Thursday, October 7, 2010

A few festive fall favorites (...too alliterative? No?)

Last week we hutters switched over the last of our going-to-school display to Halloween. I was barely coping with it being fall (and needing rain boots!), and it's time for face paint, guides to cutting a unique jack-0-lantern, bean bag gourds, and ghost stories! At least the new merchandise and books are supremely adorable. Here are some of my favorites.

I really know it's getting along in the year when we start decorating the Melissa & Doug giant plush with cozy clothing. (Hey, I know you love my construction worker giraffe ensemble in our Brattle window.) Two's Company Animal Knit Scarves are the perfect accessory for the lovable penguin, panda, or preschooler in your life.

Gund is known for its cuddly plush, and every fall I look forward to its new autumnal plush. This year, they have wee Harvest Beanbags, in the shape of smiling gourds and acorns. My mother loves making little holiday displays, so her fall care package is definitely going to have some of these critters.

For those days it's really too blustery to stay outside but you need something to do, try the Tie Dye Kit by Jacquard. This set includes three dyes plus an empty color mixing bottle, enough to make ten to fifteen t-shirts. It also has rubber bands, gloves, and a DVD with ideas for folding techniques and different items you can dye. You may want to try this kind of activity in your garage or with newspapers covering the table, but the minor mess potential just makes it that much more fun!

When it comes to books, there are so many gorgeous new titles and brilliant new issues. A favorite standby of mine is a board book edition of Leaves by David Ezra Stein, about a baby bear's first encounter with falling leaves: "'Are you okay?' he wondered." Stein's pen and watercolor illustrations and spare text make for a winsome, whimsical tale.

Another modern classic I love is Mouse's First Halloween by Lauren Thompson and illustrator Buket Erdogan. This endearing title in the Mouse series is Mouse's adventure on Halloween evening, where he discovers that some mysterious bumps and rustles (tumbling leaves, apples dropping from trees) in the dark are "not so scary after all." This picture book is perfect for the timid trick-or-treater.

One new title we're really excited about is Hallowilloween: Nefarious Silliness, a book of poems from Calef Brown. One staffer, a solid Brown fan, was cackling in the hut, reading these poems aloud to us all. Her favorite is "The Portrait of Gory Rene," about a man whose hideous portrait strangely becomes more and more handsome, until he has to hide it in the attic. (Hmm...remind you of someone?).

In the chapter book room, our book buyer extraordinaire is very happy that it's time again to put out the beginning chapter book Squirrel's World by Lisa Moser. Squirrel is very helpful and a very good friend: when he almost forgets to say good night to Mouse one evening, he dashes back out to Mouse's tree stump and wakes him up to tell him good night.

Who could get through Halloween without the modern classic The Witches, by Roald Dahl? I reread this comic horror chapter book every autumn to get a head start on the creepy chills...and a refresher on how to discover a child-loathing witch. Roald Dahl has books for grown-ups too: Skin and Other Stories as well as The Umbrella Man and Other Stories are perfect for those blustery nights when the wind howls between your apartment buildings (you hear me, Cantabrigians).

In new books, our staffer Shara raves about a new fantasy collection Zombies Vs. Unicorns, edited by Holly Black and Justine Larbalestier. This collection features such fantasy greats as Garth Nix and Cassandra Clare (meanwhile, are you reading Clockwork Angel, the first book of Infernal Devices?) with Margo Lanagan and Diane Peterfreund (also with a new killer unicorn book out, Ascendant). Some say the world will end in zombies, some say in unicorns...which do you choose?

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