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

Monday, February 16, 2015


A Helpful List of Post-Apocalyptic/Dystopian Books You May Not Have Read Yet

1. The Wind Singer (Book 1 of the Wind on Fire Trilogy) by William Nicholson, currently available in the children's section of the Used Book Cellar. An other-world fantasy which starts with a dystopian plot in book one and moves on to bigger and better (and equally fascinating) things in books two and three.

2. The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness, available in our Young Adult section. Also a trilogy. The language is unique and gripping, the story is ferocious, and it's unforgettably atmospheric.

3. The House of the Scorpion by Nancy Farmer, a story about a boy raised in a country called Opium who discovers the horrific reality of what he is: a clone of the country's drug lord, created as potential spare parts for the original. It'll be in Young Adult.

4. Starglass by Phoebe North, a subtle, beautiful book that takes place on a city-sized spaceship seeking a new future for humanity on a far-away planet. Carefully intertwines personal and political loyalties and turns dystopia and romantic tropes on their heads. And then there's the ending, which gut-punches the entire story so far and makes all those big problems look suddenly small. Also worth noting--this ship is culturally Jewish. Find it in Young Adult.

5. We by Yevgeny Zamyatin lives over in adult fiction, and it's the precursor to every single dystopian novel you've ever heard of--before Brave New World, before 1984, before Fahrenheit 451, before The Hunger Games, before Divergent, there was this little Russian novel. It's also fantastic.

6. The City of Ember by Jeanne du Prau may not be my very favorite kids' dystopia, but there's a good graphic novel adaptation of this story of a long-underground human civilization in our kids graphica section.

7. Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson is over in adult Science Fiction (good for teen readers), and it's a classic mind trip about a pizza delivery guy named Hiro Protagonist, virtual reality, and post-disaster America.

8. The Prince Who Fell from the Sky by John Claude Bemis is a convincing and satisfying futuristic animal fantasy, about the animals living on post-apocalypse Earth when a single human child--survivor of a spaceship crash--lands among them. You can order this one through our website. Intermediate.

9. The Last Book in the Universe by Rodman Philbrick is about a kid who's charged with, essentially, protecting the last records of human knowledge in a world that's fallen apart. Also available online. Intermediate.

10. Feed by M.T. Anderson (to be found in Young Adult) is where I started reading dystopian fiction. So, it's America's future, and the weather is all screwy and people are getting weird diseases, but your extremely portable technology always knows just what you want to shop for! That's good, right? Hint: it's not good. It's totally not good. It's totally, extremely not good. (But it is a good book.)

With these books and others in hand, may you have a snug continued snowpocalypse. Happy chilly reading!

Monday, February 9, 2015

It's Important to Hold on to Your Imagination...or Delusions, either works.

CLICK! I may have made this one too long...
And if you haven't been reading the blog in the last week you should go back. We celebrating Children's Author and Illustrator week by posting something kids section related every week!

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Children's Author and Illustrator Week: Imagination

Like most adults who refuse to grow up, I have an incurable case of Imagination. On any given day I consider applying to Hogwarts to teach Muggle Studies or wonder if today will finally be the day my closet exposes a secret entrance to Narnia. A side effect of this chronic affliction is that I have an unusual fascination with fairy tales and all things mythical, strange, and/or imaginary.
So it should not come as a surprise to anyone that books about fairy tales, adaptations of fairy tales, or anything remotely whimsical hold a special place in my heart. One moment I can be a princess knight successfully battling a fire-breathing dragon with insufficient weapons and the other, a down-on-her-luck maid who just inherited the nicest fairy godmother. I can learn more about the adventurous lives of unicorns or I can read about a kindhearted gorgon who is just misunderstood by everyone else in the village. Books that make us think in unique or magical ways are necessary for those of us with Imagination to survive.
Do not fear, dear reader, if you too suffer from Imagination you can live a happy and normal life. Below, I have listed my favorite fairytale/mythical/imagination creature books that you should take a look at: 
  • Sleeping Cinderella and Other Princess Mix-Ups by Stephanie Clarkson, illustrated by Brigette Barrager: This book explores the ramifications of taking beloved fairytale characters out of the world they know and transporting them into a completely new fairytale. Snow White is tired of cleaning up after dwarfs. Cinderella has no interest in going to the ball. Sleeping Beauty has too much energy to sleep. Rapunzel has been locked away too long and seeks freedom. What happens when the fairy tale heroines you know break free of the confines of their stories and venture into uncharted territory? A mess. That's what happens. 
  • Uni the Unicorn by Amy Krouse Rosenthal, illustrated by Brigette Barrager: This book if for anyone who ever had a dragon as a pen pal or had a griffin living in your backyard. You believed when everyone else told you they didn't exist. The main character of this book is a unicorn who believes wholeheartedly that little girls exist somewhere out there in the world and though everyone tells her little girls are mythical, this unicorn knows that one day she will prove them all wrong.
  • Sam and Dave Dig a Hole by Mac Barnett, illustrated by Jon Klassen: "How did a book about two boys digging a hole end up on this list?" you ask. Good question. It is partially because I (and my fellow kidsmith booksellers) LOVE Mac Barnett and partially because this book is strange and wonderful and if you pay close attention you will see that this book is, in fact, one that begs you to use your imagination. It's possible this book ends in different dimension than the one it started in. It's possible something else strange and wonderful happens. The ending is dependent on your imagination and is likely different for everyone.
  • Dory Fantasmagory by Abby Hanlon: Dory, given the silly moniker Rascal by her family, has the imagination of ten people. Her entire story is fancied. She has a best friend named Mary who is her accomplice in everything she does. Mary is a monster. Her fairy godmother, Mr. Nuggy pops in when needed to assist Rascal when she decides that she no longer wants to be a little girl but a puppy instead. Ms. Gobble Gracker who gets her start as a prank by Rascal's siblings quickly evolves into quite the fearsome foe for Rascal but with the help of Mary and Mr. Nuggy, Ms. Gobble Gracker is no match for her!
  • The Hero's Guide to Saving Your Kingdom by Christopher Healy: This book takes fairy tales as you know them and completely flips them on their heads. It follows four princes charming from familiar fairy tales as they embark on an adventure together. Cinderella's prince, Frederick, is afraid to leave the castle and when she goes off in search of an adventure, he reluctantly goes after her and meets Rapunzel's prince, Gustav, whose pride is wounded because Rapunzel saved him. More brawn than brains, Gustav ends up on traveling with Fredrick where they run into Sleeping Beauty's prince, Liam, who is the ideal "Prince Charming" though, come to find out, his reputation is built on a lie and Snow White's prince, Duncan, who is a little dimwitted and has a fascination with naming any woodland creature he spots...even in the middle of a battle with a dragon.
I could go on. There are a million and five fantastic books for those of us with Imagination. Stop in the store and find me. I can recommend plenty more. For now I have to go. I've just spotted a white rabbit disappearing down a rabbit hole shouting about being late and I must follow him.

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Children's Author and Illustrator Week: Exciting New 2015 Books

Note: I was so excited about the contents of this post that I posted it to the wrong blog. Sometimes my excitement gets the best of me. My apologies for the lateness.

There are a lot of really exciting books coming out this year. I did a post at the end of 2013 about books I was excited about coming out in 2014. I didn't do that for this year. I'm going to do it now and I'm going to do ones that are still coming out.

So, ten books I am so thrilled are still to come in 2015!

In no particular order:

Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo -- Fall
Companion to her wonderful Grisha trilogy. I am so, so, so excited. She described it as Game of Thrones meets Ocean's Eleven.

The Raven King by Maggie Stiefvater -- Fall
The only problems with the release of this one is that once it's out the series is over and that's devastating.

Seen Not Heard by Katie May Green -- Summer
I love this book! It's so much fun!

The Copper Gauntlet by Holly Black and Cassandra Clare -- Fall
The sequel to The Iron Trial. You know it's going to be brilliant!

Lair of Dreams by Libba Bray -- Summer
EEEEEE! We've been waiting forever!

The Great War ill. by Jim Kay -- March
So beautiful. So so beautiful!

Pip Bartlett's Guide to Magical Creatures by Jackson Pearce and Maggie Stiefvater -- Spring
It's so good! So funny! 

The Marvels by Brian Selznick -- Fall
It's Brian Selznick. We know it's going to be AMAZING.

Percy Jackson's Greek Heroes by Rick Riordan -- Summer

Shadow Scale by Rachel Hartman -- March
Finally! So excited!

The Sword of Summer by Rick Riordan -- Fall
I say again !!!!

This is nowhere near all of them. Here's a couple. Just a couple. A couple of really exciting ones. THERE ARE SO MANY TO BE EXCITED ABOUT!

Friday, February 6, 2015

Children's Author and Illustrator Week: Alex Is Reading Megan Whalen Turner


So these books, up here in this fuzzy picture, are my copies of Megan Whalen Turner's Queen's Thief series: The Thief, The Queen of Attolia, The King of Attolia, and A Conspiracy of Kings. They're four books of a proposed six-book YA series that are less fantasy and more...alternate Greco-Roman past world with a slight chance of interfering gods. The central character is a deeply obnoxious, incredibly talented thief who lies to everyone--including you, the reader--CONSTANTLY, and his ideas WORK but always have AWFUL CONSEQUENCES. The other main characters include a) the best and scariest and b) the best and most relatable queens ever in books, ever ever ever. OH, THEY ARE GREAT.

The books are really subtle, and funny and UPSETTING and incredibly smart. And patient. Like, I don't think I've read hardly any other books that sit on their plot twists as comfortably as these do, only to throw them at you at the perfect moment and leave you going, WHAT WHAT WHAT WHAT WHY HOW DID YOU, NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO, YES!!!! YES!!!! NOOOOOOOOOOO BOOOOOOOOOK and so on until your mom comes and finds you and gives you funny looks.

So as books, the Queen's Thief series taught me a heck of a lot about how far you can push characters, how many lies your story can tell and still come together at the end, and how to balance stuff in a book that seems like it should never, ever work. But that's not the best thing about these books, for me. Even my deep, abiding, undying, fire-like love for the characters is not the best thing about these books--for me.

The best thing about these books is people.

See, everywhere I have gone, these books have brought me people. When I read The Thief in seventh grade, I passed it around to my friends. We talked about it at lunch, my pal got a juice stain on Queen of Attolia and I was REALLY mad, we got closer as friends, because of books. When I was in college and King of Attolia came out, I read them all out loud to my roommates--there was no escape for them, not even a small chance of escape--and we've had built-in in-jokes ever since.

And I found people online, people who loved these books as much as I do. I've met a bunch of them in person. (Ask Your Adult.) We've exchanged stuff through the mail: card, books, socks, art, candy.  We sent books like chain letters, leaving notes in the margins for the next reader. I met Megan a couple of times. Ten years later I'm still in contact with fans in Australia, England, and the U.S. I still have my friends, friends I have because these books brought us together. In fact, I'm reading Finnikin of the Rock by Melina Marchetta along with one of those friends right now, even though she's in Alabama. There are threads of these relationships running through my life all over the place in unexpected ways.

But there's one friend in particular that I'm grateful for. She died a couple of years ago. We were friends for eight years, and during that time, she went from a friendly name online to one of dearest people to me in the whole world. I could fill a book with just my memories of that friendship, filled with love, family, and books, and all the uncomfortable ups and downs of being alive. She made me a better writer and a happier person. Every time I read a book, I think of what she'd think about it, and every time I write, I try to write well enough for her. I try to write as well as the book she wrote and left behind.

So I got that from these books, family, friendship, excellent reading recs, pride in my writing, wild enjoyment of obnoxious protagonists, undisclosed shenanigans in the name of Queen's Thieves, and buckets and buckets of memories I would never want to let go of and people I would never want to un-know. You probably will not have this exact experience if you read these books (which you should, because they're great), but you will probably have experiences like this because of some book, some time, because that is what books can do for you. Books can give you life.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Children's Author and Illustrator Week: View Changing!

In a continuation of this week's celebration of Children's Author and Illustrator week I present today's blog post!

There's something incredibly powerful about being the author/illustrator of a kids book. You are a force that is molding an incredibly impressionable mind. You are offering possibilities of how to see the world to someone who is looking for them. You are shaping people.

That is not to say that adults aren't shaped the same way but they do seem to be generally more set in their ways (though things certainly happen). I firmly believe that kids books change the way that we see the world.

So I wanted to express my appreciation for some authors who helped me see the world a little bit differently.

 1. J.K. Rowling
I am imagining a chorus of 'duh's here. I could probably just write her name and leave it at that but I'm not going to.

What J.K. Rowling did for me was show me how widely books could appeal to people. Up until I read Harry Potter  I'd never really jumped on any books that were super well known. I have never considered the same books that I really loved being books that people so incredibly different from me also loved. If we liked the same books, we had to have some special kinship, we should be friends.

That is not true. This sounds like a sort of sad thing to be taught but Rowling showed me how universal literature can be and that is such a weird thing for a middle schooler to feel. That is one of the ultimate outcast periods of your life and Harry Potter offered me this chance to be connected to something and to people I would never have been otherwise.

2. Tamora Pierce
Her books were a big part of me deciding that I wanted to write. There was something about picking up Tris's Book (the first of hers I read) that stuck with me. There was something so undeniably strong about her characters but without her falling into the trap of making them invulnerable. They felt real. They were kids and not ideas.

And then I went on to read her other books and saw so much of who I wanted to be in her characters (I have an alarming amount in common with Kel. In the best way possible). They're amazing and flawed and always a little bit broken in important ways. After reading her books I wanted to write and to make someone else feel like I felt when I picked them up for the first time.

3. Graeme Base
There's something really amazing about Base's The 11th Hour that I was immediately struck by as a youngish child. I remember being so delighted by the fact that here was this book that expected me to be clever. It expected me to pay attention but without making me feel overly foolish for missing things.

The thing about Base is that there is so much going on in his beautiful, elaborate illustrations that you can see so much, spot so many of his little nudges and winks, and completely miss one of the key elements to the mystery. But when you get to the end and its solved and you find out you were wrong or only partially right you don't feel stupid because you caught so many other things.
He made me feel clever despite being wrong and there was something so empowering about that. Partially, because it's nice to feel smart and partially because it sort of indirectly taught me to look at the whole picture and to not be overwhelmed by things that are dazzling, to pay attention to what's happening in a room as a whole.

4. John Corey Whaley
It's been a while since I've had an excuse to wax poetic about my love for his books. But he made me see how I fit differently.

I have never seen so clear an image of myself in a book as I did in Whaley's Where Things Come Back. That's probably a weird thing for a 26 year old female to say about a 17 year old male character, but it's true.
Cullen and I share this weird mix of cynicism and optimism that I hadn't really been able to work out a balance for myself. It's being pessimistic about all of these things in life that seem so big and so important and often are big and important, but ultimately feeling like the world isn't such a terrible place, that overall life's not necessarily as terrible as all of its pieces.

And reading that book showed me that maybe it's not that strange. That sometimes you aren't going to find your optimism in the end of every situation and that's fine because there are other people who will.

5. Holly Black
Holly Black is one of those authors who's had a big impact on my view of writing, which is an important factor in my view of the world.

One of the first things people find out about me is that I have sisters. Four of them. I adore my sisters. My whole family, actually. And my childhood gets top-billing when it comes to crediting the person I am now. I've always known that that's important but Holly Black has this way of writing about childhood that shows how important it is.

It comes up more than once in her books and stories to never discount the things you thought and believed as a kid because kids see far more than anyone gives them credit for. It was an important highlight of something that I already saw and already believed. It's this amazing affirmation of what I thought was important to write about and I always go back to her for it.

There are so many more. And I am so so grateful to all of them, to every book I've read and every author who's taken the time to write for kids and teens. And I'm incredibly grateful that I've never become so jaded that I lose sight of how important these books are, how influential they are. I think I'm lucky to realize that even if I don't like a book it may be THE book to someone else and that I think oddly, as judgmental and terrible as kids can be, that kids are more open to that than anyone else.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Children's Author and Illustrator Week: Because Obviously That Alligator Eats People

This week is children's author and illustrator week. In celebration the Booksmith kids team is putting up something new and kids related everyday this week. We spend most of our lives celebrating kids books and will seize any excuse to share that with the world.

Monday Alex talked about picture books.
Tuesday I did a brief recap of the Youth Media Awards

Today, I am going to talk about something about kids books that I have such a great appreciation for:

Dark, off-beat humor.

Off-beat humor has always existed and I'm pretty sure it's always been in kids books but it seems to be on a major upswing now.

This is the time of Jon Klassen and what-did-happen-to-the-rabbit.
This might actually be one of my favorite illustrations ever.

Oliver Jeffers and the cup who just wants to know what it's like by the window and throws itself out of the cabinet to the concrete counter.
Me too!
Mac Barnett and man-a-blue-whale-is-the-best-punishment-ever.

Neil Gaiman and I-love-my-dad-but-it's-TWO-goldfish.
They are really pretty goldfish...
Mo Willems and the-snake-wants-to-play-catch-so-we'll-just-keep-throwing-things-at-him.

And it's not just the picture books. Lemony Snicket made a name for himself writing about books that tell the reader everyone inside is miserable. Yes, they are and the books are so bleak they have a ridiculous humor to them.

Not only that, look at some of the books that are still classics. Every book by Roald Dahl ever. Edward Gorey (though, I think it's mostly adults who go for this one). Maurice Sendak. Not the lightest fare.

I started to say that I like cute books as much as anyone but that's not entirely true. I do like some cute books but I like the ones that have a really melancholy sort of edge. Pure sweet has never really been my thing.

One of the sweetest picture books I like is Oliver and His Alligator and Oliver's alligator eats people when he gets nervous.

I love the alligator. Just look at it.

The thing is that I don't think it's really the sort of thing most kids pick for themselves either. The truth is kids are blood thirsty creatures. They love conflict, the more ridiculous and bleak the better. There's the really wonderful line in Holly Black's Darkest Part of the Forest that goes:

"Children can have a cruel, absolute sense of justice."

Yes! They do! Read I Want My Hat Back with some kids and ask them what happened to the rabbit at the end.

The sweet, heart-felt books are good and kids should get to see those too but there's something about the absoluteness of dark humor that just makes perfect sense to kids and, I as a person who never grew out of that dark sense of humor, really appreciates that authors are still willing to embrace that and that parents are still willing to buy them.

Plus, any excuse to talk more about Mac Barnett makes the whole kids section happy so there's that.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

ALA Youth Media Awards

The name 'Youth Media Awards' seems to be pretty foreign to a lot of people. That's what I discovered when I tried to talk to (non kids book) people about them. But as soon as I clarified with 'Caldecott' and 'Newbery' everything suddenly clicked into place. Those are awards they recognize, even if I've discovered they don't really know what the awards are.

Yesterday morning I had the complete and utter pleasure of watching the live-stream of the awards presentation. I was beyond excited. At one point I even turned to one of our managers and said that I couldn't believe I was working a job that paid me to be as excited about them as I was. I was getting paid to sit there and watch an awards ceremony that I already wanted to watch. It still sort of blows my mind. But they're not the most glamorous thing to watch.

The thing about the ala awards presentation is that it's very practical. It's not an awards ceremony how most people think about them. The winners do get acceptance speeches but not while the awards are being presented. That happens later, in different rooms. Each award is explained and the runners up and winners are announced and images of the covers are shown and that's really it. There's clapping, of course, children's book fans are very enthusiastic people but there's not a lot of fanfare.

But it is so exciting.

Because we're not watching them to check out people's clothes, we want to know which books made an impact on the judges and, on a more practical level, we need to order more of them and quickly. Sometimes they're titles we may have suspected, sometimes the come out of nowhere but they're always remarkable. They don't need glitz.

These awards are about the books themselves.

These awards are our Oscars.

I cheered when some of them were announced (I'll Give You the Sun got the Printz!). I was completely floored by others. I wasn't horrified by any but I was surprised. There were a couple I hadn't heard of. I love that.

And the winners are diverse, in the best and pretty much every way possible. Peruse the list, check out the titles. There's a little bit of everything.

Winners List

But bear with us, we'll get as many of them in as we can but it may take us some time. If you want one and can't find it, please ask, we'll do what we can. We want to read them too.


The travel section has a new destination of the month! It's exciting! It's wonderful! It's Wales!

The last couple of days I have been involved in a number of conversations that have gone somewhere along the lines of:

Amy: I have to write that blog post about Wales!
Bystander: Whales?
Amy: Wales.
Bystander: Why are you writing a blog post about whales?
Amy: It's destination of the month.
Bystander: ...what?
Amy: Wales...Destination of the month?
Bystander: Oh! The country!
Amy: Why would I be writing a blog post about animal-whales?

That is a question that no one could answer. Not that we have anything against whales. We are all pro-whale here.


Wales is a country of many things.

Pentre Ifan:
Image: Pentre Ifan. Crown Copyright: Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Wales

Stunning landscapes:
Photographer: Kris Dutson

The Earliest Prose Literature in Britain:

And a language that is so beautiful that Tolkien based Elvish off of it.
(This very same language is also almost completely nonsensical to look at for an English speaker, I think so and I've been trying to learn it).

 And I'd probably get in trouble if I didn't mention they also have a rugby team:

Wales has such a wonderful mythological and literary history that it's no wonder that Britain's famous Hay-on-Wye Book Festival is right on the border of Wales and England.

It is a wonder why more people aren't more interested in Wales as literary and beautiful as it is. Well, this is your chance to come in and find some books about, set in, and written in Wales. There are so many more than fit on our small little display shelf so do some research learn about this little country with big literary influence.

So, take a minute out of your visit and wander over to the travel section to check out some books about Wales.

Hwyl fawr am nawr!

Monday, February 2, 2015

Alex Is Reading...PICTURE BOOKS

In the middle of reading so many great novels for young readers, it's sometimes easy to forget the quickest reads of all--but a picture book you love when you're three will stay with you for the rest of your life. Here's a handful of picture books I've been reading recently, which you may not have seen before, but might well turn into family favorites.

From left to right:

Love Always Everywhere by Sarah Massini -- A simple message about love and friendship, with a diverse cast of characters, cozy art, and a light touch. It's right in time for Valentine's day but I would read this any time of the year.

Squids Will Be Squids by Jon Sciezska, illustrated by Lane Smith -- A slightly older crowd will fall deeply for these irreverent, brash, energetically illustrated, and frankly awesome modern takes on the fable

The Big Blue Thing on the Hill by Yuval Zommer -- The peace and quiet of the local forest is disturbed when a camper parks itself right smack in the middle. For resourceful wildlife, expressive art, and a Tuesday-style ending, park yourself here.

Virgil & Owen by Paulette Bogen -- A penguin decides that a polar bear he meets is HIS POLAR BEAR, and can't quite get over the fact that HIS POLAR BEAR keeps making other friends. I'm happy to find a book that tells kids you can be friends without being in charge of your friends. In the spirit of Elephant and Piggy, but this book has its own charms.

Finding Spring by Carin Berger -- A young bear doesn't know what spring is yet, but goes on a hunt through these beautiful paper-cut/mixed media illustrations. Lovely to look at for all ages, and a good story for young readers who aren't yet sure how the seasons fit together, exactly.

How to Hide a Lion by Helen Stephens -- All this lion wants is a hat, but he gets chased out of town by frightened humans! A little girl named Irene helps to hide him, but her mother finds out, and reacts badly. In the end, thwarting a burglary makes the lion a hero, and he gets the hat he wanted all along. (You can find this on our children's bargain table.)

Can't You Sleep, Little Bear? by Martin Waddell --The author of Owl Babies writes my favorite bedtime book ever. While Big Bear tries hard to read his Bear Book, Little Bear tosses and turns and frets about the darkness. Big Bear brings him bigger and bigger lanterns, until at last they go outside and find the moon shining down on them--and both bears fall peacefully asleep. (This one is also on the bargain table.)

Last Stop on Market Street by Matt de la Peña -- A little boy wants to know why he and his grandmother go all the way to the end of the line on Sundays instead of doing something fun, but the answer is, they work at a soup kitchen and help make the neighborhood a better, kinder place.

Winter Bees by Joyce Sidman, illustrated by Rick Allan --Absolutely stunning illustrations are both the backdrop and highlight of this collection of poems and facts for winter and its creatures.

There are countless wonderful picture books out there, but these are some to start with, next time you're in. Happy reading!