(posted by Frances Thomas)
When my nephew was a very little boy, being bathed by his mum, she asked him what he wanted for Christmas. He said he didn’t know. She then suggested, as he loved books so much, that he might like some books for Christmas. At that little Martyn burst into tears and cried out “Books should just be free like food!” His point, I believe, is that books sustain us and should not be looked upon as a treat.
When I was a little girl all those thousands of years ago I loved getting toys for Christmas. Best of all though, I loved sticker books with pictures of Christmas trees and decorations. And comic annuals. My friend Robin always got better ones than me, and as he lived over the road from me, I was guaranteed to be reading the Dandy annual by about ten o’clock. One may wonder why I didn’t ask my lovely parents for a Dandy annual, if that was what I really wanted. Well, there was no need, The dandy annual was there for free in Robin’s house.
As a child ( and as an adult) I have always felt sorry for children who get given clothes for Christmas. It seems like they are getting something akin to a few loaves of bread and their share of he electricity bill paid. I really do believe that toys and Christmas sticker books are the real treasures, with a selection box or two thrown in of course.
When I hit my teen years I loved books about horses, and started to like collections of books: all the same height with the same colour spines. Luckily that phase passed, I then went for cowboy books ( yes I am embarrassed) then horror, Agatha Christie and by the time I was seventeen Russian novels. Now I think the books I like best are the ones with good pictures, the age on the cover usually suggests that they are best for three to five year olds. Ones about animals with a sentimental or moral twist. I love cock-a-ddodle-hooooooo! A book about an owl who went to live with some hens.
Is a particularly lovely, funny and for me moving story. But then I have a bit of a thing about books about chickens.
Last year I bought several Michael Morpurgo books, supposedly written for children for perfect for adults- The Mozart Question is fantastic, with wonderful pictures too.
Adults buy books for children they like themselves, the Harry Potter books have been enduring proof of this. But why not? Why not give someone something you like yourself? I tend to buy books from Welsh publishers, partly because I want to support small companies and mostly because there are some very good books produced in this country. But also, if the receiver lives outside of Wales, they probably haven’t already read it.
Sometimes when I am working in one of the schools where I teach I sit in the school library and call out suggestions to children choosing books – when I should really be doing something else! They are inevitably books by either Welsh Children’s writers or Michael Morpurgo . When I suggest that these children ask their parents for books as Christmas, Eid or birthday presents they look at me as if I am mad. Like Martyn all those years ago, they think books should just turn up with the cornflakes. They might be right. So we grow up people should be buying the younger generation toys and selection boxes and all manner of electric gadgets. But don’t forget to buy children books. Books are nourishment and are satisfying. And besides, if you don’t buy books for the children, what will you have to read on Boxing Day?