All the other presents beneath the Christmas tree may change each year, but one thing that remains constant is that there will always be books there. For this week’s column of The Good Life, my husband and I have put our heads together to come up with a list of suggested books, for the most part old favourites of ours that we humbly suggest would be suitable as gifts for the younger readers on your list.
Madlenka, by Peter Sis. For the youngest readers (and listeners) in the family, this is a magical tale that uses the simple device of a girl losing her first tooth as a springboard for exploring, by means of Sis’s surreal and decorative illustrations, a variety of world folktales and the cultures they come from. Sis may well one of the most talented artists working in the field of children’s illustrations today, so every page of this book is a visual feast.
Princess Prunella and the Purple Peanut, by Margaret Atwood. This is a delightful dose of artful alliteration and wacky wordplay by Canada’s finest living writer. What more could you ask for?
A Promise is a Promise, by Robert Munsch. Anyone who has ever seen Bob Munsch read his books to a live audience of kids understands the mesmerizing nature of his storytelling when it comes to the elementary school set. Promise is a bit of departure from his other works, because it is a relatively somber tale. A collaboration with storyteller Michael Kusugak, the book is a retelling of an Inuit legend about ice monsters. It derives a certain haunting beauty from the repetition of the words, and from the eerie nature of the monsters themselves.
Airborn, by Kenneth Oppel. A rollicking adventure for the grade five and above crowd by the Canadian author of the terrific Silverwing Saga. Oppel is a master yarn spinner, and this book is packed with freewheeling, Indiana Jones-like adventure as well as elaborately conceived fantasy. There are luxury airships, ferocious flying cats, an uncharted desert island, a memorable hero and heroine, and a group of truly malevolent pirates. Wonderful stuff that’s capable of engaging even the most reluctant of reader.
His Dark Materials Trilogy (including The Golden Compass, The Subtle Knife, and The Amber Spyglass), by Phillip Pullman. These works are probably best suited to the 12 and above young adult reader. The trilogy is a dark, richly imagined work set in a Victorian-era parallel dimension thick with political intrigue and filled with talking creatures, dangerous magic, witches, and warfare.
A Child’s Christmas in Wales, by Dylan Thomas. Possibly one of the finest Christmas stories ever written, this slim book is an enchanting immersion into the imagination of childhood by a writer transform words into magic. This work is filled with humour, mischief, and life-affirming vitality. Reading it at Christmas time is a tradition right up there with roasted turkey and plum pudding.