It's Christmas, Yule, Hanukkah and Solstice, and the perfect gift for every child in your life - your own, your friend's, your sister-in-law's cousins - is a book. Good choice. Children need books. They can't break them on Christmas morning. A few pointers to improve your bookbuying experience:
1. If you've left it till today, you're not getting anything as specific as volume #26 of the Nancy Drew series. You will have to settle for a book from the Nancy Drew series. When there are four hundred titles in a series, the chances of the bookstore having every one of them on the shelf are remote, and on Christmas Eve, nonexistent. Repeat this mantra: settle.
2. When the bookseller tactfully suggests that Captain Underpants isn't ideal for a fifteen year old, accept that they know more about kids' books than you do and follow their suggestions. Accepting that your child has grown up might be something you need to do at some point, too.
3. The bookseller doesn't know which ones in a series your child/grandchild/friend's child already has. Shouting will not help them to remember.
4. It helps booksellers if you know how old the child is. Somewhere between five and thirteen is slightly too vague.
5. Yes, you can get a copy of Eragon cheaper at Costco. Welcome to the term loss-leader. They sell books cheaper than a Kleenex. However, after you've driven all the way across the city to get there, and your car now contains a copy of Eragon and $250 worth of groceries, including four litres of ketchup that you "know you'll use", you may realise that the book wasn't quite so much cheaper after all.
6. Sadly, the chances of the book that was your absolute favourite as a child being still in print and available for you to get your grandchild, are slim. The chances are slimmer when you can only remember that the book cover was blue and the story was about a bear, or possibly a cat, who had a balloon, or possibly an ice-cream.
7. If all else fails, look for Ukrainian roots in your family. Then it won't be Christmas till January 6th.
And by then the bookstore might just have a copy of Nancy Drew #26.