HOLIDAYS are coming! Hanukkah and Christmas are just around the corner, so here are a few last-minute books that I can guarantee will be pass-around-the-room gems among family and friends.
(Note: If you don’t see an animated series of book covers displayed at the top of this article, click on the headline, jump to our Web site and you’ll see animated links to each of our recommendations today. If you find something you’d like, click on the little cover and you’ll jump to Amazon to pick up a copy at sale prices.)
We say that these titles are for the young in heart and spirit, but — pssst! — they’re really fun for people of all ages. I’m in my mid-50s, a parent of two grown children and I had fun previewing all of these.
What’s in this last-minute shopping list?
First, yes, we’ve got Rodney Curtis’ new “Spiritual Wanderer.” This is a true story: My wife and I went to a Christmas party with longtime friends this weekend. One woman who is an elementary school teacher, a lifelong Christian, a mother of two and a very discerning reader pulled me aside to say: “David, I visited that Spiritual Wanderer Web site and read one of the sample chapters — and I stopped right there. I didn’t want to read any more until I got a copy of the book to read the whole thing.”
I was surprised. I wouldn’t have made a mental connection between that reader and that book, but after while it began to make sense. Rodney Curtis is a breath of fresh spiritual air and he’s simply a whole lot of fun in tough times. CLICK on his cover here or jump to his Web page and lean more about him.
Then, my wife and I have collected unusual picture books — especially Pop Up books — for many years and we know the hours of fun you can have reading these books to kids (or simply to yourself).
Think your kids are addicted to video games and don’t have time for “reading aloud” anymore? Just start reading “A Present for Santa Claus” to yourself in the same room with children. If it doesn’t happen right away, by the time you reach the final spread of this book, you’ll have them clamoring to share the experience.
It’s a classic Santa tale with a nice twist: the child who interacts with St. Nick actually wants to give the jolly old fellow a gift, not the other way around!
But here’s the real treasure in this book: a final Pop Up that actually creates a Stereoscope! Surely you’ve at least heard of these devices that date to the mid 19th Century. Two lenses pointed at two identical images create the illusion of depth. (Click on the photo of the Pop Up spread above and it will pop so you can see it more clearly. Your nose fits in the doorway and your eyes look through the window-shaped lenses.)
Cool! Very cool!
Third, I guess I’m obsessed with spies myself this winter, because we’re hosting the James Bond Bible study here at ReadTheSpirit. But I also fell for “Spyology,” a new volume in the Candlewick “Ology” series. These are cleverly designed books, loaded with flaps and little folders and envelopes chock full of extra “stuff.”
If your children grew up on the “Jolly Postman” series or any of those books with reading activities built into the elaborately designed pages, then they may enjoy graduating into Spyology. The storyline works on multiple levels. There’s a “case” that unfolds in the pages of a spy’s notebook. But there also are short tales of famous cases in espionage. Plus, there are activities and challenges cover to cover.
Give this book at the holidays and readers will have to wait their turn to crack open the cover.
“The Foggy, Foggy Forest” is low-tech and high-tech at the same time.
There aren’t any 3-D Pop Ups or clever, movable de-coders as in the two previous books. So, in that sense, this is a classic low-tech picture book to enjoy with young readers. Except — Candlewick has chosen some “foggy” paper that lets readers “see” shapes through the pages. Readers explore a misty forest together and have the fun of guessing what comes next.
There’s something very attractive about this experience. Consider this: I’ve shown a stack of picture books to teenagers in recent weeks, including most of the books recommended on this page and, after enjoying the flaps and gizmos in the high-tech books here, teenagers settle on “Foggy, Foggy Forest” as their favorite. Yes, that’s right: teenagers.
Of course, this book is designed for pre-schoolers, but there’s something magical about peering through the pages. It’s a short book with few words. But, naturally, the second — or 102nd — time through the book with kids, they’ll know it by heart and proudly proclaim what’s coming on each page.
Then, if you’ve got someone on your Christmas list who is “into” comics, graphic novels or manga, think about picking up Robert James Luedke’s newest “Eye Witness” adventure. This comic-style graphic novel is head and shoulders above other Christian comic books. It’s not specifically Christmas themed, but it will catch the eyes of anyone with a yen for comics.
It’s gorgeously drawn and printed with a pulp storyline like an Indiana Jones spinoff. This is another book you’ll find people eager to pass around at the holidays.
Continuing with the comics theme — and whatever your faith or age may be — you’re likely to find yourself eagerly flipping through the pages of Arie Kaplan’s “From Krakow to Krypton: Jews and Comic Books.”
I was reading the book recently in a public setting and a friend sat down next to me with a curious: “Hey, what’s that you’re reading?”
I gave him a better look at the colorful cover. He was even more curious.
I asked him: “Did you know that Jewish immigrant aspirations were woven into the history of American comic books?”
“Really!” he said. “Can I see that?”
The interior is lavishly illustrated with black and white and color examples of classic comics along with stories of their creators. Whatever your faith, you’ll enjoy this Biff-Bam-Zap romp through American culture. And if you’re looking for a great Hanukkah gift this year, you couldn’t pick a more intriguing book. The book is produced by the prestigious Jewish Publication Society.
Let’s end with a gift for anyone on your list — young or old, any faith, any race, any ethnicity.
It’s Desmond Tutu’s warm-hearted “God’s Dream.” My wife and I have chosen this book for a little special gift giving ourselves this year. The illustrations are nicely done with lots of intriguing details in the images to make repeated readings a pleasure.
But it’s Tutu’s words that form the real treasure here. The Nobel Peace Prize winner shares with children a dream that God might be having about them. One line: “Each of us carries a piece of God’s heart within us. And when we love one another, the pieces of God’s heart are made whole.”
Go on, click on the link to the book at the top of this story and share this kind of spiritual hope with someone you love.
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(Originally published at https://readthespirit.com/)