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)

Madeline and the Cats of Rome
John Bemelmans Marciano

Pop-Up with Sabuda & Reinhart
Robert Sabuda and Matthew Reinhart

Caldecott Winner Chris Raschka
author of Yo?Yes!

Laughing Pizza in Concert

Rob Scotton
author of Splat the Cat

Adam Rex
author, Frankenstein Takes the Cake

Wren's Nest Storytime
Wren's Nest Storytellers

Da Chen
author of Forbidden Tales: Sword

Historical Fiction panel with authors
Kerry Madden and Mary Ann Rodman

Ghost Stories with author
Mary Downing Hahn

Sarah Prineas
author of The Magic Thief

The Harry Potter Quiz Show
with Harry Potter expert Cheryl Klein

Tony DiTerlizzi
author of Kenny and the Dragon

Teen Poetry Slam
Regie Cabico and Chris 'Cocktails' Cornell

Target Children’s Stage (Sunday)

Patrick McDonnell
author of Mutts Fly South

Junie B. Jones skits
Performed by Synchronicity Theater

Doreen Cronin
author of Thump, Quack, Moo

with snake handler Whit Gibbons

Andy Runton
author of Owly: A Time to Be Brave

Sci-Fi and Fantasy Panel
with authors Adam Rex, Brandon Sanderson, and Laurel Snyder

Evelyn Coleman
Author of American Girl Addie Mystery Shadows on Society Hill

Deborah Wiles
author of The Aurora County All-Stars

Picture Books!
with authors Babs Bell and Diane Shore

Rob Cleveland and Friends
with author and storyteller Rob Cleveland

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 (, 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.