Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Hunger Games: the fantastic four movie trilogy...? A wee, very quite wee, news update

John, our receiver and bookseller (also known as "the tall man behind the counter"), has forced me to admit that I truly am obsessed with the Hunger Games movie news. I can't help it if during my weekly perusal of all kids lit news I happen upon near-daily updates on it, can I? I should look away, I know, and let my expectations return to a normal level. Which is why I won't tell you who was cast as President Snow, but I will at least exclaim over how the book trilogy will now be produced as a four movie series, a la Twilight and Harry Potter. Really, really? Is more Hunger Games a good or bad thing? Of course, I will go see them all, and therein probably lies the decision to extend the series...

Speaking of Harry Potter movies, we are a mere one and a half months away from the last installment! We can even say next month we'll go see it! I hope you (yes, you) will come with me and hold my hand. I will need all the support I can muster. (Teddy Tonks!!!).

In other news, in celebration of George alumna free-lance illustrator Jess Golden's birthday today, please go check out her art blog! As she writes describing her blog, "if you like fat bunnies..." you'll love Jess's artwork! She is one talented, lovely lady and we wish her many happy returns.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Favorite picture book of the week: the nostalgia edition

This week we have been segueing our displays from graduation, Memorial Day, and spring to Father's Day and, most enticingly, summer books! While there are many gorgeous summer and beach trip books (Suzy Lee's Wave, Susan Elya's Bebe Goes to the Beach, are in the forefront of my mind), my favorite seasonal book hands down is Charlotte Zolotow's When The Wind Stops (second place, if you are curious, is Red Sings from Tree Tops, by Joyce Sidman).

Originally published in 1969 and reprinted in a revised format in 1995, When The Wind Stops is a lush description of life's continual circle. Posed through a boy's repeated questions and a mother's answers, this story demonstrates how nothing ends, it simply changes or makes way for something else to begin. It uses more common changes, from the day turning to night and winter turning to spring, to the more abstract, like a mountain sloping into a valley, rain after a storm, and the eponymous end of the wind. More than a concept book or an explanation, this is pure life celebration.

For similar conceptual, seasonal, or simply beautiful books, try Rain Makes Applesauce by Julian Scheer, Bringing the Rain to Kapiti Plain by Verna Aadema, or The Fall of Freddie the Leaf by Leo Buscaglia.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

BEA, ABA, Harvard MBA, with Chaucer! A news round up

What a big week for Harvard Square and book folk everywhere! 

Today is Harvard's Commencement, with Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Liberia's President, as the main speaker. Our book buyer keeps gazing out her office window watching all the be-gowned graduates and droves of families saying how much she loves graduation. It couldn't be a more perfect day to celebrate...the job hunt! CBS News has my favorite review of Amy Poehler's Class Day speech, but I haven't yet found a transcription of today's speeches.

This week is also a pretty big deal to booksellers and librarians - it was Book Expo America in New York! Not only a place to snag galleys of upcoming books, there are also discussion sessions on relevant topics from e-books and using social media to events and marketing. I didn't know this last bit but there is also an art auction - I can't wait to see the pictures and blog posts of attendees. Sadly, no staffers from our store went, but we have been following tweets! (Can you really believe the age we live in?)

And with Memorial Day this weekend, it's almost too much excitement for me to handle. Sunshine! Smiling college students!! Sales! (Psst, we're having an everything 20% off sale!) A board game based off The Canterbury Tales! ...Wait, what? The Guardian reviews  The Road to Canterbury, currently in development. Obviously, players get to be the Pardoner, convincing Pilgrims to purchase fake pardons. Who doesn't love being the bad the 14th century?

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Favorite picture book of the week: "You can only make a masterpiece if you're willing to make a mess"

This week, my favorite picture book is another collaboration between Lenore Look and Yumi Heo, Polka Dot Penguin Pottery about a young girl's trip to a paint-your-own-pottery store to overcome her writer's block. Lenore Look is the author of the Alvin Ho beginning chapter book, and she has created another picture book with illustrator Yumi Heo, Uncle Peter's Amazing Chinese Wedding.

I love the calendar style binding of this fun, festive book: it opens vertically like Mark Reibstein's Wabi Sabi and Heo's bold mixed media illustrations capitalize on this design. Aspen Colorado Kim Chee Lee (her "nom de plume," as she says) is one of the most likable kid artist characters, with endearingly excited and unique turns of phrases: "Suddenly, I'm so excited, I can't answer. My words are swirling around the shop and I cannot catch them." I also love her family: her grandparents Gung Gung and Poh Poh with her drooly little sister Olivia are wonderfully supportive to her struggles to make a perfect painted egg.

For more books on creative kids (and lizards), try Tomie DePaola's The Art Lesson or David Wiesner's Art & Max.

Friday, May 20, 2011

We now present the 2011 contest winners!

It has been a week of close reading, intense discussions, and a few good laughs, but we have reached our decisions for our art and writing contest!

Art Contest

5 to 7
First place: North Graff - "Sweet Dream Pie"
Second place: Sarah Merklin - "The Mystery of the Circus Clown"
Third place: Augie Hawk - "Paddington Takes to TV"
Honorable Mention: Esther Cull-Kahn - "The King's Taster"

8 to 10
First place: Nayeon Chung - "George's Marvelous Medicine"
Second place: Bennett Graff - "DK Visual Encyclopedia of Science"
Third place: Cassie Schierer - "Princess and the Pea"
Honorable Mention: Kyle Sampson - "Curious George goes to the Aquarium"

11 to 13
First place: Nicholas Ornstein - "Duke Ellington"
Second place: Charlotte Holt - "Queen of Hearts"
Third place: Sophie Mark-Ng - "Same Stuff As Stars"
Honorable Mention: Sara (from Newton) - "Violet Comes to Stay"

Writing Contest

5 to 7
First place: Nalani Jones - "Compiss"
Second place: Macy Rhie - "Super Girl Saves the Day"
Third place: Calla Walsh - series of poems
Honorable Mention: Baylor Diamond - "Tiny Coffee Cup"

8 to 10
First place: Jeremy Ornstein - "Dynasty of the Blue-Eyed Feathers"
Second place: Emmet Lewis-Hoeber - "Black Willow"
Third place: Robert Shapiro - "I Have 9 Lives"
Honorable Mention: Grace Valaskovic - "(I'm) A Work in Progress"

11 to 13
First place: Alexandra Domeshek - "Clock"
Second place: Jordan Lee - "Silk Road"
Third place: John Vernaglia - "Porky Poem"
Honorable Mention: Jacob Abrams - "The Book of Animal Transformations"

Congratulations to the winners! Thank you to all who bravely submitted their work, and the families and teachers who helped make it all happen.

Within a few days we will have scanned all the art and writing to post on this blog, and the art contest winners will be displayed in our store's windows.

Our building and nearby sidewalk are currently undergoing construction, so everything is now on our ground floor. As such, our selection of merchandise and books, while still painstakingly chosen, is smaller than in previous years. We recommend coming in sooner rather than later to pick up and redeem your gift certificates. (First through third places receive levels of gift certificates, honorable mentions do not).

I know I said I would resist...

...But David Letterman asked Jennifer Lawrence if the Hunger Games was a "vampire deal," and I couldn't. Look. Away. I might have to also see her as Mystique in the X-Men movie just to tide myself over to the real HG action next March.

In other amusing news, Mo Willems (author of Pigeon books and his latest, Hooray for Amanda and Her Alligator!), posted pictures of another of his metal household creations. This one is a monstrous toilet paper dispenser. After the city reconstructs the sidewalk over our basement, maybe we can get them (with help from Mo) to put in similar fixtures in our bathroom, hey?

It looks to be another entertaining Friday in George's jungle and contest winners to be announced later this morning!

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Poetry laurels, multiculturism, a bit of trivia, and of course, Hunger Games news! (Recent news roundup)

Have you missed me? I've been away on vacation in warmer, sunnier climes but I'm back to give you the highlights of news relating to kids, kids books, and other things that I find entertaining...

The big news first! J. Patrick Lewis is the new Children's Poet Laureate, following such other luminaries as Jack Prelutsky and Mary Ann Hoberman. I love his poetry-history picture book, The House, illustrated by Roberto Innocenti, and am looking forward to what he will do with this position.

I have tried to stay away from the constant news updates about the casting and filming of the Hunger Games movie, in the hopes that my expectations will not rocket, and thus plummet, by the time I see it. However, I am apparently weak when it comes to Entertainment Weekly and its exclusive interview with Jennifer Lawrence (who plays Katniss, and yes, they dyed her blond hair brunette. Whew.)

As I discovered through Fuse #8, the blog Delightful Children's Books has compiled a book "tour" of cultures and countries in the book list Read Around the World, including a section on children from all around the world, with DK's Children Just Like Me and Throw Your Tooth on the Roof: Tooth Traditions From Around the World.

I've only just caught up on my Bitch Magazine blogs, so I'm a bit late in reporting that the ladies at that feminist organization posted their favorite childhood and contemporary picture books in honor of Children's Book Week. It's a fresh take on a common question in book and publishing spheres, (and I do like sending folks over to their website), so take a look! They have also begun a new blog series: a YA Book Club, featuring some contested titles from their unfortunately infamous 100 Young Adults for the Feminist Reader list. Our own store's book club also recently read Margo Lanagan's Tender Morsels; it was interesting comparing our reader's responses and questions to theirs. If you are interested in joining our monthly teen and adult book club, email us at Because of the city construction, we will have to relocate discussions off-site, but we will continue reading!

In other store news, I bet a few kids and their parents are a bit antsy about our art and writing contest which closed last week - we are fiendishly reading the many submissions we have received and will announce the winners tomorrow! We will not be sending out postcards this year, instead the list of winners will go up on our contest blog, with our Facebook, Twitter, and store blog linking there.

I will close on something just for fun - because who doesn't like silly quizzes? Persephone Magazine has a post of Disney Songs Trivia! The Thursday staff here was a bit stumped on a few, and we are appropriately ashamed.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Favorite picture book of the week: a jump into non-fiction!

This week, my favorite picture book of the week is a factual, global tour of food-making: How Did That Get In My Lunchbox? by Chris Butterworth and illustrated by Lucia Gaggiotti.

Lately there has been a rise in interest in, or concern with, the food we consume, and an answering spate of foodie books. Michael Pollan, of course, leads the parade with Food Rules and varying reading level editions of The Omnivore's Dilemma, but there are not as many young reader books that can successfully tackle the global production of food. How Did That Get In My Lunchbox? takes each item from a kid's typical lunchbox - bread, cheese, apple, chocolate - and depicts its growth, picking, processing, and transporting from farms to factories and finally to grocery stores. While I wish there was more information on alternative farming options, like less industrialized, sustainable agriculture and local markets, this is a colorful and detailed jumping-off point for discussions.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Staff picks in a raincoat

Rainy spring days are the best for porch reading with your feet propped up on the railing, lemonade in hand. Here are the latest chapter book favorites of our staff.

Okay for Now by Gary Schmidt
Bookseller: Shara
Genre: realism, school story
Suggested reading level: ages 10 up

With an abusive father, a passive mother, and a sullied reputation in a new town, Doug learns not only how to survive hardship, but also how to preserve, create, and enjoy beauty, however fleeting. Schmidt shows impeccable restraint throughout the novel, letting Doug tell his own story on his own terms.

Ten Miles Past Normal by Frances Dowell
Bookseller: Michelle
Genre: contemporary fiction, fans of Sarah Dessen, Dairy Queen
Suggested reading level: ages 12 up

Janie, known as "Farm Girl," hopes to fade into normality, but with an activist best friend, a boy named Monster (really), a bass guitar, the civil rights movement's Freedom School, and some delicious goat cheese, she's in for a trip beyond normal to find a wildness all her own.

For the Win by Cory Doctorow
Bookseller: John
Genre: techno-thriller, science fiction-ish
Suggested reading level: young adult (ages 14 up)

In this world-spanning adventure, teenagers struggle to survive and prosper in the virtual and real world. Where digital gold can be traded for cold hard cash, freedom and fortunes are won and lost. For fans of online games and future economists alike.

I am J by Cris Beam
Bookseller: Jose-Luis
Genre: GLBT and gender issues
Suggested reading level: ages 15 up

Call him J. Born Jeni and biologically female, J has decided to begin his transition into male by binding his chest and making plans to take testosterone. But will J's friends and parents accept his new identity, or scorn him forever? J must endure the taunts of bullies on the NYC subway, strained friendships, and homelessness, but J won't stop until he can truly be himself.

The Princess Bride by William Goldman
Bookseller: Michelle
Genre: fantasy, adventure, humor
Suggested reading level: ages 12 up

This is the best kind of rollickin' fantasy adventure: full of swashbuckling masked heroes, pirates, cunning villians, revenge, true love, and some of the best bantering this side of Douglas Adams...all while hilariously satirizing the adventure genre, cutting all those "boring" bits from S. Morgenstern's original "classic tale."

Horton Halfpott by Tom Angelberger
Bookseller: Shara
Genre: mystery
Suggested reading level: ages 8 up

Angleberger (author of Strange Case of Origami Yoda) delights again with this hilarious farce! The loosening of M'lady Luggertuck's corset sparks a series of miscommunications, thefts, lies, attempted kidnappings, a costume ball, and an unlikely romance that ultimately changes Horton's life forever.

Nathaniel Fludd: Flight of the Phoenix by R.L. LaFevers
Bookseller: Jose-Luis
Genre: fantasy, Harry Potter-lite
Suggested reading level: ages 8 up

Nathaniel Fludd's parents are missing, and so he must now live with his eccentric Aunt Phil. She tells him about his family's secret history as Beastologists, those who study and help the rare creatures on Earth. Together they go on a high-flying adventure to see the birth of a beautiful, fiery Phoenix. A fun read-aloud or a great book for young readers.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Favorite picture book of the week: remote control dad license

My favorite picture book of this week is a new cheeky bedtime story, Mitchell's License by Hallie Durand and illustrated by Tony Fucile. Mitchell refuses to go to bed unless he can "drive" there on his "remote control" Dad car, beeping the nose horn and stopping at the cookie jar/gas station. The wry text is paired with humorous, chalky style digital illustrations from the illustrator of Bink and Gollie and various animated Pixar films. This book is great for bedtime, especially amongst automotive fans, and will definitely be a hit for Father's Day next month.

Friday, May 6, 2011

A sneak attack of a Double Favorite Picture Book of the Week!

These days, I barely have to say "Need any mo' books?" to get a Mo Willems picture book or early reader into someone's hands. If his name itself isn't already known, most parents recognize him once they see the notorious Pigeon or the simple sketch style. I don't need to be clairvoyant to predict how his latest picture book will rocket into popularity: but I can't let a Mo book go by without some mo' love to give it! Hooray for Amanda and Her Alligator is "six and half surprising stories about two surprising friends," a lighthearted series of stories about two very different friends, a la the hippos George and Martha, that is 64 pages long: twice the length of the usual picture book. I love every single depiction of Amanda's blue alligator, usually with his feet in the air, mid-stride, surrounded by squiggly excited motion lines, occasionally clutching his tail like a security blanket. Again like James Marshall's hippo pals, Willems can imbue such a variety of expressions through a few dots and a line. I'm crossing my fingers that when I get home from work today, with a pile of books on my arms like Amanda, there will be a very happy, very blue alligator excited to see me.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Children's Book Choice Awards: guest starring Snooki

The Children's Book Council's gala this past Monday announced the winners of the annual Children's Book Choice Awards - the only awards for kids' books chosen by kids themselves. Rick Riordan took Author of the Year for The Lost Hero, with David Wiesner as Illustrator of the Year, for Art & Max. The other awards were divided by grades as follows: kindergarten to second grade choice: Little Pink Pup by Johanna Kerby; third to fourth grade: Lunch Lady and the Summer Camp Shakedown by Jarrett Krosoczka; fifth to sixth grade The Red Pyramid by Rick Riordan; and the teen choice Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green and David Levithan.

Aside from the awards, the most exciting part of the ceremony seems to have been a surprise visit from Jersey Shore star, Snooki! Jon Scieszka surprised the emcee Jarrett Krosoczka, (and probably most everyone in the audience, as well), and then had a sing-along with Levar Burton from Reading Rainbow. My goodness, don't you just love the people of the children's book world? No matter how the industry may change, I think at least our authors and illustrators will still be the same - merrymaking kids at heart.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Favorite picture book of the week: OH MY GOODNESS! A TOTALLY AWESOME SHARK!

This week's favorite picture book, I'm a Shark is a bright, fun new title from Bob Shea, author of such other goofy approaches to toddler issues as Dinosaur vs. Bedtime and Dinosaur vs. Potty. This "totally awesome shark" is not afraid of anything - not shots, scary movies, or even the dark. In fact, "Dark heard I was coming and ran!" Shark's only problem is creepy little spiders - but he's not scared of them, running away is "smart," he defends. Bob Shea captures the essence de toddler perfectly with such pitch perfect hilarious lines that no matter what you and your tyke aren't scared of, you'll be reading this one over and over.

HarperCollins also has a book trailer available for this book.

Friday, April 29, 2011

The annual Bookish Ball

This Saturday is Harvard Square's annual Bookish Ball, celebrating the neighborhood's many bookstores. Travel between the bookstores, enjoying events and special sales, getting your "passport" stamped at each location to enter a raffle at the end of the day. Curious George will be offering a 15% discount off the entire purchase of passport holders, with our weekly story-time taking place at noon.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

The sky begins at your feet: a staff review of The Sky Is Everywhere

Last March, Penguin sent our blog a review copy of Jandy Nelson's The Sky Is Everywhere which Katie raved about, and with its new paperback edition, now it is my turn to sing the praises of this gorgeous book.

Let's start with the cover: a sleeping girl entwined with vines: hinting of mystery, drama, and hopefully a handsome fellow (or two?) to awaken her. Lennie Walker (short for Lennon) is sleepwalking through life after the sudden death of her talented, beautiful sister Bailey. Without the shine of her sister to both guide her and hide her, and her Uncle Ben and Gram also adrift in grief, Lennie is overwhelmed by her sisterlessness.

What I love best of the many, many shining aspects of this debut are the characters. Lennie's best friend, Sarah, is one of the more perfectly imperfect sidekicks of contemporary fiction: she is philosophically cynical, French feminism obsessed, with a Goldilocks "goth gone cowgirl" style. Add in her mad scientist, four-times-married arborist Uncle Ben, rose gardener and green-only painter Gram, disappeared mother who has the family's "wanderer gene," and of course, two very different, attractive boys, and you have an incredible cast of fully realized, fully lovable characters.

These two boys are another compelling aspect of the story: who doesn't love a steamy, confused love triangle? Lennie discovers a solid crying shoulder in Bailey's boyfriend, Toby, whose silent support morphs into something more passionate, while new student and fellow clarinetist Joe breaks into her family's grieving routine with light, laughter, and delicious sludge-heavy coffee. Maybe it's her Gram's renowned roses, legendary in their heady love-inducing fumes, or it's the emptiness on Bailey's side of their room, but Lennie finds herself suddenly boy-crazy, vacillating between lust, depression, and laughter. Her grief is beautifully, heartbreakingly rendered: I found myself reeling along with Lennie as she yearned to run to share something new with Bailey and discovered her loss all over again.

The chapters are interspersed with found poems that Lennie had written on paper coffee cups, homework assignments, tree branches, and so on. I will close this review with one of my favorites, in the hopes that if my own obsession does not make you read this book, this poem will:

At night,
when we were little,
we tented Bailey's covers,
crawled underneath with our flashlights,
and played cards: Hearts,
Whist, Crazy Eights,
and our favorite: Bloody Knuckles.
The competition was vicious.
All day, every day,
we were the Walker Girls -
two peas in a pod
thick as thieves -
but when Gram closed the door
for the night,
we bared our teeth.
We played for chores,
for slave duty,
for truths and dares and money.
We played to be better, brighter,
to be more beautiful,
more, just more.
But it was all a ruse -
we played
so we could fall asleep
in the same bed
without having to ask,
so we could wrap together
like a braid,
so while we slept
our dreams could switch bodies.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Favorite picture book of the week: this book is bugged!

Our favorite picture book of this week comes from the imprint Blue Apple Books and is a companion to last year's popular artistic alphabet book, Alphabeasties. The designers Sharon Werner and Sarah Forss are back with a typographically creative non-fiction look at little critters in Bugs By The Numbers. In the style of Alphabeasties, each insect picture is made up of multitudes of a significant number; for example, the spider is various-sized 8's for its eight legs. Interesting, concise facts, boldly colored fonts, and cut paper fold-outs make this a must for both science and design connoisseurs.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Here comes Peter cottontail, with Easter merch for sale

Bunny cupcakes are delicious all year round! We are having a half-off sale for all Easter merchandise, including panoramic sugar eggs, Easter egg baskets, and Meri Meri's Easter cupcake and treat bag kits. Easter cards are all for sale at $1.50.

Monday, April 25, 2011

In the news: Neil Gaiman, Stephenie Meyer, Neil Gaiman, Vincent Van Gogh, and oh yes, Neil Gaiman, too

I imagine most Neil Gaiman fans have already heard about this contest - and entered! - but for any other aspiring actors or Gaimanians, HarperCollins is hosting a contest for a speaking role in the audio book version of American Gods. The winner will be flown to New York City to be coached in the reading by Mr Neil himself! If you're a bit microphone-shy but still want to be involved, you can vote on the contenders.

There is even further excitement regarding this particular Gaiman title: there are rumors of HBO making a television series of American Gods. Gaiman has no comments just yet, so keep your fingers crossed!

Many folks, especially Gaiman fans, are talking about HBO's new series, Game of Thrones, adapted from George R.R. Martin's fantasy series. I haven't seen it yet (that not-having-a-TV thing), but I've heard plenty of good things about it - especially from our receiver, John. On his recommendation alone, I'd say start watching it now, because you don't want to be catching up three seasons late, do you? Fair warning, this is not a show for kids.

Edward and Bella's fans can go head to head with Shadow, Coraline, and the Sandman's fans for intensity, as USA Today shows: ten Twilight fans won an international contest to meet with Stephenie Meyer for two days in Vancouver. Of the many topics discussed in those two days, fans might find interesting Meyer's view of the movie development and the possibility of future books about magic or mermaids. I'm rooting for the 1,000 page mermaid story, you bet!

At Toy Fair this year, Mattel revealed the Fine Art Barbies: dolls in gorgeous dresses inspired by paintings from Da Vinci, Klimt, Van Gogh. We don't typically carry Mattel products here, but fellow bookseller Jess and I could ogle the Starry Night's shoes all day...

I'm always excited to get the latest issue of Bitch Magazine, but must refrain from immediately devouring the entire content of this non-profit quarterly. But once I saw that #50, "Primal," contained an interview with young adult author Francesca Lia Block, I could not resist! Her Weetzie Bat books were a milestone in my reading life - nothing compares to her ethereal style, lovably imperfect characters, and understanding approach of gritty subjects. This article is not on their blog, so hunt down a copy at your local newsstand or Newbury Comics. In addition to reading about spectacular young adult writers, you'll be supporting a non-profit feminist organization! In their past issues, they have also interviewed Ursula K. Le Guin (#48) and Nnedi Okorafor-Mbachu (#41).

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Introducing...the favorite picture book of the week

We receive so many new books each month that constantly move about our displays, it gets hard to keep track of all that is good and beautiful. With this in mind, we begin a new blog and Facebook feature: the favorite picture book of the week. These quick blurbs will showcase a new title, a favorite reprinted, or an unsung hero of the baby room.

This week we turn our delighted gaze upon The Quite Contrary Man: A True American Tale by Patricia Rusch Hyatt, illustrated by Kathryn Brown. This picture book biography is the story of New England folk hero Joseph Palmer, who refused to shave his beard in a time when every man went bare chinned. Pen and watercolor illustrations beautifully supplement this humorous, thoughtful tale.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Earth Day, every day

This Friday April 22 is Earth Day - a day, like every day, when people take time to appreciate and take care of our planet. With the smell of spring rain in the air, tulip and daffodil bulbs sprouting everywhere, and plentiful spring picture books about, how can one not think green?

Margi Preus with illustrator Rebecca Gibbon take a look at some of the more gorgeous and notable green growing things around us: trees! Celebritrees: Historic and Famous Trees describes trees known for their Guinness-Book-of-Records-setting size or age or the legends surrounding them, including Methuselah in California, the oldest known living organism, and the hollow Chapel Oak of France.

For curious preschoolers or elementary nature classes, I rely on A Seed Is Sleepy written by Dianna Hutts Aston and illustrated by Sylvia Long. This can be read as a story book with such lyrical lines as "a seed is adventurous, it must strike out on its own," but it also contains digestible bits of further information with paintings and diagrams to be examined more closely by an older reader. Aston and Long have also collaborated on An Egg Is Quiet.

Energy Island by Alan Drummond is the true story of Samsø, a small Danish island, whose neighbors worked together to gain "energy independence" - to rely only renewable energy sources from their own island. The picture book style narrative is supplemented with sidebars explaining global warming, renewable and non-renewable energy, and the many ways individuals, and countries as a whole, can work to conserve energy.

Dorling Kindersly, a leader among kids' nonfiction, publishes several gardening books for a range of ages. The latest, How Does My Garden Grow, is full of rich photographs and clear step-by-step instructions for gardeners 7 and up. This book goes beyond the hows and whys of growing, to ideas for personalizing a garden, as with topiary, and ideas for what to do with what is grown, including recipes as delicious sounding as herby cheese muffins (yum!).

In fiction, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt has reissued a paperback edition of Chris Van Allsburg's Just a Dream, a cautionary environmental tale. A few nights before his birthday, Walter goes to bed wishing he lived in the future with his own plane to fly and a robot to take out the trash. Instead, his dreams take him to a future full of smokestacks, tree stumps, trash piles, and most horrifying, a hotel on top of Mount Everest. Fortunately, Walter awakes from his dream, and like us all, has the opportunity to prevent this future.

Even non-city dwellers probably can sympathize with Peter from Colin Thompson's The Paradise Garden, overwhelmed as he is by the noise and rush of his neighborhood. He escapes to an expansive, wondrous garden in the city, where he sleeps under the stars and eats from the trees and greenhouses around him. When he finds peace enough to return to his family and the noisy city, he knows he may always have a paradise garden of his own, in his yard and in his mind. The rich paintings have many details to pore over, especially in panels reminiscent of Jan Brett.

Taro Gomi, author of My Friends, Everyone Poops! and several drawing books, is known for his bold, colorful style and fresh approach to storytelling. The plot of his board book, Spring Is Here, follows the earth's transformations through the cycle of seasons, zooming in a white lamb whose fleece slowly turns brown and green like the earth, and then revolves back to winter's white.

In addition to all things green, we also have plenty of Passover, Easter, spring, and hopping bunny books for all your seasonal needs.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Hobbiton news

This wee tidbit of news packs a lot of punch for Tolkien fans: Peter Jackson posted a ten minute video tour of the first day shooting of The Hobbit. Be prepared for seeing the set of Gollum's caves, banter about Gandalf's robes, and of course, the sheer mass of people and talent that collaborate on such a production. For more news and photos, head over to The Hobbit movie official website. (That's where I found out that Bret McKenzie from Flight of the Conchords is playing an elf! I can't wait to see that...)

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Further news on the construction

As we posted last month, our building is undergoing renovations. Cambridge is a lovely old city, but with that history comes the responsibility of taking care of our old architecture. Our building is over a 100 years old and is in need of restructuring. While the city and our landlord rework the sidewalk support and renovate our basement, we have closed our downstairs chapter book room, and now our art room as well. Don't worry! This has not changed our stock or the range of toys and books we carry, everything you used to look for downstairs can now be found on the ground floor. It may be a little cozier, but we still take the same care in our ordering and our attentive customer service. With your continued support, we will fly through this construction and come out refreshed and even better than before!

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

What should teens read or not read? (Some tempting articles and lists)

Like many fans of Suzanne Collins popular dystopian series The Hunger Games, I've been following the casting choices of the 2012 movie adaptation, often with that troubled, peeking-through-hands-over-the-eyes attitude. If you haven't heard the announcements, Jennifer Lawrence from Winter's Bone has been chosen for Katniss Everdeen, with Peeta Mellark played by Josh Hutcherson (remember Bridge to Terabitha in 2007?) and Gale Hawthorne played by Liam Hemsworth. While there is something to be said for the strength of fans' attachment to these characters, I'm even more intrigued by director Gary Ross's decision to make this film PG-13. The New York Times has a solid article interviewing the typically media-shy Suzanne Collins, with a focus on the portrayal of war and violence in young adult literature. Definitely worth a close read, though if you haven't finished the series, be wary of a few spoilers.

Not just the folks at NYT and Hollywood are concerned about what is and is not appropriate for teens - the British, too, are thinking on it these days. Patrick Ness, author of the Chaos Walking series, selected his Top Ten Unsuitable Books for Teens for the Guardian. I quite enjoy his point about the appeal of banned or off-limits books for (supposedly) too young readers: "What a great way to establish reading as exciting and maybe even dangerous, eh?". The list includes Beloved, The Virgin Suicides, and Catcher In the Rye, among others, with a summary and commentary for each by Ness.

I knew April was National Poetry Month, but I have just learned that April is also LGBT Awareness Month. Persephone Magazine has a feature on LGBT Teen Fiction that go beyond "tolerant" stories to those with whole acceptance of the normality of non-heteronormative relationships and gender viewpoints. The article's author, Anna Carey, says it best: "The irony of this review, of course, is that I’m raving about an aspect of the book that is really present in the story in the same way the sky is blue." The books featured are Ash and Huntress by Malinda Lo and Boy Meets Boy by David Levithan.

Friday, April 8, 2011

I'm the best artist in the ocean! (Err...the Greater Boston area?)

We're a little over a month away from our art and writing contest deadline of Friday, May 13th. We're beginning our preparations for collecting and voting on all the incredible masterpieces kids send us...and we hope you are in the midst of creating (or reminding the kids you know to) those masterpieces!

If you missed the announcement, you can find all the rules, entry form, and previous years' winners over on our contest blog, or you can download and print the form at the end of this post. All kids between the ages of 5 and 13 are eligible, excepting relatives of Curious George employees. Kids may enter each contest only once. Please enter only your own work.

Guidelines for each contest are as follows:

Art contest: Illustrate your favorite poem, fairy tale, or story. Please label your drawing with the author and story you have chosen to illustrate.
Writing contest: Write an original short story, poem, or essay. Please limit your submission to three pages.
If you choose to illustrate a story of your own writing, please tell us which contest you would like us to judge it for.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

April is National Poetry Month!

April is my favorite themed month - National Poetry Month! My fellow bookseller Shara and I have huge, squishy soft spots for poetry, to the point of reading and reciting poems to each other, and fawning over each new poetry anthology that comes in. We hope you come in this month, especially on Poem in Your Pocket Day (the 14th!) and swap poems with us. For some inspiration, here are some of our newest and most favored poetry books.

Spinster Goose: Twisted Rhymes for Naughty Children by Lisa Wheeler, illustrated by Sophie Blackall. Spinster Goose, Mother Goose's sister, reforms wayward, bad-mannered children. This tongue-in-cheek collection parodies well-known nursery rhymes with such poems as "Peter, Peter, was a cheater" and "The Fibber," which begins, "Mary had a little lamb./She said it was a horse." This collection blends manners mores a la Hilaire Belloc's Cautionary Tales and Bad Child's Book of Beasts with Jon Scieszka's darkly goofy humor style in The Stinky Cheese Man.

For even more hilarious nonsense, one need go no further than Edward Lear. Even though these poems are from the Victorian era, like Lewis Carroll's stories and poems, their unexpected rhymes and pure ridiculousness are still popular. A new collection, His Shoes Were Far Too Tight, edited by Daniel Pinkwater, illustrated by Calef Brown (who has many wonderful poetry books of his own), has just been published this month.

Do you know what April 14th is? (Other than "I did mail my taxes, didn't I?" day)? It's Poem in Your Pocket Day - a day to carry about your favorite poem, share it with friends, co-workers, or your neighborhood's barista, and swap it for the poem in their pocket. To fill your pockets with odes and sestinas, there is Poem in Your Pocket for Young Poets, edited by Bruno Navasky with the Academy of American Poets, which has 100 poems on tear away pages. Poets in the collections run from Grace Paley and Naomi Shihab Nye to e.e. cummings, Langston Hughes, and Edna St. Vincent Millay.

Great Poems for Grand Children, edited by Celestine Frost with illustrations by Brian Cronin, is the kind of collection that belongs on every nursery and teenager's bookshelf. Divided into topical sections including "nonsense verse," "animal friends," "fairies, witches, goblins & company," and "seasons of life," this collection features a range of poets from Shakespeare and Walt Whitman to Jack Kerouac and Galway Kinnell. I especially enjoy the inclusion of traditional standards, hobo ballads, and Native American songs.

One of our new books just in this week is a picture book biography of a famous Chilean poet: Pablo Neruda: Poet of the People written by Monica Brown and illustrated by Julie Paschkis. His life story and the inspiration for his poems are supplemented by Paschkis's rich paintings with English and Spanish words woven into the scenery.

After lyrical picture books and gorgeous anthologies of poetry, why not explore novels in verse? One of our book buyer's very favorite books is Sharon Creech's Love That Dog. Jack's new teacher, Miss Stretchberry, is teaching his class about poetry - which Jack resists fiercely until he discovers Walter Dean Myers and the power of a poem to confront and release powerful emotions. In the back of the book you can find the original poems that Jack is responding to.

And one last line to leave on: this September, HarperCollins will release a posthumous collection of previously unpublished poems and drawings from Shel Silverstein, called Everything On It.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Hervé Tullet's Book With a Hole

Hervé Tullet creates some of the most interesting books being published today. Here at Curious George, we recently received copies of his latest book, The Book With a Hole. It literally has a big ol' hole in the middle of the book, and each page lets the reader interact with it in a different way.
So, inspired by this wonderfully playful book, we decided to take some pictures around the store!

"Who lives here?" A hopping bunny, of course.

"Who's the king of the castle?" A white lion giving the side eye...

"And who's the queen?" Made in Romania!

"What is he holding?" We have a globe on sale, you know.

"Who lives there?" And these felt finger puppets are too cute!

"What is he looking at?" April showers bringing May flowers?

"What did he eat?" Raw wooden sushi!

The Book With a Hole promises hours of enjoyment for the whole family. It even doubles as a coloring book, board game, basketball hoop, and family pet. What more could you want out of a book?

Love, the curious staff of Curious George!

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

New picture books: from moon dazed piggies to family farms' tractors

Is there anything more fun than getting a brace of new picture books, with staff members all crowding around book crates exclaiming over long-awaited titles, and customers peering into the pile to get a jump ahead on exciting books? This week has brought in some real crowd-pleasers.

Deborah Underwood had a fabulous spring last year with the popular Quiet Book, illustrated by Renata Liwska (Who wrote and illustrated a title I blogged about a few weeks ago, Red Wagon), and the graduation book, A Balloon for Isabel, illustrated by Laura Rankin. This season, Underwood and Liwska are back together for The LOUD Book, another endearing romp through the various sounds and reactions both kids and adults can relate to: "fireworks loud", "dropping your lunch tray loud," and the last page's heart-squeezing homage to summer, a lone bunny lying in a moonlit field to "crickets loud."

There are many truck and tractor books out there, as many a toddler-toting parent can affirm, but not all vehicles books have the soul and love that Grandpa's Tractor by Michael Garland contains. Grandpa Joe takes Timmy back to his childhood's farm, and while they walk by the abandoned barn to see the rusting tractor, Grandpa Joe tells him about planting alfalfa seeds, picking apples, and hauling firewood for their wood stove.

This next title, Ten Moonstruck Piglets by Lindsay Lee Johnson, I am going to beg Jess to read during story-time, it has such engaging rhymes. Just imagine the sounds you can make to this page: "They squeal! They snort!/On legs so short,/rollicking piglets/gaily cavort." I love the illustrations just as much, the black-on-blue scenery and piglet characters are so detailed that they deserve the kind of poring over that Richard Scarry and Don and Audrey Wood require.

We are a very animal friendly store - pets are very welcome (and welcome to the treats at the front door!) and our book buyer has been known to come upstairs to see any particularly adorable puppies. Which is why when such an adorable picture book as Say Hello to Zorro! by Carter Goodrich came in, we all pretty much melted. Mister Bud (with an hilarious large snout to stick over bedspreads and couches) is very set in his canine schedule, until a wee grumpy bull dog joins the family. Fans of Emily Gravett's Dogs will rejoice at another pup picture book that captures dog characters so very well.

My last pick of new picture books is the lush, lyrical and socially aware Migrant, written by Maxine Trottier and illustrated by Isabelle Arsenault (who happened to illustrate the Emily Dickinson installment of the Visions in Poetry series. Delicious.). Every year, Anna and her large family move with the seasons following the work from Mexico to Canada and back. The beauty in this potentially heavy story is the lightness and sweetness of the language: Anna's family is continually compared to geese flying, bees working, kittens sleeping, and the families that stay in one place are like trees rooted deeply: "But fall is here, and the geese are flying away. /And with them goes Anna, like a monarch, like a robin, like a feather in the wind."

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Neighborly love

The staff here today was having a lovely day, grooving a bit to some mo-town tunes and finally feeling used to our new upstairs arrangements, and all of a sudden, our collective day skyrocketed from pretty good to pretty AWESOME. Would you like to know why? Kristin Cashore, author of popular fantasy novels, Graceling and Fire, stopped by to say hello and sign stock!!!! All of us here today are major fans of hers - not only does she write great novels with adventure, romance, strong female characters and all those other necessary components, she also keeps an articulate and well-rounded blog which I read fastidiously. And as I can attest after our quick meeting this afternoon, she's just the sweetest peach! Apparently she lives in the neighborhood and we all hope we'll see more of her around here. In the meantime, if you haven't yet read this incredible new talent, come by and pick up some freshly autographed copies!