Book Review: The Birthday Ball by Lois Lowry

The Birthday Ball
by Lois Lowry, illustrated by Jules Feiffer

9780547238692, $16, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt,
Pub. Date: April 2010

Though Princess Patricia Priscilla has everything she could ever want she is utterly bored. To escape her boredom, Princess Patricia Priscilla switches places with her chambermaid Tess, and becomes simple Pat, just another village child going to school. Throughout the week, she gets to know the children in her school, the villagers, and the stern-but-handsome schoolteacher.

Unfortunately, on her 16th birthday at the end of the week, she is having a big Birthday Ball where she will be forced to choose a suitor – either disgusting Duke Desmond of Dyspepsia, pompous Prince Percival of Pustula, or cranky conjoint Counts Colin and Cuthbert.

Luckily, Pat is smart as well as pretty. She invites all the villagers to the party and gives THEM presents instead! Then she has her mother knight the schoolteacher and chooses him as her suitor.

Additional storylines include Tess, the chambermaid, who is actually the schoolteacher’s long-lost sister, and her crush on the pulley boy; the triplet kitchen maids who sing in three-part harmonies; the little orphan girl in Pat’s school class who ends up charming and civilizing the Duke of Desmond; and of course, what happens to the other suitors.

The story is charming and funny. It reminds me of “A Barrel of Laughs, A Vale of Tears” actually written by Jules Feiffer. Similar quirkiness saves a regular “princess goes into disguise and marries former pauper” story from being too, sorry for the pun, pat.

Jules Feiffer’s spot illustrations add an extra humorous touch.

For fans of princess stories with a twist, read-aloud to as young as 6 years-old, read-alone up to age 12-ish.



Book Review: Mistwood by Leah Cypess

by Leah Cypess
9780061956997, $16.99, Greenwillow Books (Harper), Pub. Date: May 2010

Isabel doesn't remember her life before they came for her. She was living in the forest, that much she knows, and apparently, not as a human. The new king (Rokan) and his brother (Will) found her there. The king's sister (Clarisse) does not approve. The king's high sorcerer (Albin) does not approve. Rokan brings her back to the castle anyway.

Isabel is a shape-shifter. THE Shifter sworn to protect the king. She should not have emotions. She should be cold, calculating, and exist only to save the king from danger.
Except Isabel does have emotions. She does have feelings. She does form attachments and opinions about who and what she likes. So how can this be?

Similar to the tale of self-discovery told in Kristen Cashore's Graceling and Fire, Isabel will have to unravel the tales of her own existence, the secret history of the new king, and her own forgotten past lives in order to find out who and what she has the power to be.

A strong debut novel for Leah Cypess. This is a teen read, ideal for ages 12 through 15. Share/Bookmark

Summer 2010 Picturebook Highlights - Workman

Here are two titles from Workman Publishing, fifth in the "Summer 2010 Picturebook Highlights" series!

The Book of Potentially Catastrophic Science: 50 Experiments for Daring Young Scientists
by Sean Connolly
9780761156871, $12.95, Pub Date: March 2010
A sequel to The Book of Totally Irresponsible Science: 64 Daring Experiments for Young Scientists (9780761150206, $12.95), this book takes science one step further. The science experiments are all selected to demonstrate a specific scientific principle that is explained in a fun "history of science" blurb on each page. Don't miss out on either one of these books - though I hate to gender things, I've had great feedback from 8-12-year-old boys in particular.

Star Wars: A Scanimation Book: 12 Iconic Scenes from a Galaxy Far, Far Away...
by Rufus Butler Seder
9780761158462, $14.95, Pub. Date: April 2010
A perfect combination - scanimation technology and the hi-tech sci-fi world of Star Wars. Similar to earlier books Gallop!, Swing!, and Waddle, this book is geared toward children a few years older than board book age, though still in a sturdy landscape format to mimic film stills. Only there's nothing still about these pages, for as you move the page, each scene moves with you for a mini live-action shot of 12 Star Wars scenes. Share/Bookmark


Summer 2010 Picturebook Highlights - Simon & Schuster

Introducing Simon & Schuster as number four in the "Summer 2010 Picturebook Highlights" series!

The Pirate of Kindergarten
by George Ella Lyon, illustrated by Lynne Avril
9781416950240, $16.99, Pub. Date: June 2010
This one's a departure from my usual taste; I'm not, in general, a huge fan of "issues" books. This one caught my attention because it's a clever blend of issue & character-driven plot with bright illustrations. Ginny sees everything as a double. She doesn't know this isn't how most other people see the world. I enjoy (and think kids will, too) that the teacher overlooks or misinterprets signs of Ginny's double-vision, as this often happens between adults and children. A routine eye exam results in Ginny's pirate-like eye patch she will need to wear until her new glasses arrive. The pirate theme is very small at the end, so don't be fooled this will be a swashbuckling adventure. A good book to read at any time when explaining the difference in peoples' appearances.
Perhaps I like this book due to my own experience with needing glasses. As family legend would have it, I put on my new glasses, stepped outside, and said, "You can see leaves?!" Apparently, only green blobs had been visible before the miracle glasses. I was nine-years-old. My mother felt awful, but now I like to tease her about it.

Dogs Don't Do Ballet
by Anna Kemp, illustrated by Sara Ogilvie
9781416998396, $15.99, Pub. Date: June 2010
Biff, an adorable little Boston Terrier-looking dog, longs to dance ballet. But, as you can imagine, he is told time and again, "Dogs don't do ballet!" He follows his owners to a show at the Royal Ballet, and when the principle dancer falls, it's Biff's big chance! Will his ballet moves impress the crowd and save the show? Adorable illustrations highlight Biff's longing for dance.
What I find most intriguing about this book is you could very easily change the word "boy" for the word "dog" (not that I'm calling boys dogs, mind you), and have a non-traditional coming-of-age tale.

The Cow Loves Cookies
by Karma Wilson, illustrated by Marcellus Hall
9781416942061, $16.99, Pub. Date: July 2010
A great new storytime book! As the farmer walks around the farm, feeding each animal its particular type of food, everyone can chant the refrain together: "The Cow loves cookies!" The illustrations are somewhat reminiscent of the barnyards featured in Betsy Lewin's illustrations for Doreen Cronin's picturebooks such as Click, Clack, Moo: Cows That Type, though obviously with an original spin.

Where Is Tippy Toes?
written & illustrated by Betsy Lewin
9781416938088, $16.99, Pub. Date: July 2010
Die-cut pages fold open to reveal where Tippy Toes the cat goes. Very sweet, and a good bedtime book.

by Matthew Van Fleet
9781442403796, $17.99, Pub. Date: August 2010
I'm cheating a little bit here, because technically this is a board book, but it's wonderful! In the same vein as his others - Cat, Alphabet, Dog, Tails - this book has more push tabs, with his signature funny rhyming text.

The Halloween Kid
by Rhode Montijo
9781416935759, $12.99, Pub. Date: August 2010
A delightful combination of retro illustrations and Western-sounding slang, this picturebook is a new Halloween must-have. The Halloween Kid is a masked hero, riding around on his trusty hobby horse, saving trick-or-treaters from the Goody Goblins and other clever monsters.

The Monster Princess
by D.J. MacHale, illustrated by Alexandra Boiger
9781416948094, $17.99, Pub. Date: August 2010
A perfect match between author and illustrator! The rhyming text is well-written and tells the story of a krinkle-nut digger type-of-monster named Lala. Lala lives in a cave deep in the earth, but dreams of the light and the dresses and parties of life as a princess. When she gets a chance to attend the ball, she slips and falls, and the real princesses laugh at her. Back at home, her supportive mother comforts Lala by telling her she brings her own light into the cave. Lala forgives the princesses for being mean, and decides being a princess isn't what she's meant to be after all. The beautiful illustrations and design of the words on each page adds so much character to an already enticing story.

A backlist title I just discovered:

My Friend, the Starfinder
by George Ella Lyon, illustrated by Stephen Gammell
9781416927389, $16.99
Have to admit I haven't read this book yet, but I love Stephen Gammell illustrations. The catalogue description reads: Dazzled, a little girl listens to her old neighbor's story of following a falling star when he was a boy. He found it, too. But that's not all the starfinder has to tell, in this luminous picture book by George Ella Lyon and Stephen Gammell.
It feels like the perfect summertime nighttime book to me.

And stay tuned - I have about 10 chapter book recommendations I need to blog about. Coming soon! Share/Bookmark


Summer 2010 Picturebook Highlights - Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Third in the series of "Summer 2010 Picturebook Highlights" is...Houghton Mifflin Harcourt!

Mimi's Dada Catifesto
by Shelley Jackson

814, $17, Pub. Date: April 2010
This book captured my heart originally due to the collage illustrations (one of my favorite types of art). Reading the story - an artistic cat in search of the right owner, Mr. Dada in search of the right pet - warmed my heart even more.

A Dignity of Dragons: Collective Nouns for Magical Beasts
by Jacqueline K. Ogburn, illustrated by Nicoletta Ceccoli
9780618862542, $17,
Pub. Date: May 2010
new bestiary for any child interested in fantastical beings, complete with a glossary and stunning, daydream-inspiring artwork.

The Famous Nini: A Mostly True Story of How a Plain White Cat Became a Star
by Mary Nethery, illustrated by John Manders
9780618977697, $17, Pub. Date: June 2010
The illustrations infuse N
ini, the cat, with such personality in this picturebook about a stray cat who becomes famous in Venice in the 1890s.

Flora's Very Windy Day
by Jeanne Birdsall, illustrated by Matt Phelan
8986767, $16, Pub. Date: August 2010
Book Award winning author of The Penderwicks has written her first picture book! Flora's Very Windy Day is lucky to be illustrated by the talented Matt Phelan, whose first graphic novel - A Storm in the Barn - won the Scott O'Dell Award for historical fiction. Don't miss this whimsical picture book from such an award-winning duo.

I couldn't help myself- here are some
favorite Houghton Mifflin Harcourt backlist - already published!

But Who Will Bell the Cats?
by Cynthia von Buhler

Hardcover: 97
80618997183, $16
A brilliantly depicted version of Aesop's "Belling the Cat" fable. The illustrations are stunning
, mixed medium with a combination of photography, collage, and illustration. The total book design helps to tell the story of one brave little mouse and his friend Brown Bat who live beneath the castle where eight cats and a princess live.

How the Nobble Was Finally Found
by C.K. Williams, illustrated by Stephen Gammell
Hardcover: 9780152054601, $18

Vivid watercolor
illustrations by a Caldecott Award-winning artist brings the fantastical character of the Nobble to life. The Nobble loves playing in all sorts of imaginative places but gets lonely playing alone. He goes off on an adventure and gets a little help finding a friend. This is perfect for the older picture book child.

I Like You
by Sandol Stoddard Warburg, illustrated by Jacqueline Chwast

Hardcover: 9780395071762, $6.95

“I like you/And I know why/I like you because/You are a good person/To like.”
The delicate cartoon-esque line drawings perfectly accent this simple, yet heartfelt, little pocket gift-sized book. The sweet free-flowing verse makes this a perfect gift to give to a friend, family member, or romantic love any day of the year. “You really like me/Don’t you/And I really like you back/And you like me back/And I like you back/And that’s the way we keep on going/Every day.”

In a Blue Room
by Jim Averbeck, illustrated by Tricia Tusa

Hardcover: 9780152059927, $16

A magical bedtime book with beautiful dreamy illustrations.

And stay tuned for my favorite Houghton Mifflin Harcourt chapter books - coming up!


Geeks in Love

I first read this article in 2009; it refers to an event in 2008. I have yet to hear of a sweeter, real life, proposal story.

So many people condemn Valentine's Day as one of those "Hallmark holidays".

I agree that being bombarded by red, white, and pink crepe paper, cut-outs of naked baby cherubs, and heart representations of all shapes and sizes is a bit co
nsumerist sensory overload (ahem*Christmas, anyone?*ahem), yet I have to support the sentiment behind it all. While I think we should take the time to remember those we love in ways large and small on every day of the calendar year, AND despite not having a significant other on this Valentine's Day, considering how awful humans are to each other on a daily, hourly, minute-by-minute basis as a species, how can I not believe in the goodness behind an entire day devoted to recognizing those people who embody the plethora of ways you define "love" in your own life?

To this end, I give you one example. May I present:

Geeks in Love A.K.A. How I Proposed to My Wife, by Jeremy Zilar

One year ago today on Valentine’s Day I proposed to my wife, Juliette, through a crossword puzzle in her copy of The New York Times.

Juliette loves the N.Y.T. crossword puzzle. She prefers the real paper version of the Times, organizing it by section and devouring it piece by piece, saving the arts section for last. I thought proposing via the crossword puzzle would be wonderful. All the pieces seemed to fit. We were getting ready to start a new Crossword Blog at The Times, I was probably going to be working with Will Shortz, and maybe, just maybe, I could ask him if he would run a special crossword for me. Oh, and Valentine’s Day was around the corner.

I e-mailed Will. He declined. He said he famously did this back in 1998, that he’ll probably never do it again, and that he doesn’t like to repeat ideas. However, he did give me the name of a constructor who could help: Fred Piscop. After many nights trying to build my own puzzle and failing, I e-mailed Fred.

Fred was great. I sent him a list of relevant words, clues, and description of Juliette and me. A few days later, Fred sent me his first draft. I was amazed. I did ask him to change a few words in the puzzle. BETRAY became BETTOR, and a few others changed as a result. Since this was only meant for Juliette to solve, I took liberty to modify some of Fred’s clues to be more specific to our lives. Then, I spent a few hours seeking out the crossword page template for the arts section.

The whole job took a good amount of field research. Most mornings I was up at the crack of dawn and raced downstairs to get one of the few papers available at the local bodega. Then, I would present her with her paper, carefully watch her go through each section, noting how she designed her reading habits to arrive at the crossword puzzle last. Some days she would fold the arts section up and stuff it in her bag before heading on the train. Other days, she would save it until she was ready for bed.

Finally, it all came together. I had arranged to get a copy of the arts page just after 5 p.m. when the section closed, and with the help of the art director of the travel section, I had printed out a near perfect copy of the page — the exact page the real crossword was printed on, front and back.

The day arrived. I had the ring. I woke up at 6:30 a.m., the precise time that the bodega downstairs opens, and bought a copy of The New York Times. Then, I went upstairs, and in the hallway outside the apartment, I switched out the page with the actual puzzle for the one I had created, and just to make sure it looked like part of the original run, I folded the arts section back up, pressed the fold a few times before inserting it back in to the rest of the paper right below Thursday Styles. I sneaked back into the house and proceeded to make breakfast for Juliette.

I watched as she sat there, flipping through each section, casually reading, saving the arts section for last as I had seen before. When she finally did get to the end, she made like she was going to save the crossword for the train when I stopped her and said, “Maybe you should take a look at today’s crossword puzzle. It is a special one.” She opened it up, stared at it for a few moments, then totally squealed, “Oh, my God! You made the crossword puzzle!” I swear, to this day, I have never again seen her react like that. I handed her a pen — it happened to be a pen with archival ink — and suggested she try to solve it. She hesitated for a moment because in her mind, Thursday puzzles were not very easy to solve, much less while the solver was being watched.

Within a few minutes, when she got about halfway through the puzzle and had already filled in a few words that fed into the bottom row, she smiled and told me that she could see the end of the puzzle. I let her fill in all the vertical words that filled out 62 and 63 across. When she finally filled it out, WILLYOU MARRYME, we both stared at each other for a second, unsure of what to do next. Then I asked her to marry me.

On September 5, one year after our first date, we got married in the Prospect Park Boathouse in Brooklyn. Juliette and I are now expecting our first child, due to arrive in this world around July 21, 2009.

Happy Valentine's Day


Happy Valentine's Day!



Things I Don't Need but Desperately Want

If, like me, you are an imaginary shopaholic, you will enjoy this post.

By imaginary, I mean that if I had more money, I
would be a true shopaholic.

Oh, I don't count books or food. For those two categories I allow myself to spend as much (within reason-ish) as I can each day, week, month, year. Everything else is secondary.

BUT I have a very hard time resisting book- and food-related items. Especially book. See below:.

Vinyl Hardcover Book Stack Earrings, Necklace, & Pin

"Read Books, Not T-shirts" t-shirt
(Molly, I thought of you.)

Helvetica Cookie Cutters
(Hartford, if I buy these, will you make me cookies?)

And finally, the moment you've all been waiting for. The item I've been saving my pennies for, for at least the last couple of weeks:

That's right. It's a hardcover laptop case that's made to look like an old book. I drool every time I look at it.

My birthday's only a short 5.5 months away, people. Just sayin'. Also, I'll accept presents early. Share/Bookmark


I'd like to thank the Academy...

After about a week hiatus, I'm back to the blog world, and what do I find?

A Prolific Blogger Award from the lovely Catherine Ensley at Words World and Wings!

My very first blog award, for being prolific, no less, and I'm not even around to enjoy it. Always that way, huh? So, better late than never, I am now adhering to the guidelines that come with being the recipient of such an award.

Here are the rules:

1. Every winner of the Prolific Blogger Award has to pass on this award to at least seven other deserving prolific bloggers. Spread some love!

Here are my Prolific Blogger Award choices:

a. Stephanie Anderson of Bookavore
b. Guys Lit Wire
c. Andy, Barbara, & Eliza from Shop Talk, the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art blog
d. The Ampersand (the blog that first gave me the idea for my new tattoo)
e. Liz of the life and times of sticks and bricks, the blog for a great indie store in downtown Northampton
f. Deborah Sloan of The Picnic Basket
g. Jenny Brown of twentybyjenny

2. Each Prolific Blogger must link to the blog from which he/she has received the award.

Here is the original post from the Words World and Wings blog.

3. Every Prolific Blogger must link back to This Post, which explains the origins and motivation for the award.

4. Every Prolific Blogger must visit this post and add his/her name in the Mr. Linky, so that we all can get to know the other winners.

Congratulations to everyone who received this award! Share/Bookmark


Mixed-Media Artists: Carin Berger, Lisa DeJohn, Lorena Siminovich

I love mixed-media art, also known in certain circumstances as collage art. It is my own preferred art method of choice, and I find myself drawn to it in others.
Today I would like to highlight the work of three mixed-media artists who also work in the children's book realm:
Carin Berger,
Lisa DeJohn, & Lorena Siminovich

Carin Berger I first discovered for her book The Little Yellow Leaf. Hardcover: 9780061452239, Greenwillow Books (Harper), $16.99

She incorporates many different papers in her illustrations, often using the design of the pa
per to enhance the illustration - for instance, ruled paper creates some lines of perspective on the horizontal plane, or variance in paper color adds texture to the trunk of a tree.

In Behold the Bold Umbrellaphant by Jack Prelutsky, she uses newsprint for the elephant's body, counting on the black words on white page to form the grey of the elephant's skin.
Hardcover: 9780060543174, Greenwillow Books (Harper), $16.99

All Mixed Up
is even more abstract; you can flip through the book, choosing a different head, body, and legs to create your own character.
Hardcover: 9780811849661, Chronicle Boo
ks, $8.95

Don't miss Forever Friends, about the friendship and loyalty between a rabbit and a blue bird, coming this March 2010.
Hardcover: 9780061915284, Greenwillow Books (Harper), $16.99

Other Carin Berger-illustrated books are:

Not So True Stories & Unreasonable Rhymes
Hardcover: 9780811837736, Chronicle Books, $15.95

Trailblazers: Poems of E
xploration by Bobbi Katz
Hardcover: 9780688165338, Greenwillow Books (Harper), $18.99

Ok Go

Hardcover: 9780061576669, Harper, $17.99

Lisa DeJohn was first introduced to me on the Chronicle Book list.

I love almost everything
picture book or art-related on the Chronicle Book list; our tastes are usually very much aligned.

Lisa DeJohn's Alphabet Animals Flash Cards made me want more, more more, though this is, sadly, the only children-specific item that has been published.
9780811864657, Chronicle Books, $14.95

I've had friends buy these cards to
use them as the border on the walls of their rooms, or made them into mobiles for babies' cribs.
Chronicle has also published a calenda
r and journal that has featured her collage work. Her website shows a lot of other work she's done, and is really worth checking out.

Lorena Siminovich I discovered just last year, when she and Sara Gillingham published their In My... series board books with Chronicle Books. (I warned you I loved that publisher.)

In My Nest, In My Den, In My Pond, and In My Tree all came out in 2009.
Board Books: 9780811865555, 9780811870535, 9780811865562, 9780811870528, $8.99 each

In My Meadow
and In My Flower were just published in January 2010.
Board Books: 9780811873383, 9780811873390, $8.99 each

What I didn't realize until today was that Lorena Siminovich also has My Favorite Things ABC flash cards, similar to Lisa DeJohn's in their ability to be used as much for their artistic value than functional one.
9780811867993, $14.95

Also, hooray!, two new board books are being published in March 2010 by Chronicle Books:
I Like Fruit and I Like Bugs are part of her "Petit Collage" series, which also features a baby book/memory box, notecards, and cloth journal.
Board Books: 9780763648039, 9780763648022, $6.99 each

If you check out her website, you will also be able to see other projects she has going, including picture books, coasters for Galison, children's toy blocks for Mudpuppy, and more.

I hope you enjoy their work as much as I have!


Ode to Christopher Wormell

This ode is dedicated to Christopher Wormell, and in particular, to his wood engravings of animals and beasts.
He illustrates non-woodcut pictures, as well, and I don't mean to slight those books. But, it was his wood engravings that first caught my eye - specifically the total book design of the picture books that feature his woodcuts.
Hardcover, cloth bound picture books with covers in rich earth tones showcase his talents with a central image and thick lettering. The same format applies to the board book format of his books as well. The pictures below should show you how unique and distinct his personal style and each book is.
His wood engravings feature bold, simple lines that clearly define their subject. The illustrations are heavy, on subject and detail, so the weight of the engraving comes through in the broad lines, while also showing unique details on each animal body.
It is sad to note that many titles are out-of-print, but Running Press is continuing to publish some old and new titles in various formats. Look for these titles at a new or used bookstores near you:
Mice, Morals, & Monkey Business: Lively Lessons from Aesop’s Fables
Hardcover: 9780762424347, Running Press, $18.95
Hardcover: 97
80762424047, Running Press, $18.95
Board Book: 9780762429325, Running Press, $6.95

Through the Animals' Eyes: A Story of the First Christmas
Hardcover: 9780762426690, Running Press, $18.95

Hardcover: 9780762433353, Running Press,

The New Alphabet of Animals
Hardcover: 9780762413478, Running Press, $18.95
Paperback: 9780762418473, Running Press, $7.95
Board Book:
9780762427291, Running Press, $6.95
Wings, Horns & Claws: A Dinosaur Book of Epic Proportions
Hardcover: 9780762424191, Running Press, $18.95
Board Book: 9780762435791, Running Press, $7.95

A Number of Animals – Out-of-Print
By Kate Green, illustrated b
y Christopher Wormell
Hardcover: 9780152009267, Creative Company, $19.95
Hardcover: 9781568460833, Creative Company, $19.95
9780898123845, Creative Company, $7.95

An Alphabet of Animals – Out-of-Print
Mini Hardcover: 9781561387045, Running Press, $4.95

Teeth, Tails, and Tentacles: An Animal Counting Book
Hardcover: 9780762420858, Running P
ress, $18.95
Hardcover: 9780762421008, Running Press, $18.95
Board Book: 9780762427284, Running Press, $6.95

The Animals Came Two by Two: The Story of Noah’s Ark
Hardcover: 9780762427185, Running Press, $19.95


Weak in the Knees

Has anyone else ever read anything that made them weak in the knees? I know I can't be the only one to have this much of a visceral reaction to reading.

1. characterized by or proceeding from instinct rather than intellect
2. characterized by or dealing with coarse or base emotions; earthy; cru

When I read something I react to on said visceral level, it's like all my sensory/sensual pressure points have been pushed at once. My knees buckle. My eyes want to de
licately water. I begin to feel a little dizzy, as if in the presence of an awesome power (with the original meaning of the word, actually inspiring awe). Shivers run up and down my spine, and I would be lying if I said I wasn't a little turned on.

The involvement of my intellect, engaged in the act of reading something so tremendously brillia
nt as to affect me thus then short-circuits, so my instincts take over and my body reacts to pleasure in the only way it knows how.

As you might imagine, this can get a little awkward when reading something in public, say, on my lunch break, or taking the bus to work. Luckily, that reaction really is reserved for the ultimate experience. When something written reaches inside of you and touches secret places that somehow combine the security of family, the fresh excitement of new love, the sexual awareness of a beginning relationship, the comfort and warmth of apple pie.

Amy Bloom's writing does that for me. Primarily her short stories and essays, including one essay on her website entitled "La Divina Commedia".

I was first introduced to her writing about five years ago. A Blind Man Can See How Much I Love You and Come to Me (for which she was a National Book Award nominee) are two of her previous collections of short stories. I've been waiting for a new collection ever since.

A Blind Man Can See How Much I Love You
Paperback: 9780375705571, Random House, $13.95

Come to Me

Paperback: 9780060995140, Harper, $12

Her latest book of short stories is entitled Where the God of Love Hangs Out.
Hardcover: 9781400063574, Random House, $25

I'm only halfway through, and I couldn't wait to finish reading it before writing this post. The way she writes about love, life, and relationships is unparalleled in my experience. No judgment, but honest portrayal of real people, real life as we experience it with all the hurt that breaks us down and the tender moments that build us back up and allow us to hope. Amy Bloom makes me believe in love again. The friend who introduced me to Amy Bloom's writing describes it as "beautiful and compassionate wreckage" - perfect.

Whose writing makes
you feel this way? Share/Bookmark

John Scalzi Post All Writers Should Read

John Scalzi has a brilliant (I know I'm overusing that word) post entitled "Why In Fact Publishing Will Not Go Away Anytime Soon: A Deeply Slanted Play in Three Acts".

Particularly appropriate for authors or authors-to-be in the current publishing/book industry market today.

Also, hysterical.
Please read. Share/Bookmark

Bookselling in Crisis, Part 2

Hello, again, loyal readers,

It is I, the non-alarmist, bringing you more alarming news from the front lines of the independent book-selling world. (To read the first "Bookselling in Crisis" post, go here.) Today I am here to report on the recent crisis concerning publishing representatives (hereafter referred to as "reps"). Reps are the biggest connection between booksellers and publishers. They come to our stores, get to know our store size, buying styles, customer demographics, and possible events. They send us advanced copies, and sometimes published copies of favorite books. They help us make author connections and help us with events. They listen to our advice, and our reviews. They celebrate with us when a favorite book wins an award. They help us straighten out ordering issues, remind us of old treasures, introduce us to new favorites, and generally provide a warm and friendly face to put with large (and small) publishers.

In short, my life as a bookseller is enriched by my interaction with my publisher reps.

And sadly, my publisher reps are being hit hard as the book industry struggles to right so many excess wrongs it's incurred over the years.

This is a letter to the publishing industry at large, written by the North Atlantic Independent Booksellers Association:

We are alarmed with what appears to be a trend in the sales division of publishers; the removal of field sales reps to independent bookstores. This draconian move against our bookselling segment will be responsible for the disappearance of book culture.

Field sales reps are a crucial part of our business. Each regional independent booksellers association and Publishers Weekly honors an outstanding field rep each year. We can’t think of another publisher position that gets this recognition. We devote countless hours at conferences refining the sales rep/bookseller relationship. They are that crucial to us.

Restricting field reps to large stores will give publishers a skewed view of what is a very diverse world --independent bookselling. Sales reps take the time to know our stores, what our customers like, and what is on our shelves. They are the industry worker-bees, travelling the region, taking ideas and trends and pollinating other stores. We learn about other stores from them, what others are reading and loving; what is selling; marketing tips; event ideas; what the publisher is doing; and what authors have books coming out in the next season. They make fans for authors out of our frontline booksellers. They cut through the catalogs to make sure we carry what we’ll be able to sell, and their endorsements are why we buy what we might have ignored.

These reasons are why cuts in field sales reps devastate us. Have you really thought about what this stricture will mean to you? Fewer books sales. Without a doubt, we are not ordering as much through telemarketing. We are definitely not focusing on your backlist through tele-sales, and we definitely miss titles from the frontlist. We also don’t buy as much direct, which makes independent bookselling a less profitable business. The vicious cycle is that we buy less because we don’t have sales reps, and then you devalue our business because we aren’t buying as much as we used to.

We understand the corporate need to save money. There are more efficacious and less exclusionary ways to cut your budgets. You know what they are because independent bookstores have been telling you what they are for years. Cut multiple ARC mailings. Do away with promotional gimmicks that go from mailbox to garbage can. Consider publishing fewer titles, fewer hard covers, fewer copies. Take a hard look at celebrity advances.

We exist to sell your books, those unique and hard to place titles, not just the established authors. Field sales reps are the tools we need to do that for you. As much as you would like to think a tele-salesperson is doing the same job, you are sadly mistaken. A field sales rep is far more than a person filling in an order form.

Don’t cut our lifeline to your books.


The NAIBA Board of Directors
Joe Drabyak, Chester County Book Company, West Chester, PA
Lucy Kogler, Talking Leaves Inc., Buffalo, NY
Betty Bennett, Sparta Books, Sparta, NJ
Harvey Finkel, Clinton Bookshop, Clinton, NJ
Pat Kutz, Lift Bridge Book Shop, Brockport, NY
Mark LaFramboise, Politics & Prose, Washington, DC
Margot Sage-EL, Watchung Booksellers, Montclair, NJ
Jessica Stockton Bagnulo, Greenlight Bookstore, Brooklyn, NY
Susan L. Weis, breathe books, Baltimore, MD

They say it more eloquently than I ever could. Please, help us by supporting your local independent bookstores. Increased sales means a publisher might think twice about cutting a rep for our area. Thank you for taking the time to read about our plight.
- Rebecca Share/Bookmark


Seasonal Sensations - Valentine's Day

For those of you who enjoy boycotting this holiday, you may also need to boycott this post.

No, I
won't write the entire post in red, that's just obnoxious. Yet, I am still going to tell you about my favorite picks, both old and new, for this particular holiday. If you don't want to give them to your sweethearts, beloved friends, or family members during this month, perhaps they will come in handy some random day in the future.


I Like You by Sandol Stoddard Warburg, illustrated by Jacqueline Chwast
Hardcover: 9780395071762, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $6.95

This sweet and tender book is perfect to give to both a friend or the most loved one in your life. It's a small-format, hardcover picturebook whose tiny size packs a huge punch with its lyrical, child-like text. "I like you/And I know why/I like you because/You are a good person/To like".

A Friend is Someone Who Likes You by Joan Walsh Anglund
Hardcover: 9780152296780, Harcourt, $9.95

This old classic has been re
published for a new generation. Adorable, classic spot illustrations alternate between pen-and-ink, and color pictures, highlighting the simple, sweet, and wise text. Here's my favorite page: "A brook can be a friend in a special way. It talks to you with splashy gurgles. It cools your toes and lets you sit quietly beside it when you don't feel like speaking." Also perfect to give to a friend or romantic love.

Vintage Valentines by Vivian Robbins
Paperback: 9780375875144, Random House, $4.99

Don't miss these absolutely adorable, cheeky vintage valentines! Perfect for anyone, at any age.

My Heart is Like a Zoo by Michael Hall
Hardcover: 9780061915109, HarperCollins, $16.99

My favorite picturebook out this Valentine's season, every animal in this book is made up of hearts! Trust me on this one, it's not sappy or overdone, but saved by the bright bold colors and big shapes. Each page is a solid color, while the animals are a contrasting color. The hearts that comprise the animal shapes are varying shades of the same color, so that the entire picture is a study in shapes and shades, but all coming together in the most complimentary of ways. The sparse, rhyming text is a perfect match.

Don't miss this fun craft:
Decorate-Your-Own Wooden Heart Chest

by Melissa & Doug (toy company), $4.99

For adults:

No, I don't mean naughty things, I mean books that might pique an adult reader's interest at this time of year. And no, as much as I love Jane Austen, you won't find her here.

Best heart-breaking love story:
The Time Traveler's Wife
by Audrey Niffenegger
Paperback: 9780156029438, $14.95

To tell you about it would ruin it. You need to experience it for yourself. I'll admit it made me cry, but in the most wonderful of ways.

My new favorite heart-warming love story:
Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day
by Winifred Watson, preface by Henrietta Twycross-Martin
9781906462024, Persephone Books, $18

As delightful as the movie, this novel is a perfect slice-of-life look into the day of 2 women in the 1930s. Winifred Watson wrote novels for women about the lives they were currently living, and it is fascinating to read the culture of the 30s from the point-of-view of a contemporary. Miss Pettigrew is a struggling governess-turned-accidental social secretary to Miss Delysia Lafosse. The two spend the day together: Miss Lafosse juggling which of the 3 men and 3 life paths she wants to follow, Miss Pettigrew dispensing sound advice and perhaps experiencing a bit of romance herself. The day and book end with my favorite feeling –hope– for both of their happy futures.

Best book to give to a friend:
84, Charing Cross Road
by Helene Hanff
Paperback: 9780140143508, Penguin, $13
Spanning 20 years, this collection of correspondence chronicles the friendship between American author Helene Hanff and Frank Doel of British Bookstore Marks & Co., at 84, Charing Cross Road. By the end of the book, you will have fallen in love yourself with the bookstore and all of its employees, their families, their lives, joys, and sorrows. Simply delightful.