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.

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.