What gift do you give to the outgoing president of a university? Recently, the seven chairs of Duke’s Academic Council decided to give retiring President Richard Brodhead children’s books, knowing he’s looking forward to spending more time with his young grandchild. Unsurprisingly, the selected books are very old, except for one (see DukeToday to find out which faculty member gave which one and why):
- Make Way for Ducklings by Robert McCloskey (1941)
- Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll (1865)
- Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do you See? by Bill Martin Jr. and Eric Carle (1967)
- Frederick by Leo Lionni (1967)
- Freight Train by Donald Crews (1978)
- The Complete Book of Flower Fairies by Cicely Mary Barker(1920)
- Jessica’s X-Ray by Pat Zonta (2002)
As is often the case with classics, none of the books noticeably features characters from diverse backgrounds, though at least one is authored/illustrated by a person of color.
In general, I like these books–I’ve read all of them except The Complete Book of Flower Fairies—but none of them are among the books I’ve given to the young children in my life over the years (or their parents and grandparents).
My go-to list of children’s books for gifts includes (among other books):
- Lillian’s Right to Vote by Jonah Winter and Shane W. Evans (2015), a powerful story about an elderly woman who exercises her hard-won right to vote.
- Tea Leaves by Frederick Lipp (2003), a beautifully illustrated story about a girl named Shanti, who lives on the island of Sri Lanka, but has never seen the sea.
- The Family Book by Todd Parr (2003), which misguided proponents of book banning have challenged in the past for its depiction of families with two moms and two dads;
- Art & Max by David Wiesner (2010), a beautifully illustrated book that contains enough words to add structure to the story without stifling young imaginations;
- The Gift of Nothing by Patrick McDonnell (2005), which teaches children that the greatest gifts are not things, but rather love and friendship;
- The Butterfly by Patricia Polacco (1972), a story that takes place during the Holocaust that is better for slightly older readers of picture books (see How Do you Talk to a Child About the Holocaust?)
What books do you give to the children in your life?