Monday, January 31, 2011

There's something about Wednesdays

During my usual Monday morning news catch-up, I saw this amusing snowfall Shaq-o-meter from I keep having to remind myself that we do live in New England and it is winter, so snow is expected, but I just wish the walk to the bus stop was a little more manageable! This Tuesday through Wednesday we're expected to get anywhere from 12 to 20 inches! At least the folks from the Boston Globe have a good sense of humor about it, too. Compared to Shaq O'Neal's 7'11 height and the 1995-1996 record 102" of snow, we're doing OK, with only 60"! It's all about the perspective. And the Celtics, apparently.

In children's books and movies news, The Perks of Being a Wallflower is being adapted into a film: Harry Potter's Hermione actress Emma Watson and Percy Jackson's eponymous actor Logan Lerman are slated to star as Sam and Charlie respectively, with author Chobsky to direct.

Speaking of Harry Potter, there have been a few photos leaked from the Deathly Hallows part 2 set. Squee! I am so conflicted: I want it out sooner so I can see it, but I want the Potter thrill to last longer.

I'm a few days behind the announcement, but The Hunger Games movie has set a release date: March 23rd, 2012! The director is Gary Ross, but despite much blogging by fans, so far no cast has been announced.

I have said here a few times how much I adore the feminist pop culture magazine Bitch Magazine, and they have rocketed even further in my esteem with their latest "From the Library" segment: a list of 100 Young Adult Books for the Feminist Reader, from classics like Judy Blume's Forever and Louise Fitzhugh's Harriet the Spy to contemporary One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams-Garcia and Graceling by Kristin Cashore. I love so many of the books on the list, and am ashamed I haven't read all of them! You can bet I will be selecting future reads from this list.

I never knew that one of my favorite science fiction/military thriller books, Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card, is in the works to become a movie! The website io9 announces the director will be Gavin Hood (of X-Men Origins: Wolverine) , with writers Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman, who were behind Transformers, Star Trek, and Fringe. I hope for their success! I am really curious how this would play out on film - will Ender be as complicated, both likable and frightening, with film narration?

While on io9, I also found these jaw-dropping concept designs based on Norton Juster and Jules Feiffer's The Phantom Tollbooth from artist Lizzie Nichols. Of course, I had to follow the link back to her blog, where there are more incredible imaginings of the Doldrums, Digitopolis, Tock the Watchdog...and even some Lewis Carroll characters!

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Different Looks for Different Books

We here at the George have major book-crushes on the Penguin hardcover classics that have recently been released. Taking motifs from the story, the books are repackaged in a fresh, thematic and beautiful way that makes a great gift, or a nice edition to a long-lasting library. They sell for $20 each.

For another "novel" re-imagining of a beloved book represented in this series, even Mass native Louisa May Alcott couldn't avoid the "... and Zombies" treatment with the recent publication of Little Women and Werewolves.

My favorite in the Penguin series is Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë. For a video-re-imagining of the whole Brontë clan, Reader, watch this video.

And while we're in the realm of re-imagined covers for classics, one really should check out graphic designer M. S. Corley's Penguin-ized versions of the Harry Potter books. Unfortunately Scholastic has exclusive rights to publishing all things Harry Potter (I bet there's an unemployed editor previously of Penguin kicking him or herself over this rejection) so these covers will never see the shelves of a bookstore. But a Penguin fangirl can dream, can't she...

Friday, January 28, 2011

Steam is so hot right now

The term steampunk has been around for almost 30 years, but very recently the trend has exploded in YA and middle grade novels. Steampunk is a genre that embodies many tropes, which may account for its popularity. A book can be steampunk if it's pseudo-Victorian and there is air-travel (preferably by dirigible), as in a classic progenitor of the genre, Verne's Around the World in 80 Days, or a book can be steampunk if it depicts a dystopian future in which society uses strange machines (with lots of cogs and rivets!), as in du Prau's City of Ember. The term itself is a subgenre of alternative-history science fiction in which a thought experiment is played out: what if the Victorian era had been run on steam? The fun anachronistic gadgetry that spans the genre makes for some fantastical story possibilities. Of all the strands of steampunk there are, here are some staff favorites!

Really Victorian/Alt-HistoryAdd Image
Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld
George staffer Michelle picked this when it was hot off the presses: During an alternative WWI, fugitive Prince Alek, of the mechanical-driven Clankers, meets Darwinist Deryn, making a temporary alliance in the Alps. With military secrets, disguises, and bio-engineered whale zeppelins, this is a new exciting direction for Westerfeld. Leviathan is followed by a second book entitled Behemoth.

His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman
The now-canonical trilogy has a lot of gadgetry, dirigibles and hot air-balloons but even MORE food-for-thought. I wrote a staff pick for the first volume, The Golden Compass, this last year after finally finishing the whole series: In Lyra’s world, everyone has a daemon, which is like your soul in animal form. Lyra discovers a conspiracy to take them away from kids, and she has to stop it. This action-packed story with a strong heroine and a lot of philosophical themes will be one you reread over and over again!

Really Gadget-y

Incarceron by Catherine Fisher
Another Michelle staff pick: In order to make the world “safe,” Incarceron, a vast thinking prison, was created to contain the criminal or mentally ill. Finn, an epileptic prisoner, finds a crystal key to communicate with a girl Outside – but can he escape before Incarceron thinks, and acts, for itself? This British import blends action, philosophy, & mystery.

The Clockwork Three by Matthew Kirby
Three unique characters that you will enjoy getting to know intersect and soon join together like cogs in a machine to harness their magical powers and save the day.

Really Fantastic-y

Flora Segunda by Ysabeau Wilce
George staffer Shara H. picked this one: Flora, a prisoner of her own home, is required to keep the rundown Crackpot Hall (with its 11,000 rooms) tidy until she is forced to join the military after her 14th birthday. Seeking a way out of her many responsibilities, Flora attempts to restore a banished butler, free a pirate on death row, and bring her family back together in the process, but ultimately finds more trouble than relief.

Howl's Moving Castle by Dianna Wynne-Jones
Another pick from Michelle: Sophie is a quiet, hardworking girl in her family’s hat shop – until the jealous Witch of the Waste turns her into an old woman. With creaky knees, white hair, and the feisty friendship of a fire demon, Sophie develops some spunk, which she’ll need if she wants the mysterious wizard Howl to break her curse. After this, watch Miyazaki’s film!

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Staff picks in a snowbank

Happy snow day, Cambridge and Somerville! This is my favorite kind of day to have a snow day: the sun is shining, the snow has stopped falling but it still lying in beautiful banks taller than me. What a perfect day for making a snow fort and snow animal prints and coming back inside for hot cocoa and a good book! Here are some of the books we've been reading in the last few snowstorms.

Love That Dog by Sharon Creech
Bookseller: Teresa
Genre: realistic fiction, verse
Suggested reading level: ages 8 to 12

Every once in a while I will read this book to remind myself that poetry is pretty, dogs are cute, and writing helps us figure things (and ourselves) out. If you happen to be in the room with me while I am reading this book, I will read it out loud to you, and that's a promise!

A Tale Dark and Grimm by Adam Gidwitz
Bookseller: Natasha
Genre: fantasy, fairy tale retelling
Suggested reading level: ages 12 up

I love, love, love fairy tale retellings and Hansel and Gretel is one of my all-time favorite fairy tales. This book is much more than just a retelling of Hansel and Gretel, though. It melds a lot of fairy tales into one funny story with tons of adventure and action that definitely feels at home in a Grimm world.

Everything Is Illuminated by Jonathan Safran Foer
Bookseller: Michelle
Genre: fiction
Suggested reading level: ages 14 up (teen/adult)

This book will change the way you read books. If only every book character had the humor and sincerity that Alex and Jonathan have. If only every plot had such nuances between fact, reality, and memory. Read, laugh, weep, read again.

Frindle by Andrew Clements
Bookseller: Shara
Genre: humor, school story
Suggested reading level: ages 9 up

For Nick Allen, calling a pen a frindle starts as a practical joke to annoy his teacher. But when the new word gains popularity, the whole situation spins out of Nick's control. Clements's hilarious story examines what can happen, good and bad, when kids choose to question the status quo.

An Abundance of Katherines by John Green
Bookseller: Natasha
Genre: realistic fiction, young adult
Suggested reading level: ages 14 up

Colin was born a brilliant child prodigy. He can speak 11 languages, he has an uncanny memory for trivia and more so, an uncanny ability to date and be dumped by girls named Katherine. After the 19th Katherine says sayonara, Colin's hilarious friend Hassan drags him on a wacky road trip to get over it.

The Unsinkable Walker Bean by Aaron Renier
Bookseller: Jose-Luis
Genre: graphic novel, fantasy, adventure
Suggested reading level: ages 9 up

Ready for a thrilling comic set on the high seas? Join Walker Bean and a quirky crew of pirates as they attempt to steal a talking skull from two creepy sea-witches! Along the way, Walker Bean creates awesome inventions like a boat-on-wheels and a fake night sky. Fans of Tin-Tin or The Invention of Hugo Cabret will love this.

The Memory Bank by Carolyn Coman
Bookseller: Michelle
Genre: magical realism, for fans of Roald Dahl
Suggested reading level: ages 9 up

Told through clear writing and rich illustrations, fans of The Invention of Hugo Cabret will like this story of two separated sisters. After her cruel parents ditch her sister for laughing, Hope spends all her time dreaming, until she is summoned to the World Wide Memory Bank, where she finds clues on how to get Honey back. A very sweet tale!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

New (and returning!) arrivals

The announcements and aftermath of the ALA awards is always exciting - I love the rush of folks calling or stopping in to look at the winners and the thrill of reading books I would have otherwise accidentally overlooked. The only downside is when the publisher goes out of stock!

Happily, we have a few award winning titles returning to our shelves. Moon Over Manifest, the Newbery Medal winner, never quite left, but now it has a shiny medal sticker to entice you even more, if spies, fortune-tellers, and rail-hopping wasn't enough!

We also have back in Ship Breaker by Paolo Bacigalupi (say that three times fast, wee!), the Printz Medal and National Book Award finalist. I'm looking forward to reading this dystopian adventure. This is Bacigalupi's first venture into young adult literature from general adult science fiction, and with such encomiums, let's hope he returns to it.

Two of my favorite books from last year are now out in paperback: Fire by Kristin Cashore and The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate by Jacqueline Kelly. Fire is a companion to novel to Cashore's debut Graceling. These two novels are incredible fantasy adventures for fans of Robin McKinley and Tamora Pierce: with fierce female protagonists, palace intrigue, journeys through wild lands, passionate romance, and solid, enthralling writing, what more can you ask for? (Maybe a Po or Brigan of your very own...).

The Evolution of Calpurnia
Tate is for a younger audience (ages 9 up), but is no less gripping for that. This Newbery Honor takes place in the hottest Texan summer eleven-year-old Callie can remember, 1899. Callie is that lovable tomboy we all adore reading about, a la Jo March or Caddie Woodlawn, who chafes against learning needlepoint and pie-making. This summer, she befriends her grumpy, reclusive naturalist grandfather and learns how to look at and think about her world more closely, making a few surprising discoveries along the way. With American Girl's budding scientist Lanie, and the numerous accessible non-fiction about Charles Darwin, this is an encouraging trend for girls' middle grade reading.

We are still waiting for the Caldecott Honor and Coretta Scott King Illustrator winner Dave the Potter and Caldecott Honor Interrupting Chicken to be reprinted, but hopefully they will be also be back on shelves soon!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

The weather may be frightful, but these books are delightful

We're getting another snow storm?! Me and my cold toes refuse to believe it! This is the snowingest winter I've seen in a long time. Fortunately, we have armloads of wintry themed books, varying from ideas on how to make snow monsters to delightful stories to curl up around.

Snow Play: How to Make Forts & Slides & Winter Campfires (Plus the coolest Loch Ness Monster) by Birgitta Ralston. Even if you don't have a yard big enough for this book, go to your nearest park or playground to try out these snow monsters with LED eyes, frozen marble runs, slides and other projects in the snow. Each activity is rated for difficulty, duration, and the type of snow needed.

The Secret Life of a Snowflake by Kenneth Libbrecht is an accessible non-fiction exploration of the making of a snowflake. Libbrecht is a scientist who takes photographs of snowflakes and tries to grow his own "ice flowers" in his laboratory. The science here goes beyond the changing states of water and cloud development to why snow looks white and why, if you're looking at a flake through a microscope, you will only ever see six-branched or hexagonal patterns. The facts are accompanied by gorgeous enlarged photographs of snowflakes and helpful diagrams.

You may recognize the sweet and expressive style in Olivier Dunrea's Old Bear and His Cub: this same author/illustrator gives us the booted ducklings of Gossie & Gertie board books. Gruff as Old Bear may be, he loves Little Cub; and as stubborn as Little Cub may be, he Loves Old Bear, too. This endearing book is perfect for dads and grandpas to read for bedtime.

One of my perennial winter favorites is the Caldecott Honor Snow by Uri Shulevitz. One, two, three tiny snowflakes fall and melt in this cozy town, provoking a small boy and his dog to gleefully dance about, "Snow!" even as the adults dismiss its possibility. With such joyous rhymes as "But snow doesn't listen to radio,/snowflakes don't watch television./All snowflakes know is snow, snow, snow," you, too, will be infected with joyous, child-like wonder at "Snow!".

Friday, January 21, 2011

O, My (reluctant) Valentine

I have to admit, I've kind of always been a Valentine's Day cynic. Don't get me wrong: I love chocolate as much as the next gal, but maybe it's all that pink. And the same messages over and over. If you're like me, or you like someone like me, here are a few picks for all ages that extend beyond the same old greeting card lines about love. These are books that I think say something different, or will at least appeal to the reluctant valentine in your life. Enjoy!

Chester's Way

by Kevin Henkes
upstairs in picture books
ages 4-6, $16.99

A great alternative friendship/love story, Chester and Wilson are two best friends who do everything together. Then a third girl mouse wants to join the mix. Their relationship is tested before it expands to include Lily!

Nate the Gre
at and the Mushy Valentine
by Marjorie Weinman Sharmat, illustrations by Marc Simont
downstairs in Early Readers
ages 6-8, $4.50

"I was glad that no one had given me a valentine. I, Nate the Great, do not like mushy words. Or slushy words. I, Nate the Great, do not want to be anyone's valentine." Nate the Great is on the case when his beloved dog Sludge gets a yucky, mushy anonymous valentine. Not only will the reluctant early-reading valentine get to help Nate solve the case, but there are activities and recipes in the back of the book as well. And of course, (SPOILER ALERT) Nate himself gets a yucky, mushy valentine in the end.

Gentle B
by Walt Morey
downstairs in Chapter Books
ages 9-11
, $6.99
Before it was on TV, then a movie, then a TV-movie, Gentle Ben was--and remains--an arresting novel of nature, solitude, and a boy's love for his bear. When everyone else is scared of a massive grizzly on the outskirts of the Alaskan wilderness, only Mark dares befriend him. As their friendship grows, the townspeople become wary and try to harm Ben. But the bond Mark has forged with him could be the only thing that saves him.

Catherine, Called Birdy
by Karen Cushman
downstairs in Chapter Books
ages 12-14
, $6.99

The ultimate anti-Valentine book for the independent thinking girl. You'll root for Catherine to ditch Shaggy Beard, a suitor almost three times her age! The book is in the form of her diary, and her hilarious quips about her life in medieval times are engaging. And God's Thumbs! It's a Newbery honor!

The Big Crunch
by Pete Hautman
downstairs in Chapter Books
$17.99, ages 15-18

"This is not that kind of love story," the flap copy promises on National Book Award winner Pete Hautman's new novel, "this is a love story for people not particularly biased toward romance." A reluctant love story that flares up with undeniably potent chemistry is told in the alternating points of view of main characters Wes and June. A love story that guys and girls romantic and reluctant will be drawn into immediately.

by Kent Haruf
downstairs in Older Readers
published for grown-ups; recommended for ages 13+

Love in all shapes reveals itself in this quiet novel set in small-town Colorado. The crux of the story follows a pregnant 17-year-old with nowhere to go, and the elderly bachelor brothers that take her in. The book tenderly evokes Reverdy's immortal declaration that "there is no love, there are only proofs of love," as revealed in the seemingly simple actions and dialogue in which the characters prove their love subtly and without excessive sentimentality.

this post is dedicated to my Valentine; the peanut butter to my chocolate ;)

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Pictures & Books

When I was wee I watched a lot of Rocky and Bullwinkle. And it's not just because my name is Natasha (though I'm sure it helped). It was partly because I have always wanted to be a flying squirrel with goggles and partly because I loved "Fractured Fairy Tales." The reason for this was threefold. First, I love fairy tales. Second, the writers on that show were hilarious and the sketches were, too. And third: I love re-imagined stories. I loved it on Rocky and Bullwinkle and even as I continued to grow up I've loved seeing new takes on old stories that I love. I love it when The Simpsons riff on Hansel and Gretel. I love retold fairy tales in novel form. And most recently, I've grown addicted to blogs that showcase talented artists' renderings of their favorite childhood stories.

These blogs--Picture Book Report and Beyond the Page to name a few favorites--collect works of many artists with very different styles putting their own take on classic stories. Here's Chrystal Chan's take on Roald Dahl's Matilda:
The blog Terrible Yellow Eyes exhibits work solely inspired by Sendak's 1963 Caldecott winner Where the Wild Things Are. Here is French artist Aurélie Neyret's take:
Some interpretations are more ... adult ... than others, but all of them demonstrate the influence children's literature has on us from our first interactions with it.
Still more interpretations help us to see favorites in a new way, as does Lucy Knisley's adaptation of a scene from Lois Lowry's 1993 Newbery winner The Giver:

And then there's Faith Erin Hick's adaptation of the first few pages of Suzanne Collins' The Hunger Games. I particularly love the panels where Katniss and Buttercup are eyeballing each other:

Where else would you find...

On this blog I bandy about various well-known brands that we carry, from Melissa & Doug's classic wooden toys to Hasbro's board games, but do you know some of the funkier things we carry? As a small independent shop, we pride ourselves on stocking toys, books, and the doodads/chotskies/knick-knacks you won't see in the big box stores. Here are some items that I get a particular kick out of us selling.

Oh Jellycat, let me count the ways I love your plush: they flop, they dangle, their bean butts and bright colors beg to be piled on bed comforters and stuffed into backpacks to calm first school day jitters. I readily admit to owning a Jellycat hedgehog and coveting the especially adorable Truffles Mammoth Pillow. For starters, it's a giant (28"!) WOOLLY MAMMOTH. Add in its squishy sprawling limbs, wild shaggy fur, and tusks, and you have yourself (or, err, your loved one) the best cuddle pal around.

Not everyone likes prehistoric plush, and that's OK. We turn now to what many kids and adults do love: Legos! And Lego accessories! Last year Lego's keychain figurine lights were a big hit for stocking stuffers, and this year gives us another promising excitement: a Lego Figurine Head Lamp. Our headlamps from Schylling are ever-popular, I can hardly imagine how quickly these headlamps with a miniature, light-up Lego man strapped to the headband will sell. We just got these in yesterday and I've already thought of four acquaintances of mine who would love these.

Piggy banks have long been a staple of birthday presents and baby showers, and we're pretty excited to expand our repertoire of banks to include porcelain Fire Trucks, Pick Up Trucks, and Birthday Cake banks from Andrea by Sadek. These banks are delicate and richly painted - the heart cupcake bank gives me a serious case of cupcake envy. We also carry Sadek's darling miniature 10 piece tea rose set.

My love for the New York Times Book Review collection continues to grow exponentially. I've recently discovered Three Ladies Beside the Sea, written by Rhoda Levine and illustrated by Edward Gorey. With Gorey's whimsically creepy drawings and such rhymes as "Then, there was Alice of Hazard,/A dangerous life led she:/When not indoors, involved with chores,/Alice was up a tree!", this reissue is a surreal treat.

Another New York Times Book Review reissue is Lizard Music by Daniel Pinkwater. I've heard many requests for this book in my years here, and I am ecstatic to see it on the shelf...mostly so I can read it myself! I hear from our book buyer (who generally prefers realistic fiction and brooding, epic tales of generations of families) that this is fantastically wacky, despite its tame black and white cover of lizard silhouettes. Maybe such an innocuous cover would draw the Pinkwater radio fan into his children's writing universe?

Second to Alice's Adventure in Wonderland, J.M. Barrie's Peter Pan is one of my all time favorite children's classics. Sterling's centenary edition of Peter Pan and Wendy is illustrated by the incredible Australian artist Robert Ingpen. The wide trim size is perfect for reading together and poring over the lush watercolor and pencil drawings.

I also have exciting news for two popular books!

Gareth Hinds's graphic adaptation of Homer's Odyssey is back in stock and in pride of place in our newly relocated graphic novels section above the chapter books.

The latest copies of Moon Over Manifest have the shiny new Newbery Medal affixed to their cover! If you move fast, you can still get one from the pre-Medal shipment, but that gold shine sure does dazzle. Most of our staff is in the middle of reading it and can't stop talking about it - share your opinion next time you're visiting!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Snowy day playtime

Yes, dear friends, cotton ball snowflakes and slushy roads can't keep us from selling you books! We are absolutely open today, even if it's the perfect kind of day for building blanket forts and watching marathons of movies (Harry Potter 1 through 6, anyone?). I've found all sorts of fun news to entertain you, whether you are in that blanket fort or your office...or the blanket fort in your office.

The most exciting tidbit of today: the 90 Second Newbery Film Festival! Word of this contest has spread like...Sweet cupcake frosting on a sweet kidlit blogland, and I am so extremely excited about it that I might have to 1) enlist my aspiring independent filmmaker friend to make one with me (we're sort of kids, right? At least, I do know kid actors), and 2) brave traveling to the Big City for the actual festival showing. The festival is being orchestrated by James Kennedy, author of The Order of Odd-Fish, in collaboration with the New York Public Library and blog Fuse #8. The rules seem a bit flexible, but the aim is for kids or teens to submit a 90 second film condensing the plot of a Newbery winner or honor book, or possibly a smashup of two books or pop culture references. I definitely would like to see Kennedy's suggestion of a Lego stop motion Good Masters, Sweet Ladies!

My roommates have been gleefully comparing notes on Baz Luhrmann's latest project, an adaptation of Fitzgerald's Great Gatsby: possibly shot in 3 D. The cast I've heard of so far include
Carey Mulligan as Daisy, Leonardo DiCaprio as Gatsby, Tobey Maguire as the narrator, Nick. Did anyone else watch Luhrmann's Romeo and Juliet for English class, maybe right after Dead Poets Society? Mr. Hickey, wherever you are, you are an incredible teacher and have great taste in films. I don't see any talk of a release date yet, but you can bet I'll be seeing that in the theaters. Maybe our store's book club will consider rereading it and seeing it together?

That Gatsby article from the UK's Guardian mentions another exciting film on the (possibly 3 dimensional) horizon: Martin Scorcese adapting Brian Selznick's Caldecott winning Invention of Hugo Cabret. Over at /Film: First Look you can see actors Chloe Moretz and Asa Butterfield in costume as Isabelle and Hugo! Again, there is no set release date, but we'll be watching out for it.

If you have not yet declared your thoughts on the Hunger Games movie casting, there are various websites to make yourself heard. I am most amused by Reelz Channel's Cast-o-Rama, but some of the voter's lists make me feel out of the loop - I don't recognize a single possible Peeta actor. When I did get to be a grown-up? I was also intrigued by an article about director Gary Ross's decision to make the Hunger Games PG-13, rather than R rated. Certainly this would make it more accessible to or easier for younger teens to see it, but how exactly can one avoid the violence without losing the urgency and meaning of the Games? Excessive violence in movies, books, and games already stands the risk of desensitizing viewers to its injustice; predetermining the appropriate level of viewer age/violence sounds to me more like looking for a wider consumer range than an effort to be true to the art. Then again, it's not as if we put "parental advisory" stickers on books for teenagers (yet. But you can ask us what exactly happens in books). We'll just have to see how it pans out in theaters!

Speaking of appropriateness for teenagers, stills from the first part of Stephenie Meyer's Breaking Dawn have been released, including a honeymoon bedroom scene! Risque. For a good laugh, watch this clip of MTV interviewing Robert Pattinson at the Golden Globes, in which he says posing for kissing scenes is a bit like "playing Twister." I can't decide if I'm more amused at the actual words Pattinson manages to get out, or his inability to stop giggling about it. (Note: This was my first time on, I swear!). Breaking Dawn part one will be released this November, with the second part scheduled for November 2012.

How can I talk about children's books turned movies without mentioning Harry Potter?! I saw the first installment of the Deathly Hallows for the second time this weekend, and I must say it is even better after another viewing. The cinematography and soundtrack are beautiful, the pacing and mood are remarkably well done, considering that this part of the book is mostly setting up for the final battle at Hogwarts. This time, I managed to refrain from rereading the book to know what happens next, but I am already itching to see the conclusion this July. In the meantime, I will have to settle for entertaining myself with the motorbike escape game...

Monday, January 17, 2011

Staff pick snuggle fest

Is there anything more daunting than a snow day without a good book to read under the blankets? To prepare yourself for the next blizzard or wintry fluff, try some of our latest staff picks.

Mr Putter and Tabby Catch the Cold by Cynthia Rylant
Bookseller: Teresa
Genre: early reader
Suggested reading level: ages 5 to 7

I love, love, love Mr. Putter and Tabby books, and this one is my all time favorite! When I read this book, I am reminded that the best medicine for a cold is a bowl of soup, a good book, and a caring friend. If you read any of the Mr Putter and Tabby books, you should find me and tell me which ones you like the best.

Spud by John Van de Ruit
Bookseller: Michelle
Genre: humor, school story
Suggested reading level: ages 12 and up

South Africa, 1990, is the backdrop for this riotous coming-of-age tale of John "Spud" Milton's first year at boarding school. This takes the "school story" beyond A Separate Peace and Wimpy Kid into hilarious absurdity, with likable, almost normal Spud to guide us safely through (maybe). Look for the sequel, Spud: The Madness Continues...

Joey Pigza Swallowed the Key by Jack Gantos
Bookseller: Shara
Genre: middle grade realism
Suggested reading level: ages 10 up

Joey Pigza has ADD. His meds aren't working and his family isn't providing a stable support system. Following Joey as he spins in and out of control turns out to be a roller coaster ride of a story, sometimes hilarious, often tragic, but always truthful. By the end, you'll be cheering for Joey.

Nobel Genes by Rune Michaels
Bookseller: Natasha
Genre: realistic fiction
Suggested reading level: ages 15 up

A literal search for his origins pushes the unnamed narrator to question whether who we are can be defined by nurture (a scary prospect given his mother's struggle with mental illness) or nature. This scenario may be more hopeful since his biological father was a Nobel winner. Or was he? A minimal narrative that packs a punch and leaves you thinking.

Girl, Stolen by April Henry
Bookseller: Michelle
Genre: suspense, psychological thriller
Suggested reading level: ages 14 up

Cheyenne, blind and with pneumonia, is asleep in the back of her stepmom's SUV when it is stolen. Once her accidental kidnappers discover her identity, her chances of escape shrink further. The chapters alternate Cheyenne and kidnapper Griffin's voices, heightening the tension: in an unfamiliar, dark world, who can she trust?

Eggs by Jerry Spinelli
Bookseller: Miruna
Genre: realistic fiction
Suggested reading level: ages 12 up

9 year old David follows all the rules (except for his grandmother's) ever since his mother died. He thinks if he does, his mom might come back. Primrose is a rebel. She's 13 years old and lives with her mom. They meet, become friends, and help each other deal with their problems.

Everything on a Waffle by Polly Horvath
Bookseller: Natasha
Genre: realistic fiction
Suggested reading level: ages 8 up

I really loved this book for two very important reasons. Number one: food. Even gross food finds its way into this book, but I love reading about food. Second: this book kind of reminds me of a longtime favorite Pippi Longstocking, but it's definitely different and original. This book is as sweet as syrup.

The Super Crazy Cat Dance by Aron Nels Steinke
Bookseller: Teresa
Genre: graphic novel
Suggested reading level: ages 6 to 8

Have you ever met a moon kitty before? Moon kitties are cats that live on the moon! Read this book and you'll meet all kinds of cats. You'll meet blue cats, long cats, cats in boots, cats in suits, and of course, moon kitties. Beginning readers will enjoy this book's bright illustrations and rhyming text.

Howl's Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones
Bookseller: Michelle
Genre: adventure, fantasy
Suggested reading level: ages 12 up

Sophie is a quiet, hardworking girl in her family's hat shop - until the jealous Witch of the Waste turns her into an old woman. With creaky knees, white hair, and the fiesty friendship of a fire demon, Sophie develops some spunk, which she'll certainly need if she wants the mysterious wizard Howl to break her curse. After this, watch Miyazaki's film!

The Surrender Tree by Marganta Engle
Bookseller: Shara
Genre: poetry, history
Suggested reading level: ages 11 up

During the decades of Cuba's struggle for independence, Rosa learns to use wild plants as medicine. Together with her husband Jose, they spend a lifetime working to heal the damages of war and slavery. This collection of poetry manages to humanize an otherwise horrific history.

Luka and the Fire of Life by Salman Rushdie
Bookseller: Natasha
Genre: mythological fiction
Suggested reading level: ages 12 up

A wild book that fuses fairy tale and folklore from all over the world with video game atmospheres in a way that only Rushdie can. Luka is on a mission to save his storytelling father and is helped along the way by all kinds of magical beings and moves through various strange places. A great one to share among tweens, teens, and parents.