Thursday, June 02, 2011

Graduation Gifts for Girls In Between

This post started out as a guide to gifts for fifth and eighth grade graduates, two graduations I know lots of people think are kind of overkill. I happen to think these graduations are incredibly useful little milestones, because there's a dearth of real coming of age rituals, and graduations make good moments to honor the end/beginning of certain stages of life. It sets time aside to celebrate and contemplate what's just happened and get ready for something new (and often terrifying). But when I put together the list, I accidentally picked a bunch of stuff that's specifically for girls. So I'll make another short list of books for boys this age soon, and I'm sorry for the oversight. Here goes:

by Meredith & Sofie Jacobs

This is one of my favorite gift-y books for preteen girls, and would make a fantastic fifth grade graduation present. Created by a mother and daughter who had great success keeping a joint journal, it's a journal meant to be passed back and forth between a mother and daughter, with prompts, questions, checklists and a lot of blank pages. The authors say their experience with a shared journal was rewarding for various reasons. From Sophie's introduction:
Because of the journal I can talk to my mom about all that awful, awkward puberty stuff and not have to face the embarrassment of saying it to her face.

Another thing about the journal is how well we get to know each other through it. Do you know your mom's favorite dinner? [...] Or who she had a crush on in middle school?
Her mom adds:
I love that we communicate a little differently when we write because we have time to think. My mind often wanders when I write, so I think I share even more than I do when we talk. It's quite possible that she "hears" me better when I write. And, she's braver when she writes.
Anyway, I kind of want to do this with my mom, even though I'm all grown up. Also, even though it has some mom-specific stuff, it'd be just as fun to use with an older sister or aunt or grandma. With a great cover, sweet illustrations and a well-executed format and design, this is an excellent gift.

It's a Money Thing: A Girl's Guide to Managing Money
by The Women's Foundation of California

Another pick for fifth grade grads is a Moonjar, which is a kind of piggy bank made of three separate-but-connected banks: Spend, Save, and Share. It works fine for younger kids, too, but in conjunction with a book about handling money (or a congratulatory raise in allowance) it'd be awesome for an almost-middle-schooler. A great book for tween and teen girls about money is It's A Money Thing, by The Women's Foundation of California. It'd be fine for most 12- to 14-year-olds, so whether you give it to a sophisticated fifth grade grad or an eighth grader, it's a great introduction to financial words and concepts. It's heavy on starting your own business and investing your money to make it grow, but it is a book on money so that seems fitting. It also has some organizing principles (financial journaling pages, charts, a pocket for receipts) that'd be useful to begin keeping track of saving, spending, investing, and giving.

My Little Red Book
by Rachel Kauder Nalebuff

Body Drama
by Nancy Amanda Redd

Are you someone's rebel aunt? Come on. Everyone has one, and if you have a niece (or a young cousin or just your friend's kid who you know), it might be time to check yourself out. Are you planning on buying her tickets to concerts in a couple of years, or sneaking her into R-rated movies? Maybe you just occasionally let a curse word slip out around her? Buy her clothing made out of leather? Were you the one who bought her that skull-and-crossbones onesie? Well, then you're the perfect person to get her one of these books. If her mom gives them to her, the shine is off. But they contain a lot of really life-changingly great information, and the just-right cool person giving them to her could mean she actually reads them. My Little Red Book, which is not aimed exclusively at young people and would make a great gift for grownup friends too, would be an amazingly sweet gift for a fifth grade graduate (yes, they will be SOOOO embarrassed, but they'll probably read it cover to cover). It's a collection of first-person accounts of first period stories. You'd be surprised, if you think about how common this experience is, how little we talk about it, especially to gals who are just about to or have just experienced it themselves. Seriously, this book is awesome. The subject index in the back cracks me up: "Caught Between Two Cultures," "Disposal Challenges," "I Was Dying," and "Judy Blume" all have their own list of stories. Ha! PLEASE GET THIS NOW (for everyone).

Body Drama would be better for eighth grade grads (or at least middle schoolers). Written by a Harvard-educated beauty queen, it's full of color photographs illustrating all the body questions and answers a teenager could ask (it was quite educational for grownup ladies in our department). Because of the graphic pictures and the really direct language, it's one you should page through first to make sure you're comfortable giving it as a gift. But man, is it chock full of information, and the photographs of all different kinds of bodies and body issues are the kind of education everyone needs and we rarely get as teens. From "I bathe every day but I still smell" to "I'm a virgin, but I missed my period" to "My piercing isn't healing well," there are a lot of questions it'd be embarrassing to ask a knowledgeable adult and this book answers lots of them. It has step-by-step instructions for how to make the best emergency pad out of toilet paper, for goodness sake (with photographs)! I love this book.

Local author Debbie Reber has two books (at least two, she writes a lot for young women and girls, see her website here) that I'd comfortably give as a gift to any teen or tween girl. In Their Shoes is a comprehensive and conversational set of profiles of women who have successful, rewarding careers. Unlike some career books that are just quizzes about your personality, this one works hard to uncover what a day in the life feels like, what the actual work is, so that you can really get a feel for what a job entails instead of just getting a quick explanation somebody looked up online. Some of the women kept diaries of what they did all day, some gave in-depth interviews. All of the profiles include sections on other jobs in that field and what you can do as a teen to prepare for a job like this. It's a feel-good read whether or not one is interested in future careers, since if you read the whole thing, you've just met around fifty happy, smart, successful women.

Chill is just what it sounds like, and if you know any high-strung gals who are looking toward middle or high school with a certain amount of perfectionist dread (or scatterbrained dread) this would be a sweet thing to pair with a gift certificate for something relaxing (I'll leave it up to you to decide whether that's a manicure or parasailing, everyone's different). Full of varying tips and tricks on managing stress and practicing good self-care, I love this book's focus on the importance of creating healthy boundaries. Lots of people talk to teens about stress—"Gee whiz, young people these days, with all their iTalking and their Spacebooks!"—without offering specific, direct advice and strategies. This one is straight-shooting and helpful.

-Anna, Kids Books


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