Faux pas

Some years ago my dad bought a cd as a birthday gift for one of his daughters. Before wrapping and presenting the cd, he opened it, tape-recorded the music, and gave the cassette tape to his other daughter. We still tease him about this weird lapse of gift-giving judgment, though of course we appreciate the good intention. At least I do; I got the tape. Maybe Eva feels different.

Anyway, I am now guilty of a similar offense. I bought Joan Aiken's A Necklace of Raindrops for Lena and I have been unable to resist the temptation of dipping into it. Not to sound too smug or anything, but I am SO pleased with myself for thinking of this book. Most of her books are written for a middle-school or older audience, this is the only one I know of that's still in print that's written for younger elementary readers. It's a book of short stories, and they are truly marvelous and unique and beautiful and poetic.
"In that case," said the North Wind, "I will be the baby's godfather. My birthday present to her will be this necklace of raindrops."

From under his gray cloak he pulled out a fine silver chain. On the chain were three bright, shining drops.

"You must put it around the baby's neck," he said. "The raindrops will not wet her, and they will not come off. Every year, on her birthday, I will bring her another drop. When she has four drops she will stay dry, even if she goes out in the hardest rainstorm. And when she has five drops no thunder or lightning can harm her. And when she has six drops she will not be blown away, even by the strongest wind. And when she has seven raindrops she will be able to swim the deepest river. And when she has eight raindrops she will be able to swim the widest sea. And when she has nine raindrops she will be able to make the rain stop raining if she claps her hands. And when she has ten raindrops she will be able to make it start raining if she blows her nose."

"Stop, stop!" cried Mr. Jones. "That is quite enough for one little girl."

"I was going to stop anyway," said the North Wind.

I guess I'll go wrap it now before she gets home from school.


  • I wondered if it was ethical to read my daughter's Christmas present before Christmas (Cornelia Funke's Dragon Rider). I have resisted. Though, if she's not totally immersed in it Christmas morning, she just might lose the chance to read it first!

    posted by Blogger Melissa on 2:59 PM  

  • I shamelessly read both of the books I bought for my eleven-year old niece before I sent them to her: The Penderwicks by Jeanne Birdsall and The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan. I never give her a book without reading it first and this time around I couldn't get library copies in time to preview them that way. Happily they both turned out to be excellent books (I'd hate to find out they were bad picks after I'd already bought them!). The Lightning Thief was particularly good -- I highly recommend it.

    posted by Blogger Kate S. on 5:03 PM  

  • I LOVED A Necklace of Raindrops, Jules; totally forgot about it. And no comment on the CD that dad bought for me, opened, taped for you and then gave to me. ; )

    posted by Anonymous eva on 10:17 PM  

  • I just wanted to come by adn say Merry Christmas, Julie!

    posted by Blogger Heather on 12:10 AM  

  • Hey Julie, I'm just checking in to wish you a Merry Christmas. Have a great holiday weekend!

    posted by Blogger Fred on 8:35 AM  

  • I have that book! What a lovely gift for your daughter.

    posted by Blogger liz on 10:28 PM  

  • Oh man, I like me some Joan Aiken. Especially her kids' stuff - ever read her "Nightbirds on Nantucket" or "Cold Shoulder Road"? Good stuff, Gothic in the nicest possible way.

    posted by Anonymous Ella on 11:31 PM  

  • Update: Lena got so many books for Chrismukah that she hasn't particularly noiced the Joan Aiken yet. Her favorite (so far) is a lovely copy of Little House in the Big Woods. It's the "read-aloud" edition: a large hardcover book with big, kid-friendly print -- but NOT abridged, and not with the "colorized" illustrations. She is loving it.

    So, I guess we're 50-50 on whether dipping in in advance is ethical. Melissa says no, Kate says yes. Hmmm.

    Cold Shoulder Road doesn't sound familiar, Ella, and I thought I'd read everything she wrote. Unfortunately, her adult books are pretty crappy. But a collection of her short stories called Not What You Expected blew me away like nothing else I'd ever read and I recall it now with fondness that borders on the maudlin. It's out of print; if any of you used booksellers out there come across a copy let me know. :)

    posted by Blogger Julie on 7:02 AM  

  • I love A Necklace of Raindrops so much - I read it as a child, bought it for J. last year and he loved it. I also loved the Wolves of Willoughby Chase series, particularly Black Hearts in Battersea, which I still own. J (a kindergartener) should be ready for these too!

    There are a lot of Aiken books available used - I bought a bunch of them last year. I can't remember if I bought Not What You Expected, but don't think so. I will look - I definitely found a couple of other early-elementary-appropriate books and bought them.

    posted by Anonymous Genevieve on 3:48 PM  

  • I love Joan Aiken so very much. I am always on the lookout for any of her books and I buy them even if I already have it. So I have an extra to give away.

    posted by Anonymous Nixie Knox on 11:10 PM  

  • I read in the NYT today that there is nothing wrong with end-of-year introspection. Boy, was I glad! Maybe there is also nothing wrong with year-round introspection.

    Or do you think I'm being unrealistic even to think that?

    So, I jumped right into the ice-cold water and introspected about the alleged faux-pas and, in particular, about the "victim's'" note: "no comment on the CD that dad bought for me, opened, taped for you and then gave to me. ; )"

    I done worse!!

    When LPs first came out and I still lived with my parents in NY, I once bought my father, for his birthday or perhaps Father's Day, a copy of Max Bruch's Scottish Fantasy, as played, if I recall correctly, by Jascha Heifetz. I loved that performance and thought he would, too. Not only he, but my mother since she would hear it played in our living room as well. So, under the guise of celebrating my father, I acquired what I thought would be a family treasure. Indeed, I had guessed correctly: everybody liked it well enough.

    There was no taping involved, of course. Still, the requirement of exclusivity, which some readers of this blog seem to regard as sacrosanct, was violated. (Would it have been better for my mother and me to clear out of our apartment and take a walk while my father played the LP for the first time? All those in favor,...)

    But that's not the "bad" part as some readers might think. No, THAT came when I decided exchange the LP for some other that I loved even better. My father teased me for years afterwards, "say, whatever became of my Scottish Fantasy?" He knew very well what became of it.

    But I betcha he liked what I exchanged it for even better than the one I had rolled over to obtain it.

    Yea, I was bad all right.

    posted by Anonymous Fatherworm on 4:58 PM  

  • Shhh . . . I do that too. And I want to read this one!

    posted by Blogger purple_kangaroo on 12:20 AM