Children's & Fantasy/Sci-Fi Books


Bookstore Employees Gone Wild

Little did you know what a wild crew bookstore employees are. Now, thanks to Greta J. and the mad geniuses at Bored Panda, you do.

“The Librairie Mollat in France is attracting quite a lot of attention to their Instagram page after employees started noticing how closely their store’s books resembled their customers and themselves.

Their cheeky photos show how book covers fit unusually well into the frames of everyday life, especially when they mirror the people holding them. It’s a classic example of clever French wit, and Mollat’s 21.2k followers are hooked on it. Mollat was the first independent bookstore in France, opening its doors in 1896 in Bordeaux, a legacy its current employees are only helping to bolster.

Have a peak at some of the funniest – and eeriest – juxtapositions below.”

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Puzzle Book With Pages That Must Be Solved

From industrial designer Brady Whitney and the mad geniuses at Bored Panda.

“Some books are hard to read, but few are as difficult as the Codex Silenda. Why? Because it actually won’t let you read it unless you’re smart enough to unlock it.

The laser-cut, hand-crafted, five-page wooden book is created by industrial designer Brady Whitney, who’s been raising funds for the project through Kickstarter. “Each page features a unique puzzle that requires the user/reader to unlock the corresponding bolts in order to progress to the next page,” read’s the website. “As the puzzler moves through the book, a story begins to unfold, depicting the story of an apprentice in Da Vinci’s Workshop who encounters the same Codex. However in the story the Codex acts as a trap set by Da Vinci to capture any would be spies/snoopy apprentices in order to protect his work. The only way to escape is to solve each of the puzzles before the master returns from his trip.”


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The 8 Essential Kinds of Books That Every Kid Should Own

from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/tom-m-burns/essential-kinds-of-books-that-every-kid-should-own_b_6327148.html

I’ve never been a big fan of lists like “50 Books Your Kid HAS to Read” or “The 100 Best Children’s Books OF ALL TIME.” Typically, they make my blood pressure spike, tossing me between joy (“Ooh, good pick!”) and rage (“No Sylvester and the Magic Pebble? Those Philistines!”), and I spend more time debating their selection criteria and omissions than enjoying their recommendations. That said, I do think there are certain TYPES of books that every kid should be exposed to — the kinds of books that truly introduce them to the best of what the written word has to offer.

Here are my (very subjective) picks for the EIGHT essential kinds of books that every kid should have in his or her home library:

1. Board books.

Board books are more of a format than a literary genre, but their impact can be profound. They are the training wheels of literature. They can be given to crazy little toddlers, and those ankle-biters can browse them, chew on them, do whatever they want with them… those thick cardboard pages will ENDURE. They teach kids that books are there to stay, AND they allow their chubby little fingers to perfect the art of the page flip, which is possibly the greatest technical innovation in the history of reading. (Sorry, eReaders, but you can’t compete with the awesome power of the perfectly-placed page turn.)

2. Mythology.

Our world has a ridiculously rich and involved cultural history, and it would be a shame not to introduce your child to it at a young age. And I’m not just talking about Greek myths, which, granted, can have a bit too much god/animal coupling for young readers. I’m talking about the stories, the BIG STORIES, that everyone in our world knows. The Boy Who Cried Wolf, Cinderella, Noah and the Flood, Scheherazade’s One Thousand and One Nights, stories of Anansi, King Arthur, Superman, and Strega Nona — the foundational stories. The stories that are referenced throughout every other story your kids will be reading for the rest of their lives. That foundation HAS to be laid somewhere, and it should start at home.

3. Books you loved as a kid.

It’s true that you can’t expect your child to have the exact same taste as you, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try to share your favorite books with your kid. At the very least, it will show him or her what it looks like when a book truly has a profound effect on a person, when a book is treasured and loved. And who knows? They may surprise you.


4. Books that suit their personality.

This may be hard to hear, but if your kids love talking about farts, burps, and boogers, you should buy them some books about farts, burps, and boogers. That doesn’t mean that you should ONLY let them read about what they want — but if you really want your kids to enjoy reading, they have to know that their interests are represented in the books they read, even if those interests are completely incomprehensible.

5. Poetry.

I know a lot of adults who don’t enjoy reading poetry personally, but I can’t stress enough how powerful poetry can be for young readers. If normal prose is a Volvo, poetry is a Lamborghini — it takes language, floors the accelerator, and really shows you what words can do. Poets like Dr. Seuss and Shel Silverstein teach kids that, when assembled correctly — even in ways that don’t seem to make sense — words can make a person feel a ridiculously deep range of emotions, and kids LOVE THAT.

6. Nonfiction books.

Because kids can’t learn about the world from the Internet alone. Because the Internet won’t stay still. Because kids always know that they’re one click away from a video of a monkey peeing into its own mouth. But nonfiction books, the best kind, offer the real world to a child as a beautifully-wrapped gift, and allow them explore and peruse and ponder at their own pace. Atlases, shark books, histories, biographies, encyclopedias, and collections of oddities — they all take kids by the hand and introduce them to the weird, wonderful world in a way that a web page simply can’t.

7. Books that are too old for them.

A kid can’t survive on Goodnight Moon alone. Eventually, every kid is going to be ready for the next step in their reading evolution, and it’s a good idea to have some of those books handy. Because reading should be aspirational. Kids should want to master board books, so they can move up to picture books, so they can graduate to chapter books, and so on. And having those books in your house as a target, as a goal, as something to be coveted, can be really motivating to a young child in a positive way. You want to read Harry Potter one day? Let’s work on getting there together…

8. Blank books.

2014-12-15-essential3.jpgOne of the best gifts I ever gave my daughter was a blank notebook. Because that notebook was an invitation — an invitation to write her own stories. An invitation that said she had just as much potential to write something great as ANY other author on her bookshelf. All she had to do was try. Sometimes she writes about her day; sometimes she writes terrible fan fiction; sometimes she writes nonsense. But every time she writes anything, she’s learning how to use her tools. She’s learning how stories are made, and, in my experience, that connection to the written word only makes her love reading all the more.


There are many other kinds of books that I love sharing with my kid — picture books, comic books, funny books, sad books, photography books — but most of them fall into one of the eight categories I’ve listed above. They’re all variations on universal themes, and introducing those themes to my daughter has been one of the most satisfying parts of being a parent.


This post originally appeared on Building a Library: Finding the Right Books for Your Kid.

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Interview with ‘Porcupine in a Pine Tree’ author Helaine Becker

Helaine Becker is an award-winning writer of books for children. She has written over 50 books, including the best-selling picture book, ‘A Porcupine in a Pine Tree, the ‘Looney Bay All-Stars’ series; popular non-fiction, including ‘Magic Up Your Sleeve’, ‘Secret Agent Y.O.U.’ and ‘The Quiz Book for Girls’; and young adult novels including ‘Trouble in the Hills’ and ‘How to Survive Absolutely Anything’.

She also writes for children’s magazines and for kids television. She has written three seasons of Dr. Greeny’s Mad Lab, a segment on Planet Echo, an environmental science show airing on APTN , and is hard at work on several other TV projects.


For what age audience do you write?

I write everything from picture books to young adult novels. Fiction and nonfiction. Prose and verse.

Henry: Helaine also is a trained surgeon, master chef, constitutional law attorney, and astronaut.

Tell us about your latest book.

‘Little Jack Horner, Live from the Corner’ is a humorous picture book that riffs on Old MacDonald, Bingo the Dog, and lots of popular nursery rhymes. It’s fun for kids to try and find their favorite characters in the illustrations (by Mike Boldt), and try to figure out where all the animals on Old MacDonald’s Farm have disappeared to.

Coming out shortly is a nonfiction book called ‘Zoobots’ (Kids Can Press) that describes recent innovations in the field of robotics. Animal-inspired robots, like bat bots and octopus bots are coming…and they are both cool and creepy.

Henry: Great minds think alike. I’ve rewritten nursery rhymes, substituting mythological creatures for the human characters.

What do you hope readers will get from reading that book?

Lots of belly laughs! I’m all about having fun.

Henry: I tweet with Helaine, and can confirm that she is a barrel full of fun.

What aspect of writing do you find most challenging?

The sitting down and working part. Because writing IS work, no matter how tra-la it might look from the outside. And since I’m like most people, I really like to avoid hard work. But if you don’t follow that old rule for writing success, BIC (Butt in Chair), you don’t eat. I find hunger to be both bracing and motivating.

Henry: In short: tra-la = hungry, BIC = full belly. Got it.

What is a powerful lesson you’ve learned from being a writer?

Persistence and resilience are more important qualities in life than talent. No matter what we strive for, we always have two choices – quit, or forge ahead. The first guarantees failure. The second can feel like failure, but it isn’t. I prefer to think of it as victory in slow motion. The ability to keep going when you’d rather walk away and blame someone else for your woes is what sets apart those who succeed from the rest of us.

Henry: I have this mental image of reaching the summit of a hill (success) by gradually building a ramp made of failures or rejections.

What has been a memorable experience that you never would have had if you had not been a writer?

Well meeting you, of course. Certainly the most thrilling experiences involved traveling to remote and unexpected places. I didn’t realize, when I started writing for children, that speaking to kids in schools was such a big part of the job. I speak to kids at up to 100 schools a year, and these schools have been in some incredible places. Peru. Nunavut, north of the Arctic Circle (We ate raw caribou there). And southern California. (heaven for a resident of Canada!)

Henry: I’m torn between being flattered at the compliment and horrified at the thought of caribou sushi…

What advice would you give to aspiring authors?

Get involved in writers’ organizations. Meet other writers and form a critique group. Get on line and follow writers, publishers and agents on twitter; read their blogs, subscribe to their newsletters. Writing is a business and you have to learn the business. And be prepared to work harder than you ever have before, and be greatly humbled. The best writers can take it when someone tells them their manuscript needs work, and they will revise and rip out entire chapters over and over again before they get it right. Everyone needs editing. Welcome criticism – it is your bestest friend. The writing world is no place for wussies.

Henry: I met Helaine at a critique group. BTW, is “bestest” a word? 🙂

Do you have any favorite quotes?

“Dinner is served.”

Henry: You complete me.

Do you have any strange rituals that you observe when you write?

That’s kind of a creepy question. No. I sit down. I write until my ass falls asleep. Then I stop for the day. Save (NEVER FORGET TO SAVE!!!!), and repeat.

Henry: Some writers strive to get their creative juices flowing. But, you write until your gluteal circulation stops flowing. Interesting.

If you could have one superpower, what would it be?

Just one? How lame is that? I am a woman, so I already possess the incredible super power of being able to find food in the fridge. I can also removed trapped sparrows from a wood stove and drink coffee with one hand. If I had one MORE super power, it would be to persuade people to do my bidding. Without having to yell at them first.

Henry: You’re the first interviewee to wish for mind control. Upon reflection, I think it is one of the best, because it indirectly gives you everyone else’s powers. Well played, sir.

If you could have three authors over for dinner, who would it be?

I’ve always thought Mark Twain would be a hoot. Judy Blume. And maybe Homer, coz I’d like to know if he was really blind.

Henry: The greek poet Homer or Homer Simpson?

What is your favorite creature that exists only in literature?

The Golem, a character from Jewish legend. I saw a movie of this story as a kid and it always stuck with me. So much so, that I’ve written a version of the story set in the future. It’s called Gottika, and is scheduled for publication in 2014. I’m very excited about it.

Henry: We look forward to seeing it.

What do you like to do when you’re not writing?

I am known for spending much time lying around drinking coffee and reading. I like to travel. Drink wine with friends on the deck. Tell bad jokes. Rant, when ranting is required. You know, the usual.

What would you like it to say on your tombstone?

She’s not actually down there, we’re just joking. Or maybe “She forgot to hit SAVE.”

Where can readers find your work?

Everywhere! I’ve written 57 books; most are still in print and you can find them readily on Amazon/Goodreads/Chapters-Indigo/etc. Or at my website. Or your local indy bookstore!

This interview is also posted to the San Diego Children’s Books Examiner.

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Interview with ‘My Mom is the Best Circus’ illustrator Luciana Navarro Powell

Luciana Navarro Powell grew up in Brazil and moved to the US in 2002. Drawing was a favorite past time of her childhood. She graduated with a degree in Product Design and worked as a product and graphic designer for a few years, but she was always drawing and taking freelance illustration projects on the side. Watercolor and acrylic paints were the media she used at the beginning of her career, but she eventually settled with the digital brush. Her latest projects include illustrating for toys, children’s products, book apps, mural and traditional books. After illustrating for educational publications for about 10 years and being involved with children’s publishing for so long, in 2011 she started to write her own stories.


For what age audience do you illustrate?

I illustrate mostly for children’s fiction, usually for ages 2 through 8.

Tell us about your latest book

My latest book is called “My Mom is the Best Circus”. It is a humorous take on a day in the life of a busy working mom, seen through the lenses of two kids that love the circus. From sunrise to sunset, Mom is a one-woman show: ringmaster, maestro, juggler, magician, and sometimes a clown… until bedtime come when she pulls her best stunt, the “sandman show”.

Henry: I thought you said you write fiction. That sounds like a documentary of most mom’s days.

What do you hope readers will get from reading that book?

First of all I hope that kids will enjoy reading it or being read to. Besides that, maybe learn new words, enjoy the comparisons that I make in the book – perhaps inspiring them to make their own associations – and if my book can get giggles from the kids and a silent nodding smile from the moms, even better. It is an homage to all moms.

Henry: The silent mom nod is better than the Good Housekeeping seal of approval.

What aspect of illustrating do you find most challenging?

The most challenging aspect of illustrating in my opinion is to keep it fresh, but at the same time being consistent with your illustrative “voice”. Just like writing, illustrators have a visual voice of their own, that is usually called “style”. I believe we have to keep challenging ourselves to evolve, and sometimes getting out of our visual comfort zone can be challenging. Another aspect of the career that can be challenging is to get a steady flow of work. That is, not “feast or famine”: too little work or too much work. Time teaches you to manage it better, but it is always unpredictable to some degree.

Henry: Those are challenges that authors share with illustrators.

What is a powerful lesson you’ve learned from being an illustrator?

That persistence and quality always pay off. I went through some years of not having much commissioned work, but I kept doing portfolio pieces and striving to improve, even with no job in sight. Eventually clients will find your work and good projects will come your way.

Henry: Yes, the cream rises to the top.

What has been a memorable experience that you never would have had if you had not been an illustrator?

A recent one that comes to mind was a very sweet email from a young mom in Indonesia, asking me where could she buy my books – specifically, “My Dad is the Best Playground”. She found it somewhere online but didn’t own a credit card, and I wasn’t able to find a store in her town that sold it, so I ended up sending it to her. She was so happy to get it right in time for the birth of her first child, and sent me pictures of her gorgeous little baby girl. She told me how nice it was to hear her husband reading it to the baby, and how he could hardly wait until they would be able to play like the characters play in the book. To think that your work can touch someone so far away in such a personal and positive way is a very powerful experience that I wouldn’t have been able to have gotten any other way.

Henry: Completely agree. I’m always thrilled when I get a new Facebook or Twitter follower from another country.

What advice would you give to aspiring illustrators?

My advice is to be sure you absolutely love it and can’t do anything else – which is my case – because it is a hard career to succeed at – at the same time, which career isn’t, right? Be persistent, challenge yourself, find your own visual voice and be loyal to it. Don’t try to imitate someone else’s style. Another important one regarding portfolio is that it is only as good as your weakest piece – only include your absolute best work.

Henry: Great tips.

Do you have any favorite quotes?

I’m sure you heard it a million times too, and it is such a cliche… but this quote makes more and more sense to me as I get older, it’s a great reminder of the brevity of it all, and even a recipe-for-happiness-in-a-nutshell: “Yesterday is history, tomorrow is mystery, today is a gift”.

Do you have any strange rituals that you observe when you illustrate?

Not really. The only ritual is to either run or swim early in the morning to clear my mind, or if I’m stuck. I have had ideas coming to me in the middle of a run. If you are stuck then moving can sometimes “unstuck” you.

Henry: How very metaphorical of you!

If you could have one superpower, what would it be?

Definitely flying. I often dream that I am flying. It’s almost like I know exactly what to do and could even teach you – if I could, of course. It feels liberating and powerful, and you can go anywhere for free! It’s such a shame we can’t fly on our own!

Henry: No traffic jams!

If you could have three authors or illustrators over for dinner, who would it be?

Oh these types of questions are always so hard because I am a fan of so many artists! But I will pick three illustrators that I am in absolute awe of. If I could sit down for dinner with them I would just listen to them talking and see if I could get a glimpse of the wonderful minds that are able to produce such rich imagery – not to mention the quality of technique: Nicoletta Ceccoli, an Italian illustrator that makes arresting, magnetic, intriguing, mysterious, symbolic and slightly dark illustrations. The zany quality of Lane Smith’s art is so attractive and compelling that it would be fun to have him at a dinner table to try to pick his unique brain! Finally, Suzy Lee, a Korean author and illustrator who can say a lot with a very economic but expressive style and have done some wonderful wordless picture books.

Henry: Wikipedia helpfully says: “Nicoletta Ceccoli is an Italian Artist who is known for her richly detailed, dreamlike work. She was born in and still lives in the Republic of San Marino and studied animation at the Institute of Art in San Marino, Italy. She has illustrated many books, most recently published is Cinderella.

Lane Smith (born August 25, 1959) is an American children’s book author and illustrator. Smith is most noted for his work on children’s books. Smith has illustrated works by Florence Parry Heide, Judith Viorst, Bob Shea, Dr. Seuss, Jack Prelutsky, Eve Merriam, Roald Dahl and George Saunders. He has authored and illustrated his own books as well, most notably It’s a Book in 2010 which was a New York Times bestseller for over six months and has been translated into over twenty languages, Madam President in 2008, and John, Paul, George, and Ben in 2006. In 2012, he was awarded the Caldecott honor for his book Grandpa Green.”

Suzy Lee is also the name of a song by the alternative rock group, The White Stripes!

What is your favorite creature that exists only in literature?

As a kid, I was fascinated by the concept of miniaturization: I remember imagining I was a tiny person exploring the nooks and crannies of everything. So “Thumbelina” and “Jack and the Beanstalk” were some of my favorite stories because they included tiny persons in a giant world of huge grass blades, walnut shell beds, giant castles with towering chairs and tables.

Henry: Thumbelina isn’t real!? Spoiler alert!

What do you like to do when you’re not illustrating?

I am the mother of two very active little boys, and there are only so many hours in a day! It is safe to say that when I am not illustrating I am taking care of them which is a recipe for fun and exhaustion! Besides work and fun with my family, I enjoy reading, a good meal, movies, traveling.

What would you like it to say on your tombstone?

This took me a while but I think I got it:  “She will always be with us…in our hearts, in our memories, in our lives, and hopefully forever and ever in print.”

Where can readers find your work?


This interview is also posted at the San Diego Children’s Books Examiner.

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Spotlight on Barnes & Noble Carmel Valley/Del Mar (San Diego)


What makes your bookstore different and special?

Our Booksellers are what makes this store so special.  The booksellers are avid readers, so a customer can always get a recommendation.  Our kids booksellers read many of the new titles and have vast product knowledge for all ages.  We feel this is what sets us apart from online bookstores like Amazon.

How was your bookstore started, and with what goals?

Barnes and Noble ‘s beginnings can be traced to 1873, when Charles M. Barnes started a books business from his home in Wheaton, Illinois.  In 1917, his son, William, went to New York to join G. Clifford Noble in establishing Barnes and Noble.  The company developed a world wide reputation for excellence by serving millions of customers with its comprehensive selection of general trade books, academic titles and textbooks and medical books.

Do you cater to certain types of readers?

We have books for everyone; bestsellers for people who want the new books as well as the ability get that older backlist title. With the addition of our E-reader NOOK, we can get books into everyone’s hands any time any where.

What are some of your upcoming events?

We had a customer appreciation event June 28-30 that included Curious George here for the kids.

Henry: And, of course, I’m looking forward to scheduling a Twignibble signing at your store. 🙂

How do you engage in an ongoing way with your readers?

We have a Facebook page at Barnes and Noble Del Mar as well as a display of bookseller recommends.  Our booksellers are always ready to discuss a great book.

Is there anything else you’d like to tell us about your book store?

We are open everyday from 9:00am to 9:00pm.

We are located at 12835 El Camino Real, San Diego, CA 92130. 858-481-4038

Our Kids Lead Deborah Gatto is available to recommend a great children’s book for any age.

This article is also posted to the San Diego Children’s Books Examiner.