One of my fondest Christmas memories is receiving a copy of Anne of Green Gables in my stocking. I remember sitting under the lights of the Christmas tree and being pulled into Anne’s world. Anne is tied to everything that is magical about Christmas.
It’s also why I am a big believer in giving books as gifts, particularly at Christmas. So when you are shopping this Black Friday – and throughout the Christmas season – make sure you buy one, two or a dozen books for everyone one your list.
Children’s Books including Picture Books
I’ll Love You Forever
I’ll Love You Forever by Owen Hart ($23.95, PGCBooks, Tiger Tales) is the story of Polar Bear and Cub, who follows the seasons and reassuring his child that throughout spring, summer, fall and winter, the loving bond between them will not change and will always be there.
I’ll Love You Forever is a beautiful book, which certainly captures the love I feel for my son. It also features adorable illustrations with one of my favourite animals.
The Incredible Cabinet of Wonders
This cool book offers you a look at some of strange and weird artifacts found at Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, The Netherlands, the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto, Canada, and the National Museum of Health and Medicine in Maryland, USA, among a host of others throughout the world. The book offers you a look inside a number of cabinets where you can read about various curiosities by lifting flaps. Inside an Archaeologist Cabinet, for example, will see the Cave of Hands or a Crocodile Mummy, while a Miniaturist’s Cabinet offers you a microscopic glance at a butterfly wing.
This Book is a Planetarium
This Book is a Planetarium and Other Extraordinary Pop-up Contraptions by Kellie Anderson ($55, Raincoast Books, Chronicle Books) is an amazing book full of working paper art including a planetarium you can put your cellphone into, turn on the flashlight feature, and see the night sky on your ceiling. You will learn how it works and why. There is also a working guitar, complete with a pic, a message decoder and a speaker that amplifies sound, among other things. The paper art is heavy and looks like it will stand up to strumming, moving and playing.
Three Balls of Wool (Can Change the World)
Published in partnership with Amnesty International, Three Balls of Wool (Can Change the World) by Yara Kono ($24.50, PGCBooks, Enchanted Lion Books) is based on the true story of a family who moves from fascist Portugal to communist Czechoslovakia. While their new home is different, the lack of freedom is still felt.
While reading the story, you understand that something is happening in this family’s home county, but you don’t know what it is. And when they family settles into their new country, which is also not named, you can sense automatic, but short-lived relief. What happens – including the symbolism of the colours – is not revealed until you read the history at the back of the book. The story within the pages of the picture book is hopeful. The true story, which you read at the end, is really quite sad. There is also information about how Amnesty International started, which was interested.
Magellan Over the Edge of the World, The True Story of the Terrifying First Circumnavigation of the Globe by Laurence Bergreen ($27.99, Raincoast Books, Roaring Brook Press) follows the story of Ferdinand Magellan‘s 16th century, three-year odyssey. Now in Over the Edge of the World, prize-winning biographer and journalist Laurence Bergreen entwines a variety of candid, firsthand accounts, bringing to life this groundbreaking and majestic tale of discovery that changed both the way explorers would henceforth navigate the oceans and history itself. This book is for kids 10 to 14.
Women who Dared
Women have been doing amazing, daring, and dangerous things for years, but they’re rarely mentioned in our history books as adventurers, daredevils, or rebels. This new compilation of brief biographies features women throughout history who have risked their lives for adventure-many of whom you may not know, but all of whom you’ll want to know, such as Annie Edson Taylor, the first person who dared to go over Niagara Falls in a barrel; Valentina Tereshkova, the first woman who dared to fly in space; and Helen Gibson, the first woman who dared to be a professional stunt person.
13 ½ Incredible Things
13 ½ Incredible Things You Need to Know About Everything ($24.99, DK Books) offers 13 facts about various topics from the night sky, helicopters, making movies to the brain. The 13 ½ fact busts a myth and tells you the complete truth about the topic it is covering. The illustrations are a mix of graphics and photographs and I must confess, the chocolate page was rather disappointing as it wasn’t as delicious looking as I had hoped it would be.
But it didn’t make me want to stop eating chocolate despite Fact No. 11, which informs us there may be tiny insect parts in my chocolate bar as bugs get mashed up with the cocoa beans so those who are allergic to chocolate may actually be reacting to those impurities.
Meh. A little extra protein never hurts any one.
I would rather have mushed up bugs then chocolate-covered scorpions, which are sold around the world. Fact No. 7. But other graphics made up for the chocolate page including the exploding light bulb (I wonder how many times it took to get that shot?), Color Clash and the Way of the Warrior.
Harry Potter A Journey Through the History of Magic
Harry Potter A Journey Through the History of Magic by the British Library ($19.99, Raincoast Books, Bloomsbury) is a look through the magic that is J.K. Rowling. I am a fan of Rowling, particularly of the world of Hogwarts, so anything that gives me more information about how she created this book, and that world, is interesting to me.
Most people have heard how Rowling was denied eight times by book publishers (who must be kicking themselves) before being picked up by Bloomsbury. In this book we learn more about how the Bloomsbury editorial staff presented the manuscript to their colleagues and how it was the eight-year-old daughter of Bloomsbury’s chief executive that J.K. Rowling really needs to thank.
We learn more about Hogwarts’ teachers and the subjects they teach, we see handwritten pages of the book and drawings Rowling did to visualize what she was writing. I liked the “Did you know” ink spots. My son didn’t like the illustrations, but in fairness, he is looking for Emma Watson , Daniel Radcliffe and Rupert Grint not an artist’s interpretation of those characters.
More Letters of Note
More Letters of Note Correspondence Deserving of a Wider Audience compiled by Shaun Usher ($27.50, PGCBooks, Canongate Books) is the follow-up to Letters of Note. This edition offers copies of a letter David Bowie wrote to response to his first piece of fan mail; a letter Helen Keller wrote to The New York Symphony Orchestra about ‘hearing’ their concert through her fingers (wow); a rejection note Albus Dumbledore (J.K. Rowling) wrote to muggle applying for the Defense Against the Dark arts post; and the heartbreaking letters from passengers on a doomed Japan Airlines flight in 1985.
In his introduction, Usher wrote that he was unclear if people would be interested in a book of letters and how pleasantly surprised he was on the success of his first book. I hope people will be inspired to take the time to write their own letters and send them the traditional way.
Star Wars Super Graphic
Star Wars Super Graphic, A Visual Guide to a Galaxy Far, Far Away by Tim Leong ($27.95, Raincoast Books, Chronicle Books) offers Star Wars trivia in infographs in this colourful, bright and easy-to-read book. I liked the Colour of the Galaxy, which showed you where various items fell on a colour wheel. For example, Darth Sidious Robes are a type of purple, whereas Mace Windu‘s Lightsaber is red. There is also a graph that shows the Route to The Dark Side with fear, anger and hate going up the scale with suffering at the top. The book is such a cool way of looking at information.
Artist Andrew DeGraff has created hand-painted maps of films including The Princess Bride, Fargo even The Breakfast Club, with the routes of major characters charted in cartographic detail in Cinemaps ($34.99, Penguin Random House).
Follow Marty McFly through the Hill Valley of 1985, 1955, and 1985 once again as he races Back to the Future. Join Indiana Jones on a globe-spanning journey from Nepal to Cairo to London on his quest for the famed Lost Ark. Each map is presented in an 11-by-14-inch format, with key details enlarged for closer inspection, and is accompanied by illuminating essays by film critic A. D. Jameson.
Leonard Cohen: An Illustrated Record
For more than four decades, Leonard Cohen’s mournful ballads of desire, heartbreak and lost faith have captivated audiences the world over. Now more popular than ever, the award-winning Canadian songwriter, novelist and poet is revered as a cultural icon and master of his craft. Published to coincide with Cohen’s 80th birthday in September 2014, this is the first complete guide to his studio and live albums – from his studio debut, Songs of Leonard Cohen (1967), to his most recent record, Old Ideas (2012). Offering a comprehensive overview of each LP – from writing and recording through to release and legacy – Leonard Cohen: An Illustrated Record is a richly illustrated tribute to the body of recorded work that has made Cohen a legend in his own lifetime.
Granta 141 Canada edited by Madeleine Thien ($21.95, PGCBooks, Granta Publications) celebrates the diversity of social, political and literary life in Canada. This special issue unravels the idea of Canada, a young nation settled on land that carries 14,000 years of Indigenous history. From its global cities to the Arctic Circle, from the ongoing story of Indigenous civil rights movements to the state of languages under pressure, the writers in Granta 141 upend the ways we imagine land, reconciliation, truth and belonging, revealing the histories of a nation’s future. One hundred and fifty years after its confederation, Canada, spanning six time zones and a vast geography dramatically impacted by climate change, is embarking on a charged conversation to uncover what has been, and what begins.
Montreal Noir edited by John McFetridge and Jacques Filippi ($22.95, PGCBooks, Akashic Books) includes 15 new stories featuring poverty, drugs and despair that cloud many of the characters’ lives. But even the stories about druggies have a certain je ne sais quoi… Whether it’s the quirkiness of the characters, the ingenuity of the puzzles, or the big hearts inside some of the darkest villains.
Need You Dead
Need You Dead by Peter James ($12.99, PGCBooks) tells the story of Lorna Belling, who is desperate to escape the marriage from hell, and falls for the charms of another man who promises her the earth. But, as Lorna finds, life seldom follows the plans you’ve made. A chance photograph on a client’s mobile phone changes everything for her. When the body of a woman is found in a bath in Brighton, Det. Supt. Roy Grace is called to the scene. At first it looks an open and shut case with a clear prime suspect. Then other scenarios begin to present themselves, each of them tantalizingly plausible, until, in a sudden turn of events, and to his utter disbelief, the case turns more sinister than Grace could ever have imagined.
A copy of these books were provided by the publishers for an honest review. The opinions are my own.