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, September 12, 2013

Interactive Board Books - Lift the Flap, Pull the Tab, Touch the Feather, It's Fun!

These are the books that encourage infants and toddlers to actively participate in the story. It starts with touchy feeling books around six months. Babies graduate to lift the flaps at around a year, and at 18 months or so toddlers can finally pull the tabs to make tails wag. Some of these books are works of art - but don't get too attached, because if you let your child play with these books, they will get destroyed. It is a catch 22, the books are designed to be touched, but when children touch them flaps are torn off the page, feathers are slobbered on, and movable heads are simply removed. Just remember the book is for the child, not you.

David A. Carter

Feely bugs, space bugs, fairy bugs; Mr. Carter is famous for his bugs. But he isn't all bugs, my family's favorite David A. Carter is The Happy Little Yellow Box. Henry (my 20-month-old) has been a big fan for about three months now - I've already had to repair it twice.

Feely Bugs is a great book to give at a baby shower, or for a child's first Christmas. Kids start enjoying it around six months old and continue to love the book until around two. It is a touchy feely book of the ultimate sort. It has feather, crinkles, and some really cool bugs.

This interactive gem has flaps to lift, tabs to pull, and even some pop-ups. However, it is much simpler than many pull tab books and is appropriate for kids as young as 12 months. The super duper cool page, or at least Henry's favorite, is the giant pop-up box with the smaller pop-up box inside (to illustrate large & small). Henry has torn the box half-way off the book, but fortunately some scotch tape put it right again. Henry saw the picture of the book on the screen just now, so of course I had to read it to him. He pointed to the Box's eyes and said "eyes". It is so exciting when they start to speak! Kids are so much fun! And the books just add to the joy.

AGES 2-4
Builder Bugs is a lift the flap, pop-up book. Unlike Feely Bugs or The Happy Yellow Box it is too delicate for younger toddlers, and is really geared towards kids two to four years old. I can't wait to give it to Henry for Christmas.






Matthew Van Fleet

I've seen Mr. Van Fleet's gorgeous books recommended for kids ages 1 and up, but personally I would hold off until the child is at least 18 months old. The books are so beautiful, I can't stand to see them destroyed on their first reading, and destroying these books is exactly what a 1-year-old will do. But at 18 months there is hope, the heads and tails might not last for ever, but hopefully they'll last longer than a single reading.

Though Matthew Van Fleet became famous for his book Tails (below) I first took notice when DOG came out and the publisher sent a promotional party package to my bookstore. Unlike most promotional packages, this one was great. There were dogs masks to color and even instructions on conducting a barking contest with awards! So we had a dog party, it was awesome; kids really know how to bark! Alas my family are not dog people, we like cats. Thus we (or really Oscar) fell in love with CAT. The swatting paw didn't last long, but I actually saved it in our desk drawer and re-attached it for Henry. At this moment the paw is still in the book, but who knows for how long...

Tails is the book that made Van Fleet famous, and it is still one of his most popular titles. Its colorful, fuzzy, and clunky all at once, of course people love it!

We have three Van Fleet books, and this is Henry's favorite. It isn't that Oscar doesn't like it, but we didn't get it until Oscar was 4 and as it didn't have any sharks or dinosaurs in it he wasn't interested. As kids get older they get pickier. Henry likes photos more than illustrations, and he's at the age where he is still learning animal sounds. Basically this book is perfect for him. Our chicken lost its head and no longer pecks, but so far that is the only casualty. If you are looking for a book to give as a gift MOO would be a good choice.

The Weird and Beloved

In Pat the Beastie two mean children pull a beast's worm boogers, bonk his nose, yank is fur and so on until he eats them up. It is not your typical children's story, but the kids love it and there are plenty of adults who get a kick out of it as well.

In the follow-up to Pat the Beastie the two naughty children promise to be good so the Beastie spits them out and they play at the park together. There are plenty of tabs to pull and flaps to lift at the playground, though there isn't a lot of hair to tug.

Dr. Seuss

This lift the flap book appeals to a surprisingly large age group. The book pulls out like a train with different creatures in each car performing different tricks beneath the flaps. Oscar, who will be five in three months, stops to listen and help with the flaps when I read this to Henry.

Wet Pet (etc) is a touchy feely book with some extra flair. There is one pull tab that not even my four-year-old can manage on his own, and one lift the flap that is especially easy to tear off. Despite these pitfalls the book is still good enough for me to share it with you. It has fabulous feathers, fur, and even rings. And it is fun to read, in general, Dr. Seuss is fun to read.

Peter Rabbit

I love Beatrix Potter, I love her tales and I especially love Peter Rabbit and Benjamin Bunny. That said the stories are too complicated to read to babies and toddlers and I feel the constant references to all the Beatrix Potter tales in board books are for the parents and not the kids. But I included this book because it is one of the most durable interactive books I have ever seen!The pages are especially thick with sliding tabs that are easy for little fingers to maneuver. This is one interactive book that might actually make it through multiple children!

Henry's Favorite

Tons of Trucks is modeled on the Matthew Van Fleet style of books. However, it isn't as beautiful or clever as Matthew Van Fleet books usually are. But Matthew Van Fleet doesn't yet have a book about trucks, I wish he did. Despite not being FABULOUS, Tons of Trucks is a cute book, and Henry LOVES it. It has tabs and flaps AND it has trucks. He is a fan.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Dinosaur Books

Oscar, my preschooler, is obsessed with dinosaurs. Oscar came to this obsession in a somewhat round-about way, which I'll discuss at the end of this post, but for now let me just say that I encourage his dinosaur obsession whole heartily. In the last six months we have gone from two dinosaur books to 16.

Testing The Dino Waters

Maybe your child only kinda likes dinosaurs or maybe your child could care less and you want to encourage a dinosaur passion. If any of the above fits your family you don't want to shell out a lot of money for a big dinosaur encyclopedia - yet. Here are some good options for books you can purchase to encourage the dino romance.

Level Readers

 Level Readers are thin rectangular paperback books that generally retail for $3.99. Each book is assigned a reading level from 1 to 4. Ideally they exist to purchase for children who are starting to read on their own and their number is supposed to correspond to the child's reading ability. This is great for your child if they are indeed reading on their own, but you don't have to wait until your child can read to purchase level readers. They are a great source of fun non-fiction for preschoolers, and there are a lot of level readers about dinosaurs. I wouldn't worry too much about what level the book is; while some Level 1 Readers have a single word per page, others have multiple sentences; some Level 4 readers are divided into chapters, while others have a single paragraph on each page. Ideally you would look for a cover you like in a book store and scroll through the book to see if your kid would sit through it, but if you can't do that and you take a gamble you are only out $3.99. The odds are in your favor. This link will take you to a LIST of dino Level Readers.

Dinosaur Picture Books

These Picture Books feature dinosaurs, but you don't have to be a dino fanatic to appreciate the story. The joy your child feels when listening to the story could be transferred into a joy for dinosaurs; at least that is the hope.

by Carol Diggory Shields
illustrated by Scott Nash
This rockin', rollin' rhyme about a dinosaur dance party is not only fun for the kids, but it is witty enough to entertain the adults as well. Dance-o-holics will love it just as much as the Dino fans.

by Ian Whybrow
illustrated by Adrian Reynolds 
(Some editions of this book are titled Sammy and the Dinosaurs)
This is a sweet story about a little boy who finds a box of old dinosaurs in the attic, removes them to a bucket, and takes them everywhere he goes. It includes a multigenerational family, a single mother, and less than perfect sibling dynamics. Oscar adored this story, and for about three months we read it every day.

by Molly Idle
This tale of a tea party gone wrong combines proper wording with hysterically improper illustrations. The text will not be enough for younger readers, so be prepared to expand, but the older kids will understand perfectly. What I especially like about this dino-inclusive tale is its appeal to all genders. There aren't enough dinosaur books that feature female protagonists. If you know of some please pass your knowledge on in the comments. 

by Dennis Nolan
This tale of a boy going back through time to deliver a baby dinosaur to its family is endearing and fascinating. The concept of time is such a part of the story it makes the story as a whole seem endless. It's just beautiful.

You Have A Dino Fan On Your Hands:

Once your child has truly gotten the dinosaur bug you are going to need something more substantial than a level reader or picture book story. To satiate the dinosaur lust you are going to need something more encyclopedic in nature.

The Biggest Bang for Your Buck

These books won't break the bank, but they will give your dino fanatic enough to chew on to be a good meal.
by Jerry Pallotta
illustrated by Ralph Masiello  
26+ Dinosaurs with corresponding dino facts, and fantastic illustrations. You learn your alphabet, and you scratch your dinosaur itch. Perfect!

by David Burnie
Part of the Kingfisher Navigators series.
This thin but large paperback explains fossil creation & excavation, dinosaur biology & sociology, and the end of their world, all with outstanding graphics and illustrations.

by DK Publishing
This small hardcover has 147 pages of dinosaur knowledge (not including the glossary or index). It also has more dino illustrations than I can count; there can be as many as four illustrations of different dinosaurs on a single page. It covers a lot so don't expect any in depth knowledge on any one species, but considering it's price (currently the book retails for $7.99) you're getting a spanking deal.

Your Child Deserves the Best, Give it

 You could of course buy your child a fantastic hardcover Dinosaur Encyclopedia that can be passed on to your grandchildren. Sure more knowledge will be gained by that time, but my family has been joyfully looking at a Dinosaur encyclopedia from the early 90s, because even though it is 20 years old, the dinosaurs are even older. Here is a list of the numerous beautiful Dinosaur Encyclopedias you can invest in.

Best Dinosaur Gifts

If you're heading to a birthday party or need a treat for a trip these books are sure to be a dinorific hit!

by Matthew Reinhart
This small  interactive paperback pop-up book is loads of fun. Kids can tug the T-Rex tail to make it roar and more! And because the book is inexpensive hearts will not be broken if pieces get torn, but thankfully the book is made of some pretty thick paper.

by Sarah Creese & Tracy Hare
They are dinosaurs and they are in 3-D. It is hard to be any cooler than that.
Color and Play Dinosaurs
by Silver Dolphin
This sets includes a surprisingly good book, colored pencils, and 4 cardboard puzzle dinosaurs you can color by number and put together. My son and his 9 year old cousin had a great time coloring the puzzle dinosaurs and my son loves to play with them. The T-Rex is always eating the other dinosaurs arms off. The book has surprisingly in-dept information about 15 different dinosaurs, and includes a map showing where the dinosaurs fossils have been found. That's my favorite, the maps. As maps go they are pretty basic, but they are great for the younger set. 

AGES 5-10
Dinosaurs Sticker Encyclopedia
by DK Publishing
These sticker encyclopedias are fun. The pages have shadows on them where the stickers go and you have to match the right sticker up with the right shadow. Each sticker has a description next to it, so when you are done you get a paperback encyclopedia. Of course you also get some extra stickers and play scenes to fool around with, so it isn't all learning. 

by Robert Sabuda & Matthew Reinhart
If you like dinosaurs, you are going to like a dinosaur pop-up book. Sabuda and Reinhart are masters of paper art and they do not disappoint.  

by Jon Richards
Build your own model T.Rex - pretty cool! 

Recommended Watching

Clearly my family loves books, but we do watch T.V. I will never argue that T.V. is better than a book, but I can say that my son has learned a lot from the dinosaur documentaries he loves:

Walking with Monsters
Walking with Dinosaurs
Walking with Beasts
Chased by Dinosaurs
Chased by Sea Monsters

Recommended Toys

Go out and buy some dinosaur models. The quality doesn't matter, your kids won't care. Oscar loves the little bag of cheap party favor dinos almost as much as our fancy Safari brand hand-painted replicas. But if YOU care Safari is a good brand, it is expensive, but all the good brands are expensive. Look around garage sales for model dinosaurs, check out Ross or other discount stores. You are going to find better deals in stores than you will online. The toys help, Oscar loves to hold a toy dinosaur while reading a book about dinosaurs. He loves playing with his dinosaurs, it's like playing dolls, but cooler.

Our Path to Dinosaur Fanatics

My son Oscar loves sharks. One day while I was working at the bookstore someone brought in a box of used books that included an adult book on prehistoric ocean monsters. Because Oscar liked sharks I thought he would like the book, so I bought it and took it home. HE LOVED IT, and he loves it still. We looked at the pictures, we read the little boxes, and finally we just started reading the the whole book, chapter by chapter, cover to cover It was loved not just by Oscar, but also by me and my husband. For the first time I was learning about prehistory, about the earth, the air and the sea BEFORE the dinosaurs. For the first time I started to understand that we were just a speck of life on this planet, one little dot in a long line of creatures and events that started long before we arrived and would continue long after were gone. I found that knowledge liberating, and I encouraged Oscars obsession with our prehistoric past not only for his gain, but also for mine. Months later we discovered that the book we all loved was based on a documentary (it is amazing that it took us this long to figure that out). We watched the documentary, LOVED IT and became even more entrenched in our new found prehistoric passion.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

A 14-Month-Old's Favorite Reads

My younger son, Henry, is now 14 months old. Being a younger sibling has its advantages, one of which is that Henry has more books to choose from. And Henry is choosy. Henry regularly shoves books into my face WHILE I am reading to him, generally a sign he likes the book in his hand better than whatever drivel I've chosen to read. This is occasionally annoying, especially when I've already read Brown Bear Brown Bear four times that morning - but you gotta humor a bibliophile, especially when he is only 14 months old.

Henry's Favorites at 14 Months

by Bill Martin Jr. & Eric Carle
Henry adores this book. His older brother was never really a fan, but they are different children. This book has simple cut-outs of animals on each page, with the phrase animal animal what do you see? (I see a (the next page's animal) looking at me). Of course every parent thinks her child is a genius, and I am no exception. I feel like Henry is especially smart. He seems to understand 85% of what we say, and I bet he just loves knowing that red bird, yellow duck, blue horse, etc. is going to turn up on the next page. I could be fooling myself, he is only 14 months old after all. But if fooling myself makes it easier to read the book 5 times in one sitting, I am happy to be a fool.

by Roberta Grobel Intrater
I have to thank Inyo County's First Five for giving us this book. So really I need to thank all the California smokers for paying an extra $0.25 a pack. That sin tax has given my family a lot of joy. We had a couple of other books with pictures of babies and kids, but this book is by far Henry's favorite. He loved it when he was 9 months old, and he loves it still. This book is part of a series, that includes Splash!, Hugs & Kisses, and more. They are fairly thin board books, and if I hadn't been given the book I probably wouldn't have spent the $4.95 on it, but that would have been my loss. It is worth every penny.

by Mem Fox
illustrated by Helen Oxenbury 
The truth is I primed Henry to love this book. I memorized it and from the time he was three weeks old I would recite the book to him while looking into his eyes and tickling his fingers and toes. By five months old he would giggle whenever I started reciting the book. But now at 14 months he is no longer happy with just a recitation, he wants to read the actual book. I'll start There was one little baby... and Henry will get up, find the book and throw it into my lap. If I take too long to start turning the pages he gets upset.

by Susan Marie Swanson
illustrated by Beth Krommes
This beautiful book has a lot of graphic contrast with bright spots of gold amid richly shaded black and white scratchboard. If you don't know what scratchboard is, don't worry, I don't either, but it looks like woodcuts and in Bette Krommes' hands it is beautiful. Because of the contrast I thought Henry would like it right away, but interestingly he was never very fond of it until a couple of months ago. He loves to point at the gold within the illustrations, be it a book, star, the sun, or the moon.  I'm happy he now loves it, because I get lost in the illustrations and I love the poem. It is always nice when Mommy's favorites are appreciated.

by Susanna Leonard Hill
illustrated by Ana Martin Larranaga
This is a simple lift-the-flap book that describes an airplane flight. Henry likes looking at airplanes in the sky, but I'm fairly sure he has no idea what lifting the wing flaps for departure actually means. Nevertheless he loves lifting those flaps. We have other lift-the-flap books, but this one is his favorite. Perhaps it is the simplicity of the illustrations? Or perhaps it is because his older brother enjoys this book as well? Regardless of the reasons, Henry, who has never been on a plane, loves the book.

by Alice Schertle
illustrated by Jill McElmurry
This book is part of a series that starts with The Little Blue Truck. We have both books, but Little Blue Truck Leads the Way is the one Henry prefers. While The Little Blue Truck takes place in the countryside and is full of animals, Little Blue Truck Leads the Way takes place in a city with lots and lots of other cars, people, and buildings, NONE of which we have where we live. We live in the rural desert with a view of sage brush out our front door. Perhaps that is why Henry loves the book so much, it is so different from what he knows.

by Eric Carle
All the animals ask Spider if she wants to play with them but spider doesn't answer as she is very busy spinning her web. We have plenty of books full of animals and the noises they make, but Henry only moos with the cow when we read this book, and he also meows with the cat; this is adorable of course. He also likes to touch the spider's web, which is bumpy.

by Dr. Seuss
Henry has two favorite touchy-feely books, but this is the one I like the best and so I put its picture on the blog. It is Dr. Seuss, so it is full of funny words and wacky rhymes, as well as yellow hair, blue feathers, pull tabs, and lift-the-flaps. The other touchy-feely book that Henry loves is Furry Friends by Disney. Furry Friends has a lot of fur, and simple drawings; it's a good book, but it doesn't have the zest of Wet Pet.

by Nina Laden
My two boys may be different, but they both love this book. Henry is especially fond of the choo choo page. He can sort of make the sound and he will stare at the page upside down, sideways, and right side up. Henry also loves the die-cut pages throughout the book, which are easy for him to grab and turn.

by Ole Risom
illustrated by Richard Scarry
When I think of Richard Scarry I tend to think of humanoid animals and cars that are often flipped upside down, I don't think of nature scenes. But it is Scarry's ability to depict nature and its seasons in lush, glorious detail that will astound you with this book. Oscar loved this book. Henry loves this book. All our friends who have this book, love this book. 

Honorable Mentions




Monday, February 4, 2013

Early Chapter Books

Fun & Easy to Read


With Pictures!

A bookstore customer inspired me to create a list of chapter books that would not intimidate local third graders. She was especially interested in books that incorporated many pictures. Fortunately in addition to a great many well loved classics, the success of the  Diary of a Wimpy Kid series has encouraged publishers to put out more and more easy to read books that appeal to both younger and older kids.  Reluctant readers will hopefully be reluctant no more!

by Mary Pope Osborne
48 books and counting as of Feb. 2013
Best for grades 1-4

by Geronimo Stilton (of course!)
52 books and counting as of Feb. 2013
Best for grades 2-5

 by Jon Scieszka & Lane Smith
16 books as of Feb. 2013
Best for grades 1-4

by Lincoln Peirce
(Big Nate started out as a comic strip. The Hardcover books in this series are actual chapter books while the paperbacks are the comics).
5 chapter books as of Feb. 2013
Best for grades 3-6

by Jeff Kinney
7 books and counting as of Feb. 2013
Best for grades 3-8

by Amy Ignatow
4 books and counting as of Feb. 2013
Best for grades 3-8

by Jennifer Holm & Matthew Holm
17 books and counting as of Feb. 2013
Best for grades 2-6

by Tom Angleberger
3 books and counting as of Feb. 2013
Best for grades 3-8

by Dav Pilkey
7 books as of Feb. 2013
Best for grades 1-3

by Nick Bruel
6 chapter books and counting as of Feb. 2013
Best for grades 1-4