Saturday, May 31, 2008

Vroooooooooom! Automoblog.

We're so glad to report that mini Automoblox, the interchangeable, customizable model cars, are back in stock!

Their website is definitely worth a look: you'd swear you were looking at a genius ad campaign for a hot new model from Audi or Honda. Watch an Automoblox movie, download coloring pages, and register your unique vehicular masterpiece.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Blog roll call (blogs we ♥)

No doubt you've noticed the ever-growing and vaguely intimidating collection of "Curiously Good Links" at the left. We're highlighting the blogs among the group because we'd hate to have so inundated you with options you skipped our fellow bloggers altogether.

Blue Rose Girls - What do you get when you throw seven children's literature professionals together in one blog? A comprehensive, personal and funny take on the industry from lots of different perspectives. Insider editorial news, lots of artwork, reviews and opinion pieces abound. Also, illustrator-contributor Grace Lin recently posted a photo of her posing in front of our store! Love her!

Children's Literature Book Club - Stephanie offers book reviews as well as children's literature news on this book club blog. Follow along with the Children's Literature Book Club with handy reading lists and discussion prompt questions. It might inspire you to start your own club!

The Cinnamon Rabbit - Illustrator and CG staffer Julia Denos expounds on the day-to-day workings of her blossoming career. There's plenty of method discussion, images of her artwork, and links to other children's literature items of interest on this charming blog.

Fuse #8 - Hosted by School Library Journal, children's librarian in the Donnell Central Children's Room of the New York Public Library Elizabeth Brown writes about just about everything having to do with kid's lit. She pays special attention to the goings on in the NYPL and conferences and awards committees with which it and its librarians are involved.

Pixie Stix Kids Pix - Although this blog is infrequently updated, Kristen McLean's reviews of books, music, and toys for children are well-considered and well-written. As the Executive Director of the Association of Booksellers for Children, Kristen possesses a "strong eye for design and a good story" which is evident in her posts. Only books which merit a 7 or higher on her 10-point scale are reviewed on the blog.

Poetry for Children - Sylvia Varnell, professor and author of Poetry Aloud Here, reviews and recommends children's poetry collections and verse novels. Posts usually incorporate full poems so readers can get a taste of a collection's style. Sylvia also keeps readers up-to-date with news on this oft-neglected genre.

Read Roger - The bow-tied Editor in Chief of The Horn Book shows his sassy side almost daily on this hilariously informative blog. Get the insider kid lit scoop as well as Roger's opinions on various publishing and bookselling related issues here.

The Short Living Room - Written by another of our resident artists, Emily Goodale, this blog is a forum for Emily's discussion of her own artwork and the work of others she loves as well as random, interesting goings on in life.

YALSA - This blog run by the Young Adult Library Services Association offers information on all things YA -- including books, graphic novels, music, events, news, and technology. Occasionally their posts are written by a guest teen blogger. Connect with this techno-savvy blog via MySpace, Twitter, or podcast to catch every update.

We hope that this brief intro to our most-clicked blogs will help you stay "in the know" about what's happening in children's literature!

Monday, May 26, 2008

Oh, the cleverness of you!

Although the final tally of the Art and Writing Contest entries won't be ready for a few more days, we'd just like to congratulate all contestants on their brilliance. It's making for difficult judging! Good luck to everyone who entered.

Congratulations are also due to our own Julia Denos, whose latest illustration effort, Sleepover Squad 5: Pony Party!, is beautifying our shelves now.

Be sure to check out the first four Sleepover Squad books and Sojourner Truth: Path to Glory in our chapter book room for more Julia genius!

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Pow! Bam! Holy superhero stuff, Batman!

After posting yesterday's Gaiman geekfest, we'll spare you a play-by-play of Neil's lecture last night. However, the three CG staffers in attendance were pleased to hear him discuss his writing for children at length, saying that of all his work, he most encourages readers to check out his kids' books.

At any rate, all the "golden age of comics" talk from last night's event has given us a new appreciation for the legends of Marvel and DC. If you're a fan as well, come into the George and get your superhero fix!

Learn all about the Marvel Universe with the Amazing Spiderman Pop-Up or the Marvel Ultimate Sticker Collection. If DC is more your thing, check out the brand-new picture book Batman: The Story of the Dark Knight.

Send correspondence in super style with Catwoman, Spiderman, and Superman folding stationery, or keep your secret identity a secret in a Spiderman or Superman journal.

Aspiring comics artists can learn to draw Marvel characters with the Klutz set, including instructions, tracing paper, pencil, eraser, and markers. Better yet, write your own comic books with a Make-Your-Own-Comics Curiosity Kit. They provide colored pencils and booklets with blank frames, and you provide the action.

No hero would be complete without a super ensemble. Klutz comes to the rescue again with the Superhero Starter Kit (a cape, masks, and all the other accoutrement you need to create your own superhero outfit) -- or show everyone your superpower is curiosity with a "Super Curious" George adult t-shirt!

Friday, May 23, 2008

Neil Gaiman lovefest redux!

Perhaps, like several CG staffers (most notably yours truly), you are thrilled about attending Neil Gaiman's lecture at MIT this evening. Perhaps, in preparation, you are frantically re-reading Neil's work for grown-ups, including American Gods and its companion Anansi Boys, Neverwhere, Stardust, Good Omens (with Terry Pratchett), short story collections Smoke and Mirrors and Fragile Things, and two-thousand-plus-page graphic opus Sandman. If this is the case, we applaud you and your clearly awesome taste in adult literature.

But perhaps (perish the thought!) you are unfamiliar with Neil's work for children. If this is the case, never fear! We'll fill you in with our first author spotlight. These books are essential reading for everyone who loves quirky, witty kids' books, not just the Gaiman completist.

The Wolves in the Walls and The Day I Swapped My Dad for Two Goldfish are two picture books illustrated by Neil's favorite collaborator, Dave McKean. In New York Times Best Illustrated Book The Wolves in the Walls, Lucy's family warns her that if the wolves ever come out of the walls, it's "all over." When the wolves do come out, Lucy learns that the trouble is just starting. The Day I Swapped My Dad for Two Goldfish follows a convoluted sequence of swaps in the playground bartering system. Once the narrator decides it's time to get Dad back, he's already been re-swapped for a guitar! Both books are charmingly bizarre and bursting with the crazy genius only a Gaiman/McKean collaboration can achieve.

The newest of Neil's picture books is The Dangerous Alphabet, illustrated by Gris Grimly, which we recently raved about. The Dangerous Alphabet combines alphabet book and pirate tale into one whimsically creepy adventure.

Coraline, illustrated by McKean, is the first of Neil's middle-grade novels. Sometimes when Coraline opens the door in the corner of her new flat's drawing room, it opens on a brick wall dividing her apartment from the one next door. Sometimes, though, it reveals an uncanny copy
of her flat, occupied by her Other Mother and Other Father. Navigating the world created by the Other Mother aided by the questionable advice of a talking cat and her own smarts, Coraline learns that "when you're scared but you still do it anyway, that's brave." The Coraline audio book, read by the author himself, is deliciously spooky. Our a sneak peek at the upcoming graphic novel adaptation assured us that the Coraline comic will be as well.

In the middle-grade sci-fi novel Interworld, written with Michael Reaves, Joey Harker walks out of his world, into another dimension, and smack into a war between science and magic. When Joey realizes that each dimension he discovers has a Joey Harker of its own, all the versions of Joey band together to protect the universe from the warring factions. The novel makes a fascinating companion to Coraline, since it's populated with "other selves" rather than other parents or acquaintances.

The Graveyard Book, a novel coming out this September, tells the story of a young orphaned boy who is raised by strangers -- ghostly strangers haunting a graveyard. After reading the excerpt "The Witch's Headstone" in M Is for Magic, we can't wait for this one to be released this fall!

M Is for Magic collects kid-friendly short fiction from Neil's wide repertoire into a single volume. From the hilarious "Chivalry," in which elderly Mrs. Whitaker discovers the Holy Grail in her local thrift store, to the touching poem "Instructions" on "what to do if you ever find yourself in a fairy tale," these stories are gems. One of our favorites is "Sunbird," wherein a group of gourmands travels to Cairo in search of that elusive delicacy, phoenix. Hear Neil read several of these stories in their entirety at

Some other kid-friendly Gaiman fun online:
- Listen to Neil being interviewed by his 11-year-old daughter Maddy.
- Read a short story entitled "Cinnamon."
- Get info about BEA's Children's Book and Author Breakfast with Neil, Sherman Alexie, Judy Blume, master of ceremonies Eoin Colfer, and special speaker Jon Scieszka, happening next weekend. (If you're going, please take us with you!)
- Check out MouseCircus, the HarperCollins website for Neil's books for kids.

Signing off now to head over to the event -- hope to see you there!

Feminist Romance From Far-Away Lands

Faced with the many coy heroines gracing the covers of American and English historical fiction, it‘s tough to find a likable character in a believable predicament that isn’t totally horrifying to a feminist like me. Fortunately, Meghan Nuttall Sayres is equal to the challenge, transporting the reader to 19th century Iran with Anahita’s Woven Riddle (ages 12-14).

Anahita is a nomadic weaver faced with the possibility of an arranged marriage to the khan, the chieftain who represents their tribe in the Iranian government.. Not only is the kahn much older than Anahita, he has already lost three wives. Risking the khan’s retribution, Anahita’s father allows her to pose a contest: whoever guesses the riddle woven into her wedding carpet, proving he shares her love of riddles, will be her husband. As her tribe traverses their migratory route through Persia, the contest attracts a variety of potential suitors: the boy-next-door shepherd Dariyoush, the schoolteacher Reza, a mysterious man from the market (who turns out to be a prince, naturally), and a few other surprising contenstants. In addition to all this romantic attention, Anahita’s contest stirs up political controversy: it is considered quite audacious of a woman to attempt to decide her own fate, especially when her decisions affect the whole tribe. The wedding riddle contest becomes but a surface issue, underlaid by Anahita’s growing understanding of the balance between her own interests and those of the tribe. It is this maturation of thought that puts this novel above other well-researched, engaging historical fiction. It has romantic sparks, suspense, and culture a-plenty, without forfeiting character depth.

Anahita herself is a very strong character: progressive without being radical and strong without being overbearing. She wants to work with the dyemaster and go to school, helps orchestrate a Salvation Army-like clothing cart, questions the second class citizenship of women, and she’s beautiful, too. She learns from all of her mistakes and mends all of the relationships her contest compromises. She’s everything I thought I wanted in a heroine, yet I find her merely likable, not lovable. It may be that I prefer what Anahita represents to her actual character. She is like Odysseus’s Penelope, that grand poobah of weaving ruses: a great woman, but a bit more iconic than realistic.

Coupled with the distancing third person perspective, this iconic role may make Anahita difficult for teens to relate to. Still, she is a strong female character who remains true to herself without becoming self-absorbed — an admirable feat, and one I would like to see more in YA literature.

As is not always the case with romance stories, the other major characters are reasonably well developed. Unfortunately the dialogue between them is too formal at times to be realistic for any time or place. Even with these style snags, it is an enjoyable read. The romantic drama is complicated and never devolves to fluff, the characters are fully developed and likable, and the incredibly detailed, well-researched cultural background itself is a pure wonder.

For more historical fiction set in far foreign lands:

Fletcher: Alphabet of Dreams (B.C. Persia, ages 12-14)

Grey: Leonardo’s Shadow (Renaissance Italy, ages 12-14)

Hoffman: Incantation (16th century Spain, ages 12-14)

Smith: Elephant Run (WWII England/Burma, ages 9-11)

Venkatraman: Climbing the Stairs (British India, ages 12-14)

For more historical fiction (somewhat) closer to home:

Anderson: Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing: Traitor to the Nation, Vol 1: The Pox Party (Revolutionary America, ages 15-18)

Avi: Seer of Shadows (19th century New York, ages 9-11); Crispin (14th century England, ages 9-11); True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle (1832 America/England/cross-Atlantic)

Rinaldi: Juliet’s Moon (Civil War America, ages 9-11); The Redheaded Princess (Elizabethan England, ages 9-11)

Out of stock at the publisher.

Blueberries for Sal, the perennial favorite and Caldecott winner by Robert McCloskey, might be hard to come by for a while. Due to licencing issues involving the McCloskey estate, the 1949 picture book will be unavailable in all formats until further notice. Yes, we're feeling a little panicky about it, too.

Hello, Cupcake!, a cookbook we highlighted last week, is out of stock as well. But never fear. It's being reprinted and there will be plenty of copies to go around soon enough. We can't say the same for any cupcakes baked from recipes in it, however.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Look and cook!

The New York Times had a fantastic article about children's cookbooks on Wednesday. Accompanying this piece about the history of children's cookbooks and advice on how to choose the best ones for your family is a comprehensive list of cookbook options. We'd like to add Hello Cupcake!: Irresistably Playful Creations Anyone Can Make by Karen Tack to that list. Its simple (really!) instructions for some seriously impressive cupcake creations and beautiful full-color photography make this a must-have for party preparations or rainy day time-passing.

More crossover novelists.

We have received our advanced reader copy of Allegra Goodman's latest novel The Other Side of the Island and it looks just fantastic. This is Goodman's first foray into young adult literature, having previously written only for adults. Her novels include Intuition, Paradise Park, Kaaterskill Falls, and The Family Markowitz. Island is the story of a ten-year-old girl named Honor who lives in a population-regulated colony with her deviant parents. When they give birth to an illegal second child they are arrested. Honor, with her friend Helix, must uncover the terrible secret that will save them and learn the truth about the Corporation that controls the colony. It seems perfect for lovers of Lois Lowry's The Giver, Margaret Peterson Haddix's Runing Out of Time sequence, and Jeanne Duprau's City of Ember series.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Love, love, love...

A while back, during his reading and signing appearance at Curious George, Timothy Basil Ering got our hopes all up for the special colorized edition of Tale of Despereaux. This glorious middle grade fantasy novel by Kate DiCamillo, illustrated by Ering, is a favorite among the staff here. We are so excited to have this beautiful new edition on the shelf!

That really is curious...

A reporter and camera operator from WBZ news graced the shop with their presence this morning. They wanted to speak to owner Donna Friedman about the controversial T-shirt being sold by Mike Norman at Mulligan's bar in Marietta, GA. The shirt, featuring the likeness of Curious George peeling a banana with the message "Obama in '08," has stirred up a media frenzy regarding the racist implications of the comparison. We agree with Hougton Mifflin Harcourt, publishers of the Curious George book series, that this is an inappropriate use of the image and are especially interested in how Houghton Mifflin Harcourt will deal with the trademark infringement aspect of the issue.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

CBC Children's Choice Award winners

The CBC has announced the winners of the first Children's Choice book awards! Drumroll, please...

Author of the Year: J.K. Rowling, for Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

Illustrator of the Year: Ian Falconer, for Olivia Helps with Christmas

Kindergarten - Second Grade favorite: Frankie Stein by Lola M. Schaefer, illustrated by Kevan Atteberry (Marshall Cavendish Corporation)

Third Grade - Fourth Grade favorite: Big Cats by Elaine Landau (Enslow Publishers)

Fifth Grade - Sixth Grade favorite: Encyclopedia Horrifica by Joshua Gee (Scholastic)

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Neil Gaiman lovefest, Twilight movie teaser, and upcoming blog changes

Remember Cory Doctorow's Little Brother from last week's update?

Little Brother by Cory Doctorow MySpace Page

Neil Gaiman, author/comics writer/screenwriter extraordinaire, blogged about it on Tuesday. Neil's initial enthusiastic review of the novel (December 2007) ended up as a blurb on the cover -- prompting us to give it a go. Like Neil, we'd highly recommend it as a "wonderful, important book" tackling technology, freedom, and patriotism for both young readers and adults. Check out Macmillan/Tor's feature on
Little Brother, including a podcast with Cory Doctorow, here.

In other exciting Neil news, we've just received his
Dangerous Alphabet, which shoppers and staffers alike have been waiting for impatiently. It's like riding the Tunnel of Love with Lemony Snicket. It's Edward Gorey's Gashlycrumb Tinies meets Pirates of the Caribbean. It's sickeningly fantastic.

Expect more gushing about Neil in the next few weeks as his MIT event approaches -- maybe we'll see you there?

The trailer for Twilight is finally out!

It's maddeningly short, but that's why they call it a teaser, right? (Did you catch
Goblet of Fire's Robert Pattinson as Edward? Those Harry Potter kids are so lazy, aren't they?) Until the release in December, we'll be getting our Meyer fix with Stephenie's new adult novel, The Host, out this week. Look for it in the chapter book room.

You may have noticed we're experimenting a little with the format of the blog. We'd love to hear your thoughts on its evolution -- along with any other suggestions or comments you have! If you don't have a Blogger account, just select "other" or "anonymous" as your user status to leave us some love.

Friday, May 2, 2008

The merry month of May!

It's going to be an exciting weekend at Curious George! From 10 AM to 5:30 PM on Saturday (that's tomorrow, May 3rd), artist Marcella Comerford will be doing children's silhouette portraits. We have a limited number of ten-minute appointments still available, so give us a call today at 617-498-0062 or stop by in the morning to reserve a spot. Don't miss this rare opportunity!

The 25th annual Harvard Square May Fair is this Sunday, March 4th (rain date Sunday, March 11th). There will be lots to do, see, eat, and buy for the entire family all over the Square, but the real gold mine is on Church Street. The Kids' Festival will include lots of kid-sized activities including face painting, healthy snacks, a "Kids Chalk Zone", Matchbox car racing, and "dancing in the streets." View the full schedule of events before you head over.

There are very many new Lego sets to be constructed at Curious George! The selection includes Bionicle, Technic, Creator, Star Wars, Racers, and Mars Mission. So, come get your build on.

Our favorite teenage witch, Emma Watson, is adding another kids' book-to-film adaptation to her resume. She'll portray Princess Pea in December's The Tale of Despereaux, based on the Newbery medal winner and perennial CG pick by Kate DiCamillo.

With the Prince Caspian movie coming out on May 16th, chances are you'll need to brush up on your Narnia knowledge. Pick up a complete Chronicles of Narnia box set to reread the whole series, or get a Cliff's Notes version with the interactive Narnia Chronology: From the Archives of the Last King. Focus on Caspian with the pretty boxed combo of the full-color collector's edition and unabridged audio recording.

Some recent arrivals here at Curious George:
An intriguing update to Michelle's thoughts on the wicked geniusy in YA lit is Cory Doctorow's futuristic thriller Little Brother. When seventeen-year-old superhacker Marcus cuts school to play a web-based alternate reality game, he and his friends find themselves at the wrong place at the wrong time: the site of a major terrorist attack. Marcus's hacking track record lands him in extreme interrogation with the Department of Homeland Security. Little Brother brilliantly tackles the tricky subjects of technology, freedom, and patriotism for a cyber-savvy teen audience.

The second adventure of the Mysterious Benedict Society is finally here and we are so excited! The Mysterious Benedict Society and the Perilous Journey finds Reynie, Sticky, Kate, and Constance reunited for a new adventure that brings them closer together in their efforts to save the very society they founded.

Blue Balliett's newest art-mystery novel for middle graders is has arrived as well. The Calder Game features not only a missing Alexander Calder sculpture but the disappearance of Calder Pillay, protagonist of Balliett's other two mystery novels, Chasing Vermeer and The Wright 3. Petra and Tommy must find him and retrieve the sculpture, while readers must navigate the awesomely twisty plotting that has become synonymous with a Blue Balliett book.

Walter Dean Myers harkens back to his 1988 Vietnam War novel Fallen Angels in a sequel entitled Sunrise Over Fallujah. Fallujah follows the time Robin Perry spends as a soldier in Iraq and includes letters home to his veteran uncle Richie of Fallen Angels. A contemporary portrayal of war and the confusion of being a teenager caught in the fighting but out of the loop, this novel is an important one for anybody interested in stepping into the sandy boots of our deployed troops.

Finally, we are giddy over The Horn Book Inc.'s new presence on Facebook. We think Bertha would appreciate the utilization of such a modern tool to grow Horn Book awareness and readership. Become a "fan" and do your part to spread the love and the word about great books for kids.