Big Blue Marble Blog

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A neighborhood bookstore blog for Mt. Airy and beyond.
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Micah's Favorite Books About the Natural World (according to Jen, his mom)

Wed, 2015-03-25 12:58
About Birds: A Guide for Children by Cathryn Sill, illustrated by John Sill (Peachtree Press, $7.95)
Brief narrative phrases (with more details at the end) illuminated with gorgeous wildlife paintings.
Also in Micah's collection: About Insects and About Mammals.

Red-Eyed Tree Frog by Joy Cowley, photographs by Nic Bishop (Scholastic, $6.99)
The story of a night in the life of a red-eyed tree frog, accompanied by Nic Bishop's amazing photographs.
Also in Micah's collection: Chameleon, Chameleon.

Gotta Go! Gotta Go! by Sam Swope, pictures by Sue Riddle (Square Fish, $7.99)
A brand new monarch caterpillar doesn't know much about her world yet, but she knows she's gotta go, gotta go to Mexico!

Jo MacDonald Had a Garden by Mary Quattlebaum, illustrated by Laura J. Bryant (Dawn Publications, $7.95 board book, $8.95 paperback)
Just in time for spring! Accompanied by a familiar tune, Jo and her friend plant and tend a garden while her grandfather looks on.
(See Cordelia's interview with Mary Quattlebaum elsewhere on the blog.)
Also in Micah's collection: Jo MacDonald Hiked in the Woods

Yes, Let's! by Galen Goodwin Longstreth & Maris Wicks (Tanglewood Press, $15.95)
More hiking! A family of seven (including the dog) get up early to head out to the woods.
(See Jen's interview with Galen Longstreth elsewhere on the blog.)

Also, a classic:
Blueberries for Sal by Robert McCloskey (Puffin, $7.99)
Kuplink, kuplank, kuplunk.

Jennifer Sheffield, March 2015
Categories: Bookstore Blogs

Micah's Favorite Books That Break the 4th Wall (according to Nif, his mum)

Fri, 2015-03-20 09:00
The Book With No Pictures by B.J. Novak (Penguin Random House, $17.99)
You might think that a book with no pictures is going to be serious and boring. Instead, this is a book that makes grownups say silly things, like "BLORK" and "BLUEBERRY PIZZA," whether or not they want to. Gales of laughter ensue. Micah has memorized both the silly things and the muttered asides.

Press Here by Hervé Tullet (Chronicle Books $15.99)
It begins with a lone yellow dot. We are invited to "Press here," and hey! there are more dots when you turn the page. Follow the instructions, and on the next page the dots will multiply, change color, move, grow, and more. Magical.

We Are In a Book! by Mo Willems (Disney Press $8.99)
Elephant and Piggie notice that someone is looking at them and hatch a plan to make the reader say something silly. Mo Willems' Elephant & Piggie books are generally brillant read-alouds, but this is one of the best.

Speaking of Mo Willems, check out the Pigeon books!
Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus (Disney Press, $15.99)
The Pigeon Wants a Puppy (Disney Press, $15.99)
Don't Let the Pigeon Stay Up Late (Disney Press, $15.99)
The Pigeon Needs a Bath (Disney Press, $16.99)

The Pigeon directly exhorts the reader via charm, trickery, begging, or just plain pitching a fit in an attempt to drive the bus, get a puppy, stay up late, or avoid a bath. I rather enjoy acting out the wiles and temper tantrums. My son knows to duck when I start flailing!

The Monster at the End of This Book (Golden Books, $3.99)
Our loveable, furry old pal Grover begs the reader to stop turning pages because there is A MONSTER at the end of the book. Oh, no! You turned the page!

Jennifer Woodfin, March 2015
Categories: Bookstore Blogs

HERE is here!

Wed, 2015-03-18 15:46

Here is the stunning, new graphic novel from author Richard McGuire. It is the story of the corner of one room in one house, illustrated in overlapping pictures and prose. A masterwork that is difficult describe, it is not told in linear fashion but through a collage of different eras and dialogue, revealing the passage of time moving both backward and forward. Thought provoking and ingenious, Here is a masterpiece of art and storytelling.
Categories: Bookstore Blogs

Take Away the A

Sat, 2015-03-07 16:24

Looking for an unusual alphabet book? Tired of "a is for apple"? Then Take Away the A is the fun, refreshing alphabet book you're looking for!

At once playful and thought provoking, this picture book teaches the alphabet while at the same time demonstrating how one small alteration elicits a big change.

Almost existential in scope and gorgeously illustrated, Take Away the A is one of those picture books that captivate children and adults alike. Come in to Big Blue Marble Bookstore and purchase your copy today!

"Without the I, stairs lead to the stars..."
Categories: Bookstore Blogs

The Irish are coming!

Wed, 2015-03-04 14:19

What do Colm Toibin, Tana French, and Eoin Colfer all have in common? They're Irish! The month of March is upon us and St. Patrick's Day is imminent. In honor of the upcoming holiday, come on in to Big Blue Marble Bookstore and browse our display of marvelous Irish authors.

In the mood for a ghost story? Then John Boyne's This House is Haunted is the novel for you. Want a good read about the Irish immigrant experience? Pick up a copy of On Canaan's Side by Sebastian Barry.

And there's lots more! Stop by the Marble today where our staff will be happy to discuss our selection with you.

Categories: Bookstore Blogs

The Antidote to Downton Abbey Withdrawal

Sun, 2015-03-01 13:55
The Downton Abbey season finale is upon us! What will we do? How shall we spend our Sunday nights without the Crawleys? Never fear! Big Blue Marble Bookstore has the antidote to Downton Abbey withdrawal. Stop by the store for your copy of Lady Almina and the Real Downton Abbey, the biography of a former Countess of Carnavon.

Wait! There's more! Big Blue Marble also carries Lady Catherine, the Earl, and the Real Downton Abbey, the biography of a mid-twentieth century Countess of Carnavon.

Almina and Catherine were both Americans who married into the aristocratic Herbert family. While navigating their way through the labyrinthine customs of the British upper class and enjoying the wealth and privileges it brought them, both women also weathered the wrenching changes of two world wars.

Categories: Bookstore Blogs

Decomposition Books

Sat, 2015-02-28 14:03
Are you a dreamer? Contemplative? Introspective? A compulsive list-keeper? Then we have the perfect blank journal for you! Want to jot down those ideas for a novel? Record your poetic musings? Then may we recommend Decomposition Books, produced by Michael Roger Press. Made from 100% recycled paper, Decomposition Books are perfect for the ecologically conscious, aspiring writer. With a variety of colorful and whimsical varieties to choose from, Decomposition Books are also available in spiral bound.

Categories: Bookstore Blogs

Raccoons and Foxes and Cats, Oh My! And Ants!

Fri, 2015-02-27 15:59
Behold Mort(e), the fearsome cat warrior who fights across a dystopian landscape where pets have risen against their masters and ants rule the world! The novel begs the question, what is good? Who is evil? Are the dictatorial ants truly better than the humans with their germ warfare? The first print-run is already sold out! Order your copy today! Another exciting publication from Soho Press!

Mort(e), by Robert Repino, a featured novel in February's Indie Next List.
Categories: Bookstore Blogs

Five Books That Make Jen Grateful for Modern Medicine

Sat, 2015-01-31 09:00
During the growing outbreak of measles in Southern California and environs, it becomes ever more clear that lots of people, including doctors, have never seen measles before and are not familiar with its presentation or its dangerous complications -- as is true of many diseases that used to plague our forebears. Here are five books (plus a few more) that provide a powerful and close-up view of some illnesses that, due to vaccines or antibiotics, no longer scare us the way they once did.

Fleabrain Loves Franny by Joanne Rocklin (Abrams, $16.95)
This new release is the story of ten-year-old Franny, who is relearning to navigate her world, both physically and socially, after contracting polio -- while living in the neighborhood of Pittsburgh where Dr. Jonas Salk is working hard on what Franny hopes is a cure. Alternate point of view (and some diversion for Franny) provided by Fleabrain, a flea with literary aspirations who lives on her dog's tail.

yellow fever:
Fever 1793 by Laurie Halse Anderson (Simon & Schuster, $7.99)
A story of the eponymous yellow fever epidemic, which took place in Philadelphia. Follows 14-year-old Mattie Cook through her family's attempt to flee the fever, only to return and deal with it in a city that is falling into chaos. Includes a fascinating look at competing types of care, as physicians grasp for ways to contain the epidemic.

Dreamers of the Day by Mary Doria Russell (Ballantine, $15.00)
This book is not about influenza; it's a historical novel about the politics of the Middle East in the 1920s, with Lawrence of Arabia and Gertrude Bell as featured characters. However, it starts by vividly framing the Roaring Twenties in the United States as a rebound from the horrors of death -- not just after World War One but also after the 'flu epidemic of 1918-1919 that ran rampant through otherwise healthy populations and devastated entire families and communities.

Pippi in the South Seas by Astrid Lindgren (Puffin, $5.99)
I hadn't reread the third Pippi book in a long time, so I was surprised to discover recently that her friends Annika and Tommy both come down with the measles, which confines them to bed for weeks and leaves them pale and shaky for a long time afterward. (Caution: this book, more than the others in the series, is predicated on a strongly colonialist view of the south sea islands.)

scarlet fever:
All of a Kind Family by Sydney Taylor (Yearling, $6.99)
A wonderful tale of life on the Lower East Side of Manhattan in 1911. Scarlet fever shows up just before Passover, and the house is quarantined for the duration. (I was originally going to feature By the Shores of Silver Lake here, since the effects are more dramatic, but it turns out that Mary Ingalls' blindness was likely caused by something quite different, such as viral meningoencephalitis. Scarlet fever does not cause blindness.)

influenza and black death:

The Doomsday Book by Connie Willis (Spectra, $7.99)
malaria ("fever 'n' ague"):
Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder (HarperCollins, $6.99 or $8.99)
scarlet fever again:
Little Women by Louisa May Alcott (Penguin, $3.95)
I'm fairly certain that I once read a book in which someone has whooping cough. On a train, maybe? Does anyone have any idea what book this is? Please let me know!

Jennifer Sheffield, January 2015
Categories: Bookstore Blogs

Sarah's Five Favorite Children's Read-Aloud Stories

Thu, 2015-01-29 19:08
The Book With No Pictures by B.J. Novak (Dial, $17.99)
This book, which is gorgeous despite its lack of pictures, never fails to make even the most serious little folks laugh. (I dare you to read it without laughing yourself.)

Press Here by Herve Tullet (Chronicle, $15.99)
This is more of a one-on-one read. Press Here encourages small readers to press pages, shake dots to one side, and more. If the interactivity weren't enough, it's also visually stunning.

The Cat in the Hat by Dr. Suess (Random House 8.99)
Thing 1 and Thing 2 are the best parts of this book, obviously. The rhythm of the words makes memorization fun and easy. Dr. Suess has written so many beloved books, but none more so than this one.

The Pigeon Needs a Bath by Mo Willems (Disney, $16.99)
I chose this book as a close second to the Elephant and Piggie books because they're all so fun and they prompt a call-and-response from your tiny audience. And, yeah, because sometimes bathtime is hard.

Curious George by H.A. Rey (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 7.99)
What will that cheeky monkey get up to next?

Sarah Rose, January 2015
Categories: Bookstore Blogs

Bookstore Bestsellers, 2014

Thu, 2015-01-15 19:05
Happy New Year! I'd like to present the annual list of Big Blue Marble bestsellers -- the top 20 books sold in 2014, and top 25 overall.

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

Top 20 Bestsellers at Big Blue Marble in 2014:

1) Making Good Neighbors: Civil Rights, Liberalism, and Integration in Postwar Philadelphia by Abigail Perkiss (local author, local Mt. Airy setting!)
2) Deadout by Jon McGoran (local author)
3) Brief Eulogies at Roadside Shrines by Mark Lyons (local author)
4) Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
5) Mt. Airy Musers: A Literary Journal Made by Kids for Kids: Editor-in-Chief, Cordelia Jensen (local authors)
6) Frozen: A Big Golden Book, adapted by Bill Scollon
7) Goldfinch by Donna Tartt
8) Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki
9) Monk Eats an Afro by Yolanda Wisher (local author)
10) Drift by Jon McGoran (local author)
11) The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
12) Wild by Cheryl Strayed
13) Flora and Ulysses: the Illuminated Adventures by Kate DiCamillo
14) The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats
15) Amulet 6: Escape from Lucien by Kazi Kibuishi
16) Sisters by Raina Telgemeier
17) The Yellow Birds by Kevin Powers (2014 selection for the One Book, One Philadelphia program)
18) Hyperbole and a Half : Unfortunate Situations, Flawed Coping Mechanisms, Mayhem, and Other Things That Happened by Allie Brosh
19) Afro-Vegan: Farm-Fresh African, Caribbean, & Southern Flavors Remixed by Bryant Terry
20) Good Night, Gorilla by Peggy Rathman

Top 25 Bestsellers at Big Blue Marble to Date:

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

Also check out the list of our young adult bestsellers, posted in the January YA newsletter: Big Blue YA News -- Dragons, Music, History, and Bestseller Lists!

Happy reading for 2015!
Categories: Bookstore Blogs

Sarah's Top Ten Books of 2014 (Because Picking Just Five is A Fool's Errand)

Mon, 2014-12-22 11:40
Tomboy: A Graphic Memoir by Liz Prince (Zest, $16)
Sweet, funny, and poignant. This autobiographical comic tells Liz's story without pandering or over-explaining. This book was so good that I wanted to flip a table and run down the street pumping my arms in victory after I finished it.

Buck by MK Asante (Spiegel & Grau, $15)
I put this on another top five this year, but I don't even care. Buck is so good. It could be set anywhere, but Asante captures the voice of Philly so clearly that you can hear the accent when you're reading it. I'm a total sucker for any story where books rescue the main character from other sources of conflict.

A Constellation of Vital Phenomena by Anthony Marra (Hogarth, $15)
Certainly one of the most beautiful books I've ever read; the setting and the characters leap off the page and into your heart and head. Overall, this is a story of war, a love story, and a story about the human capacity for cruelty and kindness.

Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell (Griffin $19)
I love story about two kids from opposite lives who save each other. This book made me feel swoony and weepy and hopeful all at once.

Queer and Trans Artists of Color by Nia King (CreateSpace $22.95)
This is the most important book I read all year. Each one of the interviews has some nugget of wisdom that everyone, regardless of race, gender, or sexuality, will relate to. Especially if you make art, like art, or spend any amount of time thinking about your place in the world and what you can do to make it better.

Little Fish: A Memoir from a Different Kind of Year by Ramsey Beyer (Zest, $16)
This zine is a collection of comics, illustrated lists, and writings about the author's move from a small rural town to a big city college. A great gift for people who are starting high school or college, or going through any major changes.

The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz (Riverhead, $16)
This book is just everything. It's the story about Oscar, a romantic Dominican nerd with no game. It's not just about Oscar's life, but about his family and how he is the culmination of many years and people. Junot Diaz could write cereal boxes, and I'd be psyched to read them. He's just that great.

Every Day by David Levithan (Ember, $10)
Super romantic story about a person who wakes up in a different body every day and the challenges that it creates when wooing the object of his/her affection. Really beautifully written.

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn (Broadway, $15)
This book full of loathsome characters will make you gasp with shock. Read the book before you see the movie and see how well it lives up to the hype.

Marbles: Mania, Depression, Michelangelo, and Me: A Graphic Memoir by Ellen Forney (Gotham, $20)
This is a brave, gorgeous comic about Ellen Forney's experience being diagnosed with and treated for bipolar disorder. Regardless of mental health status, it's easy to relate to the author's struggle to balance stability with creative passions.

Sarah Rose, December 2014
Categories: Bookstore Blogs

Great QUILTBAG* Books for Kids and Teens

Tue, 2014-12-09 23:52
*QUILTBAG is an up-and-coming, more inclusive, more pronounceable (which is to say, an acronym rather than an abbreviation) moniker encompassing diversity in gender and sexuality. According to, it glosses as Queer/Questioning, Undecided, Intersex, Lesbian, Transgender/Transsexual, Bisexual, Allied/Asexual, Gay/Genderqueer. (I've also seen lists that include Unidentified and Two-Spirit.)

Compiled by Jennifer Sheffield

I was asked to present a collection of "Great LBGTQ books for kids and teens" for our Queer Literary Festival in October. So I looked through what we had in the store, collected ideas from colleagues, and made a big list. And then after the festival I gathered a few more recommendations from friends, and some further resource links, and organized it all into what you see here. Certainly not comprehensive, but most of the books here have been read and liked either by me and/or by someone I know. Read and enjoy!

Board books that feature or include families with same-sex parents:
Everywhere Babies by Susan Meyers, illustrated by Marla Frazee (2001)
Mommy, Mama, and Me and Daddy, Papa, and Me, both by Lesléa Newman, illustrated by Carol Thompson (2009)

Picture books that feature or include families with same-sex parents:
Heather Has Two Mommies by Lesléa Newman, illustrated by Diana Souza (1990)
Asha's Mums by Rosamund Elwin & Michele Paulse, illustrated by Dawn Lee (1990)
Felicia's Favorite Story by Lesléa Newman, illustrated by Adriana Romo (2002)
The Family Book by Todd Parr (2003)
King & King & Family (sequel to King & King, 2002) by Linda De Haan & Stern Nijland (2004)
And Tango Makes Three by Justin Richardson & Peter Parnell, illustrated by Henry Cole (2005)
In Our Mothers' House by Patricia Polacco (2009)
A Tale of Two Daddies (2010) and A Tale of Two Mommies (2011), both by Vanita Oelschlager, illustrated by Kristin Blackwood and Mike Blanc
Donovan's Big Day by Lesléa Newman, illustrated by Mike Dutton (2011)
Operation Marriage by Cynthia Chin-Lee, illustrated by Lea Lyon (2011)
What Makes a Baby? by Cory Silverberg, illustrated by Fiona Smyth (2012) [Actually, this book separates the genetic component from the emotional component of making a baby, thus allowing for nontraditional families.]
The Purim Superhero by Elisabeth Kushner, illustrated by Mike Byrne (2013)
The Christmas Truck, by J.B. Blankenship, illustrated by Cassandre Bolan (2014)

Picture books that feature transgender/gender-nonconforming main characters:
The Story of Ferdinand by Munro Leaf (1936)
The Boy Who Cried Fabulous by Lesléa Newman, illustrated by Peter Ferguson (2004)
10,000 Dresses by Marcus Ewert, illustrated by Rex Ray (2008)
My Princess Boy by Cheryl Kilodavis, illustrated by Suzanne DeSimone (2010)
Nurse, Soldier, Spy: The Story of Sarah Edmonds, a Civil War Hero by Marissa Moss, illustrated by John Hendrix (2011)
Mary Walker Wears the Pants: The True Story of the Doctor, Reformer, and Civil War Hero by Cheryl Harness, illustrated by Carlo Molinari (2013)
Jacob's New Dress by Sarah & Ian Hoffman, illustrated by Chris Case (2014)
I am Jazz by Jessica Herthel & Jazz Jennings, illustrated by Shelagh McNicholas (2014)

Middle Grade books featuring a protagonist with same-sex parents:
The Circle of Magic series by Tamora Pierce, starting with Sandry's Book (1997)
[Note: the women who take charge of the protagonists don't actually have their relationship identified until much later books]
The Popularity Papers series by Amy Ignatow, starting with The Popularity Papers (2010)
The Flower Power series by Lauren Myracle, starting with Luv Ya Bunches (2010)
The Misadventures of the Family Fletcher by Dana Alison Levy (2014)

Middle Grade books with protagonist or friend who is gay/bi/coming out:
The House You Pass On The Way by Jacqueline Woodson (1997)
The Misfits (2001) and Totally Joe (2005), both by James Howe (inspiration for No Name Calling Week)
Drama by Raina Telgemeier (2012)
The House of Hades by Rick Riordan (2013)

Middle Grade books with gender-nonconforming protagonists:
Texas Tomboy by Lois Lenski (1950)
The Song of the Lioness series by Tamora Pierce, starting with Alanna: The First Adventure (1983) [Note: I'm always a bit puzzled as to whether this quartet is middle grade or YA, as Alanna ages from 11-14 in the first book and 14-18 in the second, and then beyond in the last two.]
The Protector of the Small series by Tamora Pierce, starting with First Test (1999)
No Girls Allowed: Tales of Daring Women Dressed as Men for Love, Freedom and Adventure by Susan Hughes, illustrated by Willow Dawson (2008)

YA books with protagonist or secondary character who is gay/bi/coming out:
Annie On My Mind by Nancy Garden (1982)
Dangerous Angels: the Weetzie Bat Books by Francesca Lia Block (1989-1995)
From the Notebooks of Melanin Sun by Jacqueline Woodson (1995)
Hard Love (1999) and Love & Lies: Marisol's Story (2008), both by Ellen Wittlinger
Empress of the World (2001) and The Rules for Hearts (2007) by Sara Ryan
Geography Club by Brent Hartinger (2003)
Boy Meets Boy by David Levithan (2003)
The Bermudez Triangle by Maureen Johnson (2004)
The D.J. Schwenk series by Catherine Gilbert Murdock, starting with Dairy Queen (2006)
Getting It by Alex Sanchez (2006)
Gravity by Leanne Lieberman (2008)
Skim by Mariko Tamaki and Jillian Tamaki (2008)
Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green and David Levithan (2010)
Boyfriends with Girlfriends by Alex Sanchez (2011)
Shine by Lauren Myracle (2011)
The Miseducation of Cameron Post by Emily M. Danforth (2012)
Ask The Passengers by A.S. King (2012)
Silhouette of a Sparrow by Molly Beth Griffin (2012) [set in 1926]
Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz (2012)
Fat Angie by e. E. Charlton-Trujillo (2013)
Openly Straight by Bill Konigsberg (2013)
If You Could Be Mine (2013) and Tell Me Again How a Crush Should Feel (2014), both by Sara Farizan
The Summer I Wasn't Me by Jessica Verdi (2014)
I'll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson (2014)

YA books with transgender/gender-nonconforming protagonist or secondary character.
Luna by Julie Anne Peters (2004)
Parrotfish by Ellen Wittlinger (2007)
Freak Show by James St. James (2007)
Being Emily by Rachel Gold (2012)
Beautiful Music for Ugly Children by Kirstin Cronn-Mills (2012)
If You Could Be Mine by Sara Farizan (2013)

YA with fantasy elements:
Monstrous Regiment by Terry Pratchett (2003)
[not marketed as YA, but close enough, I think]
The Will of the Empress by Tamora Pierce (2005)
The Graceling Realms series by Kristin Cashore, starting with Graceling (2008)
Ash by Malinda Lo (2009)
The Leviathan series by Scott Westerfeld, starting with Leviathan (2009)
Every Day by David Levithan (2012)
Kaleidoscope: Diverse YA Science Fiction and Fantasy Stories, edited by Alisa Krasnostein & Julia Rios (2014)

Nonfiction for teens and parents:
Gender Born, Gender Made: Raising Healthy Gender-Nonconforming Children by Diane Ehrensaft (2011)
It Gets Better: Coming Out, Overcoming Bullying, and Creating a Life Worth Living, edited by Dan Savage and Terry Miller (2012)
Raising My Rainbow: Adventures in Raising a Fabulous, Gender Creative Son by Lori Duron (2013)
Speaking OUT: Queer Youth in Focus, photography by Rachelle Lee Smith (2014)
For Goodness Sex: Changing the Way We Talk to Teens About Sexuality, Values, and Health by Al Vernacchio (2014)
Beyond Magenta: Transgender Teens Speak Out, written and photographed by Susan Kuklin (2014)

Links to more lists
Goodreads Listopia: YA Short Stories and Collections with LGBT Themes
Goodreads Listopia: Alternative Families in Children's Literature
A Mighty Girl: True Colors: Mighty Girl Books for Pride Month
Chana Rothman's Rainbow Train Resources
Trans Youth Family Allies: Recommended Reading
Sarah and Ian Hoffman (authors of Jacob's New Dress): Recommended Reading
A blog by Patricia A. Sarles, which among other things includes lots of foreign language books: Gay-Themed Books for Children

Categories: Bookstore Blogs

Janet's Five Ways to Feel Grateful

Fri, 2014-11-28 08:30
Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline (HarperCollins, $14.99)
Not only is Orphan Train the 2015 One Read One Philadelphia book, but it is a story of flowering in the midst of a desert and life's full circle. "No substitute for the living [the ghosts of parents, true love, sister], perhaps, but I wasn't given a choice. I could take solace in their presence or I could fall down in a heap, lamenting what I'd lost. The ghosts whispered to me, telling me to go on."

You Are Here by Chris Hadfield (Little, Brown, $26.00)
Seeing the familiar from a completely different vantage point can often bring us to a different level of appreciation. Photographs of the earth from the international space station remind us of how small we and our worlds are.

The Blessing Cup by Patricia Polacco (Simon & Schuster, $17.99)
As in companion book The Keeping Quilt, the Blessing Cup is handed down to generations as a reminder of family survivors and their stories. The cover draws the reader in to partake of the same blessings.

The Barefoot Book of Mother and Daughter Tales by Josephine Evitts-Secker (Barefoot Books, $23.99)
Barefoot Books publishing took its name as an invitation to readers to step inside a story. Their books are beautifully illustrated and retold in magical language. Mother and Daughter Tales retell the stories of adventures, from different times and cultures, that a daughter must have to carve a life separate from her mother.

Etta and Otto and Russell and James by Emma Hooper (Simon & Schuster, $26.00)
Coming out in January, this is a story of the lives of three people and a wolf named James who accompanies 82-year-old Etta on her walk from eastern Canada to the coast. "I've gone. I've never seen the water, so I've gone there. Don't worry, I've left you the truck. I can walk. I will try to remember to come back.
Yours (always), Etta"

Janet Elfant, November 2014
Categories: Bookstore Blogs

Mariga's Five New Books Featuring Classic Literary Characters

Fri, 2014-11-21 23:13
Ruth's Journey by Donald McCaig (Atria Books, $26.00)
A smart, masterful piece of stand-alone fiction.

Longbourn by Jo Baker (Vintage Books, $15.95)

Edgar and the Tattle-Tale Heart by Jennifer Adams/Ron Stucki (Gibbs Smith, $16.99)

Edgar Gets Ready for Bed by Jennifer Adams/Ron Stucki (Gibbs Smith, $16.99)

Moriarty by Anthony Horowitz (HarperCollins, $26.99)

Mariga Temple-West, November 2014
Categories: Bookstore Blogs

Author Interview: Galen Longstreth

Tue, 2014-11-18 11:31
by Jennifer Sheffield

Hi, Galen! I’ve really been enjoying Yes, Let’s since we heard you read at the bookstore’s Kids’ Literary Festival in May. We took the book with us on a camping trip this summer, and it was a lot of fun to read and ponder, even inspiring a timed family photo in the woods!

I understand the story is based on a game you played growing up. What was the game like? How did you arrive at the idea to base a book on it?

At summer camp one summer I learned an improv game called Yes, Let’s. The version we played entailed a group of eight or ten campers. One would make a suggestion, something like, “Let’s run over to the creek!” And the whole group would respond, “Yes, let’s!” We always had to say yes, and we ran all over camp doing silly things. It was exciting and fun, and I loved the positive spirit of it. I still love saying, “Yes, let’s” when someone makes a suggestion for something to do.

Yes, Let’s is a wonderful exploration of hiking and nature. Did you do day trips like this a lot with your family? Do you do much hiking yourself these days?

My family did lots of hiking, camping, and day trips when I was growing up in Seattle. We spent a lot of time outdoors with our dog in the woods near our home or farther afield in the Cascade and Olympic Mountains. Now I’m a city girl and I love living without a car. The trade off is that I don’t get to the woods very often. My husband and I go on a backpacking trip every year. Our favorite so far on the east coast has been Bond Cliff in the White Mountains in New Hampshire.

What was the writing and publishing process like for you, as the writer of a picture book?

I wrote this book for fun while I was getting my MFA from Vermont College of Fine Arts. A person I knew in Portland, Oregon, who publishes comic books liked it and bought it. His company, Tugboat Press, published the book as a small, staple-bound paperback, and people liked it! Later I sold it to Tanglewood, and the hardcover edition was born. I’ve been very lucky to have had a great experience with my first book.

How much input did you have for the illustrations? Once the illustrator was assigned to the book, did you get to make requests/suggestions? If so, what kinds, and how did that process work?

Usually a writer doesn’t have any say about the illustrations, but Tugboat Press encouraged me to be involved with the illustrator for Yes, Let’s from the very beginning of the process. We auditioned different artists and chose Maris Wicks. I provided detailed illustration notes for her, and we talked about the number of characters, their personalities, and specific moments to include, like the dog shaking off after a swim and spraying the father. On top of all this, Maris added her own details to the pictures, and a lot of humor. I had ideas, but she’s the expert!

I love the distinct and well-illustrated personalities of the kids and parents. Are they at all like your own family? Is there someone who seems most like you?

In my family, there are three kids. My younger brother, my older sister, and me, right in the middle. I wanted the family in Yes, Let’s to have four kids so that every page would be bursting with energy – lots of activity, lots of personality. Also, my father grew up in a family with four children, and this always fascinated me when I was a child. What would that have been like? So it was fun to play with that in the book. The only explicit link between a character and someone in my family is the boy with the yoyo. On one of our family vacations my sister got a yoyo and did not stop playing with it for a solid week. She had that yoyo going in the hotel room, at the gas station, outside a restaurant waiting for a table – anywhere she could. It became one of our family stories and I love having been able to include it in Yes, Let’s.

Throughout the book, there are all sorts of little surprises -- details and connections from page to page, or on the inside covers. Micah (age 3) liked the morning and evening owl, and some of the other animals that repeat throughout the book; I also liked the lists and photos...and the various footwear issues. Were these surprises to you as well? Do you have any favorites?

Yes! Maris included so many wonderful surprises in the pictures. My favorite is the squirrel, which you have to watch carefully during the middle of the book.

Are there going to be more books that feature this family? Do you have current or upcoming projects you’d like to tell us about?

Maris and I would love to do another book together. We both have lots of projects going at once, though, so it hasn’t happened yet. I’m working on other picture books (including one biography), and a graphic novel about two best friends at summer camp.

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

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

When I was young and reading picture books, I loved Elizabeth by Liesel Moak Skorpen, Peabody by Rosemary Wells, and The Story of Ferdinand by Munro Leaf.

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

The Loopy Coop Hens: Oh No! A Fox! by Janet Morgan Stoeke made me laugh out loud. Cynthia Kadohata’s newest novel, Half a World Away, struck me for its captivatingly destructive and dysfunctional main character. And I love the simplicity and beautiful illustrations of William Low’s new picture book Daytime Nighttime.

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

At the time I was writing Yes, Let’s, and ever since, I’ve paid a lot of attention to successful rhyming picture books. I am in awe of Chicka Chicka Boom Boom by Bill Martin, Jr., and Roadwork by Sally Sutton. I also love Jamberry by Bruce Degen. These are all wonderful books to read aloud.

Thank you so much for joining us!

Thanks, Jen!

Galen Longstreth grew up on Mercer Island, Washington, where she spent a lot of time outdoors with her family and their dog, Sunday. One summer she learned a game called “Yes, Let’s,” which involved a lot of running and laughing. Galen has taught kindergarten, sold children’s books, and written book reviews. She now lives in Philadelphia and works at Children's Literacy Initiative. Yes, Let’s is her first book.

Thanks for reading!!! If you're local to the area, please let the bookstore know if you would like to order a copy of Yes, Let’s. 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

Sarah's Phive Phavorite Philly-Related Books

Sat, 2014-11-15 11:28
Buck by MK Asante (Spiegal & Grau, $25)
This book is awesome. It has such a uniquely Philly voice, that I can hear Asante's words in the voices of my neighbors and friends. I'd love it even if I lived anywhere else, but being in the city where it all happened gives the story dimension.

Philadelphia Noir by Carlin Romano (Akashic Books, $15.95)
I did not expect to love this. I am not a huge fan of mysteries, nor am I that into noir-style writing. But the voices in this anthology are extremely talented and as totally different as the neighborhoods they're writing about.

Autobiography of a Recovering Skinhead by Frank Meeink (Hawthorne Books, $15.95)
I was lucky enough to see Meeink speak at the Museum of American Jewish History last year, and his talk was enlightening and touching. The author writes about how easily kids (especially kids with rough home lives) can be indoctrinated into a culture based on hate and fear.

Silver Linings Playbook by Matthew Quick (Sarah Chrichon Books, $15)
I liked this book a lot. I thought the plot was good and the characters were pretty likable. What I especially loved were all of the references to the Eagles and various parts of the Philly landscape.

The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold (Bay Back Books, $15)
Listen - I have a love/hate relationship with this book. I think there are places that it is predictable, and overall, I prefer Lucky. BUT. The unusual point of view is huge. And the author does a really good job of capturing just how creepy the suburbs can be.

Sarah Rose, November 2014
Categories: Bookstore Blogs

Mariga's Five Spooky Picks for Halloween

Sat, 2014-10-18 22:26
Horrorstör by Grady Hendrix
(Quirk Books, $14.95)

Coraline by Neil Gaiman
(Harper Trophy, $8.99)

Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen
(Penguin Classics, $20.00)

The Dark by Lemony Snicket
(Little, Brown, $16.99)

Bats in the Band by Brian Lies
(Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $17.99)

Mariga Temple-West, October 2014
Categories: Bookstore Blogs

The Big Blue Marble Queer Literary Festival Starts Tonight!

Tue, 2014-10-14 16:37
Tuesday, October 14, - Sunday, October 19, 2014Six days of fiction, memoir, photography, music, and more, celebrating the LGBTQ (or, more inclusively, QUILTBAG) community, from kids to teens to adults.More details at, October 147:00 pm - Voices In and Out of the Closet
Reading with Sue Gilmore, author of The Peace Seeker: One Woman's Battle in the Church's War on Homosexuality, and Anne Balay, author of Steel Closets: Voices of Gay, Lesbian, and Transgender Steelworkers. One of the narrators from Steel Closets will be at the event to share his stories about working in a steel mill outside of Philadelphia.Wednesday, October 157:00 pm - Queer Youth: Life & Literature
Rachelle Lee Smith, creator of the photographic essay Speaking OUT: Queer Youth in Focus, with Victoria Brownworth of Tiny Satchel Press.Thursday, October 167:00 pm - Lesbian Lives, Lesbian Stories
Reading with Barbara Valletto, author of Pulse Points, Amy Schutzer, author of Spheres of Disturbance, and Anndee Hochman, author of Everyday Acts and Small Subversions.Friday, October 177:00 pm - Trans Oral History Project
Join Big Blue Marble as we welcome local participants in the Trans Oral History Project! They'll be screening clips from the archive, talking about the project, and facilitating discussion about both the challenges and urgent necessity of recording community histories ourselves!The Transgender Oral History Project is a community-driven effort to collect and share a diverse range of stories from within the transgender and gender variant communities. We accomplish this by promoting grassroots media projects, documenting trans people's experiences, maintaining a publicly accessible digital archive, and teaching media production skills.Saturday, October 181:00 pm - Youth Voices for Change (for middle grades and up)
Student diversity trainers from Strath Haven High School will talk about their work and how it is changing school culture.
Come hear how student leaders at a suburban public high school are creating a positive school culture through an award-winning program called the Diversity Trainers. Students in grades 9 - 12 lead workshops for their peers in high school and middle school on issues of race, class, gender identity & expression, sexual orientation and more. Through activities, videos, and conversations, 150 high school facilitators teach 900 middle school students about understanding bias, awareness of stereotypes and bullying, developing sensitivity, and how to be an ally. Student leaders will share their personal experiences with the group and how you can implement this type of program in your school.7:00 pm - Blood and Wine Tour
Join two of the country's hottest lesbian novelists as their tour blows through Philly. Erotica, desire, vampires, lust, want, and need - it'll be a Hot Saturday night at Big Blue Marble! Hosted by Mt. Airy's own Renee Bess.Sunday, October 1911:00 am - Great LGBTQ (or, more inclusively, QUILTBAG) books for kids and teens
A discussion with Big Blue Marble staffer Jennifer Sheffield.
Categories: Bookstore Blogs

Sarah’s Top Five Fictional Girl Characters Who Rule Kid Lit

Tue, 2014-09-30 17:49
Ramona Quimby, Age 8 by Beverly Cleary
(HarperCollins, $6.99)

I grew up with Ramona Quimby and I still really like these books. Even more than I like reading them myself, I like listening to the audiobooks which are read delightfully by Stockard Channing.

Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh
(Random House, $6.99)

I reread this book every couple of years and I’ve given it away as a gift enough times to have bought a carton of books. This book holds up really well over time and the lessons about truth and friendship are as valid and important as they were the first time I read this.

Pippi Longstocking by Astrid Lindgren
(Penguin, $7.99)

When I was a kid I wanted to BE Pippi Longstocking. She can lift her horse one-handed and her dad is a pirate. She lives alone with no adult supervision. A great book for any day you could use a good laugh.

Matilda by Roald Dahl (Penguin, $6.99)
Most smart kids will relate to the tyranny of unreasonable adults in this book. Roald Dahl does a good job of being sympathetic without patronizing. Despite being 25 years old, this book remains timely and relevant.

Junie B. Jones and the Mushy Gushy Valentine by Barbara Park
(Random House, $4.99)

These books were written way after I was a kid, but I read them to my little cousins and with each new Junie B. adventure, we giggled and rooted for everything to come up happily ever after once more. There are a ton of these books, but Mushy Gushy Valentine is my fave.

Sarah Rose, September 2014
Categories: Bookstore Blogs


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