Selecting original and creative gifts during Christmas is not an easy task. In fact, it is one reason for stress during the Season. Therefore, Mums in Colombo decided to spread some inspiration, and lighten your load. Listed below are some gift options (all books, of course) available in bookstores around Colombo.
When compiling this list, I made a conscious effort to avoid the famous (and infamous) choices. Instead, you will find here suggestions that will broaden a child's reading experience. So, say 'NO' to Wimpy Kid, Horrid Henry, Rick Riodan and Enid Blyton, and try something new...
(A note on efficient book shopping in Sri Lanka - if you are looking for a particular title, give the store a call and ask if it is available. Some places are willing to bring it down for you from a store that is too out-of-the-way for you)
Grimms' Fairy Tales: A Colouring Book for Creativity
by Simon Balley
This is not a storybook. Instead, it takes many of the fairy tales that all children love and encourages them to be creative in their own way. There are pages for colouring, and these are paired with pages to 'do your own thing.' This is a great gift for any youngster who has a storyteller or illustrator hidden within, waiting for the opportunity to burst forth. Suitable for children age 7+
Big Nate: In a Class by Himself
by Lincoln Peirce
This one is for fans of books like Horrid Henry and the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series. BIG NATE is a mischief maker and definitely NOT the teacher's pet. Nate knows he is destined for greatness because a fortune cookie told him so! But life doesn't always go your way just because you're awesome. Trouble always seems to find him, but Nate keeps his cool no matter what. And here's an interesting fact - Big Nate is a comic strip appearing in more than 200 newspapers and online daily. However, I am also obliged to give a warning to parents - one could argue that Nate Wright is rather a cruel character. Most often Nate deserves his punishments. A compromise would be for a parent to opt to sit in with a child reading this story, asking the young reader how he/she thinks the abused characters feel with regards to Nate's constant insults and put-downs.
May Contain Nuts (The World of Norm #1)
by Jonathan Meres
This is another one for fans of Wimpy Kid. It is a funny, clever story of an ordinary middle-school kid with extraordinary problems. Norm is very upset about having to move to a smaller house; about being invisible to his parents; about having no money to pimp up his bike. And he's dealing with these problems with grace (as much grace as a tween can have) and a great sense of humour. The story raises issues such as financial difficulties, problematic gambling and the dangers of the world wide web. However, one criticism (that is levelled at ALL books of this genre, really) is that the main character does not seem to have to face up to his bad behaviour. Again, adults buying the book will have to decide for themselves if a good laugh trumps moral values or not!
Nelson Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom
by Chris van Wyk (Adaptation), Nelson Mandela, Paddy Bouma (Illustrator)
Everyone has heard of Nelson Mandela, but not all of us wanted to pick up the large tome that describes his life (however good the reviews.) Therefore, this abridged version is a wonderful idea as it brings to life the essential incidents in this great man's walk to freedom. The book takes you from his early life as an ordinary village boy to his dynamic leadership of the African National Congress to his many long years in prison, and, at last, his freedom and astonishing rise to become the leader of his country. There is also a lot of general information included. For example, the book begins with some background information about how the Europeans came to South Africa and fought over the land and tribes (the Xhosas, the Zulus, and the Tswanas). The artwork is also unusual. Bouma uses a technique that does not focus too much on the details in the character's faces but more so on the cohesiveness of the page as a whole. The last page shows Mandela standing with a group of children holding the South African flag and it clear that the children are all of the different ethnicity even though their faces do not have a lot of detail.
Of course, one can argue that parts of his life have been lost in the process, and that is true, but this is nevertheless a creative way to introduce a number of themes to young readers - cultural diversity, history, empathy - to just name a few. The colourful illustrations and layout will encourage readers of all ages to dive into a story they would not otherwise choose to read.
Archie, Vol. 1: The New Riverdale
by Mark Waid, Fiona Staples (Illustrator) Annie Wu (Illustrator) Veronica Fish (Illustrator)
'Who has not heard of Archie and his gang? Adults buying books for younger folk would have grown up with Archie comics - even if you never read one, you would be aware they existed! This graphic novel of the 'New Riverdale' collects the first six issues of the comic book series and brings those well-loved characters into the 21st century. Archie, his oddball, food-loving best friend Jughead, girl-next-door Betty and well-to-do snob Veronica Lodge are all here: the love triangle, friendship, humour, charm and lots of fun – but with a decidedly modern twist. The bold colour schemes and style of drawing are fantastic. Definitely a great gift for a teenager. This is the first in a series, and most of the issues are available in Colombo.
To Kill a Mockingbird (Graphic Novel)
by Fred Fordham (adapter/Illustrator), Harper Lee
Many adults complain that it is SO hard to get youngsters to read 'Classics' these days! Well, this is then a find for you! Graphic novels are now the way to bring such well-loved tales to the hands of younger readers and are appreciated for their vivid and moving illustrations that bring characters and settings to life.
This beautifully crafted graphic novel is the adaptation of Harper Lee’s beloved, Pulitzer Prize-winning American classic. A haunting portrait of race and class, innocence and injustice, hypocrisy and heroism, tradition and transformation in the Deep South of the 1930s, Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird remains as important today as it was upon its initial publication in 1960, during the turbulent years of the Civil Rights movement.
Suitable for readers age 10+
Wolf Brother (Chronicles of Ancient Darkness #1)
by Michelle Paver, Geoff Taylor (Illustrations)
If your child likes fantasy and adventure then this is the book to buy. It is unique because it is set in a pre-historic Native American time (six thousand years ago). The author has obviously done a lot of research and the book is believable, realistic and full of wonderful descriptions. The story follows Torak, and his Wolf and their quest to keep a promise he made to his dying Fa. Tribal power and dark magic abound throughout the tale. What stands out most is the relationship between the boy and his wolf, which is deep and spiritually significant. This is the first in a series which is available in Colombo. Suitable for children age 10+
Dead Man's Cove (Laura Marlin Mysteries #1)
by Lauren St. John
This is for those who enjoy mystery stories such as Nancy Drew. In this book, 11-year-old Laura Marlin is sent to live with an uncle in St Ives, Cornwall. She's convinced that a life of adventure is hers at last. Everywhere she turns she's confronted with mysteries and nothing is what it seems. Is Tariq, the shopkeeper's silent son, a friend or an enemy? Why does her uncle seem so intent on erasing his own past? And why is everyone so afraid of Dead Man's Cove? When Laura finds a message in a bottle, she embarks on a deadly quest, one that will test her detective skills to the limit and set her on a collision course with a gang of criminal masterminds who will stop at nothing to get their own way. Unlike the Enid Blyton and Nancy Drew books we grew up with, this also deals with serious and complicated issues. Dead Man’s Cove challenges its audience, confronts them with some of the stark realities of the world, and it’s all the better for it. Suitable for children 9+
Finding Gobi: The True Story of a Little Dog and an Incredible Journey
by Dion Leonard, Craig Borlase
When I first saw the cover I thought this was by Michael Morpurgo. In fact, it was sharing shelf space with that famous children's author. This is a truly heart-warming story for animal lovers worldwide…
In 2016, Dion Leonard, a seasoned ultra-marathon runner, unexpectedly stumbled across a little stray dog while competing in a gruelling 155-mile race across the Gobi Desert. The lovable pup, who earned the name ‘Gobi’, proved that what she lacked in size, she more than made up for in heart, as she went step for step with Dion, managing to keep pace with him for nearly 80 miles.
As Dion witnessed the incredible determination of this small animal, he felt something change within himself. In the past, he had always focused on winning and being the best, but his goal now was simply to make sure that his new friend was safe, nourished and hydrated. Although Dion did not finish first, he felt he had won something far greater and promised to bring Gobi back to the UK for good to become a new addition to his family. This was the start of a journey neither of them would ever forget with a roller coaster ride of drama, grief, heartbreak, joy and love that changed their lives forever.
Finding Gobi is the ultimate story of hope, of resilience and of friendship, proving once again, that dogs really are ‘man’s best friend.’
Suitable for children age 10+