Friday, November 30, 2007

Piper Reed, Navy Brat by Kimberly Willis Holt, Reviewed by Jennifer, age 6

Piper Reed, Navy Brat is a good book. It is about a girl that has to move alot 'cause her dad is in the Navy. She has to make a lot of friends, and she is good at it too. Piper Reed is a feisty, fun girl, and her little sister is really smart! Her big sister is sort of mean and sort of nice. When Piper grows up, she wants to be one of the Blue Angels-Navy pilots that are real daredevils- and I think she could do it!

My Mommy-Daughter book group read Piper Reed and then we got to meet the author, Kimberly Willis Holt, and she signed our books. We talked to her about how she came up with the story and found out that it is a story about her life as a kid! We learned from her that all fiction stories are real in some ways. Kimberly Willis Holt also told us that Piper Reed will be a series and I can't wait to read the next book!

The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman

For those of you new to Little Shop, you might not yet know that The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman is one of our all time store favorites for middle grade and YA readers, as well as adult readers of children's literature. And whether you are new or not to this wonderful book, with the movie due in theatres on December 7th, you might have heard the bubbling controversy around this book.

Golden Compass is the story of Lyra, a fiendishly smart and plucky girl destined to save the world. Lyra does not live in our world; rather she lives in a world parallel to ours but very much like what you'd expect to find in Oxford England, with the addition of talking polar bears, zeppelins, and daemons: the physical, animal manifestation of a person's soul.

The controversy surrounds the author Philip Pullman and his faith, or lack thereof. Pullman is an atheist, and some people use that as an argument to not read Golden Compass, or the sequels The Subtle Knife and The Amber Spyglass. Justin, a Little Shop bookseller, is the husband of a Presbyterian minister and he thinks The Golden Compass is as theologically engaging and interesting as the Narnia series by C.S. Lewis.

If the fear is that he's somehow hidden an "atheist agenda" in these books, then consider this: if the point of the books is to make an argument for a world without God or religion, then why have the central conflict be about the literal struggle between Good and Evil for control of children's innocent souls? Doesn't that sink any notion of a faithless world? Besides, we haven't seen any huge growth of young witches or wizards in the wake of Harry Potter, and we don't expect any upswing in child atheism either.

Regardless of what Pullman personally believes, this is a wonderful book with an amazing story, inventive characters, and no matter what your faith, truly engages readers of all ages, beliefs, and opinions.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

The True Meaning of Smekday by Adam Rex: A Review by Nick, Age 11 and All Around Good Guy

Greetings residents of Smekland! I have come to you to tell you about this new book by Adam Rex called The True Meaning of Smekday. Gratuity Tucci, age 13, has been asked to write a story for the national time capsule contest. Where to begin? The part where she drives a floating car to the Happy Mouse Kingdom? Or maybe when she waits out a hurricane in a junkyard? Maybe the part in which she narrowly escapes death? Oh, and by the way, earth has been invaded by aliens, known as Boovs. Twice. The theme? I'd say the book is a combo FantasySciFiComedy novel. It's even complete with comics. The True Meaning of Smekday is a great Smekday gift for any young Boov because it's hilarious!

Editor's Note: No aliens were harmed in the making of this blog review.

Editor's P.S.-- Don't believe our reviewer? Go here for an awesome countdown of top ten reasons to read The True Meaning of Smekday by it's two main characters, Gratuity Tucci and J-Lo the Boovian!

Publishers rock too!

We've talked a lot here about our love for local authors and illustrators--after all, Decatur is chock full of them. Well, last week we had two local folks in signing their book. The book is The Monster Who Did My Math, written by Danny Schnitzlein and illustrated by Bill Mayer.

Both guys are great, and they had a tremendous turnout. So great a turnout, that the book is a top seller of ours for the whole month of November! Lots of folks came in, excited to see Danny and Bill, and excited to see the book.

How did that happen? Who made that happen? Why, the publisher, of course! Our very own Atlanta-based Peachtree Publishers. They did a great job of putting the word out about the book signing, and drummed up lots of local support for Danny and Bill.

They publish other great books too-- like Martina the Beautiful Cockroach by Carmen Agra Deedy. And in just a couple of weeks (on December 8, to be precise) we're hosting a book signing by her!

So, in all our talk of great authors and great illustrators and the fantastic books they create, let's not forget the people who make it all possible: the publishers. Especially the publishers who are dedicated to taking a chance on quality books that otherwise might be missed.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Coloring Page Tuesday: Here come the Holidays!

Well, we're just getting over the last holiday and suddenly a new one is upon us! Courtesy, as always, of Elizabeth Dulemba and her blog, here's the first in what I'm guessing will be a month of holiday coloring pages!

Remember, if you like what you color, feel free to email a (low res) copy to Ms. Dulemba and she'll post it on her blog!

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Coloring Pages

It's time again to check in with our friend Elizabeth Dulemba and her coloring pages. Have a great Thanksgiving with this slightly anxious turkey.And you can relieve his worries by printing out the picture, coloring it, and sending a (low-res) copy to Ms. Dulemba at Gobble gobble, everyone!

What We're Thankful For

This past summer, in the middle of the Decatur Book Festival, I got a call from my sister. We chatted a little, and when she found out that the one and only Judy Schachner was here, my sister told me of a fellow teacher who loves Skippy John Jones.

"You have to get a book signed for her, I'll even pay you extra."

I told her don't worry about it, and that I'd be happy to do it. Except I then forgot.

Flash forward to the last day of the festival, and the wonderful Ms. Schachner was signing books and talking to a small group of women at our store. I meekly intruded and begged her to sign a book for my sister's co-worker.

She laughed and happily obliged.

I mailed the book and a stuffed Skippy toy to my sister, and promptly forgot again.

Two weeks ago, I got this in the mail:

Our wonderful manager, Terra McVoy, has a saying: there is a book for every person, and a person for every book.

We are so thankful for moments like this, when we are able to help great authors get great books to great people. Thank you Judy Schachner, thank you Mrs. Baker's Class, and thanks to each and every person who has stopped by Little Shop of Stories and found some magical book to take home with them.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Friday, November 16, 2007

Children's Book Week: Postscript

Well, it's been great fun this week, talking all about our favorite books of the year. If only it were Children's Book Month, or even Fortnight, we have so many more books to rave about! Thanks to all the folks who came by the store and checked out the books and commented on them (and bought them!).

Finally, we can't let a best of the year list go by without mentioning an obscure little title we loved loved loved:

Yeah, we realize there was much hype and attention surrounding the summer release of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling, but despite all that, we feel that it is truly deserving of much recognition as one of our favorite books of 2007.

Some us -- Those Who Shall Not Be Named -- still get goosebumps when talking about HP7. For us, it was the perfect culmination, a literary casting off of a great story, a graduation of sorts for the many years we had spent at Hogwarts School for Witchcraft and Wizardry, which if you think about, was really more than 7 years since we had to wait so long in between books.

We are so proud of Harry- he really has grown into a fine young man. HP7 was a true coming of age tale, and we look forward to sharing Harry's story with new readers for many, many years to come.

And yes, we really do like Snape.

Children's Book Week: Day 5

Last day for Children's Book Week here -- *sniff* -- and we're doubling up on some yummy picture books. So far we've witheld the hyperbole, but there are some books you can only describe with words like "awesome-y awesome-ness," and "beauty-mous." These are two such books:

Toy Boat by Randall de Seve and Loren Long is great in the way that only picture books can be, funny and earnest at once: beauty-mous!

A boy makes a toy boat, and takes the toy boat wherever he goes, even to the bath with him, even to bed with him. When they visit the lake, the little toy boat wants to play out in the waves with the bigger boats, but the boy never lets go of the string that keeps his toy boat close.

Until one day, the boy lets go, and the toy boat gets to float free.

And I can't go on because it's too great. Loren Long (Mr. Peabody's Apples, The Little Engine that Could)'s sumptuous illustrations emphasize the power of the larger boats the toy boat dreams of joining, as well as the lush depth of the ocean, and, ultimately the warmth shared between the boy and his little boat. A great book for little boat-builders eager to sail off to their own horizons, and the moms and dads who want to keep them close to shore.

And now for the Awesome-y Awesome-ness:

Just so you know, the entire time you've been reading this entry, the squid in I'm the Biggest Thing in the Ocean by Kevin Sherry has been saying it's bigger than that other book up in the corner. And this blog. And you! And the truth is, the giant squid IS bigger than anything else! HE IS THE BIGGEST THING IN THE OCEAN! Bigger than those shrimp! This clam! Even that shark!

Except, well, you and I both know there are some pretty ginormous things out there in the ocean besides squids.

See if this silly, brightly-colored, super-duper pre-school read-aloud knows that there are bigger things in the ocean, too. We guarantee this is a story that is no small peanuts!

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Children's Book Week: Day 4

We are winding down our week (only one day to go!) and today our focus is on two exceptional Young Adult novels published this year to much acclaim:

If you haven't read anything by Alan Gratz, now is the time, so you can be one of those who says, "Oh, I knew Alan back before he was famous." Alan's most recent book, Something Rotten: A Horatio Wilkes Mystery, a modern day Hamlet, is a clever retelling with a twist -- our wisecracking narrator-detective, Horatio Wilkes, is straight out of a Raymond Chandler novel. Horatio, on school break, arrives in Denmark, TN to visit his best friend Hamiliton, only to find that much is truly rotten in Denmark. Hamiliton's dad is dead, and it looks like murder -- his uncle has married his mother, and someone is polluting the town's river. Horatio is quickly on the case but distractions intercede and our hero must pull all the clues together before it is too late.

In Catherine Jinks' Evil Genius, protagonist Cadel Piggott is a genius, of the nefarious sort. At the age of 7, he is already hacking into computers and wreaking havoc on city infrastructure; soon after, his psychologist urges his adoptive parents to enroll him in an elite private school. Cadel soon discovers that it is really a front for for the Axis Institute, an educational institution that teaches "special" teens everything they need to know in World Domination, including embezzlement, disguise, forgery, lying, guerrilla warfare, and, well, you get the picture. Although he is initially entranced by his new-found place in this world and intoxicated by the carrot of power dangled before him, Cadell quickly learns the fine lines between good and evil and between trust and family bond.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Children's Book Week: Day 3

Okay, you've heard a lot of recommendations from many of us here at Little Shop of Stories, but our Pappa Bear, Dave, co-owner of the store, has been quite mum. No more, I say! Here's two titles that rank as some of his favorites from the year:

The blurb on the cover of Jacques Couvillon's The Chicken Dance states "Like having Napolean Dynamite and Frank Perdue as your best friends." That quote comes from Jack Gantos - author of the Joey Pigza books - and he's dead on. Eleven year-old Don Schmidt is our somewhat socially clueless protagonist and narrator who goes to school in Louisiana and raises chickens on the side. His success in chicken-judging contests leads him to an unusual friendship with the class bully and sends him on a search for his long-lost sister.

In his debut novel, Couvillon writes with great empathy for his subject, and also with great joy. This book is great fun to read, and I highly recommend it for readers around the ages of 10 to 15 - particularly boys.

Punk Farm on Tour rocks! Like Jarrett Krosoczka's original Punk Farm, this picture book is wonderfully anarchistic fun combined with playful illustrations. It's a great book for reading (and singing) to your kids. Not only that, but you can go to and download songs performed by the farm animals.
- Dave

Coloring Page Tuesday!

Okay, Wednesday. But it's Children's Book Week, and in all the excitement, I almost forgot! Enjoy this wonderful Thanksgiving themed coloring page from the wonderful Ms. Dulemba over at And remember, this and lots of other goodies (like more coloring pages) are awaiting you at her blog.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Children's Book Week: Day 2

Two more of our absolute favorites published this year--The first you may have heard about, it was just listed as one of the New York Times best illustrated books of the year. You may not have heard of this second title, but we consider it a hidden gem.

The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick is a marvelous novel about Paris, a train station, clockwork, film, a mechanical man, pursuing your dreams, an inventive orphan, discovery, hope, a bookish girl, and--above all--believing in your imagination. At times the story is told purely through illustrations, this is great for kids handling chapter books on their own, but would make a wonderful family read-aloud. Sure to be a classic, pick up this treasure of a beautiful book.

When Diane looks at the illustrations in Tummy Girl by Roseanne Thong and Sam Williams, she gets major baby craving. Who could resist those round little bellies and chubby legs or those brown curly locks on the preschool prima ballerina? This is a sweet sweet story about your little girl and how she will always be your little girl-- always be your tummy girl-- no matter her age. Tummy Girl is a great gift for any girl in your life, whether she is newborn, celebrating a birthday or graduation, or just because you want her to know how dear she is to you.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Children's Book Week: Day 1

Welcome to Children's Book Week! Terra's going to start us off with one of her favorite books from this year, Home of the Brave, by Katherine Applegate. She writes:

I read Home of the Brave by Katherine Applegate (yes, the Animorphs author!) while standing in a very long line, waiting to ship stuff from a convention in NY back here to the store. Boy was I glad the line was so long! This is a beautiful story (told in poems, not chapters) about a young African boy, Kek, who is new to America and trying to make sense of it all, including electricity, snow, and alienation.

I cannot stress how gorgeous, quiet, and penetrating the language is here--truly the prettiest book I've read all year, but also this is like What is the What for kids, a personal, honest (but not horrific) depiction of an all-too-sad reality in our world today.

Diane met Gretchen Hirsch, editorial assistant at Harcourt, last February at the Atlanta SCBWI conference. Gretchen talked about discovering her "first" author/illustrator, Jan Thomas, whose book What Will Fat Cat Sit On? was published earlier this year.

Gretchen's genuine enthusiasm for this book was contagious and without even seeing a finished copy of it, I ordered multiple copies for the store. We have been reordering it regularly ever since and it is a staple read at our Tuesday morning storytimes with Lynn.

What Will Fat
Cat Sit On? is a perfectly silly and irreverant picture book that begs to be read aloud at storytime, bedtime, or just about any other time. The illustrations are fantastic- simple, colorful, and engaging- the expressions of the animals as they worry about their fate are priceless. Thomas is definitely up and coming and her work is certainly reminiscent of this guy you might have heard a bit about- Mo Willems.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Children's Book Week!

Hooray for Children's Book Week, November 12-16. That's this coming week!

Every day we'll talk about two of our loves from this year right here on the blog. But be sure and come in the store because all our favorite titles from 2007 will be discounted 20%! So come in and check out our loves, and tell us about yours.

And yes, that's one of them right there in the corner, to whet your appetite!

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Coloring Page Tuesday!

Yay! This week Ms. Dulemba has a Thanksgiving themed coloring page!

And did you know you can see all her coloring pages by going here? Also, if you are especially proud of your coloring job and want to share it with the world, email her a (low-res) copy and she will post it on her blog at!

Monday, November 5, 2007

Book Focus: Clementine

Nora, age 4.5 (with help from Dad) says:

"Clementine is silly and funny and a really great story. I liked it a lot.

I like where Clementine cut her own hair off because she also cut Margaret's hair off first. The pictures show Margaret and then Clementine's cut hair. I laughed and laughed. My favorite thing is the way Clementine talks because it is like how I talk, and my favorite character is Clementine's little brother because she calls him vegetable names."

From Kate, Mom:

"We read this to Nora on a plane trip and it held her attention the whole flight--we read it straight through!

I enjoyed reading Clementine because it was as funny for me as for Nora. Clementine reminds me that all the things that can frustrate me in my own children are the things that will serve them well later on. "