a peek inside the fishbowl

30 Nov, 2010

Gifting books to children

Posted by andrea tomkins in: - Stealth poetry|Easy ways to make kids happy

Awhile back I posted a list of great book ideas for kids of middling age. (I hesitate to say tween, because so many of the books mentioned in the post and in the comments afterwards make wonderful material for family time/out-loud reading.)

We all know that books make the best gifts, but my question for you today is this… when you gift a book, do you write anything inside the book to the gift recipient? This recent post got me thinking about messages in books too. When I shop for secondhand books I love finding an inscription. I wonder about the people involved – who gave it, who got it, why did it end up at the Salvation Army? I think it’s a lovely practice. I should do it more often.

Sometimes when I give a child a book (not my own child) and it’s a “keeper” book (i.e. a pricey gift book that I hope they’ll hold onto) I like to write a little poem in it. And here it is:

Child! Do Not Throw This Book About,
by Hilaire Belloc

Child! do not throw this book about;
Refrain from the unholy pleasure
Of cutting all the pictures out!
Preserve it as your chiefest treasure.

Child, have you never heard it said
That you are heir to all the ages?
Why, then, your hands were never made
To tear these beautiful thick pages!

Your little hands were made to take
The better things and leave the worse ones.
They also may be used to shake
The Massive Paws of Elder Persons.

And when your prayers complete the day,
Darling, your little tiny hands
Were also made, I think, to pray
For men that lose their fairylands.

It’s a great poem to read out loud. In fact, I think I will print this out as our next Stealth Poetry Project! (Written about here and there.)

p.s. tomorrow is DAY ONE of 25Days. (!)

8 Responses to "Gifting books to children"

1 | Jen_nifer

November 30th, 2010 at 11:57 am


My mother used to insist that I must write an inscription inside any book I gave. I did that for a few years, but opt not to anymore. I wouldn’t want an inscription from me to prevent them from sharing the book after they are done with it.

2 | karen

November 30th, 2010 at 4:00 pm


I leave an inscription in some of the books I buy for my children. Usually it is only the hard covers. Something about a hard cover screams for an inscription.

On the other hand I have never done it for anyone else.

Even when I’m doing it for my children I sort of feel like I’m de-facing a perfectly good book.

3 | Sarah (mrsgryphon)

November 30th, 2010 at 5:23 pm


I almost always write in the books that I gift – I love finding the books on our shelf that friends have given to our girls and when their names are inside the front cover it gives us another chance to talk about those people who are far away, but love us enough to share these great stories with us. I think a little note inside a book cover is a bit like a journal – “Merry Christmas, Julia – love, Mom and Dad, 2007” takes us back to that time and place! I hope other people get that same little bit of joy when they see our names in a book we’ve gifted.

Okay, so I may be a bit of romantic when it comes to books :)


4 | Sarah (mrsgryphon)

November 30th, 2010 at 5:24 pm


Oh! I wanted to say that I *love* that little poem, too, and am going to keep that on file. So lovely.

5 | Alicia

December 1st, 2010 at 9:55 am


I always write a simple To and From and a little message, like Happy Birthday and the year. I love looking back at books that Hubby and I still have from when were were kids and read the little messages inside.

6 | andrea

December 1st, 2010 at 10:00 am


That poem is sweet, isn’t it?

And I think I’m going to recommit to adding inscriptions. It’s a happy tradition, and I agree Alicia, nice to look back.

7 | Carla

December 1st, 2010 at 10:40 am


A few years back, when our bookshelves were already overflowing, we decided that our favourite bookstore was called ‘the library’ and we now barely buy books. Having no tv, we read so much, that if we did buy books we would be in the poor house. We do buy books that we have read at least once and know we want to read again and again. That way, we know they are keepers. But even so, I hate the idea of writing on a book, I feel it defaces it. I only put my name on them if I am lending them out. One day you may grow out of the book and may want to give it away or sell it or share it and I find that seeing someone else’s inscription takes away from the book. And I think once you inscribe on it, it makes it harder to give it away because rather than keeping the memory yourself, you have given it to the book to keep and getting rid of the book can feel like getting rid of the memory, which is not the case – the memory can stay forever.

8 | Jake

December 8th, 2010 at 3:26 pm


A book isn’t a gift until it’s been inscribed! As a self-published writer, I have a giant pile of stock inscriptions I use when giving books to friends, family, business associates, you name it!

I’m currently blogging about my attempts to self-publish my next novel, Hanlan’s Point, at http://www.jakebabad.com

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My name is Andrea and I live in the Westboro area of Ottawa with my husband Mark and our dog Piper who is kind of a big deal on Instagram. We also have two human offspring: Emma (23) and Sarah (21). During the day I work as a writer at The Royal Ottawa Mental Health Centre. I am a longtime Ottawa blogger and I've occupied this little corner of the WWW since 1999. The Fishbowl is my whiteboard, water cooler, and journal, all rolled into one. I'm passionate about healthy living, arts and culture, travel, great gear, good food, and sharing the best of Ottawa. I also love vegetables, photography, gadgets, and great design.

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