Archive for November, 2010
Tuesday, November 30th, 2010
The Boy in the Garden by Allen Say
Using the ancient legend of a crane turned into a woman as his backbone, Say creates a thought-provoking fantasy of a young boy’s mysterious experiences in an exotic garden. The artist’s precise, realistic paintings off nice balance to his fanciful tale.
Readers, save 15% off all Top of the Shelf books. Enter TOP in the Coupon Code box at checkout. Click here to purchase The Boy in the Garden or click here to read more Top of the Shelf book recommendations.
Saturday, November 27th, 2010
While everyone is usually able to find something to love in our bookstore, it’s always the teachers who go particularly nuts. We hear them say things like, “You’ll have to drag me out of here.” or “Stop me before I buy everything in the store.” So who better than us to give a few recommendations to parents looking to give a holiday gift to a special teacher?
I always recommend a gift for the classroom first, because often so many of the classroom’s supplies – books, games, art activities – come straight out of the teacher’s own pocket. I like suggesting something that teachers might not feel like they could afford on their own, but always seem to be pining over in our store. Big books! These oversized editions (about 17″ tall) of favorite children’s books can make story times more engaging and lively and are big enough so that everyone can see the pictures, even in large classes. My favorite big book is Anno’s Counting Book because the giant size makes it easier to see the hundreds of tiny details Mitsumasa Anno puts into his illustrations.
A book is always the perfect gift, but which book should you get? Ask your child and you’ll probably be amazed at how well he or she can remember exactly what books they do and do not have in their classroom library to make sure you find the perfect choice.
If you’re looking for something a little more special, our Very Hungry Caterpillar Flashbags are a huge hit with teachers. They’re eco-friendly, made out of recycled newspaper, and are in instant fashion statement and conversation starter. We also have sturdy canvas tote bags too.
What else ends up in a teacher’s shopping baskets besides books? Eric Carle fabric, adorable Caterpillar pens, Eric Carle: Picture Writer DVD, Museum logo mugs and t-shirts, and even puzzles and games for the classroom. Need just a little something? Our Very Hungry Caterpillar eco-totes or Eric Carle notecards or a set of postcards might the perfect thing.
Click here for even more gift suggestions and let us know your favorite teacher gift in the comments below.
Wednesday, November 24th, 2010
I am a murderer. Twenty-three years ago, in the basement of The Children’s Bookstore in Chicago, I was roused to action by the cries of our bookkeeper. “A rat! I will not work in an office with a rat!” I bought a trap, set the spring, and baited the thing with peanut butter. The following morning I was shocked to see a dead beast beneath the sprung bar. On approach, I realized my error: the rat was wriggling. In disgust and terror I grabbed a four-foot-long scrap of wood and bludgeoned. My adrenaline did the trick. Grasping the trap so as not to touch the yucky dangling animal, I darted out the back door and pitched it in the dumpster.
Some may not grasp the degree of my crime’s horror, but they are probably not purveyors of books featuring such benign and clever characters as Ratty of The Wind in the Willows, or Templeton of Charlotte’s Web.
In his memoir Critical Path, Buckminster Fuller recalls how in 1927 while wheeling his tiny daughter in a stroller through the urban canyons of Manhattan he noticed the child pointing upwards. Following her finger he saw not a bird, but a plane. Fuller mused how a modern urban child must see ordinary animals in picture books as mythical beasts, far less real and personal than are the well-known mechanical contraptions of contemporary daily life such as cars, planes and vacuum cleaners.
Children’s book animal depiction practices acknowledge this distance between modern children and real animals: when rats are not to be feared by children as scary biters, then rats are available to be presented as charming and intelligent book characters. (I acknowledge the class element in this analysis, remembering Gil Scott-Heron’s scalding 1969 song that begins, “A rat done bit my sister Nell, with Whitey on the moon.”)
Along related lines, the elimination of the depiction of the killing of animals from picture books is something that has taken place during the course of the Twentieth Century, and so our society’s ubiquitous killing of animals (pest extermination; leather and fur clothing; meat and fish), has become something about which children are not informed through their books.
It’s a huge ellipsis, this unwillingness to explain to children about humans being animal-killers.
As a child in the early 1960s I remember seeing the animated version of Lynd Ward’s Caldecott Award-winning The Biggest Bear as a featurette on the Captain Kangaroo television show. And I loved Andy and the Lion, James Daugherty’s adventurous reworking of the ancient Greek tale of Androcles. The presence of guns and the shooting of bears and lions in these picture books didn’t draw my special notice. Bloodless, stylized gun violence was everywhere on TV anyhow, including children’s television shows like The Lone Ranger.
By the 1980s, when I opened The Children’s Bookstore, shockingly gruesome gun violence was displayed to younger and younger children via the new cable television and rental movie media distribution mechanisms. But remarkably, guns were absent from newly published picture books, and from most fiction for school-aged children as well—changes that increased that peculiar gulf between the safe world of children’s books and the manipulative world of commercial children’s media. In this contest between the creators of the garden of children’s literature—authors, illustrators, teachers, librarians, booksellers and parents—and the profit-driven free-for-all of mass culture, those of us on the children’s book side developed and maintained startling power to participate in the molding of social attitudes carried by our kids into adulthood.
Today, young children can play violent videogames and see untold varieties of horrific violence on the internet, without parental oversight. Exploitative mass culture of this kind is very much implicated in the kinds of random violence we fear in school and street. In contrast, I think it’s no accident that the last few decades’ increase in concern for animal rights has coincided with the ongoing positive anthropomorphic depiction of animals in children’s books, with absence of guns and killing.
I feel glad that as a children’s bookseller I have played a small part in increasing the level of empathy our society demonstrates for animals. Perhaps some of that empathy for animals will even translate to increased empathy among people for one another.
This morning I came to an understanding that before winter comes we need to get rid of the mice who for months have been pooping all over the kitchen. This time, however, research on the internet has revealed a benign and clever alternative to murder. All we have to do is take a scrap of wood, lean it against a twenty-inch-tall plastic wastebasket, and put bait inside on the bottom. The mice will run up the wood and leap down. In the morning I can take the wastebasket to a park and release the beasts.
Maybe I can learn from the errors of my past.
Tuesday, November 23rd, 2010
Zero by Kathryn Otoshi
Zero sees herself as just a big round number with a hole in the middle. Only when she realizes that her zero is attached to another number (10, 100, 1000, etc.) does she understand her own special value. Splashy art cartwheels across the page, catching readers’ visual attentions while smoothly integrating lessons in counting and teaching the concept of self worth.
Readers, save 15% off all Top of the Shelf books. Enter TOP in the Coupon Code box at checkout. Click here to purchase Zero or click here to read more Top of the Shelf book recommendations.
Monday, November 22nd, 2010
Do you know what famous children’s book illustrator was the model for the Santa character in Eric Carle’s book, Dream Snow?
Place your guesses in the comments below before Friday, November 26th, 2010 for a chance to win a set of 12 Dream Snow holiday cards!
GIVEAWAY NOW CLOSED.
Congratulations to Leslie Fields who had the correct answer. The model for Eric Carle’s Dream Snow was Barry Moser!
Friday, November 19th, 2010
I hated going to bed when I was little. I mean, seriously, what’s to like? It’s dark and kind of scary and maybe you’re alone in your own bedroom and you’re not even tired and there’s nothing to do and what’s that weird noise? You know your parents are downstairs having fun without you. There’s probably even cake. And why do grown-ups want to stay in bed so long in the morning? No, sleep was not something I looked forward to as a kid.
I remember it being completely foreign to me as a child that some animals slept all winter. How could anyone possibly sleep for that long? And why? Don’t they have to eat? What if they…you know…have to go? Do they hold it until spring? Hibernation, to me, was totally weird and yet…completely fascinating.
Around this time of year, as it gets reeeeaally cold around here in New England, customers start wanting a stack of picture books to snuggle up with on the couch or in bed. And for me, now that I’m older, on these dark winter nights sleeping until spring suddenly doesn’t sound so bad anymore. Looking through our shelves for cozy recommendations, I noticed just how many picture books touch on hibernation. I guess I wasn’t the only child completely captivated by this strange need to sleep all winter.
Jane Dyer’s Little Brown Bear Won’t Take a Nap! is a favorite recommendation of mine because it unites a child’s determination not to go to bed with the fact that all bears must hibernate in the winter. If little kids hate to go to sleep, what about little bears? Child readers can really relish in Little Bear’s rebellious adventures as he avoids his winter nap.
It’s no secret that I’m a big fan of Dennis Haseley and Jim LaMarche’s A Story for Bear. We’ve talked about it here and here already, but it’s worth repeating because, in my opinion, this book does not get as much buzz as it deserves. And nothing is sweeter than this story-loving bear sleeping and dreaming all winter long among a den full of books.
I love Denise Fleming’s picture books not only for her unique handmade paper collage illustrations, but also because they explain nature and ecosystems in such an accessible way. In her book, Time to Sleep, the bear smells winter coming in the air, which sets off a chain reaction of animals telling other animals to prepare for the winter. Readers, both children and adults, will discover how each of the animals, from bears to snails and from skunks to ladybugs, all hibernate in their own way. A great bedtime read that’s educational as well as entertaining, Time to Sleep is the perfect book to get all readers in the mood for winter.
And what bears do all day when they’re hibernating? Are they asleep? Do they dream? In Kevin Henkes’ Old Bear, this bear has beautiful, vivid dreams all winter. Inside his dreams, the reader follows the bear as he frolicks through each of the four seasons until finally he awakes in the spring. The simple and colorful illustrations truly awaken the joy of all the seasons and offer that comforting reminder that even though the winter may be long and boring (just like going to bed at night sometimes feels) there is always a colorful spring to look forward to. And in the meantime, we can dream…and read!
Click here to purchase any of these exceptional bear picture books and save 15% off at checkout with the coupon code: BEAR until Friday, November 26, 2010.
Wednesday, November 17th, 2010
The New York Times recently released their picks for best illustrated children’s books of 2010 and I’m so pleased there are so many of my favorite titles made the list!
If you haven’t seen it yet, pick up a copy of Philip and Erin Stead’s A Sick Day for Amos McGee. The illustrations are a wonderful blend of woodblock printing and pencil with a subdued yet festive palette that matches the subtle sweetness of the story. Amos McGee works at the city zoo and his day runs like clockwork. He catches the number five bus every day at 6 am to work and then, one by one, spends time with his animal friends. But when Amos gets sick and his regular schedule gets disrupted, his friends miss him and surprise him at home. The subtle details in the illustrations, like the curving in of the shy penguin’s toes, the splashes of color against the gray pencil lines, or the tiny mouse and bird accompanying the main characters, all add to and complement the text. And nothing is sweeter than the wordless spread of all the animals waiting at the bus stop. This is a wonderful story about friendship, reminiscent of out-of-print Arnold Lobel’s A Zoo for Mister Muster, and it’s sure to be on my personal bookshelf for a long, long time.
Another wonderful new title is Bink & Gollie by Kate DiCamillo and Alison McGhee, illustrated by Tony Fucile. For me, Bink & Gollie have immediately joined the ranks with other favorite storybook pairs such as Frog & Toad, Gossie & Gertie, and Toot & Puddle. Reminiscent particularly of the Frog & Toad books, Bink & Gollie shows that uniquely different personalities can make a perfect pair in an early-reader book fashion. In a collection of three short, heavily illustrated stories, we meet the eccentric Bink and the imaginative Gollie as they go on adventures from buying socks to climbing the Andes and everything in between. The illustrations are humorous with delightful pacing, but what I love most about this book is the language choice. “Bink,” said Gollie, “the brightness of those socks pains me. I beg you not to purchase them.” or “Some socks are more lovable than others.” Not only was I hysterically laughing while reading, but completely loved that the authors didn’t shy away from big words like bonanza, marvelous or outrageous in fear of scaring away children and instead embraced them, knowing that child readers will too. I can’t wait for the first kid to walk in the store and declare it’s a marvelous book bonanza. Hats off to DiCamillo and McGhee!
I am a HUGE fan of Suzy Lee and especially love how she expertly utilizes the book’s design in her picture books. From format, to use of color, to the arrangement of illustrations on the page, Lee seems to always be very aware of the power of simple details. I have noted she particularly likes to play with the book’s gutter (the seam of the book where the pages meet). In her most recent book, Shadow, the left page shows a girl playing in a crowded attic while the opposite page shows her shadow and the shadows of the objects in the room, with the gutter as the barrier. While the illustrations begin in black and white, Lee gradually plays with the color yellow, and as the girl’s imagination grows and her fantasy of the shadows takes over, so does the color yellow on the page. Reminiscent of Where the Wild Things Are, where once we saw a cluttered attic, we are now completely lost in the girl’s imaginative shadow world, until a reminder of the outside world brings us all back. I’m certain that there’s nothing I like better than a book that fully embraces imagination in such a skilled way.
I could go on and on about my favorite picture books this year, but that will have to wait for another day. In the meantime, check out the rest of the New York Times Best Illustrated Children’s Books of 2010 and purchase them from our website here. Use the coupon code NYT2010 at checkout and save 15% on any of the books from the list until Wednesday, November 24, 2010. Now let’s get reading!
Tuesday, November 16th, 2010
And I Love You by Ruth Krauss and Steven Kellogg
Kellogg brings new life to Kraus’ 1987 tale by emphasizing the love between parent and child (here, Mother cat and kitten) through books and stories. Kitten, with teddy bear tucked happily in a backpack, and Mama travel through changing landscapes – big trees, ocean vistas, vast forests – then find books that enlighten those experiences. The appealing duo along with Kellogg’s exuberant lines and luxurious colors make this an excellent story to share and the a perfect book for giving.
Readers, save 15% off any of our Top of the Shelf books. Enter TOP in the Coupon Code box at checkout. Click here to purchase And I Love You or click here to read more Top of the Shelf book recommendations.
Monday, November 15th, 2010
Of all of Eric Carle picture books, which does he call his favorite?
Saturday, November 13th, 2010
Join us Sunday, November 14th for a full day packed with food, art, and author events. Sunday marks our official Monsters & Miracles exhibition Celebration Day from 10 am until 6 pm at both The Carle and our neighbor The Yiddish Book Center.
We start the morning off with a latke breakfast in our cafe, followed by a presentation from author/illustrator extraordinaire Lisa Brown in our auditorium. Lisa will be reading from her book, The Latke Who Couldn’t Stop Screaming. This hysterically funny book, written by Lisa’s husband, Lemony Snicket, has been a smash-hit in our bookstore. Lisa’s other books range from picture books (My favorite? How to Be) all the way to snarky board books for new parents. Lisa even contributes cartoon book reviews for the book section of the San Francisco Chronicle. You can view them online here. I love how succinctly (and humorously!)Lisa captures the essence of the classics. A book signing will follow her presentation outside the Shop.
Later in the afternoon, we welcome two spectacular Caldecott Medal-winning illustrators to our auditorium. At 4 pm Uri Shulevitz and Nonny Hogrogian will join Monsters & Miracles guest curators Ilan Stavans and Neal Sokol for a panel discussion about the history of illustration for Jewish children’s books. Not only do you need to own the numerous award-winning books by both of these artists, but Uri Shulevitz’s Writing with Pictures is a must-have guide for any children’s book aficionado or aspiring illustrator. Uri Shulevitz’s skill and experience as both an amazing writer and illustrator make him the best instructor for this book on picture book creation. He examines every detail of the picture book and offers detailed explanations for what makes illustrations work. Not only was it a textbook used in my graduate class on picture books, it’s also my go-to recommendation when any customer shows interest in learning about writing or illustrating picture books.
Following the presentation, we welcome everyone to partake in some appetizers and mingling in our Great Hall. You might also be able to snag a signed book or two from our Shop. Exhibition catalogs as well as books that feature the art you see in the galleries will be all be available for sale as well so you can take a little bit of this wonderful show home with you. It’s sure to be a non-stop celebration all day. We hope to see you there!