If you're looking for a last minute gift idea for a crocheter, or beginning crocheting, or if you're a crocheter yourself, then let me recommend Amigurumi World Seriously Cute Crochet, by Ana Paula Rimoli.
If you're new to amigurumi, as I was when I checked this book out of the library, then let me fill you in. It's Japanese in origin, and it simply means crochet, or knit, stuffed toys. Though, they do tend to be extra cute, and knit, or crocheted in the round.
Rimoli's patterns are extra cute, indeed (her title does not lie), and on top of it, they are fairly simple. Most of the work is done in a single crochet, and she gives instruction at the back, for any additional stitches that are called for, including some embroidery instruction. Being a visual learner, I wouldn't have minded a few extra photos, or illustrations, to go along with the instructions, but with careful study, it was possible to follow them, with what was given.
I did find it difficult to keep my stitches tight enough using the 4mm hook suggested, as you can see on the dog, to the right. However, switching to a 3mm hook, seemed to solve the problem.
The patterns in Rimoli's aMiGURUMi TWO, are also very, if not even more, cute. And, they are all extremely adaptable. I crocheted the rabbit, using the pattern from the second book, but dressed it according to a pattern from the first.
All of the animals were quick, and easy to make, and while mine did not turn out exactly the same as those in the book, I'm still quite pleased with them.
I think I prefer the ones I made using buttons for eyes, instead of the suggested safety eyes. This was my first time using safety eyes, and I found they fit a little tight, and pull the crochet work in.
Also, I'm not entirely in love with the teapot pattern from the second book (though it might turn out to be my execution of the pattern, that's at fault, rather than the actual pattern). It turned out large, and floppy, and the lid I made, does not fit the teapot well. But, I am truly in love with all of Rimoli's animals! And both books are chock-full of animal patterns.
In fact, if it hadn't been for our recent reading of David Shannon's Too Many Toys, I might have been tempted to make them all, and simply bury the children in an avalanche of cuteness come Christmas morning.
It's great to be a homeschooler.