The holidays are already zooming past, and it’s time to shop for the monster kids in the family. Actually, it’s past time to shop for them, but I like to hide at home while people are trampling each other at the mall on Thanksgiving weekend. Looking for some options for the child reader in your life? I suggest starting out with a nice fuzzy blanket, a good pillow, and a book light (preferably one without a timer), and adding some books to the mix.
Harry Potter Special Edition Paperback Box Set (Books 1-7): Maybe you already have all the Harry Potter books in their various editions. Or, maybe you’re okay with checking them out from the library or buying them cheaply, used. That second route was the one I planned to go with my own kids, and it has worked pretty well until now. However, I actually own in a nice hardcover edition of the third book. My kids, 6 and 8, are really into the books, and after seeing what my 8 year old had done to the very nice used copy of the first book, I am not terribly excited about putting my hardcover edition into his grubby little hands. I read about this set on BookRiot and it looks like it will fit the bill nicely. Reviews indicate that the artwork is beautiful, and it will be nice to have a matching set that I don’t have to stress over too much. I also think it’s possible that a box set will encourage him to take better care of his books. As collectors know, there is something satisfying about keeping a complete set of matching titles together. Not sure that your child is ready for Harry Potter? I referenced a very useful article (link here) on this on our Facebook page recently. As our kids are still a little young for the books, and they get really dark, I will keep the set with me and read the books with them until we finish each one.
The Creature Department: This entertaining book by Robert Weston, in concert with special effects and animation studio Framestore, is a lot of fun. Two kids, along with a major technology corporation’s mysterious research department (the mystery is that it’s staffed with quirky monsters) must thwart an evil corporate takeover. The primary contribution from Framestore seems to be the illustrations, which give a much more action-oriented feel to the story than traditional illustrations do. It’s big and thick, but not intimidating, and it is a lot of fun. This is another one my son keeps absconding with before I can grab it for review.
®Shrinky Dinks Monster Lab: As a kid, I used to make Shrinky Dink holiday ornaments every year. How the world of Shrinky Dinks has advanced since then! This is a project for a long, empty afternoon when everyone is trapped inside. Coloring in Shrinky Dinks, especially for younger kids still working on coloring between the lines, can be really time-consuming. But once the coloring is done it’s still awesome to watch the Shrinky Dinks do their thing in the oven. Constructing the playset so that it stays all together may be a challenge, but it’s fun to see the finished product.
SmartLab Toys Squishy Human Body and Dr. Frankenstein’s Human Body Book. Got a junior mad scientist in the house? Stop graveyard robbing before it starts by giving the gift of learning human anatomy at home with the Squishy Human Body and Dr. Frankenstein’s Human Body Book. Sure, there’s plenty of educational value here, but there’s no reason to point that out when your own little Frankenstein is squeezing brains and guts into place. Cons of these two items are that the pieces of the body need to be used with adult supervision and could be easily lost, and the book pretty much skips over the reproductive system, but older elementary kids will have a blast.
There’s a Ray Harryhausen fan club in this house, and extreme admiration for the Rankin-Bass film Mad Monster Party. Once you grow to appreciate the awesomeness of stop-motion animation you get kind of carried along into wanting to do it yourself. The Klutz Book of Animation: Make Your Own Stop Motion Movies and Hue Animation Studio are a great way to go if your child (possibly your inner child) is interested in actually trying to create a stop-motion animation film. There’s plenty of inspiration during the Christmas season, with all the stop-motion Rankin-Bass specials like, say, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, with its terrifying Abominable Snowman. I haven’t used the Hue Animation Studio myself, but it has gotten top reviews, and is supposed to be easy to use for kids as young as five, assuming that a kid that age has the patience for stop-motion animation in the first place.
A Christmas Carol (picture book edition) and A Christmas Carol (Reissue). What is Christmas without a good ghost story? A Christmas Carol is, in my opinion, the best ghost story of the season, and a great story to share with children of many ages. The picture book version I’m suggesting here is an abridged version illustrated by Bret Helquist, whose talents at illustrating the gothic brought to life Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events. His style is a perfect match for this story, which can now be shared with children not quite ready to attempt the original novel. Patrick Stewart’s audio performance is also an excellent way to share the story, especially in extending the experience from the picture book to the more complex story. You can even listen to it as a family, on the way to Grandma’s house.
Ripley’s Believe It Or Not! Dare to Look! and A Scaly Tale (Ripley RBI, No. 1). If you have an elementary aged kid, especially if you have a boy, one of the most compelling books you can get into his hands is Ripley’s Believe It or Not (similar titles like the Guinness Book of World Records and National Geographic Weird But True may also be popular choices). Before you write these books off because they’ve grossed you out or are disreputably flashy, let me tell you that the Ripley books are based solidly in research, and there’s usually information about that in the book. This year’s Dare to Look! has an accompanying app that, when you use your smartphone or tablet on particular spots in the book, will activate videos and provide additional information. Ripley’s has carried its weirdness over into fiction with the RBI: Ripley Bureau of Investigation books. These are about a group of extremely diverse kids with incredible talents who, in addition to their schoolwork, investigate wild stories to find out where the truth lies. At the end of each book there’s a little information about the person or item around which the story is built. A Scaly Tale is currently available for free on Kindle. My son has asked for it over and over again.
Best wishes with your holiday shopping!