One of the reasons Nomi and I love living in Brookline is the stores. Over the many years we've lived in this town, we've become personal friends with some of the owners of the businesses we patronize.
Although we celebrate Chanukah, and not Christmas, our holiday too includes a tradition of giving gifts to children. It occurred to me that this holiday season would be a good time to remind our readers of the great opportunities to find gifts for toddlers right in our own backyard.
Let's start with toys. Two of our favorite Brookline stores for purchasing toys are Magic Beans and Henry Bear's Park. As for games, we also often stop by Eureka Puzzles and Games for their selection of card games and board games, and they offer options for toddlers.
A few months ago, I was delighted to see a new clothing boutique for children opening up on my way from the Coolidge Corner T stop to the library, and I stopped in while they were still getting ready to find out more about it.
Lucia Berman-Rossi is a former Brookline resident who opened The Tiny Hanger two months ago and is excited to be running a business in the Coolidge Corner area.
"After the birth of our daughter, we wanted to put our entrepreneurial skills to the test and open a kids shop that features unique items." Berman-Rossi makes a point of featuring clothing and accessories hand-made by local designers. They sell boy and girl clothing and gifts and accessories for the 6 and under set of kids in Brookline.
I asked Berman-Rossi to recommend a gift for girls the age of my kids, and one of her staff members, Kara, recommended the ensemble outfit pictured with the article.
"I love it because it features a super soft cream colored shirt with a rhinestone embellishment, which every little girl loves, the Hula Mula pants in a bright teal and a crayon apron handmade by a Brookline designer mom. It all adds up to cute, handmade and unique." Kara added, "We have this outfit in sizes 2-6, all for under $100."
Of course, as anyone who has been reading our column for over a year now knows, Nomi and I are most fond of buying books for Muffin and Squeaker. We've frequently stopped at the Children's Book Shop to pick up board books for them, usually ones by Sandra Boynton. I still remember how Muffin and Squeaker surprised me when I mentioned wanting to read to them from "the Hippopotamus book," and from under a pile Squeaker pulled out our copy of "Hippos Go Berserk!" from Children's Book Shop. They were under a year old at the time, and it was my first indication that they were really remembering the books I was reading to them.
We've also spent quite a lot of time at Brookline Booksmith, browsing their children's section as well. Brookline Booksmith has been in Coolidge Corner since 1961, and the store is proudly celebrating its 50th anniversary this year. We've found some books the girls have really enjoyed there, such as "Two is for Twins" by Wendy Cheyette Lewison and Hiroe Nakata (an appropriate book for our twin girls if ever there was one).
I asked Jamie Tan, a children's bookseller at Brookline Booksmith, for a gift recommendation for Muffin and Squeaker, and she recommended "The House in the Night" by Susan Marie Swanson and Beth Krommes for any children ages 1-5.
"This gorgeous board book is becoming a Brookline Staff favorite," she told me. "With beautiful wood-engraved illustrations and imaginative text, you can journey along from a house in the night to the moon in the sky, and back again. This Caldecott-winning story is bound to become a classic."
Finally, I've been doing what I can to turn Muffin and Squeaker into comic-book readers, just like their dad, who has been reading comic books since he was four years old. (That's me.) As it is, I stop into the Coolidge Corner New England Comics every Wednesday for my own comics, and so I asked Benn Robbins, manager of the store and the co-owner of Robbins Studios, for a recommendation for Muffin and Squeaker.
Benn recommended the graphic novels "Owly: Just a Little Blue" and "Owly: Time to Be Brave." "Owly is the sweet tale of a vegetarian Owl and his friend Wormy as they set out on adventures making friends and teaching other woodland animals the value of friendship and helping others. Creator Andy Runton utilizes his love of birds and his absolutely wonderful outlook on life to breath life into Owly. I can not recommend this book enough. A great book for ALL ages."
Brookline boasts stores that have been here for generations and stores that have been here for under a year; as you can see, many of them are perfect places to go for your holiday shopping needs. The store owners, managers, and staff are friendly and accessible and always willing to help out a customer who needs a suggestion.
Muffin and Squeaker are getting many gifts from friends and relatives from all over the world, but the gifts Nomi and I are getting them are coming from the local stores. It's our way of saying thanks yet again to the merchants who have chosen to make Brookline their home, and of supporting a local economy that even in Brookline could use all the help it can get.
This week's column is written by Michael A. Burstein.