Choosing a Gift Book for a Child
Books make wonderful gifts, but it can be hard to select the right book. As publishers of children’s books, we are often asked for advice on selecting a book for a birthday or holiday gift. Here are suggestions about how to select the perfect book to give to your niece, nephew, friend’s child, or grandchild.
1. Knowing age and gender does help. Now we know you may not remember exactly how old the child was at their last birthday, but being in the ballpark is useful. If the child is preschool age, you will choose different material than if they are in high school. Also, if you don’t see the child often enough to know about their interests, knowing whether you are choosing a book for a boy or girl can help define what type of book will be welcome.
2. Talk with the child’s parents. Ask about the child’s current interests, activities, or hobbies. Books related to what a child is doing make great gifts. You can find books specifically about the topic or books which incorporate the topic as part of a story. For instance, if the child is fascinated by snakes, you could choose a scientifically–oriented book with pictures and information about snakes or you could choose a story book featuring a snake.
3. Be sensitive to family values. Make your gift a happy addition to the family rather than a bone of contention. The most common issue is religious content. Most parents we talk to do not want books for their children which press any particular religious point of view. We have heard this from people of all faith backgrounds. Other content on which you would want to understand the parents’ position, or simply avoid, include level of violence, sexual content, and sexual orientation. These all tend to be areas which require a certain level of maturity to deal with and parents will know best whether their child is ready to deal with content like this.
4. If you have no clue, there are some topic areas that most children enjoy. Humor, fairy tales, and animal stories have broad appeal. Our experience indicates that Japanese manga (comic books) are very popular in urban areas of the US right now, but not nearly as welcome in rural areas. Manga varies wildly in content from “great for kids” to “strictly for adults”. Pay attention to what you select.
5. Ask for help. Bookstores often have a bookseller who manages the children’s book collection. This person is a valuable resource about the most popular books. They also will often know what choices might work for your situation. Having followed the tips above, you should be able to provide the bookseller with enough information for them to come up with several recommendations. Librarians are another good resource.
6. “Tweeners” are a challenge. There are lots of books for young children and lots of books for adults, but the in-between years of 10 to 15 years old can present something of a challenge. The books for young children are too childish for these budding adults, but the books for adults tend to have strong thematic elements which aren’t appropriate to this age. Our best advice for this group is to buy classics. Authors like Robert Louis Stevenson, Jane Austen, or Mark Twain, the Nancy Drew or the Hardy Boy series are all good possibilities. Writers from previous eras presented material differently.
Using these suggestions, you’ll find great books to give to the children on your gift list.