Saturday, October 31, 2009

(Not So Scary) Halloween Party!

Thursday night our regular storytime became a super-special Halloween, wear-your-costume, go out trick-or-treating-after storytime. Check out some of our visitors:

We had a huge number of people here--kids dressed up as doctors, monsters, superheroes, princesses, dogs and cats, everything under the sun. Wow! there were at least 3 times more folks for this Halloween storytime than any previous year. It was great. And a big thank you goes out to our neighbors: The Brick Store, Starbucks, Zocalos, and Squash Blossom. They all helped by giving out candy to the eager trick-or-treaters.

Thank you all, everyone who came. This Halloween has seen some of our best events ever!

Friday, October 30, 2009

Learning Groove at Little Shop

Please turn your head sideways until I can figure out how to rotate this image.

If you're not already aware that the Learning Groove teaches music classes at the shop, check it out! Classes are for parents of children who are ages newborn to four years, and are incredibly fun. I have to admit that I get a little envious when a class is going on upstairs- especially today, when everybody came in their Halloween best, and sang monster songs. I have friends with young kids who are utterly tired of hearing the same insipid kid music over and over, but the Learning Groove music is actually something I like to listen to (and dance to, and wiggle to, and clap to...). So go look at their website! The next session begins the week after Thanksgiving.

- Marcy

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Liar, Liar, Pants on Fire (Sort of)

Okay so this morning I just finished a book and I totally do NOT know what to think about it. The novel is Justine Larbalestier's newest, Liar about a girl named Micah who is, basically, a total liar. She says so herself. Many, many times. And then she'll backtrack and tell you the actual truth about things later in the book--the truth about some of the lies she told that you didn't even know were lies. Sort of. Because then sometimes it's not the truth, what she tells you (after she admits she lied), but are instead other lies. Sometimes. And so Micha's sometimes-boyfriend Zach is dead. And, well, she's impliciated. Kind of. But she could be lying about that, too . . .

And it goes on and on up until the very end of the book. Really.

Which, as a premise, is completely cool. I mean, hello? You are reading the first-person narration of this person whom you absolutely cannot trust. She tells us she's trying to come clean, and be true, but quickly it's clear she's not 100% cured. At all. So then, as a reader, you're like "Whoa what can I believe here?" I love this idea so much and I've never, ever seen anything that addresses the issue of lying--let alone pathalogical lying--in teen books. So I am really in love with this idea and it's great that Larbalestier was able to come up with this concept. (And even if she wasn't this interesting liar, Micah is a really refreshingly new, edgy character. That is, if she's telling the truth about herself.)

Which is why, when the twist comes--and, yes, there is a really big twist--I have to admit I was a little disappointed. Because then the story follows along those threads, and even though you're like "Well wait she could be lying about all this too," the way Larbalestier writes the story (and how much time the rest of that twist-plot takes in the book), it kinda pretty much doesn't seem like Micah's lying about it. It kinda seems like she's telling the truth.

Sort of.

So I totally don't know what to think. And the author isn't any help either because she says on her website: "I deliberately wrote the book to be read in at least two different ways. You may think you know what kind of book it is and what kind of person Micah is, but you'll find other readers disagree completely. There is no one right way to read this book."

Which is why, I guess, you should read it (though I'm not sure I'm recommending it, because I don't know what to think). But at least then I'll have someone to talk to about it. Someone who can help me (maybe) see the truth about this book.


The Graveyard Party: Tomorrow

7 p.m.
Get your spook on!

Schools for Afghanistan

Greg Mortenson's visit to Decatur in January has remained one of the highlights of this year.  His publisher, Penguin, asked if we were interested in hosting him when his new children's books were being released.  Agnes Scott was gracious enough to co-host and to offer the use of Presser Hall.  Despite the fact that he visited us in the early afternoon of a very rainy weekday, about 1,000 showed up to listen to Greg speak about his work in Afghanistan and Pakistan, building schools in remote villages.

Mr. Mortenson's work has continued.  According to Nick Kristof of the New York Times, Greg's Central Asian Institute has now constructed 39 schools in Afghanistan and 92 in Pakistan.  (In an op-ed piece today, Kristof argues the importance of this approach.)

Three Cups of Tea, the Young Readers Edition of that book, and Listen to the Wind (a picture book), each reside prominently on the New York Times bestsellers lists.  In fact, Three Cups of Tea has been on the paperback nonfiction list for 142 consecutive weeks.

A publishing success.  A blueprint for hope.

- Dave

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

The Graveyard Party: Two Days To Go

You are cordially invited to attend Little Shop's The Graveyard Book Halloween Party.  Why, you may ask, are we doing The Graveyard Book Halloween Party?

Well, this is why.

We tried our darnest to get Neil Gaiman to come to the AJC Decatur Book Festival this year.  There was an e-mail campaign.  We contacted people we knew at Harper Collins.  We begged.  We failed.

As Mr. Gaiman himself put it, when he is asked "How can I get you to come to my bookstore in Vermont/New Orleans/Florida/New Brunswick/Nevada/Alaska etc?" and I tell them I don't know, because really I'm not going to take a couple of days off work (once you count the going and the coming back) to go and sign somewhere, no matter how nice the store and the people."

Being the persistent people that we are, we're trying again, particularly since Mr. Gaiman has opened a window of opportunity. "How?" you might ask.

"This is how. You have a party. In your bookshop. Better still. You have a Hallowe'en Party in your bookshop. You can have the Hallowe'en party anywhere in the month of October. And you theme it around The Graveyard Book. ... Then you get your documentation off to Harper Collins fast ... and they will decide who threw the best party and whose customers were the most imaginative and enthusiastic, and what was the most in the spirit of The Graveyard Book. ... And a winner will be announced ... Then, in December 2009, I'll turn up on a mutually-agreed day, pens at the ready, to do a reading and an Odd and the Frost Giants signing for the winning store."

So we're doing it.  Friday night.  October 30th.  On the Eve of All Hallows Eve.  7pm

There are some 35 other bookstores in North America also competing for Neil's affections.  (You can click here to look at the entire list on this map.)  But ours will be best because, after all, this is Decatur.

It will be rather frightening, so we're limiting attendance to people who have been aged at least 9 years.  The theme will be based on The Graveyard Book.  Dress up in your best spookyness.

For the unaware, The Graveyard Book contains the story of Nobody Owens who, as an orphaned toddler, comes to live in a graveyard to be raised by ghosts, witches, and other creepy residents. (To read our review of The Graveyard Book, check out our book blog.) Graveyard has occupied the New York Times Bestsellers List for the past year and along the way has won the Newbery Medal, the Hugo Award, and Little Shop's undead affection.

For the younger crowd, come on Thursday night at 7pm for our Halloween Storytime.

See you.

- Dave

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

On Food

For as long as I can remember I have been eating food. My definition of food was always, "Delicious fuel for my body." And that's the only thought I really ever gave it. I considered processed snack foods and carrots the same thing. Food. But after reading Michael Pollan's book, In Defense of Food, my perspective has been totally changed ... for the better. The book is about how food, over the past hundred years, has changed from its natural state to processed fake food. Pollan talks about the obesity epidemic and provides many explanations for its occurrence. Pollan also explains why foods that boast fat free and low fat, are actually worse than the regular form of that food.

After a couple hundred pages that inform you on everything you would ever want to know about food (while still managing to be surprisingly interesting), Pollan gets into what you should do about food. He doesn't provide some elaborate diet like many authors before him, he just gives three sentences. "Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants." After reading the first two-hundred pages of this book, this is something that I am definitely going to follow.

Michael Pollan also just released a Young Reader's Edition of the book, The Omnivore's Dilemma: The Secrets Behind What You Eat. Little Shop has it in stock, though it keeps selling out.  So with all this confusion going around these days about what's healthy and what isn't, read this book to clear your mind and realize that the best kinds of foods are really natural.

- Cal

Magic School!

I love autumn, and I ADORE Halloween. And books. So I am always pleased to mush all those delightful things together and read a great book about going to school to learn magic. Believe it or not, Harry Potter isn't the first kid, or the last (or - and no throwing rocks at the bloggers- necessarily even the best) to head off for Amazing Adventures at an institution of magic and/or academia. If you dig this sub-genre, here are a few recommendations to get you started:

1. In Ursula LeGuin's Earthsea novels, the young blacksmith's apprentice Ged is noticed by a traveling wizard and taken off to the wizarding school on the island of Roke, where he surpasses expectations and becomes the Archmage (sort of like the principal of the school plus master wizard) as well as some other inconsequential achievements like, oh, reversing death and making friends with dragons (who are wild and fierce and not at all cute or whimsical).

2. In T.H. White's classic The Once and Future King, Arthur grows up believing himself to be an orphaned charity case- certainly not a future king- until Merlin takes him in hand and tutors him in politics and magic. In addition to reforming the world's concepts of  strength, chivalry and justice, Arthur gets to turn into animals and wield a magic sword.

3. For the girls, we have authors Caroline Stevermer and Patricia Wrede, who, separately and together, have written a ton of great books about learning magic in smarter, snarkier versions of girls' finishing schools, in situations ranging from Victorian England to alternate-reality Wild West (such as: Sorcery and Cecelia, or the Enchanted Chocolate Pot; The Thirteenth Child; A College of Magics; A Scholar of Magics; Mairelon the Magician; and quite a few others).

And speaking of snark, there are a few very mentionable books in this category with main characters at boarding school learning only the usual academic subjects, but who are so smart it just seems like magic: The Mysterious Benedict Society and its sequels, The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks, and Special Topics in Calamity Physics all spring immediately to mind.

And special mention goes to the following books as well::

1. Knightley: a blatant (but non-magical) Harry Potter knockoff, but pleasant to read;
2. A Hat Full of Sky by Terry Pratchett, wherein the intrepid Tiffany Aching learns to be a witch, though not at boarding school;
3. Tam Lin by Pamela Dean, in which a young lady goes to college and has to fight the Faery Queen to save her boyfriend;
4. The Blue Sword by Robin McKinley, which is about a girl who is surprised to learn that magic even exists, and then is shocked to discover just how good she is at it;
5. Ella Enchanted, which is about learning that willpower is stronger than magic; and
6. The Goose Girl, in which a girl discovers that magic and willpower are each very important, but not as important as the two combined.

- Marcy

Attack of the Killer Bunnies

The Capriola kids love this new game called Killer Bunnies and the Quest for the Magic Carrot*. It's a cut-throat card game where you try to distroy your opponents' bunnies with flame throwers, poison and killer roaches while keeping your own bunnies well-fed and safe from Eboli viruses and barbeques. It's action packed, nasty, and somewhat disturbing. For example: I just drew a random card to help illustrate my point. The card reads: "Terrible Misfortune! One of your bunnies is exposed to illegally buried Plutonium, loses its fur, convulses for bit and dies!"

Naturally, we ordered copies for the store.

Diane warned me that for some strange reason kids have an easier time grasping the involved and complex instructions than adults, but I ignored her. I mean, how hard could it be to kill a bunny? So last week Terra and I tried our hands at Killer Bunnies. We spread out the directions and cards and buckled down for a night of bunny distroying. Turns out, Diane was right. A few days later Terra consulted the Capriola kids for tips and I think now we get the hang of it. But trust me (as complicated as it may seem to grown ups at first) this game is so fun. You need to learn to play.

When can I learn to play, you ask. Here at Little Shop of Stories, of course! Next Monday (November 2) City Schools of Decatur are out for the day, so we'd love for you to come spend the afternoon with us! We're having a Game Time from 2-4 pm where you can bring your own favorite games and hang out here with your pals. You'll also have the chance to learn how to play Killer Bunnies and eat snacks with us. I promise we won't feed you radio-active carrots or anything like that. But your bunnies might not be so lucky.

 Hope to see you then!

*Parents, keep this game in mind come Christmas present time! This makes a great gift for the son/daughter/neice/newphew/grandkid/neighbor/classmate in your life.


In Memoriam: Liz Conrad

Our friend, Liz, passed away this past summer.  She's been a friend of the shop's pretty much since we opened when we fell in mutual love with one another.  Her artwork has graced the pages of many board books and picture books, and like her, her illustrations are always warm, bright, and full of hope.

Last weekend, I attended a Celebration of Life in honor of Liz that was given by her family-- her husband and her two lovely daughters.  Many people spoke about the impact that Liz had had on their lives, and almost everyone who spoke used the word "light" to describe her.  Here's how her "light" shone in her work:

Liz was a beautiful person.  She lived life selflessly and gracefully, and upon entering a room, her light really shone.  If you were having a bad day, it immediately got better.  We are honored to have known her and will continue to shine her light through her wonderful work.


Monday, October 26, 2009

Read the Book Before You See the Movie!

December 11, 2009 is the release date for the film adaptation of The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold.

I hope you've already read this novel, but if you haven't, I urge you to do so before you see the film.  When I went to see The Time Traveler's Wife in the theater, I got to see the trailer for The Lovely Bones, and surprisingly, the brief glimpses I did see seemed pretty spot on and true to the story.  However, two hours on the big screen can never capture the depth of emotion and insight found on the pages of this book.

I read The Lovely Bones about 7 years ago while at the beach with family.  I knew nothing about it when I picked it up at a bookstore-- it was the cover which captured my attention-- and I purchased it quite impulsively.  I took it back to the beach house that night.  I struggled through the first chapter, and upon finishing that first chapter at page 15, I had to put it away for a few days.

Here's the thing you might not know about me:  I hate to read or watch anything remotely scary, gruesome, suspenseful, or gory.  It took me years to read Coraline by Neil Gaiman, and that's a children's book.

The first chapter of The Lovely Bones is horrific.  It's especially horrific if you are a mother of a daughter, as I am.

The Lovely Bones is the story of Susie Salmon, a 14 year old girl who is murdered by a neighborhood pedophile in a cornfield.  (Don't be mad at me.  I didn't just spoil the book for you because all of this happens by page 15.)  The first chapter is easily the most disturbing first chapter I have ever read.  My imagination got the better of me, and that is why I had to put the book away for a bit.

I am here to tell you that I am so grateful that I had the guts to pick this book up again.

The Lovely Bones is truly a coming of age story-- with a twist.  The rest of the story follows Susie as she settles into heaven grieving her lost youth--she'll never fall in love with a boy, never learn to drive a car. As she processes all of this, she is also watching her family back on Earth struggle with her death in fractured and sad ways, then move past their grief and on with their changed lives, and also attempt to uncover the identity of who killed her.  A story which runs alongside Susie's slow acceptance of her death and her family's grief is that of the seriel killer who murdered her and the detective desperate to identify that person.

Like bones, we can be broken.  With time, broken bones knit together and heal.  They are never the same, however. The Lovely Bones is a profound and haunting story of hope and the beauty of life despite brokenness. It is about being transformed despite the darkness and sadness that can hide in our hearts as well as in the hearts of others.

I hope you'll read it.


Sunday, October 25, 2009

Over in the Hollow

I have a confession to make..I spend a rather large portion of my paychecks on books. Dave even joked once that he needed to give me store credit instead of a check. I almost agreed, but I restrained myself. Every holiday I pick a favorite book but I have so many to choose from - its difficult! Thankfully, I have amazing co-workers that show me books they think I will love and this is how I discovered my favorite for the Halloween season. (Thanks Krista!!)  The winner is - drum roll, please - Over In The Hollow by Rebecca Dickinson , illustrated by S.britt.

The story takes you through the activities of 13 classic Halloween characters counting up to the grand finale of flying ghosts. Dickinson's descriptive language and refreshing rhyme scheme makes Over in the Hollow a fun read through out. Also, the illustrations? Love at first sight. I'm a sucker for S.britt's style and his images remind me of the 'good 'ole days'. (Charley Harper, ect) My favorite page, hands down, is the page with the owls. I liked it so much I almost decided to be the sleepy owl for Halloween. Bottom line, Over in the Hollow is a must have for your book shelves. But, beware, it's so catchy it may get stuck in your head.

I told you the page with the owls was awesome.

- Sydney

Saturday, October 24, 2009

LSOS Becomes Little Shop of Spooks

Evening Ghouls and Gals!

Although things have been busy at the shop, we still made time for seasonal decorating. (There's a little "Martha Stewart" in all of us, I think) Marcy and her husband stayed late after the store closed and spruced the place up a bit.  I came by for a few hours to help, and contributed the stained glass window.  We all had a blast and I think its safe to say the store looks extremely Spooktacular. The purple house? Now a gloomy church. The bathroom nook? Now an eerie gate. The front window? A jungle of bones and ivy, of course. So enter if you dare!! Little shop of stories has been taken over by goblins, ghouls, and everything "Halloween".

- Sydney

PS. Don't forget all of our Halloween events! On October 29th, for our younger crowd, we will be having a scary-theme story time and some trick-or-treating around shops nearby. On October 30th is our "Graveyard Book" party ages nine and up at 7pm. There is going to be great food, live music, activities, and a haunted house. Feel free to dress up in your costumes on both days and we hope to see you there! It promises to be frighteningly good.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Big Frog

Our frog, Atticus, has spent most of this month reading the new Mo Willems pop-up book, Big Frog Can’t Fit In. It’s a great little (or make that “big”) tale about friendship, and things pop and jump out on every page. But Atticus just likes the frogs. In all honesty, it’s not quite as endearing as Willems’ pigeon or Knufflebunny books, but it’s fun to try to find the hidden pigeon in this one and, if you’re like Atticus and you like frogs, they’re hopping out all over the place here.
- Al

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Addams v. Munsters

Vic Mizzy died last week at the age of 93. He had a long musical career, but was best known for writing a truly great TV theme song for The Addams Family. (Mizzy also composed the one for Green Acres.)

There was that "neat, sweet, petite" part.  There was the very odd rhyming:

There house is a museum
When people come to see them (see-um)
They really are a scream (sree-um)
The Addams Family

And, of course, there was the finger snapping.

With Mizzy's death coming on the approach of Halloween, memories of The Addams Family and its competitor, The Munsters, have been awakened from the dead.

Though both have become classics in reruns, neither show had a long original life; each ran only two seasons (1964-66).  However, both featured great actors and cool sets, and were hugely popular in my male tween demographic.

Being asked which show you preferred became a kind of Rorschach test not unlike choosing between Ginger and Mary Ann, or naming your favorite Beatle. The Addams Family played on the family's eccentricities and was hipper while The Munsters' focus was on the family's normalcy and its tone was more sentimental.  Gomez Addams was a flamboyant trust-fund baby.  Herman Munster was a regular blue collar Joe.

My 10-year-old brain thought The Addams Family was far superior, though The Munsters have won out since I've gotten older.  However, there was never any debate as to the better theme song.

- Dave

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Runemarks Rules--In Both Versions!

So, back in 2008 we had the author of Runemarks, Joanne Harris, visit us at the bookstore and totally blow our minds with her awesome Norse mythology tales and her new book (it was new then, anyway). The cover alone was completely mezmerizing, but the story inside was even better: the tale of Maddy Smith, girl with a "ruinmark" and a penchant for attracting goblins, for one, not to mention possessing some (forbidden) magical powers herself. It smacked of Terry Pratchett and The Cabinet of Wonders and a lot of other fantastic adventures involving strong, smart girls and their quests to save humanity (or at least their families or villages), and we hand-sold it like crazy.
  Now after what feels like it was a really long wait, Runemarks has finally come out in paperback, and I can't wait to handsell it to another batch of smart, adventurous, magically-inclined boys and girls. And look how easy it will be with this awesome new cover!


Before we (and by we I mean everyone in the entire world) fell in love with Neil Gaiman's The Graveyard Book, we (and again, I'm including the masses in this statement) loved Coraline, his creepy novella about a curious girl and her adventures in a world similar to her own. When she climbs through a locked passage on a boring rainy day, Coraline ends up in a parallel universe with an "Other Mother" who seems like a much improved doppleganger...that is, until she won't let Coraline leave. If that's not enough to chill your spine, everyone living in the other world has buttons for eyes. How creepy is that?

Anyway, Coraline won the 2003 Hugo Award for Best Novella, the 2003 Nebula Award for Best Novella, and the 2002 Bram Stoker Award for Best Work for Young Readers. It has been turned into a graphic novel and last year the amazing stop-motion 3-D movie came out. It's rare that a movie can live up to a book, but this film captures Gaiman's flair for the fantastical with amazing attention to detail and beautiful visual effects. The movie is so much fun to watch, for both the plot and for the artistic touches. Plus, did I mention how creepy it is?

So since we (I'm not including anyone other than Little Shopsters in this statement) like to celebrate all holidays for weeks leading up to them, we're getting into the scary spirit -- a Halloween pre-game, if you will -- with a screening of Coraline here at the shop. Join us this Friday night, October 23rd at 7 pm. and we can munch popcorn together as we shriek and scream and oooh and ahhh. Hope to see you all here!

Friday, October 16, 2009

Oh. My. Gods, Page Turners Rule!!

Oh my god did we have the best conversation today in Page Turners (a book group for girls in 6th, 7th & 8th grade) about Tera Lynn Childs' mytho-magical high school drama, Oh. My. Gods. The book follows Phoebe, a runner who's suddenly uprooted and moved (thanks to her mom's new husband) to a crazy-far away Greek isle where the only high school in town is populated by . . . you guessed it . . . descendants of the Greek gods.

Our conversation went all over the place though. We talked about the truly believable evil-ness of any bad guy named Jimmy, and whether or not giving a character a name that represented his or her personality clued you in more, or kept you from having to read more carefully and in-depth. We debated whether or not revealing prophecies go better at the end or the beginning of stories, and if the great-great-grandchildren of the gods shouldn't've used their mighty powers for less petty things than tying girls' shoelaces together and pulling bouquets of roses from nowhere.

Of course the big discussion was about Childs' handling of the gods and all their myths, compared to the god of all mythology books, Rick Riordan. And we were a little mixed. We could, eventually, understand why all the descendants of Ares were football players, but we wished some of the daughters of Aphrodite had been a little more diverse than just a gang of cheerleaders. We weren't sure about the Haephestos kids, and definitely thought descendants of (the--hello--virgin goddess) Athena were a bad move. In general we didn't think this book was quite in the same league, mythology-wise, as the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series, but most of us thought it was a pretty darned exciting and good read.

We definitely all loved learning about Nike, and think she's a wicked-cool goddess, so I'm throwing a picture of her here in the end.

All in all, the Page Turners are all goddesses of reading, and today was a meeting worthy of Mount Olympus!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Halloween's coming, read this creepy fun book!

This past summer, my family was visiting to my grandmother's cabin in western Kentucky, in a town called Fair Dealing, which is near Benton, which is near Paducah. Have I hit a place you’ve heard of yet? Anyways, we had dinner with cousins, and I discovered that my second cousin, Joseph Price, is an avid reader. Loves to read, actually. So I couldn’t resist; I wanted to put a book in his hand. I grabbed the only thing I had with me—Royce Buckingham’s Goblins!

Here’s what Joseph thought of the book, according to his mother (who sent me the email before I even got home from Kentucky):

Joseph has finished Goblins! by Royce Buckingham. In a nutshell, he really liked it! He particularly liked the mystery at the end of the book. He read the book quickly -- finished it in 2 days so it must be a page-turner. He says the characters were always interesting, the 5 main characters being the most interesting. There was a "whole lot of" action, which he liked. He wishes the author wrote more about the mystery at the end and more about the great goblin. He hopes there's a sequel or perhaps a series based on this book. He says it's just a "plain good book." Nothing bad to say, really.

I don’t want to delve much more into the plot of the book, because I like to think an enthusiastic review beats a synopsis any day. However, as a quick context, the book involves a world of goblins living underground, who begin to escape out to the world above, our world—and it’s up to some kids from the wrong side of the tracks to help prevent a horde of goblins from swarming into our everyday aboveground world.

Here at Little Shop, we love Buckingham's first novel The Demonkeeper, which is all about trying to keep an escaped Demon from getting in the wrong hands. Trust me--fun, creepy, and funny. Check out either of these books!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Please to meet Meno!


Picture books can provoke deep thought and conversation in the youngest of readers.  They can promote understanding of big ideas and acceptance of differing perspectives.  They can shape a young child's mind during the very formative years of cognitive, emotional, and social development.

Or, they can make you laugh.  Out loud.  (While still teaching all that serious stuff.)

We are out of this world excited to tell you about a new out of this world picture book series that has landed on our shelves at the shop- Adventure of Meno.  It is the baby of Tony and Angela DiTerlizzi.  You know Tony- he is the co-creator of the awesome Spiderwick Chronicles.  His wife, Angela, is a creative and feisty genius in her own right.  Together, they have brought us the adorable and irreverent Meno, Elf of Space, a little guy who has traveled from the farthest reaches of the galaxy to engage in fun and friendship here on Earth.

Both Tony and Angela are huge fans of anything vintage, including classic Little Golden Books.  The first two Meno books-just released, with more to follow- have that same old timey feel in both picture and simple text.  They are perfectly sized for the tiniest of hands and visually engaging ("presented in vibrant Meno-Color!") for eyeballs of all ages. 

Be ready to have laughing times when you share these books with your little one.  Meno has great ideas for fun, some that you might not necessarily agree with but then, this means that you probably need to lighten up a bit.  And, Meno is still mastering the English language, and an out loud reading of his adventures begs for a silly voice.  And a sense of humor. 

'Cause remember, sometimes the best picture books make you laugh.


Saturday, October 10, 2009

Lego Star Wars Party!

Peanut butter and bananas. Pirates and ninjas. Sometimes in life two unrelated things come together to make a fantastic pair. And there is no doubt that Star Wars and Legos are one of these combinations. Then add in books (like the uber-amazing, must-have Lego Star Wars Visual Dictionary or the Star Wars the Clone Wars series) and well, you just have a triple threat on your hands. What could be better than Star Wars and Legos and books?

Thanks to everyone (and there were tons and tons of you!) who came out for our Lego Star Wars party. We had so much fun making Storm Trooper masks, designing our own Droids, and working on Star Wars word searches. Congratulations, again, to Thomas Hollahan, who won our Guess-How-Many-Legos-Are-In-This-Jar Contest and went home with a Dark Vader TIE Flyer kit. For the record, there were 159 Legos in the jar.

We had a gazillion legos for kids to use to build space ships and fortresses and all kinds of fun things, thanks to the Capriola family's extensive collection.

Oh, and there were Star Wars characters here, with light sabers and everything! Check out these amazing outfits.

 It was a lego-tastic good time.

And we still have copies of Lego Star Wars Visual Dictionary so come by and pick up your copy today.

In the meantime, may the force be with you.

(C' knew I had to end with that...)


Wednesday, October 7, 2009

14 Cows For America

Carmen Agra Deedy, author of several great children's books including The Library Dragon and Martina the Beautiful Cockroach: A Cuban Folktale, has just released 14 Cows for America.  Her new work from Peachtree Publishers was illustrated by a childhood friend, Thomas Gonzalez.  Both Carmen and Tom appeared at the Decatur Library last night in an event sponsored by Georgia Center for the Book.

It was a great evening.

Carmen is a wonderful storyteller, whether she is spinning the tale of a young insect named Martina or explaining the details of how 14 Cows for America came together.

It began in June 2002 when she picked up a copy of the New York Times from her driveway and read this front page article of a Kenyan tribe's reaction to the events of September 11th.  After years of allowing this story to percolate, she began writing.  An effort to get the facts right lead to contacting Kimeli Naiyomah, a young Maasai man who had been studying at Stanford University in 2001 and was featured in the Times piece.  Mr. Naiyomah is given special credit on the book's cover.

An unlikely push from her mother brought Carmen together with a Thomas Gonzalez, a family friend and a fellow Cuban exile whom she had not seen in over 30 years.  Drawing since childhood, Tom has had a successful career in advertising as an art director and project designer.  This is his first time illustrating a children's book.  (The two are currently collaborating on a second project.)

Tom spoke of the creative process of putting together the illustrations, including his efforts to get the facts right and to evoke the connectedness of a rural Kenyan tribe and New York City.  The Georgia Center for the Book had the originals on display last evening.  As beautiful as the reproductions are in the book, the originals are truly stunning.

For those of us who are inspired by (or delighted in, or in wonder of) listening to artists talk about their craft, it doesn't get any better than last night.

Little Shop has copies of 14 Cows for America on sale, signed by both Carmen and Tom.

- Dave

Monday, October 5, 2009

Who Should I Be For Halloween?

It's acceptible now that it's October to start thinking about Halloween costumes. I've been pondering this year's outfit since August, but figured I'd wait to blog about my quandry until closer to the time of ghosts and witches and candy.

So now there are 26 days 'til go time and I'm still not sure. Since children's books are not only my obsession but also my profession, I can't help but lean toward being a character from a book. Last year I was Ladybug Girl, which was super fun, except that no one at the party I was at had read the book. I even carried the book around with me to show people, but generally I was thought of as just a run-of-the-mill ladybug instead of the brave, daring, fiercely independent Lulu, alias Ladybug Girl.

This year I've been tossing around being the Paper Bag Princess, one of my favorite heroines in all princess literature my first introduction into feminism. Here she is in all her dragon-outwitting glory. The downfalls are as such: 1. I'd freeze. 2. Yet again, no one would know who I was. And 3. It's been done before and I just don't know if I could top this
straight-from-the-runway getup.

Another option is the classic plucky detective, Nancy Drew. All I need is a magnifying glass and a Roadster convertible. Plus I could stay in character all night, which is always plus, by dusting for finger prints around the punch bowl and snooping through cabinet drawers. I'd also get to say things like, "Gosh! This looks like a hidden passageway. I'd better investigate."

Decisions, decisions. Help me out here! What are some of your favorite costumes?


Sunday, October 4, 2009

Irish Roots

My great-grandfather, James Casey, immigrated from County Roscommon, Ireland to the U.S. right around 1880.  He settled in the south Chicago neighborhood of Bridgeport, which was heavily Irish and just north of the Union Stockyards.  He went to work on the Illinois Central Railroad as a switchman until one of his arms was torn off.  (Railroading was dangerous work.)  Then he became a one-armed baggage handler.

I have no knowledge of his life in Ireland.  In all probability he was a poor subsistence farmer who followed family members to what he hoped would be a better life.  According to census records, James Casey could read and write English.  Maybe he even frequented bookshops.

The village of Roscommon, with a population of under 4,000, is the principal town of a county with only about 52,000 inhabitants.  (Looking to glean information from the local phone directory, I found about half the population shares the Casey surname.)  As rural as the area is, they have a wonderful bookstore, as does almost every small town in the republic.

- Dave

Saturday, October 3, 2009

SkippyJon is #1???

Okay, I just don't get this.  Looking at the recent New York Times Bestsellers List for picture books, I see that SkippyJon Jones: Lost In Spice by Judy Schachner is at the top.  "Numero uno," as Skippito might say.  Go figure.  If you look at my previous review of this book, you'll understand why I find this so dog-gone weird.

Also on this list at #5 is Jon Scieszka's Robot Zot!  Now there's a great book! It features a dog known as "Earth's most fearsome Commander General."  Ah yes, a dog that is recognized and shown proper respect.

Otis, by Loren Long, is #8.  Like Robot Zot!, it is in its first week of official release.  The book is about a tractor and partly about a cow, neither of which are dogs (but a least they're not cats).

These three books have something in common.  Each of their authors appeared at the Decatur Book Festival.  In addition, each of these books were released at the Decatur Book Festival before they were available anywhere else.  That's pretty cool.  Little Shop even has signed copies of SkippyJon and Robot Zot! available, and signed bookplates for Otis.

I also got a chance to meet Judy Schachner, Jon Scieszka, and Loren Long at the book festival.  They were all very nice ... even Judy.

- Scrappy