More than a year ago now I started working at Wishing Tree Books, an indie bookstore in the Perry District that has weathered quite an extraordinary first year of operation. Opening a small business is always a harrowing ordeal, and the pandemic intensified matters greatly. The compassionate, thoughtful resolve of Wishing Tree owners Janelle Smith and Ivan Smith has been particularly moving to me, and I'm also grateful for the steadfast support of Spokane's book-loving community, which increasingly turns away from greedy price-undercutting retailers like Amazon to support our town's notable independents. My hope is that more and more people in our region will choose to order from local bookstores like Auntie's, Wishing Tree and The Well Read Moose — we should all be committed to the #buylocal and #shopsmall movements, especially now. This is how a robust, healthy reading community is formed.
All of that said, one of the delights of being a bookseller again is the absolute joy I feel at being surrounded by a vast wealth of stories for all ages. I've chosen a few titles here that I believe will make treasured gifts.
FOR BABIES (AGES 0-2)
By Sandra Boynton and Stuffed Bear
"The sun has set not long ago. / Now everybody goes below / to take a bath in one big tub / with soap all over — SCRUB SCRUB SCRUB!" I read this adorable Sandra Boynton rhyming book (1995, $5.99) almost nightly to my children when they were babies, and I still have it memorized. I squealed with glee when I saw the wide-eyed stuffed bear in his red pajamas. The bear (MerryMakers, $20) is safe for all ages and will surely charm parents, too.
There are several titles in the Indestructibles series (various titles available, $5.95 each), and they really do live up to their name — these books are rip-proof, waterproof and chew-proof, not to mention nontoxic and easy to wipe clean. And they are absolutely adorable, with vibrant colors and few or no words — perfect for the littlest book lovers. Some favorites in the series include: Let's Go Outside; Baby, See the Colors; All Year Round (A Book of Seasons); and Bebé, Vamos a Comer.
FOR TODDLERS (AGES 2-3)It's a Great Big Colorful World
By Tom Schamp
This huge, eye-catching book (2020, $19.95) is a delightful exploration of color, and children young and old will pore over the pages and see something new every time. Adults, too, will enjoy discussing the book and its images with their kiddos. This is a fun, joyful read.
FOR EARLY READERS (AGES 4-8)Kind
By Various Writers and Illustrators
Thirty-eight of the publishing industry's best illustrators come together in this lovely book (2020, $17.99) to celebrate kindness and encourage kids to help make the world a better place.
The Camping Trip
By Jennifer K. Mann
A perfect outdoorsy book (2020, $17.99) for kids that tells the story of two cousins who go camping together, one who is familiar with the woods and one who is not. This is a great title about embracing a new experience.
Home in the Woods
By Eliza Wheeler
In this breathtaking story (2019, $17.99) set during the Great Depression, a mother and her eight children who recently lost their father move to a tar paper shack in the Wisconsin woods. As the seasons pass and the family scrabbles to make ends meet, the little shack in the woods becomes a warm and joy-filled home. Based on the author's grandmother's childhood, this is a moving and inspiring testament to family and fortitude and togetherness.
An Elephant and Piggie Biggie
By Mo Willems
These anthologies (there are three volumes in all, collecting the many books in the series, $16.99) are the perfect gift for kiddos just beginning to read on their own. The stories are hilarious, sweet and awesome at teaching necessary literary devices such as decoding, inflection and comprehension. But you don't need to tell the kids this boring stuff, just give them the book and watch them laugh over the lovely friendship between Gerald and Piggie.
FOR MIDDLE READERS (AGES 8-12)Out of Wonder: Poems Celebrating Poets
By Kwame Alexander, illustrated by collage artist Ekua Holmes
Is there any more thoughtful gift than a collection of poetry? This one (2017, $16.99) will inspire kids to take up the pen, themselves. Here, award-winning writers Kwame Alexander, Chris Colderly and Marjorie Wentworth take turns sharing poems and responding to them with original verses of their own. This is an amazing poetic seminar for kids, introducing them to Emily Dickinson, Matsuo Bash, Terrance Hayes and more.
By Kelly Milner Halls, illustrated by Rick Spears
My son and his friends love this charming field guide (2019, $16.99) from local children's writer Kelly Milner Halls. It's well-researched, awesomely illustrated, and, well, just plain fun for the young monster lovers in your life.
Game on! 2021
Your young gamers will go gaga for this book (2020, $14.95). There are great details here not just about the most popular games of 2020 but also about how they were developed and how to conquer them.
Twins: A Graphic Novel
By Varian Johnson and Shannon Wright
For your fans of Raina Telgemeier and Victoria Jamieson I recommend this wonderful new graphic novel (2020, $12.99) about twin sisters who seem to be growing apart in junior high — especially when they decide to run against one another for class president. Other graphic novels to gift: Stargazing by Jen Wang, New Kid and Class Act by Jerry Craft and the Hilo series by Judd Winick.
The Dragonet Prophecy, Wings of Fire #1
By Tui Sutherland
My son, age 11, recommends starting your kids on The Wings of Fire series. This is a rich, imaginative world where dragons are the central characters, and my son, who's about to read the 13th book, says it's filled with excitement and surprise ($7.99).
Where the Mountain Meets the Moon
By Grace Lin
My daughter, age 8, recommends this title (2011, $11.99) from her favorite author (she's read all of Grace Lin's books), which, using Chinese folklore and stunning imagery, tells the story of a brave girl named Minli who is determined to help change her family's difficult circumstances. This is a gorgeously illustrated title and will make a lovely gift for your grade schooler.
By Brittney Morris
Slay (2019, $11.99) won the Washington State Book Award in young adult fiction this year, and for good reason: This is a glorious novel about multitudinous, indefinable Black girlhood — featuring an international cast of likeable characters — and is a great commentary on friendship, racism, misogyny and video game culture. The plot is thrilling, too, involving a murder and its legal repercussions; I had a blast reading the video game scenes and loved the celebration at the book's end.
March: Trilogy Slipcase Set
By John Lewis with Andrew Aydlin, illustrated by Nate Powell
These three graphic novels ($49.99 for the set), collected now in this handsome slipcovered set, should be required reading for all. John Lewis, the great statesman from Georgia who recently passed away, narrates his experiences with the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s, illustrated powerfully by graphic novelist Nate Powell. This series reflects and informs our current era and encourages our own civil disobedience. As John Lewis famously says, "Get in good trouble, necessary trouble."
FOR ADULTSThe Beadworkers: Stories
By Beth Piatote
Piatote (Nez Perce, Chief Joseph Band, enrolled with the Colville Confederated Tribe) writes breathtaking, lyrical, moving stories about Indigenous life, many of them set alongside the rivers of the Inland Northwest. This is one of the best story collections (2019, $16.95) of the last decade and makes a beautiful gift for your literary fiction lovers.
In Accelerated Silence
By Brooke Matson
For the poetry lovers in your life, I highly recommend this collection by local writer Brooke Matson, winner of the prestigious Jake Adam York Prize. The speaker of these poems stitches together her grief over losing a beloved partner with a wondrous consideration of mortality, physics and cosmos. This is a glittering and profound study of loss, existence and reemergence ($16).
Urban Trails: Spokane and Coeur D'Alene
By Rich Landers and David Taylor
The perfect size for a pocket or a stocking, these new full-color field guides to hikes around town are flying off of the shelves (2020, $16.95). Get one for the urban hiker in your life (I'm wishing for one of these myself!).
The Cold Millions
By Jess Walter
It goes without saying, really, that this deft historical novel — highlighting wealth disparity and protest, and set right here in Spokane — is sure to be one of the most oft-gifted books of the season, and deservedly so (2020, $28.99). Most of the indie bookstores in town have signed copies, too, which will delight any Walter-phile.
So #shopsmall and #buylocal, fellow Spokanites, and support our knowledgeable, community-oriented indie bookstores this holiday season: They need your help now more than ever. ♦
Sharma Shields is the author of a story collection, Favorite Monster, and two novels, The Sasquatch Hunter's Almanac and The Cassandra. Her novels and short stories have won the Autumn House Fiction Prize, the Washington State Book Award, and the 2020 PNBA. Sharma lives in Spokane, where she is a bookseller at Wishing Tree.