Saturday, March 27, 2010

Sunrise, 6:50, sunset, 7:38. Overcast, it rained harder yesterday than it has in months. We're expecting 3-6 inches of snow in the mountains. Last year it snowed on the first of April. Even for us, this is odd weather.

When I got off the bus last night, in downtown Seattle, I put up my umbrella (a painted pink flowery one that I inherited from my grandmother, Pearl) and crossed the street. The wind barreled down the hill towards the sound, and all the umbrellas, as one, switched to barricade formation. Choreography for weather.

The maple leaves are unfolding, releasing chartreuse catkins that glow like ornaments against this grey, grey day. One of the lines I love best out of a Madeline L'Engle book, Meet the Austins, is something the heroine, Vicky Austin, says. I don't remember it exactly but it is something she notices about the grayness of the day, that it was gray with an -ey, not an -ay. Don't you love that? It is so true! Some days are definitely -ey days. They are the days you stay in and read, stacks of books and fleece, wishing someone would bring you hot drinks and cookies. And a fireplace. With a fire. And a mantle for the candles you need on a day like this.

The yellow tulips are up, the lilacs are larger and lighter in color than last week. It looks like the Easter rabbit has been here early and didn't hide anything. Our yard looks like a great big Easter basket. The lilacs are almost always in full bloom the day of Easter. I could smell them as I came up the hill last night and it is the smell of warming days and spring.

I finished The Brixton Brothers: The Case of the Case of Mistaken Identity, by Mac Barnett, and it was GOOD. It's about ninja librarians, reading and using what you learn, a massive mystery concerning quilts and codes. It was hysterically funny at times and I can't wait for the next one. Adam Rex's illustrations are perfect for the book. (Simon and Schuster, ages 8 and up. $14.99.)

I also finished a new book called Folly, by Marthe Jocelyn. Historical fiction, it's about a practical girl sent from home who meets a man who captures her heart and then leaves her when she becomes pregnant. It is also the story of a little boy named James Nelligan, a small 6 year-old in a huge orphanage. Their stories are told in alternating chapters and eventually merge. Fascinating look at how lives were lived by the common folk in Victorian London. Mary Finn, our heroine, is a girl trying to make a life for herself in a house below stairs. When her life takes a different turn, she feels she needs to tell her story, a story played out across the time period, and not often thought to worth holding for history. It is filled with great information about what it was like to not be a wealthy person in those times.

It's probably geared for a slightly older reader, maybe 14 or 15 since it deals with sex and the enjoyment of the same, and the attendant results. I love reading about what it would really be like to live in a specific time period and Folly truly does that. (Random House, available May 11, 2010. $15.99.)

Friday, March 19, 2010

Sunrise was at 7:14, sunset will be at 7:21. We're getting closer and closer to the equinox. I'm so excited about this! There is something so elemental, so very pagan, about the changes in the season. I have lilac blossoms that look like little clenched fists the color of new bruises, an extremely fuschia-colored something out in the yard, birds chirping at 5 am, when it is still really dark. They must be able to feel the change in the air as the sun warms it into a slight breeze. Or something, anyway, maybe it's really all the early workers gunning their motors coming up the hill.

I was out early this morning filling the water feature pool and scared a hummingbird right off the bubbler. I think, of all the decisions we've made in our lives, besides that very first one where I asked to sit at Dennis' table at Max's Tavern, the water feature in our back yard was one of the best. We get so much happy-happy watching the birds flit in and out of the bubblers and bowls and we share the sound with our neighbors.

Ah, so many books to read. It's hard to choose just one, so I don't. I know there are many of us out there, samplers of first chapters, searching for the book that claims your day, the one you finally can't put down.

I have The Brixton Brothers: The Case of the Case of Mistaken Identity (Simon & Schuster), a middle grades book by Mac Barnett, illustrated by Adam Rex (the team that brought you Billy Twitters and his Blue Whale Problem)on the desk next to me (and it is FUN! Can't wait to go eat breakfast so I can keep reading).

I am 60 or so pages into Vellum, (Del Rey), by Hal Duncan, which is lying next to the bed, and I am only just now beginning to even care about the people in it. Should I keep going? Nancy Pearl would say 100 pages...I don't know- with so many other books needing read, I may just wait to continue reading it. The problem is that it's not a book you can read at the end of the day, very complicated science fiction, but I don't have enough time to read it in a chunk, which is what I think it needs.

I started Ann Lamott's new book, Imperfect Birds (Riverhead), and it made me so tense I had to put it down, it is still in the bathroom where I can read a little here and a little there until I get invested enough or hardened enough to what is sure to come to finish it.

The downstairs bath has a new book for teens in it called Folly, one of a couple of books I am reading to discuss with the publisher. I have a stack of books on the floor next to my desk to review for a couple of awards committees I'm on, another stack by my chair for reviewing for my newsletter and for this blog. My book group book for April is Sounder. Isn't it funny how the moment a book goes onto a list or a pile that has to be read, even if you want to read it, it feels like homework?

So, with all those things that need reading (and soon!), I still search for something that resonates immediately, something I can slip into like a bath, coming to the end with a startle, suddenly thrust back into an bigger, brighter world of dishes and laundry, a world somehow made more worthy by the addition of this pile of paper and type. And then, maybe even minutes later, off on the search again, a paragraph here, maybe a whole chapter there, reading on the fly (extreme reading!), looking for another story to highjack my brain for a bit.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

The BookNotes for March 17, 2010

BookNotes is a newsletter about books and book events. It began at All for Kids Books and Music years ago and when AFK closed I continued it for those who wanted to know what I was reading, what was new in the children’s book world, or which children’s book authors were visiting.
I now work at Third Place Books in Lake Forest Park and still write this newsletter. I upload the BookNotes newsletter to this blog after I send it. I try to send the newsletter out every few weeks; I update my blog whenever I have time to write during the week.


It’s almost spring and the time change just happened. Next week is the equinox and we will have even more daylight to read by. Reading outside is such a joy, hearing the sounds of the day, feeling the weather, the experience becomes so much more than words on a page. Try it soon, maybe with one of the following selections!


It wouldn’t be spring without a book or two about rabbits and one of the best is Jan Brett’s new book called The Easter Egg. As with most of Ms. Brett’s books, there is more than one story contained within the boards of the book.

It’s time for the rabbits to make the eggs for the Easter Bunny and Hoppi is now old enough to decorate his very own. On his tour of the other rabbits’ art works he discovers a fallen robin’s egg and keeps it safe and warm until it hatches. Unfortunately, his good work means he doesn’t have an egg to give the Easter Bunny. Or does he?

The Easter Egg is beautifully illustrated and each spread shows the advancing of the season. Ms. Brett has designed elaborately illustrated borders which include willow branches, ferns, and other foliage one would find in a wood in bloom, and a secondary story that children will find and follow. All the rabbits in the book are real ones and I can see parents using the book well into county fair time, going to the rabbit pens to see some of the breeds illustrated here.

The Easter Egg
is beautiful and has a sweet story. I think this is one of Jan Brett’s best books in years, right up there with Annie and the Wild Animals.

(The Easter Egg is published by Putnam, and it is available now for $17.99. Great for ages 3 and older.)

Another rabbit book for a slightly older crowd is called Bunny Days, written by Tao Nyeu. Sweetly illustrated in pastels and strong black lines, Bunny Days is three little stories about a group of bunnies who are often in trouble of one kind or another and need their neighbor, a crafty bear, to help them out.

The stories in this book are a little different, a little odd in a gentle kind of way: Mr. Goat gets the bunnies muddy and Bear washes them in a machine on the gentle cycle and then hangs them up to line dry; Mrs. Goat sucks them right out of their burrows while she is vacuuming and now they are dusty and Bear helps them get cleaned up; Mr. Goat accidentally cuts their little tails off while they are playing hide and seek in the bushes and Bear very carefully sews their tails back on. All ends well with a little bed rest, a little cake and a little tea.

I love the illustrations in this book. They are simple with lots of detail for little eyes to look for. There is a butterfly and a frog which appear almost on every page (or maybe I just haven’t been able to find them all) and the final spread has the entire storyline for a quick recap. I found myself reading this out loud in a quiet voice, it reads like a bedtime story, regardless of its subject’s mishaps.

(Bunny Days, by Tao Nyeu, is published by Dial and is available now for $16.99. Fine for ages 4 and older.)

And for the younger readers in the crew, we have Lisa McCue’s Fuzzytails which is a touch-and-feel counting book. Lisa McCue is well-known for her exceedingly cute (without being gaggingly sweet) animals and I think this little book is a good addition to all those other board books in the world. It is a simple rhyme which involves animals, numbers, and all kinds of things to touch and to feel. Brightly colored, it is filled with lots of pictures showing different animals in their various habitats. It’s really cute, and number six? More bunnies!

(Lisa McCue’s Fuzzytails is published by Random House, and is perfect for ages 2 and older. $8.99.)

A Nest for Celeste, by Henry Cole, is a great story about a little mouse named Celeste, and the friend she makes when John Audubon comes to paint birds. Filled with great adventure and friendship, A Nest for Celeste is all about finding a place to call home.

The book is filled with drawings of Celeste, her world, and her adventures, which mean that it will be a great read aloud for the younger reader, especially if you are reading to that child on your lap. There will be lots to look at while you read and the pictures add so much to the experience. The story itself is a little more mature so will appeal to an older child as well, not to mention the adult who will learn how John Audubon actually painted and chronicled the bird population of the United States. Fascinating!

(A Nest for Celeste is published by HarperCollins for $16.99 and is a great read-aloud for 5 and up, but is also a good read alone for 8 and up. The book is a good hefty one and it is square and feels good in your hands.)

Night Fairy is written by Newbery-winning author Laura Amy Schlitz, and is illustrated by Angela Barrett. This is a small little book about a fairy born close to midnight, a Night Fairy, who, just after she learns to fly, loses her luna moth-like wings to a bat. Unable to fly, she must make her way in a world that is way too big to navigate all on her own. She makes friends with a squirrel (and the illustrations of this huge squirrel and the teensy little fairy really let you experience how scary her world is) and finds a nice house that a giantess has hung off a branch of a tree. The story is filled with adventures with spiders and hummingbirds and Angela Barrett’s illustrations are perfect for this book. She uses a twilight palette filled with indigo and shadow, punctuated with moonlight, and a palette of willow-colored greens and the palest of cherry tree pink, to illustrate pictures that will hold your eye to the page. This is not a sweet fairy book for the fan of pink and candy floss. Flory is fierce and willing to do what she needs to do to survive.

(Night Fairy is published by Candlewick, $16.99, and is a perfect book for 8 and up.)

One of my favorite new books for ages 9 and up is Cosmic, by Frank Cottrell Boyce. What if you were 12 years old but you looked like you were 30? Liam has this problem. Sometimes it can be fun, like when the principal mistakes him as the teacher, and sometimes it’s terrifying, like when he is encouraged to take a car out for a test spin but he doesn’t know how to drive.

When he wins a contest to fly on one of the first ever civilian ships to go into space, he is immediately disqualified when no one believes he is a child. Desperate to fulfill his dream of going to the stars, he competes with the other adults for the single chaperone’s position and wins. On his way to the moon, a slight miscalculation sends the ship far, far off course.

Funny, poignant, Cosmic is a great read. Kids are smart, adults’ lives aren’t as fascinating as they might seem, and sometimes you really, really need your dad.

(Published by HarperCollins for $16.99, Cosmic is a great book for readers 9 and up.)

Food, Girls, and Other Things I Can’t Have
, by Allen Zadoff, is a book about a fat boy who wishes he was thin and popular. Andrew’s parents are divorced, his mom is a caterer, he is seriously smart, and he has to deal with bullies at school on a daily basis.

One morning, after the day's first locker shove and heckle, he is rescued by the quarterback. Taken aside, Andrew is recruited to join the football team. Completely unexpected, especially since the football players are the bane of his daily existence, he is transformed from fat boy taking up more than his share of space to linebacker blocking the open space in front of the quarterback. And a cheerleader girlfriend comes with the job. Good thing she knows a thing or two about the game since Andrew hasn’t exactly been studying up.

Things are looking up, he has new friends, no time for his old ones, though, a girlfriend, and a winning team…or does he? There are whispers and rumors that he was chosen for this role because of his size, not because he has any skill or because anyone really wants him on the team.

Funny and smart , Andrew is a good guy whose life takes an odd turn. Who would say no to living the dream, at least for a while? Food, Girls and Other Things I Can’t Have is a great story about figuring out who you are and how to respect what you find out.

(Published by Egmont, $16.99. It is good for ages 12 and older.)

There are big happenings at Third Place Books in the children’s book world. We have a children’s book oriented newsletter (sign up here: ), a newsletter aimed at teachers in particular (you can sign up at the same place for that one). To find out more about the authors and events scheduled in the near future, check the website. A few of the fine folks coming to visit are Henry Winkler, George Shannon, Ridley Pearson, and Andrew Clements.

A number of authors who come to the area are looking for school events as well as store events and the only way to find out who and where is to contact Cheryl McKeon, our children’s book event co-ordinator. Her email address is
We also feature many great events for adults and you can find information at the store's website.

Okay, that’s enough for now. I hope you are all well. If you take a liking to any of the titles in this newsletter, please go to or call one of your locally owned, independent bookshops. As much as I would like to see you all up at the north end of the lake at Third Place Books, I know it can be a long trip. Don’t forget that most indie bookshops can ship and mail books and you can get them pretty quickly! We will even wrap for you!

See you!

Rene’ Kirkpatrick, bookseller.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Beau Geste

Sunrise is at 6:32, sunset will be 6:08.

I like getting up in the morning, grabbing a book, and getting on the stationary bike to read while I ride.

I like to ride in the dark and wait for the graying of the light to read because the earth hasn't tipped far enough towards the sun. Sometimes I have to hold the book close and read without my glasses, the light just isn't bright enough, but the book is so good I will endure the eye-cramps that come as a result. Sometimes I get on the bike and find I have biked for miles and I am really wet, still pedaling along, unwilling to stop until the last page is turned.

That happened today. The light coming in the window was a pearly gray from the west, the radio is on in the kitchen, and I go into work late on Wednesdays. A perfect convergence that allowed me to completely lose myself in Jeff's story.

After Ever After is Jordan Sonnenblick's sequel to Drums, Girls, and Dangerous Pie, one of the best books ever about being the healthy child when something horrible happens in a family.

Jeff is in middle school now, celebrating the fifth year of being in remission from leukemia. His big brother, Steven, the hero of D. G. and D. P., is in Africa studying drum techniques, finally rebelling against being the perfect child after all those years watching after Jeff, and Jeff misses him.

Jeff especially misses being able to talk about the things he can't really tell his mom and dad, like, he has a girlfriend, his best friend Tad is keeping secrets, and he is certain he won't pass the standardized math test that will let him go to high school, whether he gets tutored or not. It's not enough that he worries about his cancer coming back, but now he has all this other stuff to deal with, too.

When Ms. Palma, Jeff's English teacher, introduces the class to Cyrano de Bergerac and the Beau Geste, the beautiful gesture, Tad, the sarcastic, wheelchair bound best friend gets a look in his eye and then a little busy starting an underground movement to right some wrongs.

I loved this book. Jeff, Tad and Lindsey are great characters, realistic, funny, sympathetic. They care for each other and it really shows. The story is often LOL funny and there is plenty to recommend it to both young men and women. I have read everything Jordan Sonnenblick has written and I am so glad he brought us back to Steve and Jeff's family.

If you are looking for a book that features every day people dealing with life, no vampires, werewolves or angels, at least not the heavenly kinds of angels, a book whose story actually reflects our lives, a book that is hopeful and inspiring, read this one. After Ever After is a good book.

(Published by Scholastic Press, $16.99. It is available now and appropriate for ages 11 and up. Younger readers will enjoy it, older readers will get it.)

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Beautiful Creatures

Beautiful Creatures, by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl, is a luscious southern novel for teens.

It is the very romantic story of a love that has lasted through time and the curse that promises to end it. Ethan has been dreaming about a beautiful girl he has never seen in his real life. He wakes with mud under his nails and a sense of dread he can't escape after dreaming of her. When Lena Duchannes moves into the small town of Gatlin to be with the rest of her family, Ethan is immediately attracted to her, recognizing her as the girl of his dreams.

Beautiful Creatures is a book to lose yourself in. As I mentioned above, it is a luscious southern novel, filled with heat, moss, old cemeteries and secrets. If you are a fan of books like Shiver, Twilight, anything by Holly Black, you will LOVE this one. Pick it up at your very own independent bookstore soon. Share it with your friends, loan it to your mom, give yourself a day's indulgence and splurge on the time to read straight through.

So: there's a contest. The authors have designed a contest that began the night of the Third Place Books signing (see photo below of TPB staff and authors). It includes clues from a number of other books by some of the best teen fantasy writers in the genre, clues to unlock the next part of the contest, talismans...Go to for the clues and booklist. The prize, besides all the great reading and re-reading we get to do, is a beautiful, handcrafted locket based on the one in Beautiful Creatures.

Here is a picture of our very own beautiful creatures: most of the children's book staff and the authors of Beautiful Creatures at the Third Place Books signing last month. Sarah, the taller woman in the middle, provided the photo. Standing, from left to right, are Rene', Cheryl, Sarah and Judy. Seated are the authors, Margaret Stohl and Kami Garcia.

Beautiful Creatures
is published by Little Brown and is a good choice for ages 12 and up. It is available now.

Friday, March 5, 2010

It's 55 degrees out, blue skies, warm air, cool shadows, water trickling in the backyard, and I've been weeding; pulling up hundreds of miniature maple trees which have been taking full advantage of the dark mulch put down in October. I felt very much like a giant searching for small folk among the trees. All I found was one very healthy, very long earthworm. Pretty thing, for a worm.

I read this book yesterday, Room, by Emma Donoghue. I'm not sure if I liked it or not as it's a book that kind of creeped me out. No, I liked it, a lot, I don't know if I enjoyed it.

Jack, who just turned five today, is the narrator of this story. Room is his entire world, 12 feet by 12 feet. It has Bed, Trash, Bath, Ma, and his best friend, Dora, who is on a planet in TV. The only other living being in Room, besides Jack's Ma, is Plant, situated under Skylight where God's yellow face shines in.

Jack reminds me of Opal Whiteley: he has an amazing vocabulary for being only five and is able to connect thoughts and ideas that should be way over his head. He lives with his mother in a single room so everything he knows and extrapolates is related to the things in this view. All languages that aren't English are Spanish; all people except for him, Ma, and Old Nick are on other planets that he can see for one hour a day on TV; he sends letters to Dora the Explorer by writing letters on toilet paper and flushing it down the toilet.

I became completely caught up in Jack's life, watching what is going on through his eyes, waiting for a shoe to drop. There were references to things Jack doesn't explain because he doesn't know there is anyone watching. So when he goes to Wardrobe to sleep because Old Nick is coming, my heartbeat started to speed up. When he counts the movements in the bed, 217 creaks before they stop, I held my breath.

Over time, you realize that he has never been outside Door. Jack thinks that Door might just make Old Nick up when it beep beeps and opens, inventing him on the spot, non-existent except for when he is on the in-side of Door. You realize that Ma has been in Room for a very long time, long enough to have had a baby grow up into a five year-old boy. As of Jack's birthday, Ma has been in Room for 7 years.

Kidnapped at age 19, locked in this room for 7 years, Ma raises and loves this little boy with all her heart and soul. Jack is truly her reason for being. And she is finally at the end of her ability to endure this situation.

The book's got a great cover and the story inside held me tight until the end.

(The publisher is Little Brown. I just realized it won't be published until September 2010. Wow. That's a long time. Well, it's definitely worth putting on a list to pick up in the fall. Definitely for grown-ups. I am reading an advance reading copy and there is no price listed. Yet.)