Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Where Are They Now (Part V)


Rick re-retired last year and moved to Portland to be near his brand new granddaughter, Olivia Louise.  She walks and talks, giggles and laughs and does all those things that make it worthwhile to be a Grandpa.
 (Olivia Louise -- not Rick)
He and Jill have been doing day trips to the Seattle area, visiting the local waterfalls, the Pacific Ocean and, of course, restaurants. Oregon has a lot of beautiful areas, and some very fine restaurants. They made it to Decatur for Christmas to visit with family and to stop in at Little Shop.  You may have caught Rick working behind the counter in December because ... well, because he's Rick and the store was busy and the phone was ringing and people had questions and other people were ready to check out.  (We miss Rick a lot!)

They are in a book club and just finished Ghost Map: The Story of London’s Most Terrifying Epidemic by Steven Johnson. Rick is getting ready to do some kayaking and is taking a cooking class -- did I say that we miss Rick a lot? -- and is heading into craft classes.

Rick also spends time thinking about The Shop, fun times, and good friends.

Here's Rick enjoying the Oregon sunshine! 

(This is the fifth in a series about some of the wonderful people who formerly worked at Little Shop.) 

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Pete the Cat: I Love My White Shoes - An Appreciation

Pete has gone national this month with its release by Harper Collins, and with that has been the opportunity to reach a very, very large audience.  Which it has.


Am I kidding?  Goodness no.  Check it out here!

This appreciation is written for booksellers and librarians who are considering adding Pete to their shelves, but can also serve anyone who is interested in children's literature.

Pete the Cat: I Love My White Shoes is a superb book.

Author Eric Litwin has a considerable history of working with children as a teacher, storyteller, and musician.  As a result of years of work, Eric has developed an excellent rapport with kids and a deep understanding of how to connect with them using a variety of approaches.

A former electrical engineer, James Dean found his true calling in his second career as a painter.  Pete the Cat is a character James created over ten years ago and who has come to be recognized and beloved all over the Atlanta area.

Eric had an idea for a story involving Pete, and subsequently met James by random chance on an Atlanta street.  The collaboration began.  Drafts were written and sketches were revised.  Advice was sought and heeded.  When James and Eric were satisfied with their work, the two published the book themselves, selling it on their own and through a handful of bookstores.  (Little Shop of Stories was one such store.)

(This is not how a children's picture book typically comes together.  In the vast majority of circumstances, an author will submit a manuscript to publisher.  Upon acceptance, an editor will be assigned the extremely important task of selecting an illustrator whose work will not only complement the text but bring an added dimension.  There are excellent exceptions where an author and illustrator will submit their work as a team.  Jacky Davis and David Soman write and illustrate the Ladybug Girl books.  (They're married to each other.)  Jon Scieszka and Lane Smith (their wives were co-workers) did The True Story of the Three Little Pigs together and went on to do The Stinky Cheese Man and other books.)

The book sold fantastically well.  For good reason.

For a children's picture book to be truly successful, it must work for both the child as well as the adult who is asked to read it 100 times.  Or more.

From the grownup perspective, Pete is fun to read.  The text has a rhythm to it.  One can sing the refrain.  After only a few reads one can successfully encourage the child to participate.  ("Goodness no!")  At the same time the parent knows that the younger child is learning colors and the older child, because of the repetition and the visual clues, can begin to learn to read.  The illustrations are bright and lively, creative and surreal, and work perfectly with the text. 

There is also a moral to Pete's story.

For the child, the book is just fun.

All the elements come together.  Don't believe me? Watch this:

- Dave

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Giraffes Can't Dance


I am sad to say that I happen to be a terrible dancer.  Reading Giraffes Can't Dance by Giles Andreae gave me hope that one day I will find a beat that can help me move with out looking like a flailing fish.  Gerald the Giraffe longs to strut his stuff at the annual Jungle Dance, but there's one daunting problem: he's bad at dancing!  When he gives it a try all the animals laugh at him, so he makes his escape into the woods.  Once in safety, Gerald meets a cricket with some wise words.  Looking up at the moon, Gerald finds his inspiration and begins to throw out dance moves that would make Fred Astaire jealous.  With colorful illustrations and a catchy rhyme scheme, Giraffes Can't Dance is sure to loosen you up and get you moving in no time!

- Sydney

The Evolution of a Reading List

Do you have a reader at home (or are you one yourself?) who has a little too much, shall we say, focus? Maybe your reader- we'll call him "Johnny"- only likes graphic novels and absolutely will not read anything else. Or maybe little Johnny refuses to look at anything that's not a reference book, and you'd like him to check out something with a little plot. Or maybe little Johnny's really very small indeed, and wants to hear the same picture books over and over and over and over and over.

Little Shop of Stories can help!

For those readers who believe that loving nonfiction means never having to read a novel, we have an assortment of non-reference books on a nonfiction topic: Charles Darwin.

The Humblebee Hunter, by Deborah Hopkinson, for instance, is a wonderful little picture book about a day when Darwin asks his children to help him with an experiment with the honeybees in their garden. It has great illustrations and serves the dual purposes of giving Johnny a great story about the baby steps of science (and some really cute honeybees) and being more interesting to those of you who may reading it aloud than some of the more repetitive picture books.

The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate, by Jacqueline Kelly, is one of this year's Newbery Honor books, and would be a great book to show l'il Johnny that it's real people who make science happen. Calpurnia Tate is a self-appointed naturalist who, with her grandfather, goes on a quest to discover a new species.  Despite the impediment of being a young girl who doesn't want to be "a lady" in a time and place when that was a difficult thing, she succeeds like crazy.

Now, if Johnny STILL will not touch anything but a graphic novel, there are ways to get around it. We suggest Charles Darwin's On the Origin of Species: A Graphic Adaptation, by Michael Keller. It's a cool book with very cool illustrations, and we'd bet that Little Johnny gets most of the way though it before he realizes that- gasp! horror! he's reading something educational.

Now, of course, if you're blessed with a Johnny who is well-rounded and has none of these issues, none of this really applies- you're sitting pretty. But he'll probably want to read all of these, plus the regular nonfiction books and biographies on Darwin.  And of course, if evolution's not your thing, we have lots of other choices for great books about nonfiction topics - so come on in and check 'em out!.

Congratulations to Sherman Alexie

 (photo by Cory Gustason)

Sherman Alexie's War Dances has been awarded the
2010 PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction.

The book is an inventive collection of poetry, short stories, and more.  The honor is well deserved.

""War Dances" taps every vein and nerve, every tissue, every issue that quickens the current blood-pulse: parenthood, divorce, broken links, sex, gender and racial conflict, substance abuse, medical neglect, 9/11, Official Narrative vs. What Really Happened, settler religion vs. native spirituality; marketing, shopping, and war, war, war. All the heartbreaking ways we don't live now--this is the caring, eye-opening beauty of this rollicking, bittersweet gem of a book." - Al Young, PEN/Faulkner judge

While most of Alexie's writings are geared toward an adult audience, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, winner of the National Book Award for Young People's Literature in 2007, is an excellent YA novel (with considerable autobiographical elements) which is still on the New York Times Best Sellers List and has long been a highly recommended book at Little Shop of Stories.

I would also like to note that Mr. Alexie has taken a stand against electronic book readers, limiting the availability of his work on those devices.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Elvis Will Not Be In The Building

We're sorry to announce that Elvis Persons, who was scheduled to come to Little Shop of Stories in July, has canceled his appearance.

Elvis' first full-length work of nonfiction, Footsteps, has been indefinitely delayed.  Push Press Publishing made the announcement this week.  It had been rumored that the manuscript, a biography of Elvis' father Rory Persons, was disorganized to the point of incoherence.

Novelist Rory Persons disappeared in 1967, about eight months before Elvis was born.

The author of award-winning short stories, Elvis Persons began researching his father's life four years ago.  He has reportedly traveled extensively, conducting taped interviews with some 200 people who knew Rory.

E-mails to Elvis Persons have not been returned.  I think it would be interested to bring Persons to Little Shop to discuss his research and his father's life.  We'll see what we can do.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Were you here for Origami Yoda?

This guy was!

A week ago, Tom Angleberger was here to juggle, re-name everyone Larry, teach us how to fold paper into a cool Yoda finger puppet, and read from and sign his new book The Strange Case of Origami Yoda. It was great--I only wish we didn't sell out of books. Don't worry, though, we'll order more!

If you don't know Tom's books (his other awesome books, The Qwikpick Adventure Society and Stonewal Hinkleman and the Battle of Bull Run, were written under the nom de plum Sam Riddleberger), then you're in for a treat when you check out Origami Yoda-- combine middle school antics a la Diary of a Wimpy Kid, a love of all things Star Wars, and a full-on investigation into the advice of one Yoda fingerpuppet, and you have an inkling of just how fun this book is.

Here's what Tom had to say about his book tour (with some good shout outs for Little Shop of Stories!) upon his return home. And here's a great picture of an Origami Yoda sighting at Little Shop of Stories from the Origami Yoda website!

Where Are They Now (Part IV)


Natalie in France!

Natalie began working at Little Shop of Stories shortly after we opened in 2005, stayed with us through high school, and has continued here on occasion during school breaks.

Since graduating from Decatur High, she's gone on to bigger and better things.  N'est-ce pas?

Natalie is finishing up her junior year at Guilford College, a Quaker school in Greensboro, North Carlina.  Sacré bleu!

This semester Natalie said au revoir to us all and went to France studying at le Centre International Rennais d'Etudes de Français pour Etrangers at the University of Haute Bretagne in Rennes.  She is boarding with a family that has a nine-year-old girl and a six-year-old boy.  No doubt, she reads to them every night, s'il vous plaît.

La femme fatale de Paris!

We miss her a lot!  (We're also rather jealous.  C'est la vie.) 

(This is the fourth in a series about some of the wonderful people who formerly worked at Little Shop.)

Friday, March 19, 2010

Touch A Truck Saturday

What a way to start Spring!!!

We've had a interminablely cold, wet winter.  At long last, it would appear as if that is going to change tomorrow!

With infinite foresight, Decatur has scheduled a wonderful day, providing us all with the opportunity to hang out with a bunch of trucks!  Over at the Decatur Minute, Cheryl reminds us that Saturday is Touch A Truck Day.

This very cool annual event is being held over at the Calloway Building parking lot between 10am and 1pm, and will feature all sorts of very, very awesome city vehicles.

This here truck (photo from the City of Decatur) is just one example.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

The Way Back Home

One Martian + One Boy = One Awesome Friendship

The Way Back Home by Oliver Jeffers tells the story of a boy who discovers a airplane in his closet and promptly flies it into space. Once he reaches the stars, his plane runs out of fuel and he becomes stranded on the moon. Scared and alone, his flashlight dies and the boy becomes extremely worried. Meanwhile, a martian is traveling through space when, all of a sudden, his spaceship dies. He crashes into the moon and is all alone - he doesn't even have a flashlight! Both of the characters hear strange noises and begin to imagine the worst. Luckily, they meet each other and all of their problems are solved. The boy drops into the ocean, swims home, and grabs some supplies. He then ascends a very tall mountain and climbs up a rope, provided by the martian, in order to get back to the moon. Once there, both of them work together to fix their vehicles and make it home. Before they leave, they wonder if they'll ever speak to each other again. They go their separate ways and return to their families. This charming story concludes with the boy looking at a radio inside his house that is squeaking out the martian's 'hello?'s. I, personally, adore this book. And, as always, I'm in love with the illustrations, which happen to be beautiful water colors.

For a nice change from the typical "aliens attack, oh no!" type books, The Way Back Home is pretty impossible to beat.

- Sydney

St. Patrick's Day in Decatur

Next Stop Decatur, a great local blog with an emphasis on the historical aspects of our town, featured this great photo yesterday of a St. Patrick's Day parade from apparently 1946.  The photographer was standing more or less in front of what is now Eurasia and facing toward the west.  The parade is heading east on Ponce away from Clairemont Avenue and toward Church Street.
Photo courtesy of the DeKalb Historical Society

What a fantastic photograph!  The Pythagoras Masonic Temple Building is on the far left.  To the right of that is the Watkins Building, currently home to Wild Oats & Billy Goats, Collage, and Parker's on Ponce.  The remainder of the structures -- those housing F.W. Woolworth, DeKalb Theater, and Western Auto Store -- are gone.  Next to Western Auto would have been the Candler Hotel.

Week-End at the Waldorf, staring Lana Turner and Van Johnson, was showing at the theater.  Dave Kell, at his also great inDecatur blog (and SinDecatur), stated that he believes that the theater stopped operations in the 1950s and was converted into a J.C. Penny store.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

New Date for Georgia Shakespeare Company Performance

Originally scheduled for March 18th, Georgia Shakespeare Company performance of The Legend of the Sword in the Stone, a magical adaptation about young Arthur and his magical friend Merlin, has been moved to March 25th at 7pm.

Sorry for the inconvenience.  We'll see you then!

Monday, March 15, 2010

Follow The Line!

I love this book!!! Follow The Line by Laura Ljungkvist is part-story-book-part-seek-&-find full of vivd colors and challenging questions. What I like about this book is that all of the pages are extremely captivating and allow kids to not only enjoy the simple story (by following the line, of course) but it works their growing brains at the same time!  Each page asks questions like: "How many people have freckles?" or "How many windows does each airplane have?" - the kids have to study the scenery and then figure it out.  Do you have a reluctant young listener/reader?  This picture book is perfect for you!

Aren't those illustrations to die for?  Better get this book while you can, I have a feeling there's going to be a space for it on my book shelf soon...

- Sydney

Where Are They Now (Part III)


Casey began working at Little Shop of Stories near the start of her junior year at Decatur High School, and still works on occasion during school breaks. It's always great to see her!

"Life after Little Shop has been grand. At the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill I'm a junior majoring in Latin American Studies, minoring in Women's Studies, and consuming more coffee than any human should. After realizing that there was no Little Shop of Stories equivalent in Chapel Hill, I started working at a delicious little cafe on campus where I can be found hoarding pastries and perfecting my barista skills.

"This Fall I spent a semester in Peru on a study abroad program about the impacts of globalization on Indigenous communities in the Amazon and the Andes. I camped in the rainforest. I lived with a rural family on a mountaintop. I was kicked by an alpaca. I ate guinea pig. I danced many a night away.  But more importantly I spent a month working with female domestic workers in Lima, assisting in self-esteem workshops and teaching English and cooking classes. I'll spend my senior year at UNC turning this research into an Honor's Thesis, and probably losing my mind in the process.

"But despite new experiences, my time at Little Shop is always with me. I cannot walk into a bookstore without judging their children's book selection and improving their displays. Viva Little Shop!"

(This is the third in a series about some of the wonderful people who formerly worked at Little Shop.)

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Guest Review by Flannery Bogost

After All, You're Callie Boone

after all, she's Flannery Bogost (age 7)

Callie Boone is an eleven year old girl who lives with her grandma, her two brothers, and her mom and dad. Callie's whole life changes when her best friend sacks her. She has lots of adventures over the summer, including her Uncle Danny brining ferrets to live in their garage!

Callie Boone is one of my favorite books. I read it in two days. There are lots of disasters during her summer. I love reading it because it's so funny.

[This book is scheduled for release on June 8th.  Thanks for the review, Flannery!]

Saturday, March 13, 2010

I Love It When You Talk Retro...

Ah, the title says it all!  I Love It When You Talk Retro, by Ralph Keyes, is a wonderful peek into the lost origins of some of America's most beloved and obscure words and phrases.  Did you know that the word 'doofus' came from Popeye the comic strip?  Didn't think so!  I'd like to think that I have a pretty unique vocabulary but this book proved to me that every one of my quirky phrases has a even quirkier beginning.  I was fascinated with the facts that Mr.Keyes provides and I'm now over flowing with trivia that I'm sure will help me at the next party I attend.  Available in paper back and the fact that it's a fast read makes I Love It When You Talk Retro not only good for your brain but good for your wallet too.

I know you wanna become a cool cat like me!  Be sure to check out I Love It When You Talk Retro next time you're in the shop.

- Sydney

Friday, March 12, 2010

Where Are They Now (Part II)


Amy joined the Little Shop staff as a weekend part-timer in 2008. Depending on who you ask (the customers searching for answers or the management searching for a ready and willing book hawker), her timing was impeccable: Amy's second weekend at LSOS was during the crazybusy Decatur Book Festival!  She quickly became a shelf straightnin', storytime book readin', birthday party decoratin' familiar face at Little Shop. 

When asked about her life accomplishments thus far, Amy ranks her dramatic portrayal of "The Pout Pout Fish" at the very tip top. She's also pretty darn fond of a dinosaur sticker comic she made at Justin's comics camp. (It hangs in the ultimate place of honor at her house: the front of the fridge.)

Alas, Amy decided to leave Little Shop to make room in her schedule for teacher certification courses. She teaches 11 adorable 8th graders at The Howard School, and she hopes to receive her official I Kinda Sorta Know What I'm Doing teaching certifcate this summer. She misses storytime and seeing her bookstore friends all the time, but you never know when she might show up in a fancy dress and force you to listen to "The Pout Pout Fish." Glub, glub, glub...

(This is the second in a series about some of the wonderful people who formerly worked at Little Shop.)

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Al Likes Gecko and Sticky

When I heard the Little Shop was going to carry The Gecko and Sticky series I was

Why, you ask? (If you haven’t asked, you should. Being inquisitive is a sign of intelligence.) Well, the answer is quite simple. Author Wendelin Van Draanen (who also writes the Sammy Keyes series) uses lots of awesome, action-packed, alliteration.

And the story, holy hopping habaneros, the story is magnifico. A boy, Dave Sanchez, finds a talking gecko named Sticky, who has said name because he likes to steal. But he is really a good gecko. The gecko leads Dave to the dastardly, diabolical Damien Black (bwa-ha-ha),  who wants nothing less than to rule the world.  He would have, too, if Sticky had not stolen his Aztec wristband that gave him super powers. Sticky gave the wristband to Dave, along with one ingot that gives Dave the power to walk on walls (gecko power), but dastardly Damien (bwa-ha-ha) has the other ingots and wants the wristband back.  Let the battles begin.

The stories are filled with action, adventure, and an incompetent group of mariachi singers.
It’s hilarity at its highest. 
                It’s adventure at its most adventurous.
                                It’s . . . well it’s really, really good.

Why are you still reading this when you could be reading The Gecko and Sticky? Run and go get it. Andele, andele.

- Al

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Where Are They Now (Part I)


Marla worked at Little Shop in its former location on the square until a rapidly growing midsection made her no longer able to see her feet or reach the bottom bookshelves. Luckily this condition was rectified a few months later when she gave birth to her beautiful daughter, Ruby, who is now 2.5.

Now, Marla spends her days primarily taking care of the kid, catering to all the kid's whims, and making sure the kid isn't screaming. In her spare time, she does freelance writing and editing for spots like Examiner.com [http://tinyurl.com/atlexaminer] and Ruckus magazine [http://www.ruckusmag.net]. She also makes pinback buttons, jewelry, bottle openers, and other stuff and sells it at Little Shop, Taste, and online at http://www.buttonbabeboutique.com. And she hangs out a lot at Little Shop because she gets to talk about books with the fabulous staff and, well, it still feels like home.

(This is the first in a series about some of the wonderful people who formerly worked at Little Shop.)

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

R.I.P a Southern Rex: Barry Hannah died

Barry Hannah, one of the great literary talents of the South, died yesterday. His death, while not necessarily a surprise (he was 67, but he'd lived a hard 67 years), still hits me like a freight train.

Hannah lived his entire life in Mississippi. He was born there, raised there, got his undergraduate degree from Mississippi College, and he ran the creative writing program at the University of Mississippi at Oxford, where Faulkner lived. Here's his obituary from the New York Times.

Hannah embraced the South, and not just the South of Faulkner or Reynolds Price, but the South as it was and is, something a lot of Southern writers have failed to do over the last forty years since Hannah's first book, Geronimo Rex was released.

He was a master of both the novel and the short story, and his first story collection, Airships, is a classic. He was nominated for both the National Book award and the Pulitzer Prize. His work anticipates writers like Tom Franklin, William Gay, Larry Brown, Jack Butler, and even Carolina writers like George Singleton and Ron Rash. He was a bighearted bastard of a writer, and you knew it because he loved his characters with bite and wit, and loved them for their darkness and failings, not in spite of them.

At times, he was a rambling mess of a man--everybody who's ever met him has a Barry Hannah story--and yet he was funny and took to people in an instant. He went to college with my mother. Everytime they had the fortune to cross paths, he reached out to her. When I interned at the Greensboro Review, he wrote personal notes of recommendation for his students who submitted stories.

If my slight, scattered, off-beat reflections here seem to lack focus, it's because I find it hard to get my head, my arms, anything around exactly what the man and his writings meant to me, or to books, or to the South. He's significant as a literary figure, yes, and a total character, sometimes even a cliche of the hard-drinking southern writer, and somebody I felt I knew, even if only a little.

Late in life, like in the last six years or so, he found Jesus. I was inclined to put that last bit in quotes because I think of it as a Southernism, but I realized it might be taken ironically. And that, in a nutshell, might be the best way to understand Hannah and his writing. God rest, Barry Hannah, and thank you for taking time out from fishing to write such great stories. And if you find that last sentence funny, great, but if you think I sound negative, you're wrong. The man loved to fish.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Party With Pete This Saturday!!!

Little Shop of Stories
Saturday       March 6th       7pm

Everyone is welcome at Little Shop of Stories this Saturday evening, March 6th, at 7 p.m. for a Pete Party!  We're celebrating the release this week of Pete the Cat: I Love My White Shoes.

The story behind the book is a fairytale in itself.  Eric Litwin, a local storyteller and musician, had an idea for a children's book starring Pete the Cat.  A chance random meeting with James Dean, a local artist and creator of Pete, started the collaboration.  Eric and James put the book together and published it themselves.  Amazingly successful, the first printing sold out.  Outrageously successful, the even bigger second printing also sold out.

In the meantime, multiple big time publishers began knocking on their doors.

The result: Harper Collins has just published Pete the Cat: I Love My White Shoes.  (It's pretty much the same book that was self-published, but with a different cover.)  Harper is promoting the book nationally and pretty aggressively.  They're sending Eric and James out on the road starting next week.  Yes, Pete is going coast-to-coast!  (But we get them here first!)

Help send Eric and James off on their multi-state bookstore tour!  We'll have music!  We'll have art!  We'll have goodies!  We'll have exclamation points!  (Those of you who came to Terra's book release party last year may recall that we throw a pretty darn good book release party!)

We hope to see you all Saturday night!  White shoes are optional.