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.

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.