Saturday, December 27, 2008
In addition to taking serious (seriously bad) liberties with Clement C. Moore's genius, we are continuing the holiday cheer with a sale: 50% off all Christmas and Hanukkah themed toys, gift wrap, and ornaments, 30% off all Christmas and Hanukkah books.
If you're undecided how to use your George gift certificate, there are new items coming in all the time. MerryMakers has new plush in the form of stylish, spunky graphic novel star Babymouse, (whose newest adventure comes out in January, yes!), and Ezra Jack Keats's Peter of The Snowy Day. Our book buyer, Donna, has said of this squishy, be-snowsuited Peter, "this is the cutest thing I've seen in a long, long time." And Donna does not lie.
Brain Noodles--giant (about 18 inches long!), soft pipecleaners in assorted colors and styles--are super fun and popular. Each pack comes with a booklet of ideas, and you can go online for even more project suggestions. Unlike some old-school styles of thin pipe-cleaners, these don't have any unfortunate pokey ends, making them safe for crafty types from preschool age on up.
For Narnia fans, HarperCollins brings us Boxen, a gorgeous collection of Animal-Land tales written by C.S. Lewis and his brother, W.H. Lewis, in their youth. This is the first collection to include all of the Boxen stories, including some previously unpublished. Illustrations and handwritten pages by the authors make this a true gem for avid collectors and fantasy fans alike.
Laurie Rosenwald's all the wrong people have self esteem: an inappropriate book for young ladies (or, frankly anybody else) treads the precarious/hilarious territory between Chicken Soup for the Teenage Soul, Tanen's Appetite for Detention, Emily Strange, and Don Hertzfeldt...and probably many other awesome things I just don't know about. It's hilarious, it's off-beat, it's collage art, and despite what it tries to tell you, it's actually good for you. I find myself having trouble pegging it to an age, reader type, or genre; therefore, you should just peruse it yourself and form your own opinion!
In the realm of pictures books (more commonly known as the street level floor), Amnesty International has put out We Are All Born Free, an illustrated declaration of human rights with contributions from various artists, including Peter Sis, John Burningham, and Chris Riddell. Each spread is literally, sometimes painfully (a "tortured" rag doll for Article 5) and sometimes sweetly (Burningham's children of the world playing in a park for Article 3), rendered, making the abstract accessible for the elementary crowd.
Many of our staffers are excited about the 35th anniversary edition of Marlo Thomas & Friends Free to Be...You and Me, full of classic, stereotype-breaking favorites like "William's Doll" and "Boy Meets Girl." It also features new artwork, putting Tony DiTerlizzi and Peter Sis (he's everywhere!) beside Arnold Lobel and Henry Cole. And, of course, it comes with the CD, worthy of many repeats. I love how many people coming into the store look up at the Hut in astonishment, saying "I remember this!".
For a slightly older audience, Nikki Giovanni edited Hip Hop Speaks to Children: A Celebration of Poetry with a Beat, a diverse collection of poetry, song, and artwork with such contributors as Langston Hughes, Gwendolyn Brooks, Mos Def, Aesop Rock and Walter Dean Myers. The topics range from identity and family to school and first love, with accompanying illustrations in various mediums by a handful of artists, such as Kristen Balouch and Damian Ward. The audio CD included has some incredible selections, ranging from Brooks's "we real cool" to Queen Latifah's "Ladies First," culminating in Martin Luther King, Jr's speech "I Have a Dream."
We are waiting for the return of some of the New York Times Best Illustrated; sadly, Wabi Sabi and River of Words are still out of stock at the publisher, and Pale Male looks close to it as well. At least it shows the well-deserved attention these books are getting!
How to Talk to Girls, an advice book from Alec Greven, 9 years old, is experiencing the same kind of popularity: we can hardly stock it fast enough, and the publisher already has to reprint. Follow-ups slated for 2009 include How to Talk to Moms and How to Talk to Dads, must-haves for the social connoisseur.
If none of these are exactly to your taste, just ask in store for more specific suggestions!
Friday, December 26, 2008
Blueberry Girl, a lullabye written for Neil's good friend Tori Amos and her baby girl, and illustrated by fantasy author/artist Charles Vess, will be published in March. (If you're picturing Violet Beauregard, rest easy -- this Blueberry Girl is much sweeter and a lot less blue.)
Crazy Hair, Mr. G's latest collaboration with Dave McKean, is a poem inspired by Neil's own "extremely unlikely hair" and will come out in May. From the sneak peek we've gotten, we can tell you it's crazy good -- but what else would you expect from the partnership that produced the awesomeness of Coraline, The Day I Swapped My Dad for Two Goldfish, The Wolves in the Walls, Mirrormask, and more?
To get you through until these new adventures come out, pick up a paperback or hardcover movie tie-in edition of Coraline and get ready for the February 6th film release. While you're in the chapter book room, try chatting up the staffer at the counter about all things Neil -- you can always come to us (read: me) for a Gaiman geekfest!
Wednesday, December 24, 2008
For the young and old alike anxious for the telltale clatter of hooves on the roof, you can follow the jolly man's progress at Norad Tracks Santa, an interactive world map with videos and photos of Santa's stops. Our book buyer Donna has the website going in our chapter book room so we can exclaim to customers, "He's in Dudinka, Russia RIGHT NOW!"
We'll be closing today at 5 pm, so make sure you get everything you need by then! If there are any problems, we can take back Christmas presents with receipt until the 31st of January.
And of course, have a very joyous holiday, however you celebrate it!
Thursday, December 18, 2008
Happy shopping, and keep safe through this upcoming blizzard!
Thursday, December 11, 2008
For you nervous children's book shoppers, we'd like to recommend Terri Schmitz's enormously helpful (for both book buyers and booksellers) essay "'Tell the Lady What You Like': Shopping for Children's Books," which was first published in the March/April 1997 edition of (what else?) The Horn Book Magazine and is now available on their website. The highlights:
- "Take your time." It's difficult during the holiday season, when everything seems to feel even more hectic than usual, but set aside a fair amount of time for a bookstore visit. It helps to think about what questions you have for the bookseller -- and what questions she may have for you! -- before you come in, as well. A CG staffer may ask you whether the person you're shopping for might prefer fantasy or realism, a male or female protagonist, photographs or illustration, classic or contemporary. Keep in mind that as little as you may know the person you're shopping for, we don't know them at all! We're happy to work with you to help you find a great gift, but we do ask that you give yourself lots of time before and during your visit.
- "Trust yourself." Especially when you're shopping for your own child, you probably have a lot more information about the recipient's book taste at your disposal than you think you do. You also know your child's individual reading level and developmental level. Make sure to tell us if your child is bored with early readers, or not yet sitting still for a chapter book read-aloud, or sick to tears of dog stories. These details will help us think of new possibilities to share with you.
- "Listen to your child." A child's reading level and emotional developmental level don't necessarily match up, or their social needs outweigh their academic needs at a specific moment. Don't worry if you think your child "should" be reading something "older" or more "literary" than what they've asked for. There's plenty of time for more serious reading -- and holiday gifts are supposed to be fun!
- "Step back." Particularly with older children, having a parent hovering nearby doesn't help the book selection process. While this is less of an issue with gift shopping, when the child in question is most likely not present (or may not be yours), when you are at the George with your kids, make sure you give them the time and space to select their own books. You can always weed their selections before coming to the register.
- "Relax." Really, it'll be okay. If you're feeling overwhelmed by book-buying, you can always get a gift receipt from us so your recipient can return their gift if necessary. We also offer gift certificates in any denomination you choose -- so if you have a bookworm on your list who seems to have read everything, give them a gift certificate and send 'em our way! We're sure to find something exciting they've never seen.
(Psst... Okay on the book front, but experiencing toy-buying anxiety? Get details on the safest toys out there at Healthy Toys, and check in with us online and in the store any time for recommendations!)
Wednesday, December 3, 2008
The much-loved and ever-popular Melissa & Doug expands its magnetic dress-up doll line with Best Friends Forever, (ages 3+), which has four wooden dolls and (I kid you not) 51 stylish individual clothing items. Come check it out in our doll corner, alongside Mudpuppy's themed magnetic doll and scenes (City Girls, Ballerinas, Sporty Girls) and Madame Alexander's collector's dolls from Charlotte's Web, Winnie the Pooh, and Eloise.
Shure delivers gorgeous painted building blocks in its ArchiQuest sets (ages 5+), with historical themes like the Byzantine's Czars and Domes, China's Dragons and Pagodas, and Rome's Empires and Arches. Each set, consisting of 50-70 pieces, comes with a hardcover book with historical and cultural facts and tips for building designs. Find them in our building and transportation section with our Nuchi Tracks, Automoblox, and Sesame Street K'nex.
The Color Magic Sticker Play Book from the Metropolitan Museum of Art is Colorforms meets Taro Gomi's Doodle books: part finish-this-picture activity book, part resusable, geometric transparent stickers--all around learning fun about mixing colors. (Now, I'd just like to hear the folks who designed it repeat its name five times fast). This book's place of honor is currently on our new titles rack.
Since you can never have enough accessories, Jane O'Connor and HarperCollins have given us Fancy Nancy's Let's Get Fancy Together, a toteable "purse" of glamor tips and accoutrements, from butterfly hairclips and sparkly sunglasses to a King's Crown Pizza tiara and fabulous party invitations. This purse goes great with her latest book, Fancy Nancy's Favorite Fancy Words: From Accessories to Zany, for those times when "ordinary" will just not do! Harper has a video sneak peek of Nancy's purse. You can also scroll through for videos of Rob Scotton's Splat the Cat and [gasp!] Gaiman's The Graveyard Book, if you haven't checked it out yet (for shame!).
Little Miss Matched, a clothing and accessories brand that prides itself on its adorably, deliberately non-matching items, now makes Baby Kimonos. The colors are bright and the patterns bold on sets of pants and wraparound t-shirts. Ever since we put a pair up on display, we've gotten near-constant requests for them! Find them in the baby room with Best of Chums baby tees and Nine Red Balloons infant socks.
The chapter book room hosts many kinds of building and model sets, most notably from Lego, Bionicle, Goobi, and K'nex. Lego's Star Wars series (ages 8+) are frequently seen on our Curious George wish lists, as are the Bionicle Mistika figures. Bionicle sets in particular come in various sizes, for budgets of all sizes.
We also stock the latest in espionage equipage: Alex's Spy Scope and Motion Detector Alarm are surefire standbys for Bond-wannabes. For the commited Daniel Craig, Toysmith carries Spy Science: Secret Message Kit, (ages 8+) which includes a morse code handbook and flash, cipher wheel, and a message capsule (yes, like in Dan Brown's Da Vinci Code!). This kit is intended for a pair of kids, so it's great for friends or siblings. Once they are masters of ciphers, they just may need Toysmith's Invisible Journal to record their secrets. The pen's invisible ink only shows up under the blacklight torch!
This is only a sampling of our new goodies, so check back regularly to see what we'll feature next!
Every day this week she's posting her list for a different age group, and other booksellers and book readers are posting their top five in the comments section. Here's the first post -- check it out, leave a list of your own in our comments or Alison's, and you can even browse other folks' lists for holiday gift ideas!
Here are some chapter book picks from our fabulous book buyer, Donna (she wasn't able to keep to the five-book limit, but who can blame her?):
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie (this year's fiction Boston Globe-Horn Book Award winner)
Love That Dog by Sharon Creech
The BFG by Roald Dahl
Because of Winn-Dixie by Kate DiCamillo
The Saturdays by Elizabeth Enright
The House of the Scorpion by Nancy Farmer
the Joey Pigza series by Jack Gantos
Hatchet by Gary Paulsen
Holes by Louis Sachar
Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry by Mildred Taylor
Make Lemonade by Virginia Euwer Wolff
The Book Thief by Marcus Zusak
Monday, December 1, 2008
While the general feeling about the anthology was overwhelmingly positive, a few people around the table had concerns. McBratney provides no source texts for the stories, merely explains that he spent several years "collecting stories that have been told down the ages" with no mention of where he read (or, more likely, heard) them. Granted, these are intended as read-aloud stories (probably bedtime stories), not intended as research for a doctoral thesis, but it is appropriate to give some indication of source. Even a little thing like "My maternal grandmother Flossie used to tell this story while she made her famous lasagna" would be nice -- these stories have been "told down the ages," right? Let's hear a little about the folks who told them.
Another problem is the generic setting in time and place; few cultural markers identify the stories as belonging to any particular group of people. This simultaneously makes the tales feel more universal and less personal. Strangely, some distiguishing characteristics remain, but with little context for them, their inclusion can confuse things. "Lost While Fishing," featuring the "Wise Men of Gotham," made me think of Bruce Wayne fishing with Comissioner Gordon and Harvey Dent (pre-acid burn, of course).
My reaction to One Voice, Please is emotional, not critical. Despite the impressive collection of stories, and the elegant way in which they are told, I've had a sort of "urgh!" feeling about the collection since we received it because of the title. "One voice"? Aren't these "favorite read-aloud stories"? To me, a crucial part of re-reading favorite stories aloud is the chance for "listeners" to also be "readers," even if they aren't technically reading yet. How many two- or three-year-olds can recite Goodnight Moon, or Click Clack Moo, or any favorite picture book along with mom, dad, grandma, or babysitter every time it's read to them?
There are other opportunities for multiple voices in read-aloud sessions, too. Many parents read to their young children in the store, and lots of these read-alouds are dialogues. Whether the parent directs the child to details in the artwork to share the meaning of the story more fully, or the child coaches the parent on the appropriate tenor of a troll voice, or the child asks the inevitable "And then what happens?," there's more than just "one voice." And, personally, I like it that way.
But maybe I'm completely overanalyzing the collection's title and McBratney's explanation for it, which is actually a fairly throw-away comment in the author's note. What do you think -- should reading aloud be an adult-voice-only kinda deal, or does it allow for child participation as well? What have your own read-aloud experiences (as reader or listener) been like?
Wednesday, November 26, 2008
Our extended holiday hours go into effect this Friday. For your holiday shopping convenience, we will now be open from 10am until 8pm on Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays.
And don't forget-- Marcella Comerford, the silhouette artist, is returning this Sunday from 10am until 6:30pm. There are still 10 minute slots available, so please call in and reserve a sitting! You can reach us at (617) 498-0062.
Thursday, November 20, 2008
First, we would like to congratulate Judy Blundell on receiving the National Book Award for Young People's Literature for What I Saw and How I Lied. The past few years have seen some fairly serious realistic or historical fiction take the proverbial cake: what a jump from 2005's Penderwicks to 2006's Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation! I wonder if this says more about the children's literary climate as a whole, or what award committees want to see in said climate...
For a full list of the other winners and their interviews, head over to The National Book Foundation.
Also, if you didn't get to hear our general manager, Bindy, on UMass Lowell's Sunrise Bookshelf on Tuesday morning, you can get the podcast here. She gives her take on the most popular and most unusual George items we carry, and just why this good little monkey has had such an enduring appeal to children everywhere.
This was not the only interview this week; we actually had cameras in here, too! We can't say more about it yet, but stay tuned! You may be seeing more of us soon...
A few staffers high-tailed it out of the store Tuesday night to turn an eager ear to authors/illustrators David Wiesner and Susan Meddaugh, renaissance woman and Houghton alum Anita Silvey, and school librarian Susan Moynihan, at a panel discussion about the wondrous James Marshall. To round out the celebrity circuit, the Horn Book's Roger Sutton moderated -- and made a few hearts pitter-patter with that jaunty bowtie. The conversation ranged from anecdotal to academic; my favorite moment had to be when Wiesner, a three time Caldecott winner, two time honoree, was put on the spot to elucidate why Marshall only ever received a Caldecott Honor for Goldilocks and the Three Bears. All agreed that is quite unfortunate that humor often gets the short stick when it comes accolades, considering the skill required for pitch perfect delivery.
For further reminiscences and tributes, come in and peruse the collector's edition of George and Martha: The Complete Stories of Two Best Friends, with contributions from Meddaugh and Wiesner as well as Maurice Sendak, Jon Scieszka, Jack Gantos, and others. If you prefer the classic cover styles, we have the original individual books and early readers, too.
In honor of the original funny man, here are some of our all-time favorite chuckle-fests:
Jon Scieszka and Lane Smith: The Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Tales
While no one actually wants to chase the stinky cheese man, you should certainly chase down these ridiculous (and occasionally meta) short stories. Make sure you catch the secret ending!
Dav Pilkey: The Adventures of Captain Underpants
Combining a superhero created by fourth graders with potty humor = pure genius. The comic book style is great for reluctant readers.
Arnold Lobel: Owl at Home
I like to think of earnest Owl as a forerunner of Mo Willems's Pigeon: beginning readers just want to yell out to him, "those bumps at the end of your bed are your FEET, silly owl!"
Ogden Nash: The Tale of Custard the Dragon
Told in verse, this tale of a cowardly dragon (he cries for a "nice, safe cage") who saves his "brave" friends is a hoot! Pirates beware!
Russell Hoban: How Tom Beat Captain Najork and His Hired Sportsmen
Hoban doesn't just do adorable badgers! This story, illustrated by Quentin Blake, is sure to please fans of Roald Dahl's cheeky humor.
Shel Silverstein: Uncle Shelby's ABZ Book
Billed as a "primer for ADULTS ONLY," Silverstein reveals a flippant side unseen in The Giving Tree: "L is for Lollipop! Lollipops are good to eat just before supper!"
To make it even easier, we've put our Wish List right on the blog for you! Just click the image below to get a printable version!
Tuesday, November 18, 2008
Our general manager Bindy will be chatting with Bookshelf's host Henri about Curious George creators Margret and H.A. Rey, the history of the store, recommended new books and toys for fabulous Christmas and Hanukkah gifts, and lots more. If you miss the 8:40 broadcast on UMass Lowell's WUML 91.5 FM, you can catch it streaming on the WUML website or download it as a podcast on Friday.
We have plenty of other surprises planned for the holiday season, so stay tuned -- you don't want to miss any monkeying around!
Friday, November 14, 2008
What better way to jumpstart your holiday spirit than with an advent calendar (or two, if you really need that sugar kick)? We have traditional manger scenes, a fold-out Nutcracker stage, and all kinds of sticker and chocolate ones, too. One of these days I'm going to break down and get the 24 Penguins Before Christmas calendar, regardless of my kitchen's red schemata. It's a pop-up! It has at least one penguin per day! What more could you want from life? (visions of singing chocolate penguins that pay my bus fare...move over, sugar plums.)
If you're trying to just take it one holiday at a time, we still have pilgrim bears, harvest beanbags (no matter how many people try to tell me it's a pear, it's a squash to me), and of course, a range of Thanksgiving stories. Early and middle readers everywhere can rejoice over Peggy Parish's new book, Amelia Bedelia Talks Turkey, as well as old standbys It's Thanksgiving! by Children's Poet Laureate Jack Prelutsky and The Hoboken Chicken Emergency by Daniel Pinkwater. A particular staff favorite is Lydia Maria Child's poem Over the River and Through the Woods, illustrated with gorgeous woodcuts from Christopher Manson.
In addition to holiday joy in all shapes and sizes, be sure to keep your eye out for some new features right here, we three wise monkeys are cooking up a few tricks and treats for you.
Monday, November 10, 2008
- A River of Words: The Story of William Carlos Williams written by Jen Bryant and illustrated by Melissa Sweet (Eerdman's)
- We Are the Ship: The Story of Negro League Baseball written and illustrated by Kadir Nelson -- a particular favorite of ours! (Jump at the Sun/Hyperion)
- Ghosts in the House! written and illustrated by Kazuno Kohara (Roaring Brook)
- Wabi Sabi written by Mark Reibstein and illustrated by Ed Young (Little, Brown)
- The Black Book of Colors written by Menena Cottin and illustrated by Rosana Faria (Groundwood/House of Anansi)
- The Little Yellow Leaf written and illustrated by Carin Berger (Greenwillow/HarperCollins)
- Wave written and illustrated by Suzy Lee (Chronicle)
- A is for Art written and illustrated by Stephen T. Johnson (Paula Wiseman/Simon & Schuster)
- Pale Male: Citizen Hawk of New York City written by Janet Schulman and illustrated by Meilo So (Knopf)
- Skim written by Mariko Tamaki and illustrated by Jillian Tamaki (Groundwood/House of Anansi)
Meanwhile, the internet is buzzing with speculation about contenders for the upcoming Newbery and Caldecott medals. (Okay, maybe the entire internet isn't buzzing -- but the children's lit corner of it definitely is!) Many book clubs and libraries host mock Caldecott or Newbery award committees; here are some sites to catch you up on the front-runners so you can make your predictions -- or host a mock committee of your own!
Fuse #8 (a School Library Journal blog)'s predictions
Eva Perry's Mock Newbery Club -- voters are kids and teens weighing in on their reading!
Child Lit List Serv -- hotly debating all things children's lit, all hours of every day
Children's Literature Book Club
Let us know what your choices are -- we'll be posting our picks too!
Sunday, November 9, 2008
I’m a big fan of Daniel Pennac’s Reader's Bill of Rights. As a librarian -- but mostly as a reader -- it comforts me and has often empowered me to put down a book I wasn’t enjoying. In case you haven’t seen it in a while:
1. The right to not read
2. The right to skip pages
3. The right to not finish
4. The right to reread
5. The right to read anything
6. The right to escapism
7. The right to read anywhere
8. The right to browse
9. The right to read out loud
10. The right to not defend your tastes
I often find myself invoking these rights when encouraging reluctant readers. The right to skip pages, the right to browse, the right to reread (and reread and reread) are all tenets that have helped me begin to unite young (often reluctant) readers with books they will enjoy. A few months ago, however, I found myself wanting more. I began positing the creation of a Reluctant Reader’s Bill of Rights. I posted the idea on my personal blog and encouraged visitors to add their own additions. Here’s what we came up with:
The right to read at your own pace.
The right to choose whatever book you want.
The right to read graphic novels and manga.
The right to read magazines.
The right to read non-fiction.
The right to not like a book.
The right to read books published for different age levelsThis is a project I still consider a work in progress. I’d love to open up a wider dialogue about reluctant readers and how to best reach out to them. I believe the first step is to inform them of their options and then empower them to make a choice.
If you've got rights to add, comments, or suggestions, feel free to post them here, or jet on over to the original post to leave comments directly!
Tuesday, November 4, 2008
Sunday, November 2, 2008
Sunday, October 26, 2008
- Beacon Street Girls vs. Gossip Girl: Last week, NPR hosted a showdown between creators Addie Swartz and Cecily von Ziegesar regarding girls, reading, and morality. Will girls learn bad behaviors by reading about "bad" girls, and good behaviors by reading about "good" ones? Do the benefits of reading -- anything at all -- outweigh the value of content? And who determines the worth of a book's content? von Ziegesar, Swartz, child development specialist Jeanne Brooks-Gunn, host Tom Ashbrook, and various callers debated these questions for the full hour, and while a Mean Girls-style slap-fight never broke out, there was a lot of very heated discussion. Meanwhile, the New York Times seems to weigh in (no pun intended) on the Beacon Street side, with an article about BSG book Lake Rescue in a study on combating teen obesity.
- More bipartisan picture book reviews: In the New York Times, Bruce Handy worries that books like Barack Obama: Son of Promise, Child of Hope and My Dad, John McCain over-idealize candidates for young readers. He also points out that nobody's attempted a Palin picture book biography (yet).
- Gaimanfest, part zillion and three: Locus's review of Margo Lanagan's Tender Morsels, an intriguing new YA fantasy, includes a bit about The Graveyard Book. In the best Gaiman description ever, they call Neil "the Boss, the fantasy equivalent of Springsteen." NPR also has a great piece on Mr. G and The Graveyard Book, called "Parenting Neil Gaiman Style: It Takes a 'Graveyard'."
- Up-and-coming author alert: Kelly Link's creepy short story collection Pretty Monsters, with illustrations by the amazing Shaun Tan, is another book on our must-read list. She was recently in Boston on a book tour and did an interview with the Phoenix.
- And just for fun, the best books that never were: The Guardian asks, "Which are the best books that never existed?" Some children's lit-related suggestions that came up in Shelf Awareness were The Princess Bride by S. Morgenstern, Inkspell by Fenoglio, and Tom Riddle's diary from Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. What other books do you wish were real? Arthur Spiderwick's Field Guide to the Fantastical World Around You? The Never-Ending Story? The Gossip Girl website? The Marauders' Map?
Thursday, October 23, 2008
- Join us on Sunday, November 2, from 3-4 pm for a special preview of Emerson College's production of The Hundred Dresses.
- On Sunday, November 30, from 10 am to 6:30 pm, silhouette artist Marcella Comerford will return to Curious George to do hand-cut silhouette portraits. Call to make a 10-minute appointment.
With the holidays approaching, we'll be extending our normal hours; after Thanksgiving, we'll be open until 8 pm several nights a week. We also have a special offer for your Christmas shopping! Ask your little monkeys to fill out a Curious George wishlist; then receive 10% off all the items on that list with the attached coupon. (While supplies last -- our great books and toys go fast! -- and the promotion ends December 14th. Better get started soon!)
And you'll never guess who was in the store the other day, shopping for a young friend. Jennifer Garner? John Malkovich? Matt Damon? you ask. No, it was none other than Mr. Roger "The Rog" Sutton, editor-in-chief of the Horn Book. There may have been some swooning around the Hut. Now if only that dreamy Mr. Gaiman would stop in...
Tuesday, October 21, 2008
Her first-ever picture book is by none other than country music star Tim McGraw. It's called My Little Girl, inspired by the song of the same name he wrote for the movie Flicka. Check out a virtual galley of My Little Girl at the publisher's website. Julia's blog, with some behind-the-scenes sketches and updates on her ongoing illustration work, is a must-see.
Julia is definitely a rising star to watch in children's illustration. We are so proud of her and her accomplishments!
....and now George staffers are coming by and gagging at the sappiness of this post, so let's call it a night, okay?
Chains by Laurie Halse Anderson
The Underneath by Kathi Appelt
What I Saw and How I Lied by Judy Blundell
The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart
The Spectacular Now by Tim Tharp
Last year's winner was Sherman Alexie's intense but incredible Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian (which then went on to win a Boston Globe-Horn Book Award), so we're looking forward to seeing what wins this time around!
Monday, October 20, 2008
Where: Curious George, 1 JFK St., Harvard Square, Cambridge
When: 2-4 pm on Saturday, October 25th
What: Dress in your festive best to decorate creepy cookies (with a little help from the spectacular Hello, Cupcake!), make a trick-or-treat bag, hear spooky stories, and hang out with George and his picture book friends!
(Pssst... Still need a Halloween costume idea? We now have Curious George and Man in the Yellow Hat costumes for kids and grown-ups!)
Monday, October 13, 2008
In the deluge of exciting new titles this fall, two dystopian science fiction novels merit a reading-by-flashlight-under-the-covers award. Suzanne Collins, author of the Gregor the Overlander series, kicks off a new series with The Hunger Games, while Allegra Goodman (author of Intuition) ventures into the YA arena with The Other Side of the Island.
The Other Side of the Island is The Giver and 1984 meets Duprau’s City of Ember with a timely environmental emphasis. After the Flood from the melted ice caps and its ensuing wars and famine, a woman known as Mother Earth and her Council of Cooperation (affectionately called the Corporation) unite people by promising safety and security under New Weather. In the Enclosure, there are (usually) no surprising or inclement weather changes, and each hour a specific assigned color is projected on to the sky. Mother Earth and the Corporation become a creepy amalgamation of religious-political power, as seen in the eerily familiar Corporate Creed that all children memorize:
Our Councilors seven. Corporation is your name. Your plan to come, Enclosure done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And correct all our trespasses. As you correct those who trespass against us…(pg 6)In addition to rote memorization and copying “education” methods, the Corporation uses “Persuasive Reasoning and Positive Reinforcement” to correct citizens’ “Inaccuracies” and “Unpredictable” behavior. (Do you feel Big Brother watching you yet?) Honor’s family moves to the island after living in the wild Northern Islands, and she desperately wants to blend in and be so perfect no one will notice her misfit, rule-breaking parents. In comparison to the developed setting, Honor herself is surprisingly lackluster, wanting to belong merely to avoid trouble, and barely bats an eye when her former best friend is suddenly orphaned. The pace gradually picks up as her parents escalate their rule-breaking with the birth of a forbidden second child, and soon disappear without explanation. Honor must finally face the possibility that the Enclosure is perhaps not so very safe and secure as she thought. Her turnaround revelation is a long time coming, and not quite as satisfying as I would have liked. The overall background is wonderfully imagined, but where problems like Honor rescuing her mother could have become complicated or emotional, Goodman opts for easy solutions: another grown-up steps in to do the dirty work in places that are “not for children” (pg 263). Let us remember Harry Potter at thirteen: taking on Sirius Black, Azkaban’s first escaped prisoner!
While Goodman may not give Honor enough credit, there are still plenty of big ideas to chew on here. The borders of faith and science, environmental guardianship, government, and individualism are probed subtly, leaving room for a reader’s own interpretation, with plenty of action in between.
Suzanne Collins gives us a blunter, more brutal world in Panem (once known as North America), reminiscent of Anderson’s Feed and Card’s Ender’s Game. There used to be thirteen Districts surrounding the Capitol, until the thirteenth District was utterly destroyed as an example after a failed rebellion. For further punishment, every year each District must send two young “tributes” (read: child sacrifices) selected by lottery to compete to the death in the televised Hunger Games, mandatory viewing for the rest of the citizenry.
Katniss Everdeen hunts illegally in the wild outside District 12’s fence to support her mother and younger sister, Prim, until the unthinkable happens: Prim is selected for this year’s Hunger Games. Katniss volunteers in her place (heart-wrench), only to discover that her counterpart tribute is Peeta Mellark, a boy who once helped her in her family’s darkest hour (more heart-wrench, and the beginnings of a seriously complicated romantic subplot!). After a week of training with their drunkard mentor, Haymitch, the tributes are let loose in the arena. It’s near-constant action from here, with the brawny teaming up on the weak and the Gamemakers spurring on the bloodbath by setting off pre-made traps. You can’t help but root for Katniss, with her perfect mix of wilderness knowledge, courage, and incredible humanity in the face such brutal inhumanity. There is a fair amount of violence – some of it particularly brutal – so those made queasy by blood should be warned.
Lest you think this is merely a glorified gladiator/Survivor novel, tossing poor teen bodies around nonchalantly, here’s one of Katniss’s rare admittances of her vulnerability and philosophy:
“Katniss, it’s just hunting. You’re the best hunter I know,” says Gale.Following in the footsteps of dystopian greats like 1984 and films like Battle Royale, Collins gracefully handles questions of power and humanity, creating a disturbingly possible future. I can’t wait to see how the rest of the series develops!
“It’s not just hunting. They’re armed. They think,” I say.
“So do you. And you’ve had more practice. Real practice,” he says, “You know how to kill.”
“Not people,” I say.
“How different can it be, really?” says Gale grimly.
The awful thing is that if I can forget they’re people, it will be no different at all. (46)
Here are some reading suggestions to give you an introduction to the array of awesome dystopian books out there.
Feed by M.T. Anderson
In a world where everyone has immediate access to the implanted "feed," living without it is unthinkable. When Titus and Violet meet while recovering from feed malfunction, they challenge the social convention of the feed and discover what it truly means to be an individual.
Little Brother by Cory Doctorow
When 17-year-old superhacker Marcus is caught in a terrorist attack, his track record lands him in interrogation with Homeland Security. After his release, Marcus must decide whether to lay low to protect himself or to use his techno know-how to fight for civil rights.
The City of Ember series by Jeanne DuPrau
In the city of Ember, everyone gets assigned a job at age twelve. That's what keeps Ember operating smoothly. But now the generator is failing, the lights are flickering, and darkness is closing in...
The House of the Scorpion by Nancy Farmer
Matt is a clone, created to provide replacement body parts for 140-year-old drug lord El Patrón. Unlike most clones, Matt still has his intelligence – and he’ll definitely need it to escape from El Patrón’s estate into the equally dangerous world outside.
The Giver by Lois Lowry
Twelve-year-old Jonas is nervous, but excited, about his new role in the Community: the Receiver of Memory. What he learns from the Giver will change Jonas's life – and the Community itself – forever.
The Host by Stephenie Meyer
On a futuristic earth where humans are systematically possessed by alien “souls,” protagonist Wanderer discovers what happens when her “host” refuses to relinquish her body or her memories.
Life as We Knew It and The Dead and the Gone by Susan Beth Pfeffer
When the moon shifts dangerously close to Earth, deadly climate changes end modern-day life. Miranda learns about courage, integrity, and loss as she helps her family survive in desert suburbia.
Uglies, Pretties, Specials, and Extras by Scott Westerfeld
Tally can't wait to have the operation that will make her a "pretty" and make over her whole life. Then a terrible secret about the procedure makes Tally question the benevolence of a society in which individuality is considered ugly.
Sunday, October 5, 2008
award for picture book: At Night, written and illustrated by Jonathan Bean
award for fiction: The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, written by Sherman Alexie and illustrated by Ellen Forney
award for nonfiction: The Wall, written and illustrated by Peter Sis
special citation for graphic storytelling: The Arrival, written and illustrated by Shaun Tan
We're hoping the witty acceptance remarks of these amazing writers will be appearing in an upcoming issue of The Horn Book. You may suspect by this point that The Horn Book, Inc., is paying us for advertisement. They're not; we're just big geeky fans. (Although I wouldn't turn down a chance to review for them, if they offered.)
Speaking of being big geeky fans... Perhaps you, too, wish the incomparable Neil Gaiman were coming to Boston on his Graveyard Book tour. Happily, Mr. Gaiman is doing a video tour, which means he's reading a chapter of the book per stop, sequentially, and then posting the videos on his website. Brilliant, right? Make sure you pick up a copy of The Graveyard Book so you can read along.
Tuesday, September 30, 2008
1) And Tango Makes Three by Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell
2) The Chocolate War by Robert Cormier
3) Olive's Ocean by Kevin Henkes
4) The Golden Compass by Phillip Pullman
5) The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
6) The Color Purple by Alice Walker
7) TTYL by Lauren Myracle
8) I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou
9) It's Perfectly Normal by Robie Harris
10) The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky
You can find all of these books at Curious George, alongside other oft-challenged titles like Bridge to Terabithia, Forever, and Heather Has Two Mommies.
Take a peek at what our fellow bloggers are doing to observe Banned Books Week: Books on the Nightstand has a great podcast about both banned books and kids' books, while the Haphazard Gourmet has a whole series of posts on banned book recipes (with a bonus Sarah Palin cupcake).
Any predictions as to what the most challenged books of 2008 will be? Several of this year's most challenged are no strangers to the Banned Book list (The Chocolate War has been on the list nine of the last ten years). Do you expect any up-and-coming controversial books (cough cough Higher Power of Lucky cough) to roust one of these books from the list?
Wednesday, September 17, 2008
At the moment, though, several of us here at the George are seriously engrossed in Kristin Cashore's new fantasy novel Graceling. Lady Katsa is graced with the ability to kill effortlessly. If you think this is a dubious blessing, you're right. Gracelings in general are feared and avoided, but Katsa with her violent grace is practically an outcast, forced to work as hitwoman for her uncle the King. CG staffer Rachel says in her staff pick, "That all changes when she meets Po, a Graced fighter, the only man to hold his own against her skill—but when Katsa and Po become embroiled in dark foreign secrets, even their Graces may not be enough to get them through alive." Katsa and her sci-fi counterpart Katniss (of Suzanne Collins's The Hunger Games, another new title in our chapter book room -- stay tuned for a review!) are our favorite fantasy/sci-fi heroines since Sabriel and Lirael. And you know what high praise that is, coming from us! Kristin's hilarious blog is also great reading; you're probably as likely to lose several hours in her witty entries about her writing process as you are in Katsa's story.
We're ashamed to admit we've been looking at the gorgeous cover art since it came out -- and just realized Katsa's face, complete with one of her mismatched Graceling eyes, is reflected in her sword. Um... awesome design, right? So effective, yet so subtle!
Wednesday, September 10, 2008
Wide Awake by David Levithan, YA fiction
Duncan and his boyfriend Jimmy are thrilled when the first openly gay president is elected in a future America. When the election results are questioned by the conservative Decent Party, the political becomes even more personal for Duncan, Jimmy, and their relationship.
Vote for Larry by Janet Tashjian, YA fiction
Eighteen-year-old Josh Swensen committed "pseudocide" when his activist alter-ego Larry began to wreak havoc on his real life. Now Josh resumes his life as Larry -- this time to affect change in America from the inside out by running for president.
Declare Yourself: Speak. Connect. Act. Vote. More than 50 Celebrated Americans Tell You Why, YA nonfiction
As part of the Declare Yourself campaign encouraging everyone 18 and up to register to vote, fifty-five writers, musicians, actors, activists, athletes, and more contributed their political philosophies to this anthology.
Our White House: Looking In, Looking Out, picture book nonfiction/art book
Some of our best-loved authors and illustrators art or writing to this collection, a look at American presidents and their families through the history of the White House itself.
Make sure to check out the Boston Globe's look at presidential candidate picture book bios. (We also love Horn Book editor Roger Sutton's take on these biographies, but then, we love The Rog's take on everything.) The Horn Book has more recommended titles at their newsletter.
Tuesday, September 9, 2008
Sunday, August 31, 2008
Friday, August 29, 2008
Monday, August 18, 2008
Wednesday, August 13, 2008
Another (more serious) look at sainthood as a viable
career path is Cecelia Galante's The Patron Saint of Butterflies. Honey can't wait to leave the cultish religious community where she grew up, but Agnes is torn between her faith and her loyalty to her friend. Agnes's saintly ways are compromised when a dangerous discovery about the compound forces the girls and Nana Pete to escape. Honey and Agnes alternate narration, giving readers both girls' perspectives on their complex, confusing situation.
Heck: Where the Bad Kids Go, by Dale Basye, presents "Heck" as a postmortem reform school for naughty kids. Milton (get it?) and his sister Marlo find themselves in Heck after a freak marshmallow accident kills them both. The teachers at Heck (including Mr. Nixon and Miss Borden) are bad enough, but Milton and Marlo must also endure bully Damian and draconian Principal Bea "Elsa" Bubb. With their new friend Virgil, Milton and Marlo make a desperate attempt at escape.
In his melancholy novel London Calling, Edward Bloor uses a Philco 20 Deluxe radio to bring two troubled boys together -- across time and space. Modern-day Boston teen Martin and WWII-era Londoner Jimmy piece together Jimmy's memories with Martin's historical research to find the commonalities that connect them. London Calling explores the possibilities of life after death and time travel while prompting Martin (and readers) to question whether any secret can stay buried forever.
Speaking of sainthood... We'd like to suggest the late, great Ursula Nordstrom, legendary editor of Harper's Children's Department, for Patron Saint of Children's Books. Any other nominations?
Saturday, August 9, 2008
- A Great and Terrible Beauty; sequels Rebel Angels and A Sweet Far Thing by Libba Bray
Raised in India and plagued by violent premonitions, Gemma feels isolated in her new London boarding school -- until she finds herself surrounded by a clique of girls obsessed with the supernatural.
- City of Bones and sequel City of Ashes by Cassandra Clare
Clary is astonished to discover an entire world of fallen angels, demons, and demon-hunters. When this world intrudes upon her own, she is forced to join Shadowhunters Isabelle, Alex, and handsome Jace to protect those she loves.
- Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke
For Jonathan Strange, the practice of magic is both an academic discipline and his patriotic duty as an Englishman. After fighting in the Napoleonic wars, Jonathan just wants to enjoy his new marriage, but magic and the realm of Faerie intrude upon his peace.
- Stardust by Neil Gaiman
Teenaged Tristran Thorn vows to bring his love a fallen star from beyond the Wall separating his village from the realm of Faerie. He quickly realizes Faerie is full of surprises -- not the least of which is the star herself!
- Dreamrider by Barry Jonsberg
High school outcast Michael is a lucid dreamer; he can consciously control what happens in his dreams. Michael discovers that the line between reality and imagination is fluid when his dreams begin to influence his real life.
- Blood and Chocolate by Annette Curtis Klause
Vivian, a werewolf, falls for a human named Aiden. Can she keep her true identity from Aiden and her relationship with a "meat boy" from her pack?
- Savvy by Ingrid Law
In the Beaumont family, everyone discovers a special talent at the age of thirteen. Mibs is impatiently awaiting the onset of her "savvy," but when a family emergency strikes she becomes desperate to discover her power.
- Sabriel; sequels Lirael: Daughter of the Clayr and Abhorsen by Garth Nix
Sabriel is next in a long line of Abhorsens, a family of necromancers dedicated to binding the dead. When her father, the current Abhorsen, disappears on a mission in the magical
- Eragon; sequels Eldest and Brisingr (out next month) by Christopher Paolini
Eragon discovers a strange blue stone, which forever alters the course of his life when it hatches a baby dragon. As Eragon and Saphira become inseparable, forces both good and evil seek to dominate this new dragon and Dragonrider.
- Mason by Thomas Pendleton
Other kids call Mason "slow," but he has an amazing extrasensory ability. His sadistic older brother Gene uses his own talent to harm others. Can Mason summon the power and courage to stop Gene?
- The Darkangel; sequels A Gathering of Gargoyles and The Pearl of the Soul of the World by Meredith Ann Pierce
Angel Aeriel must decide whether to destroy the vampire Irrylath or attempt to save him by restoring him to his human form.
- Frankenstein by Mary Shelley (Know your roots, horror fans!)
Victor Frankenstein uses grave-robbed body parts to create an undead man, but can't control him.
- Tantalize by Cynthia Leitich Smith
A vampire is stalking through Quincie's Texas hometown. Quincie and her half-wolf friend Kieren must track down the vampire before the killings shut down her family's vampire-themed restaurant.
- Generation Dead by Daniel Waters
Hundreds of dead teens are coming back to life, and must be reintegrated into society -- starting with high school.
-Peeps and sequel The Last Days by Scott Westerfeld
Vampirism is less mystical than biological in a parallel NYC; Cal contracts the "vampire" parasite after an encounter with a mysterious woman on his first night in the city. He joins an underground organization working to contain the spread of the disease.
For some more analytical reading, check out author Gail Gauthier's response to Breaking Dawn (which has elicited conflicting, but equally strong, reaction from fans) and NY Times contributor Regina Marler's review of two new zombie novels. And if you're still thirsty for post-Twilight reading, come into the George for personalized recommendations from our staff!