Saturday, December 6, 2008

Favorite Christmas Stories?

Every December, my family gets out all of our Christmas books, and I read the picture books to my little brothers (who aren't little at all anymore, at 12 and 15!) and go through "The Best Christmas Stories Ever," ideally with some Christmas music playing in the background. I was just thinking this morning how I haven't read any of these yet this year, and that tonight would be a good night to curl up with a blanket and some hot chocolate and The Gift of the Magi or Eloise at Christmastime--my two favorites, if I had to choose.

What are some of your favorite Christmas stories?

Book Angels

Thanks to everyone who came to help us wrap last night! There are lots of packages under our tree now for the kids at Klingberg. There are still many names on the tree, though, so if you haven't had a chance to stop by, there's still time! We'll make sure they all get wrapped and delivered.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Become a Book Angel!

Stop by The Alphabet Garden to choose a tag from our Giving Tree. Each gift tag has the name, age, and gender of a child in need, as well as two books each child would like. Please consider helping out a child in need this holiday season by choosing a tag, purchasing the books requested and donating them to our Book Angel Program. We'll be donating the books to the Klingberg Family Centers.

Join us for the wrapping party on Friday, December 5th!

Save 25% on books purchased for the Book Angel Program.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

My Little Girl

Those of you who remember Julia Denos from when she worked at The Alphabet Garden might be interested to know that she has illustrated another book. Written by Tim McGraw, My Little Girl tells the story of a little girl's day out with her dad and the fun they have just being together.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

A Murder for Her Majesty

We all have them. Those books we love, but no one else seems to have heard of. A Murder for Her Majesty is one of mine. I read this book every year, preferably all in one sitting so as to be fully immersed, and practically have it memorized by now. I think it's a perfect comfort read--set in London, starring an orphan girl, full of mystery and choir music and Latin homework (Latin homework is much more fun in books than in real life)... What could be better?

What are your favorite lesser-known books?

Saturday, October 18, 2008

The Dog Who Belonged to No One

I have another cozy fall book for you today. This one is about a dog who, as the title says, belonged to no one, and a "little slip of a girl named Lia" who spends her time helping her parents in their bakery. Both dog and girl are lonely, with no one in particular to call a friend, until they meet one rainy night. Amy Hest tells their story in an interesting parallel fashion--a bit about the dog, a bit about the girl, and so on until their paths cross. There's nothing really surprising about the plot, but it's the kind of story I would enjoy reading to a child on a rainy day while curled up on a comfy chair with a blanket and maybe some homemade cookies fresh out of the oven. A sweet and cozy kind of book.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Happy Birthday, Paddington!

Paddington Bear turns 50 today! Have some marmalade to celebrate.

Friday, October 10, 2008

The Little Yellow Leaf

"It was autumn. In the hush of the forest a lone yellow leaf clung to the branch of a great oak tree." So begins Carin Berger's story of The Little Yellow Leaf. This leaf is afraid to fall like all the other leaves. He insists he's "not ready," as the autumn passes and snow falls. But then he notices another leaf, a little red leaf, still hanging on just like him, and together they are finally able to let go.

I think the reason I like this story so much is because I can so relate to that little yellow leaf, feeling like I'm not ready. And I know the reassurance that comes of finding a friend who feels the same way. But I can also imagine not liking this book if it weren't so well done--if the text were not as gentle or the illustrations so original. I love that mixed-media style--cut paper and paint and probably some materials I don't know enough to identify--and I love how these illustrations capture the feel of fall and early winter.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Nancy Elizabeth Wallace

We were pleased to have Nancy Elizabeth Wallace visit us last week. She is the author and illustrator of many picture books, including Leaves! Leaves! Leaves!; Apples, Apples, Apples; Paperwhite; Fly, Monarch! Fly!; Alphabet House; Look! Look! Look!; and many more.
During her visit, Ms. Wallace showed us some of the different kinds of paper she uses, including those recycled paper things you get with coffee--she used one of those for a road in one of her books.The kids who attended were also able to try their hand at some paper art by making butterfly magnets.

Friday, September 26, 2008

NEIBA Trade Show

Last weekend I was given the opportunity to attend the New England Independent Booksellers' Association Trade Show with Karlene and Leslie. We met lots of authors and got lots of free books and generally had a fabulous time!

The trade show was held at the Hynes Convention Center, which is connected to the Sheraton hotel and a very large mall. (Actually, the whole place was very large. I probably would have gotten lost really easily had I been by myself!) Our room at the Sheraton was on the twelfth floor, and I enjoyed watching the people on the streets below and imagining about them (which I think had something to do with my being surrounded by authors and books.)
The highlights of the first day revolved around meals. We had both the Awards Luncheon and the Children's Book Dinner. The authors who spoke at lunch (and complimentary copies of whose books we received) included Alice Hoffman, Nathaniel Philbrick, Tomie dePaola, and David Macaulay. Tomie dePaola was a definite treat--he had the room of booksellers mesmerized by his reading of one of the stories from his book, Front Porch Tales & North Country Whoppers.

After lunch we went to a couple of workshops, and soon it was time for dinner. I'd been looking forward to this dinner ever since I knew we were going, because two of my favorite authors were to attend--Jeanne Birdsall, author of The Penderwicks andThe Penderwicks on Gardam Street; and Norton Juster, author of, among other things, The Phantom Tollbooth, which is one of my family's favorites! What I didn't know until that day was that our friends at Scholastic had invited us to sit at one of their tables--the very table at which Norton Juster was seated!

Here is a shot of the table (note the SweetTarts and rubber ducks and more free books!):And here, to my delight, are Mr. Juster and I!
As an icebreaker, we had a little children's book trivia game. There were two envelopes on each table--one marked "question," one with "answer." The question one had the first lines of two children's books, and we had to guess what books they were from. I am proud to report that I knew more of the answers than anyone else at the table. We traded twice with other tables, so we guessed at a total of six first lines, and I knew three of them--The Book Thief, From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, and The Secret Garden. Other people knew one or two--Karlene got Hoot. Needless to say, I loved this game.

Day #2: The trade show itself!
Basically, our second day consisted of walking around and talking to vendors and finding new things to share with all of you. (We got some really fun reading glasses... plaid and animal print and striped and solid.) At 1:00 we started lining up for more signed books, and by 3:30 we were happily laden with books and ready for lunch!After lunch it was time for another workshop or two, and then the Author Reception, where we got, you guessed it, more books! Back at home the next day we were all sore from carrying all the books--and we now have enough to read to last us several months!

Saturday, September 6, 2008


Congratulations to Mary Margaret, winner of the Summer Sunshine Rays of Reading grand prize!

And thanks to all the kids who made our Summer Reading Program a big success. You guys did a great job reading this summer--altogether, you read 543 books!

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Summer Reading Program Finale!

This is the last week to come in and report the books you've read this summer. Next Saturday, August 23rd, at noon, we will hold an End of Summer Celebration. Join us for a book signing with M.W. Penn, author of Sidney the Silly Who Only Eats 6; face painting; a craft activity; and of course, the grand prize drawing of a $50 gift certificate to The Alphabet Garden!

Mark your calendars now and plan to come out for this fun event!

Friday, August 1, 2008

Beach Reading

I'm going on vacation in a few weeks, and I'll need to stock up on a few good books for the beach. So tell me, what have you read this summer? Which books have you loved? What have you hated? I have some ideas, but I'm eager to hear your suggestions!

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Star Wars: The Clone Wars

So apparently there's a new Star Wars movie coming out? An animated one? I guess I'm a little out of the loop, because I didn't know about it until I checked all these books in. We have a Clone Wars Galactic Photobook, Clone Wars chapter books for two different levels, two early-reader books (levels 1 and 2), an activity book, a sticker book, a picture book, and The Clone Wars: The Visual Guide! Wow. My brothers would have gone crazy for these back in their Star Wars-obsessed phase.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Mercy Watson Thinks Like a Pig

Kate DiCamillo's latest addition to the Mercy Watson series arrived at The Alphabet Garden this week.

Mercy is up to her usual antics in book 5, driving Eugenia crazy and endearing herself to everyone else. In this book, Eugenia calls Animal Control to take care of Mercy once and for all. As this "Unmentionable Horror" approaches, the Watsons fret over how to save Mercy, who disappears to the neighbors' house for a tea party and, as usual, proves herself a "porcine wonder" who doesn't need rescuing!

I always love Kate DiCamillo's writing, but Chris Van Dusen's artwork is what really makes this book. He captures every character perfectly!

Thursday, June 26, 2008


I just read this article (thanks to Fuse #8 for the link) expressing the comfort and importance of something I've never been able to accomplish: the booknap. Simply put, a booknap is when you read until you fall asleep. The article states, "If you set your book or magazine aside, rolled over and slept you have not booknapped. The experience should be seamless. One moment you are reading sleepily, the next you wake up with messy hair and a strange taste in your mouth." Like I said, this is not something I have ever experienced.

I remember once hearing an aunt say that she had fallen asleep while reading, and wondering how that was possible. I just can't let go of a story (even if I've read it many times before) enough to fall asleep in the middle. Am I missing out? Feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments section.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Summer Sunshine Rays of Reading

The sun is shining, birds are singing, someone is jamming on a guitar in the courtyard, and I've drawn the name of our first weekly prize winner for this year's summer reading program at The Alphabet Garden! Summer is one of my favorite times to work at The Alphabet Garden; I love it when kids come in excited to write down more books, and it's always fun to call the prize winners!

The Summer Sunshine Rays of Reading program is open to all students entering grades K-12 in the fall of 2008. For each book read between June 15th and August 23rd, 2008, a sun-shaped card with the name of the child and the name of the book will be added to our store window. Each sun with equal one entry for our prizes. Come in often to report books and earn chances to win weekly prizes. Weekly prizes will be drawn each Saturday, June 21st through August 16th, and the winner of the grand prize, a $50 gift certificate to The Alphabet Garden, will be selected on Saturday, August 23rd, 2008.

Stop by soon to register!

Saturday, June 14, 2008

A Babysitter for Billy Bear

We just got in A Babysitter for Billy Bear, by Miriam Moss; it is a sweet book that would be great for preparing a young child for the experience of staying home with a babysitter for the first time. Moss's gentle prose follows Billy Bear through the evening as his mother gets him ready for bed and then goes to her pottery class, leaving him with a friend. He can't sleep, and goes downstairs, telling the babysitter he is worried his mother won't be able to find her way home in the dark. She reassures him, showing him the streetlights and the moon and stars, and he goes to sleep. Nothing groundbreaking, but the story would help to get a child comfortable with the idea of going to bed without Mom.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Spring Events

We have a number of fun events coming up at The Alphabet Garden!

The first is our Teachers Only Night on May 21st from 6:00-8:00 PM. There will be refreshments; door prizes; and a 20% discount; as well as guest speaker Susannah Richards, assistant professor of reading/language arts at Eastern Connecticut State University; and author Bob Shea, author of the picture book Big Plans. Please call (203) 439-7766 to RSVP.

On Thursday, May 29th, at 4:00 PM, we are excited to welcome Billy Steers, author of the Tractor Mac books. Come meet the author and make a fun craft! Call to reserve a signed Tractor Mac book.

And on Thursday, June 12th, at 4:00 PM, we will be visited by Bill Thomson, illustrator of Karate Hour, Building with Dad, and most recently, Baseball Hour. These books would make great gifts for Father's Day, teachers, coaches, and kids!

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Leslie Bulion

Leslie Bulion joined us on Thursday, April 10th, for a signing of her latest book, The Trouble with Rules. In the book, the kids have a great time drawing with chalk on the road in their neighborhood. During Ms. Bulion's visit to our store, the kids who attended got creative drawing chalk pictures on some fake pavement indoors!

Thursday, April 3, 2008

A Visitor for Bear

Bear has a sign on his door: "No visitors allowed." One day a mouse comes for a visit. Bear tells him he is against the rule--no visitors allowed! The mouse, however, is persistent. Finally Bear gives in to the mouse's request for a fire in the fireplace and a cup of tea--on the condition that the mouse leave immediately after. But Bear is in for a surprise. The mouse compliments his fire and his headstand skills and laughs at his jokes! Suddenly visitors don't seem like such a bad idea, after all. The noble mouse, however, is determined to hold up his end of the bargain by leaving right away.
"Don't go!" wailed Bear, throwing his body across the path.
"But I gave you my word," said the mouse, pointing at the "No Visitors" sign.
"Oh, that!" cried Bear, pulling down the sign and tearing it up. "That's for salesmen. Not for friends."
And... they all lived happily ever after.

I don't think there is anything about this book I don't like. It would be fun to read aloud, exaggerating Bear's comically dramatic responses to finding the mouse, yet again, in his house. And the illustrations are lovely--large, simple, warm and homey.

Best suited for ages 2-5.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Puffin Classics

Looking for a classic? Puffin has just released new paperback editions of several children's classics. Buy two and get a free tote bag!

Titles include:

Little Women, by Louisa May Alcott
The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, by Mark Twain
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, by Mark Twain
King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table, by Roger Lancelyn Green
The Secret Garden, by Frances Hodgson Burnett
Journey to the Centre of the Earth, by Jules Verne
A Little Princess, by Frances Hodgson Burnett
The Wizard of Oz, by L. Frank Baum
Call of the Wild, by Jack London
Black Beauty, by Anna Sewell
Treasure Island, by Robert Louis Stevenson
The Wind in the Willows, by Kenneth Grahame

Each book has a nicely illustrated cover and an introduction by a current children's/YA author.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Snoring Beauty

Snoring Beauty, by Bruce Hale, is a fun retelling of the story of Sleeping Beauty. Instead of pricking her finger on a spinning wheel, the princess is run over by a pie cart and turned into a sleeping dragon--and must be awakened by a quince!

Friday, March 14, 2008

Violet the Pilot

Violet isn't like the other kids at her school. She wears greasy coveralls and plays with wrenches instead of dolls. Violet is a mechanical genius who likes to build flying machines in her spare time out of parts she scavenges from the junkyard next door. Her parents don't mind, as long as she wears a sweater and doesn't crash into the house, but the rest of the town just thinks she's weird until one day she and her flying machine are in exactly the right place at the right time.

Violet the Pilot is brightly colored and cheerful; a fun read for kids 5 and up!

Tuesday, March 11, 2008


Coming in May: a new book by Gail Carson Levine! So very exciting. Read more at Sarah Miller's blog and go wild.

The Willoughbys

Lois Lowry, author of The Giver and Number the Stars, among others, has written a new book. The Willoughbys are an old-fashioned family: four children, neighbors to a mysterious man on whose front steps they leave the baby they found on their stoop--with the addition of a ransom note... The book is basically a parody of children's classics. Think Hansel and Gretel combined with Mary Poppins and The Bobbsey Twins, with references to Heidi, James and the Giant Peach, and Jane Eyre, just to name a few. It comes complete with a tongue-in-cheek glossary and bibliography. The entry for Mary Poppins states:
Mary Poppins is not at all like the cheerful, spritely movie person played by Julie Andrews. She is a stern, cross, vain and mysterious nanny who arrives on the wind at the home of the Banks family in London to care for their four children... Ms. Poppins does not sing, ever, and would not like being portrayed as someone who did.
So true.

Monday, March 3, 2008

For the Parents Who Are Best at Everything!

Mom and Dad are no longer left out of the fun. Written in the same style as The Boys' Book and The Girls' Book, we now have The Moms' Book and The Dads' Book! These books claim to have "gathered the most essential tricks of the trade from some of the world's best [parents]. The result: a humorous handbook full of wisdom and wit."

For moms: You'll find sections on everything from waking kids up in the morning and putting them to bed at night to "things not to do to your kids," as well as party planning, cooking, shopping, and finding time for yourself.

For dads: Sections such as "How to Change a Diaper," "How to Avoid Changing a Dirty Diaper," "How to Teach Your Child to Ride a Bike," "Ten Best Threats," "Pocket Money--What it Will Cost You!" and "Ten Best Bribes."

These would make great Mother's Day, Father's Day or baby shower gifts.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

What Are You Reading?

I am not reading this year with nearly the momentum I had last year (college seems to have cut down a bit on my perceived reading time), but Daddy-Long-Legs, by Jean Webster, only took me a day to finish. The whole book is written in the form of letters from an orphan girl to her anonymous benefactor, the man who is paying her way to college. She only caught a brief glimpse of him once, so all she knows of him is that he is tall. And rich. And she has been told he doesn't like girls. As her repayment for his generosity, she is ordered to write him a letter every month, to which she should not expect a response. Knowing so little of him, least of all his name, she has some trouble coming up with a name to address her letters to:
I suppose I might call you Dear Mr. Girl-Hater. Only that's sort of insulting to me. Or Dear Mr. Rich-Man, but that's insulting to you, as though money were the only important thing about you. Besides, being rich is such a very external quality. Maybe you won't stay rich all your life; lots of very clever men get smashed up in Wall Street. But at least you will stay tall all your life! So I've decided to call you Dear Daddy-Long-Legs.
It is a very enjoyable book, witty and sweet. We don't currently have it in stock here at The Alphabet Garden, but we can order it and have it in a few days if anyone is interested.

What are you reading these days? Anything good? Feel free to share in the comments section.

Hardcover Discount

Just wanted to let you all know that ALL adult hardcovers are now 10% off at The Alphabet Garden! Come on in and treat yourself to a good book to curl up with during tomorrow's snowstorm.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Pigeon Plush!

The Alphabet Garden now carries a stuffed toy of everyone's favorite Pigeon! And when you squeeze him, he yells, "Let me drive the bus!" in true Pigeon style. (Pigeon books are written and illustrated by Mo Willems and include Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus!, Don't Let the Pigeon Stay Up Late!, and The Pigeon Finds a Hot Dog.)

We also now have plushes of the unicorn from Claire and the Unicorn, by B.G. Hennessy; Pretzel from the book of the same name by H.A. Rey; and Maisy from the books by Lucy Cousins.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Valentine's Day Books

Looking for a book to give your valentine? We have several options for you.

A few of my favorites:

Pat the Bunny: Bunny Kisses is a touch-and-feel board book, with a button that makes a kissing noise when you press it. Very sweet!

Fancy Nancy Loves, Loves, Loves!, by Jane O'Connor, is a reusable sticker book featuring everyone's cherished (that's a fancy word for favorite) fancy girl, Nancy.

Hug Time, by Patrick McDonnell, was just published in November. It tells the story of a kitten who was "so filled with love he wanted to give the whole world a hug."

Another one I like is I Like You, by Sandol Stoddard Warburg, an ode to best friends of all ages. "I like you because..." the book begins, and lists reason after reason, ending finally with "I guess I just like you because I like you."

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Allie Finkle's Rules for Girls: Moving Day

Meg Cabot has written a lot of books (The Princess Diaries are her most famous, but there are many more). You'd think eventually she'd run out of funny things to say, and her books would go downhill, but for now she seems to be going strong.

Allie Finkle's Rules for Girls: Moving Day is her first book for middle-grade readers. The protagonist is a nine-year-old girl who likes rules, because, as she explains, "Rules help make our lives easier. For instance, the rule about not killing people. Obviously, this is a good rule." What she doesn't like so much is the fact that her family is moving. Having to move to a different place makes everything seem unstable, so she makes a list of rules to compensate. Rules make the world seem sturdier--even rules as simple as "Rule #1: Don't stick a spatula down your best friend's throat."

I know there are plenty of books out there for the grades 4-6 reading level about moving, but I especially liked this one because I found Allie so easy to relate to. I remember being nine. I also remember moving when I was seven. It all felt pretty much like Meg Cabot describes it through Allie Finkle's eyes.

Thursday, January 31, 2008

What To Do About Alice?

(Written by Barbara Kerley and illustrated by Edwin Fotheringham.)

I like it.

I like the subject. I didn't remember much about Alice Roosevelt from history lessons before I read this book tonight, but she seems a very interesting person. Now I want to know more.

I like the writing. Take this part: "Her mother had died in 1884, two days after Alice was born. Father was sad. Everyone was sad for Alice. But she didn't remember her mother. She did not want to grow up hearing them say, 'the poor little thing!' She wanted to see how high the springs sprang on her grandparents' favorite sofa."

I like the illustrations. Never heard of Edwin Fotheringham (what a name!) before, but I like his style. I especially like this illustration:

just because those sixteen girls in two straight lines and "Miss Spence" remind me so much of Miss Clavel and her twelve little girls in two straight lines (one of which was Madeline)!

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Grams are here!

We just received an order of three special titles. The books are called Love-U-Grams, Lunch Grams, and Grand-O-Grams. Grand-O-Grams contains 40 tear-out postcards to send to grandchildren. Some are seasonal (Valentine's Day, Easter, summer vacation, etc.), while others are suitable for any time of year. Lunch Grams are little cards to stick in a child's lunch box, while Love-U-Grams are an assortment of postcards, lunch notes, and coupons for things like "one extra serving of dessert," "a trip to the bookstore," or "Family Game Night: You pick the game!"

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Guess What I Found in Dragon Wood

Guess What I Found in Dragon Wood, by Timothy Knapman, is one of my favorite new picture books. It's always nice when a book lives up to the expectation generated by a nice cover, as this one does. Narrated by a dragon, it tells the story of how he meets a Benjamin and takes it to school one day, to the curiosity of all the other dragons. The Benjamin explains to the dragons about his home, and even teaches them a very strange game--soccer! Eventually, though, he has to go home. His dragon friend takes him home--the other dragons are all too scared--and returns with more surprising details of the strange world of the Benjamins.

Monday, January 14, 2008

2008 Award Winners

This morning the American Library Association announced its award winners for 2008!

The John Newbery Medal winner is Good Masters! Sweet Ladies! Voices from a Medieval Village, by Laura Amy Schlitz.

The three Newbery Honor books named are Elijah of Buxton, by Christopher Paul Curtis; The Wednesday Wars, by Gary D. Schmidt; and Feathers, by Jacqueline Woodson.

The Randolph Caldecott Medal winner is The Invention of Hugo Cabret, written and illustrated by Brian Selznick.

The Caldecott Honor books are Henry's Freedom Box: A True Story from the Underground Railroad, written by Ellen Levine and illustrated by Kadir Nelson; First the Egg, written and illustrated by Laura Vaccaro Seeger; The Wall: Growing Up Behind the Iron Curtain, written and illustrated by Peter Sis; and Knuffle Bunny Too: A Case of Mistaken Identity, written and illustrated by Mo Willems.

For more information and many more awards, see the news on the ALA website.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

First National Ambassador for Young People's Literature

According to this NY Times article, Jon Scieszka is to be named national ambassador for young people's literature by the librarian of Congress. Scieszka (pronounced "SHEH-ska," apparently. I've always wondered.) has written many books for children, including the Time Warp Trio books, The Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Tales, and The True Story of the 3 Little Pigs. His job as ambassador for children's books will be to "travel and speak to groups of children, parents and teachers to 'evangelize the need for reading.'"

The article also mentions Scieszka's "web-based literacy program aimed at boys called Guys Read," which can be found at

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Pippi Longstocking

I love Lauren Child. Her illustrations have such a simple, happy style; they make me want to get out lots of fabric scraps and pretty papers and markers and go to town with them.

Recently Lauren Child has added her touch to a classic children's book: Pippi Longstocking, by Astrid Lindgren. Her illustrations are the perfect match for this peppy tale of an odd little girl with braids that stick out who lives with a horse and a monkey and only decides to go to school because she wants to have school vacations.

This gorgeous edition of Pippi Longstocking is a great gift idea for girls of almost any age. The reading level is approximately grades 4-6, but the story is appropriate for ages 6 and up.