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Southwest Book Review: Giving a Child the Gift of Reading

This fall, the writer Ann Patchett did something radical.  She opened a bookstore.  This goes against the trend. The indie bookstores are practically extinct. I miss Flagstaff’s old landmarks, McGaugh’s Newsstand on Aspen, Aradia Books just across the tracks.  I’m glad we’ve still got Starlight Books on Leroux.

I was thinking, if you want to buy your child a book for Christmas, what are the options?  The big chain bookstores?  I guess.  The internet?  Sure.  Download Where the Wild Things Are and hand your kid a Kindle. 

Call me retro, but I say there’s nothing like a glorious, glossy, picture book to inspire the joy of reading.  So I decided to take a walk in downtown Flagstaff and see what’s available. I found some treasures.

At Starlight I found Phoebe and Chubb by local author Matt Hall, the story of a friendship between a frog and a fish and their raucous adventure in the Grand Canyon. 

Then, just around the corner The Golden Aspen toy store displayed Shade, The Story of a Very Smart Raven by Sedona author Diane Phelps Budden.  An inspiring book about a real raven trained in search and rescue.

Winter, you know, is the season for coyote tales.  There’s a terrific new coyote book At Winter Sun on San Francisco: Coyote and the Sky:  How the Sun, Moon, and Stars Began by Emmett Garcia and illustrated by Victoria Pringle:  playful, magical illustrations of the Animal People as they traveled to our world, Coyote making trouble on the way.

I found another classic at West of the Moon on Aspen:  Alice Yazzie’s Year, fantastically illustrated by Flagstaff’s own Shonto Begay.

On Route 66, The Painted Desert Trading Company has an incredible selection.  There, I found Rascal, The Tassel-Eared Squirrel, by NAU biology professor Sylvester Allred, and Little Woman Warrior by Evangeline Parsons Yazzie.  This is a wonderful bilingual history book, perfect for kids aged 6 – 10, about a little warrior returning from Fort Sumner after the Navajos’ Long Walk south.

And there are more.  Many more.  Got a kid on your list this holiday season?  Take a walk downtown.  We may have fewer bookstores, but our local shops still sell books.  Happy reading to one and all.   

Ann Cummins is Professor of Creative Writing at Northern Arizona University. She has published stories in The New Yorker, McSweeney’s, Antioch Review, and elsewhere; her fiction has been anthologized in a variety of series including The Best American Short Stories, The Prentice Hall Anthology of Women’s Literature, and The Anchor Book of New American Short Stories. A 2002 recipient of a Lannan Foundation Literary Fellowship, she is the author of the short story collection Red Ant House, (Houghton Mifflin, spring, 2003) and the novel Yellowcake (Houghton Mifflin, 2007).