Weary of Winter? So Is Brownie Groundhog!

One of my favorite new picture books in this very new year is Brownie Groundhog and the February Fox, with text by Susan Blackaby and illustrations by Carmen Segovia.

When Brownie wakes up and goes outside on the second day of February, she is dismayed to see her shadow stretching across the field.

Brownie stomps her foot. “Phooey!” she says. “Six more weeks of winter!”

Brownie is impatient for Spring to get here, and she uses her impatience plus some quick thinking to distract the little fox who has targeted Brownie as his next meal.

“Don’t be silly,” she says when the fox announces he’s planning to eat her for breakfast. “You’re too late for breakfast.”

When the fox proposes eating her for lunch, she proclaims that it’s too early and that he’ll just have to wait. And so goes the rest of the day, as the fox tags along with Brownie and waits for it to be a proper mealtime. After spending so much time together, of course the two eventually become friends.

Both the text and the illustrations are that perfect combination of timeless and fresh, and kudos to the book designer–everything from the font to the choice of paper comes together perfectly to complement the words and pictures. Although the title lends itself to a Groundhog Day display, Brownie’s shadow is just mentioned at the beginning of this charming story. Part trickster tale and part odd couple friendship tale, this is a sweet and funny book that kids will enjoy coming back to all winter (and all year) long.


Published in: on January 15, 2011 at 6:00 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Ladybug, Ladybug / Fly Away Home

Don’t be alarmed if you spy some unusually large ladybugs downtown today; there hasn’t been an accident at the atomic power plant or anything–just Ladybug Story Time at Spellbound!

Everyone got name tags when they came in, then we read a couple of stories: Can You Make a Scary Face? by Jan Thomas (and narrated by a very bossy ladybug!) and Ladybug Girl by David Soman and Jackie Davis.


Then it was time to make our costumes. First, we drew spots on our wings and Elisha helped everyone secure them with red ribbon…












One more story, the new book by Julia Donaldson (author of the story time fave The Gruffalo) called What the Ladybug Heard. This book has it all: farmyard animals (and noises), a couple of hapless crooks, and a very smart ladybug to foil their dastardly plans!

Then we gave out the goody bags, which included stickers, paper dolls, take-home coloring sheets and other activities, PLUS… everyone got a set of ladybug antennae to complete their costumes!


Thanks to all the kids who came and were such good listeners… and the parents who brought them and helped them keep their wings on straight!


Published in: on June 27, 2010 at 3:09 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Raising Kane [Chronicles]

Okay, it’s official. The Percy Jackson party in February was a big hit, so now Spellbound is hosting a release party for Kane Chronicles Book One: The Red Pyramid, the first book in a new series from Percy author Rick Riordan. The book releases on Tuesday May 4th, so it will be an after school affair. More detailed plans will be posted on the website and in our newsletter as they develop. And yes, we are still giving a 20% discount on pre-orders, through the end of March. With a free Percy Jackson pen that lights up (sometimes, if you’re nice to it) while supplies last! 

Admission to the Kane Chronicles party will be free with purchase of the book  or $5 at the door. 

Oh zephyr winds which blow on high, lift me now so I can fly!

Of course, one highlight of the Percy Jackson party was the Greek mythology bee and, although it may change by the time the Kane Chronicles is in full swing, I’m betting most kids don’t know as much about Egyptian mythology as they do about Greek. My personal exposure to Egyptian mythology as a kid was pretty much limited to watching “Isis” on television Saturday mornings. 

So this party may involve more learning games than knowledge contests. Stay tuned for more info!

A Bad Kitty and a Kid Named Melvin

At long last, here are pictures from the November 7 Nick Bruel visit. For those of you who couldn’t make it, you missed a really great time. But don’t despair–we have a bunch of signed copies available. An autographed book makes an extra special present!

Nick started by showing off his brand new trophy for the NC Picture Book of the Year Award. (Alas, I didn’t get a good picture of it, but it’s very large and shaped like the state of North Carolina!)


Then he read Who Is Melvin Bubble?, the book that won him that illustrious award.

It’s a fabulous book for anyone to read with a group, but having the actual author do all the voices makes it a real treat!

Raven meets Nick Bruel 009Next, using enlarged copies of illustrations so everyone could see the action in this smaller format book, Nick read his newest book, Happy Birthday, Bad Kitty. Chock full of zany characters, witty asides, hairballs and, of course, Uncle Murray… it was a big hit!

Before heading to the official book signing table, Nick fielded questions from the audience. One of my personal favorite moments: a youngster asked if Bad Kitty was a boy or a girl cat (a girl, by the way), and then asked Nick how he knew that. With only a moment’s hesitation, the author provided a seemingly satisfactory answer.

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We also learned that a new Bad Kitty book is in the works, this time with even more Uncle Murray! We’re hopeful that we can persuade Nick to come back to Spellbound when the new book is out.


Thanks to everyone who turned out–and shared pictures!

Raven meets Nick Bruel 013

Published in: on November 13, 2009 at 7:04 pm  Leave a Comment  
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I See London, I See France…

Henry began to regret his recent introduction of depantsing on the playground when he realized that he had accidentally put on a pair of pink, frilly, totally embarrassing girls’ underpants this morning.

On Saturday Horrid Henry visited Spellbound to share his story and to judge a contest to see who could create the most embarrassing pair of underpants.

Here are some photos from Saturday’s Horrid Henry event:

Henry supervises the decorating…

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Horrid Henry 2009 004
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…before picking the winner of the underpants decorating contest.
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Marcella Gianni was the winner of the contest and will now be entered into a national drawing to win a school visit from Horrid Henry!

The Secret World of Hester Bass

Well, the secret is out. Alabama author Hester Bass is getting lots of attention for her new book The Secret World of Walter Anderson, a biography of the celebrated watercolor artist who lived and worked along the Gulf Coast of Mississippi. Beautifully illustrated by E.B. Lewis, this biography is in picture book format but aimed at kids approximately six to ten years of age, so don’t pass it by because you think your kids are “too old” for picture books. (Actually, I could write a whole blog post on that attitude, and I probably will… one day.)

signed copies available

signed copies available

But, back to the topic, Hester’s new book from Candlewick Press has received a starred review from Kirkus Reviews (a very big deal in the book world) and was just announced as one of the inaugural set of “Okra Picks” by the Southeastern Independent Booksellers Association.

Oh, and we have a limited number of signed copies available, as Hester stopped by Spellbound today! (No, you didn’t miss the announcement; it was all very last minute, so no offical book signing was planned.)

It’s a very rainy day (in other words SLOW), so we had time for a long talk. I got to hear the story of how meeting Paul Fleishman, her favorite author (and previous guest at Spellbound!), at a writer’s conference a few years ago started a chain of serendipitous events that led to her finishing this book, then finding an agent, then signing with the publisher she most hoped to sign with, then getting her first choice for illustrator! (Writers usually have no say whatsoever in who will illustrate their words, so that in itself was amazing.)

In addition to the signed copies of The Secret World of Walter Anderson, we also have some signed bookplates and postcards featuring text and illustrations from the book. There is great additional material in the back of the book that helps make it a great jumping off point for further study on the lives of artists, on the Mississippi Gulf Coast region, etc. (In case there are any teachers reading this!) So come on in–an Okra Pick, like okra, is best served fresh and hot.

Finally, the Wolf Gets the Girl!

For months I have been reading wonderful reviews of Maggie Stiefvater’s new YA novel Shiver, and it’s been especially popping up on lists of books recommended for Twilight fans. Well, I finally got a chance to read it recently, and my only complaint is this: more, please! I would have appreciated an extra hundred pages or so of backstory, more time with some of the great secondary characters… but I guess I can settle for a really well executed story, sparely but beautifully rendered, that left me wanting more. (It wouldn’t hurt my feelings if a sequel were in the works, though….)

ShiverShiver will definitely appeal to Twilight fans of all ages. There are obvious similarities: two teenagers in love, seemingly destined for each other–one not quite human. But instead of scary vengeful vampires, this novel’s villains are time and nature.

(I will try very hard not to spoil any plot surprises; most of what I’m about to write can be gleaned from the book jacket and/or the first few paragraphs of the book.)

As a child, Grace has a close encounter with a pack of wolves in the woods behind her Minnesota home. Ever since, she has felt very drawn to them, and to one wolf in particular. Even as a teenager, she still looks forward to cold weather because she knows he’ll be there, in the woods at the edge of her yard, watching for her as she watches for him.

Sam looks forward to warm weather, the short but essential time when he can be Sam again, but every year he gets less and less time as Sam. Eventually, summer may not come at all for him.

A fateful event brings these two  together, finally able to talk face to face, and they find themselves in a race with time to find a way for Sam to remain human… and stay with Grace.

Shiver is told alternately from Sam’s and then from Grace’s point of view, which makes it a good pick for male or female readers. The love story in Shiver is not as over the top as the one in Twilight, though still very important and perhaps more believable. And, in the spirit of full disclosure, any Twi-hards out there reading this probably gleaned from the title of this post that I was firmly in Camp Jacob while reading Twilight, making Shiver even more of a treat for those few of us on (dare I say it?) the right side.

A Very Pleasant Monday (No, Really!)

What a lovely surprise… a couple came into the store this morning, looked around for a few minutes and then asked me an unusual question:

“If we buy this book, will you promise to reorder it?” I think I must have given them a blank stare. The gentleman said, “It’s your last copy, and we’d feel bad about taking it if you weren’t going to reorder.”

At this moment I noticed his wife taking Lois Ehlert’s new book, Boo to You, off the shelf. Well, of course I’m going to reorder that… I expect it to be very popular between now and Halloween! Just then, the woman says, a little self-consciously, “You see, I’m the author, and I want to make sure you’ll get more if I take this.”

First thought: Oh my God, Lois Ehlert is in my store?!

Second thought: I thought she’d be much, much older.

But it turns out that her husband had the book in question in his hand: our last copy of  The House in the Night, the winner of the 2009 Caldecott Medal and one of my favorite picture books from last year. So, while I was not meeting Lois Ehlert, I can’t say that I was disappointed in the least to be meeting Susan Marie Swanson. We had a lovely chat. She told me what a surprising number of luminaries in children’s literature live in her home state of Minnesota and was very interested in finding out about our local authors. (Thanks, by the way, to the proprietors of the charming Beaufort House Inn for sending Susan Marie and her husband to Spellbound!)

For those who may not be familiar with Susan Marie’s work, here are some reviews. She wrote the lovely text, while the illustrations were done by Beth Kromme and earned the book the coveted Caldecott Medal for illustration. (And yes, we will have more in stock by Friday!)


“Here the art is spectacular. Executed in scratchboard decorated in droplets of gold, Krommes’ illustrations expand on Swanson’s reassuring story (inspired by a nursury rhyme that begins, “This is the key of the kingdom”) to create a world as cozy inside a house as it is majestic outside.”–Booklist, starred review
“Inspired by traditional cumulative poetry, Swanson weaves a soothing song that is as luminescent and soulful as the gorgeous illustrations that accompany her words. . . . It is a masterpiece that has all the hallmarks of a classic that will be loved for generations to come.”–School Library Journal, starred review

More from School Library Journal

A Tale to (Re-)Tell

Maybe it’s a trend, or a micro-trend, or just the order in which I’ve happened to attack my reading stack, but my favorite teen/young adult reads lately have been retellings of classic stories.

thegirlsThe Girls by Tucker Shaw, coming out in April, is a modern take on Clare Boothe Luce’s play The Women. The all-female cast of characters in Shaw’s novel are students at an uppercrust boarding school in Colorado. The insidious and inescapable consequences of gossip (and some people’s unquenchable thirst for it) provide most of the suspense and tension in this story, for although the plot seems to revolve around the infidelity of  Mary’s boyfriend, the real story is how will she find out, who can’t wait to tell her and why, who her real friends are, and (almost as an afterthought) what she will decide to do about it. I have to admit, dear reader(s), that I have never read or seen a production of the play on which this novel was based. I have, however, seen the 1939 movie of  The Women (starring Norma Shearer, Rosalind Russell, Joan Fontaine, and Joan Crawford) more times than I should probably admit publicly. Although for the first few chapters I kept having flashbacks to the movie, as Shaw retained the original character names, this book certainly stands on its own two feet as a fun teen read with a bit of bite.

Speaking of bite, do you remember the myth of Persephone and how eating  pomegranate radiantdarknessseeds cost her six months a year in the Underworld? Well, apparently that isn’t how it happened at all! According to Persephone herself in the forthcoming Radiant Darkness by Emily Whitman, mythology has it all wrong. Actually, she was tired of her mother, the goddess Demeter, treating her like a child and she longed for romance and adventure. So when the handsome Hades invited her to be his queen, she happily accepted. Not without major consequences, of course, for herself and the entire world above ground. Though it flounders a little in the beginning, in my opinion (we get it–your mom smothers you!), once Persephone arrives in the Underworld the tale becomes much more taut and interesting, and we get to travel with Persephone on her fascinating journey as she grows into her roles as a queen and as an adult. Radiant Darkness arrives in May.

Another book that meets the criteria of a retelling with teen appeal is one that I really shouldn’t mention here. But what the heck–the blog is young and there aren’t that many people reading it yet! Fool by Christopher Moore is most definitely not one written or published for the teen audience, and I don’t carry it in my store because, frankly, if I sold it to a parent for a teen (which is usually the case here), the teen, the parent, and I would all die of embarrassment. It’s… let’s say “bawdy.” In fact, the advance copy I read earlier this year came in a plain brown wrapper with the following warning:

“This is a bawdy tale. Herein you will find gratuitous shagging, murder, spanking, maiming, treason, and heretofore unexplored heights of vulgarity and profanity, as well as nontraditional grammar, split infinitives, and the odd wank . . . If that’s the sort of thing you think you might enjoy, then you have happened upon the perfect story!”

And this is not an exaggeration. Not even close. So if you are easily offended, you will not want to read this and certainly will not want to hand it to your teen. However… if you have a high threshold of tolerance for vulgarity and enjoy a good laugh, you should get this book for yourself immediately. It’s one of the funniest things I’ve read in years. It’s basically a retelling of King Lear in novel form, narrated by the king’s fool. While it doesn’t stick strictly to the original story by any means, it does get across the basics of Lear’s plight  in a very accessible way. With a lot of extra shagging. When you consider how much teens already know (much more than adults ever want to admit), this little book is unlikely to corrupt them beyond repair. Let’s say older teens (seventeen and up, to protect my bookseller backside) as well as adults will find much to be mildly but very enjoyably shocked and embarrassed by in Fool.

fool1Again, due to the vulgarity and gratuitous shagging and so forth, I don’t stock this one even in the young adult section, especially since so many advanced readers who are definitely too young for it frequently browse there. But we will be happy to order it for you at no extra charge. We’ll even throw in a complimentary plain brown wrapper.

Published in: on March 22, 2009 at 2:56 pm  Comments (2)  
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