The Mysterious Benedict Society has been on my mind lately — with up to $7 (before tax) of parental cash to spend during a recent bookstore outing, 9-year-old S snagged the new paperback (with a sneak preview of the soon-to-be-published sequel) for $6.99.
For a friend’s birthday yesterday, S gave him a hardback copy.
And so, when I was thinking about what to give my nephew A when he turns 10 later this week, I thought — well, you can probably guess what I thought.
But no dice — my sister-in-law told me that A had already read it. Loved it, too, but I didn’t want to get him something he’d already read. (If you assume that I was set on getting him a book of some sort, you’re assuming correctly.)
Then I thought of something outlandish: I could get him a nonfiction book. Yes, I’m afraid it’s true — even someone with a vested interest in the health of the children’s nonfiction market defaulted to fiction when trying to think of a kid’s birthday present.
Once I got past that, though, it didn’t take me long to come up with a choice I’m happy with and I hope my nephew will love: Sid Fleischman’s Escape!: The Story of the Great Houdini, which as you can see from this link comes with the Fuse #8 seal of approval.
With that taken care of (thank you, 2-day shipping), I can now devote more time to wondering why I didn’t think of nonfiction in the first place. My immediate hunch: When picking a book for A, I was interested in knowing what he’s been into, in case there was something along those lines I could get him, or even the latest in a beloved series.
But trade nonfiction titles are typically singular creations — in literature for children and young adults, nonfiction authors often don’t return to the same topics as their previous works. And perhaps partly for that reason, nonfiction authors seldom attain the same prominence as A-list fiction authors and thus don’t come to mind as brand names (as in, “He just loves Jim Murphy!”). So unless there’s a particular subject that a young reader is nuts about, eliciting nonfiction recommendations from that reader’s parents can be tough.
Even more so when the eliciting party doesn’t think to ask about nonfiction favorites in the first place.