When your careers adviser tells you at your post GCSE appointment that she thinks you should become a librarian, it’s pretty deflating. Photographer? Lawyer? Teacher? Army Officer? Nope. Librarian.
I left the appointment feeling pretty annoyed and misunderstood. In retrospect it’s pretty hilarious because I really would have made the perfect librarian. At 16, I was spending all of my money on books, and organising them very carefully on my bedroom shelves. When I eventually settled on law school, I revelled in the fact that I was about to spend four years of my life practically living in the library, and quickly began accumulating what seemed like half of Blackwell’s bookstore in my room at the halls of residence.
In fact, I cringingly recall an embarrassing night very close to the Christmas of 1997 after breaking my elbow playing rugby, having a little too much drink (unaware I’d broken said elbow), and requiring my parents to drive 110 miles from the Midlands to the Welsh Valleys to rescue me. Apparently the woeful tale I told over and over in the car on the journey to accident and emergency was how terrible it was that the last pound coin I’d had to spend on the photocopier had rolled down one of the (many) hills on campus and into the drain and cruelly prevented me from copying the last few pages of a case I’d needed to read.
My parents still tell that story. It includes me crawling under the table at the service station.
It was only natural then that the man I fell in love with and married was a secret bookworm too. Which is pretty lucky, because although the mister isn’t a fan of my shopping habits, he never begrudges a book coming home (or five).
I love buying books for the boys at any time of the year, but I particularly love seasonal books. I love searching for quirky ones, new authors, unconventional illustrators and novelty books mixed in with the classic tales and fairy stories that I know will help shape our children into readers for life. I still cherish the memory of my dad reading Bambi to me from an oversized Disney book, sat on the end of my bed on one of the nights he wasn’t working late at the bench. Bedtime stories are the best. The mister read me the entire Lemony Snickett series as bedtime books before we were married. I think I fell even more in love with him because of it.
And as much as I love books, I love traditions. When the two collide, it’s even better. Like tea and biscuits… or chocolate and oranges (if the mister is reading this *cough*). Each year, under the tree from the first of December until the end of the year, is a pile of wrapped books. More than 31 of them. Every night the boys get to choose one, unwrap it and include it in their Christmas bedtime that night. Having them wrapped makes it even more exciting, and stops the arguing over who chose what and why.
It’s the who, what and why that causes the problems at bedtime – and that, consequently, influenced our choice of books this year to add to our collection. Having three boys at different stages of understanding literature is difficult.
At bedtime generally, Little Dragon finds a board book that he loves and thrusts it under Dadda’s nose. Our Little Adventurer will pull a face or complain that it’s a baby book and not what he wants to hear, and then gets worked up before bedtime.
Conversely, Little Dragon will then get bored with the older, longer story books that his big brother has chosen, and decides that bedtime is not for him after all, and heads off in search of something more interesting to do (instead of sleeping) or disrupts the stories constantly if asked to remain in the room.
Baby Hero is very easy going at the moment and just wants to touch the books.
Our mission this year, handed to us by #CollectiveBias, was to come up with a theme in order to add to our Christmas collection.We settled on sensory books. Those that work in some way on differing levels for our boys so that they all can enjoy bedtime together as a family. Here’s what we came up with, and what the very speedy people at our most favourite online shopping destination wherever we are in the world and needing supplies…. Amazon.
When you’re addicted to buying books, it’s hard to stop and so I’ve chosen my favourite ten…
Santa’s Christmas Munch , Richard Dungworth [Ladybird]
Despite the obvious route confusion (which thankfully our boys aren’t old enough to realise) that he’s experiencing, Santa samples food from various countries before squeezing his way back up the last chimney, home. His fluffy white beard already has Lyoto feeding him and Jensen trying to keep clean.
Play Hide and Seek With Little Reindeer [Igloo Books]
This one is hiding out at my parents’ house. It’s just too cute – and I can’t wait to hear the voice that the mister gives to Little Reindeer. Our Snappy Crocodile book features a croc from the Deep South (thanks to Dadda’s talents) which the boys love and interact with brilliantly. Croc (Dadda) asks them questions and helps them to access the text and story individually. Puppet books are the best.
We bought a scented book last year and it’s my favourite. The Sweet Smell of Christmas, Scarry, Miller and Scarry [Golden Books Publishing]. It was recommended by a friend in the USA and it’s beautiful. The bear family are getting ready for Christmas and through little scratch and sniff stickers, you follow along. The Sweet Smell of Christmas for Jensen was the orange apparently. The book made such an impact last year that on Christmas morning, he searched through his stocking for his satsuma, inhaled it enthusiastically and told Dadda that it was the smell of Christmas. The only issue we have with this book is that its pages are paper (read: easily destructible).
This year on our list is the The Gingerbread Family, Grace Maccerone [Little Simon]. Much more pink, but just as smelly. I do prefer the Sweet Smell of Christmas though for the diverse smells. This book is beautiful – and a board book too. No crumpling, no tears from boys who like to take care of their books or who like to poke and touch books and are tired from being told to be careful.
Pop Up/Lift the Flap Books
Pop Up Peekaboo! Christmas, Dorling Kindersley [DK]
There’s something so neat and pretty about Dorling Kindersley books. We have a Pop Up Peekaboo! book already at home (of which a few pages met their demise last year through the sheer excitement of a tiny pair of hands). Every one of my boys loves a pop up book and somehow they always erupt into fits of giggles over whatever the pop-up is doing.
Although very simple in design, and not something I’d pick by looking at the cover, Dear Santa, Campbell [Macmillan] is on our list. Our boys adore the Dear Zoo book and have read it practically to extinction. They take turns making noises and guessing who is under the flaps.
Touch and Feel Books
It’s always out of stock, and that makes it even more desirable. That’s Not My Donkey, Fiona Watt [Usbourne] is on our list. We have the Baby, Dragon and Reindeer books and we’re in desperate need of this book for the repeating text, the gorgeous textures and the sheer sturdiness of these books. It’s going to be a mission to get this one, but there are very few Christmas books featuring donkeys strangely.
I’d already finished shopping for books when I discovered this one – and now I’m finding myself at the checkout again. Santa’s Beard, Tristram and Duxley [Walker Books] looks to be a favourite in our house this year. Santa’s beard apparently is making him too hot and stuffy in the Summer months and so it decides to help Santa out by finding a new host until he needs him again.
The Snowman and The Snowdog Book and Toy Gifts Whereas this is a paper storybook, it comes with the cute little dog that means my younger boy will be entranced seeing his furry friend on the pages whilst our older boy listens to the story. The story will be re-enacted over and over by them which is gorgeous to watch.
For my car-loving boy, Whizzy Santa, Billet [Campbell]. A book on wheels! This is in our stocking because it’s a little diverse and will be loved. Bigger boys will love the problem solving of Santa and his elves (his reindeer have the ‘flu) whilst the little ones will love how the story rolls along (sorry).
None. Not a chance! Honestly, we have enough noise in the day that we need bedtime to have a little more of a Silent Night theme to it…
What’s on your list this year? Will you be wrapping them too?