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, December 20, 2012

Thank You Jan Brett!

Last year at this time I welcomed my second son, Henry into our family. This glorious occasion had an unfortunate side effect, apparently after two children one looses the ability to focus on the printed word. Okay, that is an exaggeration, but after a year of minimal sleep and hectic days it is true that my reading has decreased dramatically. This lack of reading led to a lack of blog posts. I knew I wouldn't be able to do my 5 BEST Lists this year, but I was hoping put out a good Christmas post. I was looking forward to sharing new and beautiful tales of snow and Santa with you. Alas that is not to be, while I do love the board book edition of Uri Shulevitz's SNOW I was generally underwhelmed by this year's Christmas picture book production. Fortunately I have past years to draw on, and fortunately one talented author and artist is so prolific and so fond of snowy scenes I don't even have to try hard to put up a good display.

Thank you Jan Brett. Thank you for allowing me to put up displays every Christmas that not only sell books (so very important for our struggling little store), but allow me smiles every time I pass by. It seems that every time I look at Jan Brett cover, I see something new, a little detail I missed before. Your books look beautiful on our store tables, and I am so happy to have them to rely on.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Halloween Board Books!

2012 is a stellar year for the Halloween Board Book Fans (I may be the only fan, so in that case it is a stellar year for me)! This season we've seen the publication of not one, not two, but THREE fantastic chewable readers that will hopefully never go out of print.

1. Ghost in the House! by Kazuno Kohara

This graphic masterpiece appeals not just to the youngest of readers (great contrast) but toddlers, pre-schoolers, and parents as well. While the illustrations are captivating and the story is sweet, the book is just odd enough to give mom and dad a good chuckle. In a nutshell, a girl moves into a house, it is haunted, but it turns out she's a witch, so she washes the ghosts and uses them as curtains and sheets. He he he, ghost sheets. The hardcover edition was named a best illustrated children's book by the New York Times in 2008. The author is/was a Japanese student in the U.K. studying printmaking. I think she's found a job.

2. Room on the Broom by Julia Donaldson, illustrated by Axel Sheffler

A Halloween Classic joins the board book club! This story of a witch, who can't seem to keep it together but is kind enough to offer everyone a ride, has been well loved since it first came out in hard cover in 2001. That is over 10 years of adoration! While the story has more words than the typical board book, this more durable format will be appreciated by families with more than one mini reader (a book that can entertain the 4-year-old but won't be destroyed by the 8-month-old - yeah!). Just like Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel and Stellaluna this story is loved by all ages in all formats.

This parody of Goodnight Moon is creepy enough to stand on its own! Mesmerizingly detailed illustrations will enchant all readers, even those who won't be able to get the joke. Lots of ghoulish critters and simple text make this a keeper for years to come.


Halloween 123s by Patricia Reeder Eubank

Halloween Bugs by David A. Carter

Friday, August 10, 2012

Best Books & Gifts for a 6 Month Old!

First apologies, it has been way too long since my last post. In my defense, I've had little sleep or time and we've been on two long vacations. I really enjoyed the vacations, but still it is nice to be back home, and back to blogging.


These fabulous little books are made of a strong paper-like material similar to that used in some postal mailers. They are small "paper" books that babies can grab, slobber on, and chew without choking, or worse, without destroying the book! Alas these were not available when my first son was born, but my second son, Henry, LOVES them! Henry loves to grab paper, and he is very good at it - I couldn't find my boarding pass as we were getting on a plane, turns out it was in Henry's mouth. Unfortunately paper, boarding passes included, are choking hazards, Henry started to gag and the boarding pass remnants were quickly finger swept out. He cried only for a moment, because I grabbed an Indestructible out of my purse and all was well. He still had fun crinkly paper to play with and I didn't have to worry about him dying.

The artwork used in these books are very colorful and full of contrast. None of the books have words in them, this is a benefit to many who like to make up their own stories or simply point to things in the pictures. I, however, am not always feeling that creative so my favorite Indestructibles  are the ones that illustrate nursery rhymes because then I always have something to say. They currently retail for $4.95 each (a bargain in the baby book world) and are available nearly everywhere books are sold, except the grocery store, which sells books now too I suppose (but not Indestructibles).

To parents of six-month-olds this might seem rather obvious, but I have learned that adults quickly forget what babies play with and are often at a loss of what to give as presents. Of course not all rattles are equal. The plastic rattles you can get almost anywhere aren't bad, but they aren't the rattles Oscar or Henry reached for the most. 

Henry's favorite rattle is about as classic as they come, in fact it's official marketing title is Standard Bell Rattle. His brother picked it out for him before he was born. Currently Henry enjoys not only it's tinkling bell rattle, but also it's ability to be a drum stick and a teething toy all in one go. The paint has yet to chip and I feel totally safe that he isn't going to end up with little bits of wood in his gums This rattle is so well made I'm pretty sure that Henry will be able to give it to his own children. Maple Landmark, the company that made his rattle, makes numerous rattles in many shapes and sizes.

Both of my sons loved and love the natural rubber teether toy Sophie the Giraffe by Vulli.In addition to inheriting his older brother's Sophie, Henry was blessed with an additional rubber teether toy by Vulli called Chan Pie Gnon Blue, which looks like an alien boob; he loves it, and yes, I do breast feed. There is something about the texture of the rubber that my children love, I'm really glad we got them as gifts, they are appreciated. Vulli natural rubber teethers are available many many places, but I put in links to YoYo.com because I know they have good customer service.

String-Alongs Board Books
Chronicle Books makes two different sets of small shaped board books with holes in the middle through which you can put a string (or shoelace really). They are books, beads, and little blocks all in one. These books have a fabulous slick texture that both of my children LOVE. We have multiple little board books, but these are by far their favorites. I taught Oscar the shapes using the Moma String-Alongs set and currently Henry loves to eat the little books as well as play with them as a rattle when they are all strung together in a circle. Oscar still loves to open the books up, peer through their holes, and pretend that he is wearing fancy glasses. This year Chronicle came out with an Eric Carle String-Alongs set. We don't own it, but it sure looks cute!

At six months Henry cannot stack or nest our blocks, but he can grab them easily and surprisingly the cardboard is not harmed by his slobber. The nice thing about the nesting blocks, rather than cups, is that they will be enjoyed for years and years to come. Oscar, at three and a half, is just conquering the art of stacking them in the correct order and as ours are colored with bright graphics, numbers, and letters, we've been using them for number recognition as well. In addition to their traditional uses, they make excellent multi-story garages for little cars and are fairly decent toy containers. I advocate cardboard over wood because they don't hurt if they fall down on you. The set we have is rather expensive ($25), but it is worth it. Avoid Melissa & Doug versions, they look great but the quality is awful - they probably would not be able to withstand the drool.

I apologize for being unable to rotate the photos below - it's a problem on my computer I need to fix.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Gardening Books

I love my garden. I don't have any great fondness for digging or weeding, but the joy I feel eating a tomato off the vine that I PLANTED is real. I want to share this joy with my children. Fortunately there are some adorable books that can help.

by Elizabeth Spurr
illustrated by Manelle Oliphant
Ages 0-3
This little board book is actually my favorite gardening book to come out this season. Each page has only one to two words on it, yet the book rhymes AND it actually explains the entire gardening process. Author Elizabeth Spurr has accomplished something incredible, yet she made it so simple it looks easy. The illustrations are clear and cute and perfect. This is a book every gardening family should own.

by Bonnie Christensen
Ages 2-6
The illustrations in this book are jaw-dropping. Gardens become works of art (which is sorta what they are). The story, told in spare verse that sometimes rhymes, is about two friends who work on their garden throughout the entire year. The story ends with a Thanksgiving feast and a final page with notes about growth processes. The final page is really very good. This is a beautiful and informative book for pre-schoolers.
by Julie Fogliano
illustrated by Erin E. Stead
Ages 3-7
As much a book about longing as it is a book about gardening, And Then It's Spring is a whimsical masterpiece whose best-seller status already defines it as well-loved. It is about a boy who waits, and waits, surrounded by brown, hoping for a hint of green. There is one spectacular illustration in which the boy listens for the hum of green and you can see his little seeds, planted in mounds, growing roots underground, but without shoots yet. You can also see ant and mice tunnels burrowing beneath the little seed roots. The book does not give much information on gardening, but that isn't really it's point. The focus of the story is on the waiting, longing, and yearning for your plants to GROW.

by Stella Fry
illustrated by Sheila Moxley
Ages 3-8
This story of a boy helping his Grandpa with his garden has all the gritty details. Compost - Grandpa's got it. Slugs - Grandpa's got those too. The book really gives you the sense of a garden as a year-long pursuit with Grandpa out there in every season. After reading it you will feel like you've got dirt under your fingernails. If you actually want to get some dirt under those fingernails there is an informative back section with crop rotation info and more that will help you get started.

by Kathleen Kudlinski
illustrated by David Schuppert
Ages 2-8
This is not a new title, and it is not a book about gardening, but it so perfectly illustrates how plants grow that I felt I had to include it. With remarkably entertaining text What Do Roots Do? shows us how all plants live and survive through their roots. The illustrations are marvelous. This book makes the science of plant growth a lot of fun!

Friday, April 27, 2012

The Cloud Spinner - This Time the Moralizing is Okay...

I'm a Hypocrite...

I HATE books with obvious political messages. In the adult world I am baffled by peoples' desire pay money for books that simply confirm what they already believe.. When authors try to politicize kids books I usually throw a tantrum. One aspect of youth, is that the young don't believe their books are lying to them - if it is written, it is true. A story, a story is true, but politics...one man's truth is another's lie.

But I'm a hypocrite. I'm a hypocrite because I like The Cloud Spinner. It could be argued that the message contained within this charming picture book is not political. Many things could be argued about the book; in fact this book makes me argue with myself.  But unarguably, The Cloud Spinner has an obvious message, and I like it all the same.

Here is the story in a nutshell:

 A young boy spins cloth from the clouds, he spins himself a head covering for hot days and scarf for cold days, and this is okay because it is just enough. But then the king sees his scarf and wants an outfit made of the same material, he also wants an outfit for his queen and princess as well. So the boy spins the cloth from the clouds for all these outfits, and he uses up the clouds, causing a drought. The princess brings the fancy clothes back to the boy and he spins them back into clouds and everyone is happy even though the princess is now wearing a plain dress.

The story is a philosophical colander. For example what is "enough"? Why is okay for him to have a cloud scarf? Surely if everyone had a cloud scarf the clouds would disappear just as they did for the royal outfits. The boy cannot be the only one who gets a cold neck in winter. But despite the holes, the overarching message, that we should not take from the world what we don't need, is clear.

This is a message that I take to heart. I battle my personal consumerism on a daily basis. Have you heard of Zulily? If you are willing to wait 6 weeks you can have adorable clothes and toys for up to 80% off. Every morning I go shopping on Zulily, I pick out what I want and put it into the shopping cart, and then I talk myself out of it. Oh that item is imported, I bet it is from China, I'm trying not to buy things from China. Think of all the transportation costs that went into that. And if it is only costing you $10 you can be sure that the poor factory worker who made it in China isn't getting a penny for it. Yes that is cute and yes your mother-in-law would love that color but if she really needed it she would have bought it herself and you don't have the money to be buying gifts. Oscar has ENOUGH TOYS... no really, who is it for, you or the kid? You see I WANT STUFF, but I know I shouldn't want stuff. I believe that if I do really want the stuff I should be willing the pay the fair price for it so that everyone (the creator, the transporter, the seller) makes a decent living.I have this idea that we should all be spending more money on less stuff, but it is hard to live by my ideal, especially when the deals are so good. I battle my personal consumerism every day.

The Cloud Spinner tangibly ties consumerism (the kings wants) into the destruction of the world. That is pretty impressive for a kids book. It is preachy, it does have a political message, but I like it all the same. Alison Jay's fantastic artwork doesn't hurt. The pictures are not quite as jaw-dropping as Listen Listen, but they are still mighty impressive. Therefore I think everyone should ignore the message of the book and go out and buy it!

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Great Spring Reads

2012 is shaping up to be a great year for Children's Literature! 

Me and Earl and the Dying Girl by Jesse Andrews (14 & up)
Refreshingly humorous and poignant this book by first time author Jesse Andrews introduces us to the surprisingly lovable anti-hero Greg, whose only goal in life is to remain invisible. I could not stop laughing through the first two-thirds of this book. I loved the ending, but most of all, I loved Earl, Greg's only friend.

The 10 PM Question by Kate De Goldi (12 & up)
A friend traveled to New Zealand (where this book was originally published) and brought it back for me to read. She loved it, and I loved it, and now it has finally made it to our country! Alas, like many other great titles, this one is hard to describe - but in a nutshell it beautifully illustrates the love between friends, and between members of families that fall outside the narrow range of normal.

FOR MIDDLE GRADES (ya know - all those kids who read chapter books but aren't yet teens)
A Greyhound of a Girl by Roddy Doyle (8-12)
Four generations of Irish women gallivant around town. Oh! And one of those ladies is a ghost. This book makes me wish I was Irish just so I could join in on their fun. Actually the situation, which revolves around a dying grandmother, isn't really fun, but with fantastic humorous dialogue Roddy Doyle (the author of The Commitments) makes you wish you were there.

Fake Mustache by Tom Angleberger (8-12)
What can you do with a good fake mustache and a "man about town" suit? Oh, well if you are in 7th grade, you can take over the world. Or you could have taken over the world if your best friend and an actress from a cancelled pre-teen TV show hadn't gotten in your way. Actually, Fake Mustache is told from the point of view of the best friend, but I have to admit my sympathies lie with the mustache wearer. Like Anglebergers fantastic Origami Yoda series, this book is chock full of humor, but unlike Origami Yoda, it leaves reality far far behind.

Betty Bunny Wants Everything by Michael Kaplan, illustrated by Stephane Jorisch (4-8)
Betty Bunny is like the Berenstain Bears with an artistic upgrade and a sharp edged sense of humor. Her books (of which there are now two) have morals, but Betty Bunny is a reluctant learner. In fact it could be argued she doesn't learn the moral at all. But the reader will learn the morals, even if the protagonist misses the big picture. Speaking of pictures, I LOVE the artwork, and I love the bunny family's sense of style.