Monday, June 29, 2009

More movies, musicals, and bad puns than you can shake a wand at

There is an incredible amount of children's and teen books being adapted into all manner of performances, I'm having trouble keeping track of everything I want to see! To help myself, and you, too, of course, here is a list to pencil into the calendar...

Staff favorite technogeek-thriller Little Brother by Cory Doctorow has been adapted for the stage at Chicago's Griffin Theatre. The show runs through July 19th, and you can even meet Doctorow after the July 9th performance. After PW reported interestingly mixed reviews, I can only hope it will come out closer to Boston someday...

I doubt I even need to call more attention to it, but the 6th film installment of the world's favorite wizard premieres July 15th. If you still haven't seen the trailer, try the official website: Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. The bookclub some of us staffers belong to is trying to plan a bookclub-cum-Potter meeting, probably discussing our latest books (ghost stories!) in line - we'll see how that pans out! Now, where did I leave my Luna glasses?

I almost didn't even know about Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs becoming a movie - but I am pretty excited that Bruce Campbell is contributing his voice talents to this classic picture book tale! It's slated to premiere September 18th.

Another eagerly anticipated children's film is the adaptation of Maurice Sendak's Where the Wild Things Are which roars into theaters October 16th. From Spike Jonze, the director of such bizarre films as Being John Malkovich and Adaptation, it certainly promises to be wild. I hope that after the movie they serve everyone a hot supper. (My puns are awful, aren't they?)

Because there is no such thing as enough Neil Gaiman, there is now a Coraline musical at the MCC Theater in New York. It's a one man show (!) by Stephen Merritt closing July 5 but may perhaps travel (pick us, pick us!).

While Katie geeks out over Gaiman, I'm swooning over director Tim Burton's latest work...Alice in Wonderland! One of my favorite directors with one of my favorite stories?! Heaven! Over at USA Today you can tour a scene and Cast Photos, featuring, of course, Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter. Oh, yum, I can barely wait until March 2010.

Kate DiCamillo's heartwarming chapter book had already been adapted for the screen in 2005, now Because of Winn-Dixie becomes a musical, with a live Winn-Dixie trained by Bill Berloni, trainer of Annie's Sandy. PW says there are no set filming schedules yet.

Are those still not enough to satiate your movie thirst? Try free movies in the park in Brookline - July 13th The Princess Bride and July 27th E.T., and in Boston August 14 Inkheart at the Hatch Shell. Be prepared for a chance of rain, though probably not (soy) meatballs.

I love seeing how books translate into different mediums - and it's certainly fun to see your favorite story retold (Alice! Squeal!) - I just hope those movie folks continue to create new stories, too.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

What Rachel Wants to Buy This Week - Episode 12

I got up this morning and was shocked to discover that June is nearly over. Summer's in full swing, and I want to enjoy every minute of it! That's what inspired this week's picks.

Mombo Snake Bug House by Sunny Patch (for Melissa and Doug)
Located around the Hut

Everyone knows that summertime means critter collecting--lightning bugs, beetles, frogs, lizards, butterflies...the list goes on and on. Of course, you need somewhere to put all those critters, and this bug house is the perfect place! It's colorful, easy to carry and easy to open, and the sturdy mesh enclosure lets in plenty of air while still being close-knit enough to keep smaller friends from wandering off. The inside of the house also sports a snake motif and a twig with a cute chameleon clinging to it, providing perching and climbing space for guests! Most importantly, the base of the house offers a constant reminder--"Be Good to Bugs."

Tiger Grrrr Playball by Crocodile Creek
Located in ball baskets on both floors

This multipurpose 7" ball is great for all kinds of outdoor fun--springy enough for volleyball or four square, light enough for (relatively) painless dodgeball, and a middle size that's great for kickball or soccer with a wide age range of players. The best part, though, is the retro tiger face and the big "grrrr" in contrasting colors. I had to resist playing with it in the store, but I can just imagine how cool this ball will look rolling around or how easy it'll be to spot in the air. I think this might be just the thing to bring along to a 4th of July party next weekend!

That's it for this episode--now go outside and have some fun!!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

A post of things completely unrelated...(gasp!)

Today's grouping of goodies has no underlying theme (I feel so...unsupervised!): these toys are hand-picked for their mere incredible awesomeness!

The Best of the Baby Room

Doreen Cronin writes humorous animal stories like none other: Diary of a Worm got toddlers and parents chuckling way before Jeff Kinney hit the epistolary scene. And what's better than a good book about funny farm critters? A good book about funny farm critters IN a barn with toy farm critters! That's right: Click, Clack, Moo: Cows That Type now comes in board book format with a play barn and disgruntled cardboard animals inside!

Is your tyke almost ready to mobilize? Alex's Learn to Crawl Tunnel is a silky soft play space that encourages exploration. As kids will make hideouts of anything, this crawling tunnel (or "crunnel", which is more fun to say) is perfect for the littlest pioneers - and it collapses into its own bag for easy storage.

I've extolled the adorableness of Miyim's organic baby plush before, but they have taken cute to a new level with Lil Neighbors stroller toys. These simple chic animals in basic pastels have a squeaker in the belly and crinkly ears, packing a lot of punch for their easy traveling size. For even more "green baby" cuteness, try Russ's Simply Natural line: their cuddly animal puppets are made from all natural cotton and colored with vegetable dye.

The Best of the Middle Ground (ages 4 - 7)

International Playthings knows how to please the toddler crowd with their wide variety of new and classic toys. We've been selling their Transparent Marble Run like Sweet's Red Velvet cupcakes! Kids can build a maze out of the clear, colorful tubes and watch the real marbles roll.

Nothing says a party quite like a pinata! In addition to our Curious George ribbon pinatas from Unique, we now carry dinosaur, flower, and donkey pinatas (the kind that need a whomping stick). And with all the various little gateaus we have (maybe those tiny Japanese erasers?) you can stuff your pinata with sugar-free goodness.

Whether this summer means day or sleep-away camp or picnics and running wild in the backyard, Crocodile Creek EcoKids Drinking Bottles are a handy and stylish way to stay hydrated and be ecologically responsible. The stainless steel bottles come in the myriad colorful designs that Crocodile Creek products are known for: trucks, dinosaurs, butterflies, space, jungle, and my personal favorite, animal footprints!

The Best of the Chapter Book Room

Our (petite) book-buyer, Donna, had been begging the merch-buyer, Ellen, to purchase this particular toy for ages...and now we finally have them: Walkaroo Stilts! These stilts are sturdy and adjustable, perfect for any adventurous child. One of my favorite books downstairs, The Wild Girls by Pat Murphy, has a great scene with the girls learning to walk in stilts (ahh, metaphors).

You love Twister. You love the Mr. Men and Little Miss books. Their powers combine in the Travel Mr Men & Little Miss Twister Tube from BasicFun! Not only does this twister mat have the famous Hargreaves characters as the color dots, but it can be easily toted anywhere in its tube with the spinner on the tube's cap. Extreme awesomeness, right??

Game genius Hasbro has miniaturized its most popular games: you can now take Connect 4, Boggle, and Etch-a-Sketch Travel Games anywhere - just attach the game's carabiner to your bag or belt and you're ready for a good trip!

Like I said, merely incredibly awesome. You can bet my nephews and cousins (and the younger, sprier uncles and aunts)are going to love that pinata and twister mat at our family's 4th of July cookout...

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Do, do do, do do, do do... summer readin'

Ah, summer. Time for sprinklers and sparklers and, of course, summer reading lists. Whether you're already gearing up for fall classes (eek -- say it ain't so!) or just loungin' poolside, now's a great time to break out those lists.

Your local library will be a hotspot of reading activity over the summer, with reading lists, incentive programs, activities, and events to keep kiddos bookishly busy. The Cambridge Public Library has a Summer Reading Program for kids of all ages. The Brookline Public Library, where I volunteer one day a week, has both a kid's program called Starship Adventure and a Teen Summer "Express Yourself" program -- which I'm excited to help with! Hello Cupcake decorating? Hello, I am so there.

The BPL has a compilation of local schools' reading lists posted on their website, which is downloadable as a PDF for your printing convenience. If you or your kiddo were a little less than punctual returning books last summer -- and believe me, as someone who averages 30-40 items checked out at once from my library, I don't judge -- you may be worried about returning to the library this year. Luckily, last fall the BPL forgave all debt owed in fines by kids, up through high school seniors! If you've been a stellar patron since then (or if you've been avoiding the library with chagrin), you're good to go.

I know it's hard to return a library book on time when it's become a favorite, or when you just haven't gotten to it yet but you know you'll love it once you do. Then it's a perfect time to come into your local independent children's bookstore (nudge nudge) and take those titles home with you! Whether you're looking for a title from a school or library reading list, an old favorite you're replacing because it went back to the library or got read to pieces, or something new and exciting for beach reading (or by-flashlight summer storm reading), we're happy to help you find it.

We're also working on some reading programs of our own, including book clubs and kid reviews. PLEASE feel free to give us suggestions here, at our Facebook page, in the store, or by carrier Pigeon. (Be sure to outfit him with aviator cap, scarf, and ginormous goggles for those giant peepers before sending him on a mission, though -- safety first!) You can also email us a link to your child's summer reading list.

We want to know what kinds of activities and events you want to see at Curious George!

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

O Frabjous Day! Calloo! Callay!

It's certainly been a jungle over here lately! Thanks for bearing with our somewhat infrequent posts while we undergo some store changes. We're still committed to telling you about all the awesome books, authors, and events in and around the store, we should back up to speed very soon. In the meantime, I have some great news to share today...

The ├╝ber restaurant guide Zagat really liked our "Curious George Never Dines Without Consulting His Zagat" window: we won first place in their promotional contest and they're treating our whole staff to a delicious evening meal! Now, the only trouble is deciding on which illustrious establishment to have said delicious evening meal. If you see a large, rowdy crowd of your favorite booksellers out in Cambridge in the next few weeks, come say hello!

I sneaked a peek at the Nickelodeon Parents' Picks... thanks to you, so far we're leading as Best Boston Book Store. There's still 28 days left to vote, so get over there if you haven't yet! We love you, you love us, we love you even more!

I think I've used up my allowance of exclamation points for the day, so take care, until next time.

Monday, June 15, 2009

The Pigeon wants a puppy! Puppy-dog pairings

This morning, cutting across the dog park on the way to the bus stop, I saw an adorable Australian Shepherd who inspired a fit of profound puppy-envy. Apartment living is great for my kitty, but I have a feeling a dog wouldn't be so thrilled by it! I may opt for this little guy:

Luckily, if you too have wanted a puppy "forever -- at least since last Tuesday," the George has lots of puppy plush and books that won't dig holes in the yard, chew on your shoes, or have an "accident" on Grandma's Persian carpet.

The Obamas wanted a puppy! And they got one, but it took a long time and a lot of searching to find the right one. Both Now Hiring: White House Dog by Gina Lehner Bazer and Which Puppy? by Kate Feiffer portray the Obamas' search for the perfect pooch with wit and warmth. Pair either with a Douglas Cuddle Portugese Water Dog and you have a present fit for a First Daughter!

My favorite pet book of all time, Peter McCarty's Hondo and Fabian, features a cat and dog combo which is not to be missed! While their owners take doggie Hondo to the beach -- the "cat's away," so to speak -- kitty Fabian stays at home to "play" with the baby. Their typical pet hijinks are made hilarious by their expressive faces and McCarty's tongue-in-cheek narration: The follow-up to this Caldecott Honor book is Fabian Escapes, in which Fabian has his own day out. While we haven't yet seen any official Hondos or Fabians, our store favorite plush brand Jellycat has some snuggable dudes who'd be happy to read along with you! Their pear-shaped, bottom-heavy bodies make for great comfort-cuddling on grey days and great reading companions any day.

Bookseller Miruna has delcared Russ's "Misty Bichon Frise" the Dog of the Day... every day for several weeks running.

While she knows her son (and store mascot baby) Luca is even more huggable -- and will hug back! -- she wanted me to blog about D.o.t.D. Misty to immortalize his cuteness factor.

One more choice for the puppy-impaired: when you can't have a puppy, at least you can have a...

Staff Picks Hot Out of the Oven

Looking for a book you can know you/your niece/your neighbor/your son's playmate hasn't read yet? Here are the chapter book room staff's favorites of our new titles.

The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan
Bookseller: Rachel
Genre: fantasy, zombies
Suggested reading level: ages 13 and up

Mary has always lived in the village, where the Sisterhood makes the rules and the Guardians watch the borders. When the Unconsecrated invade, infecting anyone they can catch, Mary must defy what she’s been taught to escape and find the truth. You won’t be able to put this gripping read down!

Thirteenth Child by Patricia C. Wrede
Bookseller: Michelle
Genre: fantasy, twin story

Suggested reading level: ages 12 and up

Eff copes with the stigma of being the 13th child, twin of the seventh son of a seventh son, in the wild frontier of a magical America (“Columbia”) in the 1840s. Like most Wrede novels, there is equal adventure, reimagined mythological creatures (steam dragons!), exciting plot twists, and coming-of-age revelations. I look forward to the rest of the Frontier Magic series, but it stands quite well on its own.

The Anatomy of Wings by Karen Foxlee
Bookseller: Katie
Genre: con
temporary realistic fiction, family tragedy
Suggested reading level: a
ges 15 and up

Jennifer might understand how her older sister Beth died, but she doesn’t understand why. Jennifer’s story alternates between the present and the past, and her narrative with her family members’ and neighbors’ perspectives, as she tries to uncover the truth of Beth’s final months from a few unlikely clues.

Marcelo in the Real World by Francisco Stork
Bookseller: Michelle
Genre: realistic fiction; for fans of Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time
Suggested reading level: ages 12 and up

This summer, Marcelo wants to continue living in his tree house and work with the ponies at his school, but his father wants him to experience the “real world” by working in his law firm – and our unique hero learns more than either of them bargained for. (Fun local fact: It’s set in Boston!)

If I Stay by Gayle Forman
Bookseller: Rachel
Genre: fantastic reality, tragedy
Suggested reading level: ages 13 and up

Mia must choose between Julliard and her devoted boyfriend, until her parents are killed in a brutal car crash that leaves Mia critically injured. Ejected from her body, Mia's consciousness watches her loved ones keep vigil, now faced with a choice between dying or having the courage to live.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

What Rachel Wants to Buy This Week - Episode 11

I'm getting back in touch with my own childhood this week, with two awesome new takes on classic toys that I loved.

Picnic Basket Fill & Spill by Melissa and Doug
Located in the Baby Room

My mom is fond of telling people that my favorite toy for the first bunch of years of my life was the good old Balls in a Bowl (Fisher Price, I think). It's so old that it's not immediately findable online, to my surprise. Anyway, the point is that I've always enjoyed spilling little things out of big containers, which is half the reason why this picnic basket is so appealing. What's the other half of the reason, you ask? The food has FACES! It just doesn't get cuter than a fuzzy bottle of grape soda that smiles at you when you dump it on the floor. I'm sure every toddler out there will agree with me on that one.

Pandabo by HaPe International
Located downstairs in the Chapter Book Room

Pandabo is all about balance and simplicity--you take one wobbly panda, a pile of bamboo sticks, a die that tells you how many to stack on your turn, and you wind up with a really fun stacking game that resembles Jenga in reverse. The part that clinches it for me with Pandabo, though, is that it's 100% natural bamboo, and includes a little booklet with info on bamboo plants and the UNESCO international toy workshop which produced Pandabo's design. This game would make a great gift for green-conscious families, and comes in an attractive tube with a carrying handle.

See you next time for another episode!

Friday, June 12, 2009 Play Outside?

With balls, bats, bubbles, and even croquet sets, we sure are! With schools almost out and the sun shining for hours on end (or so I remember it did once...), it's about time for a summer fun round-up. Who would want to be caught unprepared when the clouds finally clear??
Be sure to pop over to the previous vacation boredom vaccination for more games and gizmos, tunes and tales for playing in the car or in the backyard.

It's not summer without organized bedlam...I mean, sports. If you're looking to entertain a pair or more of active ones, try out these fun past-times.

Lacrosse Set from Mutual Sales: This pair of lightweight lacrosse sticks and ball is great for both confident players and those just learning to throw.

Melissa and Doug's Sunny Patch Happy Giddy Croquet Set: The whole family can enjoy this classic game redone with colorful, bug-adorned wickets and lighter, safer balls. Pairs nicely with iced lemonade with curly straws.

Junk Ball and Bat from Little Kids, Inc.: Baseball aficionados can practice their "junk" pitches with this special wiffle ball. Check out the Junk Ball website for different game ideas.

GreenToys EcoSaucer and Schylling's Flying Ring: These two toys put a spin (harr harr) on the park favorite, frisbee. The EcoSaucer is a seriously green disc: it's made from recycled milk jugs! The Flying Ring is just that: a 20'' ring that snaps open and, as far as I've seen in the chapter book room, can really soar.

Premier Kites and Schylling's Stunt Kites: I mentioned our wide selection of kites earlier in spring, and now we have even more with the addition of stunt kites, which are just as amazing to watch as to fly. Stunt kites come in such cool styles as a pirate ship, jet star, and an eagle.

Hello Kitty Outdoor Toys: Sanrio is everywhere -- even in your backyard! For Hello Kitty fans of toddler and elementary school ages, try our Hello Kitty Bowling Set, with light plastic pins and balls, or the Hello Kitty Pop-up Toss Baseball Set, because it's never to early to start learning the great American game.

Battat Golf Play Set: This set is perfect for beginners with three golf balls, three clubs, and a handy shoulder bag. Caddy and groundhogs not included.

Still have some energy to burn after junk-flying-croquet (reminds me of the Super Hoop tournament in the Thursday Next novels)? Here some great outdoor games.

Boochie from Gamewright Games takes the ancient game of bocce - participants aim to toss their ball closest to the "jack" main ball - and takes it to a new, sillier level, with bean bags, hoops, and fancy throwing techniques (tossing between your legs with your eyes closed sounds pretty fancy to me!).

Rubber Horse Shoes: Almost does count in this child-safe version of the classic game from Schylling.

Balsa Wood Gliders, Stomp Rockets and Squeeze Rockets or Planes: I, for one, have entertained my three nephews for hours with these simple but fun toys. Squeeze Rockets/Planes are ideal for groups (especially those with trouble sharing, ahem) because of the large quantity of rockets and launch bulbs in each package.

Bella Butterfly Hopscotch from Melissa & Doug's Sunny Patch: Don't have a sidewalk or driveway for hopscotch? Kids can have a "hoppin good time" anywhere with this colorful game with interlocking foam pieces and ladybug tokens.

Water Works
If those days with temps in the 80s ever return to us, you and yours can cool down with these fun waterworks.

Sunny Patch Grub Scouts Sprinkler: If the name of this sprinkler doesn't catch you, then the adorable/hilarious/super safe rubber "grub" nozzles with cub scout caps will.

Tootin' Turtle or Mollie Ladybug Sprinkler
: Also from Melissa & Doug's Sunny Patch line, these creature sprinklers are as endearing as they are enduring.

Bunny or Chameleon Watering Cans: Whether its the plants or the little ones who need the soaking, these colorful critter cans can do the job with style.

Everyday we get more summer goodies, so check in from time to time to see what else we have! A little birdie (also known as our merchandise buyer) told me that pool toys will soon be here. For now, the favorite almost-summer-toy among staff and customers alike is the Snoopy Sno-Cone Machine, which makes tasty cold desserts from mere cubes of ice and your favorite juice or soda.

No matter what kind of fun you get up to this summer, don't forget the sunblock and the sunglasses! We carry sunglasses in sizes for infants through elementary schoolers, with a variety of styles, from flames to rhinestones. Sun safety is uber stylish. That's what my mama taught me and I'm sticking with it.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Pride Week Roundup

It's Pride Week here in Boston--so show your pride, and read a few of these awesome books!

Annie On My Mind by Nancy Garden
This book is the classic lesbian YA novel--the first to have a positive ending, and still one of the best out there. From the moment they first meet, Liza knows Annie is special. Their friendship grows into a tender romance, but the pressures of their families, their school, and the society around them threaten to drive the girls apart. Luckily for them, love is stronger than any adversity.

Uncle Bobby's Wedding by Sarah S. Brannen
Chloe's Uncle Bobby is her favorite uncle of all, but when she hears that he's getting married, she worries that now she'll have to share him, and she won't be the most special person in his life anymore. After a while, though, Chloe realizes that Jamie is fun, too, and she's looking forward to having him as an uncle. When Bobby and Jamie ask her to be the flower girl at their wedding, Chloe is sure that she's still just as special to her Uncle Bobby--and now to Uncle Jamie, too.

David Inside Out by Lee Bantle
David's track team practices become tense and troublesome when he develops a crush on Sean, a fellow runner. He tries everything he can think of to deny his growing feelings, but in the end David must discover how to be honestly himself. A brand-new teen read!

In Our Mothers' House by Patricia Polacco
This tender story of two mothers and their adopted family follows their adventures from raising their three children and dealing with occasional neighborhood prejudice to seeing the children wed and growing old together. You'd be hard pressed to find a more joyful expression of alternative family life than this great picturebook.

My Most Excellent Year by Steve Kluger
TC is obsessed with the Red Sox and new girl Alejandra; his brother-in-spirit 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 im's, this beautiful middle-grade/teen book will play your heartstrings like a fiddle.

King & King by Linda de Haan and Stern Nijland
When the Queen decides it's time for her son to marry, she calls in all the princesses in the land--even though the Prince doesn't care much for any of them. Finally, Princess Madeleine arrives...with her brother, Prince Lee. It's love at first sight for the two princes, who marry at once, and rule the land as King and King in this hilarious picturebook.

Skim by Mariko and Jillian Tamaki
At a girls' academy in Toronto, Kimberly Keiko Cameron (aka Skim) is overweight, a wannabe Wiccan, and possibly gay--she's just not sure yet. When classmate Katie's boyfriend kills himself and Skim's teacher crush Ms. Archer abruptly leaves the school, the two girls cleave to each other as they try to navigate the troubled waters of high school. A pick for the NY Times' Best Illustrated list for 2008, this graphic novel is a great pick for comic fans.

Someday This Pain Will Be Useful to You by Peter Cameron
James is smart, sensitive, articulate...and has no idea how to navigate an adult world whose expectations he has no desire to meet. Instead of going to college in the fall, he'd much rather move to an old house in a small Midwestern town. He despises his pretentious sister, baffles his therapist, and concocts an alternate online personality in order to pursue his crush on a coworker--but nothing turns out the way he expected.

And Tango Makes Three by Justin Richardson
This sweet picturebook, inspired by true events at the Central Park Zoo in New York, tells the tale of two male penguins, Roy and Silo, who do everything together--even build a nest, and attempt to hatch a rock. When a zookeeper finds an abandoned egg that needs tending, he entrusts it to Roy and Silo. When the chick finally hatches, the zookeepers name her Tango--because it takes two to make a Tango, and three of them to make a family.

From the Notebooks of Melanin Sun by Jacqueline Woodson
Fourteen-year-old Melanin Sun has a pretty comfortable life, until his mother reveals that she's fallen in love with a woman. The news throws his quiet existence into turmoil, forcing him to choose between his mother and his friends--and he's about to learn the truth about prejudice, sacrifice, and love, whether he wants to or not.

Mommy, Mama and Me by Leslea Newman, illustrated by Carol Thompson
Daddy, Papa and Me by Leslea Newman, illustrated by Carol Thompson
Coming soon--two board books that are so new, they haven't even arrived yet! With rhythmic text and sweet illustrations, these books show toddlers spending the day with their lesbian or gay parents. They're a great example of alternative families doing just what every other parent does--loving their children.