Saturday, January 31, 2009

A short note of (temporary) sadness

While sad for us, this is great news for Jeff Kinney and Neil Gaiman--their books are so loved, recognized, and asked for that we are all out of them, as are their publishers!

The Graveyard Book
, which just last Monday won the Newbery Medal, is expected back within the week (phew). We still have the audio CD in stock, read by the author himself. Short of Gaiman-geek Katie lending her copy out, we will just have to wait until next weekend thereabouts for the visceral experience.

As of now, there's no word yet on when Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Last Straw will be back, but you can bet they are feverishly reprinting over at Abrams Inc. If you still haven't gotten into the Wimpy craze, luckily enough for you, the first two books and the Do-It-Yourself journal are around, so far...

We will keep you posted on the status of these hot titles, and if you like, reserve a copy for pick-up at your convenience.

P.S. : Our Facebook page has just reached 101 fans! Thanks to everybody who likes us enough to friend us, and of course, to you our blog-readers as well!!

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Celeb Sightings and Signings, plus a Kids ♥ Authors update

I must have jinxed us last week with that snow post--sorry, folks. I hope you are wearing your slush-proof boots and Robert Munsch-style snowsuits!

I have some celebrity news, which will hopefully cheer even those with frozen fingertips.

David Yoo stopped by last week to sign his newest YA novel, Stop Me If You've Heard This One Before. In the few minutes we chatted (he was double-parked, naughty man), we talked books, Kids Heart Authors Day, and sighed over the wonder that is the Horn Book. Andover Bookstore is lucky to have such a friendly fellow coming for their Valentine's celebration, so if you're up in the northshore area come that Saturday, check him out, if of course, you are totally unable to come to ours! We can only hope that he will come back and do something with us soon.

Just this morning, Timothy Basil Ering popped in, blizzard be darned! You may remember Mr. Ering from our part of Harvard Square's Bookish Ball last April. Unfortunately, he did not read to us, but at least he signed copies of Necks Out for Adventure! and Frog Belly Rat Bone and talked about how wonderfully surprising and amazing the success of The Tale of Despereaux is. (We are not surprised, Ering's quirky illustrations and DiCamillo's heartwarming, fun-filled writing is certainly a winning combination...ahem, 2003 Newbery). He's yet another super friendly, super local author/illustrator, let's hope he gives us more great books and visits!

I have some more news about our guests and events for Kids Heart Authors Day! We have the extra pleasure of hosting Mary Brigid Barrett, in addition to Grace Lin, Laya Steinberg, and Nancy Viau. Barrett is the President, Founder, and Executive Director of the National Children's Book and Literary Alliance, the group which recently gave us Our White House: Looking In, Looking Out. These authors will be in the store from 10 am to 12 pm on Valentine's Day, Saturday February 14th, signing, talking writing and illustrating, and leading activities. Bring along your valentines of any age to share in some reading love!

Tuesday, January 27, 2009


That brainy Michelle had the awesome idea to round up our previous reviews of this year's winning books. Turns out we've had a lot to say about quite a few of the winners and honorees...

I reviewed the Caldecott Honor book A River of Words: The Story of William Carlos WIlliams, written by Jen Bryant and illustrated by Melissa Sweet, a few days ago:
Williams's own poems blend with Jen Bryant's biographical text and Melissa Sweet's mixed media/watercolor illustrations to create a collaboration that is essentially a collage of collages. Typography features heavily in Sweet's images, giving words power on every page, even those without conventional "text." In her excellent backmatter, Bryant provides readers with plenty of historical context for Williams's life. This unusual book has something to offer aspiring poet, aspiring artist, picture book critic, literary history buff, and biography fan alike.
If you've been following the blog for a while, you know we love Neil Gaiman's Newbery-winning The Graveyard Book, illustrated by Dave McKean. But did you catch Rachel's staff pick for it?
This captivating story of a boy raised by ghosts is sure to delight readers. Nobody Owens gets into all the trouble a growing child (who has run of an old English graveyard) can -- but his guardian Silas is always there to get him out of it. A heartfelt, beautifully crafted, perfectly eerie read.
Rachel, literary trendsetter that she is, likewise recommends the Newbery Honor book Savvy by Ingrid Law, in another staff pick:
The Beaumonts are an unusual family -- on their 13th birthdays, they each discover a unique savvy, a special know-how. When Poppa is hospitalized in a distant town the day before Mibs turns 13, she is convinced that her hidden savvy can save him—if she could only get there in time.
Michelle reviews Printz Honoree Tender Morsels by Margo Lanagan in her staff pick:

This beautiful, brutal novel is much more than a retelling of Grimms' "Snow White and Rose Red." After awful cruelties, Liga is given her heart's desire: a "heaven" in which to raise her daughters; yet even here reality breaks in. A folksy lyricism softens this tale about the devastating beauty of being human.
Back during baseball season, blog alumna (and resident Kadir Nelson devotee) Bethany wrote about We Are the Ship, which won both the Coretta Scott King Author Award and the Sibert Award.
Devour the gorgeous paintings in Kadir Nelson's We are the Ship: The Story of Negro League Baseball -- the clean design and informative but friendly text make this heavily illustrated gem a must-have for baseball fans and art enthusiasts alike.
We're obviously already fans of lots of the books recognized by ALA yesterday, but we're looking forward to discovering the others with you! Check the blog for updates on which award winners have just arrived -- today's shipment included more copies of The Graveyard Book, Jacqueline Woodson's After Tupac and D Foster, and Ingrid Law's Savvy, and tomorrow's sure to bring even more goodies!

Monday, January 26, 2009

And now for the moment we've all been waiting for...

Well, technically, those moments happened yesterday, but the ALA/YALSA winners include (drumroll, please):

The Caldecott Medal, awarded to "the artist of the most distinguished picture book," went to illustrator Beth Krommes for The House in the Night, written by Susan Marie Swanson. Caldecott Honorees were author/illustrator Marla Frazee for A Couple of Boys Have the Best Week Ever, author/illustrator Uri Shulevitz for How I Learned Geography, and illustrator Melissa Sweet for A River of Words: The Story of William Carlos Williams by Jen Bryant.

The Newbery Medal, awarded to "the author of the most distinguished contribution to American literature for children," went to -- squee! -- Neil Gaiman for The Graveyard Book (illustrated by Dave McKean). Newbery Honorees were Kathi Appelt for The Underneath (illustrated by David Small), Margarita Engle for The Surrender Tree: Poems of Cuba's Struggle for Freedom, Ingrid Law for Savvy, and Jacqueline Woodson for After Tupac and D Foster.

The Printz Award, awarded to a book which "exemplifies literary excellence in young adult literature," went to Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta. Printz Medal winners were Margo Lanagan's Tender Morsels, Terry Prachett's Nation, M.T. Anderson's The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation, Volume II: The Kingdom on the Waves, and E. Lockhart's The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks.

The Sibert Award, awarded to "the most distinguished informational book," went to store favorite author/illustrator Kadir Nelson's We Are the Ship: The Story of Negro League Baseball. Sibert Honorees were James M. Deem's Bodies from the Ice: Melting Glaciers and Rediscovery of the Past and What to Do About Alice?: How Alice Roosevelt Broke the Rules, Charmed the World, and Drove Her Father Teddy Crazy by author Barbara Kerley and illustrator Edwin Fotheringham.

The Geisel Award, awarded to the author and illustrator of the "most distinguished book for beginning readers," went to Mo Willems for Are You Ready to Play Outside?, an Elephant and Piggie book.

The Coretta Scott King Awards, awarded to an "African American author and illustrator for and their contribution to the realization of the American dream," went to author Kadir Nelson for We Are the Ship and illustrator Floyd Cooper for The Blacker the Berry. Honoree authors were Hope Anita Smith for Keeping the Night Watch (illustrated by ), Joyce Carol Thomas for The Blacker the Berry, and Carole Boston Weatherford for Becoming Billie Holiday (illustrated by Floyd Cooper); honoree illustrators were Jerry Pinkney for The Moon Over Star by Diana Hutts Aston, Sean Qualls for Before John Was a Jazz Giant by Carol Boston Weatherford, and (surprise, surprise) Kadir Nelson for We Are the Ship. The Coretta Scott King/John Steptoe New Talent Award, which "affirms new talent and offer visibility to excellence in writing or illustration at the beginning of a career as a published book creator," went to illustrator Shadra Strickland for Bird by Zetta Elliot.

The Morris Debut Award (in its debut year), awarded to a first novel and "celebrating impressive new voices in young adult literature," went to Elizabeth C. Bunce's A Curse as Dark as Gold.

The Edwards Award went to Laurie Halse-Anderson to honor her books Speak, Fever 1793, and Catalyst and their "work in helping adolescents become aware of themselves and addressing questions about their role and importance in relationships, society, and in the world."

The Wilder Award, awarded to an author or illustrator who has made "a substantial and lasting contribution to literature for children" over a long period, went to illustrator Ashley Bryan.

Congratulations to all the winners and honorees! To see the full list of awards (yes, there are more!) and to learn about the selection process, head on over to the ALA Booklist site.

I'll try not to say "I told you so" too often.

NEIL GAIMAN JUST WON THE NEWBERY MEDAL FOR THE GRAVEYARD BOOK. My profound love for him has been validated. Click here to buy it from our website, thanks to super-receiver John.

More on the ALA/YALSA awards later, when I stop jumping up and down in glee. Also, happy hundredth post to us!

Saturday, January 24, 2009

It's Snow Amazing!

While this 30 degree weather might feel a bit like a heat wave, now is the time to enjoy snow -- in a book! Here are our top picks of picture books, chapter books, and non-fiction for reading with a cozy blanket and cup of hot chocolate.

Our book buyer, Donna, is a big fan of the preschool-age picture book Footprints in the Snow by Mei Matsuoka, an adorable story about Mr. Wolf, who is frustrated by the portrayal of wolves as mean in storybooks. He sets out to write a true story of a nice wolf, and finds out most animals don't trust his niceness, and maybe with good reason! Observant readers will enjoy finding Mr. Nice Wolf's pencil "writing" this circular story within a story, and this particular reader got a little gleeful, mischievous sense of foreboding when the "Nice" disappeared from Mr. Wolf's name...But breathe easy, little readers, Matsuoka, like Liwska's Little Panda, lowers the potential scary factor with adorable cartoony scenes.

Addis Berner Bear Forgets by Joel Stewart is another new wintry animal picture book, but with a more traditional storyline. Addis Berner Bear goes to the city in the winter, and is so overwhelmed with all the loud and fast things, some scary, some exciting, that he forgets what he has come there for. It takes a friend and some creativity to find his way again, but once he does, he won't ever forget. The warm watercolor and ink illustrations reveal hints, carrying the spare text through multiple rereadings.

I'm hard pressed to pick just one penguin book, especially with our whole penguin window display to choose from, but Antoinette Portis's (remember Not a Box?) brand spanking new title A Penguin Story is also a wonderful tale about curiosity and individuality, in addition to featuring lots of skinny-legged penguins! (Skinny-legged animals is a phenomenon we will analyze someday.) In the land of snow and water, Edna is looking for something else, something more than black, blue, or white. Once she finds this "something else," all the penguins are intrigued in their own ways, and Edna changes her quest to What else could there be? I just love the endpapers in this, too, so simple and clever.

In terms of classics, no kid venturing into the winter wonderland could do without Ezra Jack Keats's Caldecott winner, The Snowy Day, about a little boy and the magic of the first snow. For a well-rounded gift, we carry a plush Peter doll, which was described in this post. Robert Munsch's Thomas' Snowsuit is a sillier story about a boy who just does not want to wear his snowsuit, and all the kerfuffle that the grownups get into trying to get him in it. Elementary schoolers will laugh loads to see the teacher and principal in one another's clothes.

Snow Amazing: Cool Facts and Warm Tales by Jane Drake and Ann Love is the epitome of winter-themed non-fiction. This book for 8 to 10-year-olds has it all, from facts about weather, ecology, and animals to legends and mini-biographies about famous scientists and artists fixated on snow. Sound like a lot? Humor, brevity and a mix of photographs and illustrations keep this book from mind-numbing fact-overload, great for attention spans of all lengths.

The incredibly gorgeous edition of Robert Frost's poem, Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening illustrated by Susan Jeffers will appeal to poetry and animal lovers alike. The selectively colored illustrations add another layer of narrative to this quintessential American poem.

Down in the chapter book room, another Donna favorite has pride of place in the winter display: Moominland Midwinter. The Moomintroll series, by Finnish author and illustrator Tove Jansson, have been described by previous George staffers as "quirkier Winnie the Pooh." In this seasonal choice, Moomintroll wakes up from his hibernation to discover a strange white stuff coating the world, and decides to investigate this audacious thing, Winter.

Last year's Printz award winner, The White Darkness (ages 12 and up), by Geraldine McCaughrean, has just come out in paperback. This breathtaking adventure tale centers on Sym, in love with all things Antarctica, especially Captain Oates of a doomed South Pole expedition, journeying into that dangerous wilderness with her uncle. Far from civilizations, Sym must survive the challenges of ferocious frozen land as well as the frailty and deception of human nature.

On a lighter, and much pinker note, Jennifer and Matthew Holm's graphic novel Babymouse: Skater Girl (ages 6 and up) serves up yet another fun and daydream-filled episode in Babymouse's messy-whiskered life. Babymouse loves skating on the pond with Wilson Weasel so much that she signs up for ice skating lessons, with dreams of a trophy dancing in her head. But the lessons may be more than she's bargained for--can Babymouse give up cupcakes for first place?

In addition to books, we have snow-related merchandise! Our ear bands and mittens from Russ's Snowy Day collection feature chubby polar bear and penguin faces on blue and green pastel fleece--perfect for those Peter-like romps out in the snow. Once you and your munchkins are bundled appropriately, try out Best of Best's Sno Art: crayon-shaped tubes that spray colors to paint in the snow. They come individually in a range of colors, or a boxed set. Or, if you'd prefer to stay inside, test out some of the delicious recipes from our wide array of cookbooks. Renowned chef Paula Deen has recently come out with My First Cookbook, with recipes ranging in complexity from applewiches and ants on a log to porcupine balls and peanut butter cookies. Rae Grant's Cooking Fun may require more adult supervision and assistance, but with an old-fashioned design and recipes for tasty treats such as summer berry fruit cups and quick & thick barbecued drumsticks, this cookbook is perfect for the committed child cook.

And, since it's just not a round-up post without Sandra Boynton, head over here for Davy Jones of the Monkees singing "Your Personal Penguin," and other Boynton musical numbers. See, you can never have just one penguin per snow day!

Friday, January 23, 2009

A few words on a variety of subjects...

...starting with "Nitwit! Oddment! Blubber! Tweak!" (with apologies to JKR). It's Friday, but there's still some bloggy business from this week which remains unfinished, and so for expedience's sake I thought we'd get it wrapped up in one catch-all catch-up post.

The Harry Potter reference is (relatively) relevant; we recently received Melissa Anelli's Harry, A History: The True Story of a Boy Wizard, His Fans, and Life Inside the Harry Potter Phenomenon. Those of you who have progressed from fans to Potter scholars can check it out alongside Mapping the World of the Sorcerer's Apprentice and The Tales of Beedle the Bard in the chapter book room.

Speaking of great fantasy series, we also just received Garth Nix's amazing Abhorsen trilogy as a ginormous paperback omnibus. Now Sabriel, Lirael: Daughter of the Clayr, and Abhorsen can sit on your shelf in their single-volumed glory, next to the complete His Dark Materials trilogy by Pullman and the entire Chronicles of Narnia by Lewis. (We carry those, too, just in case you need to get them to, you know, sit next to your brand-new Abhorsen omnibus -- or the collected Lord of the Rings you got from us last week.) One of these days I'll decide my constant Abhorsen-plugging on the blog just isn't proactive enough and do a staff pick for this underappreciated series as well.

In the meantime, I can plug the NYT Best Illustrated picture book A River of Words: The Story of William Carlos Williams, which is back in stock! Williams's own poems blend with Jen Bryant's biographical text and Melissa Sweet's mixed media/watercolor illustrations to create a collaboration that is essentially a collage of collages. Typography features heavily in Sweet's images, giving words power on every page, even those without conventional "text." In her excellent backmatter, Bryant provides readers with plenty of historical context for Williams's life. This unusual book has something to offer aspiring poet, aspiring artist, picture book critic, literary history buff, and biography fan alike.

Another awesome bio just arrived this morning: Michelle Obama: An American Story by David Colbert. We're especially excited about this one -- you've seen our adoration for the newly-inaugurated Mr. President in our ongoing Obama lovefest, but everybody at Curious George is equally awed by our new First Lady. My own heart is already all melty over Mrs. Obama, but I still can't wait to read nine chapters' worth of information on her childhood and young adulthood, her political career and activism, the Obamas' romance, and the campaign up through the election. Even better, there are two sections of color pictures to "awww" over! The Obamas get my vote for most adorable Presidential family ever.

On that note... I think we can consider ourselves caught up. Rest up for next week, though, since it will be a big week for blogging: not only do we have plans for a snow book/toy post and a favorite fairy tale post, but the ALA/YALSA awards (including the Caldecott, Newbery, and Printz awards) will be announced at long last on Monday morning. I've come to terms with the fact that I have no idea whatsoever what could win. Anybody out there have a hunch?

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Barack Your World

Oh, pinch me. It has finally happened: He is Mr. President. Our incredible book buyer, Donna, sent us staffers over to Cardullo's and Harvard Book Store to peek over shoulders and cheer alongside our neighbors during the oaths and speeches. (This image of three little monkeys is also on the front page of the Cambridge Chronicle!) I can't say enough how lovely this community is.

If you still haven't gotten your Barack Obama books or paper dolls for your inauguration party (or general home decoration...), please come on over! We have a particularly festive window displaying some of our favorite titles about Obama, Lincoln, and the history of the Presidency, and, as you may have seen in Rachel's great post, presidential books for all ages in the front of the store on the new titles spinner. We had a little run on Kadir Nelson's Change Has Come this afternoon, and rightly so, it is such a beautiful, spare book.

Speaking of windows....can you spot Curious George in the New York Times' album of reader photos from this historic weekend? (Hint: it was added Tuesday at about 1 pm.) If only they had also taken a picture of our red, white, and blue-bunting-festooned panda!

You may be asking yourself the same question we CG folks are all asking now...why doesn't Karen Tack's Hello Cupcake have instructions for Barack-cakes? If anyone has attempted any, please do send us photos! Or actual cupcakes, those are acceptable, too.

Coming soon to a George blog near you: our favorite picks for snow books!

Monday, January 19, 2009

Sure, it's a blog... but it's so much more.

You may have noticed that our latest blog posts have been even more linkeriffic than past ones. Our awesome receiver John has been holed up in the Vault making website magic; now you can order the books and products we recommend directly from the blog! Clicking these links will take you to our website where you can shop online. We ship world-wide at standard shipping rates (and John is super-speedy at getting packages ready to go). You can also always order by calling us at 617-498-0062 for the added bonus of our charming phone demeanors.

Speaking of orders... Did you know that you can special order just about any in-print book from us and it will usually arrive within a week? While we pride ourselves (and we're constantly complimented) on our huge selection of children's fiction and nonfiction, it's impossible to keep everyone's favorite on the shelf at all times. We're happy to order books especially for you at no extra cost, and most will arrive at the store in a matter of days.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Obama Round-Up

Inauguration Day is fast approaching -- are you ready for it? Here at the store, we'll be playing the radio broadcast as it happens -- and here's a round-up for all ages to help you ring in the new presidency.

Pairing powerful sketches and drawings by award-winner Kadir Nelson with some of Barack Obama's most inspiring words, this book is sure to put you in the mood for change. Change Has Come is accessible to all ages, and it's our favorite Barack book here at the store!

For readers in the middle school range and older, Garen Thomas's biography Yes We Can is an informative hit. Obama's life becomes even more compelling with this detailed treatment.

Barack Obama: Son of Promise, Child of Hope by children's poet Nikki Grimes renders the soon-to-be-President's life in picturebook form. Accompanied by Bryan Collier's sweeping illustrations, this title is great for the 3-5 crowd.

Relive Election Day with these fabulous Obama Paper Dolls by Tom Tierney! Dress the 44th President and his family for every government occasion, because change has come--to the First Family's wardrobe!

For those who've just mastered reading on their own, Barack Obama: United States President by Roberta Edwards is full of photographs and info about to prep you for Inauguration Day. From his beginnings to his new position, this book's got it all for the newly independent reader.

Start off your year right with this Presidential calendar, pairing Obama's own words with vibrant photos. Those first 100 days of a new presidency are the most important--and with this great calendar you can keep track of them all. Remember, calendars are half off here at the store!

Here's an indestructible book for the youngest readers--Barack Obama 101: My Very First Presidential Board Book by Brad Epstein. With appealing photos and simple text, this book is great for readers 3 and under.

Barack by Jonah Winter captures Obama's history wonderfully, enhanced by A.G. Ford's compelling illustrations. Embracing the prospect of hope that Obama's campaign promoted, this picturebook is a great choice for readers 3-5.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Curious George ♥s Authors

Boy, have I got lovely news for valentines of all ages! Curious George will be participating in Kids Heart Authors Day, on this Valentine's Day, Saturday, February 14th. Authors and illustrators will be gathering at independent bookstores throughout New England to sign books and talk about their writing and drawing. The event will take place between 10 am and 12 pm. Stay tuned for details on which of your favorite children's and YA authors and illustrators we will be hosting!

In book news, we finally have Wabi Sabi (by author Mark Reibstein and illustrator Ed Young) back in stock! I've heard some book club folks predicting this could be a serious Caldecott contender, so be sure to take a peek and form your own opinion before the awards are announced at the end of this month. You can find it on our features table, alongside Free to Be...You and Me, Our White House, and Naked Mole Rat Gets Dressed. River of Words, the story of William Carlos Williams, is still on order, despite how many people are still pining for it! We are also sad to announce to fantasy-adventure super-fans that a staff favorite, Kristin Cashore's Graceling, is out of stock at the publisher. We have one copy left as I write this, so you better act quick! They are already reprinting it, so we can only hope that it will back before we go into withdrawal. Jeff Kinney's third installment of Diary of a Wimpy Kid, The Last Straw, is practically marching its way off the shelf, so let's just hope that the publisher keeps up with the frenetic demand.

This month is so full of anticipation and excitement! In addition to the Newbery and Caldecott medals and the arrival of The Last Straw, there are bound to be inauguration parties (or Obama-Rama, if you want to get extra festive about it). Check out Rachel's round-up of all things Barack here so you're prepared!

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Curious Facebook!

Did you know that our store now has a Facebook account? Our page, found under Curious George Books & Toys, is complete with a news feed updated with every new blog post, photos of the store, event updates and a discussion forum. So for those of you who get all the important info of your day from FB, check us out, and be sure to become a Fan!

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Staff Pick Tapas Platter

With spring new titles on the horizon, (if only spring weather was too!) and a plethora of fall titles to intimidate almost anyone, here are some choice picks from our chapter book room to guide you...or just make that to-read list a tad bit longer.

Pretty Monsters by Kelly Link
Bookseller: Rachel
Genre: creepy fantasy, short stories
Suggested reading level: ages 13 and up

Each story in this collection is a uniquely engaging world of its own -- some familiar, some utterly strange -- but all of them will give readers the best kind of chills. Matched with Shaun Tan's vivid illustrations, these stories truly have lives of their own. An especially great read for Gaiman fans!

Victory by Susan Cooper
Bookseller: Julia
Genre: historical fiction, contemporary
Suggested reading level: ages 9-12

London-native Molly Jennings is not looking forward to making America her new home. Then she makes a fateful find in an antique CT book shop and the adventure begins. Molly's life becomes personally entwined in a dramatic historical legend starring young Sam Robbins aboard the HMS Victory at the Battle of Trafalgar. Action-packed and compelling, this hybrid historical mystery is a thrilling trip between two real places and two linked lives, two hundred years apart.

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
Bookseller: Michelle
Genre: science fiction; for fans of City of Ember, Feed
Suggested reading level: ages 13 and up

Katniss volunteers to take her sister's place in the Capitol's televised Hunger Games, a Survivor-style fight to the death. Constant action and edge-of-your-seat plot twists combine with disquieting, thought-provoking ideas to promise a series to stand beside other dystopian great like The Giver and 1984.

Guardian by Julius Lester
Bookseller: Bindy
Genre: historical fiction
Suggested reading level: ages 12 and up
On the heels of this most historic presidential election, Lester demands that we bear the imperative to share our memories, no matter how vexing, for the greater good. Set in the post-WWII deep South, Guardian is THE must-read following To Kill a Mockingbird.

The Complete Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi
Bookseller: Katie

Genre: graphic memoir; for fans of Maus or Blankets
Suggested reading level: ages 15 and up

The struggles of a single teenager during the Iranian Revolution parallel those of a country asserting its independence in this heir to Spiegelman's Maus. Marjane -- in her dual roles as adolescent protagonist and adult narrator -- is witty, courageous, and poignant; the black-and-white art is breathtaking.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

The Best of...The Baby Room

While we await shipments to replace some of our holiday sales (poor Hello Kitty, there is nothing left of her in the back room, every single item is out!), the baby room is still going strong! International Playthings (EarlyYears), Melissa & Doug, Rich Frog, and Little Toy Co. are just some of the great brands we carry. Here are some of our top picks for the infant to toddler crowd.

For the very newest to the world, Angel Dear's animal nap blankets are indubitably the softest, sweetest gift. They come in two sizes, 29 inch square, perfect for cribs or carriages, and a 14 inch square, great for babies to clutch anywhere. The blankets are topped with darling animal heads, from ducks and puppies to giraffes and hippos, with half-moon stitching for closed eyes.

For the baby on the go, Pint Size/Latitude Enfant makes a variety of stroller and play pen toys. Spirale is a brightly colored, smiling caterpillar that can be wound around crib tops or stroller bars, from which hang crinkles, squeakers, and a mirror. You can purchase this from our store's website here.
Manhattan Toy
's Baby-ville Activity Cube combines textures and flaps with another baby favorite: other babies! This 5" cube has knotted ribbon, a peek-a-boo flap, and other grabbable, noise-making parts.

Melissa & Doug gives us the best part of doctor offices: the bead maze from the waiting room! The two sizes, table-top and hand-held, are in primary colors, with chunky shape pieces to wind through spirals and dips. A classic! Our First Bead Maze display is constantly in use, with the occasional parent joining in on the fun.

Petite Madeline fans rejoice! Madeline merchandise, which is notoriously difficult to come by, has expanded with Kids Preferred dolls in various sizes. The Dressable Madeline is a soft, baby safe 13 inch doll with red yarn hair, yellow sailor hat, and removable blue uniform coat. She can be purchased here.

Quite a few companies now carry environment-friendly lines. Our favorites include Miyim plush and Tomy's super new Eco Angels. Miyim stuffed animals are made from organic cotton and toxin-free dye and come in various styles, from Sleepytime's rotund, slumpy, huggable bears to the cuddly, be-frocked elephants and monkeys of the Fairytale collection. Eco Angels are made from plant-based plastics and are packaged in recycled paper. The Starbright Light Show, which clips onto the crib or stands on its own, plays three different lullabies and projects soft light with star and moon designs onto the ceiling.

Sandra Boynton has a whole shelf devoted to her adorable, hilarious, and often singable board books. We love her so much here that, sometimes, life seems like one giant Barnyard Dance. You can even enjoy her silliness in animal cloth books. Shaped like animal heads, the mouths open upward revealing simple, funny phrases or a "squeeze me!" button that actually barks, moos, or squeals. The packaging couldn't say it any better: "perfect for the baby, the toddler, and the sensitive high-powered executive."

Don't let the simple premise of a counting book fool you:
Duck and Goose 123, by Tad Hills, is sure to warrant many rereadings. These oil paintings of pondside friends are expressive and sweet, and require more than simply counting items in a row. My favorite spread is "7 berries": Duck, with a simple downward slanting eyebrow, stares down his friends covered in purple splotches, next to a bush with seven berries left on it. Amazing!

Our staffer Miruna is very excited that My Many-Colored Days by Dr. Seuss is now in board book format. With paintings from Steve Johnson and Lou Fancher, the art here feels much different from, say, Gerald McBoing McBoing or that Horton we're seeing everywhere, but it definitely has the Seussian appreciation for individuality and light-handed approach to "morals" Dr. Seuss is known for. It's a great and beautiful way to show children that it's OK to have all kinds of moods, and now being in two different formats, can reach an even wider audience.

If you haven't already gotten on board the scanimation train, you are in for a real treat! Rufus Butler Seder, the creator of Gallop!, is back with a second moving image book, Swing!, this time instead of animals, you can see kids bicycling, running, or dribbling a basketball. Kids and adults alike are entranced by this book: some marvel at the deceptively simple design, some just love making the kid run slower, faster, and even backwards. However you look at it, it's an incredible new kind of picture book!

These are just some of the highlights of the baby room, come on in or give us a call to see what else we have for your favorite carpet-crawler!

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Naked Monkey George's Blog Gets Dressed!

We've been hinting for a few weeks now about some changes coming to this monkey blog business, and now that it's a new year, it's time for a fresh look for us! We'll be adding some regular features, like The Best of the Baby Room, highlighting the new, the popular, and the standby items in those areas. We will also answer some of our frequently asked questions (a new baby for a big sister, fire engine books for a four year old, fantasy beyond The Lightning Thief, et cetera), and tagging them with our new labels, for those times when you're stumped on what to get that picky six (seven, nine, twenty...) year old you know. As frequently as our staffers write them, we will post their chapter book room favorites, with occasional reviews and further reading lists ("If you like Twilight, try City of Bones, Tantalize..." and so forth). There will also be more topical lists, such as a graphic novel round-up or magic kits for Harry Potter parties. If there's anything you'd like us to focus more on, please let us know, we are open to suggestions!

All these and more will kick off within the week, and even more excitingly, under our new team member tags -- so you'll get to know our bloggers individually and see a more personalized approach to our reviews.

We look forward to hearing your thoughts on what you'll be seeing!

Happy new year!

Friday, January 2, 2009

Staff Pick Sampler Dish

As part of our blog's new year's revamping, we will be showcasing staff picks from our chapter book room. These may be hot-off-the-presses titles, cult classics, or sleepers, but as Sam McBratney's bear daddy would say, they're all our favorites.

Here's just a taste of what we're loving today:

Ways to Live Forever by Sally Nicholls
Bookseller: Bindy
Genre: realistic fiction
Suggested reading level: ages 9 & up

11-year-old Sam delivers creativity in the face of demise and immortality in response to chronic illness. Sam's matter-of-fact attitude provides a reassuring voice to the readers, whom he invites along as he lives out his dreams through the final stages of leukemia.

Life As We Knew It by Susan Beth Pfeffer
Bookseller: Julia
Genre: YA action/thriller/modern day
Suggested reading level: ages 15 & up

When the moon shifts dangerously close to the Earth, a string of deadly climate changes ends modern day life. After homework, McDonalds, and electricity become things of the past, epidemics sweep the town. Miranda learns the meaning of courage, integrity, and great loss as she helps her family survive in deserted suburbia. Hard to put down! Also look for the companion novel, The Dead and the Gone.

The Princess and the Hound by Mette Ivie Harrison
Bookseller: Michelle
Genre: fairy tale, romance
Suggested reading level: ages 12 & up

In this enchanting reversal of the tale of Beauty and the Beast, prince George hides the dangerous, shameful secret of his animal magic in his increasingly magic-fearing kingdom. When he is betrothed to the strong-spirited princess Beatrice, he discovers more secrets and love in unexpected places.

Graceling by Kristin Cashore
Bookseller: Rachel
Genre: high fantasy
Suggested re
ading level: ages 13 & up

Katsa is Graced with the ability to kill, and the king has made her his thug. 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.

The Book of Lost Things by John Connolly
Bookseller: Katie
Genre: fantasy, retold fairy tale
Suggested reading level: ages 15 & up

David retreats into reading to escape the painful aftermath of his mother's death. When the line between reality and imagination blurs, David becomes trapped in a world of fairy-tale dangers -- including the sinister Crooked Man. Includes an extensive index of fairy tales which inspired Connolly.