Monday, March 23, 2015


This is one of those books that I've thought about picking up over and over, and when I finally started reading it I kicked myself--why didn't I read it earlier?! The Cabinet of Curiosities is basically a game where four authors come up with a topic (fairies! cake! love!) and then take turns telling horrible stories about it. IT'S GREAT. Our four authors are Stefan Bachmann (The Peculiar), Claire Legrand (Winterspell), Katherine Catmull (Summer and Bird) and Emma Trevayne (Coda), and they serve up a delicious three dozen short stories that will give you the creeping and excellent sensation of reading Roald Dahl crossed with Coraline.

If after you've finished that you should want more spine-tinglers, try some of these--

some satisfyingly scary books for kids and young adults

The Diviners by Libba Bray -- (YA) It's Evie's flapper tendencies that get her in trouble, not her possible psychic powers--until she lands in New York just as a ghostly serial murderer begins a terrifying spree across the city.

Heap House by Edward Carey -- In a vast mansion surrounded by a sea of garbage, our hero hears the haunting whispers of inanimate objects that can only desperately speak their human names.

Seventh Son by Joseph Delaney -- I mentioned the Last Apprentice series in my holiday post, but let me reiterate: HAIR-RAISING witches and adrenaline to spare.

Coraline by Neil Gaiman -- When your alternate universe family has buttons for eyes, you have to know something is not right. Dave McKean's spidery illustrations only add to the shivers.

The Fall by Bethany Griffin -- (YA) Poe's Fall of the House of Usher retold from the perspective of the teenage girl who lives there at the end. Do they live? Do they die?

Wait Til Helen Comes by Mary Downing Hahn -- (Available online & used) Molly's little stepsister isn't very nice, but at least the raging ghost she's threatening Molly with doesn't exist...right?

Clockwork by Phillip Pullman -- (Available online) A chilling fairy tale set in deep winter in a fictional Germany, where stories may come to life....but not everyone gets out alive.

Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark by Alvin Schwartz -- The absolute classic of terrifying kids' books, filled with suspenseful, ghastly legends that will haunt your dreams.

Happy reading! And keep your lights on.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Kidsmith Presents: Television Inspired Literature

We're obsessed. It's all we can think about. It's all we talk about. It's all I'm going to blog about today: Reign. CW's drama about Mary, Queen of Scots is a show a few of us children's booksellers discovered and fell in love with. Naturally after we watched all available episodes we sought out other ways to feed our obsession in the form of books. Thus, it has inspired a new monthly feature on the blog brought to you by the kidsmith booksellers.

Television Inspired Literature will go up once a month. We know first hand that book lovers can also be TV lovers and want to share our obsessions with you. Based on popular TV shows, we've come up with some YA book titles that you might enjoy if you like the show. If you have any suggestions for TV shows we should feature or books we may have missed let us know in the comments!

Without further ado may I present the first Television Inspired Literature:

Monday, March 16, 2015

Kidsmith Insurgent poster giveaway!

Hullo Initiates!

One of the perks to working in such a brilliantly established bookstore is that we get all sorts of goodies sent to us. Posters, advanced copies, bookmarks stickers, the occasional tee-shirt. Sometimes we fight over them. Sometimes our buyer claims them before we even get to see them (she has a habit of hiding all Oliver Jeffers that appear.) Sometimes the "adults" decide that if we can't play nice no one can have them.

Sometimes we decide to be nice.

This is, begrudgingly, one of those nice times.

Mostly because couple of months back the Kidsmith team started a twitter. We have a lot of enthusiasm and could only express so much of it before we started to alarm customers. We needed an outlet.

Twitter seemed an appropriate platform. It allows us to be fast and enthusiastic but still limited in length.

And we are enthusiastic and we are excited each and every time that we gain a new follower. We appreciate that you are willing and eager to read our thoughts so we wanted to do something in return.

Which leads me to...


We were sent this really awesome poster for the Insurgent movie that comes out on Thursday.

See, it's brilliant!

It loves you even if you don't love the movies.

While I wouldn't mind hanging it up in my room, the wall space is devoted mostly to bookshelves. Also, I won the battle for the giant poster of the Allegiant cover so...

Anyway! We decided that it would be pretty cool to do a giveaway to all of you wonderful people!

A couple of months back the Kidsmith team started a twitter. We have a lot of enthusiasm and could only let so much of it out before we started to alarm customers. We needed an outlet.

Twitter seemed an appropriate platform. It allows us to be fast and enthusiastic but still limited in length.

And we are enthusiastic and we are excited each and every time that we gain a new follower. We appreciate that you are willing and eager to read our thoughts so we wanted to do something in return.

Unfortunately, the giveaway is only open to those in the U.S. at the moment (sorry).

So check it out and enter below!

 a Rafflecopter giveaway

 Who knows if this goes well maybe we'll do another giveaway. I did say we get a lot of advanced copies...

Monday, March 9, 2015

Alex Is Reading...SWIM THAT ROCK

Swim That Rock is a classic. I mean, it's a new book, but it's put together like a classic--our main character has lost his father, and he and his mother are close to losing their diner. In a small Rhode Island town, the solution for being trapped in grief and strapped for cash may be one and the same: the biggest opportunity to pull quahogs that anyone's seen for decades. It's satisfyingly filled to the brim, like a quahogger's bullrake, with perseverance, personal strength, and tantalizing details of the fisherman's trade--with a side of mobsters and pirates.

There's really nothing quite like a book on the water--here are some more that might catch you in their wake.

My Heart Is On the Water
Kids' Books for the Roving Reader

Swallows and Amazons by Arthur Ransome -- 1939 classic in every sense, about kids who actually get to sail off from their parents and have adventures on islands.
The Turtle of Oman by Naomi Shihab Nye -- Aref is devastated to leave his home in Oman for Michigan, but like a sea turtle, he will find his way home no matter where he travels.

Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O'Dell -- Stranded on her island when the rest of her tribe leaves for better grounds, Karana survives the elements of the Pacific alone. We have this in the UBC.

The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle by Avi -- It's 1832, and Charlotte Doyle is returning to Rhode Island from England. Her voyage goes awry, and she is trapped aboard a mutinying ship with a cruel captain at the helm. Worse yet, she's soon on trial for murder.

Over Sea, Under Stone by Susan Cooper -- A holiday on the coast of Cornwall takes a menacing and mythological turn--as they may be one step ahead of some much more frightening people in finding the Holy Grail.

Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson -- You know the story, but trust me, it is well worth the time to go back to the original swashbuckler.

Heart of a Samurai by Margi Preus --In 1841, Manjiro is trapped on a deserted island and unable to return home through Japan's closed borders. So instead, he travels the world, breaking all expectations as he goes.

YA Books:

The Scorpio Races by Maggie Steifvater -- Man-eating horses rise from the waters, trapped and raced once a year by the ambitious and the fearful. Sean is a champion racer. Puck never meant to race at all. But now that she is racing--the first girl ever--she can't hesitate for a moment.

Midwinterblood by Marcus Sedgwick -- This journey will take you through time and through lifetimes, over water and across the strange, treacherous territory of Blessed Island, whose blessing is bloody, and whose story never moves in a straight line.

Tides by Betsy Cornwell -- Selkies, and the girl who finds them. Different, eerie, and romantic. You can order this book through us.
I also, on the YA side, highly recommend Monstrous Affections, edited by Kelly Link and Gavin Grantwhich includes some snippets of the high, and extremely monstrous, seas.

For the ambitious, also please see Master and Commander by Patrick O'Brian and the twenty-some books that follow it. Seaborne adventuring through storm, battle, and more, with exquisite detail and wonderful characters. You can usually find some in the UBC, or order them from our website.

Happy reading!

Monday, March 2, 2015

Alex Is Reading...RED GLOVE

You might know from Twitter (or from coming into the store) that along with TEN MILLION INCHES OF SNOW, the new year has brought the Booksmith a bigger Young Adult section! Yaaaaaaaaaaaaay! One of the great things about this is that, to keep all the current YA books from falling over in little lonely piles, we have to get more books to fill those new shelves up. Like, for example, a friend for Holly Black's WHITE CAT: its sequel, RED GLOVE.

These are the first two books of Black's Curseworkers trilogy, which combine con artist, mobsters, and a little bit of noir with great characters, complicated (read: dastardly) families, a tiny bit of prep school, and a whole lot of political tension over people who can "work" curses...generally on other people. By halfway through the first book these were already my favorite Holly Black books (I'm not alone--see Amy's shelf talker!), and truly, what's not to love?

Basically, though, anything with slightly criminal underdogs, clever plots, spry storytelling and a mean twist ending has got my attention. I could go on all day about pranksters, con artists and capers on screen--James Cagney flicks, Clue, Leverage, The Sting!  But there are plenty of books in this genre as well.

five kids' books to wake your brain up

The Eleventh Hour by Graeme Base -- Lavish illustrations, lively text, a cast of exotic animals dressed to the nines, and a dinner party mystery whose solution is locked at the end of the book to stave off accidental spoilers. You can find this book on our website--best for elementary school.

The Westing Game by Ellen Rasking -- I always come back to this one because it's really the best. Raskin was asked for a "puzzle mystery" by her young friend, and she provided: sixteen suspects, one dead millionaire, a fortune at stake. But it's the dead man's game, and you can never be sure just what he's playing at.

The Great Greene Heist by Varian Johnson -- A group of (generally good-spirited) middle school con artists take on their biggest challenge yet: save a school council election from the kids who want to rig it. Diverse cast, high energy, and gleefully genre-appropriate language will propel you along through a book that's sheer fun.

The Terrible Two by Mac Barnett and Jory John -- My absolute favorite book of the new year! Miles Murphy was the best prankster at his old school. He plans to be the best prankster at his new school. The problem is, someone is already pranking Yawnee Valley...someone who might just be better at pranks than he is. Will Miles find out who the other prankster is? And are they destined to be enemies...or are two pranksters better than one? 

The Thief by Megan Whalen Turner -- Teenage thief Gen gets pulled out of prison to find a magic rock (that may or may not exist) or suffer the consequences. A good reason to cooperate, right? But Gen has his own plans--which you won't know until the very end of the book, because he is going to lie to your face the entire time. Amazing characters, incredible plotting, and INFURIATING LEVELS OF CLEVERNESS. I first read this book fifteen years ago and it's still my favorite book in the world. Available online. Best for grade 7+.

Friday, February 27, 2015

Marc Solomon and "Winning Marriage: The Inside Story of How Same-Sex Couples Took on the Politicians and Pundits—and Won".

When I meet Marc Solomon, I'm coming out from the back of Brookline Booksmith, and I catch him, sheepishly loitering close to - but not too close too - the "Employee's Only" door of the Used Book Cellar. He's got a bag on his shoulder and makes meaningful eye contact with me when I emerge from the back, the telltale "I'm supposed to be here but I don't know exactly where" eyes of an author preparing for an event.

He's tall; quite tall. He towers above me, and I have the unusual experience of having to look upwards at him as I speak to him. This is novel for me, being that I'm 5'10. Marc has a boyish face, and very blue eyes. He's dressed simply in a black suit and button down shirt - no tie, this is a casual affair - and a small, discrete rainbow-colored rubber bracelet around his wrist, peeking out from beneath his suit cuff. As we near the beginning of 7:00, I tell him I have a small introduction for him, and then after that, he can basically do what he likes up there. "Most people tend to read for about 30 minutes, then take questions and answers, but its really totally up to you." I tell him. He pauses. "I might sing a bit." he adds, smiling. That would be great, we don't really get a lot of that here, I tell him.

The event is on the smaller side; only a few couples scattered across the readers and writers room. Mark doesn't flinch; he takes the lectern and launches into his presentation of "Winning Marriage" in the same easy tone and gentleness that Solomon no doubt applies to his whole life.

He reads a bit from the book, but the real strength of the event is the question and answer portion. Almost all of the guests have a question or comment, and we easily fill the remaining 20 minutes with discussion, a feat that is not so easily achieved, let me tell you. There's a man in the back who talks about Arkansas, asks, will it ever truly accept the gay community? There is a couple of married women that ask Marc if he feels his work will ever be done. His answer is full of so many emotions; hopefulness, dedication, skepticism and patience. Above all, Marc seems patient. It rolls off him in waves and drops as he holds onto the lectern, his tall frame slightly bent, his feet visible at each side. Marc talks about his work and about the struggle to make gay marriage a reality with a kind of quiet deference; it does make you wonder, what would Marc be doing, if not this? He is easy to talk to, and speaks from the lectern with a clear capacity to handle questions and queries while at the same time being accessibly human.

Marc warns us against adopting the attitude that gay marriage across all states is an inevitability, and all one has to do is wait. He recalls many critics of the movement asking, 'why are you putting so much into this if its going to happen eventually? Why push so hard? Why be so vocal?' This is the kind of convenient attitude that allows people to be lazy, to throw away the work that is so crucial to this and any movement.

"You just have to put one foot in front of the other." Marc tells us. He uses sports and game terms like, 'put small wins on the board', and 'don't spike the ball at the 10 yard line'. Every sports metaphor I come across are almost exclusively lost on me, but I think anyone can understand his basic, "don't count your chickens before they hatch" sentiment (I guess I'm more comfortable talking about chickens then I am sports, but I'm no more a farmer then I am a sportsmen. In my defense, I would rather watch a bunch of chickens roam around a field than I would a sports game. No joke).

One of the women in the audience reminds us of one of the rallies in Boston during 2004, during the supreme court debates on whether or not it was unconstitutional to allow only same-sex couples to marry. I was at many of those protests; I was about 16; just as precious as you please, I felt every injustice and emotion with so much more volume and clarity than I do now, as all 16 year old humans are want to do. We've had gay marriage, and enjoyed a slew of unpopular civil rights, here in Massachusetts for so long now that I had forgotten that a time in which we did not have those rights is still relatively recent in our states history. I remembered showing up in the cold, chanting, holding signs; the whole protest bit. At one of the final protests and final court hearings, after the ruling was announced, the protesters and several groups of media people ran into the state house and congregated around and along a long staircase. This whole memory is somewhat skewed for me, since I was delirious with JUSTICE and from screaming myself hoarse outside for hours, but it is at this moment that some state legislators appeared, as if from nowhere, and began speaking about the trials that were to come, and about the great win we had witness there that day. After the applause died down, a chant started from somewhere across the room - "thank you, Massachusetts", and it spread in that way that those victory chants spread, like a trickle of water along a slanted counter top, until we were all saying it. Shortly we were yelling it, a whole hallway of sweaty, clammy protesters, and besuited lawpeople, and naive high school students alike were all filling the vaulted ceilings with "thank you, Massachusetts", rounding out the staccato of the four syllables in the long name of our state. I was grateful for the opportunity to experience those feelings again, to remind myself of the struggle that equal rights, across all sorts of different vistas, is up against everyday in this country.

All in all, this was an example of an incredible small event. Brookline Booksmith was honored to have Marc Solomon visit us, he was a pleasure to meet and I wish him the very best in all his endeavors. I would urge anyone with an interest in civil rights, or possibly those of us with foggy memories of the events of the 2004 Goodridge v. Department of Public Health ruling to read Marc Solomon's book. It is every bit as funny and entertaining as he is, with the added benefit of detailing an important part of global history (Massachusetts was the 6th district in the world to legalize gay marriage, after the Netherlands, Belgium, Ontario, British Columbia, and Quebec). We are small, special, loud, brutish, and occasionally excellent. Thank you, Massachusetts!

Monday, February 23, 2015