December 1, 2008

Holiday Book Recs, Day 1: ‘Tis the Season

Posted by at 7:14 am in Reads | Permalink

It’s now December, and you know what that means — ’tis the season for glorious snow days, delicious hot cocoa, and twinkling decorations. Oh yeah, it’s also time for all the grown-ups to get stressed out about buying satisfactory presents for everyone on their lists. I mean, this is my absolute favorite time of year, but even I find myself muttering angry insults under my breath, Kreacher-style, as I push my way through the gift-shopping masses. It’s enough to make anyone a little Grinchy!

So here at Ink Splot 26, we’re getting back to the basics. For the first week of December, we’ll be posting daily recommendations of books to share with your friends and family — tailored to fit their various personality types, of course. Because you know how you hate getting socks year after year from your great-aunt (the one who always pinches your cheeks)? Well, along the same lines, nothing ruins a good holiday gathering quite like giving Allie Finkle’s Rules for Girls to your male cousin or suggesting Charlotte’s Web to your arachnophobic friend!

To kick things off, here are my recommendations for a very specific kind of reader: someone who doesn’t just enjoy reading to find out what happens next, but who also really loves words and the fun of language. Given that you’re hanging out on THE STACKS, maybe this sounds like someone you know . . .

Three books that transport the reader to fantastical realms where words rule:

The Phantom Tollbooth 1. The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster
Milo is always bored. Then one day he receives a mysterious package in his room: a tollbooth that leads to a strange kingdom where a watchdog truly has an alarm clock for a body, a spelling bee really is an insect, and you suddenly end up on the Island of Conclusions when you make a hasty assumption (get it — you jump to Conclusions). This tale of Milo’s journey through the kingdom (called the Kingdom of Wisdom) and his eventual involvement in a war to save its princesses (named Rhyme and Reason) is definitely THE classic book for word-lovers.

Haroun and the Sea of Stories 2. Haroun and the Sea of Stories by Salman Rushdie
Haroun’s father is known as the “Shah of Blah” because he is the most masterful storyteller in the entire country — until one day, the words dry up. Haroun blames himself and embarks on a quest to fix the situation. Want to know where he went? Well, that’s a little hard to say because, as the narrator explains, “in the country of Alifbay many places were named after letters of the Alphabet. This led to much confusion, because there were only a limited number of letters and an almost unlimited number of places in need of names . . . The employees of the national mail service had a lot to put up with, as you can imagine, so they could get a little excitable on occasion.” Intrigued? Just wait until you meet the army, which consists of Pages, who are organized into Chapters, and then Volumes, and so on!

Un Lun Dun 3. Un Lun Dun by China Miéville
What do you call the world under London? Why, UnLondon, of course! And that’s exactly where 12-year-olds Zanna and Deeba find themselves after following a broken umbrella that they notice spying on them one night. In UnLondon, there are trash cans trained in martial arts and known as binjas, and creatures called black windows live in Webminster Abbey. Oh, and that broken umbrella? Yeah, it’s called an unbrella. But this book isn’t just about wordplay; it follows the fight to save UnLondon from an evil presence known as the Smog, and it’s a gripping adventure that I just didn’t want to put down — even when I had finished the book!

So there you have it: the first round of Holiday Book Recs from The Splot. Stay tuned for more, all this week!

(And if you’ve got any other books about words and language that YOU love, please leave a comment and let me know!)

— Karen, STACKS Staffer