It’s that time again, time to buy gifts for the holiday season. We’d like to suggest some books for the kids on your list and maybe a book or two for yourselves.
The first book, "Miss Rumphius," was written and illustrated by Barbara Cooney. Probably everybody already knows all about Ms. Cooney and her wonderful award-winning books, so this is just a reminder. We picked up a copy of this book because the reviewer wrote that her books were for uncertain times. He is so right.
We read and reread this little book when all the news, day after day, gets to be a bit too much. Ms. Cooney’s illustrations and stories transport us back in time to a magical world. It’s a lovely world because Alice follows the commandment instilled in young Alice by her grandfather at a very young age “You must do something to make the world more beautiful.”
She does, and she passes on this bit of advice to her grandniece, and the niece promises to follow this rule as she grows up. And it is a guide we take with us after we set the book aside.
"Share In the Town All Year Round," by Rotraut Susanne Berner, with a child. Then, when they go to bed, look at it again. You’ll love it and as soon as you’ve decided that you discovered all the characters and all their adventures, you’ll discover still another tiny little story. Both you and the children will return to this book over and over again. We won’t even tell you what it’s about except to say it is multiple stories of contemporary Europeans in a slightly romanticized town somewhere in the Netherlands or Germany. Pick out your favorite character and follow him or her from one season to the next.
The next two books are for Young Adult readers but again, you’ll also want to read them.
"Sea Prayer," by Khaled Hosseini and illustrated by Dan Williams, is the saddest of poems, a prayer that the father’s young son will make it safely across the Mediterranean Sea and be welcomed by the Europeans. The boy’s family, along with thousands of others, is fleeing the awful endless Syrian civil war. In his prayer, the father laments that his son will never know the beautiful, loving prewar country of his birth, weeps that his son will have known only aerial bombardments and the horrors of discovering their dead friends’ and neighbors’ body parts partially covered by rubble after an attack.
The illustrations, showing the city and journey, are awesome and the former faceless refugees now have specific presence because of Williams’ illustrations.
Jacqueline Woodson’s brown girl dreaming is a novel in free verse, each chapter a separate poem — each poem simply gorgeous. It’s a must read. But today we’d like to suggest her newest book, "Harbor Me."
This is a quiet story of six middle-school students who are sent to a time-out room once a week. At first, they’re supervised by a teacher, but then they are left on their own. They learn to get along, like each other, trust each other and over time even learn to confide in each other and even tell each other their deepest secrets.
Nest week, we’ll share our list of books for adults. One suggestion: please skip Amazon and buy your books from an independent bookstore. Our favorite is Arcadia Books in Spring Green, Wisconsin. You can do everything by phone, 1-608- 588-7638. Alice would approve.
Chuck and Pat Wemstrom live in rural Mount Carroll. Reach them at email@example.com.