Hippopotamuses make lovely Christmas presents. Growing up, my favorite children’s book was George and Martha: The Complete Stories of Two Best Friends by James Marshall (the brilliant mind behind Merry Christmas, Space Case and Miss Nelson Is Missing!, among other gems). George and Martha (named for our first President and First Lady?) are best friends. Like many friends (human and otherwise), they have disagreements.
For example, George doesn’t want to eat Martha’s pea soup any more – but she keeps making it because she thinks he like it. What happens? Read and find out more! These books showcase constructive criticism between loved ones and how to communicate effectively in a touchy situation. Conservatives have a lot to learn about broaching touchy subjects with love.
You can also buy the stuffed animal versions of George and Martha for those who would prefer to snuggle with their presents. I also like knitted stuffed animals, like this lion.
If you’re looking for videos for kids, I recommend Signing Time! and Baby Signing Time! Started by a musical family with a deaf daughter, this series teaches your young ones how to non-verbally communicate. (I’ve learned a few signs too!)
If you have a person that does not comprehend the words “responsibility” and “love”, then another book worthy of gifting is Le Petit Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery. As I cannot read French, I prefer the English translation. The Little Prince tells the story of a prince who crashes his plane and discovers new worlds and people. The insights into human nature are brilliant, and beautiful. The first chapter makes fun of grown-ups for taking life so seriously, and the next chapters explore the relationships the prince creates.
My favorite is his time with the fox, who teaches him what it means to be tamed – to establish ties.
“My life is very monotonous,” the fox said. “I hunt chickens; men hunt me. All the chickens are just alike, and all the men are just alike. And, in consequence, I am a little bored. But if you tame me, it will be as if the sun came to shine on my life. I shall know the sound of a step that will be different from all the others. Other steps send me hurrying back underneath the ground. Yours will call me, like music, out of my burrow. And then look: you see the grain-fields down yonder? I do not eat bread. Wheat is of no use to me. The wheat fields have nothing to say to me. And that is sad. But you have hair that is the colour of gold. Think how wonderful that will be when you have tamed me! The grain, which is also golden, will bring me back the thought of you. And I shall love to listen to the wind in the wheat…”
The fox gazed at the little prince, for a long time.
“Please—tame me!” he said.
“I want to, very much,” the little prince replied. “But I have not much time. I have friends to discover, and a great many things to understand.”
“One only understands the things that one tames,” said the fox. “Men have no more time to understand anything. They buy things all ready made at the shops. But there is no shop anywhere where one can buy friendship, and so men have no friends any more. If you want a friend, tame me…”
This is precisely what we conservatives tote: the need for community to grow, support and love one another. This book is a gem for people of all ages. The original illustrations are worth savoring as well!
If you are looking for a hard-to-find present for that hard-to-please conservative in your life, look no further than Paul Elmer More’s Pages from an Oxford Diary. Slim and beautiful, poetical and precise. He asks a lot of questions, and concludes with certainty.
For the scholars in your life, New Advent is offering a deal: $19 for a cd-rom of the Bible, the Catholic Encyclopedia, the Summa Theologica, the Church Fathers and more. (I own it; it is really neat!)
A thick, easy-to-read, and enjoyable book is Flannery O’Connor’s The Habit of Being, her collection of epistolary correspondence, which is both hilarious and poignant. If you struggle with her fiction, this book and Mystery and Manners (her collection of essays) gives plenty of insight.
If you’re looking for a mixture of travel and Jane Austen, and have ever wondered how Jane Austen would translate into South American culture, I really loved All Roads Lead to Austen by Amy Elizabeth Smith. It was published earlier this year, and I highly recommend it.
For the music lovers in your life, I present my top 5:
Alternative rock: Myloto Xyloto by Coldplay
Bluegrass: Bluegrass by Putumayo Presents
Children: The Best of the Laurie Bertner Band and her Christmas album – A Laurie Berkner Christmas
Classical: The Essential Mozart album
Folk-rock: Sigh No More and Babel by Mumford and Sons
When in doubt, bake a batch of gingerbread cookies and write a nice note telling your loved one what you appreciate about them and offer the gift of time, whatever that may be. In our busy world, time may be the most precious gift of all.
And, as a gift to yourself, spend time in Adoration of our Lord. ‘Tis the season, after all!
Books mentioned in this essay may be found in The Imaginative Conservative Bookstore.