Rebecca has written about how a library card makes a good gift idea. It is a wonderful gift because it gives many; you can check out up to 50 books at a time. You might be wondering why I say “gift” when the library requires you to return the books you’ve checked out. I say “gift” because there’s more than one way to give one. A book might be for keeps – someone might buy you a book or Santa might bring you one, or you could find one on your desk when you come back from reading class if your third grade teacher gives out books for birthdays. But sometimes books are presents for no reason, and we just don’t know it.
If someone recommends a book to you because they thought of you when they read it, that is a gift. It shows that someone thinks you matter. If you tell your friend how funny Bunnicula is and he checks it out, you’ve given him that story; if not for you, he might never have heard of zombie vegetables. If a librarian reads or tells a story that you like, we are giving you “How the Whale Got His Throat” or The Gruffalo. And in our great resource and sagacity, we’ll find more books for you to check out.
Authors write their books for you to read. And, if that author has a gift for writing, it might seem as if the book was written especially for you. I have always liked Jerry Spinelli because he is so gently funny and kind to his characters, who don’t usually have many people to think well of them. He is a gift to the Maniacs, the Losers, and the Stargirls. If you see yourself in them, they are a gift to you. If not for Spinelli, I wouldn’t have met Zinkoff, and Zinkoff wouldn’t have made me cry. (Zinkoff’s dad rocks, too.) And even though I returned the book, the gift remains: I know that at least one person respects the Zinkoffs of the world.
Books are unique gifts because there are humans behind them, always. The words stay with you even when you return the paper copy. So does the memory of the humans, real and fictional. Don’t worry when you put the books back in the dropbox; they’re just wrapping. With words and books, thought really does count.