Confession: I've turned into a last-minute holiday shopper.
It wasn't always this way, I swear, but almost a decade of parenting has taught me that what a kid likes in June is most definitely not what a kid will like in December (Star Wars excepted, of course), so I can either waste money and save time, or wait until the last minute and waste slightly less money. Whether it's toys or books, it's always the same, so I wait. I wait until the "may not arrive until after Christmas" warnings start coming, and then I panic, do a quick survey of what my kids are obsessed with RIGHT THIS SECOND, pull out the checkbook and hope for the best.
I know I can count on anything in Tui Sutherland's Wings of Fire series for my son, and Amy Krouse Rosenthal's latest utensil drama, Chopsticks, for my youngest, but my middle baby was a doozy this year.
I'm holding a little black book in my hand. It's hardcover with an imprinted gold title on the front and the spine. It can't be more than 6 by 4 inches, and the text on its 313 pages (not counting the index) is tiny and dense. I found my 7-year-old reading this book a few weeks ago, and she hasn't put it down since. It's not exactly a children's book.
She's reading From the Deep Woods to Civilization by Charles Alexander Eastman, the Santee Dakota writer and physician.
I mean, she's all about it. One of her most prized possessions is a bag my Monacan grandmother made from a turtle shell. This year she made — almost completely by herself, mind you — a Three Sisters stew to take to her Thanksgiving party at school, she desperately wants my father to take his beaded breastplate out of its glass case (that's not going to happen) and she is more than willing to go toe to toe if someone makes a crack about how long her brother's hair is.
She's tough and proud and interested, but Charles Alexander Eastman? I wasn't prepared for her to read his works until at least third grade (ha!).
But surprisingly, if taken slowly and thoughtfully, From the Deep Woods is not the worst book in the world for children, and I am thrilled my little girl is showing such interest in her heritage. I am also thrilled that her interest came so close to the holidays — it made picking a present easy.