The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

December 17, 2012

Danya Walker: Books make outstanding gifts, if personal

By Frankie Meyer
Globe Columnist

JOPLIN, Mo. — Since I was a child, I've always enjoyed getting books as presents, and now I love to give books as presents, especially to my children. There have been some outstanding books over the years that I've received, some of which still have a special place on my bookshelves.

One of the first books I received was a beautifully illustrated copy of "Little Women" by Louisa May Alcott that I was given for being a candle lighter in a cousin's wedding. The book is still on my shelf, next to two other copies -- one from the '50s with an old cover and another just for reading.

"Little Women" is one of my favorite books, so much so that my oldest daughter's middle name is Josephine. In fact, when I found out I was pregnant, the first thing I bought wasn't a cute sleeper or baby toys but a copy of "Little Women" for my future baby girl.

Louisa May Alcott's books have always been a favorite read. Even after reading it many times, I still cry (SPOILER ALERT) when, in "Jo's Boys," Dan dies.

I can remember unwrapping books during many Christmas mornings. There was one year that my mom had found so many books at garage sales and used book stores that there was a paper grocery sack under the tree with my name on it. While the wrapping may not have been the fanciest, the bag did lend itself to carrying the books to my room.

One thing I particularly enjoy when giving books is making it an event or a special memory.

My oldest daughter, Renee, had become a fan of Catherine Jinks and her "Evil Genius" book series, and was eagerly awaiting book No. 3. The books feature Cadel Piggot, a young antisocial teen who is a computer hacker and genius. He discovers his criminal abilities when enrolled in a criminal academy geared toward evil geniuses.

The only problem was, Catherine Jinks is an English author, thus "The Genius Wars" came out in England in October but wasn't due to be released in America until the following June or so.

Thanks to international shipping and, Santa Claus was able to pick up the book and deliver it on Christmas Eve. Renee was so excited about the fact that she was probably the only kid in Missouri reading that book already.

Last year's must-have Christmas present for my daughter Samantha was her own set of the "Sisters Grimm" books by Michael Buckley. The books feature two sisters who are the descendants of the original Brothers Grimm, who wrote the fairy tales.

Except it turns out they weren't just stories. These books feature the fairy tales, but they're dark, slightly twisted -- as they were originally intended -- and set in today's world. Grandma and grandpa bought her those, and the books were unwrapped to squeals of joy.

This year my youngest daughter turned 11 and was finally old enough to start reading the "Harry Potter" books. She'd been anxiously awaiting that day, since my 16-year-old and me are Harry Potter fans, or Potterheads, as my teenager says.

For Samantha's birthday, we bought a stuffed white owl, made a Hogwarts acceptance letter for her that was exactly like Harry's letter, and had the owl sitting on the doorstep with the letter tied to its foot. When she opened the door that morning she was ecstatic, even more so when she opened her very own copy of "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone" by J.K. Rowling.

If you have someone who you know is a reader, presents that fit their love of books can be easy and fun to do. Gift cards to bookstores can be attached to bookmarks or reading lights. Baskets can be put together with a warm and cozy lap blanket, fuzzy socks, a mug, tea, coffee or anything that would make their reading experience more enjoyable.

And, of course, don't forget to include a book bag to help them carry their books to and from the library.

Danya Walker is the assistant circulation supervisor at the Joplin Public Library.