I LOVE giving presents. This isn't the issue. The dilemma I face is twofold. Firstly, I have no innate gauge for age appropriateness of gifts for little humans. Some shops helpfully label toys with ages, but often I look at them and think they're underestimating how advanced all my awesome little pals are. I won't give a gift that makes them feel talked down to or patronised. (Although I did recently give a Mr Grasshead, labelled age 3+, to a friend in her mid twenties because I secretly wanted it for myself and I hoped she would appreciate it, too.)
The second problem is that I know a lot of my friends' children are already overwhelmed with toys. Brightly coloured plastic stuff seems to be breeding in every storage container of their homes. The parents tell me it's getting out of hand but you really can't rock up to a kid's birthday party armed only with a card. That would be hugely disappointing.
So a while ago I made a decision. Unless children have specific gift requests, from now onwards, everyone's getting books. It means I get to spend lovely purposeful time in bookshops picking what I hope will be a much enjoyed story and something to instil an early love of reading.
But first, let me release a bit of a bee from my book-buying bonnet and clarify what I Will Never Buy. It deeply saddens me when bookshops and publishers sell/ do this sort of thing:
I mean, come on... look at them?! 'Nuff said.
So what do I make a beeline for? I love children's books that make me properly laugh. Why shouldn't children get to enjoy dry, clever humour from an early age.... along with the adult reading it with them. Elys Dolan's brilliant, award winning book Weasels made me actually lol in the shop. I bought multiple copies. Her superb illustrations and witty storytelling are fabulous.
Benji Davies, which has also won awards. The story is about a young boy who finds a baby whale washed up on a beach near his home and keeps it in his bathtub for company. With its gorgeous narrative and perfect illustrations it is an absolute beauty. A lovely story, but also helpful in exploring issues of loneliness, love and friendship with children.