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.

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