Penelope Crumb

For fans of Clementine or Katie Kazoo who are are looking for a new series, try the Penelope Crumb series by Shawn Stout. Penelope is a spunky and hilarious fourth grader with a penchant for speaking before she thinks. She loves art class until her best friend draws a picture of her, and Penelope learns she has a big nose. Her mom tells her she has a Crumb nose just like her grandpa so Penelope makes it her mission to track down this mysterious grandpa she’s never met.

penelopecrumb2For those of you who are already Penelope Crumb fans, check out the newest book. In Penelope Crumb Never Forgets, Penelope is off on more adventures; mainly, trying to ensure that she doesn’t lose her best friend, or forget anyone that is important to her. Penelope is an honest, funny fourth grader with a huge imagination. These charming chapter books are also great read alouds with enough complexity to keep older readers engaged too.

Join us for a book signing with Shawn Stout on Monday, February 18th at 7:00 p.m.

Penelope Crumb by Shawn Stout; Penguin; $5.99; Ages 7 and up

Penelope Crumb Never Forgets; $14.99

Liar and Spy

Rebecca Stead might just be gearing up to win yet another Newbery Award. Her new story follows seventh grader Georges, named after Georges Seurat (or as he pronounces it: Sir Ott). When his father loses his job, the whole family has to move from their house into an apartment down the street. Georges quickly meets Safer, a 12-year-old with an eccentric view of life, who enjoys all things spy-related and being quite mysterious himself. The boys have met at the right time, for Georges, a friend is greatly needed among the bullying at school and his mom working extra shifts at work, and for Safer, he could really use another spy to help him track the mysterious Mr. X who always wears black and carries suitcases in and out of the building at odd hours.

I really enjoyed reading this book. Rebecca Stead has created a middle schooler than most can relate to. He’s living for Fridays when he’s at school, like most kids (and adults!) I love Safer’s family, from the kids having named themselves (in a way) to each of their different personalities. Safer’s little sister Candy especially had me laughing; I loved her extensive knowledge of when and where to buy different types of candy in New York City. And I couldn’t help but think that she would love The Sugar Cube here in Old Town. I would recommend this book to anyone 5th grade and up; I even handed it to my 13-year-old brother when I was done reading it.

Liar & Spy by Rebecca Stead; hardcover; Random House; $15.99; ages 10+

Happy reading,


Darkbeast by Morgan Keyes

Keara’s twelfth nameday is fast approaching and according to the law in the land of Duodecia, she is required to kill her darkbeast, a raven named Caw. Like all other darkbeasts, Caw has been bound to his owner since she was a baby and has absorbed all the negative emotions she has felt throughout her childhood. Whenever she exhibits a dark feeling such as fear or jealousy, she is sent to Caw, who takes it away. He also helps her see why manifesting these emotions in a negative way is undesirable. Most children look forward to the day they be rid of their darkbeast, but Keara is different. She loves Caw and cannot imagine killing him, but allowing a darkbeast to live beyond your twelfth nameday is a punishable offense in Duodecia.

Another complication in the story is that during the week leading up to her nameday, a troupe of actors called the Travelers visit Keara’s town. She finds herself drawn to their fantastic revels, stories about the land’s twelve gods performed on stage, and dreams of a life on the road with the group. Keara is faced with many decisions: Should she kill Caw as she is expected to? Should she join the Travelers and leave behind the only life she has ever known? Turning twelve is not easy!

When I read the description of Darkbeast, I immediately thought of Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials series. Keyes’ darkbeasts sounded suspiciously similar to Pullman’s daemons, and I worried that the story would be an unsatisfying facsimile of the acclaimed trilogy. But much to my delight, Darkbeast tells a unique and compelling story. It is quite fast-paced and Keyes effectively uses cliffhangers to push readers to read “just one more chapter!” Don’t be fooled by the rather childish cover art, which initially made me think the book was for younger readers. Darkbeast is for ages 10 and up and covers complex concepts such as personal belief systems, emotions, and breaking from social norms.

Morgan Keyes will be at Hooray for Books on Friday, September 7, 2012 from 6:30-7:30 pm. Come by and meet the author of this thoroughly entertaining read!


Darkbeast by Morgan Keyes; Margaret K. McElderry Books (Simon & Schuster); Ages 10-12

Author event with Sharon Draper

This Thursday we are hosting Coretta Scott King award-winning author Sharon Draper at the store! She’ll be here to talk about the paperback release of her fantastic book, Out of My Mind. Several of us here at the store have read it and loved it and we recommend it to customers all the time. Now is a great time to pick up the book if you haven’t read it before (trust me, you want to), or if you’ve been a fan for awhile and want to ask Ms. Draper some questions. We’re really excited to have her!

The book centers on 11-year-old Melody, an incredibly smart girl with a photographic memory, who also happens to have cerebral palsy and is unable to speak for herself. Unfortunately, this leaves both teachers and her peers believing that she is functioning on a low level of learning, teaching her the same letters and numbers every day, rather than the math and history and science she loves and is perfectly capable of doing.

When Melody finally gets an electronic device that helps her speak, she’s able to communicate her thoughts and her intelligence to the world. She even earns a spot on her school’s quiz team, surprising everyone! The story follows Melody on her journey “out of her mind,” including the difficulties and triumphs she faces along the way.

It’s an amazing story of hope and perseverance  and could be used as an excellent classroom tool by teachers. Come hear Sharon Draper talk about the book on Thursday, 5/10, from 6:30-7:30. Let us know you’re coming at 703-548-4092.

Trish loved Wonder by R.J. Palacio

Wonder is the story of a 10 year-old boy named Auggie who has a severe facial deformity. Auggie is familiar with the way people react when they see him: the shock, the discomfort, the sideways glances, the hostility. He feels safe in his Manhattan neighborhood, where he’s been homeschooled for his entire life, but Auggie’s parents have decided it’s time for him to go to school. Wonder recounts his difficult year as a fifth-grader at Beecher Prep, told from the point of view of Auggie,  his older sister, Olivia, and their friends. As hard as it is to be the new kid in class, it’s so much harder to be Auggie in that situation — some of the kids are kind to him, and some are not.

I wish I’d read this book when I was a kid — maybe it would have helped me be less afraid of other folks’ differences when I was young.

A great choice  to read with your kids as a launching pad for a discussion on being different and bullying. Excellent for teachers to use in their classrooms, as well!

Wonder by R.J. Palacio; $15.99; Knopf Books for Young Readers, Ages 10+

Have a Warriors fan? Erin Hunter is headed our way!

We are SO excited to announce that author Erin Hunter, known for her super popular Warriors series and bestselling Seekers series, is coming to the store in April! She’s going to be chatting with you all and signing your books!

We know there are a lot of Erin Hunter fans in the area, so spread the word to friends and family. We would love to give Erin a full house of fans. Mark your calendars for Friday, April 13th. More details to come!

If you’d like to check out all the titles Erin has written, you can head to the Warriors site and find out all sorts of fun stuff about the books and their author.

You can pre-order your books and reserve your place in line by calling us at 703-548-4092.  If you’d like to be added to our email list to stay up-to-date on all our our author visits, let us know.  We have a lot going on in March and April!

Miss Megan Waxes Nostalgic: Childhood Read-Aloud Favorites

There’s nothing like a healthy dose of tryptophan and pumpkin pie to trigger some hardcore reminiscing! And it should come as no surprise to anyone that memories of my childhood would be utterly incomplete without a few awesome books thrown into the mix. When I was no more than a wee half-pint, my mom read aloud to me for hours. Then, when I finally mastered the magic of reading on my own, I forced my younger siblings to listen to me stutter out our favorites over and over and over again.

So, in the spirit of gathering together for the holidays, here are some of the read-aloud favorites from the Graves family:

Corduroy, by Don Freeman, Viking Children’s Books (an imprint of Penguin Books), first published 1968, Ages 3-7

Corduroy’s sweet journey is wonderfully understated, both in its opening melancholy and its closing joy. Poor Corduroy has waited forever on the department store shelf, but the children who come by head straight for the newer, brighter toys. No one seems to want a plain little bear with green overalls–especially since he’s missing a button. When a little girl named Lisa spies Corduroy, though, it’s love at first sight. Lisa is blind to the shiny new toys on the shelf–she knows that Corduroy is special. Finally, Corduroy has what he’s always wanted: a home. “‘You must be a friend,’ said Corduroy. ‘I know I’ve always wanted a friend.’ ‘Me too!’ said Lisa, and gave him a big hug.” I defy any parent or child to resist the gentle emotional tug of this delightful tale–it’s a warm, friendly, cuddly sort of story, the kind that you’ll remember for years to come.

Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day, by Judith Viorst, illus. by Ray Cruz, Atheneum Books (an imprint of Simon & Schuster), first published 1972, Ages 3-7

There was a time when I could quote this entire book by heart. I’ll still give it the old college try when challenged, but no promises that I’ll make it through the opening lines: “I went to sleep with gum in my mouth and now there’s gum in my hair and when I got out of bed this morning I tripped on the skateboard and by mistake I dropped my sweater in the sink while the water was running and I could tell it was going to be a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day.” We’ve all been in poor Alexander’s shoes. Some days, absolutely nothing goes right. Some days, the only viable option seems to be to escape to Australia. This book is fast-paced, spirited, with a universally recognizable theme for both adults and children.

Dogger, by Shirley Hughes, HarperCollins, first published 1993, Ages 3-7

When I was very small, my giant stuffed rabbit, Bun Bun, was by constant bedtime buddy. I know from firsthand experience that there is nothing more panic-inducing to a four-year-old than discovering that her beloved bunny is missing (if only for a trip through the laundry). So the crisis presented to our young hero, Dave, will be familiar to little ones. Dogger, Dave’s constant floppy companion, has suddenly and mysteriously vanished. Dave is distraught. But when Dogger turns up in a rummage sale, Dave’s older sister Bella comes to the rescue. She trades one of her stuffed animals in order to save Dogger from being carried off by another little girl. Hooray for courageous big sisters! Hooray for Dogger’s safe return! Hooray for peace returned at home!

The Day the Goose Got Loose, by Reeve Lindbergh, illus. by Steven Kellogg, Puffin Books (an imprint of Penguin), first published 1990, Ages 3-7

Chaos erupts in the barnyard when the goose gets loose! I clearly remember my mother reading (chanting, really) this book aloud during a family roadtrip. If her plan was to keep us from bickering in the back seat, this rollicking tale did the trick. The goose leads the farmer and the other animals on a wild, raucous romp that keeps wiggly wee ones glued to the page. Told in rhyme, this is a fantastic one to share with itty bitties who like to get up and go–the rhythm of the text will keep them engaged, and Kellogg’s colorful, movement-infused illustrations will give them plenty to investigate. As kids get older, there’s more and more to see here–it’s a great book that will grow with your family!

Farmer Boy, by Laura Ingalls Wilder, illus. by Garth Williams, HarperCollins, first published 1933, Ages 7-12

Although this is the third book in the acclaimed Little House series, it stands alone. My siblings and I returned over and over to this story of Almanzo Wilder and his growing up years on a farm in New York State. Our favorite parts? The specific descriptions of the Wilder family’s giant, farm fresh meals. Apple pie for breakfast? Sign me up! Cheerios suddenly just weren’t good enough. My mother pointed out that Almanzo followed his pastry-filled morning meal by working all afternoon in the fields, and would I like to follow suit on that, too? Touche, Mom. Touche.

Happy reading!

Miss Megan G.

‘Tis the Season for Giving!

Here at the store, we have a yearly tradition that we LOVE to talk about!  Hooray for the Holidays is a program we’ve put together where you, our fabulous customers, can come in and shop for books for a child that would otherwise not be receiving books this holiday season.

We have a range of ages in need of books,  both boys and girls, and you simply choose a child and shop away! It’s a fantastic and fun way to help the community, while supporting an independent business at the same time. We also give a discount on books purchased for the program,  leaving your wallet happy too!

Bring your children and get them involved in helping a less-fortunate child enjoy the gift of a great book! If you need help choosing, one of our employees would be thrilled to help, or choose YOUR favorite book that you would love a child to own. It’s a lot of fun and an amazing way to give this holiday season.

Got questions about the program? Give us a call at the store at 703-548-4092 or email us at and we’ll be happy to fill you in on the details.

The Sixty-Eight Rooms

On a field trip to the Art Institute of Chicago, Ruthie becomes fascinated by the Thorne Room exhibit, featuring miniature rooms created to look as they would during specific periods in history. Ruthie is not only drawn to the perfection of miniatures, but also feels a strange pull to the rooms. When she and her best friend, Jack, discover a magic key that allows Ruthie to shrink small enough to enter the rooms, she is thrilled! She explores all over, discovering she can not only look around the rooms, but she can go out into the entire world of the rooms’ time period.

Ruthie and Jack experience Massachusetts during the Salem Witch Trials and medieval times, among others. Children interested in history or adventure stories will definitely find themselves falling into the story of Jack, Ruthie, and the Thorne Rooms. Fans of From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler and The Borrowers will enjoy the story as well. A fun read aloud with the family and the perfect bridge to more books about art, history, and museums.

The Sixty-Eight Rooms by Marianne Malone, Random House, 16.99. Ages 10-12