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.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Great Gifts for the "NICE" present

All books are nice, or at least most books are nice, but some books are REALLY NICE. I'm thinking of beautifully illustrated books that you adore, but are usually too expensive for you to justify buying yourself. These books, these REALLY NICE books, are usually the ones that I lust after and dream about. These are also the books that make fabulous presents.

Sylvia Long's Mother Goose
For Ages 0 - 6
Spectacular illustrations make this Mother Goose set stand out from all the others. This is a wonderful book for families with young children.

Flight of the Reindeer
by Robert Sullivan
illustrated by Glenn Wolff
Ages 5 - 99
A fantastical romp through the "history of Santa! A joy to read for non-believers & believers of all ages!

Harry Potter : A Pop-Up Book
by Lucy Kee
illustrated by Andrew Williamson
Ages 8 - 99
A terrific gift for Potter fans, art lovers, & film buffs! Amazing pop-ups with info on Potter lore and cinematic visions on every page.

by Adrian Mitchell
illustrated by Alan Lee
Ages 10 - 99
Based on Ovid's Metamorphoses this glorious book of stories, ballads, & poems is sure to delight well-worn myth lovers and newer fans of the age-old tales as well.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Paperback Favorites from a Boy who's Almost 2!

It goes by so fast! It takes so long until they sit up on their own, so long until they start crawling. Then they're walking before you know it, they start running all to soon, and then one night you open the story book and they tell you the EXACT sentence that goes with that page's picture:

"Good morning, Earl," said Jill.

It was the when "said Jill" came out of Oscar's mouth that my jaw truly dropped. My Oscar is almost two. Gone (thankfully) are the days of the oh-so-boring one word per page board books. We are now into stories, stories that he remembers. This is not to say that we have left board books behind, they are certainly a part of our daily lives, and it is true that Oscar still refuses to sit through Stellaluna; but the entry into the land of story-time is certainly a marker that shall be marked, or at least it will be marked in my memory. My little baby is now a little boy.

And here are my little almost-two-year-old's favorite stories.

by Eric Rohmann
My Friend Rabbit won the Caldecott in 2003, and it was well deserved. The highly defined pictures of colorful animals trying to get a plane out of a tree tell a story that is a pleasure to flip through, with or without words. I bought this book long before I was pregnant, I bought the book before I was married, before I was even engaged, and in truth I've been trying to read it to Oscar since he was about six months old. But at six-months-old, he just wasn't into it. Now however, it is his FAVORITE. 

"Mommy rabbit? Rabbit friend? Mommy rabbit?"

And then when the story is over:

And If I refuse:
"Daddy rabbit? Rabbit Daddy? Rabbit friend?"

The fun thing about this is that Tom (the aforementioned "Daddy") and I actually read the book differently. I read the words. I know it is a wonderful to read the pictures, to change the story every time, to extend and involve the listener...but I have accepted my weaknesses, one of which is that I really just want to read the words. Tom  however, will read the pictures with Oscar. In some books it seems to me they'll stay on the same page for ten minutes! I can't do that. In truth My Friend Rabbit is a picture book that doesn't really need words, but me, being me, I do appreciate that they're there. And Oscar seems to like it, no matter what.

By Don Freeman
Earl the Squirrel is similar to My Friend Rabbit in that the pictures tell the story, but it is different not only in the style of illustration but in that Earl has A LOT more words. Unlike My Friend Rabbit, Earl is a story that doesn't even NEED pictures. I can see myself repeating the story to Oscar on car rides and in other situations where a distraction will be needed. This is not to say the illustrations aren't appreciated, I for one love them. I especially love the fact that the only item of color, in the whole book, is the red scarf, around which the whole story revolves. The author, Don Freeman, is famous for Corduroy, which is a book we don't actually have. My husband doesn't believe it, but we DON'T own every book ever written. However, I am thankful we own Earl the Squirrel.
By Jon Denver
Illustrated By Christopher Canyon
I am not a fan of Sunshine on My Shoulders, but Oscar loves it. I didn't buy this book, but we have it and one day I pulled it off the shelf to read to Oscar; I have not been able to hide it since. It is not that the book is bad, it is the lyrics to Jon Denver's song with very nice water color illustrations of a little girl on a lake with her dad. I don't like it because I have a personal distaste for what I see as overly sentimental blah.... but my tastes do not define the rest of the world, and they certainly don't define my son. Oscar LOVES Sunshine on My Shoulders. I do sing him the words, and I sing to a tune that is similar (though not exactly the same) to the recorded John Denver versions I have since seen on You Tube. I am including this book, because this is about Oscar's favorite books, not mine. I brought the book into the store because I knew I was going to write this blog post. It is shelved with the other paperback picture books on one side of our children's section. We currently have about thirty paperback picture books in the store. Oscar came into the store yesterday, and of course he spotted the book and immediately demanded I read it to him. He really likes Sunshine on My Shoulders.
By Susan Middleton Elya
Illustrated by Lee Chapman
Unlike the other books in the blog post, Eight Animals on the Town has been one of Oscar's favorite books for a while. He started enjoying the book at about 12-months-old. Perhaps it is the bright colors, or the funny, humanistic shapes of the animals, but my suspicion is that the books bilingual nature is what really captures Oscar's attention. The book is primarily in English, with Spanish words thrown in. 

"Frog hops along hungry for Flies. Moscas says Rana, economy size."

Eight Animals on the Town. We do have other books, in Spanish, but in truth I don't know the language, and when I try to read them Oscar's eye's glaze over. I guess it is not enough for a book to be in another language, or to introduce another language, I guess it actually has to be a good book. Eight Animals on the Town definitely fits that the bill.

Thursday, October 28, 2010


Yes, Oscar likes cars, a lot. But, he also has other interests, which are tents, and dinosaurs. There aren't a lot of kid books about tents, but thankfully dinosaurs are a popular topic, and there are some really cool new Dino books available!

written by "Dino" Don Lessem         illustrated by Franco Tempesta

This new dinosaur encyclopedia from National Geographic touts itself as the most complete dinosaur reference ever. Pictorally, that may well be true; the book is filled with pictures of every dinosaur currently known. The pictures visually pop out of the book with dinosaurs in lizardly colors tromping, rollicking, and of course eating in deserts, swamplands, and forests. I am happy to report that it does not appear to be the most complete book text-wise. An eight-year-old can read the Ultimate Dino-Pedia on their own. True this 271-page-book may intimidate an eight year old, but those who have no fear can easily conquer the Dino-Pedia!

Each page has the name of the dinosaur in large print at the top (with a pronunciation guide below) and a two-word synopsis followed by a single paragraph of description. For example:

Scansoriopteryx has some odd features for a little meat eater - and they all suggest it climbed trees. It has long front limbs...

Each page has a box with the dinosaurs name, the meaning of the name, the period they lived, where they were found, fossils that have been discovered, length, and a pictorial size comparison of the dinosaur to 4foot 6inch kid. There is a fun fact in a circle, often accompanied by a picture. On the Scansoriopteryx page there is a picture of a woodpecker, and then a blurb about how the dinosaur may have fed on insects living in the tree bark. Additionally there is a descriptive blurb on the awesome dinosaur picture, the Scansoriopteryx blurb talks about how it climbed trees with it's claw-tipped third finger, and how it couldn't actually fly, despite it's feathers.

In truth, this Dino-Pedia does contain a LOT of information about dinosaurs. But it is set up is such visually arresting way that it holds the attention of my 22-month-old, which is pretty impressive.

by Lila Prap

If you would like some humor with your dinosaur facts, this is the book for you! Lila Praps' Dinosaurs?! is filled with stylized dinosaur illustrations surrounded by chickens commenting on the creature's abilities and making jokes at it's expense. Chickens are descended from dinosaurs, you see, so they feature prominently in the book. This is a great book for Dino fans with a sense of humor, I myself enjoy it more than Dino-Pedia, but Oscar doesn't quite get all the jokes.

On the Ankylosaurus page (that's the dinosaur with a spiky armor on it's back and a big club tail) a chicken asks "Why does this one have a club on his tail? Did he whack flies with it?" A rooster responds "He had it instead of a weight to work out with." And then little chicks add "Or to hit himself on the head if he couldn't remember something!" That makes me smile, but Oscar, would think it meant the dinosaur used his tail to whack flies. So, I probably need to wait until he is at least 3 years old to share Dinosaurs?! with Oscar.

More prehistoric poems with lift-the-flap surprises!
Written by Tony Mitton, Illustrated by Lynne Chapman

When I'm busy feeding I look easy to attack,
but look at all this tough stuff I'm wearing on my back.
You may think I'm a meal that a carnivore might like,
but imagine trying to chew through a knob or a spike.
If you mean to eat me, believe me it's a wast...
Even if you caught me, you wouldn't like the taste!

This poem is printed on a page with picture of a spiky toothed Dino just about to chomp on the Ankylosaurus' tail. The spiky toothed Dino's head is a flap, you pull it down and there's a picture of a confused spiky toothed Dino saying YUCK!

This is humor Oscar can understand! Not a lot of Dino facts, but lots of fun poems and flaps! Very cute.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Spooky Reads for Hallow's Eve 2010

Halloween is one of my favorite holidays. I enjoy the costumes. I wish I didn't enjoy the candy. But candy or no candy, the costumes, and carnival air of the evening are something I look forward to every year. One of the other things I enjoy about Halloween, is that everyone, regardless of your age, can enjoy the holiday. So for this blog post I've included books for each age range. Enjoy!

Ages 14 & UP
Fat Vampire by Adam Rex
If you were a fifteen year old boy you might have dreams of a hot sexy vampire chick turning you, and romantically living happily ever after with super vampire powers. But that of course, would be a fantasy. What might really happen is that you get attacked one night by half crazed schoolmate who could care less who he attacked, and you end up fat and fifteen forever. This of course is what happened to Doug. Fat and fifteen, Doug now has to feed on blood, but has no idea of how to get it. He isn't a murderer, animals are kinda hard to catch, and robbing blood banks isn't as easy as one might think.

In Adam Rex's hands Doug, the fat vampire, seems like a lot of the kids you went to high school with. He wants to be cool, he wants the new foreign exchange student to like him, he wants to be a popular kid. But he isn't, and as Adam Rex wisely points out towards the end of the book, sometimes he isn't even nice.

Adam Rex is the author of one of my all time favorite books, The True Meaning of Smekday. Smekday is a super funny read for kids 10 to 14. Fat Vampire is for an older crowd, but the humor is still there, it is just darker. There is a gloomy hilarity that pervades this high school fantasy. The gloom, oddly, makes the story seem all the more realistic. Don't expect a happy ending, but expect a rewarding one.

Ages 10 to 14
Weenie Series: In the Land of the Weenies, Invasion of the Road Weenies, The Curse of the Campfire Weenies, The Battle of the Red Hot Pepper Weenies 
by David Lubar
David Lubar writes funny, off beat short stories, that frequently have unexpected or surprise fantastical endings. For example, there is the Thanksgiving when the vegetarian relatives come to visit. The house is attacked by monster turkeys who go after the vegetarians because they taste better. Or there is the kid who secretly meets up with his Internet friend, who turns out not to be a 12-year-old, but an adult man. That is fine with the kid who then lets loose his fangs and attacks. In Mr. Lubar's hands these little tales take up more than two sentences each, they usually they run three to five pages.

David Lubar's short stories are quirky mixtures of science fiction and typical middle class American life. His protagonists are children, typically from 7 to 17 years of age. His tales read like urban legends, and maybe that is where they came from; they stick in your head and make you smile  & shiver at the oddest times. His tales can be creepy, and scary. They are perfect Halloween reading!

Ages 6 to 10
Dark Emperor & Other Poems of the Night
by Joyce Sidman
illustrated by Rick Allen
COOL BOOK! Fantastic illustrations. Using linoleum cuts illustrator Rick Allen has created amazing visions of the natural world at night time. Each complex and lyrical illustration accompanies an equally lyrical poem describing a life form within the illustration. Some of the poems rhyme, some do not, but they each create a feeling of darkness and life. The poems and illustrations are the heart of the book, but along the right hand border of each set there is a paragraph with a literal retelling of all the poem describes. In a typical book I would say that the paragraphs are scientific expansions of the poem, but they don't read like science, they read like a story of their own.

For example there is the first poem, Welcome to the Night, the first stanza begins:

"To all of you who crawl and creep,
who buzz and chirp and hoot and peep....."

On the same page there is a colored linoleum cut of a Raccoon washing it's hands with the sun setting behind it. The adjoining page has a larger illustration with a dappled curling, gnarled oak. A raccoon is climbing down the tree and pale flocks of birds are flying past in the background. Faintly you can see a deer peeping it's head over the grasses and looking directly at you. There is a log in the foreground, almost covered with grasses and, mushrooms and flowers. A mouse peeks out of the grass in front of the log, a snail climbs down a leaf on the left, and a newt hides behind a blade of grass to the right. Meanwhile, in the grasses, there is a spider weaving a web. To the right of this illustration is a paragraph, which begins:

"As night falls, the nocturnal world wakes. Mice begin to stir, moths flutter into the starlight, and deer step out from hidden places to roam and forage...."

This is the most beautiful picture book I have seen this year.

Ages 3 to 6
Frank was a Monster who Wanted to Dance by Keith Graves
Keith Graves is one of my favorite author & illustrators of books. His Three Nasty Gnarlies (now sadly out of print) is one of my all time favorites. He has a new book, Chicken Big, which is quite funny, but as it is not for Halloween, we'll talk about it another time. What I will tell you about right now is Frank, who was a monster who wanted to dance! A monster dancing, how cute! And Frank is very cute, at least at first.  But in the course of his dancing his brain flops out of his head, and as he keeps dancing his body keeps disintegrating. Frank is okay with his disintegration, he is just happy he can dance. Frank was a Monster who Wanted to Dance is actually kinda gross, but it is a fun sort of gross, perfect for Halloween!

Ages 1 to 3
Halloween Lift-the-Flap Shadow Book by Priddy Books
Those of you who are avid readers of this blog (mom I'm looking at you!) may remember that I am, in general, a big fan of Priddy Books. Bright pictures, high quality binding, and low price tags - what's not to like? At $8.99 Halloween Lift-the-Flap is not really low priced, but despite the lack of creativity in the title, the book is worth it. The cover is sparkly and shiny with a evil red spider looking up at you from it's spider web. The inside pages are mostly two - toned, black and white, sometimes black and purple, always black and something.  But when you lift the flaps you get COLOR! A photo of a skull and crossbones with a chartreuse green background, a photo of tarantula against bright orange, the contrasts POP!

Here is a more detailed description of one of the books inside pages:
There is a black shadow of a tree against a white background (some sparkly stars thrown along the base for fun). In the middle of the tree trunk is a circle with two big eyes. Above and below the circle are the words:
"Who HOOTS in the DARK wood?"
The circle is a flap, you lift it, and there is the photo of an owl head with bright orange eyes looking right at you! In orange print, on the backside of the flap is the word "Owl".

The flaps are paper, which can easily be torn. If your child is a page ripper, you may want to hold off on this one, but if your little one can handle tearable flaps, this book would be an excellent addition to your Halloween shelf.

Ages 0 to 2
Puppets are fun! This small board book has a circle cut into each page through which you stick your finger into a little bat puppet. It's little black head, with pointing ears and a round grey nose, moves with a surprisingly mouse-like realism as you wiggle your finger while turning the pages. Each page had approximately three words on it, the book as a whole consists of five sentences describing the little bat flying through the night. The illustrations are high contrast and simple, perfect for newborns and youngsters!

Friday, October 1, 2010

An Ode to Tony DiTerlizzi

Tony DiTerlizzi is a famous author. In truth I prefer reviewing unknown author's works because I feel that my job as a bookseller is to guide folks to great books that they DON'T already know about. But SHUCKS, sometimes those famous authors are famous for a reason, and I just can't ignore them.

Tony DiTerlizzi's newest book is called The Search for Wondla, and it's great. It is a thicker tomb (and thus more intimidating to the young reader) than his other works, but it is still appropriate for young readers, I would say it is for ages 10 and up, but if you have a voraciously reading 8-year-old that gobbles up all print in sight, Wondla would be a fine gobble.

What is it about The Search for Wondla that makes it so great? Well the fantastic illustrations don't hurt. But in truth I can't put my finger on why Mr. DiTerlizzi is such a good writer. This is the man who IMPROVED the Kenneth Grahame's classic The Reluctant Dragon with 2008's Kenny and the Dragon (which STILL isn't available in paperback). His sentences are short and evocative, he keeps you turning the pages, and his actual stories are interesting, unusual, and fun.

The Search for Wondla is actually a science-fiction mystery. A young girl raised by a robot yearns to leave her pod, and when she does, it is NOT what she expected. She goes on a journey filled with weird creatures and adventures. Her journey is futuristicly similar to another famous tale that I won't tell you because I don't want to ruin the surprise (and I'm embarrassed to say it really was a surprise for me)!

We've started a Family Book Gathering at the store, and today is our first meeting. We'll start with a picture book reading, then move onto a craft during which parents and older kids can hopefully get a chance to discuss authors and books. For our first meeting we'll be discussing Tony Diterlizzi; I can't think of a better author to start with. And of course all his books will be discounted (until the next blog post) and displayed on the "blog shelf" in the kid's section, so if you find yourself wandering through Bishop stop on by and and take a look what the great man has created.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Plain Kate - Plainly the Best!

2010 has been a good year for children's literature. I have read a lot of entertaining and well-written stories that I am happy to proud to share with customers and friends. But of course, some of the stories stand out more than others. Some of the stories stay with you, haunting your dreams and seeping into your psyche so that it seems implausible that there was ever a time where you didn't know the tale. Gypsies and witches and ghosts traveling through a water-filled forested land speckled here and there with small and large towns, with farms and cities; this landscape seems to be something that I have always known, except I haven't. I first read an advance edition of Plain Kate this summer, and before that I had never read a book on gypsies though I am sure many exist. Patiently I've been waiting for Plain Kate to be available to the general public, and it seems to have taken forever, but finally it is here! Now perhaps my inner world of forests and mists won't be only mine anymore.

First, let me explain the story in rough unpoetical prose that is not at all worthy of Erin Bow's tale. Kate is the daughter of a wood carver, her mother died in childbirth. She loves her father more than anything, so of course he dies. Though she is an accomplished carver herself his shop goes to another man in the guild, so Kate goes to live in a stall in the market place carving wooden trinkets, sleeping in a drawer, and feeding her stray cat when she can. A strange man comes to town, a witch, and he "convinces" Kate to trade her shadow with him for her heart's desire. Her heart wants her father back, but what she gets is companionship with the most incredible wonderful creature, her cat, who starts to talk, and well, who is much more than a cat.

She joins a group of gypsies and befriends a girl utterly unlike herself, but this girl too lost her mother. Kate tries to help her new friend, but it goes utterly wrong. She is "cast out" of the gypsies and ends up a captive to the very man who took her shadow. A man filled with vengeance, who is reeking havoc on the country side as he uses Kate's shadow to bring his sister back to a sort of life, a life as a ghosts who kills all those she touches. And though weak, and without a shadow, and seemingly without any hope, Kate tries to stop him.

The story of Plain Kate is a tale worth telling, but it is Erin Bow's words that make the story leap off the page. She can say a lot in a sentence, her paragraphs will give you pages of information and emotion that hit your chest with a dull thump so that your heart goes "ow". Put simply I have never read a better written children's book. If I were on the Newbery committee, Plain Kate would be my choice. There are a number of other fabulous poetic books for children and while I am talking about beautiful writing I should give a shout out to Susan Patron whose every sentence seems somewhat like a poem in miniature. But Erin Bow's ability to pack large amounts of information in such sparse poetic prose is amazing. She should be read by every writer, and everyone interested in writing, as well as those who like a good children's book.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Summer Hand Sales

Hand selling is a bookseller term for when we direct customers to a particular title that we like. In truth it is done automatically, when you work in a bookstore, you like books, and if a customer asks for recommendations you do your best to help them. Lately I found that I have been hand selling two titles that I haven't blogged about! They are both great new summer reads, one romance and one science fiction thriller.

First the romance:

The Half-Life of Planets by Emily Franklin & Brendan Halpin

This teen summer romance is written in the he said / she said format with the alternate authors writing alternate chapters from different characters point of view. I admit that this is one of my favorite formats for character driven books; it is easy to read and it keeps stories interesting where books written in straight linear formats often get bogged down somewhere in the middle. There is no bogging in The Half-Life of Planets.

Liana is an aspiring scientist from a well-off unhappy family. Hank is an aspiring musician from a not-so-well-off unhappy family. Oh, and Hank has Asperger's, a form of Autism that is not so severe that he cannot interact, but does interfere with his ability to relate to other teenagers, and it makes his musical aspirations seem more like obsessions. Actually it was his Asperger's that first drew Liana to Hank. She met him in a women's bathroom and thought he must be mature because he didn't seem embarrassed. Hank wasn't embarrassed, he wouldn't think that one would need to be embarrassed if they were found in a women's bathroom...

Liana knows Hank is different, but she doesn't know why, and for much of the book she doesn't know WHAT is wrong with him. It is an interesting plot device. The Half-Life of Planets is a classic teen romance, with a twist, and it is lots of fun!

Now for the Action:

Much of the continents have fallen into the sea, forcing humanity to cram into cities that grow higher and higher. Space becomes valuable and unattainable, inspiring some to colonize the sea. These colonists live in fantastic undersea jelly houses and farm the ocean floor. But no one knows yet how living undersea will affect humans, or how to stop a gang of raiders from attacking the colonist's homesteads.

Ty, the first child raised undersea, is desperate to hide the powers he is developing. Gemma, a topsider, is searching for her only family, a long-lost brother who was last known to be an ocean miner. Together they try to outwit the raiders and save their families.

The adventure keeps you turning the pages, but in truth it is Kat Falls' utterly believable and super techno cool creation of an undersea wild-west-world that makes Dark Life fantastic!

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Woo Hoo New Books!

Every month (well, almost every month) I get to bring in new books to the childrens' section. Opening a box of new childrens' books is like candy for me, and this month's candy is particularly delicious. So I'm sharing some of the tastiest treats with you here.

by Lesley Hague
While not a suspenseful page turner, Nomansland is a succinct vivid tale that will stay with you forever. Nomansland tells the story of Keller, a young woman training to be a tracker in a future society where men are not allowed, meaning male babies are not permitted. Women rule the land (an island) with a cold iron fist; societal jobs are prescribed at an early age, deviation is not allowed, and names ending in "i" or "y" are illegal.  No Mandi,  Tracy, or Brandi will be found in Nomansland, because those names are symbols of the past, when women were weak, and when the world was nearly destroyed. The trackers are the warriors of this society, the strongest, the hardest, the best. But when a group of trainee trackers, including Keller, discover an old house, hidden under bushes and vines, and filled with alluring glossy magazines showing pictures of women with bright red lips and strange shoes, their faith in the culture of Nomansland is destroyed, and their lives are endangered. The final climax to Nomansland is heart-pounding, and the images it creates are so vivid, you won't be able to get them out of your head.

by Kimberly Pauley
In an unusual twist I like a SEQUEL BETTER than an original. In Sucks to be Me Mina has to decide if she wants to be a vampire and keep her family, but then loose her best friend. She chose the vampire route, and in Still Sucks to be Me the real adventures begin! Her family is relocated (expected) to a small southern town with EVIL vampires (ooohhh). Mina's vampire boyfriend is out of town, and one of the cute evil vamps takes a liking to her, and well, shenanigans abound...A great summer read!

By Tabori Fried
If I had this book when I was pregnant with Oscar, I might have kept better track of things. This is a combination of a typical baby book, with spots to place pictures, but it also works as a calendar where you can write in doctor's appointments and play dates, and it has folders on the front and back covers to store relevant papers. Basically it is the best baby book I have yet seen.

by Joe Dumpty as told to Jeanie Franz Ransom
illustrated by Stephen Axelsen
"Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall.
Humpty Dumpty had a great fall.
Humpty Dumpty was pushed.
At least I think so. Who am I? I'm Joe Dumpty, Humpty's younger brother."
A hard boiled detective picture book filled with Mother Goose's offspring. Who can resist?

by Donald Crews
The most creative counting book I've seen in a long time. The black dots increase in number while the pictures behind them change. " One dot can make a sun, or a moon when the day is done."

by Pippa Shaw
illustrated by Andrew Grey
based on the works of A.A. Milne and the artwork of E.H. Shepard
I'm a fan of Pooh Bear, and this new board book does the Pooh justice. The artwork is fabulous, the words are simple & sweet, and the focus on weather is fun!

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Air Show!

Planes, trains, and automobiles.... Little boys love them. Even Oscar's close friend Amaya (currently 20-months-old) has a weakness for things that fly through the air or roll along the ground. So it is understandable that they would like books about our big adult toys.

When I first received a review copy of Treat Williams' and Robert Neubecker's children's picture book Air Show! I thought it was okay, but I didn't think it was anything to blog about, Oscar disagreed.

Air show was not made for 18-month-olds, it is a large hard cover book with paper pages and a decent amount of text. As a bookseller I would think it was for ages 2-6, except that my 18-month-old CANNOT get enough of Airshow! Soon I will have the book memorized. Air Show! is about planes, and Oscar likes planes. In the book Ellie and her family are flying to an airshow, where they get to look at planes (lots of planes) and Ellie gets to fly in a stunt plane. The fact that a little girl is the main character in a plane book is cute, her older brother is there too, but as the story says, "he was just a know-it-all." The book has a bunch of pilot talk in it, and I am absolutely sure that when I read:

"Directional gyro?"

Oscar has NO IDEA what I am talking about, because I have NO IDEA what I am talking about. But, it doesn't matter. That text is on a page with a picture of an airplane's control panel thingy, the two pilots, and Ellie and her brother. I sound official reading it, and I guess that is enough for Oscar because he LOVES the picture.

Oscar loves EVERY picture in this book, including the spectacular center fold-out of the air show with 22 different airplanes illustrated and labeled with their name and the year they were made. Even I enjoy looking at the fold-out, and I'm not a plane person. When I got the review copy, it wasn't bound, so I put holes in it and tied it together with yarn to read it to Oscar. That binding might have been okay if I read it once or twice a week, but it didn't withstand 5 readings a day. So we bought the hard cover. Air Show! is the FIRST hard cover picture book I have bought for Oscar, it probably won't be the last, but Air Show does earn a special place in our family for being the first. 

As I mentioned before, I'm not a plane person; I'm also not a car person, but I will profess a weakness for trains. So, Treat Williams and Robert Neubecker, can you work together on a book about trains for me? Thanks. - Genevieve

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Oooh Ahhh Da? Go go? Can you read me some more Richard Scarry please?

As the former manager of multiple parent education programs for a local non-profit, I went to numerous trainings that discussed the need for crisp, clear, simple pictures in children's books with lots of contrast. And I can say that when Oscar was an infant bold simple lines did get his attention. The problem is kids don't stay infants for long. At 18 months Oscar has not yet discarded the board books of his infant past, but they are NOT his first choice. His first choice are books with busy pictures, with lots of different things to point to, and preferably filled with cars, trains, and planes, tractors all of which Oscar calls "go go". Essentially Oscar's first choice is Richard Scarry.

Richard Scarry, the author I grew up with and knew so well, is and I suppose will always be, popular. Pictures of rabbits, pigs, and worms driving and inevitably crashing cars resonates with kids. Fortunately Richard Scarry has A LOT of books, so though my beautiful child always wants to read his stories, at least I have a number of stories to choose from. We have Busiest Fire Fighter's Ever, Please and Thank You Book, A Day at the Airport and The Best Mistake Ever! and other Stories all of which were $3.99. We also have Richard Scarry's What do People Do All Day big book, which retails for $14.00 The big book is Oscar's favorite, and my least favorite; it is big, and FILLED with lots of pictures and lots of stories, and Oscar wants me to read it to him for hours. I love reading to my child, but my throat does get sore after a while. So I prefer Richard Scarry's shorter books, but Oscar disagrees.

Though Richard Scarry remains popular and relevant, there have been some revisions to his stories, many of which were first published in the 60s and 70s.  Here is a link to an awesome comparison of the 1963 and the 1991 edition of the Best Word Book Ever. Even the modern editions printed in the 90's don't include cell phones; in the Busiest Fire Fighters Ever! Mr Frumble alerts the fire fighters to a fire by pulling the handle of the alarm box in the street. Today he would dial 911 on his cell phone, and if he didn't have a cell phone he would flag down other pedestrians or drivers on the street to use their cell phone. (I'm one of those rare people without a cell, but don't worry I have a plan, in emergencies I'll use other people's phones). Regardless, the alarm box on the street goes over Oscar's head; he likes the fire engines, and the pigs wearing colander helmets. Actually Oscar is too young to get the the joke of the fire fighter pigs wearing colander helmets, but I get it, and it does make the book more enjoyable for me. This is important, because I have to read the book over and over and over and over and over AGAIN!

Incidentally, in 1968 Richard Scarry received an advance of up to $100,000.000 for What Do People Do All Day, he was outselling Dr. Seuss, and yet he never won any awards for his work. Here is a link to an excellent short biography of the man.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Spring Reads

I've been off the computer for much of the last two months, so I apologize for the lack of new posts to this site. But, my time away from the computer has allowed me to spend much more time READING. And I've discovered some new gems to share with you.

Popularity Papers by Amy Ignatow
A great many wonderful books for reluctant readers have been published in the last couple years, but the majority seem to be geared towards the male reader. I'm not sure why this is? Although I would love to believe that females are superior at everything, I have a hard time believing that there are no females who read reluctantly.

Well now reluctant female readers have a spectacular book to curl up with! In fact, this is a book for avid readers as well. Amy Ignatow's popularity papers takes the form a  journal put together by two best friends - there are lots of pictures (that tell the story rather than illustrate it) and the entries from the different friends are in different ink colors and fonts (one is cursive)! There is definitely text in the book, but you don't go much more than three paragraphs without some seriously colorful illustrations.

While the idea of the Popularity Papers is cute and humorous (two best friends trying to discover the secret to popularity), what really makes this book stand out is Amy Ignatow's ability to create fully fleshed out, beautifully human characters with just a couple sentences and an illustration. The book is funny, but there is an underlying depth and truth to characters and interactions that is rare in books of this genre. Actually I can't remember the last time I read a book in which EVERY SINGLE CHARACTER has rounded edges. Even Graceling, the book I will rave about later in this post has some one-dimensional characters in it. What Amy Ignatow has managed to do, in a book for 8 to 12-year-olds, is truly unique. She is a talent to watch.

Falcon Quinn and the Black Mirror by Jennifer Finney Boylan
Falcon Quinn is a good, fun read, with action, adventure, and plot twists that actually take a reader by surprise. Falcon Quinn is a young boy who, with many others, attends a monster academy. But no one, not even the teachers, know just what kind of monster Falcon is. Although Falcon's monster mystery hardly matters as the monster teachers seem to be trying to squash all the monsterness out of their monster students. Readers will learn just how many different kinds of monsters there are; did you know there are monster slugs? Go figure!

You aren't going to discover the meaning of life while reading Falcon, but you are going to enjoy the book, and if you are like me you will be quite anxious to read the sequel. This is a good start to a fun series for 10 - 14-year-olds.

The Night Fairy by Laura Amy Schlitz
Imagine you just won the Newbery for your book of poems about the middle ages. You are guaranteed to be used in classrooms for decades to come, teachers are going to remember your name. So, what do you write next? A small chapter book about an injured fairy would not have been my first guess, but it works!

The Night Fairy is a handsome little tale that will be well loved by girls and boys from 6 to about 11 for years to come. An excellent follow-up to medieval poetry!

I sweated over the staff pick I wrote for this book (it hangs in front of the book in the store). I wrote two different picks, one was just too pretentious and one called the book sweet, which was guaranteed to drive any 11 to 13-year-old boy away. I ended up throwing the first two picks away and posting:
                        I love it!
Basically I wimped out. And I did use the word "sweet", but I figure the exclamation mark makes it a little more palatable.

I used the word "sweet" to describe The Strange Case of Origami Yoda because it is sweet. Many books about middle-schoolers, including the justifiably famous, best-seller Diary of a Wimpy Kid, focus on the cruel nastiness that kids live with and often perpetrate on a daily basis. Middle School can be rough, but the not all kids are mean, and they don't have to be. In Origami Yoda the dorkiest, least understandable kid turns out to be the coolest one - and that is sweet. Not all the kids are mean to him, even though they do think he is a dork, and that is also sweet. And outside of all this sweetness, it is also a funny, easy read, that I actually like better than the justifiably famous, best-selling Diary of a Wimpy Kid.

The Agency is a mystery set in Victorian England. It isn't a bad mystery, but the mystery is not what makes The Agency special. Part of what makes The Agency special is that it is about a spy agency made up of only WOMEN; could a spy agency of only women existed in Victorian England? Probably not, but that is okay, we can suspend disbelief for this book. The other part of what makes The Agency special is the dual identity of it's main character, she is an orphan who is 1/2 Chinese but is trying to pass as all white. The book has mystery and romance, which I would expect, but the conflicting cultures of a bi-racial female Victorian spy - I admit to never having seen this theme in a young adult mystery book before, and I am intrigued. Another bonus to the Agency is that it appeals to a broad age range, kids from 10 to 17 will enjoy the book.

Graceling by Kristin Cashore
I would not have thought a fantasy about gifted assassin would the best book I've read in the last year. In fact if everyone else hadn't raved about this book I might not have even picked it up. But I did pick it up, and I couldn't put it down. And now I seem oddly disappointed in all other young adult fantasies I read. Nothing is as good as Graceling. Graceling is violent, it has numerous adult themes, and it is fantastic. Absolutely fantastic. I highly recommend it to anyone over the age of 14, and it is good reading for mature 12-year-olds as well.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

A 15-Month-Old's Favorite Reads!

Oscar's Favorites

Oscar is now 15 months old. Time flies, I remember his birth as though it was yesterday. I remember his first favorite book, Squishy Turtle and Friends, a touchy feely fabric book I had memorized. We had two copies so we could keep one at home and send the other to daycare with him. We haven't read it in quite some time now. Oscar can turn pages on his own now and he has moved beyond fabric books and into the board book world. In fact we've even started reading paper paged books together. Time does fly.

So as Oscar grows older his favorite books change. It is somewhat bittersweet, I'm sad that my knowledge of every line in the Squishy Turtle is now useless, but I'm also relieved; I was really getting sick of that book. So Oscar doesn't have one single favorite book at this moment, but he has a number that he wants me to read over and over and over and over and over again. I usually humor him, but reading a book five times in a row is my limit.

Twinkle Twinkle Little Star
By Kids Play
If you press the top right corner of the book you can hear a tune and see little pinpoints of light blink (like stars) on the cover. The song and stars are what makes this inexpensive (not board but not quite paper, more like card stock) book a hit with Oscar. The only annoying thing is that I'll be three pages in and he'll flip the cover back so he can see the twinkly lights. I have enjoyed learning the additional verses to Twinkle Twinkle Little Star; the book has five verses, accompanied by lovely illustrations of nighttime critters following the star and meeting friends along the way.

Bright Baby Touch and Feel
By Roger Priddy
Oscar loves the bright and colorful photos in the bright baby touch and feel books. And he wants me to read the books to him over and over again: Truck, Apple, Dress, Shoes.... I have to admit that I will be most happy when he grows out these books. They are good books, he loves them, but they sure are boring to read aloud.

By Nina Laden
Peek-a-Who? has been one of Oscars favorite books since he was about six months old. And he still likes it. He likes the die cut pages that peek at the picture coming, and I think he likes to repetitive "ooo" sounds. He still doesn't understand the book, he doesn't know what a zoo is, or even what the choo choo of a train are. Because so much of the book is still over his head, it may be a favorite for years to come. We'll see.

By Marjorie Newman
Illustrated by Patrick Benson
This is a FANTASTIC story about Mole, who finds an abandoned baby bird, nurses it to health, and then has a hard time letting go as the bird grows up and learns to fly. One of the lines tugs at my heart every time I read it:
"He opened the cage door, and he let his bird fly away because he loved it. Then he cried."
Oscar is only 15-months-old, he has one word, "hi"; but he'll let me read him the whole book. He is interested in the pictures, some of which are breathtakingly beautiful and sweet. I'm thrilled that this is one of his favorite books.
By Sandra Boynton
The majority of my friends with children are BIG Boynton fans. Oscar (and I), oddly did not jump on to the Boynton bandwagon as early as some of his friends, but with Moo Baa Lalala he is joining in! If I had the patience for it he would have me read it ten times in a row. The book calls for making a lot of animal sounds, something both Oscar and I enjoy.

By Sylvia Long
Though this book has been in the bookstore forever, I never picked it up. I have never been a fan of the Hush Little Baby song. Fortunately a co-worker keyed me into the fact that Sylvia Long was also not a fan of the song, and in this lovely little board book she has re-written it! No longer is mama buying everything under the sun for her little baby, instead mama is showing her baby the wonders of the night, shooting stars, the harvest moon. I sing the book to Oscar every night, it is part of our routine.

The Giant Jam Sandwich
By John Vernon Lord
Verses by Janet Burroway
In truth Oscar rarely sits through this full-story board book, but he does like it, and I don't mind that we often skip a page or four. I love the rhyming verse, and I love that I remember the book from my own youth; it was first published in 1972. I think Oscar loves how excited I am when he brings it over to me to read. He also enjoys pointing out the picture in the book that is on the cover.

By Green Start
The board book has sweet rhymes, and Oscar will mostly sit through it, but what he really likes are the memory match cards. He can't match a single card. They are color coded, so that the mama panda has a green border and the baby panda has a green border, but even with that color assistance he cannot yet match the mama and baby panda together. But still he loves the cards. He loves taking the cards out of the box, he loves putting them into the box, he loves handing me cards, and taking them from me. Eventually we may actually use the cards to play a game of memory, but I doubt it will happen any time soon.

Friday, February 19, 2010


The Perfect Gift for any boy under 5 (and quite a few girls too)...

Wheelies are basic board books, with 1 - 5 word descriptions of pictures of tractors, motorcycles, or sports cars....with wheels. So if your sweet little one is not quite into books yet, they will see it as a toy car. If your sweet little one does like books, then they get a book and a toy in one.

Around 6 months of age Oscar developed a fascination with wheels; he would try to eat the ones on the stroller, which was a little gross. So he really liked the Wheelie book I got him on diggers. He didn't know what a digger was, but he would sit through me turning a page or two, and then he would play with the wheels. Now at 14 months he wants me to read to book, and still plays with it as a toy - wheeling it across the room.

As with most toys, there is a possibility that a Wheelie's wheels could come off, and if that happened parts could be a choking hazard. So don't let a child younger than three play with a Wheelie, without supervision. That said, I have not yet seen a Wheelie disintegrate, but that doesn't mean it can't happen.

Until my next post, all Wheelies at the bookstore are 20% off. Have a great weekend!

Friday, January 29, 2010

Books for Your little Sweethearts!


Of course a hug is the best gift one can receive on Valentines Day. Home made cards are also nice, especially if they are received Valentines Day, and not two days later (pay attention dear husband). But I have to say that chocolate is not a nice gift, it is fattening, it melts in the sun, and it can be hard to share. Books however, are not fattening, can take quite a bit of heat and light, and are best shared. So if you must give a gift for Valentines Day, I highly recommend giving a book. Below are some of my favorites.

Loving Board Books
Too Many Kisses by Ethan Long
Oscar can only say three words, and they aren't "I love you". He can say "hi", "bye", and "hot" - though Delia who watches him Tuesdays and Thursdays swears he can say "vaca" (Spanish for cow). So maybe he can say four words. I'm not really sure how many words he can understand, but I'm pretty sure he doesn't know the word "kisses" or "gurgle" or "shlurp"; this lack of word knowledge doesn't stop him from breaking into a fit of giggles when we push the "PRESS ME! KISS ME!" button on this board book and hear an awesome slurpy moochy kiss. Too Many Kisses is the only book that will make my 13-month-old laugh out loud.

Hugs and Kisses by Priddy Books
Love bugs, dancing bees, and bear hugs - what more could you ask for in a touch and feel valentines book that retails for $4.95. It is a smacking good deal.

Love with a Bit of Plot.
Henry in Love by Peter McCarty

Whimsy and some shading make the illustrations in Peter McCarty's Book about Henry, a cat in love with his rabbit classmate Chloe, sentimentally striking. The moral of the story is that you can't give up much more than a blueberry muffin, and it is painfully true.

Slugs in Love by Susan Pearson
Slugs in Love may not have the beauty of Henry in Love, and in truth it's plot is not quite as achingly honest. But it does have humor, and rhymes, and I like it. Actually I like Slugs more than Henry, but the majority of my co-workers prefer Henry, so he got top billing. I suppose they think a classroom full of animals that would normally eat each other is more realistic than two slugs writing romantic poems to one another, in slime, throughout a garden patch. You be the judge.

The Valentine Classic
I Like You by Sandol Stoddard Warburg

The perfect gift for a friend of any age!

"If I pretend I am drowning
You pretend you are saving me"

Black ink illustrations accompany all the wonderful, playful reasons I Like You.