Thinking About Book Gifts

Here are three books I brought to Good Day Alabama on WBRC Fox 6 this month—a thriller, an impactful book for very young readers, and a special book for nature lovers—and all are gift-worthy.

Ripper by Isabel Allende

It’s a race against time in this fast-paced, twisty thriller set in San Francisco (where the city is almost another character). Amanda Jackson is an amateur detective (her father is a real one, so she comes by it honestly), and she and a group of friends from around the world are playing an online game they call Ripper. When the teens turn their attention to a present-day murder, then another and another, they soon realize that there is a serial killer in San Francisco. Then Amanda’s mother, Indiana a locally beloved holistic healer, goes missing, and suddenly the “game” become much more serious. This book is a bit of a departure for Allende, who was born in Peru, raised in Chile and now lives in California. She’s the author of twelve works of fiction, including the New York Timesbestsellers Maya’s Notebook, Island Beneath the Sea, Inés of My Soul, Daughter of Fortune as well as the world-renowned classic, The House of the Spirits. But like all the rest of the books she’s written, the characters are beautifully drawn, and the story is solid and well told. 

The Year We Learned to Fly By Jacqueline Woodson with illustrations by Rafael Lopez

This is a beautiful, thoughtful book for ages 6-8, but like all similar books I recommend, there’s a message here for every age:  We can all lift ourselves up and imagine a better world. In this picture book, a brother and a sister are stuck inside on a dreary day, bored beyond belief. Then their grandmother tells them: “Use those beautiful and brilliant minds of yours. Lift your arms, close your eyes, take a deep breath, and believe in a thing. Somebody somewhere at some point was just as bored as you are now.”  Then the siblings are off, as their imaginations lift them up and out of their present. The trick works on another day when they are arguing, and with the power of imagination, they are able to leave the anger behind. This ability is not new, the grandmother says, it goes way back to when the children’s ancestors realized the strength of their own beautiful and brilliant minds. Woodson is a National Book Award winner, and López is a two-time Pura Belpré Illustrator Award winner. This new book is a companion to their #1 New York Times bestseller The Day You Begin, which is about coping with the feeling of being different from those around you. Together, the two books show the power in each of us to face challenges with confidence. Together, they’d make a great gift.

Elderflora:  A Modern History of Ancient Trees By Jared Farmer

This fantastic, informative book would make a great gift for a nature lover. It’s the story of our planet’s oldest trees and their role in our modern world. We, as humans have always loved—revered even—long-lived trees. We are fascinated by them, and rightly so.  Jared Farmer is a historian and, as such, brings a different perspective to this. In Elderflora, he shows how our veneration took a modern, scientific turn in the eighteenth century when naturalists set out to locate and precisely date the oldest living things on earth. The science of “tree time” increased interest in studying ancient specimens and in protecting them—even as old-growth forests fell to imperial expansion and the industrial revolution. The globe-spanning book takes us from Lebanon to New Zealand to California to look at the history of the world’s oldest trees in terms of biology, politics and culture—and through the eyes of Indigenous peoples, religious figures, and contemporary scientists who study elderflora in crisis. Our climate is changing, no doubt, but a long future is still possible with enough care and conservation. 

I link to Amazon to show you exactly what book I’m talking about, but I love to shop locally at Church Street Coffee and BooksThe Alabama Booksmith, Little Professor Book Center, and I often visit my local library.

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