Water, Water, Everywhere

So we have been having wicked afternoon thunderstorms out here. As my older son HATES them, we usually ride them out up in his bed reading book after book after book, until the storm passes. During one particularly bad downpour, we were snuggled up reading until I realized I had left our kitchen door open.

That would be the door to our newly redone kitchen.

That would be the kitchen with the brand new hardwood floors.

That would be water and wood and that would be bad.

I come downstairs to find a river in my kitchen. As if this isn’t bad enough, I had a basket of books by the door and the top one – a library book! – is soaked.

So here was a dilemma only another bibliophile could appreciate: books vs. hardwood floor, which do I rescue first?

Triage was the answer. I closed the door, put the basket on the counter, and found stack of towels to soak up the river. After about 20 minutes, the floor was dry, the storm was over and I could assess the damage to the books. Fortunately or unfortunately, the top book – the one from the library – took the brunt of the storm. I didn’t have much hope for it drying out and looking like new. Oh, I forgot to mention the kicker, I was the first person to take this book out. Call it the curse of the active library patron. I knew, in good faith, I could not drop this damaged copy into the book drop and call it a day – again, the curse of the active library patron.

The book was $23.00 in hardcover . . . the Jungle was offering it for just $15 including (you guessed it) free shipping. I have given my reasons about why I pay full price at independent bookstores in an earlier post. But I didn’t want to buy this book – that is why I got it from the library in the first place. If it wasn’t something I wouldn’t have purchased anyway, did it count if I just ordered it online? And really that is just what I wanted to do: order the stupid thing, have it shipped for free, come clean to Miss Mary at the library and be done with it.

I couldn’t do it. I was going to Sylva the next day, and I knew City Lights would have a copy. ***if I were a more advanced blogger I would key up some twinkly music right now*** Here is the part where the blessing of the active bookstore patron comes in. After explaining what happened – including having the dilemma of hardwood vs. books fully appreciated – I told Emily the title I needed. She said, “Oh, you’re not going to believe this. We have a copy with a tiny nick on the spine for $13. Do you want it?”

$13. No shipping. Cheaper and faster than the jungle !!

You gotta to love a happy ending.

Published in: on August 12, 2009 at 12:51 pm  Comments (1)  

Duck! Rabbit!

We have just celebrated the centennial reading of the new book Duck! Rabbit! by Amy Krouse Rosenthal and Tom Lichtenheld. We just got the book yesterday. Both my boys (ages 7 and 4) have asked for it to be read to them again and again. They both laugh out loud during each reading. It is a clever concept and a simple story set around an illustration/optical illusion that can be seen as either a duck or a rabbit.

Is it a duck? Is it a rabbit?

As my seven year old explains, “One guy thinks it is a duck, and one guy thinks it is a rabbit.” The narration volleys back and forth, with each “guy” defending his view. Of course this makes for a great opportunity to teach children about perspective, relativity, seeing other people’s points of view, standing up for what they see as the truth, life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness . . . or it just makes for a good way to get through yet another afternoon thunderstorm.

PS: I just started The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley. I’ll let you know what I think next week.

Published in: on August 6, 2009 at 12:44 pm  Leave a Comment  

Great Minds Think Alike

So I get this email from Leslie on Thursday:

“I am only 30 pages in, but you have to read The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. I’ll loan you mine next time I see you.”

I love the cover as much as the story!

Funny thing is, I had just purchased a copy to take away for the July 4th weekend.

The book was so good. I started and finished it in about 36 hours. I have to admit, I am a sucker for a good an epistolary novel. (My dream in graduate school was to write one, get on the Oprah show and say the phrase “epistolary novel” to the world at large – crazy dream!) Anyway, the format made me nostalgic for the days when I was an avid letter writer, and actually inspired me to send a postcard to my friend at City Lights who sold it to me, thanking her.

If you love books, great characters, romantic settings and a good dose of history, I guarantee you will not want to leave Guernsey. I know I didn’t.

Published in: on July 6, 2009 at 7:40 pm  Comments (2)  

The $40 Book

So I just paid $40 (really $42 and change) for a book that I could have gotten for $26 plus free shipping. I had originally borrowed this book from the library and about 50 pages into it I had marked (with post – its!) about 10 different pages. It was pretty clear I needed to own this book. A quick online search told me it didn’t come in paperback, used editions weren’t readily available but I could get it from “The Jungle” for just $26 including a dose of that virtual opiate, “free shipping”.

I have never been a fan of “The Jungle”. I like to buy my books from someone who knows me. My all-time favorite bookstore is City Lights in Sylva. I have been a customer there since I was in college and they were on Main Street. I sell my used books there, buy my (adult) Christmas gifts there, and have been known to have passionate conversations about politics, pregnancy, extended breastfeeding, and yes – books! When I found Spellbound – back on Haywood Road – I remember thinking, “Oh, City Lights for kids in Asheville.”

The first time I remember shopping at Spellbound was one day in December 2004 or 2005. My mother was watching my sons and I decided to do all my Christmas shopping that day. I have seven nephews, one niece and two sons. I buy a lot of Christmas presents, and the majority of these gifts are books. I decided to simplify my life and do all my shopping then and there. Leslie was (and still is) very patient in my constant quest for the best book for that particular child that particular year. She is also very understanding of my odd hangup with spending EXACTLY the same amount of money for children of the same family. She is also indulgent of my self-imposed one hardcover, one softcover per kid rule. This makes for some pretty intensive salesmanship.

I will admit, I HATE Christmas shopping. I am worse than Scrooge. But that day in Spellbound changed holiday shopping for me. I actually enjoyed it. Not only that, I was starting to look forward to shopping for birthdays, graduations, and yes, even next Christmas. Not only that, but my nephews, my niece and my sons loved the books chosen for them. Could I have gotten the books cheaper? Yes. Would I have made the same choices? No. Could I have had the same experience online? Definitely not.

I buy the majority of my books used, buying whatever catches my eye at the Goodwill, library sales and the like. The specific books I want to own, certain authors’ new releases, reference books, books we have renewed one too many times at the library, I buy from an independent bookstore. They are happy to accommodate my requests. I am happy to pay for their services – especially since the exchange invariable leads to the question, “Have you read . . . ?” The rest, as they say, is priceless.

Published in: on June 30, 2009 at 8:16 pm  Leave a Comment  

Bookmaking – Chapter 2

Bookmaking workshops are growing exponentially at Spellbound. We had 22 children registered to make books for Father’s Day this past Sunday. Boy was it fun. Kids ranged in age from 5 to 12 years old. Some worked quickly; others took their time. But everyone took home a great handmade gift for dad.

FathersDayWorkshop2009 006

We learned a quick way to make an eight page book from just one piece of paper. After folding our books, I sewed a quick seam on my sewing machine (Did you know you could sew paper with a regular sewing machine? You can! And it is ‘sew’ fun!)

FathersDayWorkshop2009 004

We are thinking of having another bookmaking day next month in which we’ll make four books out of a regular paper grocery bag. Leslie is still setting the date for that one, so we’ll keep you posted.

Published in: on June 16, 2009 at 2:54 pm  Leave a Comment  

Bookmaking at Spellbound

We had so much fun today. Elisha and I led a workshop in which we made books for Mother’s Day. It is a really great project where you make an eight page book out of a single piece of paper. The construction is really simple which left lots of time to decorate with stickers, stamps, stencils, crayons, makers and other cool stuff too.



It was fun to have all the kids working in the space right in front of the windows. They sure got a lot of attention from the people walking around downtown. We even had a couple of kids come to the workshop after having brunch on Wall Street. 


There were children there aged 18 months to 11 years old. (The littlest one just decorated a book!) Everyone took home something really special to give to mom next weekend. 


If you missed out on this event, don’t despair. We are running another bookmaking event for Father’s Day. Hope to see you there.

Published in: on May 4, 2009 at 7:54 am  Leave a Comment  

Speaking of Adult Bookstores . . .

Ha! Ha! I am tagging onto Leslie’s funny post, and it seemed like an appropriate title as my post has nothing to do with children’s books this time. I wanted to share some other book stuff I have come across. 


Blue Spiral 1, an art gallery on Biltmore Avenue in downtown Asheville, has a very cool exhibit opening at the end of the month. It is called “By the Book” and is dedicated to book arts in a variety of forms. Here is a quote from the promotional postcard:

“From traditional binding techniques and altered books to pop-ups and sculptural objects – a celebration of book arts in a variety of media.”

If you love books, you will love this show. Opening reception is April 30 and the show runs through the end of June.


* * *


Looking for an INCREDIBLE book? Read Stephanie Kallos’ latest novel Sing Them Home. Her prose is stunning, the story is gripping and the characters are unforgettable. I loved her first novel, Broken for You, and have been waiting for her second. It is just as good if not better than her first. Sing Them Home takes place in a small town in Nebraska and centers around three siblings, their step-mother-of-sorts and their deceased parents. Kallos renders these characters, both the dead and living, with incredible realism and tenderness. They will break your heart. Here is an excerpt:


” . . . her last view would be of the land and imagined elves and children in the sandbox and children in the earth, and laundry like prayer flags, the sanctity of the ordinary all around her. ”


Buy this book for yourself for Mother’s Day. Buy it for your mother for Mother’s Day. It is so good. Ask Leslie to order you a copy.

Published in: on April 25, 2009 at 3:47 pm  Leave a Comment  


I love mysteries and I love Young Adult (YA) literature, so it was a pretty good bet that I was going to like Carl Hiaasen’s newest YA book, Scat. And like it, I did.


I love the cover art.

I love the cover art too.



Scat is the third YA novel Hiaasen has written. It revolves around an environmental issue in Florida, teems with kooky characters and sets a quick pace – all hallmarks of Hiaasen’s writing in general. Admittedly, I have only read one of his adult mysteries. (Double Whammy – it was very fun and I learned more than I ever wanted about professional bass fishing.) I don’t know if I will read any more of his adult titles, but I will definitely make time for the two YA titles that preceded Scat ­- Hoot and Flush (aren’t the titles great?!).


Through his teenage characters, Hiaasen captures the tone and energy of adolescence with incredible realism. Scat has some very funny scenes that include pencil eating, stuffed animals and singing substitute teachers – although not all at once. It also incorporates some weighty contemporary issues as well:  the war in Iraq, the disappearance of wild habitats and the protection of endangered species. For me, it is the addition of these timely issues that puts Scat into the “really good” category of YA. Hiaasen obviously takes young adults seriously and also believes in their ability to change the world. I am glad he has added his voice to this dynamic genre.

Published in: on March 31, 2009 at 1:40 pm  Leave a Comment  

One Happy Read

We are all sick. Unemployment is above 8%. The economy is in the tank. I am sick. The weather swings 60 degrees in a week. The auto companies are in the toilet. My kids are sick. My favorite coffee shop closed. My husband is sick.


Did I mention I was sick?


I asked my kids for some suggestions of “Happy Books.” My older one said, “The Encyclopedia.” (It was what he was reading at the time.) My younger one said, “Double Fudge.” (See my comment on Leslie’s post.)


So they are not a lot of help.


The inside is even better than the cover!

The inside is even better than the cover!



When I need a little lift, I love reading and looking at The Incredible Book Eating Boy by Oliver Jeffers. The collage illustrations are incredible, and the story is great too. I think I gave it to ten different kids last year – and everyone loved it! That might be a record of some sort.


So that is my prescription for this week. If you are feeling bad, get yourself to Spellbound and buy yourself (or your child!) a copy of The Incredible Book Eating Boy. I promise you’ll feel better. 

Published in: on March 17, 2009 at 7:46 pm  Comments (2)  

Old Books, New Life


I made these for Leslie at the "old" store.

I made these for Leslie at the "old" store.


Published in: on March 1, 2009 at 3:58 pm  Comments (3)