There have been years when all of our family’s Christmas shopping was done before Thanksgiving. This is not one of those years. But since I got two emails this weekend from extended family, wanting to know what my kids want for Christmas (and because I have NO idea whatsoever, ostrich that I am this season), I’ve decided that it’s time to start thinking about it. And if you’re not all shopped out already, then here are some ideas for books (ah, books, the best of all Christmas gifts!) that might be the perfect thing for someone on your list.

First up, The Unlikely Gift of Treasure Blume, by Lisa Rumsey Harris, whose 2006 essay “Honor in the Ordinary” won Segullah’s Heather Campbell essay contest. Treasure Blume, to be published tomorrow by Cedar Fort, is the kind of book I’d buy for my mom or my sister, or really for anyone who I think could lose themselves in Harris’s story, which is sweet without being saccharine, uplifting without preaching, and just downright funny. Treasure is a first-year elementary school teacher living in Las Vegas who has the curse (or the gift?) of rubbing all adults the wrong way when she meets them (maybe it’s the embroidered sweater sets, the polyester, or the poodle perm, or maybe it’s something that goes deeper). It’s no accident that it took her 44 interviews to land a job and was finally hired by a truly desperate principal.

Because Treasure has been aware of her effect on people ever since her Granny Blume pointed it out to her when she was a teenager, she’s spent the last decade making up for it, finding ways around it, and never using it as an excuse (which is what Granny, cursed with the same family “gift”) did for most of her life. Little kids and old people have no problem with Treasure’s quirks, and if her peers spend their time getting to know her, they learn to appreciate her too. So when Dennis Cameron, Mr. Lunch Lady at Treasure’s school and the father of one of her students, enters the picture, it’s not too much of a surprise what will happen. I appreciate that Harris complicates her characters and makes them feel three- dimensional, but not at the expense of keeping the story fun and light. I read the book in one sitting yesterday afternoon, and with the snow falling outside and the story to keep me entertained, it was a perfect day.

But my review reading wasn’t done when I finished The Unlikely Gift of Treasure Blume. I also wanted to take a look at iPlates by Stephen Carter (author) and Jett Atwood (illustrator) and published by Leicester Bay. I went into it without knowing much about comic books, but I liked what I saw– basically Carter and Atwood turn the Zeniff/Abinadi/King Noah/Alma cycle (with some Ammon thrown in for good measure) into a story a prepubescent boy would love, with plenty of blood and piles of arms and made up Nephite curse replacements. I can’t really comment on how the book works as a comic book, because I know next to nothing about that, but as entertainment/a gentle push toward doctrinal stories for a Mormon? I think it succeeds.

My eight-year-old has the day off school today, and he came and found me curled up in bed, readingiPlates. He pulled the iPad out of my hand and tilted it toward him, and we sat next to each other in my bed, reading together. After he finished, he said, “Wow, that was cool.” I’m pretty sure that he will make sure that the iPad makes its way into the church bag from now on.

A few weeks ago, my mom and I went into Deseret Book, searching for a gift she could give to the aforementioned eight-year-old. There was plenty of girly jewelry and books explaining the concept of baptism, books which would, truth be told, probably sit on a shelf and go unread. But iPlates would be the perfect baptism gift for an eight-year-old boy.

Maybe shopping later isn’t such a bad thing– I always find great things in December when my list is all checked off. What are some of the great finds (literary or otherwise) that are on your to-buy list this season?

November 10, 2012


  1. Lisa

    November 12, 2012

    Thanks for the great review, Shelah!

    I’ll be signing books at the BYU Bookstore on Nov. 15 from 5 to 7. There will be treats, bookmarks, a dynamite ugly sweater you could win. It’s also their Christmas preview night, so there will be lots of opportunities for you to find the perfect Christmas gift for everyone on your list.

    I’ll also be at the Sandy, Utah Costco from 11 to 2 on Nov. 13 and 15.

  2. Michelle L.

    November 14, 2012

    Ooh! I think the iplates book sounds fun! I’d also recommend the Crimson Crown (from the demon king series) for jr high age and older and The Secret Keeper from Kate Morton for adults.

  3. Lee Ann

    November 15, 2012

    I loved _The Five Books of Jesus_ by James Goldberg. It’s a life-of-Jesus book that drops you right into the middle of the dirt, doubt, confusion, hope, and miracles. Near the end, I found myself terrified that the people who’d taken Jesus away might succeed in killing him. By a Mormon, with absolutely no visible Mormon agenda.

    Going to go look up iPlates now…thanks!

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