Thursday, September 30, 2010

Kid at Heart: Night Owl Sleeping Mask

First of all, a quick introduction...I'm Morgan, one of the newer monkeys in this hut, and I've been lucky enough to be hanging around this crazy crowd for the past three months or so, playing, learning, and of course, reading. I'm also, as of this very moment, the newest blogger on Notes from the Hut....::WILD APPLAUSE FOR THE NEW BLOGGER::
Anyway. One of the things I have noticed more than anything else these past several months at Curious George is the sheer, wide eyed wonder that I see from kids young and old when they first discover the shop...and I emphasize young and old, because there is nothing quite like the look on the face of a grown up who walks into Curious George and re-discovers some much beloved toy from their childhood, or even something brand new that makes them feel like a kid again. So with that idea in mind, I'm making it my business to shine a light every week on some wonderful toy, book, or trinket that was created with kids in mind...but that grown up kids will love for themselves too!

This week, the Night Owl Sleeping Masks brought to us by Two's Company. Sure, they're sweet and whimsical enough for young monkeys in need of a nap. But with a variety of colors, an adorable, hand stitched look, and a squishy soft texture gentle enough for even the weariest peepers, these masks would be perfect for grown ups looking to catch a few Z's on a red eye flight, or just to block out the lights of the city for restful night's sleep. And with a soft elastic band and generous size, these masks are a perfect fit for noggins large and small.

It's better than the Panda Cam...

..It's Little Pim on the Today Show!

Little Pim, a series of DVDs, flashcards, and music for learning languages, was featured in an NBC Today Show segment entitled "Kids Get Ahead with Mandarin, Spanish," about the many developmental benefits of introducing multiple languages to young children.

We'll be hosting Little Pim's creator, Julia Pimsleur, next week on October 9th, at noon. Stop by for a question and answer session for parents, and enjoy some multicultural music and tasty treats.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Banned Book Week - How are you celebrating?

It's Banned Book Week - a week to celebrate the freedom of reading choice and keep people's attention on the everyday censorship that still happens all too frequently. This week is sponsored by the American Library Association, the American Booksellers Association, the American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression, and a host of other organizations for publishers, authors, and educators.

Of the Top Banned Books of 2009, I know I've read 7 of the 10...this week, I will try to round out the list! How many have you read? I'm really curious to see the list for 2010 - will sorcery and vampire lust continue to be one of the bigger complaints, or will realistic, "issue" laden fiction like Speak (see below) be considered more objectionable?

What really surprised me was this Map of book censorship from the Banned Book Weeks website. Of course, I read on the news about schools, libraries, parents, professors, and so on, objecting to certain pieces of literature, and I know, in some part of my brain, that it happens. As ALA says, even more complaints happen than are reported nationally, and even taking this into account, looking at a visual representation of all the places - red states, blue states, everywhere - really drives it home. Censorship happens. But that sounds big, and ominous, and political - Censorship, capital C. What if I'm a concerned parent and I really don't want my middle-schooler exposed to the dog-eared chapters of Judy Blume's Forever? I'd rather tell her about first relationships myself...further on down the road. How do I extend my view of parenting into her school and extracurricular life? Where is the line between protecting your child in your home, and deciding what is right and safe for all children, everywhere? Once you determine that line, how do you enforce it?

I know it's been all across blogland, but in case you want to read up on the most recent cases of pulling "questionable" literature, here are some objections against teen books.

A Missouri State University professor wrote an article for the Missouri paper News-Leader calling Laurie Halse Anderson's novel Speak (and other current teen books) "soft pornography," warning parents to be wary of the kind of literature their kids are exposed to in school. Certainly, Speak and other books dealing with rape, violence, bullying, and other scary but very real issues, can be graphic and frightening - but how else do we as a society address their existence? I don't see that such books would incur instances of violence, anymore than I see that J.K. Rowling is endorsing pagan witchcraft and sorcery (not that paganism is even a bad thing in the first place).
Here is Laurie Halse Anderson's response to the article and the blogging hubbub it incited.

In a nearby neighborhood, Sherman Alexie's Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian was banned in a Missouri school, due to crude language and themes of violence, alcoholism, and racism. I do understand the point about swearing and crassness: kids may already be familiar with that way of talking, but we don't have to encourage it. However, I don't see how taking a book off the shelves will change anything for the better.

I'm not sure there's any one particular way to change things for the better. I wish there was a simple way to eradicate racism, violence, sexism, rape, hate crimes, bullying, et cetera, but until there's a Magic Wand of Love and Sparkly Ponies, I don't think ignoring their existence and shielding our children from discussion of them will make them disappear.

Lauren Myracle, the author of the TTYL series which are at the top of ALA's top banned books list, wrote an article, "Banned Books Breakthrough: I Know You Are, But What Am I?" for Shelf Awareness about what it means to have faith, be a Christian, even, while fighting censorship and her own books being censored.

Read on!

Monday, September 27, 2010

Guess who's back?

After months of thinking we weren't going to get Russ's Curious George in the Yellow Hat plush back in the store until 2011, a surprise shipment of behatted Georges arrived today! I'm crossing my fingers that he stays around, because he's certainly cute.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Author crush

If you haven't noticed from the multiple staff picks I've written for her books, I have a larger-than-life author crush for Robin McKinley. I mean, we're talking grand adventures, horses, romance, gleaming scheming swords, solid friendship, baking...her books have it all. The best part, in my opinion, are the heroines. These ladies are the kind of ladies I wish lived in my neighborhood - they're brave, they're funny, they're stubborn. They take on cross-country adventures, evil dragons, snobby relatives, vampires, and so on, without the usual girlish whinging or reluctance to get their shoes dirty. These ladies kick butt.

Plus! She writes at various reading levels: there's middle grade, teen, and adult - sometimes revisiting the same idea, like a retelling of Beauty and the Beast. That's talent right there. And if you were a voracious kid reader like me, it was amazing to grow up loving a particular writer and to keep finding books by her that grew with me.

Double plus! She has a new book out! I am really excited for her latest book, Pegasus. Princesses and flying horses! I will probably read it in two days and pass it off to my roommate, who will probably read it in a single day, and then resume asking me when the next McKinley book is coming out. (We have played this game ever since she spotted The Hero and the Crown on my bookcase when we moved in together three years ago).

This is all leading me to simply say, read her, love her, go read her blog. It has footnotes. The good kind of footnotes, that further illuminate the text and make you chuckle. For comparison, I have to admit I've failed to finish reading Mark Dunn's Ibid, so I acknowledge that I have had past struggles with footnotes.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Upcoming event: Little Pim at Curious George

Are you or do you want to raise your child to be multilingual?
Julia Pimsleur is the creator of Little Pim, a series of DVDs, flashcards, and music CDs for early language learning and development. She will show sample episodes and host a question and answer sessions for parents, with music, international treats, and coloring activities for kids.

Join us Saturday, October 9th, at 1pm. If possible, please comment or sign up in store.

The best kind of holiday: food AND love

Today is Hug a Vegetarian Day! PETA2, a youth affiliate of PETA, brings us this holiday to celebrate the meatless milieu...and hugs, because who doesn't love hugs? The mass of us vegetarians at Curious George certainly do!

While I was researching this "holiday," I came across this spectacular study from Chemical Senses, through the Love to Know website: vegetarians smell better. Don't believe them? Find your favorite vegetarian and give them a sniff...

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Upcoming event: My Name Is Not Isabella

Have you ever wanted to be somebody else - somebody that mattered, somebody that made a difference? As Isabella goes through her day, she becomes great women who have made a mark on history, science, and everyday life, including Elizabeth Blackwell, the first woman doctor, and the chemist Marie Curie.

Join us Sunday, October 3rd at 1pm for a reading of My Name Is Not Isabella by Jennifer Fosberry, and share your big dreams.

Check out the author's blog: Jennifer Fosberry: Unlike Any Other Berry.

A fall film

Can you believe there are only two more days left of "summer" before the autumn equinox? It's already getting noticeably darker earlier, the air is crisp, and I have that tell-tale craving for apple pie and cider donuts.

To get in the right mood, check out this 1967 short film directed by Chuck Jones based on Frank Tashlin's The Bear That Wasn't. Then, after you've fallen in love with it, swing by to check out the New York Times Book Review reprint of the story, and our other fall books, including Jon Muth's latest picture book, Zen Ghosts.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Staff pick cobb salad

We've been reading away here, soaking up the sunshine in John F Kennedy Park or on benches in Cambridge Common, and we have tons of new staff picks for your perusal!

The Strange Case of Origami Yoda by Tom Angleberger
ookseller: Shara
Genre: realistic fiction, humor
Suggested reading level: ages 10 up

When Tommy's clueless friend Dwight creates an origami Yoda puppet that actually offers sage advice, Tommy begins to wonder where the wisdom is coming from. He needs to find out if he can trust Yoda before he takes crucial advice regarding a girl. Great for fans of Diary of a Wimpy Kid.

Sunshine by Robin McKinley
Genre: fantasy, vampires, romance
Suggested reading level: ages 15 up

I've loved McKinley's books ever since I found The Hero and the Crown. She's the kind of writer that can blur the lines of good and evil, magic and non-magic, dream and reality, love and friendship - all while making you crave muffins. Plus, Sunshine is about the best heroine you'll find: she's brave, she's funny, she doesn't trust anyone, and is one mean baker. (Muffins. Mmm.)

Clockwork by Philip Pullman
Genre: magical realism
Suggested reading level: ages 8 up

This is a shorter novel that reads like a really creepy fairy tale. A great spooky bedtime read to ensure weird dreams. A master clockmaker has built an automaton (like in Hugo Cabret). The machine begins to develop a will of its own when not properly controlled. This will have you on the edge of your seat until the very end!

Livvie Owen Lived Here by Sarah Dooley
Genre: Contemporary realistic fiction
Suggested reading level: ages 10 up

Livvie has autism. Her behavior feels beyond her control, and when her family is forced to move, Livvie is convinced that she is being called back to the home where they were all once happy - but getting there might be easier said than done. Dooley's storytelling puts the reader inside the complicated mind of Livvie Owen, and allows them to experience the world through her eyes.

Ling and Ting: Not Exactly the Same! by Grace Lin
er: Teresa
Genre: beginning chapter book, sibling story
Suggested reading level: ages 6 to 7

Ling and Ting are twins. People think they are exactly the same, but they are actually quite different. Ling uses a fork and Ting uses chopsticks. Ling has full bangs and Ting has choppy bangs. Plus, Ting blushes a lot (just like me)! This is a great beginning chapter book for young readers.

Cold Comfort Farm by Stella Gibbons
Genre: humor, realistic fiction
Suggested reading level: ages 13 up

20-something Flora Poste is newly orphaned, and needs a place to live that will give her ideas for a novel she intends to write when she is 50. She gets the perfect opportunity when she finds a cache of crazy relatives in the English countryside. Funniest. Book. Ever.

The Pull of the Ocean by Jean-Claude Mourlevat
Genre: modern fable, retelling of Tom Thumb
Suggested reading level: ages 12 up

One night during a vicious storm, the seven Doutreleau brothers fled from home to escape a violent end at the hands of their father. Through a series of interviews from people involved in the case, readers slowly find out what happened to 10 year old Yann Doutreleau who was never found.

The Wee Free Men: The Beginning by Terry Pratchett
Genre: fantasy adventure, humor
Suggested reaing level: ages 12 up

For the record, Terry Pratchett is a fantasy humorist god-among-men-and-sheep. He can do no wrong in my book! Tiffany Aching is a dairymaid who takes on evil fairy ilk with a frying pan, a great pair of boots, and the overzealous help of tiny blue pseudo-Scottish men. Crivens! I read both books in one weekend. Look for the final Tiffany Aching book this fall!

Saturday, September 11, 2010

A Saturday snicker

I had the luck of walking out of the hut as a pair of customers came into the store telling each other jokes:

Twenty-something Customer A: What do you call someone who looks for little bugs?
Twenty-something Customer B: Hmm...
Customer A: A de-tick-tive!

I love our customers.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Pails for sale!

As much as I am loathe to admit it, the lazy, lounging days of summer are almost over. If you're as reluctant as I am, come in and pick up some discounted beach toys for one more sand adventure! We're having a sale on all beach merchandise: 25% off all sand scoopers, shovels, water buckets, sand molds, and other sundry sun toys.

Even if you can't make it to Nahant or Hampton, there's always a sandbox in the neighborhood, right?

Monday, September 6, 2010

Goin' out with a blog post

After nearly four years at Curious George -- including two and a half years working on Notes from the Hut! -- today is my last day here. While I'm very excited about my new adventure, today's a little bittersweet since I'm leaving our wonderful store and my incredible coworkers. (You may have noticed the distinct lack of Rachel lately; she's off on her own new adventure in Philly. We miss her and wish her the best of luck!)

But what better way for me to say goodbye than with a few goodbye picture books we love?

Laurel Croza's I Know Here features a little girl in Saskatchewan who is facing a move to Toronto. "I don't know Toronto. I know here," she says. She knows the road with her trailer, the howl of the wolves in the forest, the man who delivers their groceries. A little inspiration from her teacher and classmates help her to keep her best-loved memories of this place safe as she moves.

In Gila Monsters Meet You at the Airport by Marjorie Weinman Sharmat, a boy moving west from New York shares his anxieties about all the scary things waiting for him: chili for breakfast, kids named "Slim" and "Tex" (and nobody like his best friend, Seymour), desert full of buzzards and cacti, and gila monsters. Leaving the airport he meets a boy moving to NYC who is similarly nervous. Once the boy finds familiar elements in his new surroundings, he can't wait to tell Seymour all about life in the not-so-wild west.

In Bernard Waber's Ira Says Goodbye, Ira is the leavee, not the leaver, but he finds saying goodbye difficult all the same. His best friend Reggie seems so excited about his upcoming move -- and so willing to leave Ira behind -- that Ira feels terribly betrayed. Just as Ira decides he "can't wait for some new kid who will be [his] best friend" to replace Reggie, Reggie's true feelings about their separation come out. The boys prove to each other that no matter how far away they are, they'll always be close friends.

While I'm really going to miss the store (and the blog!) I'll definitely be in to visit.

I know here. :)

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

A tree is nice.

You may have seen me rockin' this T-shirt around the Hut:

It combines two of my best-loved things: reading and trees! Lately I've had a total tree fixation. Here are some of my recommendations for anybody else who'd like to climb a tree, read underneath one, or build a treehouse.

Although the Hut is becoming more school-oriented and less summery, there's still some summer left... and plenty of summer-themed books still to read! I am fascinated by Peter Nelson's Treehouses: The Art and Craft of Living out on a Limb. While I'm content to look at the incredible (exterior and interior) photographs of treehouses people actually live in, Nelson also provides advice for constructing your own. Try Treehouses and Playhouses You Can Build and Treehouses and Other Cool Stuff: 50 Projects You Can Build, both by David and Jeanie Stiles, for smaller-scale projects.

We just got in the 2011 Treehouses of the World calendar, by -- who else? -- Peter Nelson. (Did you know we have a ton of 2011 calendars downstairs, including old favorites like Mom's Family Calendar by Sandra Boynton and awesome new ones like color-your-own B. Kliban Cats?) It's full of unbelievable feats of treehouse architecture from (you guessed it) around the world. I'm partial to the redwood forest house, but that may be because I'm partial to redwoods in general.

The perfect inside-your-treehouse or under-a-tree choice is the eponymous classic picture book A Tree Is Nice. Written by Janice May Urdy with Caldecott-winning illustrations by Marc Simont, A Tree Is Nice explores the many pleasures of a tree's company: swinging from branches, sitting in the shade, raking leaves, planting a seed and watching it grow, and more. The luminous watercolors (surrounded by lots of white space to let them breathe) and tree-friendly text make this a great read for indoors or out... but I bet you'll be inspired to play outside, despite the end-of-summer heat.

Soon the leaves will start to change and we'll have a whole different season of wonderful tree experiences to enjoy!

Bookish Moving Pictures

It's so hot today, it's even difficult to focus on a page and read! You KNOW it's bad when it comes to that. On hot days when it's difficult to read, sitting in an air-conditioned theater is an appealing idea. And what better sort of movie to see, than one made from a book? What follows is a round-up of upcoming adaptations of books coming to the silver screen.

Mr. Popper's Penguins, starring Jim Carrey. The release date is not yet announced, it sounds like the script is just nearing completion. But, the script is certainly taking its liberties with the much beloved middle-grade novel and 1939 Newberry Honor. The IGN reports that the "movie version takes the book into an upscale direction: a high-powered businessman suddenly inherits six penguins. As he gets acquainted with – and increasingly attached to – his winged roommates, Popper's life quickly unravels: his swanky New York apartment is turned into a snowy winter wonderland, the deal he's long been working on is derailed, and he almost lands in jail."

Expect to see it in theaters in a year or so. It's pretty clear what kind of movie this will be, and nothing could ever beat Robert Lawson's understated and playful monochromatic illustrations. But, alas, there's always a silver lining: a mediocre movie always helps readers find amazing books.

Up next is the VERY anticipated and VERY probably awesome forthcoming movie based on The Hunger Games. Suzanne Collins has been on a tour of all the Districts of (Ancient) Panem, and when I caught up with her at Brookline Public Library, she said that she was at work on the script herself, with some help from scriptwriting gentleman. No director has been selected, but she thinks the selection will be made soon. Then it will be a couple of years till we see the movie, I bet. I think I should play Katniss, and Clive Owen can play Gale and Edward Norton can play Peeta. Le sigh. Where's that air conditioning knob?

The Smurfs. This is perhaps the strangest forthcoming adaptation...the beloved comic book characters of old are coming to the big screen...albeit in CG form. And the Smurfs will be placed in a modern-day NYC frame story, akin to the "Mr. Popper" plot.

Here's a pic, from Wikipedia:

As weird as the CG may be, there are some great voice talents recruited; Hank Azaria as Gargamel, Neil Patrick Harris and John Oliver! Since they've just released a picture of the CG, I imagine it will be another year until theatrical release.

But, if you prefer to keep your Smurfs preserved in the nostalgic glow of un-CG'd childhood, the movie is reinvigorating interest. The original comic books are being reprinted into graphic novels with three stories in each volume.

The Purple Smurfs (Vol. 1)
Downstairs in the Chapter Book Room

The Smurfs and the Magic Flute (Vol. 2)
Downstairs in the Chapter Book Room

...with more volumes forthcoming!

And more Schleich Smurfs to come to the hut SOON!

What books would you want made into a movie? Which ones should be left alone for forever?