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December 19, 2019

Alena Dillon: Baby’s First Christmas Book Flood

We wrap up this year’s Holiday Author Blog series with Alena Dillon, whose debut novel, MERCY HOUSE, releases on February 11th. Alena and her husband are looking forward to celebrating their first Christmas with their son, who will be 10 months old. At first, they were just going to wrap up some toys they already own, or let him tear through gift bags with nothing but tissue paper in them. And surely, his grandparents would have plenty of goodies for him to unwrap. But then Alena put on her writer’s hat and finally figured out the ideal presents for her baby boy: books, of course. Lots and lots of books.


My son will be 10 months old this Christmas, and because he already has everything he needs, as well as four grandparents bound to give him plenty of things he doesn’t need, my husband and I were seriously considering just wrapping up some toys we already own, or letting him tear through gift bags filled with nothing but tissue paper. Sure, as first-Christmas parents we’d look sociopathic. But, come on, he wouldn’t know the difference, and we’d preserve the festivity of the season without clogging our closets with clothes he’ll soon outgrow or more toys he ignores in favor of the random items babies hold dear, like a coaster or his favorite Tupperware lid.

Plus, we’re cheap. Seriously. We made a drum set out of his empty formula cans.

This was my strategy until a thought occurred to me that, as a writer, I should have considered from the start:

Books. Of course, books.

Quality children’s literature has already become a prized commodity in our house. We read these books over and over again, often on a daily basis, so much so that their language has become part of our family lexicon. For instance, thanks to THE POUT-POUT FISH, when I look sour, my husband calls me a “kaleidoscope of mope.” And if something doesn’t go our way, like an appliance breaking right after its warranty, we’ll quote ALL THE WORLD: “Slip, trip, stumble, fall. Tip the bucket, spill it all. Better luck another day. All the world goes round this way.”

You have to be careful when exposing your kid to books; you never know which he is going to latch onto and request you read 27 times a day. Or which will get stuck in your head: you don’t want to Baby Shark yourself into an institution.

That’s why this Christmas, instead of wrapping a train set or a stuffed Elmo --- or worse, an empty cardboard box --- we’ll be adopting Jolabokaflod, an Icelandic word meaning the Christmas Book Flood. And I hope to make this a yearly tradition, so that my son never knows a Christmas without a good book.

Besides, stories contain bonus gifts inside. They are a trip to whatever world lies between their covers, where there are dancing giraffes, sleepy construction trucks, pigeons driving school buses, chocolate factories, and all sorts of wild things.

Put simply, books are magic.