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A neighborhood bookstore blog for Mt. Airy and beyond.
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Celebrating Adoptive and Foster Families: A List of Books for Kids

Thu, 2016-09-08 19:21
Here are some books featuring families that have grown through adoption and/or foster care. Domestic and international, fiction and nonfiction, human and nonhuman, adoption from birth and new homes for older kids. There's a section for stories, a section for books celebrating families in general, and a list of links to further resources. The lists are by no means comprehensive, and there are links to other lists below; we'll keep updating as we add to our knowledge and collections.
Compiled by Jennifer Sheffield and Elliott batTzedek

Picture books about adoption and fostering:
A Mother for Choco by Keiko Kasza (1992)
Tell Me Again About the Night I Was Born by Jamie Lee Curtis, illustrated by Laura Cornell (1996)
The Day We Met You by Phoebe Koehler (1997)
Over the Moon: An Adoption Tale by Karen Katz (1997)
Emma's Yucky Brother by Jean Little, illustrated by Jennifer Plecas (2002)
Felicia's Favorite Story by Lesléa Newman, illustrated by Adriana Romo (2002)
And Tango Makes Three by Justin Richardson & Peter Parnell, illustrated by Henry Cole (2005)
Owen & Mzee: The True Story of a Remarkable Friendship told by Isabella Hatkoff, Craig M. Hatkoff, and Paula Kahumbu; photographs by Peter Greste (2006)
Bringing Asha Home by Uma Krishnaswami, illustrated by Jamel Akib (2006)
Motherbridge of Love by Xinran Xue, illustrated by Josee Masse (2007)
We Belong Together: A Book about Adoption and Families by Todd Parr (2007)
Murphy's Three Homes: A Story for Children in Foster Care by Jan Levinson Gilman, illustrated by Kathy O'Malley (2008)
In Our Mothers' House by Patricia Polacco (2009)
Star of the Week: A Story of Love, Adoption, and Brownies with Sprinkles by Darlene Friedman, illustrated by Roger Roth (2009)
Sweet Moon Baby: An Adoption Tale by Karen Henry Clark, illustrated by Patrice Barton (2010)
Wolfie the Bunny by Ame Dyckman, illustrated by Zachariah Ohora (2015)
My New Mom and Me by Renata Galindo (2016)
Quackers by Liz Wong (2016)
Home at Last by Vera B. Williams, illustrated by Vera B. Williams and Chris Raschka (forthcoming, Sept. 2016)

Picture books about reproduction and families:
All Families Are Special by Norma Simon, illustrated by Teresa Flavin (2003)
The Family Book by Todd Parr (2003)
The Great Big Book of Families by Mary Hoffman, illustrated by Ros Asquith (2010)
What Makes a Baby? by Cory Silverberg, illustrated by Fiona Smyth (2012) [This book separates the genetic/biological components from the emotional component of making a baby, thus allowing for nontraditional families.]
Families, Families, Families! by Suzanne Lang & Max Lang (2015)

Links to more lists and resources
Chicago Now: Top Adoption Books For Kids: A Reading List for Children and Teens in Adoptive and Foster Families
Children’s Home Society of Minnesota (CH) and Lutheran Social Service of Minnesota (LSS): Favorite Adoption-Themed Children’s Books
MetroKids: Children's Books About Adoption Children's Books About Adoption
Mothers' Bridge of Love: Who We Are
AdoptUSKids: Pennsylvania Foster Care and Adoption Guidelines
Categories: Bookstore Blogs

Young Adult Book Club Post-Book-Club Newsletters

Sun, 2016-08-14 19:41
Up until the book club ended in May, I kept a list of all the books we'd read on the book clubs page of the website. Now that I'm using a different format for the newsletters, with multiple book recommendations each time, and themes tying them together, that list seems unwieldy for the purpose of archiving. So I'm posting here the links to the newsletters themselves, from April until the August edition that just went out this past week.

April 2016:
Big Blue YA News -- Kids' Lit Fest, Final Meetings, and Verse Novels!

May 2016:
Big Blue YA News -- Final Gathering (a Party!), Social Action, and Recommendations!*

June 2016:
Big Blue YA News -- Steampunk, Harry Potter, and Homemade Cookies!

July 2016:
Big Blue YA News -- Rise of Fascism and WWII***, Pretzels and Soda, and Pokémon GO!

August 2016:
Big Blue YA News -- Reality in Fantasy, Writers and Their Writing, and More Harry Potter Events

If you aren't on our newsletter list, you can sign up here, and if you want to change which newsletters you get from us, you can click on the Update Profile link in any newsletter we send you!

* The recommendations for May are two books about trans students already presenting as their truer selves and dealing with whether/how to come out to people in their schools, with questions of trust and of the perceptual differences between secrecy and privacy.**
** FYI, in the April-June newsletters, the link to our QUILTBAG books blog post (particularly relevant for May) is broken, though it was corrected starting in July.
*** Theme for July chosen with current political events in mind.
Categories: Bookstore Blogs

Author Interview: Lorrie Kim

Sat, 2016-07-30 14:15
by Jennifer Sheffield

Hi, Lorrie! Congratulations on the release of Snape: A Definitive Reading -- Looking forward to seeing you at the release party tonight (more details below)! Here is my synopsis:

The first line of Snape: a Definitive Reading tells us, “The Harry Potter series may be named after the Boy Who Lived, but if you want to know the story, keep your eyes fixed on Snape.” As readers already know by the end of Deathly Hallows, Severus Snape, with his hidden stories and intense emotions and ever-ambiguous actions, holds the keys to Harry’s hidden stories, and to many of the events of the series, from beginning to end, and beyond. What may not have occurred to us is how the series looks, from beginning to end, when seen through Snape’s eyes. Lorrie Kim has woven together a picture of Snape’s motives and internal processes that both rounds out the story and gives new, even comforting, perspectives to what are, for me, some of the hardest moments of Rowling’s series. It’s a beautifully consistent and thorough picture of a powerful and complex person.

How did this book come about? I know you’ve presented papers at academic Harry Potter conventions. Did you draw on that work in putting together your definitive reading?

Story Spring Publishing approached me about a nonfiction book on Snape. The original plan was to draw on my conference presentations and adapt them into a book. But I found that those shorter papers tended to be topical and to skip around the timeline of the series in making focused arguments, whereas for a sustained book, it made more sense to go chronologically through the series and look at how Rowling developed characters and revelations. I also found that many of my readings had changed. I ended up including many of the ideas from those papers, but not much of the wording.

What kinds of insights have you gained about the series from other people’s presentations?

I have such clear memories of moments when other people’s arguments inspired me. I mention a couple of them in the book. For example, in 2009, I heard psychologist Mara Tesler Stein explain that a Patronus is a mirror of one’s most loving self, and that when Harry first attempts to cast one, he can’t because he’s using the wrong kind of memories. When he uses memories of loving connection between people, the spell works. That stunned me – there are right and wrong kinds of memories for happiness spells? It opened my eyes to the way Rowling uses magical imagery to express psychological truths. It made so many readings possible to me. It helped me understand that when Rowling shows people emanating silvery magical light, it has to do with their individual selves – she might say “souls” – but when she shows golden light, it’s about the glow that comes of love between people. Which helped me understand why the dome of light between Voldemort and Harry is golden, and how that threatens Voldemort. Which made me think about wand cores connected through golden light, and how Harry and Voldemort are similar at the core. Which made me think about Hufflepuff colors of yellow and black, which gave me the notion that one trait of Hufflepuffs is that they believe we are all the same at the core.

This cascading effect of mental connections happens to me so frequently when I listen to other people’s presentations based on a text we have in common. I know I’ve had similar reactions listening to Hilary K. Justice or Mark Oshiro. It doesn’t necessarily mean I agree with that person’s readings, just that their way of seeing illuminates something for me and brings more and more understanding.

Does JKR pay attention to analyses of this sort? Have you ever interacted with her yourself?

My understanding is that Rowling knows better than to delve into the ever-growing pile of words that people write about her glorious fiction. She’s been so influential that there’s too much of it for a single author to process, anyway. I cannot begin to envision how much feedback is directed toward her, how many entreaties, whether from literary critics, politicians, non-government organizations that crave her support, teachers, the publishing industry, or individual readers. I approve fiercely of anything she does to safeguard her creative energy and sanity. It floors me that she was even able to publish the seventh Harry Potter book, considering the pressure surrounding her, the multiple international businesses that were financially dependent upon her delivering a finished manuscript, the din of the fans and detractors debating what they thought she ought to achieve with that final installment. That she has gone on to create more fiction to please herself is something that both uplifts me and gives me a growling laugh of pleasure. I have never met her and don’t expect to. She gives so much, through continued publishing in revolutionary formats, through Twitter, and through her fascinating charity work. I appreciate that abundance.

I find that a reference quote from a book I’ve read can bring the original scene powerfully to mind. In this way, reading your book has left me feeling as though I’ve just crammed the entire Harry Potter series into my head in a few days, on fast-forward! Have you had times during the process where you feel you’re living the series?

Not the series, no. But the psychological realities depicted in the stories, yes. For example, a few years ago, I had a terrible argument with someone in which I was greatly at fault, and I was so ashamed of myself that I couldn’t stand the sight of this person. I was also conscious of the things this person had done to create the fight and contribute to it. Eventually, I approached them to give a full apology, mentioning only my own part in it and my regret, but it was never easy to see that person’s face again after that. I was surprised when they apologized for their own part – I didn’t expect or require that – but it was gratifying to take that as evidence that they believed I was sincere. That whole episode helped me understand Slughorn, in his shame, altering his memory and running away from Harry. It was the only thing that helped me understand how Snape could possibly convince himself of such whole-cloth lies as Harry enjoying his fame – I couldn’t forget how ashamed and guilty I felt when I behaved badly toward someone, and how hard it was to stop thinking angry thoughts about them. I never enjoyed glimpsing this person again, even after the mutual apology. This made me understand why Rowling shows that Harry and Draco never become friends, why Rowling has said in interview that Harry gets Snape a portrait in the headmaster’s office but never feels the urge to go visit it. Not every conflict has to end in forgiveness and friendship. And if I want stories of enmity that turns into closeness, I feel as though I can find those stories more easily. I appreciate that the series gives stories of resolution without friendship.

After a discussion about Gryffindors and Slytherins generalizing and demonizing each other’s entire House, you say of Chamber of Secrets that “This entire volume is about the danger of dormant resentments that can be awakened in an atmosphere of suspicion.” Later on, you mention that “The Inquisitorial Squad may be hand-picked by Umbridge, but as individuals, they are just as expendable to her as the other students. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix provides young readers with extraordinarily precise insight into the thinking of tyrants.” Do you feel these issues have particular relevance with current events?

I’ve thought about these elements of Harry Potter so often during the ghastly news of shootings, bombings, and other large-scale crimes of hate. Rowling repeatedly poses the question in her series: What kind of monster would kill a baby? This is a war crime. How does a person become that? How do we allow it to happen? It resonates with me particularly when we hear that a mass murderer has very recently declared allegiance to a larger terrorist group. This is how Voldemort attained followers. Rowling showed, through that character, a tyrant who had his own agenda, internally inconsistent and mad, which he shared with no one. He identified the agendas and weaknesses of others and appealed to them, giving people whatever would feed their own unhealthy appetites, which would distract them from looking at him too clearly. Teen Snape fell for this, like many others who became Death Eaters while young. He was an unstable, vengeful person who was hungry for the grandiosity promised by Voldemort. Voldemort’s actual aims weren’t even compatible with Snape’s desires, but it didn’t matter. We see this in the news when we investigate claims of ties to terrorist groups. Those ties don’t always go deep.

As for current events such as the xenophobia driving Brexit or the chilling spectacle of this year’s U.S. presidential campaign…yes. When I read quotes from British citizens about what they thought it would accomplish to leave the European Union, I could only picture Uncle Vernon. When I see politicians egging on angry, resentful voters to commit acts of violence and other crimes, it’s agonizing to see how the voters are being duped – as though these politicians have any empathy at all for these people whose votes they want, as though they won’t betray these voters in an instant for their own convenience. I think the Potter series is brilliant in showing us the feelings behind such conflicts. The difference between someone using people without caring, like Umbridge using Draco but distrusting him, and someone willing to give actual help, like Dumbledore offering to put Draco’s entire family into hiding. Those things feel different. Stories reach us and help us know that.

The gift of the Harry Potter series, to me, is that it’s so widely read, such a shared text, that episodes from the series can be used to communicate about complex issues. If you sense that a politician is an Umbridge, know that nothing good can come of allying with her. If you read demonstrably false negative press about a public figure, know that it might reflect an agenda that has nothing to do with that person – that Stan Shunpike might not be a Death Eater, that Hagrid never opened the Chamber of Secrets and Fudge sent him to Azkaban anyway, for his own political gain.

In this book, you get inside more characters’ heads than just Snape. One of the things that most surprised me in reading it was your insight into Hermione, including both her thoughts about and her connections to her potions professor, throughout the series. Were you noticing this in your original reads of the books, or did it come out through working on the analysis?

The dynamic between Hermione and Snape always drew my notice. It puzzled me. I found her disavowal of “books and cleverness” at the end of the first book to be problematic; I sensed something unresolved in the author because I don’t feel satisfied that we are shown why Hermione would believe this enough to blurt it out at such a pressured moment. I found her patience with Snape, while he alternately ignored and insulted her, to be curious. I had to remind myself, a few times, to write less about their dynamic for this book. The dynamic between Snape and Harry should be the central one for writing about Snape’s story, whether or not I personally find Hermione to be a more intriguingly written character than the titular hero.

I was pleased to see the attention you gave to bullying and discrimination, and to the importance of protection and de-escalation. It’s important to recognize the ways that some teachers, even the nice ones, can be complicit in encouraging these kinds of harmful behaviors, and that some teachers, even the bullying ones, can work to limit the damage such behaviors cause.

Chapter 3, “Severus Snape and the Prisoner of Azkaban,” was by far the hardest for me to write. I thought I knew the series pretty well, but on my re-read for writing this book, I kept finding surprise after surprise when I started to delve into what Lupin and Snape were really thinking throughout that year. I think many readers resist seeing that Lupin, as well as Snape, inflicted damage in his teaching, because Snape’s harmful classroom behavior is so outrageous. It can feel as though acknowledging Lupin’s wrongdoings might mean letting go of the reader’s enjoyment of his retorts to Snape. I may be proudest of that chapter because I think perhaps, when you read it, you can sense the energy I felt from making new connections rather than writing about things I’d been considering for some time.

This continual experience of new connections, more than anything, captures why I love the Harry Potter series so much. I’m well above the target age group for the writing and I’ve written about the series for years, but every single time I re-read the books, I find new things. Rowling has created something extraordinarily complex. When the series was not yet finished and some critics argued that it was not, and would never be, good enough to become a classic, I remember the scholar Hilary K. Justice saying at a conference, “Does it reward re-reading?” For me, at least, it’s a resounding yes.

What was the writing process like for you? Did you have everything pieced out and then stitch it together like a quilt? Did you find that new connections came to you while you were writing? Did anything surprise you in creating this book?

The writing process involved thanking my husband and children repeatedly for managing without me while I wrote frantically. I created a painstaking outline that hit all the themes I wanted to cover and then ended up ditching the whole thing and just going chronologically through the series, as is, I think, appropriate for analyzing the writing of a mystery story. New connections came to me as I re-read in preparation for writing, and then I had to be disciplined about writing only what I had in my notes and not rambling further.

Probably the thing that surprised me the most this time was the realization that Snape truly believed, based on evidence, that Lupin was deliberately grooming Harry to trust him because he was planning to bite Harry while in werewolf form. I never understood that before and it’s shockingly dark. Rowling is so good at resisting the temptation to spell things out; she keeps some things subtextual or completely unspoken, granting so much respect to her young readers and their ability to read deeply. Turns out that her subtlety is often wasted on some of us middle-aged readers, too. Every re-read leaves me wondering what else I’ll find the next time I go back.

Do you have other projects that you’d like to tell us about?

I’ve been thinking about the reading of Harry Potter from the point of view of parents, transmitting this story to the next generation, reading it together as a family, participating in the transformation of the series from a publishing phenomenon into a children’s classic, embedding it into the popular culture. So my next project will be to put together a proposal and find an agent for that!

Excellent. We'll look forward to reading it!

And now for our "3 for 3" book questions:

1. What were 3 of your favorite books from childhood/teen years?

I just had fun answering this in my interview with Book Jawn Podcast!
For them, I said Jane Eyre, Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret, and A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. Let me think of different answers for you…

D’Aulaires’ Book of Greek Myths, Ingri and Edgar Parin d’Aulaire
I was obsessed with this book when I was 6 and 7.

A Bargain for Frances, Russell Hoban
One of the most brilliant books I think I’ve read for any age group. So complex, and rewards dozens – hundreds – of re-reads, just as the Harry Potter series does.

The Little House series, Laura Ingalls Wilder
I nearly had it memorized. To this day, deep down, I probably still believe (incorrectly) that I know how to make cheese or plane a shingle because of those books. Their romantic depictions of cooking, sewing, knitting, and quilting definitely inspired me to learn those skills.

2. What are 3 books that you've read recently that surprised you?

I have read almost no books this year, since I was busy writing this one!

One of them, though, has been Immanence, a short story collection edited by Jae Eynon. Full disclosure: some of the stories were written by people I’ve come to know because I’ve read and admired their fiction online, for free. What surprised me is that these profoundly well-edited short stories are even higher in quality than the stories that made me want to seek out these authors and leave them glowing reviews. That kind of stunned me, actually. And made me appreciate anew that no matter how much we enjoy the explosion of different platforms for writing these days, the fact of knowing that something will be published between physical book covers can elevate even the best writers to achieve more.

I’ve read the Hamiltome, of course. Hamilton: The Revolution by Lin-Manuel Miranda and Jeremy McCarter. I bought it from Big Blue Marble, in fact. It was another experience of being surprised at what we can give ourselves permission to achieve, how much ambition we’re allowed to indulge. The wit of the Revolutionary-era typefaces and phrasing kept delighting me. The matching of different songs to different behind-the-scenes stories about the musical or the cast felt so deep, so satisfying. Such a good matching game.

And honestly, those are the only two books I’ve read recently that surprised me. So many of my friends are writers who work in different media, such as serialized web fiction or online cultural critique, that I read almost no actual books while I was writing Snape. I did enjoy a web comic called Check, Please ( that surprised me with a whole new world of collegiate slang that was fun to learn. The characters play hockey, about which I know less than nothing, but I was lured into reading it because it also contains figure skating, pastry, gay love stories, and feminist food studies, all of which are very much my areas.

3. What are 3 books that influence/d your work?

I have never thought of this question in reference to my own nonfiction writing! It’s a question I associate more with novelists. Hmm.

I mentioned this to Book Jawn Podcast, too. Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings: An American Controversy by Annette Gordon-Reed taught me so much about how to construct arguments using common sense. This book was published before DNA evidence vindicated those who maintained, despite racial denial, that Jefferson did have a slave wife and children. The author’s meticulous scholarship won my respect and awe, but it was her extremely dry humor that won my heart.

The Power of Beauty by Nancy Friday. I think that book had a very mixed critical reception, and I don’t love all of it. I do, however, love the risks she takes with her leaps of intuition, delving into powerful emotions and using those as her starting points. That strategy means she will sometimes miss the mark, but when she hits, she hits deep. As a reader, those hits make her book worth it to me, and I probably learned something from her about including intuition when writing critical nonfiction.

The Bones of the Others by Hilary K. Justice. I encountered this writer through her Harry Potter work, and that led me to her work on Hemingway. I experienced so much meditative bliss when reading along with some of her analyses. Like the Hamiltome, I felt that her work gave permission to indulge in ambition, not to hold back. This writer likes to analyze word by word, and then to analyze the spaces between the words, some of which are silences and some not. I think Snape would appreciate the beauty in this approach.

Thank you so much for joining us, Lorrie!

Photo by Kyle Cassidy.
Lorrie Kim lives in Philadelphia, PA with her clever, grumpy, magical spouse and their Harry Potter-reading offspring, one born between Order of the Phoenix and Half-Blood Prince and one in gestation during the publication of Deathly Hallows.

Thanks for reading!!! If you're local to the area, please let the bookstore know if you would like to order a copy of Snape: A Definitive Reading. You can also come to Lorrie's Book Launch Party, TONIGHT, Saturday, July 30, 8:30pm, In the midst of our Harry Potter and the Cursed Child series of events! If you can't make the party, you can email orders to orders [at] bigbluemarblebooks [dot] com, call (215) 844-1870, or come see us at 551 Carpenter Lane, in the Mt. Airy neighborhood of Philadelphia.
Categories: Bookstore Blogs

Weekly Events Counting Down to Harry Potter and the Cursed Child Midnight Release!

Sun, 2016-06-05 12:03
Happy birthday to (or perhaps from) Harry Potter and J.K. Rowling! The newest work in the Harry Potter world, the script for the play Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, will be released at midnight between Saturday, July 30, and Sunday, July 31. This play, opening in London July 30 (with previews beginning June 7), takes place 19 years after Harry, Ron, and Hermione defeat Voldemort, and is a study of how family stories echo through generations.

Any new Harry Potter release is a good enough reason for book lovers to party, but this summer we have EVEN MORE: local author Lorrie Kim, who is by her own description obsessed with Severus Snape, will also be releasing her definitive character study of the Half-Blood Prince that same night. Called simply Snape, the book is the perfect present for anyone who has ever melted at the single word "Always."

Beginning Saturday, June 18th, we're launching seven weekends of Harry Potter events! We’ll be showing all eight movies, with different crafts and associated games each week. All events are free and appropriate for Harry Potter fans of all ages. Popcorn, snacks, trivia, and fun!

You can pre-order either book (or both) from us starting NOW by emailing See the calendar below, and check back for updates.

Countdown Schedule:        

Saturday, June 18 - Countdown week 7
  • 6 pm - Harry Potter Warm Up – Make a wand of your own, and decorate your own Harry-Potter-style glasses!
  • 7 pm - Screening of Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Sorcerer’s Stone

Saturday, June 25 - Countdown week 6
  • 6 pm - Dobby Sock Contest – Come dressed in your favorite Dobby-style socks, and pose in the Harry Potter Photo Booth!
  • 7 pm - Screening of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

Saturday, July 2 - Countdown week 5

  • photo by Jennifer Sheffield
    6 pm - Boggart and Animagus Costume Contest – Come dressed as your inner animagus, or as the shape you KNOW the boggart in the cupboard will be taking for you! And learn to read tea leaves – is the Grim hiding in your tea cup?
  • 7 pm - Screening of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

Saturday, July 9 - Countdown week 4
  • 6 pm - Join the Get Your Name in the Goblet of Fire Challenge and the Ministry of Magic Interdepartmental Memo paper airplane contest.
  • 7 pm - Screening of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

Saturday, July 16 - Countdown week 3
  • 6 pm - Make your own prophecies, and learn to store your thoughts for the Pensieve!
  • 7 pm - Screening of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

Saturday, July 23 - Countdown week 2
  • 6 pm - Take a potion-making class!
  • 7 pm - Screening of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

image by ShockingBlankets, via Lorrie Kim

Friday, July 29 - Countdown week 1
  • 6 pm - Make a Ministry of Magic ID card, and attend a reading of “The Tale of the Three Brothers.”
  • 7 pm - Screening of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 1

Saturday, July 30 - Release party!
  • 6 pm - Screening of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2
  • 8:30 pm - Starring Severus Snape! Celebration of Snape, Lorrie Kim’s hot-off-the-press definitive study of the potions master.
    Snape costume contest, trivia, and passionate discussion.
    Reserve your copy of Snape by emailing:
  • 11 pm – Screening of a special documentary on the world of Harry Potter
  • 12:01 am – Get your copy of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child!
    Reserve your copy by emailing:
Categories: Bookstore Blogs

Nif's and Jen's Mothers' Picks for Mother's Day

Fri, 2016-05-06 14:56
Recommendations from Doris Woodfin (Nif's mum):

Daughters of the Dragon: a Comfort Woman's Story by William Andrews (Madhouse Press, $14.99)

I'll be Seeing You by Suzanne Hayes and Loretta Nyhan (Mira Books, $15.95)

Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen (Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill, $14.95)

Up Island by Anne Rivers Siddons (Avon A, $14.99)

Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout (Random House, $16.00)

Recommendations from Lucy Sheffield (Jen's mom):

Far from the Tree: Parents, Children, and the Search for Identity by Andrew Solomon (Scribner, $21.50)

Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End by Atul Gawande (Picador, $16.00)

Tell Me How Long the Train's Been Gone by James Baldwin (Random House, $16.95)

Guns, Germs, and Steel by Jared Diamond (W.W. Norton, $18.95)

Philadelphia Chickens (Book and CD) by Sandra Boynton (Workman Publishing, $16.95)

Categories: Bookstore Blogs

Jen's Five Books Unfolding

Sat, 2016-04-30 22:45
Bird & Diz by Gary Golio (Candlewick, $19.99)
(1) Early this month, at the Kids' Literary Festival, Gary Golio came with his wife and fellow-author Susanna Reich, and illustrator E.B. Lewis, to present picture books of history and biography. The kids in the room, including mine, were a bit young for the discussion, so they hung out in the castle corner, popping up for the actual readings ... and for the presentation of Bird & Diz, Gary's colorful and expansive story of Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie and their work in bebop and jazz.

Out the Window by Cybèle Young (Groundwood Books, $12.95)
(2) So after Gary and Susanna and E.B. Lewis unfolded Bird & Diz across the room and went back to their discussion, my small child quietly wandered off to the children's section. A few minutes later, just as quietly, he returned with a book in a box, sat back in his corner and proceeded to unfold this new book across the floor. (Not pictured, alas.) Out the Window is an accordion book that shows many many snippets of things passing outside a window...until you reach the end and turn to the reverse pages, where you can see everything that has happened from the OTHER SIDE.

And then I remembered that we have other unfolding books in the store!

Migrant: The Journey of a Mexican Worker by José Manuel Mateo, illustrated by Javier Martínez Pedro (Abrams Books, $17.95)
This detailed fanfold book follows the journey of a kid and his family from Mexico to the United States, through both narrative text and a single connected narrative illustration.

Life-Size Zoo by Toyofumi Fukuda (Seven Footer Press, $17.95)
Life-sized photographs of many animals! Or parts of animals. Some pages fold out, because some animals are REALLY big.

Thing Explainer: Complicated Stuff in Simple Words by Randall Munroe (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $24.95)
Here is everything, explained in detail, using (approximately) the 1,000 most common words in English. As with Life-Size Zoo, Thing Explainer has mostly regular pages, with a few places that unfold for greater detail -- such as the Sky at Night, the Earth's Surface, and The Pieces Everything is Made Of (periodic table), and at the very back, a building called the Sky Toucher (a 4-page-spread). From the creator of the xkcd online comic.

Bonus: Here are two more fully concertina-style books, recently added to the bookstore's collection:
The Secret Garden, Unfolded, Retold in Pictures by Becca Stadtlander (Rock Point, $9.99)
Friendly Faces in the Yard: Baby's First Soft Book by Surya Sajnani (QEB Publishing, $12.95)

Jennifer Sheffield, April 2016
Categories: Bookstore Blogs

Five Board Books that Mariga Likes

Fri, 2016-04-29 15:25
A is for Andy by Andy Warhol (Mudpuppy Press, $12.99)

Pride and Prejudice by Jack and Holman Wang (Chronicle, $9.95)

So Many Stars by Andy Warhol (Mudpuppy Press, $12.99)

Rhymoceros by Janik Coat (Harry N. Abrams, Inc., $15.95)

Shapes by Xavier Deneux (Chronicle, $14.99)

Mariga Temple-West, April 2016
Categories: Bookstore Blogs

Mt. Airy Kids' Literary Festival 2016 -- April 7-10

Tue, 2016-04-05 11:45
The 10th Annual Mt. Airy Kids' Literary Festival -- four days of authors, illustrators, games, parties, crafts, and more -- begins this Thursday, April 7!

Schedule and event information:
- Festival schedule on our website (and summarized below).
- Facebook festival page (though honestly I'm not sure I understand Facebook's new event system -- I keep getting recursive tabs when I try to click for more details).
- Event listings on Facebook, which include most (though not all) of the festival's individual events.

Blog posts with our attending YA authors and their books:
- Interview with Cordelia Jensen, author of Skyscraping.
- Event writeup from last fall's visit of I.W. Gregorio, author of None of the Above, and Randy Ribay, author of An Infinite Number Of Parallel Universes.

Blog posts with kids' books and other resources:
- Celebrating Multiracial Families and Friendships: A List of Books for Kids and Teens
- Great QUILTBAG (Queer, etc.) Books for Kids and Teens

Festival Schedule Summary:

Thursday, April 7
5:30pm - Young Writers Reading.
Authors ages 8-12 from the Abington Arts Center Writing Workshop will be presenting their first public reading.

7:00pm - Elizabeth Gold, author of The Mommy Group: Freaking Out, Finding Friends, and Surviving the Happiest Time of Our Lives.

Friday, April 8
6:00pm - Family Book Party in Honor of Autism Awareness Month.
Family Book Party with Kristin and Billy Arniotis, authors of I Have Autism and That's Okay, plus games, read alouds, and fun.
(All ages)

Saturday, April 9
10:00am - Beloved Book Characters Tea Party!
Bring your favorite book or plush toy, or come dressed as your favorite character! We'll share stories and have tea and special snacks.
(All ages)

1:00pm - Reading with Laurie Wallmark, author of Ada Byron Lovelace and the Thinking Machine, plus Science Activities.
(Elementary school ages)

3:00pm - Great New Books and Series for Middle Grade Readers!
Discover some great new series books with Mary Amato, author of Our Teacher is a Vampire and Other (Not) True Stories, and Sarah L. Thomson, author of Secrets of the Seven: The Eureka Key.
(Middle Grade)

6:00pm - Beverly Cleary's 100th Birthday Party!
Beverly Cleary will be 100 years old next week! We'll celebrate with cake, games, and great memories. Come in costume if you want! Still have your favorite Cleary books from childhood? Bring them along! We'll also be making a video birthday card to send to our illustrious author!
(All ages)

Sunday, April 10
11:00am - Great Lives, Great Picture Books!
  • Gary Golio, author of Bird & Diz and Jimi Hendrix
  • Susanna Reich, author of Minette's Feast and Fab Four Friends
  • E.B. Lewis, multi-award-winning illustrator of more Big Blue Marble favorites than we can count, including The Other Side, Talkin' About Bessie, and All Different Now: Juneteenth, the First Day of Freedom
(Picture Books)

1:00pm - Books Are Great Tools for Exploring Our World.
Children's nonfiction authors take complex information and create fun, engaging books that invite children to explore.
  • Terry Catasús Jennings, author of Gopher to the Rescue! A Volcano Recovery Story
  • Jeanne Pettenati, author of Galileo’s Journal 1609-1610
  • Ellen Marcus, author of That Fish On Your Dish: A book for children with eco-conscious parents
(Picture Books)

3:00pm - QUILTBAG Books YA Author Panel with I.W. Gregorio, author of None of the Above and a founder of the We Need Diverse Books movement; Randy Ribay, author of An Infinite Number of Parallel Universes; and Cordelia Jensen, author of Skyscraping.
(Young Adult Books)

Once again, you can find the full festival schedule on our website.

Looking forward to seeing you this weekend!
Categories: Bookstore Blogs

Jen's Five Fabulous Upcoming and Recent YA Releases!

Mon, 2016-02-29 23:34
The Rest of Us Just Live Here by Patrick Ness (Harperteen, $17.99)
This isn't exactly a fantasy story. That is, there is an invasion of Immortals, and there are teens who take it upon themselves to find out everything, and right the wrongs, and possibly die in the process...but this is not their story. While their story is synopsized, briefly, as the first paragraph of every chapter, the rest of the book...covers other kids at the school. Regular kids. And their families and friendships. And the new kid in their crowd. And the secret or not-so-secret crushes, and the meaning of life and love. All regular, normal stuff. Even if one of them might possibly be a god of cats.

Another Day by David Levithan (Knopf, $17.99)
This is the companion to Every Day, Levithan's story of someone called "A" who occupies a different person's body each day, meeting their peers and parents, and conscientiously trying not to change their lives too much. But then A meets Rhiannon and tries, against all odds, to stay in touch with her and get to know her, day after day. Another Day tells the same story, brilliantly, from Rhiannon's point of view.

Symptoms of Being Human by Jeff Garvin (Harperteen, $17.99)
Supposing you were the child of a noted politician, starting a new school, suffering from anxiety attacks...and genderfluid. Especially when you're not out, and you need to avoid gender dysphoria differently on different days, and the kids at the new, promising school are not new and accepting but (mostly) new and awful. Riley has been advised to start an anonymous blog to help process all this...but then the blog goes viral, and it starts to become clear that someone at school, not one of the nice ones, may have found out who the author is.

On the Edge of Gone by Corinne Duyvis (Amulet Books, $17.95)
I've mostly avoided planet-wide natural disaster stories of late, but this one struck me because the main character who's trying to find shelter for herself and her family (so they can survive the comet and its aftermath), is living with autism. And with a parent who's not as present as she would like, so she starts taking on responsibility. A fascinating look at different types of accommodation, and an extra twist to the disaster situation.

What We Left Behind by Robin Talley (Harlequin Teen, $18.99)
A fascinating story focusing on the intersections of sexuality and gender. And long-distance relationships, and new friends, and change. And gendered language. Oh, and truth: the figuring out and withholding and parceling out and offering of (not necessarily in that order).

Adapted from the February Big Blue YA Newsletter.

Jennifer Sheffield, February 2016
Categories: Bookstore Blogs

Yes! It Does Exist! The Bernie Sanders Graphic Novel!

Sat, 2016-01-30 15:51

Yes! It does exist! The Bernie Sanders graphic novel!

You don't have to agree with all the politics in this book to enjoy the humor and history presented in Bernie by Ted Rall.

Get your copy at Big Blue Marble Bookstore today!
Categories: Bookstore Blogs

Bookstore Bestsellers, 2015

Sat, 2016-01-23 17:10
Happy New Year! I'd like to present the annual list of Big Blue Marble bestsellers -- the top 25 books sold in 2015, and top 25(ish) overall. Those of you who have been following these lists since I began them in 2010 may notice that, for the first time, the hardcover of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows has been overtaken as our number-one all-time bestseller! Check below for the seasonally appropriate challenger...

Please tell us: What books have you read and loved over the past year?

Top 25 Bestsellers at Big Blue Marble in 2015:

1) Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates
2) Skyscraping by Cordelia Jensen (local author, writer-in-residence)
3) All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
4) Being Mortal by Atul Gawande
5) My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante
6) 100 Under $100 by Betsy Teutsch (local author)
7) Rad American Women A-Z by Kate Schatz
8) Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo
9) Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson
10) Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
11) The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats
12) Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee
13) Mt. Airy Musers vol. 2: A Literary Journal Made by Kids for Kids; Editor-in-Chief, Cordelia Jensen (local authors)
14) El Deafo by Cece Bell
15) The Martian by Andy Weir
16) We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
17) H Is for Hawk by Helen Macdonald
18) Euphoria by Lily King
19) M Train by Patti Smith
20) Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Old School by Jeff Kinney
21) Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics by Daniel James Brown
22) Making Good Neighbors: Civil Rights, Liberalism, and Integration in Postwar Philadelphia by Abigail Perkiss (local author, local Mt. Airy setting!)
23) Orphan Train by Christina Kline (2015 selection for the One Book, One Philadelphia program)
24) Drama by Raina Telgemeier
And tied for 25:
a) Good Night, Gorilla by Peggy Rathman
b) Roller Girl by Victoria Jamieson

Top Bestsellers at Big Blue Marble to Date:

1) The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats
2) Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling
3) Good Night, Gorilla by Peggy Rathman
4) Philadelphia Chickens by Sandra Boynton (onetime local author)
5) Body Trace by D.H. Dublin (local author)
6) Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown
7) The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
8) Good Night Philadelphia by Adam Gamble and Cooper Kelly (local setting)
9) The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan
10) Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert (somewhat local author)
11) The First 1000 Days by Nikki McClure
12) Ivy and Bean by Annie Barrows
13) Making Good Neighbors: Civil Rights, Liberalism, and Integration in Postwar Philadelphia by Abigail Perkiss (local author, local Mt. Airy setting!)
14) The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie (selected as companion book for the 2011 One Book, One Philadelphia program)
15) The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
16) The Daring Book for Girls by Miriam Peskowitz (local author) and Andrea Buchanan
17) The Buddha in the Attic by Julie Otsuka (2013 selection for the One Book, One Philadelphia program)
18) Wild by Cheryl Strayed
19) The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle
20) Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
21) The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson
22) The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart
23) Amulet 1: Stonekeeper by Kazi Kibuishi
24) Dreams from My Father by Barack Obama
25) The Paper Bag Princess by Robert Munsch
And tied for 26:
a) Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates
b) The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick

Happy reading for 2016!
Categories: Bookstore Blogs

Janet's Four Favorite Gift Ideas and One Book, of Course

Mon, 2015-12-14 17:56
Traditional Japanese Origami by Nick Robinson (Rockpoint, $15.99)
This set includes seventy pieces of exceptional origami paper and an instruction book housed in a beautiful cover. (A variety of other origami sets are also available at the store.)

The Saggy Baggy Elephant by Yottoy ($14.99) with The Saggy Baggy Elephant by K & B Jackson (Golden Books, $3.99)
Classic children's books accompanied by plush main characters often bring the story alive for young and older readers. Our collection of plush ranges from classics to modern favorites.

Left Right Ergonomic Crayons (International Arrivals, $7.95)
Perfect for little grips with either hand, this crayon set is non-toxic, erasable, and eco- friendly. This year, we have a large variety of drawing, coloring and painting sets along with both children's and adult coloring books.

Feathers Gilded Journal by Margaret Berg (Blink, $14.99)
From the whimsical to the simple and practical, journals make a great gift for the writer, the artist, the scribbler in all of us.

Dusk by Uri Shulevitz (Farrar Straus Girooux, $17.99)
One storybook that points the reader to all the lights of the winter festival.

Janet Elfant, December 2015
Categories: Bookstore Blogs

A Staff Pick List Meta-List for December 2015

Sun, 2015-12-13 12:59
Searching for a recommendation? We've been compiling staff pick lists, in print and on the blog, for nearly 5 years! The print copies are all collected in binders at the store -- feel free to peruse whenever you're in and looking for inspiration.

Here, meanwhile, is a sampling of our lists online -- some with gift advice! Apologies for not getting it out until the seventh day of Chanukah... Check them out, and feel free to comment, particularly if you have a book you'd love to recommend that fits the theme!

First, some general links (including some labels available in the sidebar):

- All of the Staff Pick Lists
- Picks by (or on behalf of) our kids
- Great QUILTBAG* (Queer, etc.) Books for Kids and Teens
- Celebrating Multiracial Families and Friendships: A List of Books for Kids and Teens
- The 2011 Staff Pick List Meta-List
- Posts labeled "gifts"

Our Current Staff:

- Elliott's Five Poets That Will Make You Gasp for the Beauty of It All
- Five Books That Were Even Better Than Elliott Thought They'd Be
- Celebrating Translators -- Elliott's Five Favorites You Don't Know You Already Know
- All of Elliott's Picks

- Janet's Five Ways to Feel Grateful
- Janet's Five Selections of Hope through Music
- Janet's Five Picks That Speak to the Obsessive in All of Us
- All of Janet's Picks

photo credit Betsy Brody

- Jen’s Five Books Not Just for Parents
- Ten Authors of Series Jen Loves to Reread: Part I
- Jen’s Five Kids’ Books Demonstrating That Vehicles Are Not Just for Boys
- All of Jen's Picks

- Mariga's Five Picks to Sweep You Away to Imperial Russia
- Mariga's Five Favorite Books Featuring Ducks
- Mariga's Five New Books Featuring Classic Literary Characters
- All of Mariga's Picks

- Micah's Favorite Books That Break the 4th Wall (according to Nif, his mum)
- Nif and Jen’s Five Books for Potty-Training
- Nif's Five Books That Make Micah (age 19m) Go "Moo!" (which means "More, more!")
- All of Nif's Picks

- Sarah's Five Favorite Feminist Books of the Year (So Far)
- Sarah's Five Favorite Children's Read-Aloud Stories
- Sarah's Phive Phavorite Philly-Related Books
- All of Sarah's Picks

- Sheila’s Five Books of Adventure for Warrior Girls...and Boys
- Sheila’s Five Series for When I Want My Books to Be Candy
- Five Jewish-y Books that Sheila Likes a Lot, for Many Ages
- All of Sheila's Picks

- Raw Writers 2015 -- Tiara's Four Picks by African American Authors
- Big Blue Marble's Picks for Children's Book Week (May 4-10, 2015)
- All of Tiara's Picks

Our Writers-in-Residence:

- Exploring the Verse Novel with Cordelia
- Cordelia's Five Books That Feature Creative Talent as a Major Theme
- Cordelia’s Five Newbery Honor/Medal Winners Featuring Female Main Characters Who Overcome Parental Loss and Conflict in Unusual Ways
- All of Cordelia's Picks

photo credit Lynn Saville

- Minter's Four Memoir Pairs
- Minter’s Five Recommended Books About Writing
- Minter’s Five Writers’ Journals That Illuminate the Writing Process
- All of Minter's Picks

Categories: Bookstore Blogs

Jen's Five Gifts of Cheer and Edification

Sat, 2015-12-12 11:00
Most, but not all, courtesy of the Unemployed Philosophers Guild.

Famous People Magnetic Finger Puppets!
Haven't you always wanted Frida Kahlo on your fridge, or on your finger? Rosa Parks? Betsy Ross? Get several at a time, and stage fantastic conversations: Walt Whitman and Rumi and Sylvia Plath, Sappho and Pete Seeger (who both play stringed instruments), Che Guevara and Emma Goldman, Darwin and Einstein, or Zora Neale Hurston and Joan of Arc (points if you know why). Also, check out our supply of Schrödinger's cat puppets! But hurry -- until you check, you won't know whether we still have them...or not.

Heat Changing TARDIS mug
With the addition of only a hot cup of tea (or other liquid), this amazing Police Call Box will dematerialize and then rematerialize all the way on the other side of the mug! I haven't seen it in action yet. Note: We also have mugs of banned books, Yiddish proverbs, Shakespearean insults, and heat-activated constellations.

Jews Glasses
When Micah was 3, and Passover came around, we sat at dinner and told him about the holiday. We talked about slavery, and his Jewish ancestors, and his African American ancestors, and I told a brief version of the story of the Jews' escape from Egypt. He listened patiently, and at the end he asked, "So what happened to the red stuff?" Red stuff? We hadn't talked about the plagues...or named the sea... "You know," he prompted, "the juice!" Oh, the juice. The juice who escaped from slavery. Oops.
So here are some glasses covered with the names and images of famous Jews. Drink up!

Totes Adorbs
From manatees sharing tea (or octopi serving pie) to "Books, Not Bombs," to the little "Read to Me" and "Future Author" versions, we have charming, literary, useful canvas tote bags for your every book-carrying need. (Oh, and it turns out they can carry other things, too.)

Encouragemints and Empowermints
These are tiny peppermints in tiny tins featuring the images of, respectively, Mr. Fred Rogers and Rosie the Riveter. Give yourself a boost!
Categories: Bookstore Blogs

Raw Writers 2015 -- Tiara's Four Picks by African American Authors

Fri, 2015-12-11 13:06
Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (Anchor Books, $15.95)
I really appreciate the humorous characters that Adichie creates. They are gritty and unabashedly honest about the customs of their home, Nigeria, in juxtaposition with what they experienced while trying to assimilate in America. However, this story transcends any cultural barriers and is ultimately about a love the endures both distance and time.

We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (Anchor Books, $7.95)
Adapted from a TED Talk conference, We Should All Be Feminists delves into how and why the word "feminist" has developed a negative and extremist connotation. In this short essay, Adichie deconstructs some the ostensibly basic double standards in society and reveals the complexities of the modern feminist. As a person who would avoid the use of the word "feminist" in the past, this essay is a part the reason I now think of myself as a proud feminist.

Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates (Spiegel and Grau, $24.00)
I was genuinely brought to tears by Coates' personal account of maturing as a black man in America. He writes to end the disillusionment on racism that has plagued society for generations. As a letter to his son who was heartbroken and confused about the recent case of Michael Brown, Coates makes no attempt to comfort or disguise the harsh reality of prejudice and injustice. Both sobering and eloquent. I recommend that every person read Between the World and Me.

God Help the Child by Toni Morrison (Knopf, $24.95)
I usually shy away from stories told from multiple point of views however, Morrison does a exceptional job of intertwining the lives of the protagonists who have suffered from grief and unspeakable tragedies. The smooth sentences and seductive tone of this book made it difficult to put down even as these characters are stripped down and forced to face their demons.

Tiara Richardson, December 2015
Categories: Bookstore Blogs

The Store Is Ten! -- Bookstore Birthday Doggerel II

Sat, 2015-11-21 02:00

library cake by Kathy Knaus
The store is ten!
I raise my pen
here once again*,
invite you in...

Come on a splen-
did new adven-
ture: books as friends;
worlds without end.

From noisome fen
to Elvish glen,
from tenement
to cozy den.

From confluence
to monuments,
from Orient
to Occident.

I recommend,
my brilliant friend,
or Tolkien,

Miss Peregrine,
and Hiassen**,
Cordelia Jen-
sen, and Le Guin***,

Mysterious Ben-
edict and Pen-
derwicks, Huck Finn,
Rick Riordan**.

Expand your ken
with panda Zen,
and Where (or when!)
the Sidewalk Ends,

With Maurice Sen-
dak, Kevin Hen-
kes, and Hans
Christian Andersen.

Come once, and then
come back again,
and you can say
you knew us when!

To you, our friends,
our denizens,
to you we send
our compliments.
You surely are
our oxygen;
we hope we lend
you nourishment.

The store is ten!
Some say Amen.
Some shout, Again!
We thank you.

*Please also enjoy a previous birthday poem from back when we were very young.****

**I have just learned that Carl Hiassen and Rick Riordan both pronounce their names with a stressed long-i in the first syllable. I did not know.

***Okay, so words like "in" and "Le Guin" don't actually rhyme with "ten" in my dialect; there's some, um, poetic license at work here. However, I do know some people with the appropriate vowel mergers, for whom this whole thing ought to rhyme perfectly. Almost perfectly. Better, anyway.

****And may I point out that the 2009 version was also posted (and celebrated) on Saturday, November 21...?
Categories: Bookstore Blogs

Janet's Five Ways to Color

Thu, 2015-11-19 18:00
For those of us who love to color or have never colored or simply want to try a great way to relax, ADULT COLORING BOOKS HAVE ARRIVED. Here are five of my favorites:

Vive Le Color India Coloring Book by Marabout (Abrams, $9.95)

Mandala Designs (Peter Pauper Press, $7.99)

Color Me Stress-Free by Lacy Muchlow (Race Point, $16.99)

The Art of Nature Coloring Book (Adams Media, $14.99)

Zen Doodle Coloring Book by Kristy Colin (North Light Books, $14.99)


Janet Elfant, November 2015
Categories: Bookstore Blogs

Five Journals Mariga Loves

Fri, 2015-11-06 15:39

Rainforest Decomposition Book (Michael Roger, Inc., $8.00)

Anorak Rabbits Notebook (Quadrille Publishing, $10.95)

Peacock Handmade Embroidered Journal (Galison Books, $14.99)

Jackie Morris Notebooks (set of three, Jackie Morris, $15.99)

Oz Passport Notebook (Unemployed Philosophers Guild, $3.25)

Mariga Temple-West, November 2015
Categories: Bookstore Blogs

Sarah's Five Favorite Feminist Books of the Year (So Far)

Tue, 2015-11-03 11:03
Dietland by Sarai Walker (Houghten Mifflin Harcourt, $26)
This is the story of Plum Kettle, an advice columnist who is waiting for bariatric surgery for her life to begin. It's also the story of Jennifer, a radical feminist counterterrorist group who changes Plum's life forever. I can't recommend this enough.

I Am Princess X by Cherie Priest (Arthur A. Levine Books, $19)
Visually stunning and lyrically beautiful story about two friends who find their way back to one another, even after the death of one. Incorporates a gorgeous webcomic and no romance.

Not Funny Ha-Ha: A Handbook for Something Hard by Leah Hayes (Fantagraphics, $17)
This is an illustrated book about abortion. It details the circumstances and experiences of two different women and the choices they make during their decision to terminate pregnancies. Hayes has done something incredibly moving and important and relevant in a world where Planned Parenthood is often struggling with budget cuts and pro-life protesters. The art is great, the words are great. I want to give copies of this to all my favorite feminists so we can gush about how awesome it is together.

Tonight the Streets are Ours by Leila Sales (Farrar Straus Giroux, $18)
Arden's life isn't going the way she expected. Her mother just left and her father isn't around. She spends a lot of time taking care of her younger brother and her best friend who is a trouble magnet. Her boyfriend is cute, but somewhat inattentive. Something is building in Arden. I initially disliked Arden - she martyrs herself for the people she loves and blames them for it. She decides to take a trip to New York to meet Peter, the author of a blog she loves, along with her best friend. The trip and the night following it turn out to be transformative for her. I won't spoil anything, but I will say this: Tonight the Streets Are Ours isn't a love story in the way you're expecting it to be. It's not about falling in love with another person. It's about learning to feel competent and independent. I want to walk down the street and hand a copy of this book to every teenager I see.

Lumberjanes by Noelle Stevenson, Grace Ellis, Brooke Allen (Boom!, $15)
This comic is everything. It's intentionally inclusive racially, including a couple of queer characters and dare I say a trans girl as well? More than that, it's fun and sweet and hilarious. This is everything I want in a comic and I cannot stop raving about how well written and well drawn this title is. There's adventure, supernatural elements, romance, three eyed magical foxes, some mythology, and sibling rivalry thrown in for good measure. It's appropriate for all ages, so after you're done reading it, you might pass it on to a younger nerd.

Sarah Sawyers-Lovett, November 2015
Categories: Bookstore Blogs

Best of All Possible and Impossible Worlds

Tue, 2015-10-20 11:22
If you didn't make it here for our YA author event on Oct. 9, I recommend you hop on over and check out the books (and the follow-up book club discussion this Thursday*). We had a wonderful and inspiring conversation, with a great group of authors, and enthusiastic readers to hear them read! Kate Scelsa and Lyn Miller-Lachmann both travelled from New York City to be here, while Randy Ribay and Ilene (I.W.) Gregorio are both local to the Philly area -- though Ilene, "practicing surgeon by day, masked avenging YA writer by night," was coming from a full day in surgery and was actually still on call.

The readings were well-delivered and powerful. None of the authors chose to read from the beginning of their book; instead, each read a scene of transformation from partway through.

In Surviving Santiago, Wisconsin teenager Tina reluctantly returns to her homeland of Chile to visit her father, in the tense political climate of 1989. Lyn offered us the scene where Tina has arrived in Chile and meets her papá for the first time in years, thinking about what he was like in her childhood and how he was changed when he came to the US after his political imprisonment...and wondering what he'll be like now.

In her scene from None of the Above, Ilene gave us the moment when Kristin, who has recently been blindsided by the news that she's intersex, finally decides to take her father's advice and look at information about support groups for people with her condition -- which takes her out of complete despair and offers a measure of hope.

Kate's book, Fans of the Impossible Life, is about three teens trying to move forward from difficult parts of their lives, and in the scene she read, they have put together a ritual, full of silliness and power, to get rid of their demons and invite into their lives what they most want.

An Infinite Number of Parallel Universes is also about a group of teens dealing with issues in their own lives, but they don't talk to each other about them: at this point they know their D&D characters better than they know each other, and their experiences of the world are separate, and barely overlapping, even when they're in the same room. Randy gave us a scene in which Mari, who runs the D&D game for the group, takes her own recent set of news and writes the destruction of a world.

The discussion that followed the readings was friendly and open and also deep.

"What was the nicest thing someone has said about your book?" asked an audience member.
Without exception the responses were about reflected experience -- from the teens who tell Randy that the amount of diversity in his writing is realistic, rather than overdone, to the 13-year-old who told Ilene that None of the Above gave her the courage to reach out to a support group, to the adult reader who told Lyn that, from his own experience, he both questioned and understood why Tina's father would want to return home after exile. Kate summed up this general feeling in her own answer: "When you write about something you haven't experienced and have people say you got it right!"

The authors talked about problems with both good reviews and bad reviews, and the frustration with people who use review space to trash books that they don't like and wouldn't normally read -- as though that sort of book shouldn't exist at all. We suggested that there needed to be a website for people to discuss books with the guideline to use only "I" language. Relatedly, we also talked at length about trigger warnings, and how the use of both the warnings and the label itself has changed. Originally conceived as a way to warn people of content that might trigger actual PTSD flashbacks in the readers, it has devolved in many settings into a way to warn readers that they might be uncomfortable with what they read, or might learn something they don't like. Which both discourages reading/learning and dilutes the importance of the trigger warning for those who need it. Kate pointed out that the overuse comes from both ends of the political spectrum.

Further topics included audio books -- Lyn talked about recording one on her own for a friend who's blind -- and the store's QUILTBAG YA shelf: how to present books that explore gender and sexuality in a way that highlights them and yet doesn't compartmentalize them. After the general discussion, the gathering moved into book signings and smaller, equally vibrant conversations...and Ilene got her first page (medical, not literary) of the evening. I got the sense that everyone went home inspired and energized, and it was fun to hear the authors getting excited about each other's writing. Thanks to everyone who came, and whether you were there or not, I'd love to hear your thoughts on these books!

*Big Blue YA Book Discussion on any/all books by these authors: this Thursday, October 22, at 7:00pm. See our website or the Facebook event for more information!

Also: we were privileged to have Randy Ribay in the store a week before his book's official release date, and two weeks before his official release party!
Randy's release party: Friday, October 23
Boys' Latin of Philadelphia Charter School
5501 Cedar Ave, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19143
Categories: Bookstore Blogs


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