I hate Christmas.
The family obligations, the togetherness, and, God save me, the carols. Those of you who know me well, know that is enough to frighten me away. But actually, none of those are the reasons I hate Christmas – it’s the gifts. Gift giving is one of my high panic moments. Every year I strive to get awesome gifts for my friends and family. Gifts that will mean something to them and that they’ll really use and enjoy. I stress about it. I overthink. I doubt. At the end of the entire process I have what I hope will be awesome gifts, a month of lost sleep, and a dread for next year’s Holiday Season.
Until this year. This year I was disappointed in one of the gifts I gave. Every year I try to change up what I get for my best friend’s boys. Two years ago, it was Legos. This year was book year. And I have to say, finding a sci-fi or fantasy book appropriate for a five year old tried my literary patience to the limit. I wanted to find something fun and engaging that didn’t just include an illustration of a spaceship or an alien but at least a hint of the advanced concepts we’ve all come to love and enjoy from our sci-fi fiction. I also wanted something he could read himself, rather than something that had to be read to him. And remember it couldn’t be childish because this is a BIG boy we’re talking about here. I spent half a day looking online, another couple of hours browsing the children’s sections of both my local chain and used bookstores and came up with… nothing. Turns out, there is no such thing. Have I stumbled on a completely unpublished genre, or did I just miss something?
On Amazon, the books that pop up in the sci-fi 3-5yr category are all the classics: Where the Wild Things Are, Alice in Wonderland, and Peter Pan. All good reads, but I wanted something a little out of the box – something his mother hadn’t already gotten him. More searching only turned up books I thought were beyond his reading comprehension, ones that looked so boring I was nodding off just looking at the cover and reading the synopsis, and ones that seemed to have little to no resemblance to sci-fi or fantasy. My in store browsing experience was no better. I thought the problem I was having shopping online was that it’s awfully hard to tell by glancing at the cover if the book was going to be either too difficult or too childish. I needed to crack these things open and then, surely, I would find something suitable. Yeah, no. Cracking the books open just made things worse.
Where are the dragons? Where are the adventures to other worlds? Okay, so maybe werewolves and vampires are a little much for a 5yr old, but surely we can come up with something involving space pirates. I mean, who doesn’t love space pirates? There is no better time to expose someone to sci-fi and fantasy than when their imaginations naturally run their whole lives. I’m also a big fan of teaching our children that sci-fi can be found off the TV screen. Don’t get me wrong, I’m thrilled that such fantastic stories are making their way to the big screen, but the book is always better…
So what, you ask, did I end up getting him? A Star Wars popup book that I found at Costco. I hear he loved it. Thank goodness one of us did.