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, 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.