Monday, December 29, 2008

Save the Date!




Little Shop is thrilled to announce that Greg Mortenson, author of New York Times bestsellingThree Cups of Tea: One Man's Mission to Promote Peace...One School at a Time will be in town on January 28th to discuss his new books, a young reader version of the original and a beautiful picture book for our youngest readers.

If you haven't heard Greg's story, you should know that it is one of hope and goodness and goosebumps of the best kind. In 1993, Greg attempted to unsuccessfully climb K2 and ended up lost and sick in the mountains of Pakistan. He wandered into a village where he was taken in by its residents and nursed back to health. Greg made a promise to these people that he would return someday and build the children of this village a school.

And he did.

Since then, Greg's organizations, the Central Asia Institute
and Pennies for Peace , have worked to build more than 70 schools in both Pakistan and Afghanistan and have brought educational opportunity to thousands and thousands of school aged children where before there was none.

Do you have goosebumps yet?

Greg will be speaking at Agnes Scott College in Gaines Auditorium at 1pm on January 28th with a signing and light reception to immediately follow. We will be on hand to sell copies of all three books but strongly recommend that you pre-order since we do expect a sizable crowd.

And yes, there will be plenty of goosebumps on hand as well.

-Diane

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

3 links-a-go-go

Our very own Diane Capriola gets lots of love from Sarah Prineas, author of The Magic Theif, over at the Class of 2k8 blog.

We haven't checked in with local artist Elizabeth Dulemba for a good coloring page for awhile. Go there now and see her super cute Christmas mouse.

Finally, on a sad note, one of my fellow bloggers has passed. As some of you might know, I also blog on Guys Lit Wire, a book blog for teen boys. Last week, "Dewey", an English teacher and book blogger died. If you get a moment, go check out her blog; I think you'll see why she'll be so very missed.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Giving Thanks for Great Books, Part Deux

I know that you have all been sitting at your computers, anxiously awaiting the arrival of this post. I won't make you wait any longer. Here are my favorite picture books of 2008- the ones that I am truly grateful for.





I fell in love with Terra, our store manager, all over again when I opened up the box that contained Emma Dodd's What Pet to Get. She had handpicked this one for our shelves and I was immediately captured by it (the cover alone will make you giggle). What Pet to Get is just a fun, larger than life read aloud about a boy trying to decide, well, I think you already know. He throws out all his ideas for the perfect pet to his mom, who very matter of factly points out to him all the reasons why his choices just might not be appropriate. His final decision and the last fold out page of this book will make you laugh out loud and feel grateful for great picture books.




I first read A Visitor for Bear by Bonny Becker and Kady MacDonald Denton at one of Little Shop's Tuesday storytimes. Seems as if Bear is just a homebody of a curmudgeon who despises visitors- that is, until he is visited by a tenacious but friendly little mouse eager for company. You and your little one will cheer and root for this persistent little mouse, and you'll probably giggle too. A Visitor for Bear is a lovely and sweet tale of friendship that easily deserves to be a favorite book of the year for everyone.



If you are a Little Shop regular than you know how much we adore Holly Hobbie's Toot and Puddle, those two porcine pals who room together in a cozy little cabin in Woodcock Pocket. Lucky for us, Holly Hobbie has introduced a new character to us in the form of Fanny, an endearing and imaginative little girl who decides to make a doll of her own when her mom refuses to buy her a Barbie type doll that all the girls have. For those of us that struggle with the appropriateness of pencil thin, busty and pouty mouth dolls for our girls, this is a great story for moms and daughters to share. And like Toot and Puddle, I do hope we will hear more from Fanny in the years to come!



The Donut Chef by Bob Staake is the story of a well loved baker who is forced to become more creative with his craft due to competition from another town baker. You and your little one will laugh (and maybe even be grossed out!) at the donut concoctions as the two battle it out for best baker, and you will both be relieved when our friend decides that perhaps simple is best. The Donut Chef is a rhyming romp with vibrant illustrations that help carry the story. It is a great read aloud for bedtime or anytime.



Everyone in Atlanta knows Pete the Cat- unless of course you live under a rock. And anyone in town with kids knows Mr. Eric. I am happy to report that Pete and Mr. Eric are two great tastes that taste great together in the form of Pete the Cat: I Love My White Shoes, Little Shop's best selling picture book of 2008. A perfect collaboration by Eric Litwin, musician and storyteller, and James Dean, local artist and creator of that ubiquitous blue kitty named Pete, this self published title is a perfect testament to taking life in stride no matter what. Plus it's just fun to read and look at!



No Diane's Best Of List would be complete without a book by Kevin Henkes. This year, Kevin gave us Old Bear, a warm and gentle story of an old bear hibernating and dreaming of the days when he was a young cub, and like the springtime, in full and glorious bloom. Henke's unique art style adds to the beauty of this story's message: Life is indeed good.

Here's to great picture books!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Hey, look what I found out there!


So, I'm wasting time on the internet yesterday, and on a website devoted to cartoonists depictions of their favorite literary characters, I come across this. Wow, is that exciting. What, you aren't excited by a Leah Hernandez drawing of Flora Segunda? Then you must not be familiar with either; let me fix that right now!

Flora Segunda is the fantastic creation of Ysabeau Wilce, and first appeared in the book Flora Segunda; Being the Magickal Mishaps of a Girl of Spirit, Her Glass Gazing Sidekick, Two Ominous Butlers (One Blue), a House with Eleven Thousand Rooms, and a Red Dog. Flora is independent, curious and willful, and the book is just great. Set in a magical alternate world California, Flora's tale is like the beautiful love-child of the story of Aladdin's Lamp and Zorro tales. I can't recommend it or its sequel enough.

The artist depicting Flora Segunda is awesome in her own right. Leah Hernandez is one of those rare American cartoonists who brought Manga (Japanese comics) sensibilities to their comics before anyone else, and did it without sacrificing a clear sense of her own personal style. Her graphic novels Clockwork Child and Clockwork Angels were groundbreaking and genre defining. But you may know her best for her work on the Hardy Boys graphic novels.

Update: added picture and links

Thursday, November 20, 2008

You Can Call Him Ted


Yes, it is ghostwritten (not by an established author, but by former Turner Broadcasting executive Bill Burke), but this autobiography is still all Ted. Call Me Ted is fun, breezy, and illuminating. There are ample side pieces from family members and people with whom Turner has had business associations (including President Jimmy Carter, Jerry Levin, and Michael Milkin) which are not all flattering, but do add another dimension to a not-so-typical biography from a very distinct individual.
Dave

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Giving Thanks for Great Books, Part One

This past weekend's chilly fall weather, as well as Thanksgiving's fast approach, has put me in a grateful sort of place this week.

Something that always makes me feel thankful is a good book.

I have had the honor and absolute pleasure of reading some really great new books this year. And although I would love to include them all in the list below, to keep you the reader engaged, I have decided to keep my list to those books which fall into the category of "Books I Wish Had Never Ended". Keep in mind that this list includes only middle grade and young adult fiction. A follow up post on picture books will follow in the next week or so!

Also keep in mind that the books are not listed in order of favorite- they are actually listed in order read!


The Penderwicks on Gardam Street by Jeanne Birdsall

Mom-daughter combos who shop Little Shop regularly probably already know what a fiend I am about The Penderwicks: A Summer Tale of Four Sisters, Two Rabbits, and a Very Interesting Boy, first published in 2005. In my mind, it was and remains a perfect and classic book. So admittedly, I was nervous about the sequel's appearance this past spring. How would it match up? Would it still be able to capture the beauty of that sibling bond shared by Rosalind, Skye, Jane and Batty? That feeling of summertime childhood nostalgia the original evokes? Would I still be crushing on Mr. Penderwick? I am happy to report that the sequel more than delivered. The Penderwicks on Gardam Street is a lovely continuation of a beautiful and endearing story about growing up, family, and friendship.

This year I was a member of the New Voices Committee of the Association of Booksellers for Children. From a stack of advanced galleys, I was charged to help choose the newest, hottest voices in middle grade and YA fiction. The next two entries were a direct result of my participation on this project.

The Magic Thief by Sarah Prineas

I was so happy to read this book! Part Harry Potter-part Oliver Twist, The Magic Thief tells the story of Conn, a young street urchin, who chooses one day to pick the pocket of a most powerful wizard and ends up his apprentice. He is cagey and street smart, but Conn also has a heart of gold- you can't help but root for him as he tries to save the wizarding world. Despite its familiarity to other well loved stories and young heroes, this book is new and inventive and certainly a fresh voice. I look forward to reading more about Conn's adventures!

The Patron Saint of Butterflies by Cecilia Galante

Agnes and Honey are like sisters, growing up side by side since infancy in a religious commune led by the dynamic, subtly powerful, and emotionally abusive Emmanuel. But when Honey begins to question her place as well as her belief, a drift develops between the two that threatens their bond. A Thelma and Louise type story of faith and redemption, truth and understanding, The Patron Saint of Butterflies is a beautiful and thoughtful testament to the healing power of friendship and family.


The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart



Oh my, how I gush about this book.

Frankie is coming into her own as a sophomore at a prestigious prep school. She's smart, she's beautiful, she's dating one of the hottest boys at school. What else could she need or want? Things get a bit tricky as she decides she wants it all and that all comes in the form of infiltrating an all male secret society of which her boyfriend is a member. Sure, this book is plain old fun- Frankie uses her smarts to anonymously manipulate and control the members of this group by getting them to engage in increasingly elaborate pranks that ultimately bring the school's administration to its knees-but at its core, The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau- Banks is a thought provoking examination of girls in the world and their power and asks the question "How much of your femininity are you willing to give up in order to be accepted in the male world?"

LOVED this book.


Something Wicked by Alan Gratz

Like The Penderwicks, here is another sequel I was worried about. The first, Something Rotten, was so completely new to me- a modern day retelling of Hamlet- that I seriously questioned how Alan could maintain that fresh idea. If I had placed a bet with Alan about this, I would probably now owe him a pizza from Mellow Mushroom.

Let me say that if Mr. Penderwick is not available, I am all about Horatio Wilkes, the crackerjack teen detective who also happens to be the main protagonist in Rotten and now Wicked, a retelling of Shakespeare's Macbeth. Horatio is a clever, witty, somewhat irreverent kind of guy who just wants to do the right thing. Problem is his friends are always in trouble (you know the regular sort of trouble- murdered fathers, power obsessed and obsessively handwashing girlfriends, all kinds of stuff that would make The Bard proud). Something Wicked is a fun and sexy mystery that rivals its predecessor.

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

I am barely into this one but can already tell that it will make my list. Gaiman is a genius and this may be his best one yet. For those faithful to our blog, you already know that both Justin and Dave completely adore this book in a manly sort of way. The Graveyard Book is the clever story of young Bod, a boy orphaned at an early age and being raised by ghosts in a graveyard. That's really all I can tell you now but trust me on this one- it is that good!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Linkfest!

Here's some links of things we've been looking at here at the store:

First, the new Horn Book newsletter is out this month. Horn Book is, in my opinion, the NYT Book Review of children and teen's lit. Go here to see what they have to say about a bunch of good picture books and some great graphic novels this month. To see the archive of their past newsletters, go here.

Next, check out this little video of cartoonist Emmanuel Guibert demonstrating his drawing technique for his graphic novel Alan's War, just released in the US by First Second press. Seen it and wondering what he's doing? He's drawing with water, then, when he drops the ink, it follows the water line. Pretty cool, eh? The book itself is fantastic. It's the stories WWII veteran Alan Cope related to the cartoonist after they struck up a friendship several years ago.

On November 21 at 8pm at PushPush theatre there will be a special screening of the movie Paperback Dreams, a documentary about independent bookstores today. Our very own pappa bear Dave will be there for a roundtable discussion afterwards. Check out this article about the movie and the event.

And, if there were ever an excuse to use the cliche "last but not least," this is it:
Our very own Terra has been mentioned in Laurie Halse Anderson's blog. Check out her beautiful face next to LHA's (she also name checks LSoS!).

Update: edited to insert link I left out the first time around.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Shaifer's review of Here Lies Arthur


Here Lies Arthur, by Philip Reeve
Here Lies Arthur is a creative twist on King Arthur. The story is told from the viewpoint of a young girl who is adopted into King Arthur's band. It shows King Arthur as a whole different person. Gwyna, a girl, plays tricks on King Arthur by becoming a boy and traveling with the king's band, all while keeping her true identity secret. She does this with the help of Myrddin, King Arthur's bard and storyteller. Once I had read the first few chapters, I couldn't stop until I was at the end. I would say that Here Lies Arthur is historical fiction, a war novel, and an adventure. It is fantastic and I recommend that you read it!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Everything You've Wanted to Know About the Catch-All Book Group

Once upon a time, in college, I tried to join a book group. I only made it to one meeting because my schedule was too busy and the books were largely written in another language (my paltry Spanish just wasn't prepared for that). But ever sense then, I've wanted to be in one. So this past summer, I put out the vibe to see if anyone else around town would be interested in a co-ed, post-college, pre-babies twentysomething book group. It turns out I'm actually not the only book nerd in Decatur who fits into that category. So the Catch-All Book Group was born.

And I've been so happy and excited about all of our meetings! Like all the other book groups here at Little Shop of Stories, we meet to discuss a different book each month. Unlike all the other book groups here, we drink wine and beer while having the discussions...one of many the perks of being a twentysomething instead of a middle schooler. A lot of times the drinks and food are homemade because we have some brewers and bakers among the members. I love the mix of people that come to the meetings. The members are quirky, smart and inclusive (We had four newcomers at our last meeting!) They have no problem admitting when something in the text is unclear, or when they disagree with something. And they're all funny so we spend a lot of time laughing, even when the book is serious...like our last book.

Last night we met to discuss Angela Carter’s dark and creepy The Bloody Chamber. Are you scared already just by the title? This collection of short stories is a smart compilation of the fairy tales you know and love from childhood—Red Riding Hood, Beauty and the Beast—but told in distorted, sensual adaptations. I'd go into more detail, but this is a blog for a children's bookstore so I'll keep it rated PG. But if you're looking for something different that will make your eyebrows raise (and make you blush), and you don't mind a little blood, try this one out.

Next month we're reading something a little softer and a little sweeter: Listening is an Act of Love. Tune in for more information on this book with a post about it from Diane. And if you feel like being a part of our fun and eclectic group, email me at littleshopofstories@gmail.com for more info and join us here at the shop on the second Monday of each month at 7 pm. And I promise, everything we read is in English.

--Krista Gilliam

Laurie Halse Anderson Inspires and Educates

I loved Laurie Halse Anderson for her penetrating voice, her unflinching eye, and the deft way she weaves “dusty” facts into breath-filled action and drama already, but man oh man when I met her in person yesterday, my head almost popped off with glee and my heart grew three times larger for her.

Because she is really, really cool. And erudite. And down-to-earth. And smart. And funny. And generous.

But more important, she is passionate, and that passion came through as she spoke to our crowd of 20+ about what motivated her to write her young adult titles (Speak, Catalyst, Prom and Twisted), and then discussed her newest National Book Award Finalist novel, Chains.

I knew I was going to like Chains before I even started reading it, (and I loved it even more when I finished it), so Laurie’s talk was mostly icing for me. After all, I was already familiar with her historical fiction prowess in Fever 1793. I knew —and was right— there would be shocking (but real!) facts, settings as detailed as any Museum of Natural History diorama (but better!), and characters who were true to their time but would touch my heart. In every way and then some.



But this is more than a good historical fiction novel, and hearing Laurie talk last night hammered this home even more. Chains is an important story about the true pursuit of freedom, and the quest for real liberty for all. It is the story of Isabel, a young slave girl, who is fighting for her own freedom as the Patriots fight for our country’s freedom all around her. It is about the miraculous power of the Declaration of Independence, and what it inspired in everyone who heard it. It is about what our founding fathers and the common people who fought with them succeeded in doing, but it is equally about what they fell short of achieving. It is about fighting against horrific odds and taking risks for what you believe, even if you’re not sure you’ll get to see the outcome.

I can’t imagine a better time, really, than right after the history-making election we just had, to read Chains. “We are this close [holds up thumb and forefinger pinching a very small space in the air] to coming to the end of the American Revolution,” Laurie said last night. “We’re almost there.” When you read Chains you’ll understand more about how it all started, and also more of why it’s so important for us to finish the job.

Listening Really Is An Act of Love



Are you a regular NPR listener? If so, you have probably heard of StoryCorps, a program endeavoring to chronicle the histories of normal, everyday people like us. StoryCorps embraces the idea that, in a world of celebrity gossip and sensationalism, the truth and beauty in everyday American life is more important and interesting than the tabloids could ever be.

Each Friday, StoryCorps features a recorded interview of two people- it could be a husband and wife, a mother and daughter, two brothers, two friends-who share a common love and respect for each other and a genuine willingness to listen to the other's most poignant and personal story. One week you might hear a couple talking about the joy a disabled or terminally ill child has brought to their lives, another week you might hear a teenage boy interviewing his grandfather about his childhood. The commonality in all these stories is the instance of two people taking the time to really listen and to be present with each other, the idea that listening really is an act of pure and simple love. Of course, not every story gets heard on NPR, but an audio copy of each story does get filed at the Library of Congress as an oral record of this project.

Although a StoryCorps mobile booth travels the country, there is a permanent booth located in lower Manhattan. I had the wonderful opportunity to visit the booth last weekend to interview a special friend while on a trip to New York. We crammed ourselves into this cozy room with only a small table, a dim light, and two microphones between us. Our StoryCorps facilitator, Mike, faded into the background as we began our conversation. We laughed, we cried. We connected. Despite my prior cramming as the interviewer, I put my list of questions away and we let the conversation unfold as only the best, most intimate conversations can. An hour later we walked out into the crisp November New York air with a CD recording of our time spent together in that little space. It was a beautiful day.

Last winter, at the shop, we carried the hardcover of Listening Is An Act of Love: A Celebration of American Life From the StoryCorps Project, a compilation of only a few of the tens of thousands of interviews that have taken place since the program began in 2003 in New York's Grand Central Station. I had spent many Friday mornings in my car already, listening to some of these stories, crying my eyes out, and marveling at the lessons taught not only the people speaking but to me, the listener. So, naturally the book was an added treat.

It was then, in my opinion, the perfect Valentine's gift. Now, the book is newly out in paperback, and it still makes a lovely gift for someone who you love to listen to. Or for someone who takes the time to listen to you. The interviews in this book will make you think about telling your story to a loved one, as well as listening to his or her story too. You don't have to cram yourself into a tiny booth in downtown NYC to do these things, after all.

Don't we all need to be better listeners? Don't we all want our stories to be heard?

Posted by Diane

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Did you see Chen Jiang Hong?

Chen Jiang Hong, author and illustrator of a number of picture books in his home country of France, was visiting the International School not far from here in Buckhead, teaching students art all week. We were lucky enough to have been contacted by his U.S. publisher, Enchanted Lion Books, to see about a possible store visit.

I'm so happy we jumped at this rare chance to meet an international master of picture books. he came for our milk and cookies storytime, and read from his book The Magic Horse of Han Gan. His books are gorgeous, and range from the poetic to the historical. But the most amazing part of his visit was the individual attention he gave to each of the children in the audience. The pictures here are all photos I took with my phone of the personalized nature of his signings.

Yes, he did take the time to do a portrait of the two kids he signed for. With the brush and ink he brought.

There was a teachers conference/lecture taking place in our upstairs space, and as the attendees began to file out, they saw Mr. Chen painting in the books here on the couch. Each one gasped, and I don't think a one of them walked out without a personalized book by this phenomenal artist.

I'm only sorry he didn't have more time, or I would have had him paint in every book we had. I truly count myself lucky for having met this wonderful author and artist, and we extend our warmest thanks for his visit.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Weekend update

Wow! There's a lot that's been going on this past week that exciting and new, so I'm just going to try and hit the highlights!

First, October's turning into a busy month for author visits. First, Michael Scott, of The Alchemist fame, Joseph Delaney, whose Last Apprentice series is a perfect kick-off to the month, and author/illustrator Daniel Kirk had awesome school and store visits! If you're looking for autographed copies of their books, we still have a few...


Now we're really looking forward to John Green coming Tuesday on his Paper Towns tour, as well as picture book author/illustrator Chen Jiang Hong this coming Thursday and local author Danny Schnitzlein next Sunday. Whew!


Second--some of our favorite authors have new books that have come into the store, and we're so excited. David Almond is my favorite middle grade and YA author ever, and his new book The Savage has just come in. It is fantastic! It inspired me to write several days' worth of blogging over at guyslitwire.

We also got in the Diary of a Wimpy kid do-it-yourself journal. This thing was to biggest hit at comics camp this past year. The publisher was kind enough to send every camper an advanced copy, and if that were the only thing some of the campers got to do all week, I think they would have been delighted: it's got questionaires, do-it yourself comics, and even some hysterical Jeff Kinney color comics in the book that weren't in our advanced copies we got last summer! AND, if you're feeling like you might be funnier than the Diary author, then there's also a contest you can enter!

Finally, I feel like an idiot for not mentioning this inspiration for The Graveyard Book when Dave and I reviewed it a few weeks ago!

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Where Picture Book Illustrators come from


Our good friend Elizabeth Dulemba stopped in the store the other day and saw this book on display. Her reaction?

"This is the book that made me want to be a children's book illustrator. I stared at the images for hours wishing I coudl travel into them. Garth Williams is the master!"

She wasn't the only one with fond memories of this--we've sold out (and have more on order), and every sale is to somebody who seizes it off the shelf, yelps with glee, and says "Oh my gosh! My copy of this is falling apart! I can't wait to show this to my kids!"*

The cool thing is how great these reprints are from Golden Books. I'm normally pretty suspect about nostalgia and kidslit, but I've really enjoyed what they've selected to re-release, whether it's classic anthologies like this, or the wonderful Little Golden Books done by artists like Tibor Gergely (love that name!) or legendary Disney designer Mary Blair.


*Not an exact quote. Some people insist their copies fell to pieces years ago. It must be said, different people love their books in different ways--and that's okay.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

The Graveyard Book: a conversation


Neil Gaiman's much anticipated The Graveyard Book has just been released, and Dave and I have both read it. So, for anybody wondering about it, here's a little exchange the two of recently had:

Justin: Let me kick off this conversation by saying flat out I think the book is great. The amazing thing about the book is not just how exciting it is as a premise (boy grows up in graveyard, raised by ghosts), but how well Gaiman builds on that premise. I can't think of another book that delivers quite as precisely and as completely on the ideas it churns up as this one. I could go on and on, but how about you--What did you think of it Dave?

Dave: I thought it was one of the five best books I've read in the past year. This includes everything from picture books to adult fiction. Graveyard is creative at every turn without ever going too far over the top. If anything, I wish he would have spent more time developing some ideas he mentioned only in passing. For example, are there generational divides among the residents of a graveyard? Parts of the book are downright creepy; this is not too surprising given Gaiman and the subject matter. To whom would you recommend this book?

Justin: Well, I think it makes a great read for October and Halloween. Yes, there are creepy bits (especially the opening, which some might find harrowing), but I think it's such a great adventure, I'd recommend it to the 10+ crowd. I think teens will love it--heck, I even think adults will really enjoy it. Of course, I think that's probably Gaiman's biggest fan base. I'm really glad that older kids and teens are getting his attention--he's one of today's finest fantasy writers, and I think this book proves it. It' funny that you wondered about generational divides among the ghosts... I wondered about things like how many other dimensions can the ghouls go to? What's the back story on Bod's guardian? I mean, I think we can guess...

Dave
: Guessing was a fun part of the book - figuring out who was what, exactly. Another great part was the interaction between the living (besides Bod, the main character) and the dead. Actually, there are just all kinds of great parts. Justin, can we sum this one up by simply saying that we highly recommend this book to just about anyone with a pulse?

Justin: I give it a resounding YES!

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

A grown-up recommendation


Dave says:

I was going to write a great review for Denis Lehane's Any Given Day, which came out yesterday, but the New York Times beat me to it. There is very little to add to what they had to say, except that even though 704 pages usually stretches the limits of my patience, I, too, found that this book is excellent. - Dave

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Birthday Parties at Little Shop are Back!

Once upon a time, in a location far, far away (or, well, only just on the other side of the square, but still), Little Shop of Stories had a private back room. Inside this magical room they would host many special events, including, best of all, BIRTHDAY PARTIES for kids of all kinds of ages. There were paper goods. And refreshing juices. And welcomed decorations of all kinds. And STORYTIME for a half hour--any type of stories the birthday person wanted! (Whether she was 2, or he was 9, or any age really) And more!

Now that your favorite children's bookstore in all of Atlanta has finally re-settled into its new location, we are happy to announce that BIRTHDAY PARTIES ARE BACK!! Yes, upstairs in our big, bright open mezzanine space you too can throw a terrific birthday party! Once again we are providing paper goods for everyone, low-sugar juices, setup & breakdown, and a themed storytime, but this time around you also get CUSTOM INVITATIONS included in the package! We can also offer some exciting add-ons like putting together gift certificates or books to include in your party favor bags, plus the possibility of delicious cupcakes from Button Cakes Bakery!

More detailed information (including prices) can be found on our website.

Call us to book your upcoming party today!

Updated to include links

Friday, September 12, 2008

Guest Review: The Hunger Games

Walker Downs, a student at Renfroe Middle School, sent in this review for The Hunger Games, the first book in author Suzanne Collins' newest series. Her previous series, The Underland Chronicles aka the Gregor books, is one of our favorites here at Little Shop.

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins is a great book. It is about our world in the future. The world is divided into twelve districts, all under
one ruling "capital" with very strict rules. Every year the capital picks two children from each district to compete in the hunger games, a fight
to death.

I liked this book because it is very intense and has a cool perspective. This book is different because in this future there are good changes and bad ones. In so many other books set in the future everything is either great or disastrous. The Hunger Games would be good for most middle school students.

If you liked the Gregor books, Suzanne Collins' first series, then you will love this one.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Check it out! People are talking about us!

In a good way! And by people, I mean authors. And by authors, I mean Sarah Prineas, whose book The Magic Thief was a huge surprise hit at the Decatur Book Festival, and Laurel Snyder, author of two books coming out this fall: Up and Down the Scratchy Mountains, a middle grade reader that we will be hosting a release party for this weekend (scroll down here to see our September event schedule), and her soon-to-be-released picture book, Inside the Slidy Diner.

Anyways, on Sarah's blog today, she interviews Laurel about lots of stuff, including their favorite bookstores--and we get a big shout-out. Thanks, and we love you too!

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Dave recommends

My own personal nonfiction reading - the kind that has little or nothing to do with working in a bookstore - revolves around the mid-20th century American West. On May 30, 1854, a huge expanse of land roughly defined by today's southern border of Kansas, the Missouri River, the Canadian border, and the Continental Divide was open to settlement. How we, as a nation, went about dealing with the consequences of the Kansas-Nebraska Act is fascinating (Bloody Kansas, Homestead Act, trans-continental railroad, Wounded Knee, etc.)

I am currently reading The History of Nebraska Law, edited by Alan G. Gless (Ohio University Press). We don't keep it on the shelves of Little Shop, but we'll gladly place a special order. You would have to be really interested in the details of the subject matter for me to recommend this one. The same goes for Locust, by Jeffrey Lockwood. It is a thorough history of the Rocky Mountain Locusts and deals with one of the great entomological mysteries of modern times: how a species that numbered in the trillions and created the largest plague of insects known to recorded history became extinct in a matter of 20 years. I liked it, but it's my thing.

On the other hand, I just started American Buffalo, by Steven Rinella (a correspondent for Outside magazine). This book has much wider appeal. The narrative concerns Rinella's hunt in Alaska for one of the great beasts after he won a treasured permit from the U.S. government. Within the story are historical and ecological accounts of the bison. The subject matter doesn't lend itself to storytelling in the manner of Jon Krakauer, but Rinella is a superb writer with a vast wealth of knowledge who can be funny, ironic, and dive into minutia all in the same paragraph.

Before I get you too excited, the book won't be released until December. (A more detailed review will appear at that time.) I'll try to convince Al to get the Guys Who Read book group to meet (meat?) over at Ted's to discuss this one.

Dave

(note from Justin: Steve Rinella also wrote one of our popular and highly recommended titles from last year: The Scavenger's Guide to Haute Cuisine, a really fascinating look at hunting down (literally) all the ingredients for a 45 course meal, all recipes taken from a two hundred and fifty year old hunter's journal. Another great book to look at next time you're in the store!

Update: Uh, I'm a dummy and had to go back and add a title -Justin

Monday, September 8, 2008

Decatur Book Festival: Original Art!

Here's one of the most awesome things about DBF--the illustrators who were so happy with the Decatur Book Festival and Little Shop of Stories that they gladly contributed a sketch to our Wall of F(r)ame*!

Here's the wall as seen by the all and sundry who visited us last weekend (with Dave):

And here's the sketches from the visiting illustrators (apologies for the sad phone-taken pics):

Adam Rex (Frankenstein Takes the Cake and The True Meaning of Smekday) lays down some Frankenstein:

Andy Runton's sketch of his title character Owly is over-the-top awesome. You can't see this, but he did the initial layout in blue pencil--

You also can't see just exactly how fantastic this Patrick McDonnell (creator of the comic strip Mutts as well as several great picture books) sketch is, but if you did, you would spontaneously yell "Yesh!"

Doreen Cronin (writer of the super-fun Click, Clack, Moo and Diary of a Worm series) even got in on the act. If you can't read my blurry photo, she wrote: "Why I don't illustrate my own!"

Unfortunately, my pictures of Rob Scotton's fantastic illustrations of Splat the Cat and Russell the Sheep were too blurry, so you'll just have to come in the shop see them when we add them to the Wall of F(r)ame!

*hopefully you hear that phrase in a booming Don LaFontain** echo chamber.

**you will be missed, sir.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Decatur Book Festival blogging continues!

Okay, I'm really behind in my DBF blogging, I know. Check out what the great Ben Towle had to say about the Decatur Book Festival here and here (especially his comparisons between comics conventions and book festivals).

That second link has some great pictures of Patrick McDonnell's presentation at the Target Children's Stage on Sunday.

Thanks, Ben!

Friday, September 5, 2008

Attn: Recall Notice

We just received a recall notice from the Consumer Product Safety Commission: Haba, a children’s toy company based in Germany, has recalled the rattles, stroller toys, puzzles and pacifier holders that have small mirrors in them. If you have purchased one of these please return it to the store for an exchange or refund. For more information on the recall you can visit Haba’s web site at: www. HABAusa.com/safety.

Decatur Book Festival report: comics!

Well, we're finally recovering from the huge blowout that was the Decatur Book Festival! The store was packed with people from even before opening on Saturday until we closed on Sunday... All in all, it was a huge success!

I'd like to talk about the whole thing, but there was so much, I'm going to have to break it up into bite sized chunks. First off, all the great cartoonists who came to DBF. Why them first? Because I can.--JCE


On Saturday, at the teen stage (called The Escape) there was a panel with Rich Tommaso, artist on the brilliant Satchel Paige biography from The Center for Cartoon Studies, and Hope Larson, whose Chiggers evokes the dreamy, wonderful days of summer camp. (Update: check out the "extra" Chiggers story on her website!

Rich and Hope discussed their careers, how they approach projects, tools of the trade, a whole lot more. Two very cool folks, and I'm so excited they came. Hope Larson had what I thought was one of the most provocative comments of the whole festival, saying, "If it were up to me, everything would be available on the web. I don't think online and print compete with each other, but publishers don't like that idea." (apologies to Ms. Larson if I butchered the quote)

Sunday, Rich also participated in a graphic novels panel with Ben Towle, whose historical novel Midnight Sun is a cool look into a failed attempt to reach the North Pole, and Robert Venditti, wearing two hats: that of employee of comics and graphic novels publisher Top Shelf and writer of the graphic novel thriller The Surrogates. Each of them discussed their histories, how they got into the comics business, the ins and outs of writers working with artists and vice-versa, and answered audience questions. A really interesting panel over-all. Interesting side note: Ben is working on an Amelia Earhart biography for the Center for Cartoon Studies, part of the same line of books as Rich's Satchel Paige book.

Also on Sunday, Patrick McDonnell, creator of the comic strip Mutts, "read" from his new picture book South. It's a wordless book, but it was fascinating watching him walk the audience through his book and his process. I had a really cool conversation with him afterward, in which we discussed his movement toward picture books (I asked him if that was intentional, considering the current sad state of newspaper comics pages--he said he'd always wanted to do picture books, but it was fortuitous that he was heading that way at this time...), and some of the other cartoonists at DBF this weekend.

Which brings me to the funniest moment of DBF for me: I mentioned Andy Runton (creator of the Owly series of pantomime graphic novels and comics) to Patrick McDonnell, who reacted favorably.

"Oh, yeah--I know Owly. Those are great books," he said. Or something to that effect. I don't remember exactly, which led to the grilling I got when, later that afternoon, I mentioned this to Andy.

"What did Patrick McDonnell say about Owly? What were his exact words?" Andy asked. I kind of shrugged, and said he liked Owly a lot, or something like that. I've got a horrible memory, to be honest. Andy, the nicest cartoonist on the planet, got as close to a growl as I've ever heard from him. "I need to know! My Mom's going to ask and I want to tell her that he likes my books!"

Tomorrow: picture books, plus photos of original art!

Update: artist links added!

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Decatur Book Festival this weekend!!!

We have a phenomenal program set up for the Target Children’s Stage at this year's DBF. There’s also a new Young Adult stage, titled The Escape, highlighting authors writing for a teen audience.

The festival kicks off with a parade, led by Madeline in celebration of the brand new Madeline book written by John Bemelmans Marciano, grandson of Madeline creator, Ludwig Bemelmans. Check out the schedule:

Target Children’s Stage (Saturday)

10:00-10:30
Madeline and the Cats of Rome
John Bemelmans Marciano

10:30-11:15
Pop-Up with Sabuda & Reinhart
Robert Sabuda and Matthew Reinhart

11:30-12:00
Caldecott Winner Chris Raschka
author of Yo?Yes!

12:00-1:00
Laughing Pizza in Concert

1:00-1:30
Rob Scotton
author of Splat the Cat

1:30-2:00
Adam Rex
author, Frankenstein Takes the Cake

2:00-2:30
Wren's Nest Storytime
Wren's Nest Storytellers

2:30-3:00
Da Chen
author of Forbidden Tales: Sword

3:00-3:30
Historical Fiction panel with authors
Kerry Madden and Mary Ann Rodman

3:30-4:00
Ghost Stories with author
Mary Downing Hahn

4:00-4:30
Sarah Prineas
author of The Magic Thief

4:30-5:00
The Harry Potter Quiz Show
with Harry Potter expert Cheryl Klein

5:00-5:30
Tony DiTerlizzi
author of Kenny and the Dragon

5:30-7:00
Teen Poetry Slam
Regie Cabico and Chris 'Cocktails' Cornell

Target Children’s Stage (Sunday)

12:00-12:30
Patrick McDonnell
author of Mutts Fly South

12:30-1:00
Junie B. Jones skits
Performed by Synchronicity Theater

1:00-1:30
Doreen Cronin
author of Thump, Quack, Moo

1:30-2:00
Snakes!
with snake handler Whit Gibbons

2:00-2:30
Andy Runton
author of Owly: A Time to Be Brave

2:30-3:00
Sci-Fi and Fantasy Panel
with authors Adam Rex, Brandon Sanderson, and Laurel Snyder

3:00-3:30
Evelyn Coleman
Author of American Girl Addie Mystery Shadows on Society Hill

3:30-4:00
Deborah Wiles
author of The Aurora County All-Stars

4:00-4:30
Picture Books!
with authors Babs Bell and Diane Shore

4:30-5:00
Rob Cleveland and Friends
with author and storyteller Rob Cleveland

5:00-5:30
Tim, Sally, Paco, Oscar, and Friends
with illustrator Elizabeth O. Dulemba and author Grady Thrasher

A more complete list of all authors, roundtables, performances and events can be found at the Decatur Book Festival website.

Be sure to check out our other venue, The Escape, the Teen/YA stage with another amazing lineup of authors:

Alan Gratz
Denene Millner
Hope Larson
Rich Tommaso
Brandon Sanderson
Sara Shepard
Elliot Blake
Joshilyn Jackson
Jill McCorkle
Chris Raschka

See you at the festival!
Dear Everyone,

First, we have a new website! Same place (www.littleshopofstories.com), but it now looks wonderful and we promise to keep it up to date. Our very special thanks to Shannon of White Barn Design who loves our store and did a miraculous job in capturing our essence.

Second, come to the AJC Decatur Book Festival this weekend!!! Labor Day weekend comes early this year - August 29th to 31st. Little Shop of Stories programs the events held on the Target Children's Stage, and we're way excited about the list of people coming. Just some of the authors, in order of appearance, include: John Bemelmans Marciano, Matthew Reinhart & Robert Sabuda, Chris Raschka, Adam Rex, Tony DiTerlizzi, Patrick McDonnell, Doreen Cronin, and Evelyn Coleman. (Go here for the complete schedule of all stages and links to biographies of the authors.)

Finally, since Decatur's Wordsmiths bookstore went public recently regarding their financial situation, we have been fielding questions from customers concerned with the well-being of Little Shop.

The short answer is: we're doing fine. We plan on being around for a long time.

The long response is more complex. I would guess that just about every Decatur business is feeling the effects of the downturn in the economy. Within the last year we've seen the closing of Square Roots, Pasta Please, Angel's, Zocolo, Rue de Leon, Tossed, and Boswell Gallery, to name only some. More recently Nease's Needleworks has announced that it will close its doors shortly, shifting to a web-only presence, and Crescent Moon has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. There are fewer people out on the streets of downtown; restaurants are not as crowded. Our bookstore has felt the squeeze as well. In addition, we've had to deal with one of life's high and inside curve balls that gets thrown at you from time-to-time.

At this point you must be thinking 'What can I do to help Little Shop of Stories prosper and thrive?'

Good question. The answer is: keep patronizing our store!

Buy a book. Relatively speaking, books are a truly inexpensive form of entertainment. Few things in life are grander than reading a great book. Little Shop has, I'm pretty darned sure, the best selection of children's books in the entire state. We also have a great, quirky collection of adult books, and we'll help you find one you'll love. For fans of graphic novels, Justin has put together an awesome selection of titles in a brand new section dedicated to this genre. (For those of you who think graphic novels are 'too graphic,' check ours out; there is a lot of interesting work being published, and we've been careful to bring in quality books appropriate for our store).

Think of us when buying gifts. Books make for a great gift. We also have a variety of cool stuff from fruit-powered clocks to art supplies to music CDs to lunch boxes. If you're still stuck, there is always the trusty gift card!

When the next birthday in your house rolls around, think of Little Shop as a fun place to have it. We love birthday parties. Our website has all the details.

Looking for camps for next summer? Think of us for that as well. This past summer we did Greek mythology, science, law, comics, and drama camps, as well as the great Goody for Girls! camp. There were lots of happy kids and satisfied parents. We'll be posting our 2009 schedule sometime in February.

Attend our events. During just this past month we have brought in people from near ("Mr. Eric" Litwin and James Dean, author and illustrator of Pete the Cat: I Love My White Shoes) and far (Irish author Eoin Colfer, whose Artemis Fowl series occupies and has occupied the New York Times best seller list for over 100 weeks). All events, including the book festival, are free, but don't be shy about buying books by these great authors and getting them signed and personalized. These also make great gifts!

We love what we do. We can't think of a better community to be doing it in, and we hope to be a part of your childrens' childrens' lives as well.

Thanks for all of your support,
Dave & Diane (& Terra & Krista & Rick & Justin & Cal & Matt & Al & Amy & Natalie & Casey)

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Fingerprinting and Mark Twain, a brief history


Justin wrote about Mark Twain's Pudd'nhead Wilson earlier this month and how this novel raised awareness of fingerprinting. Here's a little more detail.

A number of years ago I was doing research into a murder committed in 1886. This included reading extensive newspaper coverage of the crime. A coroner's jury converged on the scene, and it was noted that a 'bloody fingerprint' was found on the side of a dry goods box in which the body of a 10-year-old girl was placed. To my amazement, the fingerprint was never mentioned again, even through summaries of the testimony of the 30 or so witnesses called at trial.

I then researched fingerprinting. Essentially, the only person in the United States who had written of fingerprinting as a tool of criminal forensics by that time was Mark Twain. His Life on the Mississippi, published in 1883, contains a collection of essays and short stories revolving around that mighty river and the people who navigated it and lived with it in their blood. One such story concerns the memories of a man who had attempted to catch the killers of his wife and child by using fingerprint evidence. (Fingerprinting is a central plot device in Pudd'nhead, written ten years later.)

In all likelihood, Twain's inspiration came from a paper published in the journal 'Nature' in 1880. Henry Faulds, an Englishman who served as a medical missionary in Japan, developed a side interest in ancient pottery. He came to notice that the artists left a distinctive fingerprint on the bottom of the pots, and came to categorize the works by their creators. Faulds went on to note that such techniques could be used to catch criminals.

Fingerprinting was slow to catch on at first. It was not until 1903 that finger prints were systematically used in the United States, at Sing Sing Prison in upstate New York. By 1924 a national system was developed.

While Pudd'nhead Wilson helped establish the usefulness of fingerprints in the national consciousness, law enforcement agencies were slow to understand its potential. Mark Twain, once again, was far ahead of his time.
- Dave

DBF author in the news!

Check this out-- An article in the Asheville, NC Citizen-Times about cartoonist-couple Bryan Lee O'Malley (creator of the awesome-fantastic Scott Pilgrim series) and Decatur Book Festival Teen-stage cartoonist Hope Larson, whose graphic novel Chiggers is terrific.

Although the article focuses on her husband Bryan, I think her personality shines through, especially in her quips at the end. It also says that she has been too shy to accept awards that she's won--does that mean that DBF is super lucky to have a visit from Ms. Larson?

Saturday, August 16, 2008

New Website! New Look for the Blog!

Yay! Thank you to Shannon for the great new look to our website AND for making the blog such a huge part of that redesign. YAAAAAYYY!

Friday, August 15, 2008

Guest Review: Barnaby Grimes

Are you a fan of the Edge Chronicles? Well, Chris Riddell and and Paul Stewart, creators of that series, have a new series that's out already in their native England, but will be released over here in the coming months. The first book, Barnaby Grimes and the Curse of the Night Wolf, comes out September 9, and we're really looking forward to it here at Little Shop. But don't take my word for it--check out what reviewer and store customer Sebastian has to say:

"I really liked Barnaby Grimes and the Curse of the Night Wolf. I would recommend it to any one of my friends that likes scary stories. It's a really good book."

Thanks Sebastian! This series looks to be a mystery series in historical England with lots of crazy, over-the-top scary encounters for the hero Barnaby Grimes to puzzle through.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

School's In! (Or: how to hide a book in class)

So, school's back in session for most folks, and the time has come to address the most crucial issue facing kids in school today:

How do you read the book you're REALLY interested in during class? How many times have you been caught hiding the new Percy Jackson, Artemis Fowl, or Eragon* book in your lap behind your desk?

(Little Shop extended-family-member Kate says she was never caught. She always sat cross-legged in her seat, and hid books behind the pages of her notebook, which she propped in her lap against her desk.)

Well, you could always make a book cover for your book--there's lots of instructions and templates out there on the web. Just make sure that the label on the book is "Science" or "English" or whatever. The only problem with this is that the book you want to read has to be about the same size as the textbook for the class.

So, what's the solution to this quandary? Back-to-school Little Shop member Natalie mentioned the Amelia's Notebook series by Marissa Moss. She loved them back in the second, third, fourth grade. The books look like journals from the outside (well, except for the cover art), so at first glance, it looks like your class notebook.

In a similar vein, the newest editions of The Big Book of Girl Stuff and The Big Book of Boy Stuff have reversible covers. the insides make these big volumes look like workbooks for class subjects.

Hmmm, not paying attention in class--probably not the best advice, but better than doodling, right?



*Are you ready for Brisingr? We're having a midnight release party on the 19th of September. Have you reserved your copy?

Friday, August 8, 2008

Pete the Cat!

We had an awesome storytime last night. local musician Mr. Eric and local artist James Dean teamed up recently to make the great picture book Pete the Cat: I Love My White Shoes, and they were here for songs and drawing as they spotlighted this very fun book.

Everybody was dancing as Mr. Eric guided us all in a rousing chorus of Pete the Cat songs.

Come by the store and check out this fantastic book by two great local talents (and if you're wondering what the music was like, it even comes with a CD!) We have lots of signed copies!

Wondering about Pete the Cat? Here's a link to the official website.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Back To School

School starts Monday and you know what that means—Have you read your Summer Reading books?

It seems like most schools these days just let students read a set of books from a broad list of titles, both classic and contemporary, with something on that list which would appeal to just about anyone, but when I was coming along there were specific books you were supposed to read and you avoided them like the plague and read everything under the sun instead.

Two titles in particular stand out:

Pudd'nhead Wilson, by Mark Twain.
I chose to read this because it was the shortest book on the list that year, a critical asset for a book you check out of the library on the morning back to school and English is at 1pm that day. Good Luck! Actually, this classic forensic mystery is the story that put fingerprinting on the map. Before Mark Twain wrote this, most ordinary folks didn’t know that the swirled patterns on the tips of fingers are unique to each individual person.

Riddley Walker by Russell Hoban
This book sticks out in my mind for several reasons, not the least of which is that at the time this title was assigned to me it was out of print, so in the Spring the instructor mailed photocopies of the entire book to every student who was to take AP English that Fall. Luckily, this brilliant, amazing book has since come back in print. Hoban is better known for his Frances picture books (A Bargain for Frances is a favorite around my house) which were illustrated by his wife, Lillian).

Riddley Walker is a coming of age tale, written as a series of letters or diary entries from the title character. Riddley is a young man living in a post-apocalyptic Britain, writing at a time when memory of the written language has faded, so the entire book is written in a phonetic future-speak which you have to decipher to understand. It was tough, but awesome. I remember pacing around my back yard reading sections aloud, my head swimming with the power and richness of this unique reading experience.

Hopefully, of course, you’ve already read your Summer Reading assignment, but even if you haven’t:
Have a great school year!

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Drama Camp Theater


Decatur, August 2nd--The theatrical event of the season just took place and if you missed it, we've got a review right here for you. The Littlest Dinosaur Festival Revue played its single engagement to a packed house of exclusive guests. This tour-de-force of drama featured stand out performances from each and every actor.

The plays, including an adaptation of author Michael Foreman's The Littlest Dinosaur, were performed by the brilliant and talented members of Little Shop of Stories' Dramarama Camp. Never before has such a fantastic set of plays graced the stage of Little Shop's theater space.

In addition to the fun, frolicky, and sensational "Littlest Dinosaur" adaptation, the cast, who also did all costuming and set design, performed several skits written during camp by campers themselves.

What a wonderful afternoon of theater for Decatur! One can only hope we'll see the likes of it again someday.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

This Week: Drama Camp!

Our lovely and talented Little Shop drama queen Lyndsey McAdams is directing our final summer camp--Dramarama Camp! This is a week-long theater experience in which campers prepare and perform a play (based on the picture book The Littlest Dinosaur by Michael Foreman), design their and create their own costumes, design and create the sets, and visit the theater department of Agnes Scott to have an in-depth tour of a real, live theater!

Lyndsey just graduated from Agnes Scott where she majored in Drama with a special focus on children's theater. She has adapted the major play which the kids will perform under her direction, as well as guided them through the writing and performing of skits which each group will create on their own.


Yay for drama! Have you seen any of the pictured plays performed?