Tuesday, December 27, 2011

A Quiet Week

It's that weird week between Christmas and New Years.

Last week, leading up to Christmas, was a madhouse. In a good way. We were completely busy and it felt exciting and crazy at the same time. I love the busyness and energy of the holiday shopping season.

But I also love the quiet that comes after.

Yesterday, the day after Christmas, was quiet. The bookstore and I breathed a little deeper. People came in. We talked, just a bit. They browsed. It was leisurely. And nice.

Obviously, too much "leisurely" business would be very bad. But after the sometimes frenetic pace of holiday shopping, this week between Christmas and New Years is a nice change of pace.

Here's what I'm reading:

The Tower, the Zoo, and the Tortoise, by Julia Stuart, is a novel set in the Tower of London, about a Beefeater, his wife, and their 180 year-old pet tortoise. Someone has to look after the menagerie of exotic animals given to the Queen. It's Balthazar Jones' job to do so.

Did you know people actually live in the Tower of London? Would you want to, with all it's be-heading history?

Plus, as a side note, if you ever have a pet tortoise, or parrot, remember to bequeath them to a worthy person in your will. They will outlive you.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Rockin and Rollin

Things have been Rockin and Rollin at the bookstore lately.

Things had better be Rockin and Rollin this time of year, or there's trouble.

Small, independent bookstores make a huge portion of their income during the holiday season. It's really very fun and amazing to see.

Grandparents looking for books for their grandkids. Adults choosing books for their parents. Kids picking up the book they want for Christmas and saying, "It's here. This is the one!"

Since I'm the main kid book buyer, I love helping people pick out the "perfect" book for their child, grandchild, niece, nephew, neighbor, etc.

We all have our favorite books that we love to hand-sell. But, I try to listen closely before making any suggestions.

What age is the child?
What does he/she like to read?
What about fantasy? Sports?
What would you say the child's reading level is? Beginning? Advanced?
What about content? Can he/she handle some scary stuff?
and on and on.

Then, with this information, I create a picture of the child in my mind. And try to pick out the "perfect" book to suggest.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Home for the Holidays

I'm very glad to report that December is hopping at Micawber's so far! The first Saturday of each December is "Shop Home for the Holidays" in our neighborhood. All the local shops have special events and sales. Plus, there's a very cool sale with items by local artists. It's all very festive.

At Micawber's, the local elementary school is involved on the first Saturday. They provide treats and gift wrap books. They advertise to parents at the school and the school gets a percentage of the day's sales. Typically, this day is one of our biggest days of the year.

Here are a few of the Hot Sellers from this past Saturday:

The Invention of Hugo Cabret, by Brian Selznick.

Despite the fact that this is not a new book, Hugo Cabret has been hot this season. With the publication of Wonderstruck (also by Brian Selznick) and the release of Hugo, the movie, we have seen a resurgence of interest in this novel.

On the adult side, we've been selling a lot of The Art of Fielding, by Chad Harbach.

This is an "expansive, warm-hearted novel about ambition and its limits, about family and friendships and love, and about commitment to oneself and others." But, really, it's a book about baseball.

One of my favorite new books this season is Twelve Owls, by Laura Erickson.
I adore the woodcut illustrations by Betsy Bowen, and owls are awesome, so what's not to love about this book? Twelve Owls features, you guessed it, twelve different kinds of owls that inhabit Minnesota including the Barn owl, the Great horned owl, and the tiny, Northern Saw-whet owl. This book is great for older children and adults.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Tuck Everlasting

Tuck Everlasting, by Natalie Babbitt was one of my favorite middle-grade novels when I was growing up.

It has magic, romance, danger and a little philosophy. Although, what I really liked at the time was the little romance.

Winnie Foster is a ten year-old girl who is sheltered and mostly left alone. She meets the Tuck family, who drank from a magic spring and will now live forever.

A stranger shows up wanting to find the magic spring and market it for his own gain. And the Tuck's are in danger.

In the end, Winnie must decide if she will drink from the spring and live forever. Or will she choose to live a regular, finite life?

What would it mean to live forever? Babbitt subtly asks, "Is this a gift or a curse?"

The reader is the one who must decide.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Top 50 Book Project

In August, Hans, one of the co-owners of Micawber's began a project to gather a list of the Top 50 Books that independent booksellers love to hand-sell or just love in general.

It all began when a customer asked Hans to tell her 10 of his Top 100 books. Unknown to the customer, this simple question has led to something much larger. Hans has now collected over 50 lists from booksellers around the country.

The vast majority of books listed are adult titles, but there are some children's books included in the Top 50 lists. To see the complete lists, visit Han's Micawber's Blog.

Here's a sample of some of the children's Top 50 book titles:

A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl
Chronicles of Narnia series by C.S. Lewis
Diary of a Wimpy Kid by Jeff Kinney
Good Night, Good Night Construction Site by Tom Lichtenheld

Good Night Moon by Margaret Wise Brown
Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh
Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling
Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick
Library Lion by Michelle Knudsen
Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
Matilda by Roald Dahl
Miss Rumphius by Barbara Cooney

Owl Moon by Jane Yolen
Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie
Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster
Time for Bed by Mem Fox
We Are in a Book! by Mo Willems

The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin
Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson

What are some of your favorite children's books of all time?

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

The Book of Three - High Fantasy Classic

The Book of Three by Lloyd Alexander is one of my favorite fantasy novels for middle grade readers. It's the first book in the Prydain Chronicles series which consists of:

The Book of Three
The Black Cauldron
The Castle of Llyr
Taran Wanderer
The High King

This series is what I call High Fantasy. Think Lord of the Rings for younger kids. High Fantasy includes good vs. evil, hero quests, a medieval- like setting, and classic characters like witches, wizards, dragons and elves. There are no vampires or werewolves here.

Tarran, our young hero, goes from Assistant Pig Farmer to High King. Kids can relate to Taran's struggles and trials along the way, even if their own challenges take a very different form.

The Book of Three, and the entire Prydain Chronicles series, is especially good for boys, girls, and adults, who are smart and love classic, good vs. evil stories.

Plus, there's a giant cat. Who wouldn't want to ride around on a giant cat?

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

I Want My Hat Back

Here's a new picture book by Jon Klassen called, I WANT MY HAT BACK, that will appeal to kids and parents, especially the snarky ones.

I WANT MY HAT BACK seems straight-forward and cute. A big bear wants his pointed, red hat back. It's missing and he sets off to find it. He asks an array of other animals if they've seen his hat. Makes sense. It's like a classic, cumulative tale that builds toward a satisfying end. But what an end!

Random House, the publisher, calls the end a "mischievous twist." It's mischievous alright. In fact, it's so surprising and funny, as in adults will think it's funny, that kids might miss it entirely. You can point out the twist to your kids, if you want to. Or just enjoy the juicy little twist yourself.

I highly recommend I WANT MY HAT BACK, especially if you appreciate subtle, sly humor.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

New Books from MN Authors

Every fall there's a new crop of great children's books by Minnesota authors. Here's a list of some of my favorites:

BookSpeak! by Laura Purdie Salas. This awesomely illustrated book is filled with poems about books themselves.

Hello, Minnesota! by Constance Van Hoven. Through the use of opposites, this sweet board book is a fun visit to all things Minnesotan.

The Tanglewood Terror by Kurtis Scaletta. This middle-grade novel is a mushroom mystery. Why are there so many glowing mushrooms sprouting up everywhere. And will they take over the town?

Love of the Game by John Coy. Here's the newest addition to Coy's middle grade series about four friends who love to play sports. This one's about football.

Swirl by Swirl by Joyce Sidman. This beautiful picture book explores swirl patterns in nature like snail shells and fiddleheads.

The House in the Night by Susan Marie Swanson. This 2009 Caldecott winner is now out in a board book format. Not all picture books work well as board books, but this one does. Happily.

Unforgettable by Loretta Ellsworth. This young adult novel is about a boy who remembers everything. Literally. Every event, every word, every number he's ever seen. Could this be a blessing or a curse?

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Good Fall Reads

It's definitely Fall - school's back in session, the leaves are turning and falling to the ground, & soon it will be Halloween.

Here is a photo of the "Books for Fall" table I put together recently at Micawber's. It includes one of my all-time favorites, OWL BABIES by Martin Waddell. It also features a new book by my friend David LaRochelle, THE HAUNTED HAMBURGER and OTHER GHOSTLY TALES.

THE HAUNTED HAMBURGER is about two little ghosts who won't go to bed and the spooky ghost stories their father tells them.

While the little ghosts find the stories scary, your child won't. They are funny and goofy. For example, can a ghost be used as a diaper? You'll have to read the book to find out!

Monday, October 3, 2011

Press Here

Instead of being a lift-the-flap, scratch & sniff, pop-up, or a screen-driven iPad book, PRESS HERE by Herve Tullet is an interactive book that is entirely text and illustration driven. The simplicity and beauty of it is like a breath of fresh air.

With a simple yellow dot in the middle of a white page and the text suggestion "press here," children reach out with their finger and touch the dot. Then with a page turn, they see the result of their interaction. Now there are two yellow dots on the page.

With the press of a finger children can "magically" change the yellow dot to red, multiply the dots, or make them grow larger.

Chronicle Books, one of my favorite publishers, has done it again. They've published a creative, unique book for children that is as fun for adults as it is for kids.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Windy Day

Yesterday was extremely windy in the Twin Cities.

At Micawber's we have two potted mums in front of the store.

I was watching the wild wind outside, when suddenly, one of the mum plants flew right out of the pot, root ball and all!

Talk about crazy windy.

(I bet you can tell which mum went for the ride.)

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

The Slayer Chronicles First Kill

This past week I was fortunate to hear author Heather Brewer speak at a booksellers' breakfast.

Brewer is the author of the popular, young adult series The Chronicles of Vladimir Tod. Her newest book is the first in a new series, The Slayer Chronicles: First Kill, which is a spin-off of her Tod series.

Vladimir Tod is part vampire, but not the confident, sparkly kind. He isn't all that excited about being a vampire. Very few people know he's a vampire and his aunt brings him expired bags of donated blood so he doesn't have to kill anything. Really, he's an almost-regular kid trying to survive junior and senior high school.

Heather Brewer, the author, shared her experience of being constantly bullied and disliked throughout her school years. Even her dreams of wanting to be an author were squelched at every turn. Coming from a very small town in Michigan where everyone worked in an auto factory or as a waitress, wanting to be an author seemed unthinkable and unreachable.

Fortunately, Brewer found a safe haven at the public library. It was the only "bully-free zone" in town. But it wasn't until later, when one person - her husband - encouraged her to follow her dreams that she finally felt able to do so. And she did, in spades!

Brewer's latest book, The Slayer Chronicles: First Kill will fill in the "gaps" in the Vladimir Tod series. While Vladimir Tod takes place during the school years, The Slayer Chronicles take place during the summers in between. It will be fun for fans of Vladimir Tod to complete the story with The Slayer Chronicles, one summer at a time.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011


As Children's Book Buyer at Micawber's Books, I talk with Sales Reps from different publishers, either in person or on the phone.

Today I'm meeting with our fabulous Scholastic Kids rep, Terribeth. She's from Kentucky and travels all the way to Minnesota to sell us books. Since Terribeth reps Scholastic books, I want to highlight a great new Scholastic title for kids.

WONDERSTRUCK is the newest book by Brian Selznick. It's the intersecting story of Ben and Rose, told 50 years apart. Ben, who is deaf, follows clues about his father's identity all the way to the American Museum of Natural History in New York City. Rose's story, told in pictures, also ends up at the museum where the two stories intersect in a surprising way.

Like THE INVENTION OF HUGO CABRET, Selznick's Caldecott-winning earlier novel, WONDERSTRUCK is 600+ pages of text and beautiful illustration. And like the earlier novel, WONDERSTRUCK is sure to be a beloved bestseller!

Friday, September 16, 2011


September marks the beginning of school, the first fall leaves, and the Minnesota Renaissance Festival. The "Ren Fest" in Minnesota is one of the biggest renaissance festivals in the country. It runs over 7 weekends with different themes like "Highland Fling" and "Wine, Chocolate & Romance."

My family really likes attending the Renaissance Festival and we even wear costumes. I bought my husband an authentic Lord of Milan sword for his 30th birthday and he wears it to the Fest. (If you've never been to a renaissance festival you may not understand this part.)

Pretending to be a lady of the Renaissance makes me think about a great book. CASTLE by David Macaulay is a wonderful way to learn about the Middle Ages. His architectural drawings with authentic details bring a medieval castle to life. You learn about what life was like back then and the different kinds of jobs people had. I, for one, would not like to be a Dung Farmer.

I highly recommend this classic book for anyone interested in castles, medieval life or the Renaissance. It might inspire you to put on a costume and check out the Ren Fest.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011


Courage by Bernard Waber is a wonderful book. While not specifically about the courage it takes to begin a new school year, it is very appropriate for any child facing trepidation about school.

Courage is about "awesome kinds" of courage and "everyday kinds" of courage. From "being the first to make up after an argument" to "tasting the vegetable before making a face."

There are serious examples of courage like being a firefighter. And more lighthearted examples like having two candy bars and saving one for another day.

Waber (of Lyle the Crocodile fame) uses simple text and colorful line drawings to perfectly show what courage means - both big and small. This book is reassuring in a gentle, encouraging way.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

End-of-Summer Mysteries

I love summer and it's sliding away too quickly. But, before it's over, there's still time to read a great mystery. While there are a lot of fun mysteries for kids and teens, this series is one of my favorites.

The Enola Holmes Mysteries by Nancy Springer are set in England, where Enola - sister of Sherlock Holmes - sets off alone to solve her own set of mysteries.

In the first book, The Case of the Missing Marquess, Enola discovers her mother has disappeared. She travels to London in disguise to find out what has happened. Along the way, she gets caught up in the kidnapping of a young marquess. Now she must piece together the clues and solve the mystery.

Kids, especially ages 8-12, will enjoy this mystery series. You'll be cheering for Enola Holmes all the way.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Zeal of Zebras

My new favorite book of our recent arrivals is A ZEAL OF ZEBRAS by Woop Studios. This ABC book is published by Chronicle Books, one of my favorite publishers of well-designed, creative books.

A ZEAL OF ZEBRAS is "An Alphabet of Collective Nouns." In other words, those cool, often strange group names for certain kinds of animals. We all know about a Herd of Antelope or a Flock of Geese. But have you heard of an Aurora of Polar Bears? Or a Leap of Leopards?

Just guess what a group of cobras is called. Or Pandas. It's pretty cool! But, you'll have to look at the book to find out the answers.

A ZEAL OF ZEBRAS is graphically gorgeous and the collective nouns are surprising and fun. Adults and kids alike will enjoy this picture book.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Graduation Day

As June rolls in, graduations roll out. This year, my youngest cousin graduates from high school. Her's will probably be the last high school graduation I attend until my own daughter's graduation! It's hard for me to fathom my child entering high school, much less graduating. So, I will choose to focus on graduations in general, which are always fun occasions to celebrate.

Here are some of my top picks for GRADUATION GIFT BOOKS:

F in Exams by Richard Benson - The book's subtitle is "The Very Best Totally Wrong Test Answers." It's hard to believe these are actual answers that real people gave on tests, but they are. That's what makes them so dang funny. This is the book I bought for my cousin and I had to buy one for myself too. (Jenny, ignore that last sentence if you are reading my blog.)

The Naked Roommate by Harlan Cohen - The title alone is intriguing and promises some laughs, but this book actually has some very good advice for those about to go off to college for the first time.

The Elements of Style: 50th Anniversary Edition by Strunk and White - OK, you may have been forced to buy this book at some point, but it's really quite helpful, especially for those would-be English majors. (Elements of Style is also available in a fancy, illustrated edition.)

Shoot for the Moon: Lessons on Life from a Dog Named Rudy by Corinne Humphrey - Here's my new feel-good, reach-for-the-stars, inspirational graduation book. It's simple yet lovely. Plus, it's based on a real-life rescue dog that overcame abuse and neglect with the help and love of his owner. (Have I mentioned I like dogs?)

Oh, the Places You'll Go by Dr. Seuss - This graduation gift favorite is back with a new sparkly-covered Party Edition. It's still a wonderful story with inspiration, honesty, and Dr. Seuss' rhythmic rhyme.

The Healthy College Cookbook by Alexandra Nimetz - Last buy not least, this cookbook is a great graduation gift. It's aimed at college students who will appreciate it's promise of being "Quick. Cheap. Easy."

Friday, March 4, 2011

Think Spring!

Enough already with the snow, cold and ice. It's March and time to Think Spring! Time for some positive thoughts in the direction of sun, flowers, leaves on the trees, green grass, and mud.

Here are some great books to get you in the mood for springtime!

It's Spring by Linda Glaser - Cut-paper illustrations make this book look almost 3-D.

Hooray for Spring! by Kazuo Iwamura - Three young squirrels explore the spring world around them.

Fletcher and the Springtime Blossoms by Julia Rawlinson - Fletcher, a cute little fox discovers spring.

Snow Rabbit, Spring Rabbit by Il Sung Na - I mentioned this book in my snow round-up. But it's worth a spring mention too. Super cute rabbit.

Make Way for Ducklings by Robert McCloskey - In this classic story, mama and papa duck need to find a safe place to raise their ducklings.

The Construction Alphabet Book by Jerry Pallotta - Because spring means the start of "construction season," here's a good book to read.

Mud by Mary Lyn Ray - This book, illustrated by Minnesota artist Lauren Stringer, celebrates a common spring phenomenon.

In My Meadow by Sara Gillingham - I love these little board books, many of which are perfect for spring.

The Tale of Peter Rabbit by Beatrix Potter - Another classic to get you into a springtime mood.

There's still plenty of snow on the ground here in Minnesota. But, the birds are singing every morning and the quality of light is much brighter. We are definitely heading in the right direction - toward Spring!

Monday, February 21, 2011

Snowy Books

Yesterday and today, another foot of snow fell here in St. Paul. Our winter snow total so far is 73", which is far above the average of 52" a year. And it's not even March, which often is the snowiest month!

I have been doing plenty of complaining. But, I've decided to stop. Instead, I'm going to to list my favorite books about SNOW!

The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats. I love how the little boy tries to keep a snowball in his coat pocket only to find a wet spot the next morning. (Note to would-be snowball keepers - Put it in the freezer.)

Snow by Cynthia Rylant, illustrated by Lauren Stringer. I love everything written by Cynthia Rylant. Also, Lauren Stringer is a local illustrator who is very talented.

Winter is the Warmest Season by Lauren Stringer. Stringer wrote and illustrated this book which is about all the warm aspects of winter like hot chocolate and roaring fires.

Grandmother Winter by Phyllis Root, illustrated by Beth Krommes. I love the woodcut illustrations in this book. Plus, Root's text is so lyrical.

Snow Rabbit, Spring Rabbit: A Book of Changing Seasons by Il Sung Na. This new picture book, which has lovely art (and a super cute rabbit character), shows what different animals do during the winter.

Katy and the Big Snow by Virginia Lee Burton. Another classic. We sure could use Katy and her snowplowing skills today!

Snowflake Bentley by Jacqueline Briggs Martin, illustrated by Mary Azarian. True story about Wilson Bentley, a man who studied and photographed snowflakes.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Flu Season

It's February and Flu Season has arrived. My daughter and I are home sick with the flu. High temps, sore throat, cough, congestion, the works. Ugh!

Note to self: Get flu shot next year.

Being stuck at home in bed has one advantage - it's a good time to catch up on some reading. Here's what my 12 (almost 13) year-old daughter is reading:

Pandora Gets Angry by Carolyn Hennesy. This is the 5th book in a good series about Pandora and the seven evils that escape from the box she opens.

The Lost Hero by Rick Riordan. First book in his new series about Camp Half-Blood.

Here's what I'm reading:

The Luck of the Buttons by Anne Ylvisaker. I got an advance reader copy of Anne's new book and I'm just starting it now. It's about a "luckless" family and the one young Button whose luck begins to change. Anne is a friend and I'm excited to read her new novel.

In Cod We Trust by Eric Dregni. I asked for this one for Christmas. Eric and his wife, Katy, move to Trondheim, Norway for a year on a Fulbright Fellowship. While there, Katy gives birth to their first child, a boy named Eilif. Some of my own relatives come from (and still live in) Trondheim. I've never been there but my parents have and I'm checking it out vicariously through my folks and this book.

Time for some Theraflu and sleep. Good reading. Goodnight.