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.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

A Refreshing Breeze of Good Work in the Early Chapter Books

I have read too many early chapter books in which nothing happens. The writing can be beautiful, poetic, exquisite; the books can have fantastic, complicated, 3-dimensional 7-year-old heroes and heroines; and the books can be utter bores. It seems as though a number of good authors have decided that because children like very simple picture books when they are young, they will like very simple chapter books when they start reading on their own. It is a logical conclusion, but it doesn't work. Early chapter books should have simple sentences, so beginning readers can read them, but the story doesn't have to be dull. Picture books are perhaps the ONLY works of fiction that don't need plot, but for all other forms, for adults, and for kids, plot is pretty essential.

Fortunately there are some authors out there writing page-turning, hilarious, heart-felt early chapter books, and most recently the best one has come from an author famous for her picture books.

Doreen Cronin is best known for her picture book Click Clack Moo which was a Caldecott Honor Book in 2001, but my personal favorites of her many picture books are the books in her Diary series: Diary of a Worm, Diary of a Spider, and the truly hilarious Diary of a Fly.   She has now taken her excellent sense of humor and put it in chapter form with the exceptional The Trouble with Chickens.
The Trouble with Chickens is a crime noir where J.J. Tully, a hard-boiled, retired search-and-rescue dog agrees to help track down a missing chicken. There is adventure, a villain, an impossible escape, and more laughs than I ever would have expected. The last time I read a crime noir this good it was Michael Chabon's Yiddish Policemen's Union, and that won the Nebula Award for Best Novel, the Locus Award for Best SF Novel, the Hugo Award for Best Novel, and the Sidewise Award for Alternate History for Best Novel. It was shortlisted for the British Science Fiction Association Award for Best Novel and the Edgar Allan Poe Award for Best Novel.[1] As of December 2008, a film adaptation is in pre-production, to be written and directed by the Coen brothers. My point is, I can pick 'em, and I pick The Trouble with Chickens as the best crime novel for grades 3-7 EVER WRITTEN.
In 2009 Robert Paul Weston made an incredible early chapter book debut with Zorgamazoo. Zorgamazoo is a fantasy adventure novel for grades 3-7 that rhymes. THE ENTIRE BOOK IS WRITTEN IN RHYME! It is funny and fun, and when you are done your will not think in simple sentences but rather in iambic pentameter. 
 Publisher Marketing:
Are You a Believer in Fanciful Things? In Pirates and Dragons and Creatures and Kings?
Then sit yourself down in a comfortable seat, with maybe some cocoa and something to eat, and I'll spin you the tale of Katrina Katrell, a girl full of courage (and daring, as well!), who down in the subway, under the ground, saw something fantastical roaming around . . .
What was it she saw? I'd rather not say. (Who's ever heard of a Zorgle, anyway?)
But if you are curious, clever and brave, if intrepid adventure is something you crave, then open this book and I'll leave it to you to uncover the secret of ZORGAMAZOO!

Ursula K. Le Guin is a lion in the science fiction world, and she also happens to have written one of my favorite series for kids, Catwings. Catwings is a series of little chapter books about cats with wings. The stories are not funny -  in fact they can be heart-breaking - but they are all exciting, with happy endings and fantastic, classic illustrations that you remember forever. The books are for grades 1-5, though in truth the sentences are more complicated than most 1st graders could read on their own.  Each little book retails for $4.99, but personally I'd recommend buying the set (while it is still in print).