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, 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.