Dogs, teddy bears and people who fly appear in these gift book suggestions.
The I Spy Books series is listed as being "for all ages." I Spy Christmas: A Book of Picture Riddles features glorious photographs by Walter Wick. Each two-page spread is accompanied by a rhyming riddle, written by Jean Marzollo, which directs the child to look for certain objects. It would be a wonderful gift for a young child because with it would come hours of fun with a reading adult (Scholastic Inc.; $13.99, hardcover).
The photos will trigger nostalgia in most adults, who will want to peruse the collections of toys and ornaments to find ones that they remember from their childhoods.
Sarey by Lantern Light, written and illustrated by Susan Williams Beckhorn (2003; Down East Books, $9.95, paperback) is an appropriate chapter book for young readers. Sarey’s teacher humiliates her by standing her in front of the class and demanding she read aloud. But Sarey is very shy and has dyslexia. After this disastrous day, she refuses to ever read anything again.
When her parents decide to relocate from Buffalo to the Maine woods, Sarey gets a fresh start in school, a new puppy and a best friend.
And speaking of dogs … a portion of the proceeds from the sale of Every Dog has a Gift by Rachel McPherson with Deborah Mitchell goes to support The Good Dog Foundation, which is a therapy-dog training program as well as a rescue program founded by McPherson. The book’s subtitle pretty much sums it up: True Stories of Dogs Who Bring Hope and Healing into Our Lives. It was published by Penguin in 2010 and is available in hardcover for $23.95.
Each section of the book focuses on a particular ability that dogs have demonstrated, as told in heartwarming, easy-to-read nonfiction stories. The dogs’ "gifts" range from service for those with disabilities to being nonjudgmental listeners to children who find reading challenging.
The foundation has been nationally recognized for its work, particularly with families after 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina.
Next is an entertaining and enlightening collection of stories that adolescent readers will enjoy (never suspecting they are learning something). In Steven Saylor’s Seven Wonders, Gordianus of Rome takes a tour with his Greek tutor. Along the way, the young man solves small mysteries, one at each of the Seven Wonders of the ancient world.
Saylor has written other books featuring Gordianus in the Roma Sub Rosa series. In these, his hero grows into a middle-aged citizen, well-respected as a "Finder" — a precursor to our modern detectives. Seven Wonders is available in paperback for $14.99.
Deborah Benjamin, a local author, published her own novel, The Death of Perry Many Paws, last year. The title is a pun on perimenopause, which afflicts most of the female characters in this mystery romp ($13.99 in paperback).
Perry of the title is a character created by Tamsen Mack for a series of children’s books of which she is thoroughly sick, although her editor insists she keep turning them out. Perry Many Paws never dies; however, her husband’s uncle who lives in seclusion on their property is discovered dead with a letter opener in his neck.
Tamsen and the members of her women’s group pursue a set of bizarre clues and question the ties between her friends and another, old unsolved murder while dealing with their own empty nest, blended family, cancer recovery and aging-parent issues.
The events of Sue Monk Kidd’s The Invention of Wings take place between 1803 and 1838. Charlotte (Mauma) is a gifted seamstress (her actual quilts are archived in the National Museum of American History in Washington, D.C.) whose grandmother told her an African tale about a time when people could fly. When these people were taken as slaves, they lost their wings. She teaches her daughter, Hetty (also called Handful), all of her sewing skills, and entrusts her with her own story quilt depicting the violent punishments she has suffered in her lifetime ($27.95 in hardcover).
Sarah Grimke is the daughter of a wealthy Charleston plantation owner. She is given a young slave to be her personal maid on her 11th birthday, but she refuses the gift, causing great scandal and embarrassment to her family. Hetty is the young slave. Instead of living a life only of servitude, she becomes a good friend and confidante to Sarah. She learns to read and is whipped when her ability is discovered.
Sarah has always been unusual in her dreams and ideals. She wishes to become a lawyer like her indulgent father. The novel traces her growth and dreams, frequently shattered by the limitations imposed upon members of her sex, and her increasing outspokenness against slavery. She eventually moves north to join a Quaker community which also has strict ideas about how women should behave.
Palma is an adjunct associate professor of English at Monroe Community College in Rochester. She has a master of science degree in education from Nazareth College and master of arts in theology from St. Bernard’s Institute.