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, November 28, 2009


Of course I knew of Winnie-the-Pooh growing up. He was a bear, he liked honey, he had friends. Eeyore was a downer. Piglet was little and squeaky. Rabbit was Rabbit. And Christopher Robin was a little boy and I was never sure how a little boy was friends with forest animals or how the forest animals seemed to be stuffed animals but live in the forest...but I never really thought of it much. I saw Pooh on cartoons, and I maybe had some board books or something like that, but I don't believe I ever actually read (or was read) any of A.A. Milne's unabridged classic tales until last month. And after reading the actual tales, I now understand why they are famous. A.A. Milne is good, and Winnie-the-Pooh is FABULOUS!

If you like children's literature and you don't have A.A. Milne's Winnie-the-Pooh go out and buy it NOW. You can get a cheap paperback for as little as $5.99 new, or you can get a fancy hardcover with color illustrations for about $20. There is something to be said for the hardcover, because once you read the stories you won't want to give them up.

A.A. Milne's writing is not just for children, but for adults, particularly adults who are around children. From Chapter 1:

"When I first heard his name, I said, just as you are going to say, "But I thought he was a boy?"
"So did I," said Christopher Robin.
"Then you can't call him Winnie?"
"I don't."
"But you said-"
"He's Winne-ther-Pooh. Don't you know what 'ther' means?"
"Ah, yes, now I do," I said quickly; and I hope you do too, because it is all the explanation you are going to get.

It is Milne's style of writing, more than the facts of the stories themselves, that make Winnie-the-Pooh so pleasurable, and memorable. True the idea of a bear visiting his friend (Rabbit) and then eating so much he is not able to fit through the door is funny, but it is not as funny as Rabbit's response:

"It all comes," said Rabbit sternly, "of eating too much. I thought so at the time," said Rabbit, "only I didn't like to say anything," said Rabbit, "that one of us was eating too much," said Rabbit, "and I knew it wasn't me," he said.

The truth is we don't sell much of Winnie-the-Pooh in the store. We'll sell level readers and board books that feature his likeness, and pared-down versions of his stories. But it is not the same. The level readers we sell aren't bad, but sentences are missing, and well, I miss them. When you abridge Milne's writing, you abridge his humor; the story is still there, but the twinkle is gone.

Milne has written more than just Winnie-the-Pooh, he wrote The House at Pooh Corner. But I haven't read it yet. I never read any A.A. Milne until the publisher Penguin decided to publish a THIRD book in the Winnie-the-Pooh series written not by A.A. Milne (who died in 1956) but by David Benedictus. This book by Mr. Benedictus is called Return to the Hundred Acre Wood. I confess I haven't read it, but I will. I will also read Milne's When We Were Very Young and Now We are Six. But because I haven't read Mr. Benedictus' edition to the Pooh family I can't comment on it's worthiness, but I am curious.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Darn that Vacuum!

We've had some vacuuming fun tonight at spellbinder, which involved me pulling dirty ribbons & twigs out of a vacuum bag and into the trash because well, we couldn't find another vacuum bag and the one we had was full. I am now coated in a nice soft layer of black dust, but it makes me thankful that we have the vacuum for after all, all that dust was originally on the floor, and Oscar (my 11-month-old son) crawls around on the floor (yes even the bookstore floor). True the floor is still dirty and Oscar's hands after crawling about are not a sight a mother loves to see, but how much worse they would be if not for the vacuum!

Oscar is, of course, scared of the vacuum, as are many youngsters, so in response Linda Bryan Sabin has written a charming rhymer call The Sound Snatcher. The title character (a vacuum) sucks up all the sounds around him:

"He was made to eat dirt but some sound bites can't hurt so along with the dust and the fluffle he sucks in the sound he finds lying around. Each sweet taste for him like a truffle."

On each page he goes through the rooms, sucking in more noises:

"Is the telephone ringing? The parakeet singing? Has he swallowed the door buzzer's buzz? He ate without caring the radio's blaring and the only sound left is what was."

I love that last line - the only sound left is what was.

The book is published by peeking kitty press, and on every page there is a... well I'll let you guess. It is pretty cute. One of my favorite pages has few words, at the top is written,

"No sounds can out loud him..."
There are pictures of the kitty driving a fire engine with the sirens blaring, a lawn mower, an airplane, an ice cream truck, and a little boy in ear muffs. At the bottom of the page it reads,

"no ear muff can shroud him, as The Snatcher continues his prowling..."
I can see Oscar, learning his sounds and words pointing to fire engine and making the siren, and trying to make the sound of an airplane. We're not there yet, at 11 months all I get is a smile when I make the siren sound as he picks up his toy police car. But in the future this book holds great possibility for us. There is even a "LET'S TALK ABOUT THE BOOK" section in the back, with questions for readers to pepper the listeners with, such as remembering the sounds eaten in the book. There is also a "The Words I Heard" vocabulary section. I like the vocabulary section:

devour - verb (dEh-vaur) to eat or swallow, to eat greedily (as if you won't get anymore and you want all the food for yourself).

They are pretty cool definitions.

The book retails for $14.95, has library quality binding (meaning it will take a beating), and is printed in the U.S.A. This is nice. Two months ago I made myself a deal where I wouldn't buy anything new if it came from China, but when it comes to books this deal is impossible to keep. So being printed in the U.S.A. is pretty nifty. The Sound Snatcher is also printed on recycled paper with soy ink - very green; actually the cover is green (a yellowy green), it works.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

The Trees Say it is Fall

Trees are an obvious reminder of the changing seasons, a perfect visual example of the movement of time and weather. So reading a book to your little one about trees is a lovely way to share Autumn's entrance, almost as nice as going outside and playing under trees.


One Tree
A perfect book for the "green" family, it is printed on 98% post-consumer recycled materials with soy-based inks. AND IT IS CUTE TOO! Simple text describes the animals that live in and around the tree and how the tree changes with the changing seasons. The back two pages offer ecological tips to parents and children.

Eyelike makes spectacular books with crisp clear photos that jump of the page. This board book shows different children playing with leaves; jumping in leaves, collecting leaves, turning leaves into masks.... It is perfect for toddlers that love looking pictures of other toddlers and babies.


The Autumn Leaf
Basic text with short sentences tells the story of two children that help the last leaf on the Oak overcome it's fears to fall to the ground. A very cute level 1 (or really a pre-reader, meaning it is easier than level 1)early reader and I give it bonus points for actually telling a STORY while describing the change in seasons. I actually wish it was in board book format, because I'd like to read it to my son Oscar, but at this stage in his life he would eat it, and the paper format wouldn't last a week.

The Secret Life of Trees
A science-focused level 2 reader, this means that it has real sentences, but the words are simple. I like that they talk about broad-leaf and deciduous trees. This is a good cheap read for any child that really wants to know ABOUT trees.


Fletcher and the Falling Leaves
This is one of my all-time favorite books. Fletcher wants to help the tree keep it's leaves, but in the end he learns about he seasons. The final page has "flocking" which is book language for glitter, and actually it is very cute.

The Busy Tree
This is a new hardcover with beautiful illustrations and very simple text. I actually think the text is a bit young, suitable for ages 2-4 but too young for a five year old, but if you like beautiful artwork this is a book for you.


Sky Tree
This is a fascinating and beautiful book that uses art to teach science and vice-versa. The artwork is gorgeous, and the idea is unique and original. Each page shows the tree in different weather in different seasons with sparse text. In the back there is a paragraph for each picture with instructions on what to look for artistically and scientifically.

Oak Tree
If you want to know all the scientific details about trees, photosynthesis and more (in a picture book format) this is the book for you. There is basic knowledge written in regular sized print at the top of the page, and more scientific follow-up knowledge in smaller print at the bottom of the page. I have to admit the two print sizes are somewhat distracting, especially when the bottom scientific half takes up more than half the page, but it is still a worthwhile book, one the scientifically minded child (and adult) will enjoy.

Because I am full of indecision, all the above mentioned tree books will be our "Book of the Week" this week, even though I should say book of the month, or book of whatever time period works for me at any random moment. I apologize for my inconsistency. But at least now store shoppers have eight books that are 20% off!

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Lucky Breaks

We have a special place in our heart for Lucky, not only does she physically match our landscape with her desert colored hair and freckles, but she is one of us, living with us here in Inyo County. Of course we don't have Lucky's Hard Pan or Sierra City, but substitute Tecopa or Darwin for Hard Pan and Lone Pine or Bishop for Sierra City, and you are in Inyo County. There aren't very many famous fictional characters in Inyo County, in fact there aren't any other than Lucky. If you haven't heard of Lucky don't worry, she only won the Newbery (the most prestigious award for children's literature in the U.S.A.) a couple years ago, so you have time to get acquainted.

We initially met Lucky in her debut, The Higher Power of Lucky. There she grappled with her mothers untimely departure and her fear of loosing her guardian with thoughtful angst and heartfelt emotions that jumped off the page and made their way into your being. Now she is back in Lucky Breaks. She has come (somewhat) to terms with her place in her family, but is struggling to find a place in her society. She is struggling with her friends.

Initially I thought that Lucky Breaks didn't have quite the drama that I experienced in The Higher Power of Lucky, until I realized that Lucky Breaks does have dramatic events, they are just overshadowed by the everyday drama of life, and friendship. In Lucky Breaks Lucky's drama is a drama you are familiar with, one you felt many times growing up; it is the drama a finding a new friend, of fighting with an old friend, and of realizing you love your friends. In truth nothing is more dramatic than friendship.

Susan Patron, Lucky's creator, writes with clear, open-eyed poetry. You can open any page of Lucky Breaks and pull out a gem, like on page 16:

"Then she saw that one of the geologists was a girl about her own age, who looked a little shy around the edges."

And on page 96:

"Mr. Wellborne cleared his throat and looked at his watch, which was to Brigitte's watch what the Hummer was to Brigitte's Jeep."

And on page 171:

"Miles, his hair and skin glinting golden in the light of the thick bed of embers underneath the bathtub, seemed to be emitting light and heat himself, like a little sun."

Lucky Breaks is the poetry of friendship. And thus is not only our book of the week this week, but has also inspired a month long children's contest. For the month of September any child between 0 and 18 is invited to bring in an illustration of luck for a chance to win a prize. Illustrations can be with words, photography, or artwork. Below is an entry example from our 17-year-old staff member Sam:

To Dance At Sunset

Is To Dance At Ease

In a Field of Clovers & Bees

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

The Most Beautiful Book I've Ever Seen

We received our copy of Jerry Pinkney's The Lion & The Mouse yesterday, and I have to say, it is the most beautiful book I've ever seen. The book has no words with the exception of roar and a squeak here and there. It tells its version of Aesop's fable of the Lion and the Mouse in pictures.

You open the cover and there is a safari scene with giraffes, zebras, lions, yellow grasses and washed out skies. Then, on the title page you see a mouse walking in the footprint of a lion. As the pages go on you see the mouse escape an owl and end up on a lion's back. The lion looks at the mouse and lets the her go; she returns to her nest and babies. Then you see men setting up a net, you see the lion walking into the net, and you see the lion caught in the net. The lion's roar echos across the Savannah and the mouse hears it, she runs to find the lion, chews through the net, and sets him free. The mouse brings home some net to feed her babies.

Except for the night scene when the mouse first runs from the owl the whole book is done in warm soft colors; yellows, oranges, browns, reds & pale green. I feel the heat of Africa emanating from the pages. More than a story, more than a book, it is an experience of art, a masterpiece that happens to retail for $16.99.

Jerry Pinkney has illustrated FIVE Caldecott Honor books, but no actual winners. If I were a judge this book would be a winner, it is as previously mentioned, a masterpiece. The Lion & The Mouse is Spellbinder's Book of the Week this next week, so at 20% off you can get a masterpiece for $13.59 before tax.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Dr. Seuss is great, but P.D. Eastman takes the cake!

A Dr. Seuss book came out in a board edition for the first time today. It is Oh, the Thinks You Can Think!, and it is very cute. It is not, however, as cute as my all time favorite Seuss book, which isn't actually by Seuss. My favorite is Are You My Mother? an I Can Read It All By Myself Beginner Book by P.D. Eastman. Maybe it is the repetition or the idea of a bird thinking a large construction vehicle was it's mother, but the book has stayed in my mind throughout childhood, into adulthood, and now in motherhood! The board book is one of my FAVORITE books to read to Oscar. He doesn't understand the story, but he thinks the pages are very tasty!

So for this week's Book of the Week I wanted not just one Are You My Mother?, but three!; there is the hardcover, the board book, and the ultra-cool fabric edition. The fabric edition really takes the cake. It has a removable baby bird, that you can take out of his egg and DROP to the bottom of the book as he falls out of his nest. Don't worry, you won't loose your bird, it is attached to the book's spine with a ribbon. On the next page you can walk your bird along as he asks a kitten, chicken, and dog if they are his mother. On the next page he meets a cow and a SNORT. The SNORT lifts him up, up, and UP (with a pouch), and on the final page the SNORT drops the baby bird back into it's nest where it snuggles under the Velcro wing of it's mother......awwwww.

If you don't know what a SNORT is you clearly weren't read to enough as a child. Are You My Mother was originally published in 1960 and has been a staple in schools, library's, and homes for over 30 years. So if YOU don't know what a SNORT is, you need to search out one of the many copies of Are You My Mother to find out! You can of course find it at Spellbinder Books, and as it is the Book of the Week it is 20% off this week.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

A Book for the Roaring Set

Cute, new, and soon to be classic; everyone loves the Library Lion by Michelle Knudsen. The Library Lion came out in 2006 as was on the bestseller list (New York Times & IndieBound) for some time. The illustrations are timeless, so much so that when it first came out I overlooked it. I always take note of flashy and bold illustrations in picture books, but then I don't always read the stories. The tale of the Library Lion is so classic only classic illustrations will do; the pictures and the story fit each other perfectly.

This is the story in a nutshell: A lion is allowed in the library because he follows the rules, he even helps the librarians with dusting and what not. One day a librarian is injured and the lion has to break the rules to get the librarian help. He is sad because now that he has broken a rule he has to leave the library, but because he broke the rule for a good reason he is allowed to stay. Yeah!

This is a book that I feel I grew up with, except I didn't; I was 30 when it was first published. However, I have a feeling a lot of future adults are going to remember it as a book they grew up with; the book is now available in paperback, a significantly cheaper option that should spread the story far and wide.

This week's Book of the Week is Library Lion! As always it is 20% off in the store.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Nation - The Book of the Week

Last year I wrote a review for Terry Pratchett's young adult novel Nation. I loved it. I still love it, I love it so much that I can't figure out what to say about it for a staff review in the store. Now you can love it too, for 20% off. This week's Book of the Week is Nation!

Friday, July 24, 2009

Boxcar Vampires?

It makes sense for publishers to cash in on the vampire craze. Vampire books sell, so why not make as many as possible? I may roll my eyes at the sheer number vampire books listed in the catalogues, but I understand that fans of Twilight need additional books to satisfy their needs. But but but but but but - BUT I never thought the craze would make it's way into the Boxcar Children!
This September the Boxcar Children is coming out with it's 120th book - The Vampire Mystery! Now, for $4.99, 8 year-olds can enjoy vampire lore as well! When I saw it in the catalogue I laughed for ten minutes, I was crying, my eyes watered, in truth it made my day.

This means nothing if you don't know the Boxcar Children. It is an early chapter book series created by 1st grade teacher Gertrude Chandler Warner in 1924. I read the first book as a youngin, and though I was never prone to cleaning, I too wanted to make my own broom out of a stick and twigs; I wonder if the author knew her protagonists would be encountering vampires in the future?

Saturday, July 18, 2009

A Train Book with Tracks!

There are lots of novelty books, wood books, books with puppets attached, books in the shape of animals... I kinda like novelty books, it spices up life when unpacking a book box - rectangle rectangle rectangle STAR rectangle rectangle rectangle. But being a funny shape doesn't always make for a good story, so it is extra special when a book combines both novelty AND tale. This week's Book of the Week does just that!

Usborne's Farmyard Tales Wind-Up Train Book, comes with a model train and 3 tracks. The over sized board book has three stories with a track to go with each one. The stories are based on Farmyard Tales by Heather Amery and include a horse rescuing a school group by pulling a broken-down train, a trip to the seaside, and a train dog rescue. They are cute, simple stories good for ages 0-6. After each story there is a track illustrating the places mentioned in the tale and designed for the wind-up train that comes with the book. You wind-up the train and off you go passing Mr. Straw the scarecrow, just as Poppy and Sam did in the story.

The little wind-up train is small, with parts that could fall off; it is a choking hazard. Because of this the book is not recommended for children under 36 months, but much younger children would enjoy the book, just don't let them play with the wind-up train unsupervised. As always the Book of the Week is 20% off list price at Spellbinder Books (the physical store) in Bishop!

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Have You Seen My Eric Carle Board Book?

Everyone loves Eric Carle! The Very Hungry Caterpillar and Brown Bear Brown Bear are constantly on the bestseller list, or at least their board book editions are. The publisher has taken note of this Eric Carle board book popularity, and is releasing his less popular titles in board book editions. Maybe those less popular titles will now become popular? The Greedy Python is a fantastic story, though the illustrations are sometimes a little bit green. I am a big fan of the Have You Seen My Cat board book, it has awesome heavy duty pull-tabs. The different board books are all cool, I have a hard time picking a favorite; this week all Eric Carle Board Books are the Book of the Week!

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Book of the Week - Sucks to be Me

Vampires are hot. I suppose we have Twilight to thank for this, but other vampire books have caught on as well; Vampire Academy, Vampire Kisses, the Morganville Vampires. Curiously sales of Dracula have not picked up, but I guess that is just too traditional, there are no jean-wearing teen vamps in Dracula.

I have not read all the vampire books. And truthfully, I don't want to. Vampire sex is something I can do without, thank you very much! And, well, I'm not a teenager, so I don't really understand how pale skin and sucking blood is cool. Clearly, I was never cool in school. I'm okay with sex in teen books. I find it interesting that there is so much sex in teen books, but it is part of their lives, and I don't believe authors should act as though it doesn't exist. That said, a lot of the teen books are essentially romance teen trash (with sex), and I'm not such a fan of trash. Of course my trash is other people's general fiction - it is all a matter of taste.

There is one vampire book I do like - Sucks to be Me by Kimberly Pauley. This book takes off with the assumption that Vampires are cool, but then throws that on it's head by having very normal (thus uncool) parents be vampires. The main character must decide if she wants to be a vampire like her parents. The pros are that she could live forever and look hot (vampires ARE more attractive than mere mortal humans). The cons are that she would have to move and would never be able to see her best friend again. It isn't an easy choice, but with Kimberly Pauley telling the story, watching the main character decide is entirely entertaining.
And so, our book of the week this week is Sucks to be Me, where uncool vampires can be surprisingly cool.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Food For Thought

When is a YA book, not for Young Adults?

The bookseller's definition of young adult, is a bit of a misnomer. The category typically refers to books written for kids who are 12 - 17 years old, though wikipedia defines the age range as 13 - 19. A 12-year-old is definitely NOT an adult, but is a 17-year-old? Most 17-year-olds still live with their parents, they can't vote, they cannot legally drink alcohol, but they can drive. When I think of young adults I think of 20-year-olds, I don't usually think of high school students. But in bookselling, a young adult is a high school student.

So what should a high school student read? Well, if you look at the books assigned to them in school, they should be reading adult literature and non-fiction. The Grapes of Wrath, The Iliad, The Catcher in the Rye (which IS probably a YA book, but categorized as adult literature), Into the Wild, etc. Recognizing that the books "young adults" read for school are for adults, it shouldn't be surprising that the books written for their age range are filled with adult topics; sex, love, drugs, redemption. But where is the line, when is the topic so adult that the books are no longer for young adults, but simply about them?

I'm thinking of this because of the book Tender Morsels by Margo Lanagan. It is a YA book with a cover that seems to be geared towards middle grade readers. I haven't read the book, but I've read reviews. I know that in the book a girl is repeatedly raped by her father, forced to have abortions in the third trimester, and gang-raped by villagers. This is a YA novel?

Tender Morsels has won a number of awards:

WINNER 2008 - Booklist Children's Editors' Choice

WINNER 2008 - School Library Journal Best Book of the Year

WINNER 2008 - Horn Book Fanfare

WINNER 2008 - Kirkus Reviews Best Young Adult Books

WINNER 2008 - Bulletin Blue Ribbon Book

WINNER 2008 - Amazon Best of the Year (I almost deleted this one)

I haven't read this book yet, but I will; I don't understand how it is for kids, but I can't say it isn't until I have read it.
Here is a link to an excellent review in the Sci Fi Weekly.

Book of the Week - LOVE THAT PUPPY!

Every week now, I get to choose a "book of the week". This means I get to pick a book, put it on a special shelf, and tell people that it is 20% off. Of course I only choose kids books; I like kids books.

This week the book is Love that Puppy! by Jeff Jarka. As the cover will tell you, it is the story of a boy who wanted to be a dog. Love that Puppy! is a full size picture book, but a rather short story, only 26 pages; perhaps that is why it is only $12.95 where most picture books cost $17.99 these days. The story is told in a comic book-like format so that the words are secondary to the pictures, which are VERY CUTE. The sequence where Peter (the boy who wanted to be a dog) plays catch/fetch with his father is priceless.

I should note that I am a cat person; dog books don't usually catch my fancy. But Love that Dog! is different, it is really really funny.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Fairy School Dropout

The picture is too small to really read the blurbs on the cover, so let me just type them out for you (clockwise):

Pointing to Hair - hair isn't neat and shiny
Pointing to Backpack - backpack isn't full of perfect homework
Pointing to Wand - wand hasn't been charged
Pointing to Skateboard - fairies are not supposed to skateboard
Pointing to Pants - should be wearing itchy tutu, not cool jeans
Pointing to Wing - wings are showing - what if a human saw them?

This is of course the awesome cover to Fairy School Dropout. Also Fairy School Dropout is a fantastic title, every time I see it I hear the tune to Beauty School Dropout in my head, with an image from the movie Greece. I really liked the movie Greece, I think I saw it over 30 times in high school and college. It's been a while though, maybe I should netflix it. Tom (my husband) would be very annoyed if I did, the movie Greece was not made for men, and then neither is the book Fairy School Dropout. With it's pink cover and purple print inside (yes purple) this is a book for girls, youngish girls 7 to 10-year-olds will love it. And it isn't all packaging, it is a cute story too. Who can dislike a rogue fairy?

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Potty Training Monsters?

Like every good bookstore we have a potty training shelf, but tired of seeing the same books day after day, year after year, I've been yearning to liven up this where to poop section. So I was very excited when I saw the arrival of a new book: How to Potty Train Your Monster, by Kelly DiPucchio. This picture book does not explain the basics of Potty Training, it makes fun of them.

The book has 10 basic steps you must follow to properly potty train your monster. For example step number five is Praise Your Monster. This page has a picture of three one-eyed monsters with helpful phrases like, "Attaboy Gloomy!" "Hooray for you Horrid!" and "Way to go Gruesome!". There is also the helpful tip "Throw a Potty Party to celebrate your monster's success."

Clearly parents will enjoy reading this books to their potty training human monsters, and there are a good number of little human monsters who will enjoy hearing it. I am thinking of a close friend's head strong and humor loving three-year-old who strongly resisted attempts to potty train. That little girl will like this book!

I do not think How to Potty Train Your Monster is a good stand-alone potty trainer, but it is a fun addition to some of the classics like Everyone Poops and Once Upon a Potty.

Below is a list of the potty books we have in our store:

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Saturday, May 9, 2009

13 Reasons Why - the Cover Sells the Book

Two years ago I was doing an order for children's books from Penguin. Th1rteen R3asons Why was listed as a new book from their cool teen publishing division, with an intriguing little description. I can't share the initial description I saw, as that catalogue was thrown into recycling long ago, but it inspired me to ask the rep if she would send me an advance readers copy so I could review it and see if would be good for the store.

She sent me an advance copy, I read it, and I didn't know what to think. The book is about a likable girl, who moved to a new school, had some unfortunate experiences, and decided to kill herself. But before she takes her life she makes an audio recording of why she has decided to kill herself and sends it to one of the people she thinks caused her suicide, with instructions to listen and send it on to the next person she thinks caused her suicide. I wasn't sure I liked the story, but I was pretty sure it would sell (sadly teen suicide is almost a guaranteed sale) so I got a copy for the store. We have since sold 33 copies of Th1rteen R3asons Why in hardcover- not bad for a small town bookstore that serves of community of less than 10,000.

There is no staff pick for the book, I'm still not sure I like it, and it hasn't gotten any special treatment except that if I can, I'll face it out on the shelf, but the book sells. It sells because of the cover, there is something about a beautiful teen, wearing a pink knit hat, a pink sweater, a frilly scarf, a frilly skirt, and high heels with sheer socks sitting on a swing that make people pick up the book. Did I mention that there are bows on her high heels? Well there are bows on her high heels. Never mind that the main character of the book continually refers to her jeans, jeans don't sell a book, high heels with bows, those sell (apparently).

You see, I'm annoyed with myself, because I too find the cover appealing. It is just that when I look at the cover closely and I see how ridiculous it is (who wears high heels and sheer socks to a playground, or even to high school?) I wonder why, why is it appealing? I guess the truth is that pretty girls sell, and the girl on this cover is pretty, and not dressed like a prostitute (as a great many other pretty girls on book covers are).

In truth the cover doesn't sell the book on it's own, the cover only gets people to pick up the book. It is the intriguing concept of a teenager leaving audio tapes to all the people she thinks caused her suicide that sell the book. Jay Asher, the author, should be congratulated for coming up with a great plot line. Never mind that I wanted the throw the book against the wall when I was done; it is still a good plot line.

Ultimately I didn't like the book because I could not forgive the main character for killing herself for such STUPID reasons. But I am an adult. I gave the book to a teenage co-worker and her friend, and they both loved it. The teenagers loved the book, and thought the adults the book described were total jerks; I didn't really see what any adult did that was wrong. If nothing else the book is an excellent discussion starter, if a teen and their parent read it together, it would be GREAT. I'm not sure how many adults are going to read this with their teenagers, but still I comfort myself that if they do, it would be good for their relationship.

I can moralize that the book never really shows the heartbreak her suicide caused her family, but that isn't the point. The point of the story is that if you are a teenager, your interactions with your friends mean a lot, and you should be careful of how you treat others. It's not a bad point, I'm still not sure I like the book, but Jay Asher does have a point. The combination of a good cover and a good point sure do sell a lot of books.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Adios Oscar!!!

Last week, while working in the bookstore I found myself missing Oscar (my 4-month-old son) so I decided to look up books with his name in the title. There was lots on Oscar Wilde of course, but as I already have his fairytales, I let those go by. One book that I didn't pass up was Adios Oscar by Peter Elwell.

Oscar is a caterpillar who lives in a flower pot. One day a butterfly named Bob stops in on his way to Mexico. Bob has beautiful wings, and he tells Oscar that one day Oscar will have wings as well, and can fly to Mexico too. Oscar tells his caterpillar friends, who scoff at the idea, but Oscar prepares for his future life in Mexico by hanging out at the library and learning Spanish. Finally he builds a cocoon and goes to sleep - but when he wakes up, he's a moth.

Oscar's friends are having a great time flying around a light bulb for no reason, but Oscar gets bummed out ordering socks in Spanish. He gets a note from his library friend Edna that tells him to think like a butterfly, and Oscar does just that. He ignores the call of the moon and flies to MEXICO!

Some have said that my Oscar physically resembles the Oscar caterpillar illustrations in the book - I'm not sure how I feel about that - but I do love the idea of teaching my Oscar to think like a butterfly, and fly where he chooses. It is kinda like a Hans Christian Anderson tale in reverse - you can ignore the rules of nature and still be happy. Of course the Disney version of Hans Christian Anderson tales all end up happy, but well, they sure weren't written that way. With Adios Oscar, no meaning has been subverted for commercial gain - it is simply a cute fable that allows kids to follow their dreams. There is no lie that Oscar will become a butterfly, he won't, but he can think like one, and he can fly to Mexico just as they do. As a former traveller myself, this seems a grand idea.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

We Love Roger Priddy

Roger Priddy is a man, who happens to be an artist and book creator, who has his own publishing house - kinda; actually Priddy Books is a part of St. Martins which is connected to Macmillan Books which...well it is all a bit hard to keep track of.

Roger Priddy used to work for Usborne, a publisher that makes high quality inexpensive children's books. After working for Usborne he worked for DK, which also makes high quality books for children and adults, and has done a lot to improve the layout and graphic design of guide books. Now Roger Priddy works for himself at Priddy Books, and I must say he is doing a good job.

Roger Priddy's soft cloth book The Squishy Turtle and Friends, is Oscar's favorite. At first he liked to bop the front cover and make it crinkle, then he liked grabbing the octopus legs (it's really great, instead of two arms it has eight), and now he likes grabbing the entire book and thrusting it in his mouth. And sometimes, sometimes it even looks like Oscar is trying to turn the page.

Oscar likes board books too, but at this age (4 months) he has a hard time holding onto them for any length of time, and his fingers aren't yet agile enough to turn a board book page. Cloth books, on the other hand, are quite easy for his hands to grab; but he has some cloth books he doesn't like. Cloth books with a smooth overall feel, Oscar doesn't like those. Oscar is a fan of texture, and The Squishy Turtle has a lot of texture.

Oscar loves The Squishy Turtle so much he gave his girlfriend Amaya it's companion The Fuzzy Bee and Friends. The Fuzzy Bee is actually almost cooler than The Squishy Turtle, except for a line about a worm wanting to come out and play on a sunny day - I don't enjoy having mental images of dried-up dead worms when I'm playing with my son.

We were having an issue with forgetting to bring to Squishy Turtle back and forth from home to child care, so we decided we needed another soft Priddy book, and so we got Big Rex and Friends. Reciting hard to pronounce dinosaur names to a baby does strike me as a bit weird, but Oscar sure doesn't mind. In fact he seems to be enjoying the textures of Big Rex even more than The Squishy Turtle. New love is always the most passionate.

If you are interested Priddy also has a number of inexpensive board books that I just ordered for a local book fair. Most board books these days run $6.99 to $12.99 but for just $4.95 each you can get the touch & feel Priddy board books on Colors, Numbers, Shapes, Words, and even one for Halloween called Spooky. You can even get Spanish bilingual editions. I'm turning into a big Priddy fan.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Books A 2-Month-Old Will Look At!

My beautiful son Oscar was born December 11, 2008 and from the start, I tried reading him books. It didn't always work. But from about three weeks of age, he would look at the pages of Goodnight Moon as I read it to him (if he was in a good mood). Sometimes I was even able to read it three times or more in a row.

Now Oscar is over two-months-old, and he is rapidly paying more attention to the things around him, including the books I read him. Lady Bug Lady Bug, from My Chunky Friend set is his favorite, perhaps because I sing it to him, and perhaps because the words are nice and black on a white background (he looks at the words, not the pictures). Lady Bug Lady Bug is out of print, but if it were a different rhyming board book with black print on a white background, that I sang to him, I'm sure he would like that as well. He also likes The Rainbow Fish; he doesn't so much care for the story, but the pictures of the fish with shiny scales are fascinating to him.
We have an alphabet books he really likes, maybe because each page is turned quickly, or it could be the crisp graphics. Our alphabet book is ABC by Matthew Porter. It is fun for me to read because I can practice saying "U is for Uakari".

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Baby Books

I apologize for my lack of posts, I've been distracted. Oscar Stefan Woods was born on December 11, 2008 - after 30 hours of labor and a C-section, and a VERY long wait. For some bizarre reason I thought I would have time to blog on maternity leave. I imagined a quiet baby napping and me on the computer. Well, so far that hasn't happened. But tonight Oscar has successfully taken a bottle of formula and his daddy is feeding him, so I have a spare moment.

Let me use this precious free time tell you about my favorite baby present. It is A BOOK. But it isn't one you can buy. It is a cloth book made from scraps by one of Oscar's grandmother's friends. We "read" it by describing the pictures. Oscar has even paid attention to it, not bad for a seven-week-old. Sometimes the best books can't be bought.