Holiday shopping is a daunting experience, what with crowded stores, other customers loaded down with huge bags, bad weather, and aching feet. But add anxiety over buying the perfect gift for your twelve-year-old daughter's bookish friend, and "daunting" can become "disastrous." Reading taste is so personal that it's often difficult to choose a gift for a book lover -- especially one you don't know well.
For you nervous children's book shoppers, we'd like to recommend Terri Schmitz's enormously helpful (for both book buyers and booksellers) essay "'Tell the Lady What You Like': Shopping for Children's Books," which was first published in the March/April 1997 edition of (what else?) The Horn Book Magazine and is now available on their website. The highlights:
- "Take your time." It's difficult during the holiday season, when everything seems to feel even more hectic than usual, but set aside a fair amount of time for a bookstore visit. It helps to think about what questions you have for the bookseller -- and what questions she may have for you! -- before you come in, as well. A CG staffer may ask you whether the person you're shopping for might prefer fantasy or realism, a male or female protagonist, photographs or illustration, classic or contemporary. Keep in mind that as little as you may know the person you're shopping for, we don't know them at all! We're happy to work with you to help you find a great gift, but we do ask that you give yourself lots of time before and during your visit.
- "Trust yourself." Especially when you're shopping for your own child, you probably have a lot more information about the recipient's book taste at your disposal than you think you do. You also know your child's individual reading level and developmental level. Make sure to tell us if your child is bored with early readers, or not yet sitting still for a chapter book read-aloud, or sick to tears of dog stories. These details will help us think of new possibilities to share with you.
- "Listen to your child." A child's reading level and emotional developmental level don't necessarily match up, or their social needs outweigh their academic needs at a specific moment. Don't worry if you think your child "should" be reading something "older" or more "literary" than what they've asked for. There's plenty of time for more serious reading -- and holiday gifts are supposed to be fun!
- "Step back." Particularly with older children, having a parent hovering nearby doesn't help the book selection process. While this is less of an issue with gift shopping, when the child in question is most likely not present (or may not be yours), when you are at the George with your kids, make sure you give them the time and space to select their own books. You can always weed their selections before coming to the register.
- "Relax." Really, it'll be okay. If you're feeling overwhelmed by book-buying, you can always get a gift receipt from us so your recipient can return their gift if necessary. We also offer gift certificates in any denomination you choose -- so if you have a bookworm on your list who seems to have read everything, give them a gift certificate and send 'em our way! We're sure to find something exciting they've never seen.
(Psst... Okay on the book front, but experiencing toy-buying anxiety? Get details on the safest toys out there at Healthy Toys, and check in with us online and in the store any time for recommendations!)