The Dark

Caldecott-winner Jon Klassen and The Series of Unfortunate Events author Lemony Snicket (talk about a dynamic duo) tackle one of childhood’s toughest topics: the dark.

Readers are led into a dark basement in this charming and beautifully illustrated tale about conquering your fear of the dark. Just slightly spooky, but ultimately sweet, this picture book will have you reading and rereading long after lights out.


The Dark by Lemony Snicket, illustrated by Jon Klassen; Little Brown; $16.99

Miss Megan’s Five Star Favorites, Part I

I’m a pretty critical reader. I guess that’s because I read a lot of things, so inevitably I start to feel a little jaded. But when a special book crosses my path, one that jolts me out of my stupor with its originality or voice or what have you, I get very excited.

For this reason, I love Goodreads. Not only can I keep track of what I’ve read, but I can organize books based on how I rated them. And at the tippy-top of the list is my handful of five star picks, the books that I think are just plain extraordinary.

This Is Not My Hat by Jon Klassen; Candlewick Press; 15.99; Ages 3-adult

Opening line: “This hat is not mine. I just stole it.”

For fans of: I Want My Hat BackI’m the Biggest Thing in the Ocean

Also, it’s this year’s Caldecott medalist.

Chloe and the Lion by Mac Barnett, illus. by Adam RexHyperion (HarperCollins); 16.99; Ages 3-8

Opening line: “This is me, Mac. I’m the author of this book.”

For fans of: The Three PigsOh, No!: or How My Science Project Destroyed the World

The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland by Catherynne M. ValenteSquare Fish (Macmillan); 6.99; Ages 9-adult

Opening line: “Once upon a time, a girl named September grew very tired indeed of her parents’ house, where she washed the same pink-and-yellow teacups and matching gravy boats every day, slept on the same embroidered pillow, and played with the same small and amiable dog.”

For fans of: The Chronicles of NarniaAlice’s Adventures in Wonderland

Breadcrumbs by Anne UrsuHarperCollins; 6.99; Ages 9-adult

Opening line: “It snowed right before Jack stopped talking to Hazel, fluffy white flakes big enough to show their crystal architecture, like perfect geometric poems.”

For fans of: Peter PanLiesl and Po

Okay for Now by Gary SchmidtClarion (Houghton Mifflin); 16.99; Ages 10-adult

Opening line: “Joe Pepitone once gave me his New York Yankees baseball cap. I’m not lying. He gave it to me. To me, Doug Swieteck. To me.”

For fans of: The Wednesday WarsAl Capone Does My Shirts

Splendors and Glooms by Laura Amy SchlitzCandlewick Press; 17.99; Ages 10-adult

Opening line: “The witch burned. She tossed in a sea of blankets, dizzy with heat. It was fever, not fire, that tormented her, fever and the nightmares that came with it.”

For fans of: Charles DickensCatherine, Called Birdy

And it’s a 2013 Newbery Honor Book!

Want to read more from any of these awesome titles? Call us and we’ll put them on hold! (703) 548-4092.

Read on, readers!

Miss Megan

And the Award Goes To…

Earlier this morning, the American Library Association announced the Youth Media Awards. We selected our picks for Caldecott, Newbery, and Printz a couple of weeks ago, and now the committees have spoken! Behold.

indarkness (3)Michael L. Printz Award

Winner: In Darkness, Nick Lake, Bloomsbury U.S.A. Children’s Books

Honors: Aristotle and Dante Discover the UniverseBenjamin Alire Saenz, Simon and Schuster; Code Name VerityElizabeth Wein, Hyperion Books (staff pick & Megan’s pick); DodgerTerry Pratchett, HarperCollins; The White BicycleBeverley Brenna, Red Deer Press

ThisIsNotMyHat_thumbCaldecott Medal

Winner: This Is Not My HatJon Klassen, Candlewick Press (staff pick & Megan’s pick)

Honors: Creepy CarrotsAaron Reynolds, illus. by Peter Brown, Simon and Schuster; Extra YarnMac Barnett, illus. by Jon Klassen, Balzer & Bray/Harperteen (staff pick & Megan’s pick); Green, Laura Vaccaro Seeger, Roaring Brook Press; One Cool FriendToni Buzzeo, illus. by David Small, Dial Books; Sleep Like a TigerMary Logue, illus. by Pamela Zagarenski, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

9780061992254Newbery Medal

Winner: The One and Only IvanKatherine Applegate, Harper (Megan’s pick)

Honors: BombSteve Sheinkin, Flash Point (Roaring Brook Press); Splendors and GloomsLaura Amy Schlitz, Candlewick Press (staff pick & Megan’s pick); Three Times LuckySheila Turnage, Dial Books for Young Readers (staff pick & Megan’s pick)

Stop by the store and check out these wonderful titles for yourself! Give us a call to check availability–we’ve got a bunch of award darlings on order just for you!

Miss Megan’s Caldecott Picks

The Caldecott Medal recognizes the best illustrated book of the year, with a couple of honor books rounding out the award. The ALA Youth Media Awards will take place on January 28th in Seattle, but before the winners are announced, we’re collecting our picks.

My favorites are below, along with a brief description of why I think each title is a contender. Let the picture book reading commence!

61SjJtxmIJL._SL500_AA300_Chloe and the Lion by Mac Barnett, illus. by Adam RexHyperion Book; 16.99

A hilarious discussion of what it means to collaborate, this fourth-wall-breaker is my top pick for the medal. Various techniques make this a fantastic visual feast. The author and his illustrators are claymation-style figures, while the story characters are cartoonish drawings who perform on a more realistically-drawn theater set. Simply put, there’s a lot to look at here, and it’s all awesome!

extra-yarn-coverExtra Yarn by Mac Barnett, illus. by Jon KlassenBalzer & Bray; 16.99

Yes, Mac Barnett again. What can I say? I’m a fan. This time, the story is gentle and fairytale-esque, and it’s paired with Jon Klassen’s whimsical, folksy illustrations. The graphics are restrained, beautiful, and like the story itself, simple and lovely. The marriage of text and image is near-perfect here, and it’s easy to see why it’s already garnered hefty critical acclaim. One of the strongest contenders for either the medal or an honor.

ThisIsNotMyHat_thumbThis Is Not My Hat by Jon KlassenCandlewick Press; 15.99

I know! I’ve already nominated Jon Klassen! But he totally deserves two mentions, you guys. As my fellow bookseller Erin pointed out, the illustrations are perfect for teaching kids about inference. The text is narrated by one character, but the illustrations follow another. Of all the books on this list, this is the one in which the text and illustrations are the most intertwined—one simply could not exist without the other. And, of course, it’s hilarious, with a (somewhat) ambiguous ending that leaves some things to the imagination. (If you want to know what Jon Klassen said about it when we asked him, give us a call.)

And-Then-Its-Spring-249x300 (1)And Then It’s Spring by Julie Fogliano, illus. by Erin E. SteadRoaring Brook Press; 16.99

Erin Stead’s already a Caldecott medalist for A Sick Day for Amos McGee, and her odds are good this year, too. Some (including my bookseller buddies) would say that Bear Has a Story to Tell has a higher chance for an award, but I’m sticking with my all-time Stead favorite. Her illustrations here are, true to form, both grounded and whimsical, combining realism with flights of fancy. And there are so many layers to find—part of the fun is staring at the spreads, picking out the little details that  a reader might miss with a first glance.

insomniacsThe Insomniacs by Karina Wolf, illus. by The Brothers HiltsPutnam; 16.99

Debut children’s author Karina Wolf’s story is charming and atmospheric, and moonlight-infused illustrations from The Brothers Hilts (yes, they’re really brothers) elevate this book from a great read aloud to a visually prolific pick—there are oodles of cool details to pore over. Quirky and unique!

51w4iuY55eL._SL500_AA300_Red Knit Cap Girl by Naoko StoopLittle, Brown; Ages 2-6

Stoop used pieces of wood for the background of her illustrations, so the striations of the rings add a fantastic textural element to each spread. There’s a dreamlike quality here as the color palette shifts from the brilliant rust, yellow, and green of sunset to the deeper twilight hues of indigo, teal, and gold. And against these soft, atmospheric hues stands our little heroine, who pops off the page in her bright red ensemble (and, of course, her red knit cap!). It’s a sumptuous visual feast that fully deserves its place on the New York Times’ Best Illustrated list

Others to watch: Bear Has a Story to Tell, Unspoken, Abe Lincoln’s Dream 

What are your picks for Caldecott? Comment and let us know which books you think deserve an award!

Our 2013 Caldecott Shortlist!

Our staff has voted on our favorite picture books of the year, and we’ve agreed on our picks for the Caldecott! Check out our shortlist!

Extra Yarn by Mac Barnett, illus. by Jon KlassenBalzer & Bray/Harperteen; 16.99

Chloe and the Lion by Mac Barnett, illus. by Adam RexHyperion Books; 16.99

Oh, No! by Candace Fleming, illus. by Eric RohmannSchwartz & Wade Books; 17.99

This Is Not My Hat by Jon KlassenCandlewick Press; 15.99

Bear Has a Story to Tellby Philip C. Stead, illus. by Erin E. SteadRoaring Brook Press; 16.99

I Have a Dream by Martin Luther King, Jr., illus. by Kadir NelsonSchwartz & Wade Books; 18.99

What’s your pick for Caldecott? Comment and let us know, then check back on January 28th to see if your favorites made the grade!

Miss Megan’s Favorite Books of 2012

2012 was a good year to be a reader! Ask me my favorite book and I’ll probably hem and haw before making a decision—but if I have to choose, I’ll choose from this list.

(Instead of giving you a long discussion of the merits of each book, I’m limiting myself to a Twitter-style 140-character summary for each. Here goes!)

Chloe and the Lion by Mac Barnett, illus. by Adam RexHyperion Books (HarperCollins); 16.99; Ages 3-8

This discussion of author/illustrator collaboration hilariously breaks the fourth wall. Lots to look at, lots of laughs. Top Caldecott pick.

This Is Not My Hat by Jon KlassenCandlewick Press; 15.99; Ages 3-7

A little fish steals a big fish’s bowler hat. Text follows little fish, art follows big fish. Mayhem ensues. Klassen is a comic genius.

A Greyhound of a Girl by Roddy DoyleAmulet Books (Abrams); 16.95; Ages 9-adult

Poignant generational story about mothers, daughters, grandmothers, and great-grandmothers. Just the right length, great emotional impact.

Summer of the Gypsy Moths by Sara PennypackerBalzer & Bray (Harperteen); 15.99; Ages 9-12

This novel about an unlikely friendship is also a novel about two kinds of family: the kind we’re born into, and the kind we choose.

Splendors and Glooms by Laura Amy SchlitzCandlewick Press; 17.99; Ages 10-16

A Dickensian orphan story with a magical twist. Hilarity abounds. Schlitz is the queen of engaging, descriptive prose. Top Newbery pick.

Jepp, Who Defied the Stars by Katherine MarshHyperion Books; 16.99; Ages 12-adult

A young court dwarf in the Spanish Netherlands journeys on a quest to find his fate. Fantastic storytelling. Marsh is a DC author!

Me and Earl and the Dying Girl by Jesse AndrewsAbrams Publishing; 16.95; Ages 14-adult

A story of unlikely friendship without the usual cliches. A fresh voice that is hysterical and engaging. You will laugh and cry.

Code Name Verity by Elizabeth WeinHyperion Books; 16.99; Ages 14-adult

Part spy thriller, part friendship story, with twists you’ll never see coming. Begs to be reread. Top Printz pick. Best book of the year.