Who wants books for Christmas?

I always loved getting books for Christmas as a kid (in fact, I once got in trouble for burgling my books out from under the tree to read before the big day) but not every kid instantly embraces the concept of books as gifts. Here is a reaction that you don’t want to get; after opening a whole bunch of toys this three year old comes across a present packed with books and only books.

As you can see, little Michael is not delighted by the books. The books are, in fact, “a poo”.  While it certainly seems the child is less than impressed, his parents (who shot and uploaded the video) wanted to assure viewers that he’s not a budding book-hater but just a small kid over-excited by the day.

“Keep in mind that this was kinda like his first “real” Christmas and he’s only three years old and that he could just about understand and get the concept of the whole gift getting thing. I guess he was  under the perception that you only get “toys” for christmas. To him books are the fun time we spend reading every night before he goes to bed. He really does love books but I’m guessing he was overwhelmed after opening way gifts and I think he felt “tricked” when he opened the books.”

While his reaction was amusing, the family wanted to make sure that he realised that books could be great gifts the next time present season rolled around. The next year they gave him a few more books to unwrap and the reaction was definitely better this time around. “Just to make sure Michael understood that books for Christmas is perfectly OK to get, we wrapped up a few more books from Santa and waited to see how he reacted. To say I wasn’t a little nervous would be a lie but all went well and smooth!”

And, while he may have learned that books make good gifts his family also reminded viewers that the most disappointing gift you can give a small child had yet to make an appearance – clothes. “On a side note, the wife and I realized he has yet to get any clothes from Santa, like socks or a tacky sweater… we decided to not push it and wait till next year. One hurdle at a time!”

Thanks to the Writing Bar blog of the Sydney Writers’ Centre that put me on to this one.

If you want to gift books to kids this year but would like a few tips to avoiding this reaction, head over to the Kids’ Reading Guide 2010-2011 to the Perfect Present hosted on the Boomerang site (it’s in the left side-bar, just under the categories and above the annual Boomerang Books Survey).

You’ll find a thirty page guide packed with some of the best recent books for kids, including recommendations of books for toddlers, an extensive range of picture books and the top picks in for fiction for the various age groups right up until Young Adult. And it’s not just fiction you’ll find; there are Information and Stuff to Do sections with everything from gardening to art to building a robot in there.

Definitely better that a pair of socks any day. If any one is thinking of buying me socks or a jumper with an amusingly deformed reindeer on it this year please be informed that I would much rather instructions to build my own robot. That and my poor plants would probably thank you for sending on a beginner’s guide to gardening, even if that beginner is assumed to be under the age of ten.


Doin’ it for the kids – the Boomerang Annual Survey

It’s that time of year again – time for 2011 Boomerang Books survey, their Christmas advent calendar count-down, and the time when I traditionally reveal my lack of knowledge of Australian literature.

This time it’s kids’ books exposing my ignorance. Boomerang have compiled a list of 85 of the most-loved Aussie Kid’s Books and are looking for responses to help them decide on the most popular kid’s books for a literary countdown from 1 December until Christmas Eve.  Their criteria for working out the popularity is pretty simple – the survey just asks did you read these books yourself or read them to children.

Have you happy memories of reading Australian books as a child or reading these books to your own kids and grand-kids and other assorted ankle-biters? If so, get over to our website and take the survey and you’ll be in the running to pick up $500 worth of books.

It’s a bit embarrassing – I have only caught from from last year’s survey which revealed to me that, out of 120 of Australian authors’ best known titles, I had read not even enough to get a pass rate. I’ve spent a bit of this year catching up on them only to find that this year’s exam will be on kids’ books where my knowledge is still severely lacking. I may not have read so many of these famous Australian kids’ books – I’m not sure why Cuddlepot and Snugglepie are so beloved or why a wombat would keep a diary – but if nothing else this lengthy list of books I have missed will give me something to browse next time I call over to one of my friends with small kids, and hopefully a few ideas for gifts to bring them when I go.

I do at least have an excuse. I grew up in Ireland so many of the books are a mystery to me but I was chuffed to realise that I did recognise a few of the titles, from Shaun Tan’s moving Arrival to Ruth Park’s Playing Beatie BowIn fact, one of the books was a childhood favourite of mine – Elyne Mitchell’s Silver Brumby series.  Her beautiful descriptions of the wildlife and landscape of the Snowy Mountains was one of the reasons I ended up (nearly fifteen years after picking up the book in Cork, Ireland) booking a ticket to Australia to see the country for myself.

The moral of the story seems to be that reading Australian kids’ books makes them move to Australia  a few decades on. Something to be careful of when you are sending books to less than beloved nieces and nephews over-seas perhaps. You could send them something from New Zealand perhaps? Close enough to see occasionally, far enough that they don’t call in twice a week.

If you want to take part in deciding Australia’s most popular children’s novels, and possibly win $500 in Boomerang Bucks to spend on the site, you can find the survey here. (If you worried your memory might need a jog, you can review the book cover images here first.) The survey closes at 5pm AEST on Wednesday 30 November 2011.  Get ready to reminisce and click here to enter the competition.