Book Review: The Mermaid and the Shoe by K. G. Campbell

The Mermaid and the ShoeAll of Triton’s mermaid daughters have special skills and interests, except for Minnow, who just seems to get in the way.  Minnow asks too many questions, like “Why don’t crabs have fins?” and “Where do bubbles go?” But when Minnow finds a mysterious object, that tireless curiosity leads her on a journey to discover what it’s for, and maybe even to discover what it is that makes Minnow unique.

I love that where most mermaid books are aimed at pre-teens or teenagers, this sweet, beautifully illustrated story is for the younger set.  It’s also nicely reminiscent of The Little Mermaid, without any of more “grown-up” aspects of the original story.  Its simplicity, innocence, and fairy-tale feel make The Mermaid and the Shoe really stand out from the mermaid crowd.

The Mermaid and the Shoe by K. G. Campbell; Kids Can Press; 16.95; 3-6 years old

Find Waldo While You Can!

photoThere’s three more days of Waldo! That’s still plenty of time to download a Waldo passport and set out for an Old Town adventure! Get 10 stamps and receive a Waldo sticker and $1 off a Waldo book; get 20 stamps and be entered in our grand prize raffle. Find more information here!

And don’t miss our Waldo Shindig & Raffle Drawing, this Wednesday from 5:30-6:30 pm!

Follow the search and find clues on our twitter page (@HFBooks). Tag us in your own Waldo adventure, and be sure to use #WheresWaldoAlexandria!

We’re a Finalist for Red Tricycle’s 2013 Totally Awesome Awards!


Red Tricycle is awesome. They’ve got tons of great tips and ideas for parents and kids in multiple cities nationwide. Today they released their finalists for the Washington, DC Totally Awesome Awards—we’re so excited to be included!

Help us win bragging rights for the rest of the year! Vote here. Then share the link with your friends via email, Facebook, Twitter (link to us at @HFBooks), and carrier pigeon.

It’s because of our loyal, enthusiastic customer base that we’re nominated for awards like this one. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

Not a Valentine story

Bear has a secret admirer. Not the kind that sends unsigned notes, but the kind that leaves him yummy treats every morning. When Bear wakes up, he finds a carrot on the rock outside his cave, and on each succeeding day, he finds more: first two carrots, then three, then a bunch, and even a flower. Bear busies himself in finding stuff to give back to his new friend, singing “I wonder who it is.” Each night he tries to wait to see who is coming by, but as hard as he tries, Bear always falls asleep. Until one night when he hears someone singing back. Could it be that he has found his new friend?

This book is another extra-special story from Daniel Pinkwater. We’ve loved his others books about bears in the past; this book is no different. Though the title is Bear in Love, don’t confuse it with yet another Valentine’s Day story. I think that the story is a sweet friendship story as well. It’s great for teaching a child to share with others, and it’s also a good story if a child is worried about having a friend that is different than he or she.

Bear in Love, by Daniel Pinkwater; illustrated by Will Hillenbrand; Candlewick Press; hardcover; $15.99; ages 3-6

Happy Reading,


The Story of Hand-Me-Downs

Are you the youngest? The youngest sibling, cousin, friend? Well then you know very well that hand-me-downs have a story, a history, some carry a novel within them. You didn’t know that? Well then maybe this book will change your mind. All old clothes have been somewhere else before and withstood many adventures. In Mary Ann Hoberman‘s story, a brother and sister have fun imagining the adventures these clothes have been on, imagining adventures for them to have, and also imagining who will have the clothes next. Do you still think that your hand-me-downs are boring?

Not only do the clothes in this book have a story, but so does the story itself. Mary Ann Hoberman originally published I Like Old Clothes in 1976 with different artwork. Now, Patrice Barton‘s illustrations bring a new life to the story, showing different styles and fun in the clothes.

I Like Old Clothes by Mary Ann Hoberman; illustrated by Patrice Barton; Alfred A. Knopf; hardcover;$16.99; ages 3-6

Happy Reading,


Learning to Read this School Year

Learning to read can be a lot of fun!  There are so many new beginning readers to break the routine of Dr. Seuss and BOB books (although we love them as well!).  Come by before the school year starts and pick up some fun new stories.

Though Giles Andreae would argue that Giraffes Can’t Dance, Jamie Michalak says sure they can, and Joe the giraffe’s talents do not stop at dancing. When Joe picks up his friend Sparky the turtle, they find something very interesting: a box with small people in it showing off their talents and inviting Sparky and Joe to stop living life in the slow lane and come out of their shells (two things that scare Sparky a little). With help from Joe, Sparky finds a talent they both have to show the small people in the box. Will this shy turtle become a star?

Joe and Sparky, Superstars! by Jamie Michalak; Candlewick Press; paperback; $4.99

Can you not get enough of shark week? We have just the book about those creepy, scary sea creatures. National Geographic Kids publishes great level readers about all types of science and nature topics. They now have a level 2 reader called Weird Sea Creatures, and I can tell you, they sure are weird. Dumbo Octopus and Blopfish sound like they aren’t real animals, but National Geographic’s amazing photographs show that they are. There is even a quiz in the back of the book for kids to test their parents on how well they know their weird sea creatures.

Weird Sea Creatures by Laura Marsh; National Geographic; paperback; $3.99

If the strange animals are not your favorite, we also have a new series of animal stories full of cute animals like baby tigers, kittens, penguins, and more. These books are part of the Photo Adventure Series, and the stories can be read a number of different ways: the parent can read the story entirely as a picture book, the child can read the story entirely on their own, or the parent and child can take turns. Each story has boldfaced words, the parent can read the regular typeface words and the child can read the boldfaced words. Almost every page also has a “fact stop” for extra information on the animal. This is a must for finding out about your favorite animal.

Happy reading,


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,


How Megan and Maryam Learned to Read

To continue our “how we learned to read” posts, there are a few more stories that we have to share. Megan and I have been at the store since we opened in June 2008. Being a recent college graduate and a current college student, we have read a lot of books, good and bad, in our school careers. Through assigned reads like To Kill a Mockingbird, The Great Gatsby, and Jane Eyre, our childhood books still stuck with us as a comfort that we looked forward to reading for fun.

Miss Megan started doing storytimes at a young age!

Megan was rewarded with an American Girl Doll, Felicity, for officially learning how to read (though she isn’t quite sure how her parents gauged this task) . As most girls of the 5-10 age range know, each doll comes with her very own beginning chapter book. Megan remembers poring over the book about “the spunky redhead with a penchant for mischief-making and riding (other people’s) horses.” The American Girl books are favorites both to us 90s children who are now grown and to young beginning readers, as the series continues to expand. There’s a doll (and story) for every girl!

As for being read to, Megan has two stories that she will always remember. Corduroy by Don Freeman was often read aloud to her by her mother, so much that they both still have it memorized. But what Megan remembers the most was the last quote of the book (where her mother would always get misty-eyed): “‘This must be home,’ he said, ‘I know I’ve always wanted a home.'”  

If you’ve come into the bookstore and asked Megan about her favorite book for a middle grade reader, she has probably told you about the other story she loved in childhood—Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House in the Big Woods from the Little House on the Prairie series. This book triggers many different memories for Megan— first as a book she used to snuggle up in her parents’ bed to listen to, next as a book she read on her own, and finally as a book she read out loud to her siblings. Why does Megan love this book so much? She says, “I was enthralled by Laura Ingalls Wilder’s descriptions of day-to-day life, especially how she made candy by pouring maple syrup on snow. To a little girl growing up in the Phoenix desert, this sounded simply magical!”

I swear Harry Potter was the only book I ever read as a child. Or so it would appear by looking at my current bookcase. By the time I was in third grade, the fame of the boy who lived was all around me and I picked up the first three books. With the delay of the books being published, I at some point ended up the same age as Harry, which made the books even more magical for me. I must have read those books a million times each (no exaggeration), and I have now read the third book so many times that the book broke in half (it was the saddest day of my life).

I did read before the third grade, even if I didn’t read the books as much as my Harry Potters. I remember always having books around, and, since I was a bilingual child, French and English books shared a space on my shelf. Possibly due to easier phonetics or because I went to an English school, I first gravitated to Dr. Seuss (in English). I remember we had a few of the big Dr. Seuss collection books, but the one I picked up was less intimidating, Ten Apples Up On Top. I practiced and practiced, and maybe even memorized it a little, until I got all the words right, and then rushed to show my mom what I had learned to do.

Hopefully we’re triggering some fun memories of your favorite childhood books. Let us know about them, or come on by and find them in the store. We always love to talk about books.

Happy Reading,


How Emily and Cecilia learned to read

For bookseller Emily,  her memories on reading are clear. While history was Trish’s interest, science was Emily’s. All of us who grew up in the 90s probably remember the great days of class when the TV set was rolled in for a science unit and we got to watch Ms. Frizzle and her students shrink down to see what was making their classmate sick, or go where no man has gone before and explore the depths of space. Did you know though that there are books on those scientific adventures? Although at 5 years old, the text was a little too difficult for Emily (especially the long scientific terms), she enjoyed reading the speech bubbles of the somewhat comic-book style picture books. Emily remembers turning to page 9 of The Magic School Bus: Inside the Earth, and reading the three speech bubbles on that page:

Student A: I couldn’t find any rocks.
Student B: I found one, but my dog ate it.
Student C: Your dog ate a rock?
The rest, of course, is history. As anyone who is an avid reader knows, once you start reading, there is no turning back. Anything and everything is a new adventure. Science books, and biographies, and most of all, fantasy. Emily remembers reading all the time in elementary school, and even getting in trouble sometimes for reading when she wasn’t supposed to (though, hasn’t that happened to us all?)
Cecilia swears, like many of us, that she must have been born with the ability to read. When I asked her, she could not remember reading anything before Little Women, but of course knows she must have read something before that. As a teacher herself, Cecilia knows the importance of being read to, and that is what her “learning-to-read” stories revolve around. Cecilia’s second grade teacher, Mrs. Bretz, would read out loud every day. Three of those story time stories stick out: The Giraffe and the Pelly and me by Roald Dahl, The Knights of the Kitchen Table by Jon Scieszka, and Bunnicula by James Howe. She remembers the class roaring with laughter at all three of those books, and now everything comes full circle as she has read those same three books to her third grade class (eliciting the same response of laughter). Cecilia remembers second grade being a great year for reading.

We know you still miss Pluto

Pluto, the ninth planet of our solar system for so long, was reclassified a dwarf planet on August 24, 2006, 6 years ago. Most of the little ones who will be reading this book won’t remember counting Pluto as they recited the planets, yet we know a lot of you do remember this small planet. No one was more upset than Pluto himself. Word travels very slowly throughout the solar system, after all Pluto is an average of 3.6 billion miles away from the earth. When Pluto finds out from a speedy space rock, he races to Earth to find out why. He passes five of our now eight planets on the way (Mercury and Venus were not on his route), so this story can also help teach the planets to little ones. Once Pluto reaches Earth, he is very angry. Astronomers don’t know what to say, they explain that Pluto just doesn’t fit the specifications to be a planet. Pluto isn’t happy until a child tells him that he is the very best, even if he is a dwarf planet and is very small. Pluto realizes that he is special and zooms back to his spot in the solar system.

Pluto Visits Earth! by Steve Metzger; illustrated by Jared Lee; Scholastic; hardcover; $16.99; ages 3-9

Happy Reading,