What are you going to be when you grow up? Every child gets asked this question at least once a month, and they usually have an answer, according to their interests of the season. I asked my urchins and a few friends The Question and then wracked my brain for gift suggestions for the budding:
Architect/Engineer: I love David’s Macaulay’s books: Cathedral (1973), City (1974), Pyramid (1975), Underground (1976), Castle (1977), Unbuilding (1980), Mill (1983), and Ship (1993). We also watched several episodes of the PBS series Building Big in which Mr. Macaulay explains the history and construction of bridges, tunnels, skyscrapers, domes, and dams. My kids were even inspired to build their own dam. If you haven’t experienced David Macaulay’s books, you should. Any one of them would make a great Christmas gift for the architecturally inquisitive child or adult on your list.
Veterinarian/Circus Performer: Z-baby is planning serial careers. She says she wants to be a vet, then when she gets tired of doctoring animals, she plans a second career as a circus performer —or maybe taking care of the circus animals. When she gets a little older the James Herriot series about a Yorkshire veterinarian would be a great gift. For now, I think we’ll stick with a few animal books, such as Dogs and Cats by Steve Jenkins or A Horse in the House and Other Strange But True Animal Stories by Gail Ablow or May I Pet Your Dog?: The How-to Guide for Kids Meeting Dogs (and Dogs Meeting Kids) by Stephanie Calmenson —-all nominees for the Cybil Award for Nonfiction Picture Books.
Doctor: I have another child who plans to become a people doctor. She’s a little older than Z-baby, so for her, Gifted Hands: The Ben Carson Story by Ben Carson and Cecil Murphey and Fearfully and Wonderfully Made by Phillip Yancey and Paul Brand.
Dancer: Brown Bear Daughter plans a career in dance. She may dance or teach dance or choreograph dance or do all three and then some. Or knowing my drama queen, she may veer off in another direction as she grows up and surprise us all, including herself. If she hadn’t already read it, I would go out immediately and buy her Noel Streatfield’s classic Ballet Shoes. However, she has read it, several times. She wants a copy of the new Kiki Strike book, Kiki Strike: The Empress’s Tomb by Kirsten Miller; that’s to feed her sense of adventure and of the dramatic. Then, I think perhaps I’ll purchase some of the other “shoes” books by Streatfield if I can find them.
Samurai Warrior: I think Karate Kid knows that he probably can’t really become a samurai, but he would like to pretend a little while longer. For him, The Dangerous Book for Boys by Conn Iggulden and Hal Iggulden may be under the tree. N.D. Wilson’s new book, 100 Cupboards doesn’t release until December 26th, but I may pre-order it for Karate Kid. It sounds as if it will be just his speed, and he really enjoyed Wilson’s first book for children Leepike Ridge.
Artist: My 18 year old artiste wants an art book. I’m looking for suggestions. I thought maybe a subscription to Image, a quarterly journal that describes itself as “a unique forum for the best writing and artwork that is informed byâ€”or grapples withâ€”religious faith. We have never been interested in art that merely regurgitates dogma or falls back on easy answers or didacticism. Instead, our focus has been on writing and visual artwork that embody a spiritual struggle, that seek to strike a balance between tradition and a profound openness to the world. . . . Each issue explores this relationship through outstanding fiction, poetry, painting, sculpture, architecture, film, music, interviews, and dance. Image also features four-color reproductions of visual art.”
Writer: I have several would-be writers in the family. I thought the book Elmore Leonard’s 10 Rules of Writing, just published in October, might be helpful. I saw it mentioned at somebody’s blog. And as for old stand-bys, On Writing Well by WIlliam Zinser and Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg are both books that have inspired and honed my writing skills, such as they are. Another Cybils nominee, You Can Write a Story by Lisa Bullard, looks good for the younger set of aspiring writers. And “fictionally” speaking, I liked The Wild Girls by Pat Murphey, about a couple of middle school aged writers and their adventures in a summer writing class at Berkley.
Entrepreneur: I have one kid who just wants to grow up to be rich. For him, The Lemonade War by Jacqueline Davies (Semicolon review here) and The Toothpaste Millionaire by Jean Merrill are good choices in the fiction category.