Working at Red Room means of course, I get to read fantastic books as soon as I hear about them. So trying to pick one RR fave book is near to impossible, I love them all, darn it. Hence, I am revealing the Jennifer Kathleen Gibbons Holiday Picks, and guess what? You can buy them all at our nifty new bookstore! So what are we waiting for? Come on everybody! Let's get going!
For the Young and Young at Heart:
The Ramona books, Beverly Cleary: There's no doubt about it: Cleary is good at telling a story about ordinary kids, especially one little girl in particular: Ramona Geraldine Quimby, who in a series of books wants some PTA, bakes her doll in her sister's birthday cake, learns how to read and write, scrunches up Snoozin' Susan's copycat owl, gets a little sister, and other adventures. The first time Ramona appeared in a book was sixty years ago, yet she is timeless as always.
The Maggie Valley Books, Kerry Madden: In beautiful language, Madden tells the story of Livvy Two, a girl part of a large family living in the South during the 1960's. Livvy Two dreams of making it big in Nashville, however her father's accident and lack of money might get in the way. Yet Livvy is always resourceful, and incredibly persistent.
The Series of Unfortunate Events books by Lemony Snicket (aka Daniel Handler): Those poor Baudelaire kids! They're always in trouble because of that Count Olaf. Yet even though they had the most dreadful luck, they always manage to stay together. Start from the The Bad Beginning and go through #13 The End.
For the teen in your life:
Killing Mr. Griffin, Lois Duncan: That mean Mr. Duncan! Why is he always picking on the kids! Well five teenagers are going to do something about it, but what? Reading this not only gave me the chills, it made me realize that Duncan knows how to write a good story and it still holds up all these years later. Also check out her recently updated novels—her characters use internet and cell phones, ooh!
The Crank Triology, Ellen Hopkins: You might want to tell your teen read these books after the holidays, for they are disturbing. However, I can’t think of any better books to give to teens today. Not only are Hopkins’ books about Kristina a young girl who gets involved in meth use beautifully written, but I’m planning on giving these books to my niece and nephews when they turn thirteen. Why? Because it gives the best reasons to never get involved with drugs. As one piece of Facebook flair reads: “Ellen Hopkins is my anti-drug.” And it’s true.
The Fat Girl, Marilyn Sachs: One of the most disturbing books I've read, and one of the boys, Jeff can't stand that fat girl Ellen—she's always in the way. Yet after she overhears him make a cruel remark, Jeff feels guilty and tries to make it up to her. What follows is how sometimes good intentions don't go as planned.
For the nonfiction lovers in your life:
Up Close: Harper Lee, Kerry Madden: Did you know that the movie To Kill a Mockingbird is turning fifty next Year? Get the DVD, the book, and then this lovely biography of Harper Lee Madden wrote two years ago. Afterwards you'll know why Jean Louise Fitch (a.k.a. Scout) is one of the most enduring heroes of literature.
The Wilder Years, Wendy McClure: After the death of her mother, McClure rereads all the Little House books she finds in her childhood home. Inspired, she decides to embrace all things Laura Ingalls Wilder: she watches the TV show, she visits the Laura Ingalls Wilder museum, ahe even churns butter. You must read this book for the fact she churned butter, for crying aloud!
A Thousand Lives: The Untold Story of Hope, Desperation and Survival at Jonestown, Julia Scheeres: These days the saying "Don't Drink The Kool-Aid" is code for don't believe what everyone is saying. After reading this book, you will find yourself never using that expression again. Scheeres doesn't focus the book on Jim Jones but the residents of Jonestown: Edith Roller the senior citizen who believed in socialism; Tom Bogue who realized he was in a horror movie that was too real, and Stanley Clayton a drug addicted youth who sees the destruction of Jonestown in its last hours. A harrowing but necessary story to read.
For the novel-lovers in your life:
Bastard Out of Carolina, Dorothy Allison: Next years marks twenty years that this groundbreaking novel was published, a story about Bone, a girl who has been through too much in her young life when her mother meets Glen, a man who makes things worse for Bone. Yet her strength and dignity gives the book its spine that abuse might happen, yet a person doesn't have to stay abused.
At Risk, Alice Hoffman: One of the first novels to deal with the AIDS crisis, Hoffman shines telling the story of Amanda, a eleven year old girl who wants her braces off, to win her gymnastics meet, and to not feel so cruddy because a cold won't go away. Yet she and her parents find out that Amanda (due to a blood transfusion she had when she was a baby) has AIDS. Their reactions, and the people around them (their ignorance still shocking after all these years) are beautifully told.
Velva Jean Learns To Fly, Jennifer Niven: I haven't had the chance to read Velva Jean Learns to Drive yet, but I can tell you that Velva Jean truly flies in this novel. After reading her hometown, Velva Jean tries to make it big in Nashville. However World War Two changes everything, and Velva Jean decides to serve her country as a WAVE, one of the first women learning how to fly. Velva Jean is so enchanting, you'll know that she'll give the enemy (be it Nazis or the sexists she runs into) a piece of her mind.
God knows there's other books I can go on about, and soon this blog will have a sequel will other picks. In the meantime, get out that credit/debt card. Start buying some books from Red Room's Authors Bookstore. Know that you're supporting one of the best websites for authors/writers/readers—they have my stamp of approval. And for the holidays, who could ask for anything more?
Causes Jennifer Gibbons Supports
Gilda's Club, Greenpeace, Rosie's Broadway Kids,Westwind Foster Family Agency, Amber Brown Fund, Linda Duncan Fund for Contra Costa Libraries