Holiday Gift Guide: Out of Print Clothing

December 10, 2011

It is that time of year again folks. Time to make your list, check it twice, and freak out about how on earth you are going to think of gifts for everyone on said list. Well dear friends, I bring good news (of great joy), Out of Print Clothing recently launched their new Children’s Line !

What does this mean? What am I saying? How is this helpful? Let me explain…

Out of Print Clothing is a [really wonderful] company that makes t-shirts, sweatshirts, iphone cases, tote bags, stationary, journals, etc., using the classic cover art from all of your old favorite books. Now, it is every literature geek’s dream to be fully decked out, from head to toe, in their favorite authors, and Out of Print is making that dream a reality. I own the Pride & Prejudice t-shirt (obviously), as well as the ridiculously comfortable Catcher in the Rye fleece. Not to mention that their Great Gatsby tote-bag, and Wonderful Wizard of Oz long-sleeved tee are on my personal Christmas wish-list. And what is even more wonderful is that, for every item you purchase, Out of Print donates one book to a community in need through Books for Africa.

I had the amazing opportunity to speak with the co-founder of this fabulous company last spring, to help their team narrow down the list of Children’s titles for their new and improved Kids’ line. We discussed old classics, new favorites, and everything in between.

And I am so excited to announce that the updated line for little ones has officially launched! I couldn’t be more pleased with Out of Print’s final collection of tees. It is so exciting to see so many familiar titles! I love how they chose a wide variety of old and new favorites; from Charlotte’s Web, The Very Hungry Caterpillar and Corduroy, to In the Night Kitchen and Olivia. 

Fun Fact: Did you know that this picture book was banned in parts of the U.S. because the Police are depicted as pigs?

"Miss Binney stood in front of her class and began to read aloud from Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel, a book that was a favorite of Ramona's because, unlike so many books for her age, it was neither quiet and sleepy nor sweet and pretty" - Ramona the Pest


So if you are searching for great gifts to give to the little (or big) bookworms in your life, look no further than Out of Print!

Not only will you give them the opportunity to wear their favorite titles, you will also be giving them quality products & comfortable clothes, as well as the satisfaction of donating a book to a community in need!



Very Hairy Bear

November 18, 2011

Title: Very Hairy Bear
Author: Alice Schertle
Illustrator: Matt Phelan
Best for Age: 0-4
ISBN: 9780547594071
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (2011)
List Price: Board Book, $7.99

I’m not going to lie… I kind of have a thing for bears. I mean, not in real life… I’ve actually never encountered a bear in real life but I hear that it is terrifying. No, I have a thing for picture books about bears. They are always adorable. It is like it is some sort of literary rule. If you want to write a cute book that sells well and melts hearts, just add a bear. Case in point: Winnie-the-Pooh.

And Very Hairy Bear, by Alice Schertle, is no exception. This un-bear-ably (sorry… I had to) cute book was originally published in 2007, but the brilliant people over at Houghton Mifflin Harcourt decided to reprint it as a more baby-friendly board book. Now don’t get me wrong, older readers (ages 4-6) will definitely still enjoy Very Hairy Bear as well, and you can still get the larger hardcover version. But I couldn’t agree more with HMH’s decision to give this tale a new format. Some picture books are just meant to be printed on sturdy cardboard and held by tiny slobbery hands.

Schertle’s story is part tongue twister, part bed-time book, and 100% pure poetry.

“Deep in the green gorgeous wood lives a boulder-big bear with shaggy, raggy, brownbear hair everywhere… except on his no-hair nose.

Each spring, when the silver salmon leap into the air, fisherbear is there to catch them.

He stands in the river with his brown coat dripping. A very hairy bear doesn’t care that he’s wet.

Kerplunk! He’ll even dunk his no-hair nose. In it goes when he smells fish!”

I love Schertle’s descriptive language, as well as her strategic yet playful use of alliteration and rhyme. Many authors can go overboard when it comes to rhyming, the effect of which is oftentimes abrasive to the ear or impossible to get through. Schertle edited herself well, and thus produced a text that is enjoyable and easy to read because it presents a natural rhythm for its reader.

Matt Phelan’s pastel-and-pencil illustrations are beautifully light and airy. Each page is packed with colors, and scenes from nature, that harken to the four seasons that Schertle’s bear explores. Phelan blithely plays with perspective and point of view. For example, during the Fall when the Very Hairy Bear delights in a squirrel’s stash of acorns, Phelan uses gorgeous hues of yellows, reds, and oranges to complete an illustration of squirrels looking down a tree-trunk at the chubby, acorn-eating, bear below.

I believe that Alice Schertle and Matt Phelan’s Very Hairy Bear is a true classic in the making. And it is the perfect board book to give to new parents, or to a little loved one this holiday season!

Other Bear Books I Adore:


A Visitor For Bear, by Bonny Becker

The Bear Who Shared, by Catherine Rayner

Bear Wants More, by Karma Wilson (this is a really great series!)


Me… Jane

May 12, 2011

Title: Me… Jane
Author: Patrick McDonnell
Illustrator: Patrick McDonnell
Best for Age: 4-8
ISBN: 9780316045469
Publisher: Little Brown (2011)
List Price: Hardcover, $15.99

Buy on Amazon

So… I’m pretty much famous. Why? Well, it is not for my amazing cupcake-baking abilities. Not yet at least. I’m one step closer to fame because I got to write a review for the San Diego Union Tribune (Page F4, Sunday May 22nd)! I reviewed Me…Jane, Patrick McDonnell’s latest picture book about Jane Goodall. Below is the review I wrote for the Union Tribune. It was hard to write a review for a newspaper; because, as I quickly learned, it could only be 150 words or so. Go ahead and look at my previous reviews on this blog, I can guarantee that NONE of them are anywhere near 150 words. I can’t help it. I’m loquacious. And when I love a book, I like to yammer on and on about it. So to make up for the short review, I have a slew of pictures from the book itself. McDonnell’s illustrations are just too lovely not to show off. Enjoy!

“Me…Jane is a charming introduction to the inspiring life of Jane Goodall. This shy little biography, written and illustrated by Patrick McDonnell (the creator of the comic strip MUTTS), is disguised as a simple and sweet bedtime story, perfect for young readers aged four to eight. McDonnell effortlessly portrays the childhood of a girl named Jane, and the adventures she encounters with her favorite stuffed toy, a chimpanzee by the name of Jubilee. This picture book tenderly depicts Jane’s early appreciation for, and unrelenting curiosity regarding, nature, animals, and Africa. McDonnell’s illustrations are just as heartwarming as his words. Each page presents a combination of his classic cartoon sketches, as well as various ornamental engravings that help evoke Jane’s passion for detailed scientific observations of the natural world. McDonnell also includes a number of Jane Goodall’s own original drawings from her youth. Simple, but deeply inspiring, Me…Jane is a true delight!

Want to check out another McDonnell book that I adore? Take a peek at  Hug Time!


CYRM 2010-2011 Winners!

May 1, 2011

The California Young Reader Medal winners have been announced!

2010-2011 Winners!

Primary: Martina the Beautiful Cockroach (Deedy)

Intermediate: Zorgamazoo (Weston)

Middle School/Junior High: Cracker! (Kadohata)

Young Adult: The Hunger Games (Collins)

Picture Book for Older Readers: John, Paul, George & Ben (Smith)

To learn more about the CYRM program, and for a full list of the 2010-2011 nominees, as well as the 2011-2012 nominees, click here!


Sticky, Chewy, Messy, Gooey Treats for Kids

April 18, 2011

Title: Sticky, Chewy, Messy, Gooey Treats for Kids
Author: Jill O’Connor
Photographer: Leigh Beisch
Best for Age: 5-12
ISBN: 9780811867825
Publisher: Chronicle (2009)
List Price: Spiral-bound, $19.95

Buy on Amazon

When I’m not poring over children’s books, I’m usually pouring out the contents of various mixing bowls into cupcake pans. I absolutely love to bake! So you can just imagine how excited I get about cook books for kids! They are, after all, the intersection of my passion for pastry and my love for children’s literature.

I have very fond memories of the beautiful, 80’s-tastic, cook book you see to your left. My grandparents gave it to my older sister for her birthday in 1990, and it quickly became one of our favorites. Now, Meghan is brilliant and meticulous, and always has been. I, on the other hand, came out of the womb impatient and hungry, and not much has changed. So as I recall, she was the one who actually made most of these treats for us (probably while I perfected my drum solos on the pots and pan), but I remember reading this cook book cover to cover, as though it were a picture book, because I loved the illustrations so much. Our favorite recipes were for the raisin cookies, and for the melted ham and cheese sandwiches.

To take this discussion of culinary arts for kids back a generation further, you will see my mom’s first cook book to your right. Her older sister, my lovely Aunt Chris, gave her this copy of Better Homes and Gardens’ Junior Cook Book: For the Hostess & Host of Tomorrow in 1965.  Now, I have always been quite certain that I was born in the wrong era; therefore, one shouldn’t be surprised that I am completely in love with this cook book. It is so fun to look through! The photos and illustrations alone will make you think you’re in an episode of Mad Men. But most of the recipes are really good too, my sister an I loved to make the “Lime Fizz” when we were younger. My mom pointed out that this was before America got lazy and obsessed with the word “instant.” She showed me another cook book of hers from a few years later that actually included “1 box of yellow cake mix” in a list of ingredients. But this book is definitely dated; for example, my sister and I were always really grossed out by the “salads” in the vegetables section. “Banana-Roll Salad” with lettuce, mayonnaise, canned grapefruit, and walnuts? Or how about the “Peter Rabbit Salad” with lettuce leaves, cloves, canned pear halves, maraschino cherries and marshmallows? Or even the fancy “Pineapple Double Ring,” with lettuce, canned pineapple, and even more maraschino cherries and walnuts? Ya… no thank you…

I am determined to own these piggie containers, if you find them please let me know where!

I say all of this merely to illustrate that having a good kids cook book is a great way to fill time on the weekends or after school, get kids away from the television, and make memories. And if you are looking for a great book of kid-friendly recipes, you can’t go wrong with Jill O’Connor’s Sticky, Chewy, Messy, Gooey Treats for Kids. Parents, do not fear, these recipes are not as messy as they advertise. But I should warn readers that this is not a cook book for just kids; young chefs will definitely need help from their parents with these recipes. They aren’t too tricky or advanced by any means, but they certainly require adult supervision.

O’Connor’s recipes for various breakfast, after-school, and party treats are delicious and fun. From “Cinnamon Toast Soldiers with Mostly McIntosh Sauce” to “Banana Montana After-School Cake,” kids will love these fantastic snacks. O’Connor provides not only easy instructions for each of her 30 recipes, but she also gives them silly names that are often borrowed from popular children’s stories. I would have to say my favorite recipe from the book would be the “Quickberry! Quackberry! Blackberry-Apple Crumble” (those familiar with Jamberry, by Bruce Degan, should recognize the name). And if you have some little princesses who love the Pinkalicious books by Victoria and Elizabeth Kann  (despite my rather vocal dislike for the series), you can find a recipe for “Pinkalicious Princess Cupcakes” on page 73. O’Connor also provides parents and blooming chefs with helpful explanations, hints and tricks for common baking problems; for example, according to the author, the key to fail-proof “Ghostly Meringues”  is a VERY cold metal mixing bowl and a little lemon juice.

I think what I love most about this cook book is the quotes from O’Connor’s own kids, nieces, and nephews. For example, she writes that Sam Farnsworth, age 10, said while making meringues, “This is what clouds should taste like.” Or seven-year-old  Emma Galeckas’ wise words: “When I grow up, I want to be a baker and the weather girl.”

Like ALL of the books Chronicle publishes, Sticky, Chewy, Messy, Gooey Treats for Kids, is beautiful to look at. Chronicle is a very visual and artistic independent publishing house. Which means that they have complete freedom to produce exactly what they want, and what they want to produce are amazingly gorgeous books that are little works of art in and of themselves. This cook book’s lay-flat, spiral binding, is practical and sturdy, but the scalloped pages, recurring use of doily prints, and colorful, floral-fabric-esque graphics make this book positively pretty. Not to mention that Leigh Beisch’s photography will have you drooling all over each page.

So if you are looking for an excuse to get your kid in the kitchen with you, or even just to eat something delicious, pick up a copy of Jill O’Connor’s Sticky, Chewy, Messy, Gooey Treats for Kids!

Want a more grown-up version? Get O’Connor’s original cook book, simply titled Sticky, Chewy, Messy, Gooey: Desserts for the Serious Sweet Tooth.

Looking for a picture book about baking? I can’t say enough good things about This Little Bunny Can Bake, by Janet Stein. It is SO adorable!


Miss Rumphius

April 9, 2011

Title: Miss Rumphius
Author: Barbara Cooney
Illustrator: Barbara Cooney
Best for Age: 4-8
ISBN: 9780140505399
Publisher: Puffin (1985)
List Price: Paperback, $7.99

Buy on Amazon

In the spirit of spring, I just had to tell you all about Miss Rumphius!

This lovely picture book, written and illustrated by Barbara Cooney, is one of my favorite springtime stories from when I was little. Although it was published a good 25 years ago, people still come into my bookstore looking for it. Probably because it is amazing. Or maybe because it is a story about growing up, traveling the globe, and making the world a more beautiful place. Or perhaps, they seek it out because it is a story about lupines, blue and purple and rose-colored lupines, but I will get to that later.

Cooney writes about a little girl who lives in a city by the sea. This little girl is named Alice, and she works with her grandfather (an artist, who every now and then lets her paint the skies into his pictures). Alice loves to hear her grandfather’s stories of faraway places, and she always tells him, “When I grow up, I too will go to faraway places, and when I grow old, I too will live beside the sea.” But her grandfather responds by saying that she must do a third thing, she must do something to make the world more beautiful.

Alice grows up, and Cooney writes about her adventures to tropical isles, through jungles and deserts, and to tall mountains where the snow never melts.

But as Alice gets older, she realizes it is time for her to find her place by the sea:

From the porch of her new house Miss Rumphius watched the sun come up; she watched it cross the heavens and sparkle on the water; and she saw it set in glory in the evening. She started a little garden among the rocks that surrounded her house, and she planted flower seeds in the stony ground. Miss Rumphius was almost perfectly happy. “But there is still one more thing I have to do,” she said. “I have to do something to make the world more beautiful.” But what? “The world already is pretty nice,” she thought, looking out over the ocean.

The following spring, Miss Rumphius is surprised to find that the blue and purple and rose-colored lupines that she had planted popped up not only in her garden but over the hill from her house as well. “‘I don’t believe my eyes!’ she said as she knelt in delight. ‘It was the wind that brought the seeds from my garden here! And the birds must have helped!’ Then Miss Rumphius had a wonderful idea!”

She decided to scatter lupine seeds all over her town that summer. With her pockets heavy with seeds, she wandered over fields and pastures, along highways and down country lanes sowing lupines.

When spring arrived there were blue, purple, and rose-colored lupines everywhere! Miss Rumphius, or The Lupine Lady as she came to be known as, had finally done the third, and most difficult thing! She made the world more beautiful!

Barbara Cooney’s story is interesting, unique, and inspiring, and her illustrations are gorgeous! If you are looking for a great springtime picture book, or really just a fabulous tale for anytime of the year, be sure to pick up Miss Rumphius!

[This is my favorite illustration from the whole book, if I could have it framed I would. I just had to include it here!]

Like Cooney’s paintings as much as I do? Check out her illustrations for Alice Mclerran’s Roxaboxen, another great picture book about adventure, childhood imaginations, and growing up.


A Sick Day for Amos McGee

March 24, 2011

Title: A Sick Day for Amos McGee
Author: Philip C. Stead
Illustrator: Erin Stead
Best for Age: 4-8
ISBN: 9781596434028
Publisher: Roaring Brook Press (2010)
List Price: Hardcover, $16.99

Buy on Amazon

If you are going to buy ONE picture book this year, one, single, solitary picture book, I would advise you to purchase A Sick Day for Amos McGee, by Philip & Erin Stead. This book is so amazing, so adorable, so entirely child-friendly and perfect, that I honestly don’t even know how to review it.

I suppose I should start by saying that I am not alone in praising this heartwarming and shy little story. The husband and wife team behind A Sick Day for Amos McGee actually took home the Caldecott Medal this year (the much-coveted honor awarded annually to the artist of the most distinguished American picture book for children).

Philip’s story, about a zoo-keeper’s relationships with his friends (the elephant, the owl, the penguin, the rhinoceros, and the tortoise), is paired perfectly with his wife’s award-winning illustrations. As you follow Amos’ daily routine at the zoo, visiting with each animal, it becomes quite apparent that this is a tale about true friendship:

He would play chess with the elephant (who thought and thought before making a move), run races with the tortoise (who never ever lost), sit quietly with the penguin (who was very shy), lend a handkerchief to the rhinoceros (who always had a runny nose), and, at sunset, read stories to the owl (who was afraid of the dark).

However, this is also a lesson about reciprocity, for readers see that when Amos has to stay home sick one afternoon, his friends come to visit him instead!

As all of the animals set out to find Amos, Stead purposefully leaves a few pages without words. Young readers have the opportunity to fill in the story themselves by examining Erin’s beautiful illustrations, which carry the plot as the animals leave the zoo, wait for the bus, and ride it across town.

As you can see, Erin’s illustrations are truly breathtaking. She creates her delicate scenes using woodblocking and pencil, and they are chock full of charm. Erin brings each animal to life, each with their own distinct personality (for example, how the penguin always wears a pair of bright red socks). Her attention to detail is amazing. Not only are the penciled facial features on Amos and the animals exceedingly lifelike, but the small additions she makes to each scene are fun to look for as well. With each page you will find something new to delight in, from the delicate flowers in the background, to the little mouse or bird that mimic whatever Amos or the animals do.

This is, hands down, my favorite book of this year. It is sweet, endearing, and ultimately timeless. And the best part is that it leaves readers feeling warm and cozy inside. Perfect for reading out loud, and great for bedtime, A Sick Day for Amos McGee is an absolute winner. Go check it out!