Wednesday, May 28, 2008

It's been a very good year - gifts for teachers

Now, I'm not saying there's anything wrong with the Target gift card. God knows she can use it. A Staples gift card works too, or one from Amazon (heh heh). But in our family, we always give a book. Each of the books on this list works well as a tribute to the man or woman who has sacrificed economic prosperity (and probably his or her immune system) so that your child's mind may have been properly cared for and nurtured this year.

Ms. MacDonald Has a Class by Jan Ormerod
Just what it sounds like, a reworking of "Old MacDonald" set in the classroom, with happy children dancing and creating and taking a field trip to a farm. Anyone who likes kids (as teachers, we hope, do) will enjoy Jan Ormerod's beautiful, spunky, active drawings of the multicultural kindergarten kids.

How the Tiny People Grew Tall by Nancy Wood
I came across this "original creation tale" in Daedalus Books - I don't think it's in our library. The title makes it an obvious choice as a gift for those brave individuals whose job it is to foster the intellectual development of our children, so I was kind of expecting a tiresome hammer-and-nails fable. But when I opened it up, I was pleasantly surprised to find an entertaining, thought-provoking, good-looking story about how new experiences and generous guides create brave, thoughtful, resourceful, smart people. A sparkling, clever, good-hearted gift - not too much text for kindergartners, enough to think about for maybe up to 4th or 5th grade.

I Will Make Miracles by Susie Morgenstern, illustrated by Jiang Hong Chen

Reviewed by me earlier, this book is a sumptuous gift. Not that expensive, but large and wide, it's a slab of toothy board saturated with deep inky color. A pleasure to hold. And as a gift, it's not just about the miracles the child might accomplish, but it's also a tribute to the incremental miracles that the teacher performs with every kid, every year. I'm hoping to get a tear out of the first grade teacher with this one.

To Be Like the Sun by Susan Marie Swanson and Margaret Chodos-Irvine
Reviewed earlier by me. The seed-flower metaphor is used (a lot) in the educational context, and I might hesitate to drag it out one more time, if it weren't for To be like the Sun. There is the potential encapsulated in the tiny seed, then there is the nurturing sun and rain and human helper, yeah yeah, but in To be like the Sun, we see the plant grow and produce its own seeds, which the little girl saves over the winter to plant in the spring.

Magic Beach by Crockett Johnson
An uncompleted manuscript by author of Harold and the Purple Crayon, Magic Beach has been published with all the pencil lines and erasures intact. It's a lovely story. Two bored little kids wander along the beach wishing they had a snack. They soon discover that they can conjure up whatever they want by writing its name in the sand - when the waves wash away the words, the words are replaced by the real thing.

This is strong stuff about possibility and dreams and actuation and the power of words. Suitable for teachers of upper grades, for graduates, as a wedding gift, and it's even a great book to read to kids.

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