Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Hunger Games: the fantastic four movie trilogy...? A wee, very quite wee, news update

John, our receiver and bookseller (also known as "the tall man behind the counter"), has forced me to admit that I truly am obsessed with the Hunger Games movie news. I can't help it if during my weekly perusal of all kids lit news I happen upon near-daily updates on it, can I? I should look away, I know, and let my expectations return to a normal level. Which is why I won't tell you who was cast as President Snow, but I will at least exclaim over how the book trilogy will now be produced as a four movie series, a la Twilight and Harry Potter. Really, really? Is more Hunger Games a good or bad thing? Of course, I will go see them all, and therein probably lies the decision to extend the series...

Speaking of Harry Potter movies, we are a mere one and a half months away from the last installment! We can even say next month we'll go see it! I hope you (yes, you) will come with me and hold my hand. I will need all the support I can muster. (Teddy Tonks!!!).

In other news, in celebration of George alumna free-lance illustrator Jess Golden's birthday today, please go check out her art blog! As she writes describing her blog, "if you like fat bunnies..." you'll love Jess's artwork! She is one talented, lovely lady and we wish her many happy returns.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Favorite picture book of the week: the nostalgia edition

This week we have been segueing our displays from graduation, Memorial Day, and spring to Father's Day and, most enticingly, summer books! While there are many gorgeous summer and beach trip books (Suzy Lee's Wave, Susan Elya's Bebe Goes to the Beach, are in the forefront of my mind), my favorite seasonal book hands down is Charlotte Zolotow's When The Wind Stops (second place, if you are curious, is Red Sings from Tree Tops, by Joyce Sidman).

Originally published in 1969 and reprinted in a revised format in 1995, When The Wind Stops is a lush description of life's continual circle. Posed through a boy's repeated questions and a mother's answers, this story demonstrates how nothing ends, it simply changes or makes way for something else to begin. It uses more common changes, from the day turning to night and winter turning to spring, to the more abstract, like a mountain sloping into a valley, rain after a storm, and the eponymous end of the wind. More than a concept book or an explanation, this is pure life celebration.

For similar conceptual, seasonal, or simply beautiful books, try Rain Makes Applesauce by Julian Scheer, Bringing the Rain to Kapiti Plain by Verna Aadema, or The Fall of Freddie the Leaf by Leo Buscaglia.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

BEA, ABA, Harvard MBA, with Chaucer! A news round up

What a big week for Harvard Square and book folk everywhere! 

Today is Harvard's Commencement, with Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Liberia's President, as the main speaker. Our book buyer keeps gazing out her office window watching all the be-gowned graduates and droves of families saying how much she loves graduation. It couldn't be a more perfect day to celebrate...the job hunt! CBS News has my favorite review of Amy Poehler's Class Day speech, but I haven't yet found a transcription of today's speeches.

This week is also a pretty big deal to booksellers and librarians - it was Book Expo America in New York! Not only a place to snag galleys of upcoming books, there are also discussion sessions on relevant topics from e-books and using social media to events and marketing. I didn't know this last bit but there is also an art auction - I can't wait to see the pictures and blog posts of attendees. Sadly, no staffers from our store went, but we have been following tweets! (Can you really believe the age we live in?)

And with Memorial Day this weekend, it's almost too much excitement for me to handle. Sunshine! Smiling college students!! Sales! (Psst, we're having an everything 20% off sale!) A board game based off The Canterbury Tales! ...Wait, what? The Guardian reviews  The Road to Canterbury, currently in development. Obviously, players get to be the Pardoner, convincing Pilgrims to purchase fake pardons. Who doesn't love being the bad the 14th century?

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Favorite picture book of the week: "You can only make a masterpiece if you're willing to make a mess"

This week, my favorite picture book is another collaboration between Lenore Look and Yumi Heo, Polka Dot Penguin Pottery about a young girl's trip to a paint-your-own-pottery store to overcome her writer's block. Lenore Look is the author of the Alvin Ho beginning chapter book, and she has created another picture book with illustrator Yumi Heo, Uncle Peter's Amazing Chinese Wedding.

I love the calendar style binding of this fun, festive book: it opens vertically like Mark Reibstein's Wabi Sabi and Heo's bold mixed media illustrations capitalize on this design. Aspen Colorado Kim Chee Lee (her "nom de plume," as she says) is one of the most likable kid artist characters, with endearingly excited and unique turns of phrases: "Suddenly, I'm so excited, I can't answer. My words are swirling around the shop and I cannot catch them." I also love her family: her grandparents Gung Gung and Poh Poh with her drooly little sister Olivia are wonderfully supportive to her struggles to make a perfect painted egg.

For more books on creative kids (and lizards), try Tomie DePaola's The Art Lesson or David Wiesner's Art & Max.

Friday, May 20, 2011

We now present the 2011 contest winners!

It has been a week of close reading, intense discussions, and a few good laughs, but we have reached our decisions for our art and writing contest!

Art Contest

5 to 7
First place: North Graff - "Sweet Dream Pie"
Second place: Sarah Merklin - "The Mystery of the Circus Clown"
Third place: Augie Hawk - "Paddington Takes to TV"
Honorable Mention: Esther Cull-Kahn - "The King's Taster"

8 to 10
First place: Nayeon Chung - "George's Marvelous Medicine"
Second place: Bennett Graff - "DK Visual Encyclopedia of Science"
Third place: Cassie Schierer - "Princess and the Pea"
Honorable Mention: Kyle Sampson - "Curious George goes to the Aquarium"

11 to 13
First place: Nicholas Ornstein - "Duke Ellington"
Second place: Charlotte Holt - "Queen of Hearts"
Third place: Sophie Mark-Ng - "Same Stuff As Stars"
Honorable Mention: Sara (from Newton) - "Violet Comes to Stay"

Writing Contest

5 to 7
First place: Nalani Jones - "Compiss"
Second place: Macy Rhie - "Super Girl Saves the Day"
Third place: Calla Walsh - series of poems
Honorable Mention: Baylor Diamond - "Tiny Coffee Cup"

8 to 10
First place: Jeremy Ornstein - "Dynasty of the Blue-Eyed Feathers"
Second place: Emmet Lewis-Hoeber - "Black Willow"
Third place: Robert Shapiro - "I Have 9 Lives"
Honorable Mention: Grace Valaskovic - "(I'm) A Work in Progress"

11 to 13
First place: Alexandra Domeshek - "Clock"
Second place: Jordan Lee - "Silk Road"
Third place: John Vernaglia - "Porky Poem"
Honorable Mention: Jacob Abrams - "The Book of Animal Transformations"

Congratulations to the winners! Thank you to all who bravely submitted their work, and the families and teachers who helped make it all happen.

Within a few days we will have scanned all the art and writing to post on this blog, and the art contest winners will be displayed in our store's windows.

Our building and nearby sidewalk are currently undergoing construction, so everything is now on our ground floor. As such, our selection of merchandise and books, while still painstakingly chosen, is smaller than in previous years. We recommend coming in sooner rather than later to pick up and redeem your gift certificates. (First through third places receive levels of gift certificates, honorable mentions do not).

I know I said I would resist...

...But David Letterman asked Jennifer Lawrence if the Hunger Games was a "vampire deal," and I couldn't. Look. Away. I might have to also see her as Mystique in the X-Men movie just to tide myself over to the real HG action next March.

In other amusing news, Mo Willems (author of Pigeon books and his latest, Hooray for Amanda and Her Alligator!), posted pictures of another of his metal household creations. This one is a monstrous toilet paper dispenser. After the city reconstructs the sidewalk over our basement, maybe we can get them (with help from Mo) to put in similar fixtures in our bathroom, hey?

It looks to be another entertaining Friday in George's jungle and contest winners to be announced later this morning!

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Poetry laurels, multiculturism, a bit of trivia, and of course, Hunger Games news! (Recent news roundup)

Have you missed me? I've been away on vacation in warmer, sunnier climes but I'm back to give you the highlights of news relating to kids, kids books, and other things that I find entertaining...

The big news first! J. Patrick Lewis is the new Children's Poet Laureate, following such other luminaries as Jack Prelutsky and Mary Ann Hoberman. I love his poetry-history picture book, The House, illustrated by Roberto Innocenti, and am looking forward to what he will do with this position.

I have tried to stay away from the constant news updates about the casting and filming of the Hunger Games movie, in the hopes that my expectations will not rocket, and thus plummet, by the time I see it. However, I am apparently weak when it comes to Entertainment Weekly and its exclusive interview with Jennifer Lawrence (who plays Katniss, and yes, they dyed her blond hair brunette. Whew.)

As I discovered through Fuse #8, the blog Delightful Children's Books has compiled a book "tour" of cultures and countries in the book list Read Around the World, including a section on children from all around the world, with DK's Children Just Like Me and Throw Your Tooth on the Roof: Tooth Traditions From Around the World.

I've only just caught up on my Bitch Magazine blogs, so I'm a bit late in reporting that the ladies at that feminist organization posted their favorite childhood and contemporary picture books in honor of Children's Book Week. It's a fresh take on a common question in book and publishing spheres, (and I do like sending folks over to their website), so take a look! They have also begun a new blog series: a YA Book Club, featuring some contested titles from their unfortunately infamous 100 Young Adults for the Feminist Reader list. Our own store's book club also recently read Margo Lanagan's Tender Morsels; it was interesting comparing our reader's responses and questions to theirs. If you are interested in joining our monthly teen and adult book club, email us at Because of the city construction, we will have to relocate discussions off-site, but we will continue reading!

In other store news, I bet a few kids and their parents are a bit antsy about our art and writing contest which closed last week - we are fiendishly reading the many submissions we have received and will announce the winners tomorrow! We will not be sending out postcards this year, instead the list of winners will go up on our contest blog, with our Facebook, Twitter, and store blog linking there.

I will close on something just for fun - because who doesn't like silly quizzes? Persephone Magazine has a post of Disney Songs Trivia! The Thursday staff here was a bit stumped on a few, and we are appropriately ashamed.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Favorite picture book of the week: a jump into non-fiction!

This week, my favorite picture book of the week is a factual, global tour of food-making: How Did That Get In My Lunchbox? by Chris Butterworth and illustrated by Lucia Gaggiotti.

Lately there has been a rise in interest in, or concern with, the food we consume, and an answering spate of foodie books. Michael Pollan, of course, leads the parade with Food Rules and varying reading level editions of The Omnivore's Dilemma, but there are not as many young reader books that can successfully tackle the global production of food. How Did That Get In My Lunchbox? takes each item from a kid's typical lunchbox - bread, cheese, apple, chocolate - and depicts its growth, picking, processing, and transporting from farms to factories and finally to grocery stores. While I wish there was more information on alternative farming options, like less industrialized, sustainable agriculture and local markets, this is a colorful and detailed jumping-off point for discussions.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Staff picks in a raincoat

Rainy spring days are the best for porch reading with your feet propped up on the railing, lemonade in hand. Here are the latest chapter book favorites of our staff.

Okay for Now by Gary Schmidt
Bookseller: Shara
Genre: realism, school story
Suggested reading level: ages 10 up

With an abusive father, a passive mother, and a sullied reputation in a new town, Doug learns not only how to survive hardship, but also how to preserve, create, and enjoy beauty, however fleeting. Schmidt shows impeccable restraint throughout the novel, letting Doug tell his own story on his own terms.

Ten Miles Past Normal by Frances Dowell
Bookseller: Michelle
Genre: contemporary fiction, fans of Sarah Dessen, Dairy Queen
Suggested reading level: ages 12 up

Janie, known as "Farm Girl," hopes to fade into normality, but with an activist best friend, a boy named Monster (really), a bass guitar, the civil rights movement's Freedom School, and some delicious goat cheese, she's in for a trip beyond normal to find a wildness all her own.

For the Win by Cory Doctorow
Bookseller: John
Genre: techno-thriller, science fiction-ish
Suggested reading level: young adult (ages 14 up)

In this world-spanning adventure, teenagers struggle to survive and prosper in the virtual and real world. Where digital gold can be traded for cold hard cash, freedom and fortunes are won and lost. For fans of online games and future economists alike.

I am J by Cris Beam
Bookseller: Jose-Luis
Genre: GLBT and gender issues
Suggested reading level: ages 15 up

Call him J. Born Jeni and biologically female, J has decided to begin his transition into male by binding his chest and making plans to take testosterone. But will J's friends and parents accept his new identity, or scorn him forever? J must endure the taunts of bullies on the NYC subway, strained friendships, and homelessness, but J won't stop until he can truly be himself.

The Princess Bride by William Goldman
Bookseller: Michelle
Genre: fantasy, adventure, humor
Suggested reading level: ages 12 up

This is the best kind of rollickin' fantasy adventure: full of swashbuckling masked heroes, pirates, cunning villians, revenge, true love, and some of the best bantering this side of Douglas Adams...all while hilariously satirizing the adventure genre, cutting all those "boring" bits from S. Morgenstern's original "classic tale."

Horton Halfpott by Tom Angelberger
Bookseller: Shara
Genre: mystery
Suggested reading level: ages 8 up

Angleberger (author of Strange Case of Origami Yoda) delights again with this hilarious farce! The loosening of M'lady Luggertuck's corset sparks a series of miscommunications, thefts, lies, attempted kidnappings, a costume ball, and an unlikely romance that ultimately changes Horton's life forever.

Nathaniel Fludd: Flight of the Phoenix by R.L. LaFevers
Bookseller: Jose-Luis
Genre: fantasy, Harry Potter-lite
Suggested reading level: ages 8 up

Nathaniel Fludd's parents are missing, and so he must now live with his eccentric Aunt Phil. She tells him about his family's secret history as Beastologists, those who study and help the rare creatures on Earth. Together they go on a high-flying adventure to see the birth of a beautiful, fiery Phoenix. A fun read-aloud or a great book for young readers.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Favorite picture book of the week: remote control dad license

My favorite picture book of this week is a new cheeky bedtime story, Mitchell's License by Hallie Durand and illustrated by Tony Fucile. Mitchell refuses to go to bed unless he can "drive" there on his "remote control" Dad car, beeping the nose horn and stopping at the cookie jar/gas station. The wry text is paired with humorous, chalky style digital illustrations from the illustrator of Bink and Gollie and various animated Pixar films. This book is great for bedtime, especially amongst automotive fans, and will definitely be a hit for Father's Day next month.