Friday, December 31, 2010
Wednesday, December 29, 2010
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Monday, December 27, 2010
Tuesday, December 7, 2010
One of my favorite games to give is Bananagrams - all my friends and family have this! It plays like an individual Scrabble, where each person makes her own board of intersecting words (like a crossword). The tricky part is once a person uses all his letters and shouts "PEEL!", everyone has to pick up another letter, which sometimes leads to reconfiguring your entire word board. I'd recommend this fast-paced game for ages 7 +, since spelling could be frustrating for younger children.
What small child doesn't go through a car phase? Sure, there's die cast cars, sturdy plastic construction trucks, and so on, but our absolute favorite vehicle gift is Automoblox. You can pull apart and rebuild these wooden cars and even interchange the pieces with other cars of the same size. My nephews have a bunch and they like to build one long giant vehicle! The styles range from old fashioned trucks to sports utility vehicles and race cars . I'd recommend these toys for ages 4 + for the small parts.
This year we started carrying a new line from Early Learning Co., the Happyland brand. Similar to Playmobil, these town and doll sets are brightly colored, safe for toddlers, and come with smiling, multi-cultural little people. The most popular sets are the Flower Fairy House and Lift-Off Space Rocket, or the smaller sets of figurines, like Happy Family and Sunflower School Children. (Our book buyer has a set of the fairies in her office, but don't tell her I told!).
Legos are, of course, a perennial favorite of any kid between 4 and 40 (I'm looking at my brother-in-law here), and Dorling Kindersley's Lego Brickmaster sets are fun, versatile, and more easily transported than some of the bigger tubs of Legos (though we do sell a lot of those, too!). The sets are themed, with choices of Castle, Atlantis, and the ever popular Star Wars. I'd recommend these toys for about 6 +, depending on the set.
One of my favorite toys to recommend (and play with...) in the baby room is Melissa & Doug's Monster Bowling. Each bowling pin and ball is a different, friendly plush monster - perfect for playing with individually, or when toddling begins, actual bowling. This is a great gift for babies or toddlers with young siblings to play together.
The Odyssey by Gareth Hinds is a graphic novel retelling of Homer's epic poem. Staffer Shara recommends this title for ages 12 +: "Follow Odysseus through this graphic novel epic as he crosses oceans, traverses foreign lands (both realistic and fantastic), and confronts mythical creatures, gods, and men, in an attempt to return to his wife, Penelope. Hinds's genius use of color sets the mood perfectly for this grittily realistic adaptation."
Macmillan's Square Fish imprint is in the process of reprinting Tove Jansson's classic Moomin chapter books with vibrant fresh covers. Staffer Natasha recommends Finn Family Moomintroll for ages 7 +: "The Moomins are a family of sweet Finnish trolls that like sunshine, pancakes, raspberry juice and adventures on the ocean seas. These books are weird (in the best way), funny and might remind you on Winnie-the-Pooh. Start with the 2nd book in the series, it's the best!"
On NPR recently, author Gayle Forman picked Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins as one of her favorite YA picks of the year, and I whole-heartedly agree! This coming-of-age romance is perfect for Sarah Dessen and Deb Caletti fans ages 13 +: For her senior year, Anna's successful writer father sends her to boarding school in
One of our favorite picture books of 2010 is from multiple Caldecott winning author and artist David Wiesner. This year's Art & Max is every bit as imaginative, humorous, and gorgeously painted as his previous books (remember the flying frogs of Tuesday, the cloud factory of Sector 7, or the mollusk castles of Flotsam?). Max wants to learn to be an artist like his fellow lizard pal, Art (who insists he is Arthur), but makes a glorious mess of things and must clean off and redraw Art. Mere words can't describe Wiesner's use of panels and references to paint greats like Jackson Pollock - like all art, you must see it for yourself.
These are toys and books we typically carry throughout the year, but as always, it's a very busy season and we can only guarantee stock while supplies last.
Thursday, December 2, 2010
Food Face Plate has returned - making mealtime with picky eaters playful and enjoyable for kids and parents. The plate has a friendly face that you can embellish, perhaps with mashed potato hair or a green bean mustache. You can order the plate from our website. Fred also gives us new cupcake molds: Tea Cup Cakes (oh the cleverness of you!) for princess parties, or swivel-headed Yum Bots for space age sweets. The Fred folks are pun-y after my own heart: the "gearshaft green" bot on the packaging says "take me to your eater!". Try these for anyone from your teen chef to your sweet-toothed middle schooler.
Australian company Make & Do have crafts after a true Cantabrigian heart: the Car and Dollhouse building kits provide the basic necessary tools and building plans, but encourage the builder to find reusable items around the house to complete the projects. I'd recommend this toy for crafty kids 5 and up.
Crafters will also love a new kit from Brain Noodles: Noodle Roonies! Brain Noodles have been extremely popular sold singularly or in boxed sets of 15 noodles, but now they make small themed kits, from Ocean Life to Creepy Crawlies. Each package includes brain noodles of course, with pom poms, googly eyes, foam pieces, and thinner chenille noodles.
It's rumored that our book buyer Donna begged her sister, the toy buyer, to get these Twirling Batons from Schylling, because of her own love of batons. (She already has a set of weighted ones at home, or I bet she'd be tossing these left and right). Like jump rope, frisbees, and mancala, some toys never go out of style. These batons - with twirling tips included - are great for the athletic or girly elementary to middle school aged kids on your list.
For the aspiring musician or noise maker of the house, we have a variety of instruments, especially guitars. My favorite is the Woodstock Ukulele, which comes with a pick and song book. Of course, I do have family that lived in Hawaii, hence my partiality, but if you prefer the western twang, there's also the Cowboy Guitar from Schylling - pair it with a sheriff or cowboy hat and you're set for the best saloon act in town!
We are stuffed to the gills with Legos, K'Nex, and Lincoln Logs, but my favorite block set for the wee toddler set is from Megablocks - the Play & Go Table can easily be folded up, carted about, and reassembled for architectural amusement anywhere. It includes base landscape pieces, various sized and colored blocks, figurines and cars. It's a whole block world, in your playroom.
Speaking of stuffed, we have a new addition to our giant plush collection! We have an incredible assortment from Melissa & Doug to which we now add the Kodiak Bear from Manhattan Toy. He's even bigger than M & D's giant bear, with realistic looking, snuggly fur and a snout I can't help but mimic when I look at him. This bear is featured on our store's website, at a very competitive price.
We've gotten many requests for rolling suitcases, and we're now proud to offer Melissa & Doug Trunki rolling trunks. These sturdy cases can be carried over the shoulder or pulled or ridden on. Leave it to Melissa & Doug to design a suitcase that is specifically engineered to handle what kids will want to do with their luggage. There are four vibrant animal designs, ranging from ladybug dots to tiger stripes (while supplies last, of course).
The chapter book room hosts myriad board games from classics like backgammon and parcheesi to Scrabble and Cranium, and of course, multiple chess sets. The newest and most creative I've seen is Wild Chess from Hansen. Instead of the typical conceptual castle-pawn-rook pieces, these are resin casted, hand painted cats versus dogs. The dog's rook, suitably, is a bull dog, while the cat's queen is a Havan brown.
Stumped on stocking stuffers? Try out DCI's Ear Buds: these headphones come in funky styles you don't see in just anybody's ears: Babushkas (or Russian nesting dolls, take your pick), skulls, and strawberries. A bonus consideration: each package comes with two sizes in silicone tips, to fit either an adult or a child - or if you're sharing music in the car, both!
One of the most frequently asked questions for picture books is "What do I get a girly girl who has every princess book there is?" When a 4-6 year old has every Fancy Nancy, Flower Fairies, and Rainbow Magic book there is, I defer to Princesses of the World, by Kateli Goyer, illustrated by Misstigri. These fourteen fairy tales tell of bravery, compassion, and, of course, true love, with fold outs of lush illustrations - and heavenly princess costumes.
The Secret Message by Mina Javaherbin, illustrated by Bruce Whatley, will surely please animal lovers, especially those who loved the zoo break-out in Good Night, Gorilla. This story is based on a poem by Rumi: a Persian merchant's singing parrot attracts such attention to his goods that he must travel to India to restock his supplies. He asks his friends, family, and the parrot what they would like from India, and brings back cartloads of beautiful silks, jewels, and spices. The only one he can't please is the parrot - the birds there behaved very strangely when the merchant passed along the parrot's message, that the man doesn't want to tell his bird what happened. This story's moral is successfully warm without being overbearing.
I was so excited to see that Oliver Jeffers has a second book out this year: this month, a sequel to Lost and Found. The boy and penguin friends return in Up and Down, this time to teach penguin how to fly. Their friendship is sweet without syrup (they play backgammon, of all board games), and the understated humor in both the writing and pictures is fresh upon multiple rereads (believe me, I'm on my fifth read already). I can't decide on my favorite illustration: is it the want ad poster saying "Ever dream of flying? Are you short and fat?" or the last page, "The two friends made a break for home," with the boy on stilts and the penguin pedaling a tricycle. You can order this book on our website.
I have a soft spot for wordless picture books: from Pancakes by Tomi DePaola, The Red Book by Barbara Lehman, or anything by David Wiesner, it's a talented artist who can tell a story with no words. South Korean Suzy Lee is no exception. With her latest picture book, Shadow, she takes a simple vision of a girl making shadows to a new height of imagination and discovery, with only three colors: black, white, and yellow. The New York Times named this book one of their Best Illustrated of the year.
Switching gears to baby books, it's always exciting to see new board book series. Jorge Uzon's Hello Baby series expand the baby photo niche beyond the Mrs. Mustards, Chronicle's Global Babies, American Babies, and the Starbright Where's the Baby flap books. Uzon's Not A Baby Anymore, Go Baby Go, and Look Around, Baby show expressive babies having their typical baby adventures, with witty captions.
My top realistic fiction YA pick of the season is Conrad Wesselhoeft's debut novel, Adios Nirvana. Don't be deterred by the flaming guitar cover: this is not your average angsty teen story. Jonathan is a poet (I love the Walt Whitman quotations!), skater, guitarist, and one half of a twin. Ever since he lost his brother, Telly, last year, Jonathan has been floating through life with his Thicks and frozen vodka grapes. By turns heartbreaking and hilarious, you will cheer for and shout at Jonathan as he slowly wakes to the world again with the help of a medley of strangers, including Eddie Vedder and the most beautiful guitar in the world.
Dystopian literature, as you may have heard, is all the rage this season. Matched by Ally Condie may have a more romantic pretense, and much less graphic violence, than The Hunger Games, but it can go head to head with that dystopian heavyweight in terms of suspenseful pacing and socio-political discussions. Cassia's world is made safe and productive by the Society: husbands and wives are matched for healthy offspring and jobs are chosen for workers by efficiency and intelligence levels. When Cassia's Match turns out to be her handsome best friend, Xander, she's ecstatic - until a computer glitch shows her another man's face, and opens her mind and heart to other possibilities. Not only fans of The Hunger Games, The Uglies, etc, will like this novel - the building romantic tension and pressure of choosing who to love - will appeal to Twilight fans as well.
This year was very good for middle grade - I liked a surprising number of stand-alone novels. Cynthia Lord's Touch Blue is one of my favorites, with such a loving description of island life in Maine you can practically smell the salt air and hear the clatter of lobster traps falling on boat decks. Tess's small island will lose its school - and thus her mother's job - if their child population doesn't increase, so families take in foster children, which turns out to not be as simple as playing Monoply together. Tess is a wonderfully fresh character, with a mix of confidence, humor, and vulnerability, and a pocketful of lucky charms.
As the holidays progress, we'll share more of our favorites with you, but as always, things sell fast! Toys and books are only guaranteed as supplies last.
Wednesday, December 1, 2010
A customer came in recently and picked up a couple packs of our gorgeous origami paper from Aitoh. He told me he was working on a project, working with a handful of other people to make 1,000 paper cranes for the children's wing of a local hospital. A gift of 1,000 paper cranes, it turns out, is supposed to bring luck, and some say brings with it the potential for a wish...whether for long life, happiness, or good health.
Perhaps for a single person, 1,000 paper cranes is a lofty project. But it struck me what a fun, creative and beautiful craft origami could be for the holiday season. Imagine hanging brightly colored cranes, frogs and stars from your Christmas tree, or stringing a couple dozen paper creations together to form a colorful garland. You could even get together with some friends for a cozy night of hot cocoa, snacks, and origami, and celebrate the holiday season with good company and hands on craftiness (and maybe even a few shared holiday wishes).
Aitoh's beautiful origami paper is located downstairs in the chapter book room, and comes in a variety of colors and patterns, including metallic and color mesh designs.
Tuesday, November 23, 2010
However, we can read some author interviews from the UK website Booktrust, and we'll just have to get by on that.
In other news items, the New York Times featured one of my all time favorite books of the year: Philip Stead's Sick Day for Amos McGee! Reading Dogs and Untrained Boys is an article about a difficult-to-quantify aspect of children's books: humor. Not only is Sick Day absolutely gorgeous and my dark horse, long shot, sleeper choice for the Caldecott, NYT is right: it's funny. It's funny in the way kids books do best, by taking something we grown-ups think is preposterous, absurd, or downright silly, (like a zookeeper's animal friends taking care of him), as serious, as possible. I wish more books for "adults" could entertain "preposterous" possibilities and not necessarily be space age science fiction. Then again, that's one of the reasons I read children's books - because adult books aren't enough for me. The article also reviewed Tad Hill's How Rocket Learned to Read (the author/illustrator of Duck & Goose board books), Peter Brown's Children Make Terrible Pets, and Michael Ian Black's A Pig Parade Is a Terrible Idea. This last title is unfortunately out of stock at the publisher currently, but we hope it will be back on the shelf very soon.
Monday, November 22, 2010
Both author and illustrator talked about their creative process: Minor about his intense research into the train engineer, conductor, and fireman's life, as well as his hunt for train memorabilia; Titcomb told us how their book editor wanted him to add more verses to his song to meet a picture book's 32 page length. Fans of Titcomb's music were also pleased to hear the original song, especially when a friend with a mandolin (I wish I had caught his name!) joined the group. It was a great experience for kids and adults alike - maybe even more so for the adult music fans! We even had a few celebrities drop by! Anita Silvey, whose latest book, Henry Knox: Bookseller, Soldier, Patriot, was illustrated by Minor, signed a few of her books and posed for photographs with Minor, Titcomb and fans. I also caught up with the fabulously well informed and friendly Nan Sorenson, the fabulous assistant executive director of New England Independent Booksellers Association. All in all, it was a very fun, celebrity-packed, musical day here at Curious George!
During the holiday season we are halting author events and story time, but we will resume store events in January.
Thursday, November 18, 2010
Let's start with the most important news: Part one of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows is released TOMORROW. Eeee! My roommate is a brave and lucky soul and is going to the premiere tonight. I hope to see some photos of any Bellatrix Lestrange or Tonks characters. If you haven't finished the book, swing by to pick up a paperback (759 pages for $14.99!) or the new Harry Potter Pop-up, based on the films dramatic scenes. I love the one with the Hungarian Horntail - that dragon is fearsome! (Say it with me now, Accio Firebolt!)
In more serious but still very exciting book news, the National Book Award Winners were announced. Mockingbird by Kathryn Erskine took the young adult category, with the finalists including: Ship Breaker by Paolo Bacigalupi, Dark Water by Laura McNeal, Lockdown by Walter Dean Myers, and One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams-Garcia.
Lastly, it's almost time for our extended holiday hours - there will more hours in a day you can come in, shop around, and talk to your favorite booksellers! We will be closed Thanksgiving Day, and beginning on the 26th, the Friday after Thanksgiving, we'll be open Thursday through Saturday 10am to 8pm, with Sunday through Wednesday continuing at 10am to 7 pm. We hope to see you in soon!
Tuesday, November 16, 2010
For the younger readers, ages 2 to 5, my favorite is One Little, Two Little, Three Little Pilgrims by B.G. Hennessy, illustrated by Lynne Cravath. The simple tale follows the familiar children's rhyme of "ten little Indians,"depicting both Wampanoag and Pilgrim children working hard throughout the year and celebrating their fruitful harvest.
For preschoolers with a sense of humor, I like Run, Turkey, Run by Diane Mayr, illustrated by Laura Rader. This quirky picture book encourages participation: "If Turkey swims in the water,/will the farmer think he's a duck?" kids can chorus, "NO! RUN, TURKEY, RUN!" I also like this book's vegetarian perspective, with the turkey eventually escaping his fate as dinner: "Turkey gives thanks!"
Scholastic is a school standby, and their non-fiction series "Day in the life..." are surefire hits for elementary level kids. Try either Samuel Eaton's Day: A Day in the Life of a Pilgrim Boy by Kate Waters, or for a girl's perspective, Sarah Morton's Day, or the Wampanoag side, Tapenum's Day. Each book is full of detailed photographs of pilgrim/Wampanoag clothing, daily activities like sewing, hunting, or gathering mussels, and is written in the dialect of that era, with a glossary at the back.
Waiting for Winter by German author/illustrator Sebastian Meschenmoser is one of the more gorgeous books about the changing of the seasons. Squirrel has heard of this mysterious winter phenomenon called "snow," and tries to stay awake through the cold season to see it. His friends hedgehog and bear are also intrigued, and they find various objects they take to be snow (a sock? tin cans?), until the first magical snow storm sets them straight. Meschenmoser blends humor and beauty here to make a perfectly sweet snow story.
Considering that my favorite part of this time of year is how often my folks visit, one of my favorite fall books is Applesauce Season, by Eden Ross Lipson with illustrations from prolific Mordicai Gerstein. This book always makes me crave boisterous family parties and pie. As the apple season progresses, this family makes a variety of applesauces, apple crepes, and in memory of Grandpa's birthday, apple pie with ice cream. Mmmm.
In the chapter book room, Children's Poet Laureate Jack Prelutsky reigns supreme with humorous Thanksgiving poems in the early reader It's Thanksgiving! My favorite poem might be "I Ate Too Much" (a common problem at our dessert loving house), with the lines: "I ate too much pudding and pie, I'm stuffed up with muffins/and much too much stuffin',/ I'm probably going to die."
Pardon That Turkey by Susan Sloate is a non-fiction early reader that explains how Sarah Hale petitioned for years to make Thanksgiving a holiday, as well as the legend of Lincoln's presidential pardon of a turkey. I always find it impressive when beginning reader non-fiction can convey enough facts within the set vocabulary, and this title from the All Aboard Reading series is certainly successful there.
Friday, November 12, 2010
Right about the time we moved into our most recent apartment, my husband and I put all of our stuffed animals into a box in our upstairs closet. Not out of some misplaced sense of what it means to be a grown-up, and not because we thought we were too old. We just had soooo many of them--teddy bears, dogs in Santa hats, Matt's extensive penguin collection. They took up a lot of space in our tiny apartment, and so into the closet they went, waiting to be doled out to our nieces over a series of visits.
That being said, I would make space in my life for one of these classic sock monkeys from Schylling. They're slightly larger than the ones I've seen before, and something about their size and that squishy rag-sock aesthetic just begs to be snuggled. I'm also a sucker for the 'do. There's something adorably punk about the mess of red yarn hair hanging out on top of this plush primate's head, and I think any grown up with a sense of humor and a longing for the good old days of snuggling up with your favorite stuffed animal will get a kick out of this funky monkey.
Thursday, November 11, 2010
Gordon Titcomb, an amazing folk musician who has performed for 25 years with some of the world's most renowned artists will be here to read and sign his new book, The Last Train. The words in the book were once a song, and that rhythm carries through this beautiful book. A great rhyme scheme will engage young readers and listeners to chug along with the family that you meet as this story unfolds.
Each spread has incredibly rich paintings from Wendell Minor, whose paintings have graced some of the most beloved children's books in recent times from Charlotte Zolotow's The Seashore Book, the cover of Julie of the Wolves, and Anita Silvey's new picture book set here in Boston Henry Knox: Bookseller, Soldier, Patriot. Mr. Minor will be here to sign as well.
So join us for a musical, locomotive-inspired read-aloud and meet two legends to boot. This book, signed by both author and illustrator, would make a great holiday gift for the train enthusiast in your life, or anyone who can appreciate beautiful illustrations and the heirloom theme and feel of this engaging, satisfying book.
So join us Saturday, 20 November at noon, and wear your conductor hat!
Saturday, November 6, 2010
Seasons by Blexbolex
Children Make Terrible Pets by Peter Brown
Bink & Gollie by Kate DiCamillo and Alison McGhee, illustrated by Tony Fucile (this particular title is a graphic novel chapter book blend)
Shadow by Suzy Lee
Busing Brewster by Richard Michelson, illustrated by R.G. Roth
Henry In Love by Peter McCarty
Subway by Christoph Niemann
Big, Red Lollipop by Rukhsana, Khan, illustrated by Sophie Blackall
Here Comes the Garbage Barge by Jonah Winter, illustrated by Red Nose Studio
and drum roll for my personal dark horse for the Caldecott: A Sick Day for Amos McGee by Philip Stead, illustrated by Erin Stead
This list differs from the Caldecott since they take into consideration books by authors from around the world. We're happy they included one of our staff favorites, Blexbolex's Seasons, although I wish they had also chosen The Quiet Book by Deborah Underwood. If only The Quiet Book's illustrator Renata Liwska lived in the U.S.!
Downstairs in the Chapter Book Room
We've had these amazing puzzles in before--one for every continent--but now there's one puzzle for the whole world. Each piece is shaped like a country of the world, to fit together into a map of the World. Learn geography while having a blast! The World GeoPuzzle has 68 pcs and is 26.0" x 12.5"
Mother of all Clipboards
Downstairs on our Journals and Sketchbooks Display
For those trying times when one is forced to take analog notes, or if you're a techie that needs to look official and important, bust out this recycled clipboard made out of an old motherboard. It's slick, it's modern, and it says:
01001001 00100000 01101101 01100101 01100001 01101110 00100000 01100010 01110101 01110011 01101001 01101110 01100101 01110011 01110011 00100001
Or, "I mean business!" in binary.
Mozart Little Thinker
Upstairs in Plush
Research shows that playing Mozart to your baby may not necessarily make your baby smarter, but what about giving your baby a Mozart? This cuddly, adorable composer will definitely inspire your child to be a prodigy like the doll's model. However--as the doll has no will of its own--it will most assuredly NOT accrue crushing debt as Mozart himself did.