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The natural world. Looking pretty for 3.5b years.

Christmas Shopping for Realsies

Christmas Shopping for Realsies

Author: Reilly Capps/Friday, December 20, 2013/Categories: natural history

Buying presents for children in first-world America is difficult. What do they not already have? Superman t-shirts, cool lunch boxes, karaoke machines and game consoles -- they're drowning in stuff. Part of me wants to sneak down the chimney in the middle of the night and steal some of their toys for recycling. 

I only ever buy for children the thing you cannot have too many of: 


Books make no noise, they don't light up, they usually aren't tied to any particular TV show on Disney. The only upside to them, from a child's point of view, is that you can use them to hit your sister. 

The other good thing about books is that they only accomplish goals that I want to accomplish. I want the children I know to grow up smart, worldly, focused and literate. THEY want to be princesses and football players, two classes of people that are highly brain damaged. 

I also want them to know about science, to understand the world. They want to believe in totally imaginary, made-up things like mermaids and Selena Gomez. 

So, here are three great books to teach your nieces about science and the world. 


Kitten has never seen a full moon before. She mistakes one for a bowl of milk, and goes chasing it across the city and can't catch it. This will teach little kids that, though the moon looks close, it is actually far away. And that kittens are kind of stupid. 


This is a good book wherein the moon, which looks very close (as the kitten noticed) actually comes down to a girl's backyard. She gets to walk on it and bathe in its light. This one is less scientifically accurate than the kitten book, but hopefully the children in your life are not so dim that they take it literally. The moon is actually much bigger than your backyard. It is bigger than your whole neighborhood.


"The Magic of Reality" by Richard Dawkins starts most sections with a myth about how the world works, then tells how it REALLY works. So, rainbows aren't a covenant with Noah, they're just different wavelengths of light separated by water. The universe wasn't created out of the giant swirl of milk, it came from the big bang. It's full of Dawkins's haughty, superior-sounding rhetoric. But since kids this age think they know it all anyway, they won't mind reading from another know it all. 


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