Thursday, April 30, 2009

Drat that four-hour commute.

Oh, how I wish I were attending this event in an hour: "Leaps and Bounds, Fits and Starts: The Evolution of a Children's Book Writer," with Neil Gaiman and Shaun Tan.

Or this one, on Saturday: Coraline, Sandman, Books, and Imagination: A Conversation with Neil Gaiman."

Mr. G, your big shiny brain always makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside -- except when it's in New York.

Well... okay. Even when it's in New York.

Monday, April 27, 2009

National Poetry Month -- pip, pip!

We're celebrating National Poetry Month!

Silly poems and serious poems, sunny poems and sad poems, scary poems and every other kind of poem can be found in the many anthologies we carry in our poetry section. To give you a sampling, we've each chosen our favorite from a collection you can find there.

"Snails" from Polka-Bats and Octopus Slacks by Calef Brown
selected by Miruna

It never fails, those pesky snails
are always in the pudding.
Lousy guests, those nasty pests,
they're always up to something.

I've tried like mad to find their nest
but snails are smart I must confess.
The trails they leave can fool the best,
and snails are good at hiding.

Oh well, at least they don't make threats,
they don't eat meat,
they don't place bets,
they almost always pay their debts,
and never puff on cigarettes.
I think I'll keep those snails as pets
and feed them lots of pudding.

"Table Manners" from The Goops and How to Be Them by Gilette Burgess
selected by Katie

The Goops they lick their fingers
And the Goops they lick their knives
They spill their broth on the tablecloth --
Oh, they lead disgusting lives!

The Goops they talk while eating
And loud and fast they chew
And that is why I'm glad that I
Am not a Goop -- are you?

"in Just-" by e.e. cummings from Favorite Poems Old and New (edited by Helen Ferris)
selected by Michelle

in Just-
spring when the world is mud-
luscious the little
lame balloonman
whistles far and wee

and eddieandbill come
running from
marbles and
piracies and it's

when the world is puddle-wonderful

the queer
old balloonman
whistles far and wee
and bettyandisabel come dancing

from hop-scotch and jump-rope and

balloonMan whistles

"Spring and Fall" by Gerard Manley Hopkins
selected by book buyer Donna

Margaret, are you grieving
Over Goldengrove unleaving?
Leaves, like the things of man, you
With your fresh thoughts care for, can you?
Ah! as the heart grows older
It will come to such sights colder
By and by, nor spare a sigh
Though worlds of wanwood leafmeal lie;
And yet you will weep and know why.
Now no matter, child, the name:
Sorrow's springs are the same.
Nor mouth had, no nor mind, expressed
What héart héard of, ghóst guéssed:
It is the blight man was born for,
It is Margaret you mourn for.

"The Owl and the Pussycat" by Edward Lear from Poetry Speaks to Children (edited by Elise Paschen) -- read and hear three other poems from this collection at NPR
selected by merch buyer Ellen
The Owl and the Pussy-cat went to sea
In a beautiful pea green boat,
They took some honey, and plenty of money,
Wrapped up in a five pound note.
The Owl looked up to the stars above,
And sang to a small guitar,
"O lovely Pussy! O Pussy my love,
What a beautiful Pussy you are,
You are,
You are!
What a beautiful Pussy you are!"

Pussy said to the Owl, "You elegant fowl!
How charmingly sweet you sing!
O let us be married! too long we have tarried:
But what shall we do for a ring?"
They sailed away, for a year and a day,
To the land where the Bong-tree grows
And there in a wood a Piggy-wig stood
With a ring at the end of his nose,
His nose,
His nose,
With a ring at the end of his nose.

"Dear pig, are you willing to sell for one shilling
Your ring?" Said the Piggy, "I will."
So they took it away, and were married next day
By the Turkey who lives on the hill.
They dined on mince, and slices of quince,
Which they ate with a runcible spoon;
And hand in hand, on the edge of the sand,
They danced by the light of the moon,
The moon,
The moon,
They danced by the light of the moon.

"Twinkletoes" from When We Were Very Young by A.A. Milne
selected by Bethany

When the sun
Shines through the leaves of the apple-tree,
When the sun
Makes shadows of the leaves of the apple-tree,
Then I pass
On the grass
From one leaf to another,
From one leaf to its brother,
Tip-toe, tip-toe!
Here I go!

"Poor Potatoes Underground" from Ride a Purple Pelican by Jack Prelutsky
selected by Rachel

Poor potatoes underground
never get to look around,
do not have a chance to see
butterfly or bumblebee.

Poor potatoes never look
at the fishes in the brook,
never see the sunny skies --
what a waste of all those eyes!

"It's a Dog-Dust Day" by Janeen Brian inspired by "A Break Away" by Tom Roberts, from Side by Side: New Poems Inspired by Art from Around the World (edited by Jan Greenberg)
selected by general manager Bindy

It's a dog-dust day.
Sky clamps the brown land in blue heat.
Hawks swing lazy circles
near an archway of tall eucalyptus.

It's a dog-dust day
on the sheep-filled track;
woolly animals hemmed in by crouching dogs
sloe-eyed, sharp-eared, firecrackers when need be.

It's a dog-dust day.
Stockmen shuffle the mob along
with cracks of cries and whistles that split the air.
Then the scent of water, a tumble,

and the sudden leap of a dream-startled sheep
and the mob explodes, scatters, bounds over
fences where none exist!

A break away!

A confusion of bleating and bustling that chokes the track
and a stockman swerves his horse and swipes his hat,
on that shattered, scattered,
dog-dust day.

"Olf" from Dutch Sneakers and Flea Keepers by Calef Brown
selected by Anne

Olf is a terrible pirate,
with a rabbit instead of a parrot.
He couldn't afford
the usual sword,
so he has to get by with a carrot.

Olf makes a racket
wherever he goes.
Screaming "Shiver me fingers!"
and "Off with your nose!"

His leg has no peg,
and his beard isn't blue,
but Olf is a pirate.
I'm frightened,
aren't you?

You can also celebrate by visiting fellow blogs The Miss Rumphius Effect and Poetry for Children, which explore poetry in children's literature all year long. The "30 Poets in 30 Days" feature at GottaBook offers a never before published poem by a great children's poet every day in April. And don't forget to bring in a poem this Thursday, April 30, for Poem in Your Pocket Day! Not only will you get one of the CG staff's favorite poems in exchange, but you'll get 10% off your purchase!

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Poem in Your Pocket Day

Celebrate the second annual Poem in Your Pocket Day here with us at Curious George! On April 30th, for the close of National Poetry Month, just select a poem you love and carry it in your pocket to share with friends, schoolmates, co-workers. Then come to the store with your poem and get 10% off your purchase!

Mary Ann Hoberman Was Here!

Last weekend we were very pleased to have Mary Ann Hoberman, the current Children's Poet Laureate, read and sign here in the store! Everyone present had a great time listening to the bouncy rhythms and rhymes of her witty, sometimes tongue-twisting poetry. If you missed out, though, don't worry--we took a video, which you can watch below, or also on our Facebook page! Don't forget to stop by the store, too, because we still have signed copies of several of her excellent books.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

What Rachel Wants to Buy This Week - Episode 6

Hello, all! Did you miss me when I didn't post last week? I missed you, and shopping. But now I'm back, and the springtime weather here in Boston makes me crave toys that are just as fun outside as inside!

Recycling Truck by Green Toys
Located upstairs, on the game wall

Not only is this awesome green truck an excellent, sturdy toy, but it's also made entirely of recycled plastic! It has different compartments for bottles, cans and paper, catering to all the recycling needs of your toy room (or driveway, or sandbox). It's always a bonus when buying a really fun toy truck actually benefits the environment!

Middle Eastern Master Builder Set by Haba
Located upstairs, on the game wall

Regular blocks can get boring, even with a vivid architectural imagination--which is why I really want to spice up my building block life with this beautiful set. Including domes, arches, steps and other unusual shapes, this 50-piece set is perfect for adding a little zing to a boring block construction.

And for even more excitement, we've got an accessory pack of 6 colored glass blocks also made by Haba. That's definitely something I haven't seen before, and it's all I can do to keep from opening the boxes and making a block sculpture right here in the store.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Children's Book Week

In just a few weeks, from May 11th through the 17th, Children's Book Week kicks off! Sponsored by the Children's Book Council, (a non-profit trade association for children's publishers), the events span the country, concluding in our very own Copley Square. Particulars of the events should be announced shortly, but the most exciting night will be Tuesday's Children's Choice Book Awards.

Kids and teens can vote for their favorite book, author and illustrator right here, until May 3rd. Who do you think will win? Any contest that pits Stephenie Meyer, Jeff Kinney, and Rick Riordan against each other should be fun to watch! (I'll admit, I was surprised when Stephenie Meyer's Twilight championed over Harry Potter at Nickelodeon's Kids' Choice Awards, though not surprised when there was hubbub over it).

Monday, April 20, 2009

Katie's picture book picks this week

Two gorgeous new nonfiction books have won my heart, since they feature two of my most beloved subjects: dance and the redwood forest. (Not simultaneously -- although it is fun to dance in the forest, as long as you don't trip on a root or step on a banana slug.) I've been a dancer since I was reading picture books the first time, and I lived in the incomparable Pacific Northwest for six awesome years, so I'm tempted to feel as though these books were made just for me! They're so great, though, that I won't try to keep them to myself.

In celebration of the Alvin Ailey Dance Theater's 50th Anniversary comes Valerie Gadstone's A Young Dancer: The Life of an Ailey Student. Like my worn copy of the ballet classic A Very Young Dancer by Jill Krementz, Gadstone's photographic dance memoir is actually not her own memoir, but that of thirteen-year-old Iman Bright. Iman describes her jam-packed, but passion-filled, schedule of school, violin practice, dance classes, rehearsals, and performances. Behind-the-scenes photographs taken in the studio and in the wings accompany Iman's words to give readers an understanding of life at this prestigious dance academy. The Alvin Ailey company will be performing in Boston at the Opera House from April 28th through May 3rd -- if you go, you might see me there! They'll also teach a children's dance workshop at the Blue Hill Boys and Girls Club on Wednesday, April 29; non-member prince is $10.

Redwoods by Jason Chin is a daring kind of nonfiction, managing a neat balance of metanarrative, nonfiction, and fantasy in the interplay between its informative text and breathtaking art. While the text presents straightforward facts about the redwood forest and its inhabitants, the illustrations tell a completely different, although intimately related, narrative. A boy riding the subway in New York City discovers a book called Redwoods (funnily enough, by Jason Chin) laying next to him on the seat. As he reads, imagery from the book comes to life around him, Jumanji-style (i.e. knights appear in nearby seats when he reads that redwood forests have been growing since medieval times). After the boy has come to the text's conclusion -- which finds him rappelling up an old-growth redwood surrounded by the wildlife he's been reading about -- he sits down for a rest and lays the book aside. Again, in true Jumanji fashion, it's only a matter of time before the book-within-the-book finds a new adventurer.

Branching out a little... (groan) Fuse #8 (of SLJ) linked to the blog of author/illustrator Carin Berger. Ever since the book club several of us CG staffers belong to voted The Little Yellow Leaf our Mock Caldecott Award winner, I've been looking forward to the next project from this talented artist. From the shots of Forever Friends-in-progress she's posted, I can't wait! Check out this breathtaking -- and not even quite finished -- image of a bird swooping down among blossoms to give a bunny a berry. Swoon.

By the way, have you ever tried cut paper illustration, a la Ms. Berger, Molly Bang, Leo Lionni, Eric Carle, or Steve Jenkins? It's not an undertaking for the faint of heart! It is a lot of fun, and many well-respected artists use the medium, even though it may not be what you think of first when you think "fine art" or "illustration." Nikki McClure, famous for her cut-paper art, has just illustrated her first picture book, All in a Day by Cynthia Rylant. If you'd like to give it a whirl, we have plenty of books and kits on paper art or discovering new art techniques.

Of course, whatever your passions are, we can help you find a great book or toy to help you explore them!

Friday, April 17, 2009

Oh, give me a home where the wild things roam....

"You guys look like you have a wild rumpus all the time!": just another reason why the Hut loves Barack Obama. If you haven't seen the video yet, check out the Huffington Post's account of Easter Egg Roll Monday, when our President, exhibiting excellent taste, read Where the Wild Things Are to a crowd of thousands of thrilled children and their families. (Make sure you roar along at the appropriate places.)

Nobody got video of the First Lady and the First Grandma reading If You Give a Mouse a Cookie?

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Blueberries for All!

As Katie found out from PW this weekend, the dispute over Blueberries for Sal has been settled, and this gorgeous classic is already back in, in all its delicious white and blue glory. You can find Sal and the little bear snacking away on berries on our features table or shelved with McCloskey's other classic New England picture books, including Make Way for Ducklings, Time of Wonder, and Lentil. Hooray!

Another long-awaited berry bonanza has also arrived: Neil Gaiman's newest picture book, Blueberry Girl, illustrated by Charles Vess. Well I remember Katie's anticipation for this title as far back as I'll leave any commentary to her, but suffice it to say, it is really lovely, and truly shows the scope of Gaiman's writing.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

What Rachel Wants to Buy This Week - Episode 5

It's no surprise to anyone who knows me that I love bright colors, happy faces, and anything cute. That's why this week, I'm back in the baby room wanting to buy something that I should be too old for--but I'm totally not.

Stack Flap 'N Tumble by Yookidoo
Ages 9mo+
Located in the baby room

This fantastic set of stacking blocks is one of the cutest baby toys I've ever seen. Not only does this toy have colored balls with cute faces that fall through the center of the blocks, but it also has leaves that flap like feathers, bits to twist and turn, and with the addition of some AA batteries it even plays music! This adorable contraption could keep any baby (and also me) entertained for hours.

That's it for this week, but if you're dying for more recommendations from me, check out our Easter/Passover Roundup post!


It's been so long since Blueberries for Sal was available that I'd just about given up hope of ever seeing it in print again, despite the fact that it's my (and many customers') favorite McCloskey. Thank goodness we don't have to worry about that; PW reports that the beloved blue-and-white picture book will be reprinted and back on shelves by the end of May.

PW adds that Pack, one of the Make Way for Ducklings statues in the Boston Common which was stolen a week ago, is now back at home with Jack, Lack, Mack, Quack, and all his other siblings. Good thing, too -- I don't know if the world of children's books could handle more long-term McCloskey loss after a year without Blueberries for Sal.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

I'm resisting the urge to say "nyah nyah nyah nyah"

Rainy Saturdays are good for catching up on unfinished blog business!

Here's an article forwarded by blog alumna Bethany (and yes, we're still trying to get her back) on independent bookstores in the Boston area giving the big guys a run for their money. Yay!

Every season is award season, apparently

The shortlist for the E.B. White "Some Book!" Best Read-Aloud Award has just been announced. Since one of my favorite early readers and staff pick, Houndsley and Catina by James Howe and Marcia Gay, is a past winner, I'm really interested to see what wins this year. The nominees -- which for the first time are up for online vote by Association of Booksellers for Children members rather than a committee -- are:

Picture books:
- A Visitor for Bear by Bonny Becker, illustrated by Kady MacDonald Denton (Candlewick)
- Louise, the Adventures of a Chicken by Kate DiCamillo, illustrated by Harry Bliss (HarperCollins)
- One by Kathryn Otoshi (KO Kids Books)
- Too Many Toys by David Shannon (Scholastic)

Chapter books:
- The Magic Thief by Sarah Prineas (HarperCollins)
- Masterpiece by Elise Broach, illustrated by Kelly Murphy (Holt)
- The Willoughbys by Lois Lowry (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)
- Zorgamazoo by Robert Paul Weston, illustrated by Victor Rivas (Penguin)

I certainly have my favorites, but I'm not telling! What do you think should win? Are there titles you're surprised didn't make the cut? What works in your home/school during your read-aloud time?

Easter/Passover Roundup!

Easter and Passover are upon us, and the store is full of great things for spring holidays. Here at the store we've got everything from haggadahs and child-sized Seder plates to Easter chicks, craft kits and music. As a celebrant of both holidays, I've rounded up my favorite spring titles for you to read while you're munching your matzo or your Easter candy!

Rechenka's Eggs by Patricia Polacco

When Babushka takes in a wounded goose and names her Rechenka, the bird lays eggs for the old woman every morning. Babushka's handpainted eggs always win first prize at the Easter festival, but when Rechenka's wings heal and she begins to fly around, she knocks down the jars of paint and carefully decorated eggs the day before Easter. Babushka is devastated--it's too late to paint more--but when she wakes in the morning, a colorful and miraculous surprise is waiting for her. This beautifully illustrated picture book will certainly bring the joyous spirit of Easter to your celebrations this year.

Dinosaur on Passover by Diane Levin Rauchwerger, illustrated by Jason Wolff

This clever rhyming story about a dinosaur who comes to a family's Seder will definitely make you giggle! He tries to be helpful, but the dinosaur's size and clumsiness wreak havoc on this Passover celebration. The bright illustrations and seamlessly incorporated Passover vocabulary is a surefire hit to shake up your holiday.

Junie B., First Grader: Dumb Bunny by Barbara Park, illustrated by Denise Brunkus

If Junie B. can win the Easter egg hunt at Lucille's gigantic mansion, she'll get a playdate to swim in Lucille's heated swimming pool! There's just one problem--Junie is stuck wearing a big dumb bunny suit with big floppy bunny feet. She's got no chance of collecting enough eggs to win when she can barely walk without falling down, but if she can just find the Golden Egg, that might just be enough.... This great installment in the Junie B. series even includes stickers for egg decorating!

Dear Elijah by Miriam Bat-Ami

Passover is approaching, but Rebecca's father is hospitalized and can't be with them. She doesn't want to talk to her friends about her distress, so she begins writing letters to the prophet Elijah instead. These letters reveal Rebecca's struggles with faith, family, and her own changing inner self in a short but appealing middle grade title.

I Am A Bunny by Richard Scarry

Celebrate the Easter season with this classic Golden Book bunny tale. Even the smallest of readers will enjoy this rabbit's gentle adventure through the seasons, illustrated by the beloved Richard Scarry, and the sturdy board book format will stand up to little hands!

Matzo Ball Moon by Leslea Newman, illustrated by Elaine Greenstein

Eleanor's Bubbe makes the best matzo ball soup--so good that, even though Eleanor and Bubbe have made plenty of them, the matzo balls keep disappearing as members of the family sneak into the kitchen to taste them. When it's time to eat dinner, there aren't enough matzo balls left for everyone, until Eleanor finds one in a very surprising place! This warm, sweet picture book is a great read-aloud for Passover gatherings.

The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis

This beloved children's book is especially relevant during the Easter season, capturing the religious spirit behind the holiday without beating you over the head. Revisit (or discover for the first time) the beginning of Lewis' Narnia series, full of magic, danger, love and courage--and the inevitable return of spring.

Let's Nosh by Amy Wilson Sanger

Let's face it--Passover is really all about the excellent food! This bright, sturdy board book is the perfect introduction to traditional Jewish foods for even the youngest of readers. The rhyming text and collage illustrations will whet your appetite for matzo, challah, and even gefilte fish!

This Little Bunny Can Bake by Janet Stein

In Chef George's School of Dessertology, only one studious little bunny seems to be interested in following the rules--so while bunny makes a masterpiece, the other animals just make a mess. This retro-looking new picturebook even has great easy recipes on the endpapers, so you and your little bunnies can bake, too!

Penina Levine is a Hard-Boiled Egg by Rebecca O'Connell, illustrated by Majella Lue Sue

When her teacher assigns the class to write letters from the Easter Bunny to a group of kindergarteners, Penina doesn't know what to do--her family doesn't celebrate Easter, but Ms. Anderson insists that she can write the letter anyway. With an impending zero on her assignment, a little sister who drives her crazy and parents who never seem to listen, Penina finally turns to her grandmother for advice. This is a great Passover pick for the middle-grade crowd!

A Tale for Easter by Tasha Tudor

This sweet book, just the right size for little hands, portrays the happy dreams of a child the night before Easter. Imagining rabbits, lambs, ducklings and other springtime surprises, this is one idyllic dream that remains timeless.

The Devil's Arithmetic by Jane Yolen

Hannah's getting tired of the way her family always talks about the past at Jewish holidays. This year, though, the Passover Seder will open a door for Hannah, transporting her to a small village in Poland at the start of World War II. Trapped by the German occupation and sent to a concentration camp, Hannah begins to learn about her family's history, the deeper meaning of Passover, and the young girl who changed her Aunt Eva's life forever. Winner of the National Jewish Book Award, this title offers a unique perspective on the Passover season.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Helloooooooo cupcake!

Karen Tack, the author/cupcake queen of Hello Cupcake: Irresistibly Playful Creations that Anyone Can Make, will be appearing on The Today Show tomorrow. While I'm sure she'll demonstrate just how adorable (and easy!) all her fantabulous cupcake designs are, I can't help but wish that Willy Wonka's sweet-transporting television theory had panned out.

One of these days I'm going to host a (vegan) cupcake party so I'll have an excuse to bust out Hello Cupcake, buy myself a dinosaur, mermaid, racecar, or princess cupcake party kit, and hand out goodies stashed away in cupcake trinket boxes. As Rachel says, any party "lousy with cupcakes" sounds like a good idea to me.

Blood and roses

We're so pleased to bring you the second installment of our guest post series!

I adored Alisa M. Libby's tragic -- and wonderfully creepy! -- first novel The Blood Confession, so I've been dying (har har) to ask the up-and-coming author, blogger, and Emerson grad about her work. Luckily, the recent arrival of her new historical fiction novel The King's Rose gave me the perfect opportunity.

Your novels both feature fairly infamous women in European history: The King’s Rose is about Catherine Howard, the "treasonous" fifth wife of Henry VIII, while the protagonist of The Blood Confession is Erzebet, the “Blood Countess” Bathory. What prompted you to make these historical figures such sympathetic characters?
I’m drawn to tell the stories of “bad girls” in history — girls who make terrible, illogical choices — in order to answer my own questions of, “Why did she do this? What was she thinking?” I’m not interested in making these characters innocent, especially as their bad decisions are what intrigued me in the first place. I like the idea of puzzling together a logic (though not always logical) for them to follow. And creating sympathy was integral for both of these characters: both as a way that I could connect with them as I wrote their stories and (hopefully) as a way for readers to connect with them as well.

What is your research process like?
I read a lot. Particularly in the case of Tudor England, a lot of primary source research has been done about that time period, so there are a lot of great books out there about the history, culture, traditions, food, clothing, and biographies of key players in the Tudor court. I relied heavily on libraries—my local library and the Simmons College library, in particular—where I ordered many books through interlibrary loan. I read a lot, took a lot of notes, and formulated my own “version” of Catherine’s story from what I learned.

Though I did historical research for both, the process was different for each of my books. The Blood Confession is an example of historical fantasy. While I was inspired by the story of Countess Bathory, I ended up creating a fictional story for the life of my character, Countess Bizecka, that would explain why she eventually commits murder. The murders and the blood-bathing are based on the legends surrounding Bathory. The King’s Rose is a more traditional historical fiction, so there was an even greater emphasis on the historical details. While I didn’t fiddle around with actual events, I did have to fill in the gaps of what Catherine was thinking and feeling.

I also took a research trip to England, where my husband and I visited various sites where Catherine lived, such as Hampton Court and the Tower of London. It was amazing to be able to visit the great hall at Hampton where she danced, and the Tower Green where she was eventually executed. It was a wonderful experience to actually be there, after all that I had read about the time period and the people. I made sure that we visited Catherine’s burial place at the Chapel of St. Peter ad Vincula on February 13, the day of her execution. Morbid, I know, but the significance of the date made the visit even more profound. Catherine doesn’t get many visitors, and she is buried alongside her infamous cousin, Anne Boleyn, who had roses draped over her crest on the day that we visited. But we had come a long way to visit Catherine, specifically, and I like to think that she was grateful. For a list of the books I read and a link to my England travel blog, visit my website.

Both books have gorgeous covers with a “period” feel appropriate to their historical settings, and The Blood Confession is particularly striking with its blood-dipped edges. How close is the look of each book to what you imagined?
I think Dutton did a wonderful job with both of my covers; I count myself very lucky. That said, I prefer book covers that don’t show the entire face of the main character. I would rather read how the character is described in the book and envision it in my head. I was a little taken aback to see the initial cover for The Blood Confession, though I think they did a wonderful job of making her look intense and intriguing. Furthermore, I love the blood-dipped pages—the blood stain gets larger as the book gets bloodier! The King’s Rose, I was blown away when I first saw the cover image. I loved it immediately. It is so beautiful, and so perfectly Catherine: lovely, sensual, naïvely seductive.

Do you envision writing more historical fiction in the future? Are there other genres you’d like to explore? What is your next project?
I definitely hope that I have another historical novel in me! There are so many great characters that I would love to explore. But at the moment I’m taking a break from historical fiction. When I finished The King’s Rose, the thought of starting the research process all over again made me want to hide under my desk. There is a lot of research involved, and I have to be completely committed to—even obsessed with—the subject matter. So lately I’ve been experimenting with contemporary fiction, with a bit of magic thrown in. I hope it decides to become a novel, some day.

Did parts of either of the novels develop during National Novel Writing Month? How is writing a novel in a month different from writing a novel on contract with your publisher? What was the transition from NaNoWriMo participant to published novelist like?
Actually, I did start writing the first draft of The King’s Rose during NaNoWriMo, but halfway through I realized I needed to do a lot more research before forging ahead. However, I love the whole premise of NaNoWriMo, and I really enjoyed the book No Plot, No Problem, though I can see how it may not work well for historical novels unless you’ve done a lot of research in advance.

Still, my first drafts are really rough and often pretty lousy, so why not get them on paper as fast as possible? Most of writing, at least for me, is revising and re-writing, and NaNoWriMo is a great way to start that whole process. The entire process of writing a book—on your own, with a writing group, or with a literary agent or an editor—is all about revising. The great thing about working with an agent and then an editor is that you get some really insightful feedback on your work. I’m certain that my agent and editor have helped me to create much better books than I would have been able to do on my own.

For more information about me and my books, visit
Thanks so much to Alisa for her post... We have lots of great guest posts still to come, and trust me, you don't want to miss any!

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Staff Pick Angst

In honor of this month's "teen angst" display in the chapter book room, here are some of our favorite angsty choices, beyond, of course, such classics as The Catcher In the Rye, The Perks of Being a Wallflower, and Go Ask Alice.

My Most Excellent Year by Steve Kluger
Bookseller: Rachel
Genre: coming-of-age, high school
Suggested reading level: ages 13 up

TC is obsessed with the Red Sox and new girl Alé; his brother Augie is crazy about musicals and Andy the football jock. Together, they'll make their freshman year a wild ride of love and rule-bending. Told through journal entries and IMs, this beautiful book will play your heartstrings like a fiddle.

Annie on My Mind by Nancy Garden
Bookseller: Katie
Genre: realistic fiction
Suggested reading level: ages 12 up

This groundbreaking novel is by turns breathtaking -- as Liza and Annie's quirky friendship deepens into first romance -- and heart-wrenching, when the outside world's discovery of their relationship creates terrible consequences for the girls and those they care about.

Angus, Thongs, and Full-Frontal Snogging by Louise Rennison
Bookseller: Bindy
Genre: realistic fiction
Suggested reading level: ages 11 up

Bridget Jones-esque diary of Brit teen Georgia Nicholson. Laugh-out-loud funny, Georgia insists on sympathy from her readers as she navigates life with her demonic cat, infantile sister, intolerable parents, and questionable mates and snoggers.

The Kayla Chronicles by Sherri Winston
Bookseller: Michelle
Genre: for fans of Carolyn Mackler, Confessions of Georgia Nicholson books
Suggested reading level: ages 9 up

Aspiring journalist and freshman feminist Kayla is goaded into overcoming her shyness to write an expose of the "girly" bias of a popular dance team, only to make the team and discover there are many kinds of girls, and many ways to be an aware, sassy woman and wear cute shoes.

Paper Towns by John Green
Bookseller: Katie
Genre: realistic contemporary fiction
Suggested reading level: ages 15 up

Q’s been infatuated with Margo, the girl next door, since childhood. When Margo enlists Q’s help on a night of pranks, he doesn’t realize it’s her last night in town. Margo’s disappearance (and his desperate race to find her) prompts Q to wonder whether we can ever truly know one another.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

What Rachel Wants to Buy This Week - Episode 4

Cupcake Trinket Box by Pink Poppy
Located in the Pink Princess section of the Hut

Two enduring loves of my childhood, fake food and secret hiding places, come together in this fantastic bead-and-glitter-spangled cupcake. The top of this satin-covered box comes off, revealing the perfect spot to hide jewelry, notes, spare change, or any other thing you might want to keep contained. It even comes with extra beads, just in case you lose a few!

Design Helicopter by Erector
Ages 8-15
Located downstairs in the Chapter Book Room

I love things with moving parts, and I love putting stuff together--so what could be better than this awesome little Erector set? It's one of a series including a speedboat, a snowmobile and a motorcycle with a sidecar, which are all pretty spectacular, but I like the helicopter best--especially because it has a nice open design that's just right for wedging some kind of pilot in there--maybe a little keychain-sized Curious George!

That's it for this week's exciting episode. See you next time!

Friday, April 3, 2009

One more thing!

I'm a posting fiend this week! I can't help it, there are just so many wonderful things happening in April, I want to tell you about them all. In bite-sized pieces.

Anyway, here is another idea for April vacation: Charlotte's Web will be performed at Wheelock Family Theatre from April 10th through May 10th, with matinee and evening shows, and extra performances during school vacation week. Kids of all ages can enjoy E.B. White's charming classic about unlikely farm friends adapted for the stage by Joseph Robinette.

Weekend edit: In case you missed the Boston Sunday Globe's giant Arts & Entertainment section on family-friendly places, from museums and playhouses to coffeehouses and musica halls, go here or here for their great suggestions.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

What my seven silly girlfriends don't know...Or, Upcoming Author Events!

As you may have seen by our quickly expanding "Mark Your Calendar" section on the right, April and May are jam-packed with authors and contests! Here's a run-down of our up-coming events.

April 19: Mary Ann Hoberman
Children's Poet Laureate Mary Ann Hoberman will be reading and signing on April 19th at noon. Hoberman is the author of over 40 books for children, including the You Read to Me, I'll Read to You series, Seven Silly Eaters, and A House Is a House for Me. The Poetry Foundation has a wonderful article about Hoberman, and the misconception about the simplicity of children's poetry: "Writing well for children can be as mysterious and difficult as learning to make falcon calls."

April 30: Poem In Your Pocket Day

At the end of Poetry Month, celebrate your verse love with us by bringing in a poem to share or swap, and receive 10% off your entire purchase. Don't forget to check out our special Poetry Month display and poetry section for favorites old and new!

April 30: Art and Writing Contest Deadline
I can't tell you enough: We want your kids'/grandkids'/students'/neighbors' artwork and stories! Winners will receive gift certificates and eternal fame on our contest blog. Go here for the full guidelines and to download an entry form.

May 31 (Harvard Graduation week): Sonya Sones
Young adult author Sonya Sones will present her first picture book Violet and Winston, co-written by Bennett Tramer and illustrated by Chris Raschka (yum!) on May 31st at noon. Sones's teen novels in verse include What My Girlfriend Doesn't Know and What My Mother Doesn't Know.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Vacation Boredom Vaccination

It seems to me just yesterday was February vacation, but here we are again with April vacation soon upon us...though who doesn't remember counting down the days until school breaks and three day weekends? Whether you're traveling near or far or simply staying home and relaxing, here are some great goodies to pass your idle time.

Activities For Cars, Planes, and Things That Go...Rides

That darling company Mudpuppy has loads of fun and fanciful toys, many that may safely survive (or help you survive) long travels. Their Playscenes are fold-out book-like boards with reusable vinyl stickers a la Colorforms. Traveling cross-country or internationally? Try their U.S. or world map scenes. Have a traveler with a particular penchant for construction vehicles/ballerinas/circus animals/astronauts/airplanes....? You name it, there is a Playscene for it. Mudpuppy's Magnetic Dress-Up Dolls are also a surefire hit. These self-contained stylish tins have four background pieces and three sheets of dolls and clothes in Princess, Ballerina, City Girls, Sporty Girls, and Mermaid themes. They also make a Monsters set, with sheets of horrendously monstrous body parts and creepy backgrounds of haunted houses and alien planets. (This one decorates my parents' fridge).

Melissa & Doug puts a new travel-friendly spin on classic games with their Flip-to-Win travel games. These wooden boards fit on laps and you can never lose the pieces going through any turbulence: the pieces are attached. The games include Hangman, with a dry-erase board and marker, Travel Bingo with a variety of themed cards (city, vehicles, country, etc), Bear Hunt, a Guess-Who? style guessing game, and the uber-classic Memory Game with cards to match colors, animals, numbers, and so on. (These might be more ideal for car rides than airplane rides, if carry-on weight is an issue).

For the creative traveler, classic funny fill-in-the-blank game Mad Libs has
branched into funny art with their fill-in-the-picture Mad Art line. These wipe
clean boards come in a variety of themes, from Funny Faces and Wacky Animals to Under the Sea and At the Beach, where part of a fireman/giraffe/sandcastle is left blank for your artist to complete with a funny hat/polka dots/turrets and moat. We also, of course, carry the Mad Libs books, in original and junior formats.

To keep track of all the vacation adventures, don't forget a road trip journal! Mudpuppy gives us a couple spiral-bound, pocket-perfect notebooks Lots of Fun on the Go and Are We There Yet? (The artwork might look familiar if you've read Pseudonymous Bosch's The Name of This Book Is Secret or Chronicle's Pirate Log, all designed by Gilbert Ford). These books have games, puzzles, space to record funny moments (or funny billboards), and my favorite part, in Are We There Yet?, the section to "vent" about annoying siblings, bad fast food, or the lack of good car music.

In addition to all these great sets, check out our activities case, where you'll find everything from treehouse-building, knitting, and origami instructions to hidden pictures, mazes, sudoku, and puzzle books.

Tunes and Tales for Everybody
in Cars, Trains, and Other Things That Go

To remedy complaints of bad music choices/parental karaoke on your vacation voyages, check out our music section, which just got a recent revamp, before you hit the road. Parents and children/teens may all enjoy All Together Now, a CD of Beatles covers, from Music For Little People. Rachel cooed over an adorable CD and board book edition of it (by Tune A Fish Records) in her weekly What Rachel Wants post. For listeners with a funnybone, try They Might Be Giants's No!, Barenaked Ladies's Snacktime, or pretty much anything by Dan Zanes (who will be at the Somerville Theatre the weekend of the 18th and 19th). For quieter moments, try folk/blues guru, Lead Belly, on Lead Belly Sings for Children, full of work songs, spirituals, and traditional folk songs. Like Tune A Fish Records' new version of All Together Now, Soulville is a board book and CD combination featuring ReadRay Frazier, Tabitha Fair, and Chocolate Genius with a kids chorus, covering such bouncing-in-your-carseat motown classics as "Dancing in the Street," "Mustang Sally," and "How Sweet It Is (to be loved by you)".

If your adventurers prefer more narrative than melody, try our audio books. Upstairs we have some picture books that come with an audio CD or tape, but I'll be focusing on chapter books on tape here. For the pre-K through beginning readers who may want to read along or are familiar with these funny amphibian pals, author Arnold Lobel reads four of their books in the Frog and Toad Audio Collection. Other early readers will enjoy the adventures of Jack and Annie, the brother and sister duo of Mary Pope Osborne's Magic Tree House series. Their audio books can be enjoyed in either sets, including books 37-40, or individually, as in the most recent installment, Moonlight on the Magic Flute. You can't go wrong with Roald Dahl's contemporary classic Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, performed by Eric Idle (sound familiar? He's from Monty Python and the Flying Circus), or Astrid Lindgren's irrepressible Pippi Longstocking, read by performing artist Esther Benson. For older listeners with a penchant for thrillers or sci-fi, try Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card, read by Stefan Rudnicki, Harlan Ellison, and cast. Finally, because I just can't not include this perfectly appropriate title, there's Around the World in 80 Days, by Jules Verne, read by Jim Dale (you may recognize him from Harry Potter audiobooks, which we, of course, also carry).

Games and Gardening for the Great Outdoors

Even if you're not vacationing in any palm-tree-dotted locale, we have plenty of great toys to ring in the spring-time. The ultimate toy of April, is of course, a kite. Our selection of Premier Kites ranges from diamond and mini sled kites to penta and hawk-shaped kites. Other classics we have include rubber horseshoes (from Schylling), Chinese jump ropes (from Toysmith), DIY rubber band jump ropes (from Simple Toys), and Stomp Rockets (from D&L Company).

What fun is being outdoors if you can't get a little sticky? We have a whole bunch of bubble-making goodies (all care of Little Kids). For the toddler set, we have spill-proof (no bubble-drinking worries!) Mini Bubble Tumblers and My First Bubbles Bubble Maker. For those who want a little more action in their bubble-making, we have the Bubble Blastin' Plane, which shoots streams of bubbles and has a working propeller. My favorite is the Cowboy Bubble Shooter, because of its no-spill holster for refills. If these aren't enough, you can make super giant bubbles with the Bubble Twister, which comes with a tall wand and bubble tray.

Our newest game for outdoor gamboling is Boochie by Gamewright Games, a wacky twist on the ancient game of bocce. It takes a bit of explaining, so bear with me. Each player has their own bean ball and hoop that they try to get as close to the 12-sided foam Boochie ball as they can. Are you with me? Here's the wacky part: your wrist band has a rotating disc that gives you a new challenge in each round, say, to throw with your eyes closed or toss between your legs. Points are awarded by the numbers facing up on the main Boochie ball. (If only we had the space to set up a game in the chapter book room...)

April is also a great time to cultivate a green thumb! The folks at DuneCraft have combined two of our great loves: Curious George and green, growing things. Curious George's Outrageous Farm is a self-contained terranium in which you can grow wheat grass, tomatoes, and catnip. It is, of course, decorated with Curious George and the man in the yellow hat, and has farm animal figurines to "graze" in your garden. For the jurassic-fan gardener, try the smaller terranium, Dinosaur Discovery Adventure Garden, in which you can grow such "prehistoric"-looking plants as pine trees and asparagus ferns. For the gardener with his/her head in the clouds, there is another option: Outer Space Adventure Garden, to grow space-y, touch-sensitive plants alongside Martian sand that never gets wet. Individual seed packets of the Adventure Garden plants are available. I have saved the most fearsome plant for last: Curious George's Fly Trap! This vicious, carnivorous plant should only be given to the boldest gardener.

And it wouldn't be April without some spring showers, and the all-important, all-soaking puddle stomping! We have Hello Kitty umbrellas, rainbow striped umbrellas, and animal-themed umbrellas for walks in the rain. For those who want to stomp unhindered, we also carry Hatley raincoats. Sadly, we only have infant sizes left in the Curious George yellow raincoat, but while those are still in stock, you can order them from our website. Hatley's other raincoats that we carry at the moment are glow-in-the-dark (!), with apples or aliens and astronauts themes.

Whatever you do or wherever you go this vacation, be safe, be messy, and have fun!