Saturday, December 22, 2007

All I Want for Christmas is a Really Good Book

I’m writing this on a laptop that’s propped up on a folding chair in what once was my childhood bedroom but now appears to be a Stuff Repository that happens to have a bed in it. Merry freakin’ Christmas.

Actually, I’m happy to be home. Or I’m happy to be at my parents’ house, since I haven’t seen them since the last time I was freezing my tush off in the Stuff Repository, last Christmas. If there’s one thing I’ve learned on this annual trek back across the Mississippi, it’s that I’m not meant to live anywhere that gets below freezing on a regular basis. Brrrrrrr.

Since this is meant to be a blog about children’s literature, let me ask you--what is the most memorable book you ever got as a holiday present? How about the top five?

1. Heir to the Empire by Timothy Zahn

Strange to say, at one time in my youth I was a complete and unrepentent Star Wars freak. Episode One broke my heart so badly I left the fandom, but Zahn’s continuation of the original trilogy came out long before that, which also happened to be long before I had much disposable income to spend on a book. I begged and pleaded and wrote it in large letters at the very top of my Christmas list. It was waiting for me under the tree on Christmas morning, with my brother’s name in the “From” field. The guy could usually take a hint.

2. The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth Speare

I got this as part of a Newbery Award winners box set. This was probably from my mother, who is a teacher and can’t help it. The other books were stuff like The Sign of the Beaver--dullsville. But Kit’s adventures in stuffy New England were heady stuff for an eight-year-old; witches and Puritans and Barbados and sexy sea captains, oh my! I’m still very fond of it.

3, 4, 5. Anne of Green Gables, Anne of Avonlea, Anne of the Island by L.M. Montgomery

Oh, yeah, I cheated on my own meme. I am so getting coal in my stocking.

Around the time they got their 12th grandchild, my grandparents gave up on the whole picking out gifts thing and gave each of us a shopping spree with Grandma and Grandpa. Needless to say, I headed right for the bookstore, which is where I found these three books and the entire set besides. I’d read the first before, but none of the others. I don’t think anyone will argue with me that numbers four through god-knows were pretty forgettable, but the trilogy formed by the first three books is the greatest character arc of Anne Shirley, the red-headed orphan. They can be overly sweet sometimes, but Montgomery’s gift for drawing everyday characters and concerns in the midst of the Romantic movement makes these books a consistent good read.

Unfortunately, as the years went on, my book tastes got so esoteric (read: romance novels that I was embarassed to let my parents know I read) that I started asking for Barnes & Noble gift cards instead. But I’ve gotten some great stuff under the tree in my time.

I tag anyone reading this. Anyone? Bueller?


Camille said...

this is such a sweet post. I only remember receiving one book as a Christmas present, All the Katy Did, a compilation of all the Katy books by Susan Coolidge.

The Whirlwinds said...

The best Christmas book(s) I ever received was all four of the Hungry City Chronicles by Phillip Reeve. I danced about quite a bit and read the whole series that day.