Dec 13, 2007

Bookstore Visits

The Children’s Hour
Salt Lake City, UT
Waaaay back in October, an uncertain weather forecast “grounded” us in Salt Lake City for an expected day-and-a-half. So of course we headed for The Children’s Hour, a terrific store owned by Bobbie’s friend Diane Etherington. Bobbie and Diane first met
through the Association of Booksellers for Children some 20 years ago, and this was Bobbie’s third visit to the store – Laurina’s first.

We didn’t expect to see Diane working on a Saturday, but were happy to find her there. Introductions were made and we had a short conversation before she was called
away to help a customer, so we began browsing the shop.

What began as “just” a great children’s bookstore years ago has evolved into an eclectic mix of books, gifts and women’s/children’s clothes and shoes. There’s definitely a “boutique” feel to it, with books and other items intermingled throughout the smallish space.

We were struck by the depth of inventory…selected titles, both new and backlist, were represented by multiple copies and Diane confirmed that they do lots of handselling. On this Saturday morning the store was full of customers, both adults and chidren.

Both the title mix and the focus on handselling make it clear that books are central here. We were happy to see that such an unusual mix is so successful!

The NeverEnding Story
Las Vegas, NV
We couldn’t imagine there really was a children’s bookstore in Las Vegas (are there any children living in Vegas??!!) but Bobbie thought she remembered meeting the owners a few years back at BEA. Sure enough, we found the address for The NeverEnding Story and couldn’t wait to drop in. Our luck held and both owners were there – Kimberly Diehm and Jennifer Graves, who opened this lovely store in 2006. The “special events” board out front gave us a preview of some of the special events the two put together: story hours, birthday parties, book clubs…

Clean design, wood floors, just the right sidelines and a small play area made the store seem so welcoming! And Kimberly and Jennifer were just so friendly and interesting – they met while both were librarians for the Las Vegas – Clark County Library District.

Probably our favorite thing in the whole store were the children’s book quotes painted on the walls, from favorites like Goodnight Moon and Where the Wild Things Are.

Changing Hands Bookstore
Tempe, AZ
We loved this store before we even went in, because it is connected to a great restaurant called the Wildflower Bread Company – we had been to one in Sedona, AZ and just loved it! So, after you finish your fabulous breakfast or lunch, you can stroll right through the connecting arch and spend the next three hours exploring the bookstore, like we did.

Changing Hands was the Publisher Weekly Bookseller of the Year 2007, and they deserve it. Truly one of the fabulous independent stores that we bookpeople can’t resist, with lots of Booksense signage and handouts. They had a “help wanted” sign up and we briefly considering it, just for the chance to hang around in this amazing atmosphere.

We have NEVER been in a bookstore with this many amazing sidelines and yes, we did make a few purchases.

The kid’s section was just as fabulous as the rest, with deep, deep backlist, many face-out titles and these 2 wonderful signs: “New Essentials” and “Forever Favorites.” You’ve got to love a store that sells the Hornbook in the magazine section, too.

Saw a new Tolkien book, which with the news that Peter Jackson is going to make The Hobbit, has me fired up to read them all again, and watch them all again. I still remember the THRILL of reading The Hobbit for the first time, in 7th grade.

Dec 3, 2007

Some Book Reviews

Superheroes, written and illustrated by Maxwell Eaton III, Knopf/Random House,early reader
The adventures of Max (a boy) and Pinky (a pig) continue in this second episode. They decide to play superheroes, first practicing the right moves and dressing the part, and then becoming Mighty Max and his sidekick. “Wait, ‘stubby sidekick’?” Pinky gets mad over his second rate status and quits, but when he discovers Max in trouble, he’s able to prove just what a first rate superhero he is. The text is laugh-out-loud funny with much of the humor taking place via speech balloons. My favorite is while they’re trying on superhero outfits and Max asks “How come you get the good hat?” (Well, you have to see the illustration!)The bold, brightly colored art and black outlined figures add to the fun. Kids will relate easily to the ups and downs of these “best buds”.

Samsara Dog, written by Helen Manos and illustrated by Julie Vivas, Kane/Miller Book Publishers, picture book
Few picture books combine sadness, suffering, love and joy like this one. Based on the Buddhist concepts of Samsara and Nirvana, the many lives of Dog are presented as a natural process that children can easily grasp and understand. When we first meet Dog he’s living on the streets, loving and trusting no one. In later lives his circumstances vary – he’s with a motorcycle gang, a mountain rescue team, a juggler, four lively, young girls – and the relationship he has with each owner shifts a bit. Lastly, Dog learns the most important lesson of all as he lives a full and happy life with a boy who loves him and depends on him throughout the boy’s adulthood. Julie Vivas’ soft watercolors capture the emotionality of each of Dog’s lives, significantly adding to the story.
It was hard to read this without an “adult” head or without some anthropomorphizing on my part -- I’m such a dog person. Each reading brought tears because there’s no denying this is a sad book but there’s hope too, and I felt such comfort and joy knowing that Dog knew compassion.

Front Porch Tales and North Country Whoppers, written and illustrated by Tomie dePaola, Putnam/Penguin USA, picture story book
DePaola celebrates his love of northern New England in this modern tall-tales collection of stories and jokes. The humorous tales are arranged by season and each section ends with a cartoon-strip depicting a tourist’s interaction with the locals. DePaola’s familiar illustrations appear throughout, focusing on the beautiful landscape and the taciturn, practical people. His use of regional dialect like “fahmah” and “hewse” adds to the down home flavor of the tales. You don’t have to be a New Englander to enjoy this collection!

Nov 21, 2007

New Best Books from SLJ

School Library Journal has posted the 2007 Best Books list. As with all "best books" lists, it takes careful consideration and passionate lobbying to select a few from many. With head down, I admit I hadn't read all the selected titles and some of them I wasn't even familiar with! Here's a few comments and examples --

The Expected

ALEXIE, Sherman. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian. illus. by Ellen Forney. Little, Brown. Tr $16.99. ISBN 978--0-316-01368-0.
HORNBY, Nick. Slam. Putnam. Tr $19.99. ISBN 978-0-399-25048-4.
TAN, Shaun. The Arrival. illus. by author. Scholastic/Arthur A. Levine Bks. Tr $19.99. ISBN 978-0-439-89529-3

Personal Favorites

BANKS, Kate. Lenny's Space. Farrar/Frances Foster Bks. Tr $16. ISBN 978-0-374-34575-4.
GRAVETT, Emily. Orange Pear Apple Bear. illus. by author. S & S. RTE $12.99. ISBN 978-1-4169-3999-3.
PERKINS, Lynne Rae. Pictures from Our Vacation. illus. by author. HarperCollins/Greenwillow. 2007. Tr $16.99. ISBN 978-0-06-085097-5; PLB $17.89. ISBN 978-0-06-085098-2.
STEWART, Trenton Lee. The Mysterious Benedict Society. illus. by Carson Ellis. Little, Brown/Megan Tingley Bks. Tr $16.99. ISBN 978-0-316-05777-6.
THOMPSON, Kate. The New Policeman. HarperCollins/Greenwillow. Tr $16.99. ISBN 978-0-06-117427-8; PLB $17.89. ISBN 978-0-06-117428-5.

Haven't Read (yet)
APPLEGATE, Katherine. Home of the Brave. Feiwel & Friends. Tr $16.95. ISBN 978-0-312-36765-7.
CRISLER, Curtis L. Tough Boy Sonatas. illus. by Floyd Cooper. Boyds Mills/Wordsong. Tr $19.95. ISBN 978-1-932425-77-2.

A Surprise, but an Agreeable One
MADISON, Alan. Velma Gratch and the Way Cool Butterfly. illus. by Kevin Hawkes. Random/Schwartz & Wade Bks. Tr $16.99. ISBN 978-0-375-83597-1; PLB $19.99. ISBN 978-0-375-93597-8.

For the complete list click here.

Nov 3, 2007

Reading, reading, and reading

My reading has really slowed down since we began our road trip and I haven’t had time to write even brief reviews of the books I have had time to read. So I’m fast forwarding and just mentioning these titles I feel are special to me so I can feel caught up.
The Seems: the Glitch in Sleep by John Hulme & Michael Wexler (Bloomsbury)
great story and so inventive
Memoirs of a Teenage Amnesiac by Gabrielle Zevin (FS&G)
realistic, powerful look at identity
Kissing the Bee by Kathe Koja (FS&G)
Mistik Lake by Martha Brooks (FS&G)
brillant story by one of my long-time favorite authors
The Spell Book of Listen Taylor by Jaclyn Moriarty (Arthur Levine/Scholastic)
quirky, unusual story and the Zing Family Secret will astound; a reworking of the author’s I Have A Bed of Buttermilk Pancakes, I think it still seems more of a book for adults
Mysterious Edge of the Heroic World by E.L. Konigsburg ( Ginee Seo/ S&S)
Fine characterizations and I like how Konigsburg makes me think about art’s relevance to my everyday world; I knew nothing about degenerate art and now I do. Shortly after reading this, I read ELK’s book of short stories, Throwing Shadows, which includes a story written many years previous with some of the characters of MEOTHW. Interesting to see how a story becomes more.
Edward’s Eyes by Patrica MacLachlan (HarperCollins)
Her use of language is so beautiful.
Book of a Thousand Days by Shannon Hale (Bloomsbury)
Crow (Books of Pellinor) by Allison Croggan (Candlewick)
I’m pretty selective about my fantasy and think this series is outstanding!
Lenny’s Space by Kate Banks (FS&G)
This is a gem; I’ll try and find time to write more later because I hope it’s widely read.
The London Eye Mystery by Siobhan Dowd (David Fickling Books/Random)
I was totally immersed in this story; the characterization of Ted is particularly well written; intelligent mystery.

Now that I look over this list, I see that many of these I read before we started our trip. And what to make of the number of FS&G titles on the list?
I’m rarely reading just one book and am also in the midst of re-reading The Golden Compass because I want to read the entire His Dark Materials before seeing the movie of The Golden Compass. And speaking of movies, I don’t think I can bring myself to see the Dark is Rising – too many changes that remove the movie from the spirit of the book which I have a very visual memory of (after re-reading it several times.)

Nov 2, 2007


Today I learned from the CCBC list serv that Vera B. Williams was chosen as the recipient of the 50th Regina Medal. Happy congratulations to her! I love her work for it's honesty and inclusiveness; her understanding of children; her use of color and emotive art. "More More More!" Said the Baby has remained at the top of my favorite picture books list for years and Amber Was Brave, Essie Was Smart is exceptional.

Oct 17, 2007

Wild About Books

We kicked off our plan to visit as many children’s bookstores as we can during our RV travels with a stop in Kansas City at The Reading Reptile. Wow – what a fantastic store! Large scale paper mache characters from favorite children’s books abound, hanging from the ceiling or resting on the floor -- Peggy Rathmann’s Gorilla, Cassie from Tar Beach, My Father’s Dragon, a Giving Tree. There’s a HUGE map of the US on the ceiling, each state brightly colored. A spacious room is divided into smaller spaces through the arrangement of bookcases, tables and chairs, as well as the giant characters, and there are many alcoves brimming with unique touches and decorations – dioramas embedded in the shelves, sticker and bead trimming , a small table lacquered with illustrations and verse from Eloise Greenfield’s Daydreamers. We’ve never seen a store with so many personal touches that reflect the owners’ sensibilities. Many titles were displayed face-out, inviting easy browsing. I discovered a new title by Patricia Maclachlan and her daughter Emily, Fiona Loves the Night ; a delightful picture book with pitch perfect rhythm matched with bold art. Bobbie was pleased to find a copy of Byrd Baylor’s I’m in Charge of Celebrations which she was just talking about the day before. She read the passage about coyotes aloud to me.

We introduced ourselves to Pete who owns the store with his wife Debbie. He told us we could see Chris Crutcher the next day if we were in town. Darn! We need to continue heading west to make it to Reno in time for the AASL conference. He gave us bumper stickers anyway.

The store is so welcoming to both adults and children and creative in both appearance and programming. Be sure and visit the web site for more info and the irreverent musings of Bitterman.

Oct 13, 2007

Open Books, Open Roads, Journey On

It’s official! We Love Children’s Books is out on the road. Our plan is to work and travel for the next two years. Our mobile home/office is a 30 foot Jayfeather Ultralight trailer, which we’re pulling with a Chevy Tahoe. We hope to see many of our friends in the children’s book industry along the way, and we’ll chronicle many of those visits here.
So if you have a farm, extra long driveway or just want some company, drop us a line.

BTW, our friend Desiree is the ultra-talented graphic designer who created our logo -- isn't it great?! That's our dog, Molly, in the back seat.

Oct 3, 2007

Pop, Pop

Two pop-up books recently made their way to our review stash. I'm a mild fan of pop-ups and I like one very much, not just because it's awesome to look at, but because it also engages readers in different ways. The book is How Many ? spectacular paper sculptures by Ron van der Meer (Robin Corey Books/ Random House.)
On five double-page spreads, four featuring shapes -- triangle, circle, square, and star -- and the fifth using a line, remarkable pop-up structures amaze and delight readers. Multiples of each shape form the brightly colored structures paired against white backgrounds. Looking from the top and sides produces different views. Many questions pertaining to shape and color appear on each spread – for instance How many circles are formed by words? How many squares overlap? How many star points touch the pages?
You can check your answers on the Internet at van der Meer is truly a master paper engineer; he’s created pop-ups for adults and kids. I think kids eight and older will be fascinated with How Many ? A limited edition signed by the author is also available; for more information go
The other pop-up I didn't like because I felt it was too contrived and just didn't work, so I won't say more about that.

Oct 2, 2007

Weekend in New Hampshire

We haven't posted much because we are (still) sorting, packing and preparing for our move at a frantic pace. But over the past weekend I was with college friends near Lake Sunapee in New Hampshire and had a fun, relaxing time -- that easy way of being with longtime friends. I've known these women for 35 years! Just before leaving, I received a review copy of Tuttle's Red Barn by Richard Michelson and illustrated by Mary Azarian (Putnam.)It's the story of America's oldest family farm, relating pieces of the country's history along with the story of twelve generations of family farming in Dover, New Hampshire.
Azarian's fine woodcuts are a perfect complement, capturing the people and the New England landscape with a rustic air. I haven't visited the Red Barn yet, and until I do, this book will provide me with a feeling of it's place in New Hampshire life and culture.

Sep 18, 2007

Lucky Me

While driving to Annapolis on the weekend my mind wandered to The Higher Power of Lucky or more accurately to the book’s author, Susan Patron. Many, many years ago I worked in sales and marketing for the Children’s Book Division of an academic wholesaler, and got to meet lots of great children’s librarians and talk with them about books. (I was supposed to discuss how they bought books and suggest they buy books from my company but often found myself talking about what books we liked and why – that was way more interesting!) One of those librarians was Susan Patron. I met her only a couple of times, but because I found her dedicated and serious about her work with children and books, and also engaging, funny and smart, her name stuck with me. When she began getting published I naturally wanted to read her books because I thought she would be a good writer and I had a mad passion for Susan’s first publisher, Orchard Books. I continued reading and enjoying her books, right up through the one chosen as the year’s “most distinguished contribution to American literature for children.” Lucky readers.

Sep 17, 2007

Support SKILLS

Last week there were some posts on the ALSC list serv urging support of the SKILLS Act as part of the reauthorization of NCLB. The acronym SKILLS stands for Strengthening Kids Interest in Learning and Libraries, an effort certainly worthy of support. Today, I finally made time to write my state representative and senators. The Teacher-Librarian Division of the Arizona Library Association made this easy for someone like me by providing sample letters and simple language to understand the meaning and benefit of the act. Reach this useful link by clicking here.. It’s one way of celebrating September 2007 as “Adopt a School Library Month.” lc

The First of Many Posts

Here's something that makes me worry that I'm not the writer that my 10-year-old self imagined me to be: I never take the time to actually write!

When faced with the urge to make a post here (and also, urged by Laurina to do so), I can think of about a thousand other things I should be doing instead - like working on one of our clients' websites, packing for our upcoming RV adventure or going to get a Rita's water ice (something from Philadelphia that I'm really going to miss, BTW.)

But I do have things to say about children's books! Seems when you're in this universe, you just hear and see things all the time that are pertinent. Saturday I went with my sister Jean and her kids, my beloved Kyra and Keane, to an Autism Walk at the school where she teaches. While we took turns chasing Mr. Speed Keane around, we talked...she always gives me the update on the kids because she knows I want to hear EVERYTHING.

Anyway, she told me about something she'd done to get Kyra to finish her dinner and it made me laugh so much I wanted to share it. She put Kyra's little pile of corn in the bottom of a large mixing bowl and said "Look! You can eat your corn out of Papa Bear's bowl!"

It worked, and it worked because Kyra L-O-V-E-S books and sure knows her fairy tales. Next time Jean thinks she'll try using Little Red Riding Hood's basket...

And, just to prove that it's all connected, we just received a copy of Jan Brett's newest: The Three Snow Bears. It's an Inuit version from the good people at Putnam.

Sep 12, 2007

Parades and the Zoo

Picture books featuring a spontaneous parade are not a new idea but The Great Doughnut Parade written and illustrated by Rebecca Bond (Houghton Mifflin) seems wholly original. Billy and his doughnut collect all manner of people and animals, rendered in watercolors with an old-fashioned senisibility, the white space becoming more and more crowded as the story builds. It's a delighted and delightful bunch, "all jumbled and tumbled with snortles of laughter,"and you can see how the language captures the pure joy of the assembly. Billy happily slips away for his original purpose; a quiet fit ending. Why do I like this picture book so much? The simplicity of the story, its spirit aand joy, and language that begs to be read aloud.

Adam Rex made me laugh out loud with Frankenstein Makes a Sandwich (Harcourt) and my 9 year old nephew thought it was one of the best books I've given him. His new title, Pssst! (Harcourt) is funny in the same dry humor kind of way. A young girl visits the zoo and as she walks through various animals request different things -- odd things -- from her, bats want flashlights, penguins ask for brightly colored paint, and sloths need bicycle helmuts. "Lucklily there was a store across the street that sold everything." What all this is actually used for is a surprise (believe me!) The conversation with each animal always begins with "Pssst!" and a page of dialogue panels follows. Alternating are two-page spreads of line drawings and limited spot color, showing the girl meandering through the zoo. The signage is hilarious, though some of the references may be lost on kids. Look for "Camel-lot" and "I am the Walrus (koo-koo-kachoo)" What an inventive lark!

Aug 28, 2007

Little Books

I spent time on the weekend packing, due to an upcoming move. Books take forever to pack up, don't they? I'm incapable of moving books from shelf to box in one smooth motion; instead I need to thumb through pages, or read a forward, or look at illustrations. I remember when I first read a title (or maybe why I didn't) and consider re-reading some. Time passes.

I dusted off and packed up a collection of little books, some miniature, a few chunky board books and tiny boxed sets. I haven't collected these, they're titles I've acquired because I liked the size, the way they fit in my hand or just because I liked the story. They sat on the top of a high bookcase, nestled between a pair of funky bookends with smallish versions of Mudge, Strega Nona, Max, Lilly, Wendell and others sitting about. Reminds me of a bookshop. There's the Nutshell Library, Peter Spier's Little Cats, Emily Mouse's Garden, I Like You, Good Night Little One, and one of my favorite books of all -- The Animal Family. I know I'll read that one again and again.

Aug 19, 2007

more practice. . .

Here I'm trying to populate labels for posts -- some of the common ones we'll use often. Of course we'll talk about books here; what we love and why; and what we're reading. The We in We Love Children's Books are Laurina Cashin and Bobbie Combs, and we're both fortunate to work with many different people in the children's book industry -- publishers, booksellers, librarians, authors and illustrators, publicists, staff with wholesalers and associations. We like our broad perspective.

Our reading sometimes overlaps but generally I read picture books and young adult fiction, whiles Bobbie gravitates more to middle grade and younger ya. Bobbie steers clear of edgy and problem novels, I can't abide those chick-lit series and we're both cautious with novels in verse. We both read fantasy, though Bobbie is more widely read than I. I just finished an ARC of The Crow (Books of Pellinor) by Allison Croggon, Candlewick, which I will re-read it because I read it way too fast. These books -- Crow is the 3rd of four I believe -- are stellar, and while I read quickly to find out what happend, the story and writing deserve more time. Our nonfiction reading takes us all over the Dewey map. We hope to step up our audio listening when we begin our road adventure -- more on that in a later post. We love movies and happily attend movies made from children's books. We saw Stardust the other night and thought it was wonderful -- well-acted and a good adaptation. And we will be first in line for The Golden Compass.

just practicing. . .

This is just a beginning to what we plan will be a lively, readable addition to the universe of children's literature blogs. We have a journey ahead of us; one of endless possibilities. Come along for the ride!