreamingJust hysterical. A latke runs screaming from the frying pan and encounters various Christmas icons along its path. As the latke explains what it is and its significance in the celebration of Hanukkah, it keeps getting compared to Christmas. And so it keeps screaming. Lemony Snicket actually gets in a fair bit about the meaning of Hanukkah, while keeping a wry tone throughout. For instance, as the latke explains in a long paragraph about being fried in oil — as a reference to the oil that was used to rededicate the temple and the miracle that made the oil last for eight nights — the answer it receives is par for the course:
“So you’re basically hash browns,” said the flashing colored lights. “Maybe you can be served alongside a Christmas ham.”

“I’m not hash browns!” cried the latke. “I’m something completely different!”
And then it runs screaming, “AAAHHHHHHHHH!” for two pages. As my kids have grown past the traditional — and too often schmaltzy — Hannukkah stories, this one is our new family classic.

The Lump of Coal
by Lemony Snicket


The Lump of CoalOn the same note, we’ve turned to this title to replace the cute Christmas stories that absorbed us in the past. It contains perhaps one of the most perfect opening sentences of all times:
The holiday season is a time for storytelling, and whether you are hearing the story of a candelabra staying lit for more than a week, or a baby born in a barn without proper medical supervision, these stories often feature miracles.
A humble lump of coal longs to be something more and visits an art gallery and Korean barbecue in hopes of fulfilling his search for meaning. Instead, a drugstore Santa decides the lump will be the perfect thing for his stepson’s stocking — as punishment. But this ill intent goes right, as the coal finds his purpose in an artist’s hand. Wry, funny and odd, this book ends on just the right note for the holidays, and in echoing the first sentence, with miracles.

Robert’s Snowflakes
by Grace Lin


Robert’s SnowflakesLest you think I’m all about the wit, my third choice is not about either holiday, but it is about beauty, joy, and hope. The book features dozens of snowflake shapes decorated by famous children’s illustrators and gentle haikus for the winter season. The artwork created is amazing. Some illustrators featured their characters — like Ian Falconer’s Olivia and the dinosaurs of Mark Teague. Others contributed scenes of snow, skating, Santa, and lights. The real story within the book is the dedication of this group in auctioning the original snowflakes to fund cancer research. A lovely book that will be especially enjoyed by those who appreciate children’s book illustrators.

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Blogger/Publisher Relationships: Words Matter

At the Fifth Annual KidLitCon, I was on a panel discussing relationships among bloggers, publishers, and authors. Noting that it remains an open topic, we continue to define relationships that contain both collaborative efforts and critical reviews.

Perhaps writers of blogs and authors of books don’t need a lesson on how much words matter. We all have spent time carefully crafting a post, a page, a phrase for exactly the right impact. So when a publisher talks about continuing to offer “free books” instead of review copies, those words matter. If they refer to “free shipping” as a bonus feature, it matters. When they say “your job is simply to review the book,” then I wonder either when I became an employee or how — after referring to the dictionary — this became a duty or assignment. And “simply” is not how I would categorize the reading, reviewing, posting, and perhaps running a giveaway while scheduling in the one-month timeline that they are seeming to require. All of that matters.

Look, I can imagine that they meant to say: Hey, bloggers! We’ve heard that you’d prefer to receive more targeted review copies, and that works for our bottom line, too. So we’ll be sending emails of new titles, which you can request with a reply email. FYI, that first month around release is huge for us, so keep that in mind in scheduling reviews, if you can. Thanks!

What would go unsaid is the part about taking bloggers off the list if they didn’t review books, because it’s understood, and it’s unprofessional to point out. Reviewers can also pan a book, but we don’t write publishers: Hey, publisher! We’ve heard good things about this book and would love a review copy. But if we don’t like it, we plan on letting our readers know, and BTW we are not adverse to using the word ’suck.’ Thanks!

I wasn’t planning on writing about this issue, because I feel picky playing up one specific publisher to highlight a broader topic, even though the publisher wrote a terrible letter and the topic is important to me. I was fine with being part of the Twitter storm about it, because it resulted in an instant reply from the publisher changing the tone of the email. As Maureen Johnson tweeted, “One thing I love about the internet: you don’t have to wait long to find out if you’ve had a really bad idea.”

But since then, my tweet was written about in the LA Times Jacket Copy and The Guardian, and I felt the need to say more. Friend and fellow KidLitCon panel member Liz Burns of SLJ breaks down the issue superbly in three posts about relationships, volunteers, and reader access. She also gets me in my tweet “Can you imagine them sending this to Horn Book or The NYTimes?” as not setting myself at a status level equal to these institutions, but needing to establish where book bloggers fall in the publishing world. Essentially it comes down to whether book bloggers are to be treated more like print reviewers or like marketing employees. I’d prefer the former.

In truth, it’s not exactly either — which is why we have this problem. It would suit book bloggers to be considered reviewers. It would suit publishers to consider them marketing partners. And ultimately, the group that defines the language defines the relationship.

While I respect publishers, I don’t want that definition solely in their hands. I don’t feel entitled to “free books,” but I do feel a responsibility to correct language that has the potential to set the status quo. Maybe it’s just one publisher, one email. But book blogging is too important to me to sit back and let others establish the dialogue. Because words matter.

Thursday Three: Teacher Gift Books

For all of their elementary school years, I always gave books to my kids’ teachers for the holidays. My favorite book to give was Earth from Above for Young Readers. It’s out of print now, but it embodies my perfect gift for teachers as a book that the adult can enjoy and appreciate, and can also be used in the classroom. That particular title could be used for such a wide range of ages that it was absolutely perfect. Seriously, I bought six of them when they went to a discount price and gave them out for three years straight — and my kids are three years apart. But here are three other great gift suggestions and I’d love to hear about more perfect teacher titles in the comments. You know you have them.

How to Heal a Broken WingHow to Heal a Broken Wing
by Bob Graham

A pigeon is hurt on the sidewalk, and everyone walks by — except one boy and his mother. They take the bird home, take care of it, and let it fly away. I’m keeping the plot simple, so that I can leave room to say that I have not shown this book to one adult yet who hasn’t been deeply moved by it. Kids may see the simple story first, and then the kindness beneath. Adults can see the deeper levels of helping others, healing wounds, and letting go. Or even, as I told my seventh grader, “that sometimes we’re the bird.” Bob Graham’s illustrations are wonderful, and truly tell the story more than the simple text. It’s a beautiful book and would be great for preschool through second grade teachers.

One Voice, PleaseOne Voice, Please: Favorite Read-Aloud Stories
by Sam McBratney

Elementary school teachers have tight schedules with all the pressures of different tests and required curriculum. It can be hard to fit in reading as much as they might like. But this book is perfect to use in those extra five or ten minutes. Filled with familiar stories from around the world, it can be shared with a few minutes to spare while ensuring kids are hearing the stories that make up our common understanding.
Side by SideSide by Side: New Poems Inspired by Art from Around the World
edited by Jan Greenberg

Poetry and art. Multiple languages and multicultural images. This comes pretty close to my new perfect book for teachers, only losing a mark for being too sophisticated for the early elementary kids. The art is amazing. The poems represent a wide range in style and subject. Each poem is written in the poet’s native language, as well as in English. Each page is perfectly illustrated by a related work of art from that area. This is an amazing book that will be enjoyed by the adult who receives it and as a classroom tool. (If you’re dying for a poetry book for a younger classroom, I can never mention Poetry Speaks to Children enough.)

For more ideas on giving books this holiday season, look to 150 Ways to Give a Book. With all the live links, you may not even need to leave the house to do your shopping.

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