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.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Awesome New Picture Books

I've always been a sucker for the large format picture books. In hardcover, they are just about the most expensive items of children's literature around, but still, the artwork is often breathtaking. But artwork alone is not enough to make me a fan, it is when the artwork and words both add to the other, that a truly great picture books exists. We are lucky that TWO new great picture books have hit the shelves recently.

First there is Bats at the Library by Brian Lies. This is the follow-up to last summer's surprise hit Bat's at the Beach, but in this instance the sequel surpasses the original. In Bats at the Library book-loving bats roam the book-filled halls of the Public Library on Bat Night, until it's time for everyone, young and old, to settle down into the enchantment of story time. The illustrations are thrilling with an air of night time excitement, and book lovers will delight in the pictorial references to classic stories for youth. The words are rhythmic and as a reader I was torn between wanting to study the illustrations or turn the page to read next sentence. This book will be a classic.

Next we have the paperback release of Monkey Business by Wallace Edwards. Monkey Business is Edward's illustrations of common idioms. My favorite is the fish opening the can of worms. Monkey Business was originally published in hardcover in 2004, and it only took 4 years to come out in paperback! (I'm being sarcastic) I guess we are lucky it came out in paperback at all, many children's picture books never make it into paper editions. I'm not sure most children under six will understand the concept of idioms, but they will enjoy the pictures, which jump off the page in their detailed bizarreness. This is a great book for parents and slightly older kids, who will grasp and adore it, as well as learn some new idioms.

Friday, August 22, 2008


Every couple of years I read a book that seems as though it is a part of me, as though I have always known the story, even when I didn't know what the next page would bring. The Giver, by Lois Lowry is one of those books. I read it for the first time four years ago, and was shocked I hadn't read it in school. I was again shocked when I realized it had not existed when I was in school, it was published in 1993, and was not available in paperback until high school was a distant memory. Of course high school was a distant memory my first year of college.

This weekend I read another one of those eternal books, The Nation by Terry Pratchett. Although Terry Pratchett is a very well known writer, especially in the field of science fiction and fantasy, I admit I had never read him before. But I'm sure I will read something else of his soon. Terry Pratchett was diagnosed with Alzheimer's last year. To watch a video of him discussing his diagnosis and symptoms click here.

The Nation starts with a captain's boat landing at a plague infested port, picking up the surviving remnants of the royal family, and then learning that he must go and search for the new King (who does not yet know he is king) on distant islands so that he can bring him back to set foot on royal ground less the crown revert to the French. A little convoluted yes, but the chaotic and confusing start does get your attention.

Then we depart to an indigenous boy who is on an island alone as part of his Nation's traditional manhood quest. The boy is preparing to depart the island and is excited about the celebration awaiting him when he returns home; except on the way home he barely survives the greatest of great waves. The wave beat him home, and on his return everyone and everything has perished; he is now the sole member of his Nation.

But he is not alone.

He hears the Grandfathers' in his head, demanding rituals and respect for their gods.

And he yells at them, unable to forgive or believe in Gods that could destroy all who worship them.

And there is another, not of his Nation, on the island. A Trouser Girl on a large boat wrapped herself in a mattress when the seas became rough, and when the boat crashed on the boy's island, she is its only survivor. Together they build a fire on the beach, and soon other wave survivors come, and eventually a motley new Nation is created.

Of course there is much much more - the discovery of the Nation's great past, the fight with cannibal raiders, the finding of the Trouser Girl by her father, and the discovery that her father is King. It is a grand, big story, but it never gets to bigger than its characters, which is a very impressive feat.

Sometimes I forget to give star ratings, but this book, which doesn't come out until September 30 2008, gets five stars. *****

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

A New Life for the Reluctant Dragon

Tony DiTerlizzi, of Spiderwick Chronicles fame, has put out a fantastic new book for young readers called Kenny & the Dragon. I was first drawn to the book by the cover, which is adorable, and then when I saw the author, I figured I had to read it.

Kenny, a little rabbit, becomes friends with a dragon who has moved into the cave up the hill. He is put in a bind though, when the town's folk discover the dragon and entice Kenny's good friend George (the owner of a book store, oh it makes my heart beat), to come out of retirement and slay the "evil dragon". Oh what is to be done?

This is the plot of Kenneth Grahame's famous Reluctant Dragon, a short story that was made extra popular by a Disney short some time ago. I confess that I read Kenny & the Dragon without ever having heard of Grahame's tale, or the Disney short. Initially I thought Tony DiTerlizzi had just come up with a really cute idea, a dragon that doesn't want to fight, how sweet! This morning, however I had to joy of listening to Kenneth Grahame's version in it's entirety online here. I got about an hour of knitting in and felt I was doing something productive, instead of listening to children's stories that I am much to old for. This blog is a great excuse to read and listen to things I am much to old for. I have not, however, seen the Disney short, and at this moment, it is not on my netflix queue (you have to love netflix for re-teaching Americans this long forgotten word for a line of waiting).

Tony DiTerlizzi's version closely follows the Grahame original, but I like DiTerlizzi's story better. Kenny (or "the boy" according to Grahame) is more fleshed out and significantly less whiny. And George, the bookstore owner (or Saint according to Grahame), is simply wonderful. The Dragons seem identical.

Kenny & the Dragon is essentially an early chapter book, with short chapters and lots of illustrations. Perfect for young readers or those unexposed children who find big books intimidating; I recommend it to any child between the ages of 5 and 10 (recognizing that the younger ages would need assistance with the reading).

On a side note, Tony DiTerlizzi has written two of my most adored pictures books, The Spider and the Fly, a great tale that teaches one to never trust a sweet-talking spider, and G Is for One Gzonk!, a lovely alphabet tale that introduces Gzonks.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Shout out to Ben!

Congratulations Ben!

Local 8-year-old artist Ben Adkins has won an international art contest! Tony DiTerlizzi, author of the beloved Spiderwick Chronicles, had a dragon drawing contest, and Ben is one of six winners. His artwork is posted on Tony Di Terlizzi's Blog and is also proudly displayed in the Spellbinder children's section, along with his fabulous description of the fantastic Western Dook Dragon. Ben won a signed copy of DiTerlizzi's new book Kenny & The Dragon. I'll post a review of the book Wed.
We're proud to have you in our community Ben, the book store wouldn't be the same without you!