The Holiday season is fast approaching and many of you will be searching for the perfect gifts for the children in your life. Obviously we think that books are a great gift idea, so to help you narrow down the search we thought we would suggest some of our favourite titles for different age groups.
First up, here are some of our favourite board books for infants and toddlers.
"I'll See You in the Morning" by Mike Jolley & Mique Moriuchi (Chronicle Books, 2005)
One of the most beautiful bedtime lullaby books we've encountered. Adorable, soothing, and with a great sentiment about being there for your child throughout the night and when they wake in the morning. So sweet it may make you cry a bit.
The "Simply Small" series by Paola Opal (Simply Read Books, 2008 to 2011)
Cuteness overload! Including the titles "Saffy", "Totty", "Ollie", "Perry", "Dotty", "Bitsy", and "Rokko", these books are incredibly delightful. They have simple and bright illustrations that little ones love and charming storylines made up of about a dozen sentences or so making them the perfect books for infants.
Ladybird Touch and Feel Books (Ladybird Books)
Including a wide range of titles such as "This Little Pirate", "This Little Fairy", "This Little Puppy", and more, these are some of the best touch and feel books we've found for infants. They are extremely sturdy in their construction and include a variety of different textures for children to explore. The other nice thing is that they include simple rhymes, something that isn't always included in touch and feel books which are usually just images.
"Goodnight, Owl" and "Good Morning, Toucan" (Dwellstudio, 2011)
Bright, vibrant illustrations are the highlight of these great lift-the-flap books for infants. In addition, the sturdy construction of these books sets them apart from the other delicate lift-the-flap books on the market.
"Little Blue Truck" & "Little Blue Truck Leads the Way" (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2008 & 2009) by Alice Schertle and Jill McElmurry
These two Little Blue Truck books are the bestsellers in our store by far and the reason is that they are simple enough for two year olds, but interesting and captivating enough for five year olds as well. Made up of short rhyming stanzas with lots of sound effects and great moral lessons, these are perfect for any truck-obsessed toddlers. The original adventure ("Little Blue Truck") involves Little Blue Truck on the farm with his animal friends while the second book ("Little Blue Truck Leads the Way") involves Little Blue Truck saving the day during a traffic jam in the city.
"Dinosailors" & "All Aboard the Dinotrain" by Deb Lund & Howard Fine (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2003 & 2006)
Dinosaurs plus boats and trains, need we say more? Really entertaining rhyming stories about dinosaurs crewing a large boat and conducting a train. The art is really vibrant and fun and the stories will make little ones laugh. Fair warning though, "Dinosailors" includes a two-page spread of the dinosaurs getting sea-sick over the side of the boat which is either hilarious or disgusting, depending on your view.
"Very Cranky Bear" by Nick Bland (Scholastic, 2008)
No exaggeration, but this is our favourite book to read out loud! A very fun rhyming story about four little animal friends who try to make a sleepy bear a little less cranky. Short enough to be appropriate for two to three year-olds, but funny and entertaining enough for older children too.
Stay tuned for our upcoming posts where we will cover picture books for pre-school to early elementary school aged children, beginner books for early readers, novels for middle-grade readers and young adults, and some of our favourite Christmas-themed books.
Now go read a book with your kids...
With the holidays fast approaching, now is a perfect time for us to talk a little bit about how important it is to shop at local independent businesses.
We are the owners of Tall Tales Books, a small bookshop specializing in quality books for children and young adults in Victoria BC. Since we opened our store in August 2009 we have learned firsthand how important it is for a small independent business to receive support from the community. The surprising thing is that a little support goes a very long way.
First, in our opinion supporting your local small businesses does not mean that you have to completely change your lifestyle and shopping habits and only shop at independent businesses. While that would be the ideal situation for communities everywhere, it is not the feasible thing in this day and age. The big-box chain stores and online retailers have their place, whether it's cost or convenience. Money is tight for lots of people, especially families, so you have to save where you can. Our family shops at Walmart and Costco every couple of months because we have a limited budget and we would never fault anyone else for doing that in their own lives either. The point that we really want to make is that it doesn’t take much to support a local independent business, so there is room for shopping at both the big guys and the little guys.
In our case, a dozen books more sold per day makes a big difference in our cash flow. We crunched the numbers for our region and if just 5% of households in the area spent $30 a year on average at our store, we’d be doing okay. $40 and we’d be successful. Those are ridiculously small numbers and Victoria is not a huge metropolis either! Now, this example is specific to us and we might be a unique case as our operation is ultra small (just the two of us running the shop by ourselves), but if you look at the numbers, even if we needed 10 times this amount it still isn't asking much. My challenge to you is to make some of your regular purchases at local independent businesses. Go to a local coffee shop a couple of times a month instead of Starbucks. Purchase an outfit once or twice a year from a local boutique instead of a large chain store. Visit a local bookstore every couple of months to get your child a new book rather than buy one at Costco (although we're probably biased on this one). For a great example of this in action, check out the "One Book Pledge" campaign from Bookshop Santa Cruz. While it doesn't seem like you would be doing much, believe us, it makes the world of difference to a small business.
The other huge obstacle facing most small businesses is the cost of marketing. We just don't have the financial resources to mount huge advertising campaigns like the big corporations. Therefore, word-of-mouth referrals are absolutely critical for small businesses. Telling your friends and family about your favourite business and encouraging them to take action and support the business is incredibly helpful. In our case, we often encounter people who say things like "I love your store, but I don't have any children to buy for." We always tell those people that spreading the word about our store is just as important to our success, and possibly more important, than making a purchase. If every customer who came through here on a daily basis told one friend who also then came in, our business would be growing at a steady rate.
By showing this small amount of support, not only would you be ensuring the success of a local business, but you would also be making a difference in the community at large as well. Don't forget, in most cases a large percentage of the money spent at local small business stays in the community instead of lining the wallets of shareholders, investors, or board of directors in another city (or country). It's also a domino effect. If more money was spent in our family's store, we would have more disposable income to spend at another local family-run store, and so on. In addition, don't forget how many people are employed by local small business: according to Statistics Canada, 48.3% of Canada's total workforce is employed by small businesses (for more astounding facts and figures, take a look at the CBC news article "10 Surprising Stats about small business in Canada").
Take a moment and think of your favourite retail stores, services, and restaurants in your community. Are any of them local independent businesses? Would you be sad to see them go? Remember, they don't exist in a vacuum. They rely on support from the community to stay in business. Make sure that you show your support to them as much as you can by spending your money there and spreading the word to your friends and family. You'd be surprised at how much difference it can make.
Now go visit your favourite local business...
"I want to be a book writer".
This is the response we received about six months ago from our then 2 1/2 year old daughter when we asked her the question "What do you want to be when you are a grown up?" We were floored. Never had we explained what an author was or that it could be a profession. We asked our relatives and the caregivers that spend time with her and they hadn't explained either. When asked how she knows about "book writers", she responded in typical child fashion: "I just know".
Fast forward half a year later to the other night when we were sitting down for dinner. We were discussing the latest season of "Top Chef" (one of our favourite shows) and jokingly asked her if she wanted to be a Top Chef when she grew up. Her deadpan response was "No, I want to be a book writer". Floored again.
Obviously somewhere along the way she has learned or understood that behind every book there is an author who wrote it. Maybe it was from having authors appear at our bookstore from time to time or maybe someone explained it to her somewhere along the way. In any case, her interest is in writing books in the future and we are incredibly happy to hear that.
This must sound like a huge brag from proud parents, and we guess it is, but we wanted to tell this story for more than just boasting. We have always believed that if you want a child or teenager to love reading, you have to make it an enjoyable activity. Find books that they are interested in, let them explore libraries and bookstores, have books at home, and share the reading experience with them.
On a regular basis in our store we encounter parents of children of all ages who say that their children love to read. Whether it's a toddler who pretends to read their books to a teddy bear or a teenager who has to be told to put down their book at the dinner table, there are common aspects in every story: the parents encourage reading and have fostered the view that books are fun. In our case, our daughter can't really avoid books as they are such a big part of our lives, but at no time is reading a chore. We all look forward to sitting down together before bedtime and reading her favourite stories together. She gets excited about hearing new stories and it's obviously already having an effect on how she views the printed word.
Now go read a book with your kids...