International Book Giving Day - favourite books given to the ReadingWise team as presents

To celebrate International Book Giving Day, the ReadingWise team share some of their favourite books given to them as presents. We explain why we love these books, a brief summary of each one, a few words on what the books mean to us... and share our book gifting strategies!

Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone by J.K. Rowling

Emily was given ‘Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone' for her 11th birthday. The important detail was that this made her the same age as Harry. So as Emily was getting ready to leave her sweet little village primary school to head into the abyss of the scary local secondary school, so too Harry was about to leave his nasty Aunt, Uncle and terrible cousin to jet off to learn magic at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Emily was unashamedly sucked in, truly hooked with the rest of the generation that went potty for Potter.

She can’t remember which family member bought her the book, but her step-mother fed Emily's obsession for years after, making sure her name was on the list at the local bookshop every time Rowling released the next book!

Emily probably wouldn’t choose to give the magic of Harry Potter to friends or family these days, but she loves to give something that she’s read herself, something that has inspired her, made her laugh or think. The most recent book she has gifted was to the two-year-old son of a good friend - top of the pile was ‘Hairy Maclary from Donaldson's Dairy’ by Lynley Dodd. Emily can still hear her mum laughing as she read this silly story to Emily as a child, so naturally Emily wants to share that same joy!

Please Mrs Butler by Allan Ahlberg

Hayley remembers reading the collection of amusing poems centred around school life as a child and just laughing and laughing. Each one was like the chapter of a novel, telling a story of school life. She related to some of the poems but used her imagination for most of them! Flicking through the book every now and again reminds her of the fun she and her Dad would have reading together, and the real reason why she loves it.

Hayley’s mum and dad bought the book for her one Christmas; it still has “Hayley '87" written inside the cover in her mum's writing. She remembers finding it in her stocking but not being quite old enough to read it by herself, even though she was a strong reader. She thinks her parents knew that her sense of humour would fit with the poems, and that she’d enjoy reading them by herself, or with them.

“Please Mrs Butler - what is there not to love?!”

One of her favourite poems was 'Swops'; she and her Dad would read together and they'd see how fast they could read the poem, ending up belly laughing their way through.

Her parents also bought her the next book in the series 'Heard it in the playground'. Her favourite, 'Not now, Nigel', is a slightly more adult take on school life from a teacher's perspective. She remembers choosing to read it aloud as part of drama class, when she was much older, adding in the facial expressions and hand gestures.

Hayley likes to give books for children's first birthdays and christenings - books she thinks they may want to read at a later age. Doing this interview has reminded her that she should give both of these Allan Ahlberg's books as presents more often, feeling sure that other children will love them as much as she did!

Where The Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak

The ReadingWise team’s newest team member, Kirsten, loved 'Where The Wild Things Are' when she was little. She enjoyed listening to the story as a young child at nursery and would often dream about being Max. She loved the illustrations and would enjoy thinking about being in a foreign land with friendly monsters!

‘Where The Wild Things Are’ is about a young boy, Max, who puts on a wolf costume and is generally horrid to everyone in his house. One night Max is transported to the place where the wild things are. He tames the wild things and crowns himself as their king, and then the wild rumpus begins! But when Max has sent the monsters to bed, and everything is quiet, he starts to feel lonely and realises it is time to sail home to the place where someone loves him best of all.

Santa gifted Kirsten the book the following Christmas, knowing how much she had enjoyed the story. It had a special place on her bookshelf; whenever she felt like she wanted to be somewhere else, she would pretend to be Max.

Kirsten enjoys giving books to people as a present, thinking about their likes and buying something to enhance their reading shelf!

Dear Zoo by Rod Campbell

Jo loved 'Dear Zoo' as a child. It’s a lovely book about a child requesting that a zoo send them an animal as a pet. On each page there is a flap with the image of a door to pull open, or a lid to lift, to reveal the image of an animal. As you go through, each animal has something wrong with it, perhaps it’s too big or maybe its too tall. Finally, inside a basket is the perfect animal for a pet, a little puppy.

Jo loved pulling back the flaps, and being immersed in the story. One potential pet is a snake that’s in a basket so you have to lift up the basket lid, another is a little monkey, peeking over the top of a box. It’s so simple and so effective and the visuals are lovely. Jo thinks one of her parents must have bought her the book, knowing that she’d love lifting the flaps and admiring the animals hidden behind them.

Jo loves to give books as presents, to children and adults. For friends she loves to send a book she’s recently read and enjoyed that she knows might be up their street. For children there are some great classics but she also likes to send less obvious choices. She recently gave one of her nieces the 'High-rise Mystery' by Sharna Jackson because she’d heard good things about it and knew that it featured ‘the first black detective duo in British children's fiction.’ Her nieces are a quarter Ghanaian and three quarters English, so it’s nice to be able to pick books that feature children of colour. She’s given a couple of friend’s kids ‘Wow! Said the Owl’ by Tim Hopgood as it’s been a big hit - they love the colourful images and story of a curious little owl.

Panda, the Doctor by Oda Taro

One of Hannah’s favourite books as a young child was 'Panda, the Doctor'. It's an illustrated picture book about a little panda who has been poorly and had to stay in bed. When he is feeling better he dresses up as a doctor and then treats all his toys and pets for various illnesses. It ends with Mummy Panda feeling tired and needing a sit down with 'Doctor Panda' tucking her into bed.

Hannah loved this book for its reflection of the everyday play scenarios she would engage in with her own toys, taking on different roles and getting various pets to participate in her imaginative games. She loves the simplicity of the illustrations and the matching game at the back of the book.

When choosing a book as a present for a new baby Hannah usually gives Eric Carle's 'Brown, Bear, Brown Bear What do you see?' chosen for it's lovely lyrical text. She also loves to give any of the Helen Oxenbury baby books such as 'Clap Hands' or 'Tickle, Tickle' which captures so beautifully the early life of childhood and being a baby!

The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett

Caroline’s favourite book given to her as a present as a child was 'The Secret Garden'. It’s about a spoilt, entitled child, a product of a colonial upbringing who is orphaned and moved back to England to be under the guardianship of her unpleasant uncle. Lonely and fairly obnoxious, she eventually befriends a poor, working class lad who is kind and gentle and generous (all the things she isn't). She meets him in The Secret Garden, an overgrown abandoned, locked garden which has been left untouched for many years. He teaches her about the garden and tending it and about nature and animals. The story unravels and has a happy ending. She thinks her mother probably thought it would be the perfect book for a girl of 9 or 10 years old.

Caroline wanted to find a key to her own secret garden, where it’s always summer; warm, peaceful, beautiful and uncomplicated!

Caroline often gives books she has enjoyed herself as presents, and sometimes books she thinks people should read; particularly to her own children! For little ones she often gives 'Tiddler' by Julia Donaldson and Alex Shaffer - it was a gift to one of her children and they loved it. The rhyming is a joy and the story is wonderful!

Which book did you receive as a child and love? Which books do you like to give as presents? Let us know!


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