About Me

My name is Genevieve Woods and in addition to being the mother of an adorable preschooler named Oscar and his adorable toddler brother Henry, I am the Children's Buyer at Spellbinder Books, a small independent bookstore in Bishop, California. I am often asked by customers for recommendations...and thus the idea for this blog was sparked.

Many sites recommending books for kids are created by librarians and non-profits. While these are great sites, they often recommend out-of-print books. This site is all about the great books that are available now! While I am not being paid for these recommendations, I would appreciate it if readers would purchase the books I recommend from local independent bookstores, or even B&N. Basically don't buy from the evil empire (A_A_O_), because if you do much of our literary knowledge will be lost.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

2013 Picture Books I Want for My Family

Believe it or not booksellers cannot buy every book we want for our families. Generally we don't earn a lot of money, and even though most of us get books at a discount we still have to pay money for our books. So while there are a ton of picture books that I would love to get for my family I have to weigh that against paying for bell peppers or gymnastics lessons. But if I could buy all the books I wanted, these are the picture books I would add to my family's collection this year.

The Day the Crayons Quit
By Drew Daywalt
Illustrated by Oliver Jeffers
Ages 4-9

This is a story told by crayons, specifically Duncan's crayons. The different color crayons have written him different letters of complaint about how they are used. Grey wishes Duncan would color some small pebbles instead of large elephants. Peach feels naked after Duncan tore off its wrapper. Yellow and Orange both feel that they are the true color of the sun, etc. The book is hillarious and is one of those bestsellers that deserves its status completely! It is fairly sophisticated conceptually, I think there are a fair number of 4-year-olds out there who won't get it, but most children will enjoy by age 5 or so. This is one of those stories that parents and children can enjoy together!

The Dark
By Lemony Snicket
Illustrated by John Klassen
Ages 3-7

The dark always lived in the basement, until one night it visited Lazlo in his room, and showed him how to keep it from visiting him again. This book has an air of quiet nighttime about it, and though it is still and gloomy, it isn't scary. It turns the dark into something comforting and regular. Lemony Snicket books are almost always funny, but sometimes they tend toward the snide side of things. This book isn't snide, in fact it is surprisingly loving. I wish I owned it.

Everything Goes by Sea
Written and Illustrated by Brian Biggs
Ages 18 months - 8

We have Brian Biggs' Everything goes on Land and Everything Goes by Air. We love them, especially Everything Goes by Air. Henry (who will be 2 in December) loves airplanes. In fact I think it might have been his first word. But he and Oscar (who will be 5 in December) love boats too. They are boys. The books remind me of Richard Scary in that the pictures are intense and children can get lost staring at them. Also like Richard Scary the books are educational with re-occuring jokes (instead of goldbug we have birds in hats and the author who always draws himself somewhere in his books). But unlike Richard Scary though the books are full of people instead of animals, and the stories can be read in 15 minutes. If I allowed it I'm sure my kids could sit in front of one Richard Scary book for 30 - 45 minutes, and while that would be great for THEM, it is less fun for ME. I have a feeling these Brian Biggs books will also be fun for the boys to wade through as they start to read on their own, it is full of aside jokes that I skip over as the boys don't quite understand them yet. For example Oshkosh and Katetown are two of the destinations in Everything Goes by Air. Oh, and I forgot to mention the best part of these stories - the main character, a little boy, is named HENRY.

That Is NOT a Good Idea!
Written and Illustrated by Mo Willems
Ages 3-6

I have yet to read a bad Mo Willems book, but some of them are better than others, and this one is exceptional. And while I'm dreaming of the books I wish I had I would also like his Knuffle Bunny  - the first one. We borrowed it from a friend and Oscar thinks the baby talk is hilarious.

By Aaron Becker
Ages 2-99
This wordless book is almost like a steampunk Harold & The Purple Crayon as it follows the tale of girl who uses her own red crayon to draw her way through a magical castle world. My five year old is ENTRANCED by the intricate pictures. Because the pictures are so AMAZING the book appeals to both adults and children.

Chu's Day
Written by Neil Gaiman
Illustrated by Adam Rex
Ages 2-5
This vivid book tells a humorous but simple story of a little panda with VERY BIG sneezes.

Mr. Wuffles
By David Wiesner
Ages 3-7
Another fabulous wordless book for 2013. Illustrated in panels (like comic books) Mr. Wuffles tells the story of some very small aliens who  align with household insects to escape the fearsome Mr. Wuffles. 


Princess Tales : Once Upon a Time in Rhyme with Seek-and-Find Pictures
Written by Grace Maccarone
Illustrated by Gail De Marcken
Ages 3-8

The pictures are enthralling with seek-and-find loaves and what not that small eyes will love finding, but what I really love about this book are the fairy tales! Each tale is told in rhyme with most only taking up one or two pages. It is amazing to me that someone can tell the tale of Beauty and the Beast in less than two pages of print, much less in rhyme, but it can be done and it is done well!

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Interactive Board Books - Lift the Flap, Pull the Tab, Touch the Feather, It's Fun!

These are the books that encourage infants and toddlers to actively participate in the story. It starts with touchy feeling books around six months. Babies graduate to lift the flaps at around a year, and at 18 months or so toddlers can finally pull the tabs to make tails wag. Some of these books are works of art - but don't get too attached, because if you let your child play with these books, they will get destroyed. It is a catch 22, the books are designed to be touched, but when children touch them flaps are torn off the page, feathers are slobbered on, and movable heads are simply removed. Just remember the book is for the child, not you.

David A. Carter

Feely bugs, space bugs, fairy bugs; Mr. Carter is famous for his bugs. But he isn't all bugs, my family's favorite David A. Carter is The Happy Little Yellow Box. Henry (my 20-month-old) has been a big fan for about three months now - I've already had to repair it twice.

Feely Bugs is a great book to give at a baby shower, or for a child's first Christmas. Kids start enjoying it around six months old and continue to love the book until around two. It is a touchy feely book of the ultimate sort. It has feather, crinkles, and some really cool bugs.

This interactive gem has flaps to lift, tabs to pull, and even some pop-ups. However, it is much simpler than many pull tab books and is appropriate for kids as young as 12 months. The super duper cool page, or at least Henry's favorite, is the giant pop-up box with the smaller pop-up box inside (to illustrate large & small). Henry has torn the box half-way off the book, but fortunately some scotch tape put it right again. Henry saw the picture of the book on the screen just now, so of course I had to read it to him. He pointed to the Box's eyes and said "eyes". It is so exciting when they start to speak! Kids are so much fun! And the books just add to the joy.

AGES 2-4
Builder Bugs is a lift the flap, pop-up book. Unlike Feely Bugs or The Happy Yellow Box it is too delicate for younger toddlers, and is really geared towards kids two to four years old. I can't wait to give it to Henry for Christmas.






Matthew Van Fleet

I've seen Mr. Van Fleet's gorgeous books recommended for kids ages 1 and up, but personally I would hold off until the child is at least 18 months old. The books are so beautiful, I can't stand to see them destroyed on their first reading, and destroying these books is exactly what a 1-year-old will do. But at 18 months there is hope, the heads and tails might not last for ever, but hopefully they'll last longer than a single reading.

Though Matthew Van Fleet became famous for his book Tails (below) I first took notice when DOG came out and the publisher sent a promotional party package to my bookstore. Unlike most promotional packages, this one was great. There were dogs masks to color and even instructions on conducting a barking contest with awards! So we had a dog party, it was awesome; kids really know how to bark! Alas my family are not dog people, we like cats. Thus we (or really Oscar) fell in love with CAT. The swatting paw didn't last long, but I actually saved it in our desk drawer and re-attached it for Henry. At this moment the paw is still in the book, but who knows for how long...

Tails is the book that made Van Fleet famous, and it is still one of his most popular titles. Its colorful, fuzzy, and clunky all at once, of course people love it!

We have three Van Fleet books, and this is Henry's favorite. It isn't that Oscar doesn't like it, but we didn't get it until Oscar was 4 and as it didn't have any sharks or dinosaurs in it he wasn't interested. As kids get older they get pickier. Henry likes photos more than illustrations, and he's at the age where he is still learning animal sounds. Basically this book is perfect for him. Our chicken lost its head and no longer pecks, but so far that is the only casualty. If you are looking for a book to give as a gift MOO would be a good choice.

The Weird and Beloved

In Pat the Beastie two mean children pull a beast's worm boogers, bonk his nose, yank is fur and so on until he eats them up. It is not your typical children's story, but the kids love it and there are plenty of adults who get a kick out of it as well.

In the follow-up to Pat the Beastie the two naughty children promise to be good so the Beastie spits them out and they play at the park together. There are plenty of tabs to pull and flaps to lift at the playground, though there isn't a lot of hair to tug.

Dr. Seuss

This lift the flap book appeals to a surprisingly large age group. The book pulls out like a train with different creatures in each car performing different tricks beneath the flaps. Oscar, who will be five in three months, stops to listen and help with the flaps when I read this to Henry.

Wet Pet (etc) is a touchy feely book with some extra flair. There is one pull tab that not even my four-year-old can manage on his own, and one lift the flap that is especially easy to tear off. Despite these pitfalls the book is still good enough for me to share it with you. It has fabulous feathers, fur, and even rings. And it is fun to read, in general, Dr. Seuss is fun to read.

Peter Rabbit

I love Beatrix Potter, I love her tales and I especially love Peter Rabbit and Benjamin Bunny. That said the stories are too complicated to read to babies and toddlers and I feel the constant references to all the Beatrix Potter tales in board books are for the parents and not the kids. But I included this book because it is one of the most durable interactive books I have ever seen!The pages are especially thick with sliding tabs that are easy for little fingers to maneuver. This is one interactive book that might actually make it through multiple children!

Henry's Favorite

Tons of Trucks is modeled on the Matthew Van Fleet style of books. However, it isn't as beautiful or clever as Matthew Van Fleet books usually are. But Matthew Van Fleet doesn't yet have a book about trucks, I wish he did. Despite not being FABULOUS, Tons of Trucks is a cute book, and Henry LOVES it. It has tabs and flaps AND it has trucks. He is a fan.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Dinosaur Books

Oscar, my preschooler, is obsessed with dinosaurs. Oscar came to this obsession in a somewhat round-about way, which I'll discuss at the end of this post, but for now let me just say that I encourage his dinosaur obsession whole heartily. In the last six months we have gone from two dinosaur books to 16.

Testing The Dino Waters

Maybe your child only kinda likes dinosaurs or maybe your child could care less and you want to encourage a dinosaur passion. If any of the above fits your family you don't want to shell out a lot of money for a big dinosaur encyclopedia - yet. Here are some good options for books you can purchase to encourage the dino romance.

Level Readers

 Level Readers are thin rectangular paperback books that generally retail for $3.99. Each book is assigned a reading level from 1 to 4. Ideally they exist to purchase for children who are starting to read on their own and their number is supposed to correspond to the child's reading ability. This is great for your child if they are indeed reading on their own, but you don't have to wait until your child can read to purchase level readers. They are a great source of fun non-fiction for preschoolers, and there are a lot of level readers about dinosaurs. I wouldn't worry too much about what level the book is; while some Level 1 Readers have a single word per page, others have multiple sentences; some Level 4 readers are divided into chapters, while others have a single paragraph on each page. Ideally you would look for a cover you like in a book store and scroll through the book to see if your kid would sit through it, but if you can't do that and you take a gamble you are only out $3.99. The odds are in your favor. This link will take you to a LIST of dino Level Readers.

Dinosaur Picture Books

These Picture Books feature dinosaurs, but you don't have to be a dino fanatic to appreciate the story. The joy your child feels when listening to the story could be transferred into a joy for dinosaurs; at least that is the hope.

by Carol Diggory Shields
illustrated by Scott Nash
This rockin', rollin' rhyme about a dinosaur dance party is not only fun for the kids, but it is witty enough to entertain the adults as well. Dance-o-holics will love it just as much as the Dino fans.

by Ian Whybrow
illustrated by Adrian Reynolds 
(Some editions of this book are titled Sammy and the Dinosaurs)
This is a sweet story about a little boy who finds a box of old dinosaurs in the attic, removes them to a bucket, and takes them everywhere he goes. It includes a multigenerational family, a single mother, and less than perfect sibling dynamics. Oscar adored this story, and for about three months we read it every day.

by Molly Idle
This tale of a tea party gone wrong combines proper wording with hysterically improper illustrations. The text will not be enough for younger readers, so be prepared to expand, but the older kids will understand perfectly. What I especially like about this dino-inclusive tale is its appeal to all genders. There aren't enough dinosaur books that feature female protagonists. If you know of some please pass your knowledge on in the comments. 

by Dennis Nolan
This tale of a boy going back through time to deliver a baby dinosaur to its family is endearing and fascinating. The concept of time is such a part of the story it makes the story as a whole seem endless. It's just beautiful.

You Have A Dino Fan On Your Hands:

Once your child has truly gotten the dinosaur bug you are going to need something more substantial than a level reader or picture book story. To satiate the dinosaur lust you are going to need something more encyclopedic in nature.

The Biggest Bang for Your Buck

These books won't break the bank, but they will give your dino fanatic enough to chew on to be a good meal.
by Jerry Pallotta
illustrated by Ralph Masiello  
26+ Dinosaurs with corresponding dino facts, and fantastic illustrations. You learn your alphabet, and you scratch your dinosaur itch. Perfect!

by David Burnie
Part of the Kingfisher Navigators series.
This thin but large paperback explains fossil creation & excavation, dinosaur biology & sociology, and the end of their world, all with outstanding graphics and illustrations.

by DK Publishing
This small hardcover has 147 pages of dinosaur knowledge (not including the glossary or index). It also has more dino illustrations than I can count; there can be as many as four illustrations of different dinosaurs on a single page. It covers a lot so don't expect any in depth knowledge on any one species, but considering it's price (currently the book retails for $7.99) you're getting a spanking deal.

Your Child Deserves the Best, Give it

 You could of course buy your child a fantastic hardcover Dinosaur Encyclopedia that can be passed on to your grandchildren. Sure more knowledge will be gained by that time, but my family has been joyfully looking at a Dinosaur encyclopedia from the early 90s, because even though it is 20 years old, the dinosaurs are even older. Here is a list of the numerous beautiful Dinosaur Encyclopedias you can invest in.

Best Dinosaur Gifts

If you're heading to a birthday party or need a treat for a trip these books are sure to be a dinorific hit!

by Matthew Reinhart
This small  interactive paperback pop-up book is loads of fun. Kids can tug the T-Rex tail to make it roar and more! And because the book is inexpensive hearts will not be broken if pieces get torn, but thankfully the book is made of some pretty thick paper.

by Sarah Creese & Tracy Hare
They are dinosaurs and they are in 3-D. It is hard to be any cooler than that.
Color and Play Dinosaurs
by Silver Dolphin
This sets includes a surprisingly good book, colored pencils, and 4 cardboard puzzle dinosaurs you can color by number and put together. My son and his 9 year old cousin had a great time coloring the puzzle dinosaurs and my son loves to play with them. The T-Rex is always eating the other dinosaurs arms off. The book has surprisingly in-dept information about 15 different dinosaurs, and includes a map showing where the dinosaurs fossils have been found. That's my favorite, the maps. As maps go they are pretty basic, but they are great for the younger set. 

AGES 5-10
Dinosaurs Sticker Encyclopedia
by DK Publishing
These sticker encyclopedias are fun. The pages have shadows on them where the stickers go and you have to match the right sticker up with the right shadow. Each sticker has a description next to it, so when you are done you get a paperback encyclopedia. Of course you also get some extra stickers and play scenes to fool around with, so it isn't all learning. 

by Robert Sabuda & Matthew Reinhart
If you like dinosaurs, you are going to like a dinosaur pop-up book. Sabuda and Reinhart are masters of paper art and they do not disappoint.  

by Jon Richards
Build your own model T.Rex - pretty cool! 

Recommended Watching

Clearly my family loves books, but we do watch T.V. I will never argue that T.V. is better than a book, but I can say that my son has learned a lot from the dinosaur documentaries he loves:

Walking with Monsters
Walking with Dinosaurs
Walking with Beasts
Chased by Dinosaurs
Chased by Sea Monsters

Recommended Toys

Go out and buy some dinosaur models. The quality doesn't matter, your kids won't care. Oscar loves the little bag of cheap party favor dinos almost as much as our fancy Safari brand hand-painted replicas. But if YOU care Safari is a good brand, it is expensive, but all the good brands are expensive. Look around garage sales for model dinosaurs, check out Ross or other discount stores. You are going to find better deals in stores than you will online. The toys help, Oscar loves to hold a toy dinosaur while reading a book about dinosaurs. He loves playing with his dinosaurs, it's like playing dolls, but cooler.

Our Path to Dinosaur Fanatics

My son Oscar loves sharks. One day while I was working at the bookstore someone brought in a box of used books that included an adult book on prehistoric ocean monsters. Because Oscar liked sharks I thought he would like the book, so I bought it and took it home. HE LOVED IT, and he loves it still. We looked at the pictures, we read the little boxes, and finally we just started reading the the whole book, chapter by chapter, cover to cover It was loved not just by Oscar, but also by me and my husband. For the first time I was learning about prehistory, about the earth, the air and the sea BEFORE the dinosaurs. For the first time I started to understand that we were just a speck of life on this planet, one little dot in a long line of creatures and events that started long before we arrived and would continue long after were gone. I found that knowledge liberating, and I encouraged Oscars obsession with our prehistoric past not only for his gain, but also for mine. Months later we discovered that the book we all loved was based on a documentary (it is amazing that it took us this long to figure that out). We watched the documentary, LOVED IT and became even more entrenched in our new found prehistoric passion.