Of course, all of your packages are wrapped and ready, so this list of gift ideas for multiple ages couldn't possibly interest you. Nevertheless, you are welcome to stay while I recall fondly some of the books I spent time with this year:
• On most bookstore shelves this fall is the latest Lane Smith picture book "Abe Lincoln's Dream." Poor old Abe is troubled and restless, and goes on a tour around the White House with a little African-American girl.
During the 150th anniversary of the Civil War, during the term of the nation's first African-American president, with that stunning Lincoln film still playing, it is nice to imagine this child comforting the man who freed the slaves.
It is also good for the spirit to take a break from the problems of the day, both real and imagined, and admire how far the nation has come. This book is short and warm enough for young listeners, but deep enough to engage older readers.
• Another picture book, "Bill the Boy Wonder" by Marc Tyler Nobleman, you may have encountered on West Virginia Book Festival: The Blog. Nobleman was at the Book Festival in October and described how he found and tracked down the forgotten descendants of Bill Finger, the uncredited co-creator of Batman.
It is a vibrantly illustrated non-fiction tale that appeals not only to Batman fans and comic book readers, but also to anyone with a sense of justice.
• "Dead End in Norvelt" came out last fall, won the 2012 Newbery Medal, as well as the Scott O'Dell Award for Historical Fiction, and is by one of my favorite authors. Jack Gantos, a 2005 Book Festival presenter, set his story in 1962 Norvelt, Pa., one of Eleanor Roosevelt's Depression-era settlement communities, where the author actually lived as a boy.
He borrows heavily from his own childhood for this upper elementary/young adult novel about a family and town pulled between their past and future. Jack's father is a World War II veteran who wants to shake the dust of the dying town and seek his fortune where there are jobs and opportunity. Jack's mother was a girl in Norvelt during the Great Depression and wants to maintain the caring community people built there. For all the weighty ideas in this book, it is not heavy. I recently read it to 38 fifth-graders, and they laughed all the way through it.
One thread of the plot involves someone buying vacant houses in Norvelt and moving them to Eleanor, W.Va., another settlement community that is growing, not dying, as the character says. I would love to know what people of Eleanor make of some of the book's characterizations
• "Alvin Ho" isn't new, but it is one of my favorites for kids who are reading on their own and have started to move into longer books.