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.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Ode to Cicely Mary Barker

Cicely Mary Barker


Cicely Mary Barker suffered from epilepsy, so that she was unable to go to school and was educated at home. When she was 15 her father submitted her drawings to a stationery printer, who bought four of them for greeting cards. Her father died when she was 17, and Cicely Mary Barker's art sales became the main source of income for herself, her sister, and her mother. Her first book, Flower Fairies of the Spring was published in 1923, and it was a hit.

I love her illustrations because the fairies look like real children.This is appropriate as Cicely Mary Barker used live models for all her illustrations, usually children from her sister's kindergarten class. She would paint the child with a flower in his or her hand, enlarging the flower to the size of the child in the paintings. These flower fairies were often given characteristics similar to their live models.

In today's world of Barbie, and overly sexualized Disney Pixies, I love to see beautiful fairies that haven't reached puberty. Her poems are lovely, though not really geared to kids. In fact when Flower Fairies of the Spring first came out I think it was marketed to adults. She wrote a total of seven books, complete with flower fairy illustrations and accompanying verses. These books are all still in print, and I think they just put a new "cooler" cover on them this year.

But more than what she wrote, I love the books that Cicely Mary Barker's work inspired. Penguin, the publisher that owns the rights to her work, has stories about the fairies that are based on the characteristics she gave each one in her original verses. They have pop-ups and newly discovered flower fairy journals. These are the books for kids, and they are wonderful.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Fairy & Princess Books

I just found out my friend's 4-year-old daughter, Mollie, has cancer.

With a situation so frightening, I tend to feel helpless, and worse, unable to help. But Mollie likes fairies and princesses, so the least I could do was send some books. This list includes the four books I sent Mollie, and some additional favorite fairy titles.

Princess Fairy Tales by Margaret Clark
In opening "The Classic Treasury of Princess Fairy Tales" one will find refuge in a quiet, sun-dappled forest where magic still can and does happen. Featuring eight of the best loved princess heroines of all time, from Cinderella to Sleeping Beauty, little girls will revel in the fantasy world the beautifully rich artwork creates and long for the stories to never end. (Click on the picture to link to Spellbinder's Website to see details.)

Flower Fairies Alphabet Colouring Book by Mary Cicely Barker
Mary Cicely Barker is the queen of the flower fairies. She has beautiful books of poetry and her illustrations are incredible. This colouring (British spelling) book introduces young children to the alphabet with the help of Barker's delightful Flower Fairies. From A to Z, there is a Flower Fairy to color in for each letter of the alphabet. Constructed of heavy paper suitable for crayons, marker, or paints. Line drawings. (Click on the picture to link to Spellbinder's Website to see details.)

Everything Princess!: My First Tiara & Gemstone Activity Book with Sticker and Other Jewelry by Alex Toys
The title really says it all, but the official description is: "This lavish kit is perfect for every little girl who dreams of being a princess Inside you'll find a pretty pink tiara, die-cut and visible through the front cover, 120 gemstone stickers, 5 large jewels, an adjustable ring, cuff bracelet, and best of all--a special pop-up vanity mirror So not only can girls decorate, then wear, their very own princess creations, but they can also check out their new princess looks in their very own mylar mirror Inside the full-color book are fun princess-themed activities on 40 card stock pages, including 8 punch-out pages to make a magic wand, a princess fan, a picture frame, and so much more." (Click on the picture to link to Spellbinder's Website to see details.)

Fairies: Clipboard Activity Pack with Sticker & Poster & Stencils & Note Pad & Activity Guide by DK Publishing
I have biases for and against certain publishers, and DK is one of my favorites. I love their graphics and the quality (paper and binding) of their books. While this fairy activity pack isn't quite as extensive as the princess one listed above, it's still quite nice, and it is less than half the price. (Click on the pictures to link to Spellbinder's Website to see details.)

Fairyopolis & How To Find Flower Fairies by Mary Cicely Barker
I know I said it before, but Mary Cicely Barker is the queen of flower fairies. Fairyopolis is supposed to be her long lost journal. It is very cool, though a little hard to read. How To find Flower Fairies is an incredible pop-up book, it's my favorite of the two. Robert Sabuda is coming out with a separate fairy pop-up book this summer, and I'm sure that will be wonderful as well. (Click on the picture to link to Spellbinder's Website to see details.)

Fairy Dust and the Quest for the Egg by Gail Carson Levine
This chapter book introduces young readers to the fairy community that Tinkerbell lives in when she is away from Peter Pan. There may be a TV series attached as well, I'm out of the TV loop. This is a Disney book and I have to admit that Disney is one of those publishers I am biased against. However, this book is not only beautiful, it is written by Gail Carson Levine, who received a Newbery Honor Award for Ella Enchanted. Disney or no Disney, Gail Carson Levine can write! This book is great. (Click on the picture to link to Spellbinder's Website to see details.)

Monday, June 9, 2008

Review: New YA Action/Adventure Novels


What makes a good action/adventure novel for teens? While there may be differences of opinion, my personal take is that a good teen adventure novel is just like a good adult adventure novel, but with less swearing, graphic violence, and sex (a child or teen protagonist also helps). In fact a number of famous adult mystery/adventure writers have realized this, and are jumping into the youth market, but this review is not about them, this review is about the titles above.

Little Brother by Cory Doctorow
Last week I read Cory Doctorow's Little Brother, and I couldn't put it down! The theme of teenagers fighting against the Department of Homeland Security didn't really appeal to me at first, but I was home sick and the book had made it onto the Indie Bestseller List, http://www.bookweb.org/indiebound/bestsellers/national.html, so I thought, "why not?". I am so glad I picked it up!

First of all Little Brother is heavy on the computer science behind everything the main character, Marcus does. But instead of scaring me off as most computer language does, Doctorow makes it fascinating! He should earn a Pulitzer for that alone.

The basic plot synopsis is that while Marcus and friends are cutting school to play a computer game, terrorists attack the San Francisco Bay Bridge. Marcus and friends are picked up by the Department of Homeland Security as possible suspects and detained offshore for an unreasonable amount of time in wretched conditions. A condition of release is that they not tell a soul what happened to them, but one of the friends doesn't return. What Marcus does about his missing friend and the fear state the Department of Homeland Security creates in San Francisco is the book. And it is a great book! Really really fun.

I can't remember any swearing, and any violence is pretty minor, other than the death and destruction of the terrorist attack of course. There is one sex scene, between a 17-year-old couple, a condom is used. As far as teen sex go it was great, pretty realistic; afterwards they threw on clothes and felt shy around each other. There is one party scene that includes under-age drinking, but no one was wasted, no one drove, and it was used to move the plot forward, again, realistic. I would feel comfortable giving the book to my 11-year-old niece, she hears worse stuff from her friends. That said, my niece is an advanced reader, kids would need to be reading at an 8th grade level to fully get into the book.
***** - I loved it.

The Missing Book 1: Found
by Margaret Peterson Haddix
SPOILER ALERT!!!! In order to explain why I think this book is so cool, I have to tell you the end, so if you don't want to know what happens STOP READING NOW!

In Found, Jonah receives weird mail that he first assumes is some prank kids are pulling because he is adopted. But then his neighbor Chip also gets the same mail, and Chip didn't even know he was adopted. Confused Jonah gets his dad to call the adoption agency, who says there is a new name attached to his file, and FBI agent's name. While the FBI is no help what-so-ever, his family's conversation with the agency does bring up a lot of mysterious questions that Jonah, his sister Katherine, and Chip are determined to solve. The book is their solving of the mystery.

Now here is what makes this book great, it isn't the mystery, it isn't the kids working to solve it, what makes this book great is the book what is coming next. Found is clearly the START of a really fun series. You see it turns out the kids are all famous babies (think Anastasia Romanov) stolen from the past centuries to be sold to future families for high adoption fees. Except their plane accidentally landed in the wrong time, the late 20th century, and the kids were adopted by normal American families. Now to fix the ripples in time their kidnapping caused, but still be allowed to return to their 21st century families, they have to go back to the centuries they first came from to make things right. Book two starts in the 15th century, I can't wait. This a great book for kids 10-14.
**** - I liked the book, but I think I am going to LOVE the series.

Gone by Michael Grant
I read the advance reader's edition of Gone, which had a plain blue cover. If it had the cover it is now being sold with I would never have picked it up. Come on this is a kids book, a young kids book at that, ages 10 - 14. I do not want to see 14-year-old nipples on a book cover! Mr. Grant do your best to get a different cover for the paperback edition, PLEASE.
Gone is a science-fiction thriller where suddenly all adults and children over 14 years of age disappear from a community, and the children left in that community start developing strange powers. The factions the youth split into, the good leaders, the bad, this is the story. There is a lot of violence, but no sex, and I can't remember any swearing. Like Found, Gone is the start of a series. But unlike Found I am not clamoring to read the next installation. That said Gone is a good read, entertaining, mysterious, and thrilling. I would have given it four stars if it weren't for that wretched cover. Now it only gets three.
***- Good, but not great.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Review: The Joys of Love by Madeleine L'Engle


The Joys of Love, originally written in 1942 and published for the first time in May of 2008, is one of the earliest stories of Madeleine L'Engle, famous for her Newbery winning title and series A Wrinkle in Time. L'Engle died in 2007, so the introduction is written not by her, but by one of her granddaughters, Lena Roy. Roy describes the main character in Joys of Love, Elizabeth, as an image of L'Engle as a young woman. It is a sweet, romantic story, describing a young woman's summer as an apprentice actress on a beach boardwalk. It is a story of friendships and first loves, and her characters' interactions truthfully describe relationships among older teenagers and young 20-year-olds. Therefore young teenagers are sure to love it.

It is refreshing to read a book where "darn" is a swear word and 20-year-olds fret about illicit kissing. Most books for teens today are filled with drugs and sex, not that this is necessarily a bad thing, books today reflect the world children live in; still it is nice to leave it behind. This book will appeal to kids in the same way Anne of Green Gables is still a favorite, yes life is different now, but our interactions with friends remain the same. The Joys of Love is written for a older audience than Anne of Green Gables, where as Gables appeals to kids 10 - 14, The Joys of Love is for those 12 - 45.

**** - I liked it

Tuesday, June 3, 2008


When giving books at a baby shower there are two routes to take: you can give a book that you or your children loved while growing up, or you can give a book that is good for young children. If you take the second route aim for books whose illustrations have lots of contrast (young eyes love contrast) and are in board or fabric editions. In addition to being easier to clean, board and fabric books are hard for babies and toddlers to destroy, so your present has a chance to make it through more than a couple readings. Below are some of the titles I often recommend.

1. Pat The Bunny by Dorothy Kunhardt

A bestseller for 60+ years Pat the Bunny is a classic that all parents and kids will love. The only drawback to giving this as a gift is that someone else might have thought of it too, so the family may end up with multiple copies. If you go with this as a gift, I recommend you include a gift receipt so the parents can return it if they do get more than one copy. All bookstores carry this title, I won't be offended if you pick it up at your local independent, but please avoid the Amazon and the chain stores.
2. Good Night Gorilla by Peggy Rathmann
Although this book comes in many different editions, the oversize board book is my favorite, it's big and hard to destroy. The illustrations are colorful and full of contrast, perfect for young eyes! I gave this to my niece and her mom sent me a picture of her sitting in bed with her daddy at about 5 months, completely entranced with Good Night Gorilla. As she got older she was able to point to the different animals, and (my favorite) imitate the lion's roar.

3. Boynton's Greatest Hits Volume I by Sandra Boynton

Everybody LOVES Sandra Boynton. Seriously, she is the queen of the board book, the silly rhyme, AND the rhyme turned into song. Her board books are funny, educational, and the whimsical, goofy illustrations are full of my much adored contrast! If a boxed set of board books is out of your price range, consider picking up an individual title, they usually run about $6.99.
4. Cuddly Cuffs by Tiger Tales

Tiger Tales makes a series of small fabric books that can be attached to the babies wrist. This not only has the advantage of the child being unable to drop or throw the book out of the stroller, but it also allows the young infant to grasp that it has some control over its world. Okay, you might think I'm crazy but I did study this in school; babies get really excited when they realize they can control things, the most obvious example is that they enjoy looking at your face and making you smile. When you attach the Cuddly Cuff to the babies arm, and they move their arm and then see the book move, they realize that they themselves are moving the book, and that makes baby happy. Admittedly this stage only lasts a couple months, but it is in the months before the baby understands what a book is, so really you are giving a double present. To see all the Cuddly Cuff options, click the link and then click on Tiger Tales, they should all pop up.

5. Dog by Matthew Van Fleet

Matthew Van Fleet has a number of really cool books, but Dog is my favorite. It is the least destructible of his titles, and it appeals to the broadest age range. This is a great gift for the family that has a dog in the house. Babies will enjoy the contrast and movable parts, and as they grow older they can count the dogs and memorize the different breeds.

6. Shapes by Christine Coirault

Christine Coirault has a series of small board books that name the shapes, numbers, colors, and more in five different languages; English, Spanish, French, Italian, and German. The graphic layout of the book is very well done, so that even adults enjoy looking and seeing the different shapes in the different languages. It's multi-lingual aspect allows this book to go much farther than the typical board book on shapes. This is a great present for families who are, or want their children to be multi-lingual. To see her other books click on the link above, and when the book pops up, click on her name.

7. Blue Moo by Sandra Boynton

What can be better than Sandra Boynton put to song? This book & CD is really geared towards 4-8 year-olds, but the babies will enjoy the music from the get go.

8. Mother Goose Block Books by Sylvia Long

Sylvia Long is an incredible artist who has illustrated a number of gorgeous picture books for children. With this set of block books she illustrates different mother goose rhymes. The little board books are small and chunky, just like blocks, and fit neatly into a box. A toy and multiple books all in one!

9. My House by Danna V. Swartz

This is an example of one of the many great fabric books out there. My House opens up to reveal three rooms that movable puppy can play in, complete with refrigerator doors that open up. It's an interactive book/dollhouse.

10. My Very First Library Boxed Set by Eric Carle

You can't think of babies without thinking of Eric Carle. He is perhaps the most popular children's illustrator today, with books published over 40 years ago that are still on bestseller lists. And the man is still going! He just came out with a new book last month. This boxed set includes his split-page board books, which I had a lot of fun with as a child, but any title of his is sure to be appreciated.