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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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.

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

The Naked Truth About Story Time

NakedMoleRatIt’s a proven fact that little tykes find nakedness hilarious, which is just one part of the appeal of Mo Willems’ latest book, Naked Mole Rat Gets Dressed.

It’s also part of the appeal of Hans Christian Andersen’s tale The Emperor’s New Clothes, so we’ve added it to the mix of books for this Sunday’s story time about getting dressed.

Of course the featured story is about Wilbur, the naked mole rat who decides that he rather likes clothes and insists on wearing them even in the face of ridicule and scorn from other naked mole rats.

So far, the line-up is looking like this: Elisha will show us a picture of a real naked mole rat (not nearly as cute as Wilbur, let me tell you!) and tell us a little about exactly what kind of animal it is. Then she’ll read, taking a break from the stories at some point so we can play a game of Pin the Clothes on Wilbur. (Not with actual pins, though… no mole rats, paper or otherwise, will be harmed in this game.)

We also have some very cool Wilbur name tags and stickers to give out. Sunday May 31 at 1:00pm, for ages 3 to 6. Absolutely free. No need to reserve a spot. See you there!