My favourite childhood memories often involve being holed up with a book somewhere — on the beach, in a tent, in the chair in the corner of my parents’ living room while the rain poured outside. The love of a good book is a gift I want to pass along to my boys.
Every year, I take a great deal of pleasure in planning what books will be under the tree on Christmas morning. I start making my long list in January, cut it in half by August, and whittle it down to a dozen or so by November. Every year, I wait — watching them open them — to see which one they start first, which ones they can’t put down, and which ones linger until everything else has been read. I like to see if I’m right. I take note when I’m wrong.
1. The Maze Runner Trilogy : My 11yr old is a big fan of The Hunger Games, and whipped through them faster than anything else I’ve seen him read. He started reading this trilogy on Christmas Day and finished the trilogy 2 weeks later.
He loves it and insists that I it is my turn to read it (which I will). He’s a big fan of dystopian literature.
2. The Metamorphosis (graphic novel adaptation) : My 11yr old read this Christmas Eve, as it was in his “new pyjamas and a book” gift.
His verdict? Awesome graphics, but a weird story.
“I don’t get it. This guy wakes up and he’s a bug, and the rest of it is about him being a bug.”
As a former English Lit major, this struck me as rather hilarious.
3. Hollow Earth : The 11yr old hasn’t read this one yet — I am betting it will be the last one he looks at, but I think he will enjoy it when he does.
I think the 10yr old will love it, but it will be one we read together. He’s more a fan of the fantasy/mystery genre than his big brother.
4. The Mischievians : This was the first one Boy#2 read from the pile. He really enjoyed it — he enjoyed it so much that he read it two more times before picking up something else. I count that as a win.
He thought it was very funny, and read some of it to his younger brother. It answers all of Life’s important questions in a way a 10 year old can appreciate!
5. The Gruffalo : A modern classic for the 2-4 year set. This book is equal parts funny, adorable and clever. It also teaches the 2-4 year set about the concept of “spin”, something at which mine is already rather adept, but it does it in a light and amusing way.
My 3 year old has declared this his favourite and I think I can recite it by memory already.
6. Rump: The True Story Of Rumpelstiltskin : I picked this one up for my 10 year old. He likes fractured fairy tales and I have heard great things about this one. This is the back story for Rumpelstiltskin and attempts to explain why he is who he is. Like any fractured fairy tale, it turns the classic story on end and promises to leave the reader looking at it in a different way when they’ve finished.
I flipped through and read a few excerpts — it looks like a lot of fun. I can’t wait to start reading it with him.
7. The Lorax : One of the Dr. Seuss classics we don’t own yet. This was chosen with the 3 year old in mind, but I’ve already caught the 10 year old reading some of it. I remember this one fondly from my own childhood, and love watching my boys revisiting the classics.
This one holds a soft spot for me, in particular, with its environmental stewardship message. The 3 year old loves the illustrations.
8. Outlaw: The Legend Of Robin Hood : This is a graphic adaptation of the classic Robin Hood story. My 11 year old read it Christmas Day and said he enjoyed it and will read it again after he has finished the rest of his books.
Sam Hart’s illustrations are dark and engaging and the story is presented in a teen-friendly manner (a bit old for him in some ways, but nothing that makes me uncomfortable given his comprehension level). I hope it will interest him in checking out more classic stories.
9. Excalibur: The Legend Of King Arthur : Tony Lee and Sam Hart pair up again in this graphic adaptation of the King Arthur story. The artwork is fantastic, the story sweeps along, and I fully admit to having sat down to read this one before I wrapped it. I will probably pick up their other projects, if they are of similar caliber.
This one was picked up with the 10 year old in mind, but after looking at it I think it is better suited to my older guy.
10. The Cremation of Sam McGee : This is a graphic adaptation of the famous poem. Scholastic didn’t make it easy to track down — it was only available through the teacher’s side of their website, so I had to call in a favour from one of the boys’ teachers.
The artwork is dark and eye-grabbing, and it really makes it come alive for the graphic novel generation. I think I love this one as much as they do!
11. Colonel Fazackerley Butterworth-Toast : This is another poem from the Scholastic graphic poem series mentioned above. Boy#2 enjoys poetry and loves graphic novels, so this seemed a natural choice.
This is a funny, longer-length poem — amusing to read to the younger crowd, but a reading challenge for my 10 year old. The artwork is very well done. My only complaint is that Scholastic makes it so hard to get these fantastic books.
12. Bartholomew and the Oobleck : Another Seuss classic for my 3 year old — we haven’t read it yet, but I remember this one from my own childhood.
If you haven’t read it, or don’t remember it, I won’t spoil it for you. I will merely implore you get a copy for yourself. Pro-tip: it is really hard to say “oobleck” without getting a flashback to a Frantics sketch. This story is so much fun!
13. The Night Before Christmas : If you are only going to own one copy of this Christmas classic, this is the one. As with all of Barbara Reid’s books, this is a visual feast — you will spot something new every time you read it. It’s fun to look for all the Canadian elements — find the penny!
Reid’s clay art is gorgeous and the antics of the mouse family has made this a favourite with my youngest.
14. Instructions : Instructions for safe travels through life. This book is sweet, the illustrations are adorable, and this would be as appropriate to gift a graduate as it is to gift a child.
It is a magical and fanciful book. The advice is over the head of my youngest, but he loves looking at the pictures. I think he will grow into it, and can see this being one we keep for a long time.
15. Fortunately, The Milk : This is another Neil Gaiman book, but one for the older crowd. I picked this up with my 10 year old in mind, and a flip through it tells me that it is something he will enjoy. As with the other, longer, non-graphic novels, this is one the two of us will read together. I have read great reviews online, and look forward to checking it out with him soon.