Sunday, October 30, 2011

And Twitter!

Alice, Ever After on Twitter too...although I am still trying to get the hang of that one...

Alice, Ever After was already taken so I had to switch things up a bit


Yes, Facebook!

Alice, Ever After has a Facebook page.  Like it!

Alice, Ever After

Indie Bound's Top 10

Keep 'Em Coming

The Children's Book Shop in Brookline, MA
I read some good news on today about the endurance of independent bookstores.  Although they didn't include children's bookstores in their list, I was happy to see support for local bookstores!

Last week, I also read on LAist that some Barnes and Noble Bookstores may be closing their doors.

So what does this mean for all of us?  Shop at local bookstores!  And we should keep opening bookstores!

Here is a special message from website dedicated to the growth of independent bookstores.

Why shop Indie?

When you shop at an independently owned business, your entire community benefits:
The Economy
  • Spend $100 at a local and $68 of that stays in your community. Spend the same $100 at a national chain, and your community only sees $43.
  • Local businesses create higher-paying jobs for our neighbors.
  • More of your taxes are reinvested in your community--where they belong.
The Environment
  • Buying local means less packaging, less transportation, and a smaller carbon footprint.
  • Shopping in a local business district means less infrastructure, less maintenance, and more money to beautify your community.
The Community
  • Local retailers are your friends and neighbors—support them and they’ll support you.
  • Local businesses donate to charities at more than twice the rate of national chains.
  • More independents means more choice, more diversity, and a truly unique community.
Now is the time to stand up and join your fellow individuals in the IndieBound mission supporting local businesses and celebrating independents.

How to Find a Local Bookstore:
Article 1: Bookstores in Boston
Article 2: BN Closing

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Smell My Feet

Halloween, my favorite day of the year, is just around the corner.  Here are a few books to get you in the spirit for a day of spookiness!

A wagon full of pumpkins
Pumpkins by Ken Robbins

This book of photography tells the real story of pumpkins.  Robbins shows through words and exquisite photography all the different uses, types, and parts of a pumpkin.  He explains how pumpkins grow, tells you how to carve them, and even shows what they look like when they rot.  This is a great book for your youngest ghouls and goblins or even as a coffee table book in the fall!

The Mysteries of Harris Burdick by Chris Van Allsburg

This book is actually a series of illustrations, their titles, and cryptic captions for each.  In the introduction, Van Allsburg explains how the illustrations were the mysterious left-overs of 14 picture books that were never written.  Harris Burdick is the author/illustrator who dropped off the illustrations at a publisher saying he would return with the rest later.  But Harris Burdick never showed up... (cue creepy music here) The book is all 14 illustrations.  In a fun note, my book buddy Mas, told me about a new version just published in which famous authors write stories to go along with the illustrations.  I will definitely check it out but in the meantime, let these pictures give you the heebie-jeebies.
The title and caption
One illustration from Harris Burdick

Creepy illustrations accompany the stories
Scary Stories To Tell in the Dark by Alvin Schwartz

I tried really hard to find a copy of the Scary Stories books I read when I was younger.  You know, the creepy collection of stories with tales like the one about the spider that laid an egg on a girl's face and the little baby spiders came crawling all over her one day.  Well, apparently every one else wanted those books too because they were all checked out at my library.  I got a different book, Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark, in the "series," if you can call it that.  These are stories collected from American folklore.  Schwartz writes the stories and even gives you suggestions on how to tell them. For example in one story, as you deliver the punchline, he suggests, "As you give the last line, pounce on one of your friends."  Most of the stories aren't as scary as I remembered them but I am also not ten years old.  I think ten year olds will find these just creepy enough.  I did LOVE the stories meant to be funny.  The chapter titled, "Aaaaaaaaaaah!" explains on the first page that the stories, " this chapter are meant to make you laugh."  And they did.

The Graveyard Book and Coraline by Neil Gaiman

Gaiman took the Newbury prize for The Graveyard Book in 2009.  This story tells of a boy who, at the age of 18 months, is the sole survivor when a man murders his family.  Bod (short for Nobody) Owens is his name and after the murder he crawls into a graveyard where he is raised by the ghosts and groundskeeper who live there.  As he grows up, he learns all their secrets until one day he is faced with the very man who murdered his family.  Cool, creepy, and perfect for the trick-or-treater in your life who is reading chapter books.  Gaiman also wrote Coraline, which is a pretty creepy book itself.  There was a movie made a few years ago but the book is, obviously, better.  Coraline is fed up with her parents and slips into an alternative world where a different version of her parents live...only they have buttons for eyes.  They want to keep Coraline there and in order to do so they need to replace her eyes with buttons too.  Ewwwww.  And so cool.

So there you are folks. Have a safe, happy holiday and don't forget to send me pictures of your book characters to post after the candy is consumed!

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Sorry Buffalo!

Well, at the request of one of my favorite blog followers...ok, yes it was my mom, I looked into children's author visits in Buffalo.  Sadly, there aren't any between now and the end of the year.  At least not any that are listed.  I checked the libraries, the local bookstores, ArtVoice, and even (bleh) Barnes and Noble.  Not sure why B to the LO is being avoided.  You do have adult authors visiting, just none for kids.  Sad.  Sorry Mama!

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Trick or Treat!

I will be spending the rest of this weekend reading some Halloween books and plan on posting suggestions for you and the children in your life.  In the meantime, I am proposing a Halloween Scavenger Hunt!  If you spot anyone out and about in costumes inspired by children's literature, send me your pics!  I will post them on the blog next week.  I am going as Astrid Lindren's Pippi Longstocking this year.  So I will be on there too!  Keep your eyes peeled for Harry Potter, Miss Frizzle, Hunger Games characters, and more!

Tales in Two Cities

If you are like me, you are constantly looking for the upcoming children's author visits.  Sadly, I find that these are not advertised well to the general public.  I often find myself quoting Homer Simpson's, "Doh!" when I read about a fabulous author I missed.  So, to help myself and all of you, I will be perusing local bookstore event listings on a weekly basis and update you on events.  I will be posting a * next to the events I highly recommend and if you show up you might just see me!

Now, since I have been back and forth between Boston and LA for the last couple of years, I am on mailing lists for both cities.  So congrats to the Boston book-lovers, your city will be posted here too!  If any of you would like me to update your city, just let me know.  Also, if you hear of events PLEASE pass them on to me so I can post...and attend!

Here is this week's roundup.


10.22.11 The Children's Bookstore in Brookline is hosting Leo Landry, author of new chapter book Grin and Bear It, TODAY at 4 pm.  (Sorry for the late notice!)

The Children's Bookstore will also start hosting a story hour every Friday at 11 am.

Los Angeles 
10.22.11  Children's Book World, located in West Los Angeles at 10580 1/2 West Pico Blvd, is hosting Maggie Stiefvate, author of young adult books Shiver and Linger, at 5:30 pm.

10.23.11  Chevalier's Books, located at 126 N. Larchmont Blvd., 90004, is hosting Charlotte Dean, author of My Crazy Baby Brother, a picture book, from 11 am to 1 pm.

10.26.11 Mrs. Nelson's Toy and Book Shop, located at 1030 Bonita Avenue, La Verne, 91750, will be hosting a local author Lee Wardlaw, author of 101 Ways to Bug Your Friends and Enemies, at 5 pm.

And looking ahead to November...

11.6.11 The Children's Bookstore, Anna Staniszewski, author of My Very Un-Fairy Tale Life, from 5 pm to 7 pm.

11.6.11 At the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art in Amherst,  Talking About Words and Pictures with Caldecott Medalist, Beth Krommes, 11:30 am

* 11.6.11 At the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art, a special gallery tour with Jules Feiffer,
1:00 pm, Free with Museum Admission.  Jules Feiffer is the illustrator of The Phantom Toll Booth which celebrates it's 50th anniversary this year!

11.6.11 The Carle’s Annual Educators’ Night From Gutenberg to Google:A Conversation about the Future of Children’s Books with Betsy Bird, Lisa Holton and Anita Silvey, 4:00 pm - 6:30 pm, Free: all educators welcome! Reservations required. Call (413) 658-1126. Anita Silvey is they author of a blog I follow, Children's Book-A-Day Almanac

Los Angeles
* 11.3.11  Children's Book World will host Anna Portis, author of Not a Box and Not a Stick, and her new book, Princess Super Kitty, at 10:30 am. I wish I could go to this one!

11.4.11 Children's Book World will host Annie Barrows, author of the Ivy + Bean series, at 10 am.  She will then head over to Mrs. Nelson's Toy and Book shop for a 5 pm signing.

* 11.11.11  Vroman's in Pasadena will host the illustrator of Stars (I just bought and reviewed this book!), Marla Frazee, at 4 pm. 

*11.14.11 Vroman's in Pasadena will host Oliver Jeffers, author of The Heart and the Bottle, Up and Down,  and new book Stuck.  I am so excited this event time was switched to 6 pm so I can go!!!!

*11.15.11 Mrs. Nelson's Toy and Book Shop will host Chris Van Allsburg, author of Jumanji, The Mysteries of Harris Burdick and just about every other book I LOVE, at 6 pm.

11.20.11 Mrs. Nelson's will host Kadir Nelson, illustrator of Ellington Was Not a Street, We Are the Ship: The story of Negro League Baseball, Mama Miti: Wangari Maathai and the Trees of Kenya, and his new book Heart and Soul: The story of America and African Americans, at 5 pm.

*11.20.11 Once Upon a Time, located at 2207 Honolulu Ave, Montrose, 91020 will host Marla Frazee (see above) at 12:00 pm, if you missed her on the 11th.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Whatever Happened to Wonderland?

"We're all mad here."
This evening, a good friend of mine sent me an article from the New York Times opinion column. "No More Adventures in Wonderland" written by Maria Tatar compares the enchanting worlds of children's literature from the past, such as Neverland and Wonderland, to the daunting realities described in children's literature today.  She describes how such books as The Hunger Games and Harry Potter focus on harsh realities where very adult themes are present.  Peter Pan (Celebrating it's 100th birthday this week) and Alice in Wonderland also offered adult themes, however, according to Tatar, they added a magical world filled with villains who, "...walk a fine line between horror and zany eccentricity."  Their evil, yet juvenile, behavior allowed children to escape without being too haunted. (Read the article here: No More Adventures in Wonderland)

The author explains how J.M. Barrie and Lewis Carroll were both still childlike in their own way, which allowed them to write books full of magic.  Barrie, she explains, still played pirates at the age of 40 and Carroll, hoping to keep them from growing up, photographed children.  Despite the controversy surrounding their relationships with children, each author's ability to connect to an uninhibited imagination allowed them to write stories perfect for children.

Published on October 11, 1911
It is interesting how the four books highlighted are some of my favorite books of all time.  I love Peter Pan and Alice in Wonderland because of the way they capture the imagination of a child.  I love Hunger Games and Harry Potter because they made me contemplate real tragedy in the world today.  While Tatar mourned the loss of, "danger balanced by enchantment," I wondered, which is better for children? 

In my career as an educator I have seen some children who have grown up too fast.  They have lived through tragedies such as abuse, neglect, or separation from parents.  They have seen how drugs and alcohol can destroy a family.  They know that poverty can shake the world underneath them with as much power as any earthquake.  And then I meet students like Terryn.  He was a 5 year old boy at one of the summer camps where I worked this summer.  Terryn had long, scraggly, dirty blond hair.  His face was often smudged with dirt from a mud pie or a romp through the yard.  He showed up one day wearing rain boots, shorts, an old shirt, and a pirate hat.  Just because.  Terryn could talk to wolves (two different dialects for grey wolves and black wolves) and knew the potential of an old kitchen appliance.  "If I could pick one kid in the world to be a Lost Boy," I explained to my friend at lunch today, "I would pick Terryn.  I don't think he should ever grow up."

Do these children, the heart-broken, resilient ones and the free-spirited magic makers, deserve books that will allow them to escape or ones that will connect them to reality?  Do different children need different books?  Should we offer them hope that things will change and a place to find courage and strength?  Or the comfort of knowing that they aren't the only ones with trouble?

I don't know.  But I know that Alice, Ever After will be a place where all kids can feel like they can make a world for themselves.  Where they can escape for a brief second if that is what they need or where they can find hope in a character who overcame great adversity. After reading this article I felt charged, more than ever, to make sure that this dream of mine comes true so that kids everywhere can keep theirs alive for as long as the need them.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

A Billion Bright Stars

I was fortunate to spend the better part of my childhood on 32 acres of land in the middle of nowhere in Western New York.  We had about 20 acres of woods and the rest was field and a lawn that took about 2 hours to mow on the riding lawn mower.  This lawn, although a pain to take care of, was the perfect place to kick back and take a look at just about as many stars as you could imagine.  We had a clear view of the Milky Way and on a couple of occasions got to see the Northern Lights.  Now, I live in a city filled with stars, just not the kind I prefer to see.  No offense to Joseph Gordon-Levitt, you are dashing and all, but I would trade that celebrity sighting for a night back in that back yard any day.

Bonfires and sing-a-longs were not reserved for a weekend camping trip or summer.  Any given night of the week, any time of the year it wasn't snowing, we would be bundled up in old blankets, hooded sweatshirts, bags of marshmallows and hot dogs at the ready just in case.  I loved that feeling of being so snug under a blanket and having the entire universe right above me.

Yesterday I had a ladies night with a friend.  She is a former teacher and mother of two darling boys and, well, you know me.  So of course we had to stop at the local bookstore we just happened to pass by.  We got caught up on favorites and found some new books.  I happened on a book called Stars.  This book, written by Mary Lyn Ray and illustrated by Marla Frazee, brought back that feeling from the fireside.  They capture the beauty and magic of stars, and that feeling of wonder, I had when I was living back home.  My favorite part is the author is from New Hampshire, where "the night sky is very dark and the night stars are very bright."  The illustrator, however, is from Pasadena, California where, "the night sky is filled with city lights, so the night stars are very faint."  I can empathize with both!  I was going to post every single page but even I know that is overkill.  So here are some of the ones that drew me back...

Keep a star in your pocket..

This week...find someone who you can share a star with...

Stars can be found in the moss where you find fairies.

When stargazing...wear your most comfortable clothes!

And always make sure you have a place where you can go to find them.  Happy star gazing!