Friday, November 30, 2012

Cordelia's 5 Books about Moving: Picture Book through Young Adult

Picture Book:
Gila Monsters Meet You at the Airport by Marjorie Weinman Sharmat and Byron Barton (Alladin, $5.99)
A young boy is full of trepidation as he moves from New York City to Out West; however, he finds that two places that seem so different might have some things in common.

Early Reader:
Henry & Mudge and Annie's Good Move by Cynthia Rylant & Sucie Stevenson (Simon & Schuster, $3.99)
Henry is very excited that his cousin Annie is moving in next door; however, Annie is so nervous her skin has broken out in blotches! Henry figures out a way to help his cousin.

Chapter Book:

Because of Winn-Dixie by Kate DiCamillo (Candlewick, $6.99)
Opal Buloni has just moved to a small town in Florida. There, she finds friendship with a dog along with a myriad of quirky characters. This newfound community helps fill the hole she has in her heart from having lost her mother at a young age.

Middle Grade:
Every Soul A Star by Wendy Mass (Hachette Books, $6.99)
Bree's parents are taking Ally's parents’ job at Moon Shadow campground, and both girls are devastated about moving. Through friendship and a solar eclipse, they each find a new way to look at themselves and the process of moving.

Young Adult:

What Happened to Goodbye by Sarah Dessen (Viking, $19.99)
Every time McLean moves (which is a lot), she chooses to reinvent herself. But how will falling love and making true friendships in her newest town change her forever?

Cordelia Jensen, October 2012

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Poetic Profile: James Arthur

Please join us on Saturday, November 17th, at 5:00pm, for a reading with James Arthur and Rahul Mehta. This event is co-sponsored by Apiary Magazine.

1) How would you describe your poetry?
For me, rhythm is important. I use a lot of rhyme and assonance, and many of my poems contain meter -- but my poems usually are not metered throughout; within one poem I might switch back and forth between iambs, anapests, and very irregular free verse. I love the power, beauty, and precision of metered poetry, but I think of many of the traditional forms (the Spenserian sonnet, for example) as being expressions of order, and most of the time I'm more interested in expressing what I think of as disorder and the uncontainable. I create rhythmical patterns mainly for the sake of disrupting them.

When performing, I recite my poems from memory. The rhythmical drive behind my poems makes them easy to memorize -- and also, I hope, makes my poems accessible to audiences. My dream reader would be somebody who reads my poems aloud, so that he or she is hearing the words, not just seeing them.

2) How does poetry fit into your everyday life?
I try to write every day. Some days I fall short of that goal. For me, poetry is a way of processing and understanding experience -- so when an idea or event somehow disturbs my equilibrium, I write about it. The more settled and calm my life becomes, the more I need to look outside myself to find sources of disturbance.

3) What poets and/or authors inspire you?
I seem to fixate on particular poets for years at a time, trying to learn as much from them as I can -- and the poet who I've fixated on longer than any other is Auden.

Auden's writing has all the dynamism that I love in poetry -- his poems can swerve from thought to thought, impression to impression, taking in a huge amount of territory, going places that I'd never expect -- but at the same time, Auden's poems are intellectually coherent. I never feel that he's exploring tangents just for the sake of bombarding the reader with more and more stimulus; in the Auden poems I love best, every line has purpose. Look at these lines, for example, from The Sea and the Mirror:

But now all these heavy books are no more use to me any more, for
Where I go, words carry no weight; it is best,
Then, I surrender their fascinating counsel
To the silent dissolution of the sea
Which misuses nothing because it values nothing;
Whereas man overvalues everything
Yet, when he learns the price is pegged to his valuation,
Complains bitterly he is being ruined which, of course, he is,
So kings find it odd that they should have a million subjects
Yet share in the thoughts of none, and seducers
Are sincerely puzzled at being unable to love
What they are able to possess ...

Amazing! I wish I'd written that passage. Each line seems to develop and enlarge the implications of the previous lines. Other poets whose work has been important to me are W.S. Merwin, Philip Levine, Edna St. Vincent Millay, W.B. Yeats, E.E. Cummings, and James Wright. I'm not sure who my next fixation will be. Maybe Amy Clampitt, Elizabeth Bishop, or Frank O'Hara.

4) How does your current neighborhood or community play a part in your poetry?
I do a lot of walking. Walking gets me away from my theories and fixed ways of thinking, because as my feet wander, my thoughts wander, too. Most of my poems begin as words or phrases that come to me when I'm walking, so my physical environment always seeps into my poetry: a firetruck here, a weathervane there. I don't feel that I'm documenting my environment -- many of my poems contain details that are completely imagined -- but my poems definitely reflect my environment, or at least they reflect my feelings about wherever I am.

5) What is the last book you have read that you enjoyed? Tell our Big Blue Marble community a little about it.
I have a toddler, so some of the books I've read mostly recently are The Very Hungry Caterpillar, Susan Marie Swanson's The House in the Night -- a truly beautiful book -- and Diggers. I grew up on Beatrix Potter and I can't wait until my son is old enough to enjoy The Tale of Benjamin Bunny, The Tale of Samuel Whiskers, and The Tale of Mr. Jeremy Fisher.

A couple of days ago, a friend lent me Bucolics by Maurice Manning, and that's what I'm reading right now. The poems in Bucolics are short, unpunctuated lyrics addressed to God, or to a God-like entity named "Boss." They're philosophically ambitious, but they're also funny and disarming. Here's a passage:

you toss the stars like clover seed
you sling them through the sky you must
be glad to be a sower Boss
you sow so many things besides
the sky you sow the seed of dew
the seed of night you let it grow
until the morning overgrows
the night ...

I love it when poems direct my thoughts toward real questions, and at the same time, are so free of pomp and self-regard that they seem effortless. They're not effortless, of course! It's extremely difficult to write about serious topics in a serious way without taking yourself too seriously. But Manning succeeds at it, I think.

James Arthur was born in Connecticut and grew up in Canada. His poems have appeared in The New Yorker, The New Republic, Poetry, Ploughshares, and The American Poetry Review. He has received the Amy Lowell Travelling Poetry Scholarship, a Wallace Stegner Fellowship in Poetry, a residency at the Amy Clampitt House, a Discovery/The Nation Prize and a Hodder Fellowship at Princeton University. His fiery debut collection Charms Against Lightning is available from Copper Canyon Press. He’ll be reading with Rahul Mehta at Big Blue Marble Bookstore on Saturday, November 17th at 5:00pm. This event is co-sponsored by Apiary Magazine.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Erica’s Five Books: Le Geek, C’est Chic (or Revenge of the Creepy Carnies)

Have you noticed Geeks are getting way too much play these days? Even before Alexandra Robbins’s The Geeks Shall Inherit the Earth, there started to abound some kind of cultural caché of coolness in conjunction with being a Geek. This is absolutely fulsome, people! What about the original Geeks, the ones who bite heads off of live chickens in carnival sideshows? They don’t want to be cool and they don’t appreciate having the word Geek co-opted by runty ne’er-do-wells hoping to parlay their quirky, underdog, outsider status into the new chic. To that end, I’ve compiled a list of books designed to restore meaning to the term Geek, while paying homage to angry, creepy carnies everywhere.

Geek Love by Katherine Dunn (Vintage, $15.95)

Swamplandia! by Karen Russell (Vintage, $14.95)

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern (Anchor, $15.00)

Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury (Avon, $7.99)

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs (Quirk, $17.99)

Erica David, October 2012

Monday, October 29, 2012

Janet's Five Suggestions to Unplug, Stay Present, and Uni-Task

Is the ability to multitask truly an asset? Are we more efficient or simply racing in so many directions that we convince ourselves that we must be getting more accomplished? Do we really stop to listen and pay attention enough to remember? Or are we so plugged in that our memories, our stress level, our time with the people we love constantly being sacrificed? How many new phobias, anxieties, pranks, language changes, brain overloads, accidents, learning disabilities, and more are a result of being constantly connected?

Try turning off your device for a while (chances are you won't miss an emergency) and try one of these books to help reclaim yourself in the natural world:

Beginner's Guide to Birds by Donald and Lillian Stokes (Little Brown & Co, $9.99)
Entrances to Carpenter Woods are all over West Mt. Airy... pick one trail, take this simple, pocket size book along and enjoy a slow watchful walk.

Trees of Pennsylvania by Stan Tekiel (Adventure Publication Inc, $12.95)
Knowing the variety of trees surrounding us can bring about more of a grounded feeling to our day. It really is kind of nice to hug a tree.

Where to Bike in Philadelphia by Julie Lorch (BA Press, $24.95)
It is amazing how different our daily routes become on foot or on bikes. We see more of our everyday environment and become more connected to change of seasons, our bodies, our senses.

Leaf Man by Lois Ehlert (Harcourt Inc, $12.00)
Try this simple children's book illustrated to capture the heart of fall foliage to encourage both you and your child to take long walks in the next few weeks. Collect leaves. Jump in leaves. Press leaves. Make leaf crowns.

Stars by May Lyn Ray and Marla Frazee (Beach Lane Books, $16.99)
Before bed, on a crisp October evening, walk outside on a clear night and just look up. Everyone will sleep better.

Janet Elfant, October 2012

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Young Adult Author Profile: Ruth Tenzer Feldman

Please join us this Thursday, October 25 (tonight!), for an evening of new young adult literature! Four authors, three local and one formerly local, will be reading from and discussing their newest books. This interview with Ruth Tenzer Feldman, author of Blue Thread, is the last of the author profiles I've been posting on the blog this month.

For more details about the event, see our website or the Facebook event page.

1) How would you describe your writing?
The marketing folks at Ooligan Press would say that my writing is primarily nonfiction and historical fiction/fantasy for young adults. The editor of ODYSSEY magazine sees my writing as mainly about health and science. My writer's critique group describes my writing as nuanced and passionate. But I'd describe my writing as the process in which I strive to churn a gazillion emotions and ideas into a good read.

2) How does writing fit into your everyday life?
Right now I'm madly revising another historical fiction/fantasy manuscript that is a companion book to Blue Thread. Writing fits into nearly every available moment.

3) What authors and/or poets inspire you?
That's a long list! I read a wide range of young adult books, and draw inspiration from so many authors. Where do I start? OK. Here are a few: Paolo Bacigalupi (Ship Breaker), Vera Brosgol (Anya's Ghost—a graphic novel), John Green (The Fault in Our Stars), Ransome Riggs (Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children), Laini Taylor (Daughter of Smoke and Bone), and Tim Wynne-Jones (Blink & Caution). I also seek sustenance and guidance from back to the classic authors: Ursula Le Guin, Mark Twain, Flannery O'Connor.

4) What part does the community of Philadelphia play in your life and your writing?
I went to college in Philadelphia, and lived and worked in the city for a while. Traits from real people in the city's Department of Licenses and Inspections (my first job out of college) still show up in my characters. My husband is Philly-born and bred. Philadelphia also gave me a very real, walk-the-streets sense of American history.

5) What is the last book you have read that you enjoyed? Tell our Big Blue Marble community a little about it.
I recently devoured The Scorpio Races, by Maggie Stiefvater. It's my kind of fiction, with just enough fantasy to tickle your brain. On an island off the coast of England, sometime in the 20th century, a guy we adore (Sean Kendrick) competes against a girl we adore (Puck Connolly) in a dangerous horse race. We want both of them to win, but only one can be first across the finish line. Did I mention that they love each other? And that the horses are flesh-eating "kelpies" from the sea?

Ruth Tenzer Feldman is an award-winning author of books and articles, mainly for children and young adults. She has been an attorney, editor, research analyst, ticket seller, and keypunch operator. Her 10 nonfiction books focus on history and biography, while her articles range from leeches to Einstein’s refrigerator. Blue Thread (Ooligan Press, 2012), historical fiction/fantasy for young adults, entwines the struggles of two teen girls living 3,000 years apart. Ruth lives in Portland, Oregon, with her husband, dog, and innumerable dust mites.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Young Adult Author Profile: E.C. Myers

Please join us this Thursday, October 25, for an evening of new young adult literature! Four authors, three local and one formerly local, will be reading from and discussing their newest books. This interview with E.C. Myers, author of Fair Coin and Quantum Coin, is the third of four author profiles I'll be posting on the blog this month. Keep checking back!

For more details about the event, see our website or the Facebook event page.

1) How would you describe your writing?
Functional? Unadorned? In all seriousness, my style is often described as “clear” and “accessible,” which not every author would like to hear. In young adult fiction, this can be a strength though, and it’s just a reflection of the kind of books that I like to read. I can appreciate a clever or well-crafted line, and I respect wordsmiths who write beautiful prose, but as a reader and a writer I am most interested in characters and story and not so much in describing every detail. Every work is also different; some books need a snappy pace, and others invite a more leisurely approach to convey a particular tone or atmosphere.

2) How does writing fit into your everyday life?
Writing is the focus of most of my waking hours! First of all, I write and edit articles, letters, and speeches for my day job, and I’m working on my fiction every chance that I can get around work, family, and friends. When people say they don’t have time to write, they usually mean they won’t make time to write. As busy as life gets, and it gets very busy, I write every morning for sixty to ninety minutes before work, and often in evenings and on weekends. Of course, “writing” these days often means “writing-related activities,” whether I’m blogging, answering interview questions, designing bookmarks and swag for my book, updating my website, etc. I love watching films and television, reading, and playing video games too, but those all take a back seat to social interactions and writing, if they aren’t entirely left by the side of the road for months at a time. Though I’m a big consumer of content, I get more satisfaction from creating my own.

3) What authors and/or poets inspire you?
I am most inspired by authors who get published through talent, hard work, discipline, and sheer determination. You know that everyone who has a book on a store or library shelf has had to give up something important: time with family, hobbies, checking their Facebook page. And most authors don’t do it for money, but because they want to—they’re compelled to—tell stories. That goes for anyone who creates any kind of art.

I enjoy the work of a lot of contemporary authors of science fiction and fantasy, for adults and young adults, and I’m fortunate enough to be friends with many talented people who create amazing stories and are devoted to writing the best work they can. Every one of them inspires me to keep writing and improving and challenging myself. But I’m also inspired and encouraged by authors I read when I was young, like William Sleator and Robert C. O’Brien—writers who perhaps never achieved the fame and fortune they deserved, but created books that deeply affected me as a child and as a writer that stick with me today.

4) What part does the community of Philadelphia play in your life and your writing?
I’m a recent transplant from New York City, where I was part of a large, diverse creative community. It has taken me a while, but I’ve found a similar community in Philadelphia that is just as active and supportive. It feels somewhat smaller, but I’m impressed by how passionate everyone is about their work and excited about what their friends are doing. The only problem is I haven’t gotten as involved with the local scene as I’d like. One of the reasons it took me so long to meet other geeks and writers is because I was so busy with settling into a new city and a new job and spending time with family, but I’m ready to take more advantage of the culture and creativity here and contribute more to it.

5) What is the last book you have read that you enjoyed? Tell our Big Blue Marble community a little about it.
I’ve just finished Railsea by China Miéville, a young adult novel which takes place in a very post-apocalyptic earth covered in train rails maintained by mysterious mechanical “angels.” Trains navigate the crisscrossing network of tracks like ships on the high seas, hunting the giant, deadly creatures that now inhabit the dirt; scavenging old technology for treasure; or pirating. The story is focused on a boy named Sham Yes ap Soorap, who joins Captain Naphi’s ship as she searches for her “philosophy,” a humongous mole she’s been hunting a la Ahab and Moby Dick. Adventure ensues. It reminds me a bit of Scott Westerfeld’s Leviathan series crossed with Philip Reeve’s Predator Cities Quartet, which are some of my favorite books.

E.C. Myers was assembled in the U.S. from Korean and German parts and raised by a single mother and a public library in Yonkers, New York. He has published short fiction in a variety of print and online magazines and anthologies, and his young adult novels, FAIR COIN and QUANTUM COIN, are available now from Pyr Books. He currently lives with his wife and a doofy cat in Philadelphia and shares way too much information about his personal life at and on Twitter @ecmyers.

Photo credit: S. Kuzma Photography.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Jen’s Five Books of Issues Relevant to This Election Season

Voting Rights and Women’s Rights:
Blue Thread by Ruth Tenzer Feldman (Ooligan Press, $12.95)

The only work of fiction on the list, Blue Thread is one of the books for our upcoming Young Adult multi-author event on October 25, and it’s the story of two Jewish teenagers standing up for their rights across centuries of time. Oh, and the power of the printing press. This story of women’s suffrage doesn’t address the same issues raised by recent attempts to impose a sudden Voter ID law upon the state of Pennsylvania, but it does highlight what happens when women are arbitrarily refused a say over the paths of their own lives.

Separation of Church and State:
Freethinkers: A History of American Secularism by Susan Jacoby (Henry Holt, $18.00)

A fabulous and highly researched book of American history, Freethinkers pulls together the threads of history among nonreligious Americans. Among other things, it’s where I learned that in revolutionary times, Catholics and Evangelical Christians allied themselves with the secularists (and with other small religions) to prevent the establishment of religion in this country…and to ensure, through the Constitution, that “no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States”. Kind of ironic, no?

Marriage Equality:
My Two Moms by Zach Wahls (Penguin, $26.00)

I was initially wary of the attention given to 19-year-old Zach Wahls in his testimony for the legalization of same-sex marriage in Iowa -- suspecting that he gained extra status through being straight and white and an Eagle Scout -- but then I thoroughly enjoyed reading his book, which uses the specific values of the Boy Scouts to frame the story of his family and its corresponding lessons about family in general.

Outcasts United: An American Town, A Refugee Team, and One Woman's Quest to Make a Difference by Warren St. John (Spiegel & Grau, $15.00)

Place hundreds of war refugees from multiple countries in a small town in Georgia that wasn’t expecting them, and you get some…tension. One former refugee takes it upon herself to organize teenaged boys into soccer teams, helping deal with their sense of trauma and loss, with their complicated multinational dynamics, and with the (mostly) covert hostility of neighbors and local government, who do everything they can to prevent them from practicing and competing. And these are legal immigrants.

Twisting of Facts:
Lies My Teacher Told Me by James W. Loewen (Simon & Schuster, $16.00)

As someone who cares a lot about accuracy, I have taken special interest in learning about the ways history has been distorted in textbooks to fit ideals of patriotism, racism, jingoism, etc. (A friend who worked for a textbook company used to complain that every time Texas law changed what was allowed in their texts, the same changes were applied to all textbooks countrywide.) Like Freethinkers, this book taught me all sorts of things I’d never known about my own country. It’s now required reading in some high school classrooms.

Jennifer Sheffield, October 2012

Friday, October 12, 2012

Young Adult Author Profile: Elisa Ludwig

Please join us on Thursday, October 25, for an evening of new young adult literature! Four authors, three local and one formerly local, will be reading from and discussing their newest books. This interview with Elisa Ludwig, author of Pretty Crooked, is the second of four author profiles I'll be posting on the blog this month. Keep checking back!

For more details about the event, see our
website or the Facebook event page.

1) How would you describe your writing?
My writing definitely changes with the story's demands, but in the Pretty Crooked series it's lighthearted and quick-paced, with a very contemporary sensibility and just a touch of snark. Also, there's fashion. And some criminal activity. And smooching.

2) How does writing fit into your everyday life?
I am a fulltime freelance writer by trade, so I am literally writing something—whether it's copy for a client, a food feature for the Inquirer, or my latest YA manuscript—at most hours of the day. Thankfully, I have muscular fingers.

3) What authors and/or poets inspire you?
In the YA world, I love M.T. Anderson, Sarah Dessen, A.S. King, E. Lockhart, Frank Portman and (who doesn't?) John Green. I also read a lot of literary fiction and really enjoy Alice Munro, Jennifer Egan, Mary Gaitskill, Tessa Hadley, George Saunders and Jeffrey Eugenides. Oh gosh, the list could go on...

4) What part does the community of Philadelphia play in your life and your writing?
I grew up in Plymouth Meeting and am now a proud resident of East Falls. I've always been excited to support small businesses and the libraries of Philadelphia and being an author has given me a whole new opportunity to engage with them. None of my books so far actually take place in Philly—I've been waiting for the right story to set here, but there are a few percolating.

5) What is the last book you have read that you enjoyed? Tell our Big Blue Marble community a little about it.
I'm currently reading The Miseducation of Cameron Post by Emily Danforth, a debut contemporary YA about a lesbian girl coming of age in Montana in the late 1980s/early 1990s. It's beautifully written with vivid detail and the kind of gritty emotional realism that anyone who's ever been a teenager, gay or not, can relate to.

Elisa Ludwig studied writing at Vassar College and Temple University, but she wanted to be a writer long before all of that. Technically, it was when she started writing, editing and publishing The Elisa Bulletin which she printed out on a dot matrix printer and sold for ten cents a pop. She has been pick-pocketed twice, and once caught someone mid-pocket. Other than occasional jaywalking, she’s a law-abiding citizen. She lives in Philadelphia with her husband. PRETTY CROOKED is her first novel, and will be followed by PRETTY SLY in 2013, and PRETTY WANTED in 2014. You can visit her online at, and watch the book trailer here.

Tuesday, October 09, 2012

Young Adult Author Profile: K. M. Walton

Please join us on Thursday, October 25, for an evening of new young adult literature! Four authors, three local and one formerly local, will be reading from and discussing their newest books. This interview with K. M. Walton, author of Cracked, is the first of four author profiles I'll be posting on the blog this month. Keep checking back!

For more details about the event, see our
website or the Facebook event page.

1) How would you describe your writing?
In a word? Honest. In a lot of words? I try to write things so that my readers have access to the hearts of people otherwise overlooked.

2) How does writing fit into your everyday life?
I write full time, so it actually is my everyday life, and I love it.

3) What authors and/or poets inspire you?
Beth Kephart, A. S. King, John Green, J. K. Rowling, Lois Lowry, Judy Blume, Andrew Smith, Stephen Chbosky, Sherman Alexie.

4) What part does the community of Philadelphia play in your life and your writing?
Growing up in the Philadelphia suburbs, the great city of Philadelphia has always been a part of my life. I know how to navigate it, I love coming into town—it is, hands down, the best city on earth.

5) What is the last book you have read that you enjoyed? Tell our Big Blue Marble community a little about it.
SMALL DAMAGES by Beth Kephart is a gorgeously written book about a pregnant teen named Kenzie who is sent to Seville, Spain for a few months. Kephart’s writing is lush and poetic, enough so that while reading, I felt as if I were in Seville. It’s a story about choices and love, loss and hope, and it is a masterpiece.

K. M. Walton is the author of Cracked (Simon Pulse ~ Simon & Schuster 2012) and Empty (Simon Pulse ~ Simon & Schuster 1-1-2013) and the co-author of Teaching Numeracy: 9 Critical Habits to Ignite Mathematical Thinking (Corwin Press 2011 - lead author Margie Pearse) for mathematics teachers K - 8. As a former middle-school language-arts teacher she's passionate about education and ending peer bullying. She gives school presentations on the topic "The Power of Human Kindness." She lives in PA with her husband, two sons, cat, and turtle. Visit the author at or follow her on twitter @kmwalton1.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Janet's Five Selections of Hope through Music

Whether it's a toddler banging a spoon on an upturned metal pot, a symphony playing Mozart, a guy on the street playing harmonica for change, music provides the universal words of survival, hope, sometimes even inspiration and comfort and the possibility of joy. The following choices speak not only to the power of creating music but to honor the message of Playing for Change and the music that is inside all of us.

Let It Shine by Ashley Bryan (Altheneum Books, $16.99)
The words to three favorite spirituals are written out amid vibrant colors.

All Together Singing in the Kitchen by Nerissa and Katryna Nields
(Roost Books, $22.95)

This book celebrates family music making in all shapes and forms.

33 Revolutions per Minute by Dorian Lynskey (Harper Collins, $19.99)
Protest songs have seen us through the lowest and highest times in history, providing strength, encouragement and empowerment.

Neighborhood Sing-Along by Nina Crews (Greenwillow Books, $17.99)
This is a collection of playground songs adding musical elements to the dance of play.

Bob Dylan: Forever Young, edited by Robert Sullivan (LIFE, $17.99)
From Robert Zimmerman to Bob Dylan and beyond, Dylan accompanied many through a lifetime as so many of his songs became part of our world's history.

Perhaps we all might add a tune as we walk, pause to enjoy the street musicians, and stop once in a while to really listen and celebrate or even come into the store and sing along to the music waiting inside our books.

Janet Elfant, September 2012

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Erica’s Five Hardcovers I Would Buy (If I Bought Hardcovers)

Just like there are cat people and dog people, there are paperback people and hardcover people. I could go on and on and enumerate the many ways in which these two species differ from one another but suffice it to say hardcover people smell. That is all ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.

A Hologram for the King by Dave Eggers (McSweeney’s, $25.00)
I’ve never actually read any Eggers, and he’s got enough highly regarded fiction and non-fiction in print that there’s absolutely no excuse for my lackadaisical interest in his oeuvre. I am a fan of his brainchild McSweeney’s however, as a press, a literary magazine, and an internet tendency. Plus, this guy is a master of packaging, as the cover of his latest novel will attest. Frankly, that’s enough to sell me.

Release Date: September 4
NW by Zadie Smith (Penguin, $26.95)
I’m not sure if I’m calling Smith’s latest novel “NW” or “Northwest” in reference to the London neighborhood where her four protagonists live. I do know that ever since White Teeth, I’ve been eager for Smith to get back to London in way that she hasn’t quite since her astonishing debut. Maybe NW is the return trip I’ve been waiting for.

Release Date: September 11
This is How You Lose Her by Junot Diaz (Riverhead, $26.95)
Curious to see what Diaz’s second short story collection, and follow up to the Pulitzer Prize winning Oscar Wao, will look like. You will perhaps recall that the eponymous title character of Wao was haunted by a fuku, or curse. Hopefully Diaz has not succumbed to the fuku of the Pulitzer Prize winner by giving us a follow up that pales in comparison to the award-winning work.

Release Date: September 11
Telegraph Avenue by Michael Chabon (Harper Collins, $27.99)
I couldn’t really get into Chabon’s last novel The Yiddish Policeman’s Union. Maybe it’s because I know nothing about being a policeman, or speaking Yiddish for that matter. Telegraph Ave hits a little closer to home with its tale of Brokeland Records, an indie operation selling soon-to-be-obsolete-product staffed by quirky, often off-putting mouth-breathers who are the hallmark of an independent retail shopping experience. I know a little something about that.

Release Date: TODAY
Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling (Little Brown, $35.00)
So as Harry Potter fans aren’t we all, like, obligated to check this out? I should warn you there are no boy wizards in sight. Instead Rowling has given us a murder mystery set in a charming English hamlet full of secrets. I’m getting a definite Peyton Place vibe here, but that’s not going to stop me from referring to this book as Murder in Little Whinging.

Erica David, September 2012

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Nif's Five Books That Make Micah (age 19m) Go "Moo!" (which means "More, more!")

Moo, Baa, La La La by Sandra Boynton (Simon & Schuster, $5.99)
OK, this one literally makes Micah go "Moo!" He has loved it since he was a baby. Now we say the rhymes, he provides animal noises. We all have it memorized. Fun!

Barnyard Dance by Sandra Boynton (Workman, $6.95)
Baby Micah loved this book. Toddler Micah claps, stomps, bows, and otherwise dances along to the swinging verses.

Machines at Work by Byron Barton (HarperCollins, $7.99)
Micah loves trucks. His feminist mothers love that some of the truck drivers are clearly female. This book is almost as mesmerizing as an actual construction site. I predict that he will own many Byron Barton books before he outgrows his fascination with all things vehicular.

Where Is the Green Sheep? by Mem Fox, illustrations by Judy Horacek (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $6.99)
This one is new to us. The rhymes are catchy, the pictures are lots of fun. I predict that we will memorize it without getting bored. This is high praise!

Everywhere Babies by Susan Meyers, pictures by Marla Frazee (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $6.95)
Most of the babies depicted are younger than Micah, but he loves looking at pictures of babies. The text is sweet, the pictures full of subtle messages about diverse families. The grownups in our house invariably become sentimental while reading the last pages.

Jennifer Woodfin, September 2012

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Claudia's Barefoot list for September

September is the time to reminisce about the golden, sultry summer hours: ice cream, sun lotion, listening to the serenades of cicadas, walking barefoot on the beach...

Let's have one more summer moment and "Kick off your shoes and go Barefoot".

Barefoot Books celebrate art and story and touch the hearts and minds of children and adults. Be enchanted by the fables from the Islamic world, delve into the wisdom and compassion of Buddhist teaching through stories from India, China, Japan and Tibet. Find solace in the beautiful rendition of an age-old Hindu tale and follow the story Solomon told in Jerusalem:

The Wise Fool by Shahrukh Husain & Micha Archer (Barefoot Books, $19.99)

The Barefoot Book of Buddhist Tales, retold by Sherab Choedzin & Alexandra Kohn (Barefoot Books, $14.99)

The Story of Divaali, retold by Jatinder Verma (Barefoot Books, $16.99)

One City, Two Brothers by Chris Smith (Barefoot Books, $16.99)

The Barefoot Book of Princesses by Caitlin Matthews (Barefoot Books, $15.99)

Claudia Vesterby, September 2012

Friday, September 21, 2012

Cordelia's Five "Hanging on to Summer in September" Young Adult Fiction Reads

Can't let go of summer? Here are five coming of age books that all take place during the course of a life-altering summer.

The Truth About Forever by Sarah Dessen
(Speak, $9.99)

Second Chance Summer by Morgan Matson
(Simon & Schuster, $16.99)

Mexican White Boy by Matt De La Peña
(Ember, $8.99)

Monsoon Summer by Mitali Perkins
(Laurel Leaf, $6.99)

Orchards by Holly Thompson
(Ember, $9.99)

Cordelia Jensen, September 2012

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Nif's Recent Reads: Five Titles That Bear Absolutely No Relation to One Another Except That Nif Just Read Them, Plus Two Books That Nif Wants To Finish If She Ever Gets Time

Story of Beautiful Girl by Rachel Simon (Little, Brown, $24.99)
I picked it up because Rachel Simon and I both went to Bryn Mawr (at different times) and I was intrigued because it featured an interracial couple with disabilities. Moving and heartwarming.

Bitterblue by Kristin Cashore (Penguin, $19.99)
I was excited to see a true sequel to Graceling, and it was very satisfying. Now I have to go back and read the companion novel, Fire. This series is sure to please fellow fans of young adult fantasy.

Extra Virginity by Tom Mueller (Norton, $25.95)
All about the corruption of the olive oil industry. The book made me eye the bottle on the shelf next to my stove with sad suspicion. Then I went out and bought a bottle of something much fresher and more tasty. Good food = good health!

The Fault In Our Stars by John Green (Penguin, $17.99)
Disclaimer: I am one of John Green's legion of YouTube fans. That said, of all the books I have read this year, this is the one I am most glad to have read. It's going to stay with me for a long time.
Hazel and Augustus are snarky nerds who meet at a support group for teens with cancer and fall in love. Incredibly life-affirming, and much funnier than you would expect. Sad too, of course, but deeply satisfying.

Wonder by R.J. Palacio (Random House, $15.99)
A boy with serious facial deformities leaves homeschooling for middle school. Brave kid. I really liked how the point of view shifted from the kid himself to the various people in his life. His presence was a test of character for the whole community. My coworker found me dissolved in tears at the end (in a good way). Lovely.

Two more books that Nif wants to finish if she ever gets time:

Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking by Susan Cain (Random House, $26.00)
Wow, the descriptions of the extroverts at the beginning frightened me. I'll pick up again when I've calmed down. Preferably when I can read it in a quiet room all by myself.

The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined by Steven Pinker (Viking, $40.00; paperback coming in September!)
I picked it up because I had just re-read The Language Instinct. (You know it's good when you keep your assigned reading from college and re-read it several times over the next 20 years.)
The argument is that humanity has been becoming less violent over time. I found the examples of just how violent and uncouth we as humans used to be both disgusting and compelling. Did you know that medieval etiquette manuals FOR ADULTS instructed folks not to blow their noses on the tablecloth or pee on the curtains? I believe Steven Pinker when he says that we've improved!
The text is dense, leavened slightly by lots of charts and graphs, which is why I put it down. But I do want to see it through to the end.

Jennifer Woodfin, August 2012

Monday, August 27, 2012

Claudia's August Recommendations for Writers-to-Be

Last spring I took a writing workshop with Mount Airy's Writing Highness Minter Krotzer. It was an inspiring experience and convinced me to become famous in this field and have my name on the New York Times Bestseller List. These are my tools to lead me to the road to success:

The Elements of Style by William Strunk, Jr., and E.B. White (Longman, $9.95)

Tyrannosaurus Lex by Rod L. Evans
(Penguin, $14.00)

Poemcrazy by Susan Goldsmith Wooldridge
(Random House, $13.95)

For Writers Only by Sophy Burnham
(Penguin, $15.95)

Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott
(Random House $15.95)

Claudia Vesterby, August 2012

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Janet's Five Kind and Courteous Books for August

"And if you do this, if you act just a little kinder than is necessary, someone else, somewhere, someday, may recognize in you, in every single one of you, the face of God."
Taken from:
Wonder by R.J. Palacio (Random House, $15.99)
August is home-schooled until fifth grade due to a severe facial deformity. The lessons learned about courage, integrity and the heart are presented in the format of a kids’ chapter book personally recommended for every age.

Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli (Dell, $6.99)
Stargirl is a young adult book about a holy woman in a teen body and culture. It may be helpful to go on to the sequel.

Excuse Me by Karen Katz (Grosset and Dunlap, $4.99)
Complete with a set of stickers, this children's book is an introduction to polite expressions.

Words Are Not For Hurting by Elizabeth Verdict (Free Spirit, $7.99)
Found in the parenting section, Words Are not For Hurting is one of a series of board books with very clear messages for toddlers. Some adults might benefit as well. "Some words are loud, and some are soft. Some are kind, but some are not."

Apple by Nikki McClure (Abrams Appleseed, $12.95)
A new arrival at the bookstore, this simple kids’ picture book makes me take a deep breath and relax...a few moments of yoga for you and your child. And when we are more relaxed, we tend to be kinder...

So be a little kinder than is necessary...especially to the staff at Big Blue Marble Bookstore.

Janet Elfant, August 2012

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Jen’s Five Revisionist Fairy Tales, Plus One Book of Important Advice

Just as some of the fairy-tale movies out this summer* don’t follow traditional narratives, these books take traditional tales as their starting points and then go their merry ways...

Cinder Edna by Ellen Jackson, illustrated by Kevin O'Malley (HarperCollins, $6.99)
If Cinderella had had a pragmatic and practical next door neighbor, how might their stories have compared...?
[picture book]

Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine (HarperCollins, $6.99)
An explanation we’ve all been waiting for. What a nice fairy godmother to offer a newborn the gift of obedience....Not.
[kids’ chapter book]

Ash by Malinda Lo (Little, Brown, $8.99)
Another Cinderella tale, with a vastly different take on the world of Fairy. [young adult]

Into the Wild by Sarah Beth Durst (Penguin, $7.99)
And supposing you’re a basically regular kid in central Massachusetts who has to keep all the stories of fairyland safe and tame under your bed?
[kids’ chapter book]

Witches Abroad by Terry Pratchett (HarperCollins, $7.99)
The witches of Lancre are called upon (or at least one of them is) to take over fairy-godmothering in distant Genua, where they are charged with the difficult task of making sure the story doesn’t happen.

Instructions by Neil Gaiman, illustrated by Charles Vess (HarperCollins, $14.99)
What to do if you suddenly find yourself entering a folktale or fairy story. Beautiful pictures; sage advice.
[picture book for all ages]

*This is our final list based on the Summer Fairytale/Superhero Movie Promotion! Go fetch your tickets, and bring them in before Labor Day...

Jennifer Sheffield, August 2012

Friday, August 17, 2012

Cordelia's Pick of Five Fairytale Collections

Only a few weeks left of our Summer Fairytale/Superhero Movie Promotion! Here and in the next post we'll sneak in a few final suggestions...

Grimms' Fairy Tales by Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm
(Puffin-Penguin, $4.99)

Her Stories: African American Folktales, Fairy Tales, and True Tales, told by Virginia Hamilton
(Blue Sky Press, $25.99)

The Barefoot Book of Father & Daughter Tales (Book & Story CD included), retold by Josephine Evetts-Secker
(Barefoot Books, $23.99)

The Barefoot Book of Princesses (Book & Story CD included), retold by Caitlin Matthews, Olwyn Whelan & Margaret Wolfson
(Barefoot Books, $15.99)

The Barefoot Book of Fairytales, retold by Malachy Doyle (Barefoot Books, $23.99)

Cordelia Jensen, August 2012

Thursday, August 02, 2012

Poetic Profile: Bonnie MacAllister

Bonnie MacAllister will be teaching a Collaborative Multimedia Poetry Workshop this Saturday, August 4th from 2:00-4:00pm. For further details or to register, please email

The following interview with Bonnie is reposted from the very first post in our Poetic Profile series!


Another new Big Blue Marble blog series! Poetic Profiles will be asking local poets and writers five questions about writing, life, and books. We're starting the series with the multidisciplinary and very talented Bonnie MacAllister.

1) How would you describe your poetry?

Examining sound and syntax through uncommon combinations, my verse thrives on a chopping constructs and forms often four or five line stanzas: rarely rhymed, strictly metered, intensely syllabic, occasionally crafted sestinas, a deconstructed breath verse.

I publish small editioned chapbooks including SOME WORDS ARE NO LONGER WORDS and PAID IN GOATS and collaborate to produce poetic films. The chapbooks are in permanent collections including the Zine Library at Barnard College, the Utopian Library in Viareggio, Italy, Concentrated Experimental Poetry, and la Galería del MEC, Montevideo, Uruguay. My book, IN THE AFTERMATH, currently in production will become part of the new Brooklyn Art Library, formerly Art House Co-op in Atlanta, Georgia.

My work has appeared in venues such as Helix, Parlour, Black Robert Journal, nth Position (UK), Dead Drunk Dublin and Other Imaginal Spaces…(Ireland), Turtle Ink Press (Pushcart Prize Nomination 2007), the Feminist Journal, and Paper Tiger Media (Brisbane).

2) How does poetry fit into your everyday life?

As an educator, I have taught urban youth populations from 5th -12th grades in language arts, reading, mural arts, performance poetry, breath verse, zine creation and theatre through schools and non-profit organizations such as the Mural Arts Program, and the Philadelphia Shakespeare Festival. I conducted workshops at Shaw Middle School’s Sonia Sanchez Literacy Night and at Temple University for Central High School’s Philadelphia Immigration and Culture Conference. I have only taught in high need schools in urban settings so I understand the necessity of instilling hope and optimism in this youth through the work.

As a teacher of British and World Literature and French Language at the new Arise Academy Charter High School for students who have been in the foster care system, I am also the academic advisor for the Arise SUNRISE, the student art and literary magazine with a staff of seventeen students. These students came to me with piles of poetry and sketchbooks filled with art so our group fills a definite need for them.

3) What poets and/or authors inspire you?

My English and French students read poetry in my classes including some personal favorites such as Edmund Spenser, John Keats, T. S. Eliot, Charles Baudelaire, Arthur Rimbaud, Leopold Sedar Senghor (Senegal), Dr. Tanure Ojaide (Nigeria), and Ken Saro-Wiwa (Nigeria).

My preferred poets have been the same since I was a teen: Audre Lorde, Adrienne Rich, Louise Gluck, Marge Piercy, Elizabeth Bishop, Mary Oliver, and Sylvia Plath. Antonin Artaud and Haruki Murakami have also become obsessions for me over the last two decades.

My favorite local poets are Beth Boettcher, Jane Cassady, Monica Pace, Dr. Niama Williams, Gabrielle Casella, Michelle Wilson, and Lora Bloom. Fortunately, I can call all of these talented ladies dear friends.

4) How does the community of Philadelphia play a part in your poetry?

I have hosted poetry events at the Wilma Theatre, the Highwire Gallery, and October Gallery. As an active member of the Women’s Caucus for Art Philadelphia, I hosted a 2009 women’s poetry reading at the Plastic Club. I performed on the curated Nexus Radio Project for a show of zinester artists. In Philadelphia, I have upcoming performances at the Rotunda for Gabrielle Casella’s Poet-tree In Motion for Women’s Her-story Month on March 3rd at 7 p.m., Radio Eris’ Temple of Eris in West Philadelphia on March 13th, and July 1st for the Lights of Unity Association Festival of the Friends of the Free Library. I love to collaborate with Lora Bloom on the Temple of Eris stage.

My previous background was in poetry slams in the United States and in France, but I no longer perform in those and prefer multimedia collaborations in film, art, and sound installations. I attempt to render moments through a variety of media. Often pieces are multi-genre, fusing painting, photography, slide installations, spoken word, video, and performance. I have shown visual art in Italy, Uruguay, Belgium, France and various university galleries in the United States.

5) What is the last book you have read that you enjoyed? Tell our Big Blue Marble community a little about it.

Lately I’ve been reading a bit of Ethiopian poetry in preparation to teach the work in the spring. Last summer, I was fortunate to be awarded a 2009 Fulbright-Hays award to travel to Ethiopia to study history, culture, and migration. I am still digging through the suitcase of books I brought back. Two favorites are certainly Asafa Tefera Dibaba: Decorous Decorum and Lulit Kebede and Wossen Mulatu: Ribbon of the Heart.

Dibaba is an Oromo national (one of Ethiopia’s 80 different ethnic groups) who writes in English punctuated by the Oromo language. His work examines the idea of nationality and country through both gorgeous and sometimes bawdy, controversial poetry. He now teaches Literature and Folklore in the College of Education, Addis Ababa University, Ethiopia where he is a PhD Candidate in Comparative Literature.

Lulit Kebede and Wossen Mulatu are two young college educated women writers living in the capital, Addis Ababa, whose artistic and poetic collaboration, Ribbon of the Heart tackles important issues such as HIV, street prostitution, women’s roles, and foreign corporate infiltration of a country so fiercely proud of its independent status in Africa as a country never colonized.

Bonnie MacAllister is an artist, author, and educator. She is a 2009 Fulbright-Hays awardee to Ethiopia, a 2007 Pushcart Prize Nominee and five time slam poetry champion in the United States and France. Publication credits include Black Robert Journal, Paper Tiger Media, Dead Drunk Dublin and Other Imaginal Spaces, and nth Position. MacAllister has most recently exhibited at the Utopian Library in Viareggio, Italy and in la Galería del MEC, Montevideo, Uruguay.

She is an active member of the Philadelphia Chapter of the Women's Caucus for Art and fundraises for Girls Gotta Run Foundation which sponsors Ethiopian girls' running teams. Bonnie teaches French and British Literature at the new Arise Academy Charter High School for foster children in Center City. She is the webmaster for the Fulbright-Hays Ethiopia outreach website which offers teacher resources on Ethiopia.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Poetic Profile: Jane Cassady

Join us this Friday, August 3rd, at 7:00pm as Jane Cassady reads from her newly released collection of poems For the Comfort of Automated Phrases.

1) How would you describe your poetry?

Romantic, surreal, silly, self-conscious, prone to magical thinking. I talk about flowers a lot. Social justice works its way in. I love pop culture references and words and phrases that might soon be obsolete. Right now I'm a little fixated on the general wildness of the world and how anyone manages to build a nest, make a home. Current muses include Demetri Martin, David Lynch, and Felder Rushing, The Gestalt Gardener.

2) How does poetry fit into your everyday life?

Having recently left almost two years of AmeriCorps service in Philly schools, my life is enjoying a lovely lacuna-- poetry is my everyday life. Every morning before I do anything else, I write three pages of anything that comes to mind, then affirmations, then a list of what I'm grateful for. Right now I'm writing a poem a day for National Poetry Month, so I spend a lot of time online reading friends' daily poems.

When I'm not writing, I'm dawdling around looking at stuff in thrift stores, libraries, art galleries, or walking the Wissahickon feeling lucky to live here. I spend time preparing lessons and helping organize events. I book and promote The Fuse at InFusion,The Philadelphia Poetry Slam, alongside the wonderful and charming Sherod Smallman and the Fuze Collective.

Also, I really enjoy television.

3) What poets and authors inspire you?

First and foremost, my students and colleagues, whose work reassures me that the writing process is really kind of a reliable thing. My favorite poets are all contemporary ladies: Patricia Smith, Rachel McKibbens, Cristin O'Keefe Aptowicz, and Tara Betts. My first muse was Brendan Constantine, out in LA, and my favorite mentor/co-conspiritor is Daniel McGinn, also in the LA area. The poets I started out with 10 years ago in Orange County remain the standard by which I judge all poetry...

I mostly read prose, though. I love Chuck Klosterman, Douglas Coupland, Sarah Vowell, and pretty much any memoir where someone does something weird for a year. (Beth Lisick's Helping Me Help Myself, about her adventures following twelve different self-help gurus, is my favorite of these.)

I highly highly recommend What It Is by Lynda Barry and Ordinary Genius by Kim Addonizio-- both are bottomless sources of writing ideas. And for the past 10 years, I've been following Julia Cameron's advice in The Artist's Way.

4) How does the community of Philadelphia play a part in your poetry?

Last Christmas, my brother gave us a 36 spice spice rack that came with endless refills. It came with a subscription: if one of the spices runs out (usually rosemary) they just send us more. The Philadelephia art and poetry community seems that endless and varied. I love that there are so many different scenes here: Poetry Aloud and Alive, The Lyrical Playground, Harvest, of course The Fuze just to name a very few.

The variety of artists, audiences, and images gives me such a nice feeling of abundance, like I'll never run out. For example, last weekend we went to an art show dedicated, for whatever reason, to Twin Peaks. Just knowing there's people around who came up with an idea like that just sort of fills me with hope.

5) What is the last book you have read that you enjoyed? Tell our Big Blue Marble community about it.

I just finished reading The Big Rewind: A Memoir Brought to You by Pop Culture. The author, Nathan Rabin, is the head writer for The Onion's A.V Club section. Pop culture memoirs are my favorite thing in the universe. Each chapter is characterized by a different, movie, song, or T.V episode. Rabin talks about going from a mental hospital to a group home, to a crazy co-op in Madsion, to the Onion staff, to a cancelled movie review TV show, all the while overcoming depression (which he refers to as Vice Admiral Phineas T. Cummerbund) and using A LOT of Simpsons references. Heaven.

Jane Cassady is the booking maven for the Philadelphia Poetry Slam. She has appeared in The November 3rd Club, The Comstock Review, Valley of the Contemporary Poets, and other journals. She has performed at such venues as LouderArts in New York City, Valley Contemporary Poets in Los Angeles, and The Encyclopedia Show in Chicago. She has taught poetry to all ages from pre-K to adult, and believes in coaxing out everyone's unique poet voice.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Jen’s Five Books of Heroism

Another list related to our summer movie promotion, which is still ongoing, despite the terrible and sobering events of last week's Dark Knight opening.

Thinking about superhero films and superhero books has led me to thinking about all sorts of real-life heroism -- and who counts as a hero to me.

Americans Who Tell the Truth by Robert Shetterly (Penguin, $7.99)
“Stunning portraits and stirring words of brave citizens from all walks of life.” ( Here are paintings of fifty heroes (from an ever-growing collection) comprising folksingers, teachers, scientists, historians, writers, and leaders of resistance movements, among others...

After Gandhi: One Hundred Years of Nonviolent Resistance by Anne Sibley O’Brien (Charlesbridge, $24.99)
From 1908 to 2003, from Birmingham to Belfast to Burma, nonviolent resistance movements have made dramatic change in the world. After Ghandi gives excellent historical and biographical summaries of 15 world conflicts and the peaceful protests that confronted them.

Number the Stars by Lois Lowry (Random House, $6.99)
This is a fictional account, but the history is true: a story of two families taking part in the Danish citizens’ determined -- and mostly successful -- attempts during World War II to smuggle all Danish Jews to safety and out of the Nazis’ reach.

The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America's Great Migration by Isabel Wilkerson (Random House, $16.95)
Before reading this book, I knew about Jim Crow laws, about segregation and lynching, all as individual trends and incidents. Never before had I seen the vast scope of racism in the South, with overhanging threats pervading all aspects of life. Wilkerson sweeps it all together in a huge swath of motion: individuals fed up enough to leave everything and escape -- to an imperfect North, but with hope for better lives for themselves and their children.

All-of-a-Kind Family by Sydney Taylor (Random House, $6.99)
When I was a kid, I didn’t understand that this book was fictional, and written outside its time. It’s just day-to-day life for first generation Jewish immigrants in Manhattan’s Lower East Side, but its very difference from the modern world gave me a powerful sense of the kinds of struggle and fortitude my great-grandparents must have had when they, too, were building new lives in the same place, at around the same time.

Jennifer Sheffield, July 2012

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Claudia’s Five Summertime Books

It's hot out there. Perfect books for a sultry, sweltering July.

Love In The Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez (Random House, $14.95)

State of Wonder by Anne Patchett (HarperCollins, $15.99)

The Alchemist by Paulo Coehlo (HarperCollins, $14.99)

The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver (HarperCollins, $14.99)

Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel (Random House, $15.00)

Claudia Vesterby, July 2012

Friday, July 20, 2012

Janet's Five Fairy Tale Picks for July

Sweltering weather passes almost unnoticed with a child seated on one's lap engrossed in the poetic text and artistic illustrations of a well written fairy tale. Come and browse (in air-conditioning) through a few of the following:

The 3 Little Dassies by Jan Brett (Penguin, $17.99)

Little Red Riding Hood, retold and illustrated by Trina Schart Hyman (Holiday House, $6.95)

Storytime by Stella Blackstone (Barefoot Books, $15.99)

Alice in Wonderland Giant Poster and Coloring Book (Abrams, 12.95)
12 prints to color and 12 prints to frame

Beauty and the Beast: A Pop-Up Classic
(Simon and Schuster, $29.99)

Ask us about summer discounts on all fairy tale books!

Janet Elfant, July 2012

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

All sorts of summer promotions!

Summer Promotion: Save your movie stubs!
From now until Labor Day, bring in a ticket stub from a superhero or fairytale movie, and receive 20% off any superhero or fairytale book in the store! This includes everything from picture books for kids to folktales retold as novels (for an evolving set of staff suggestions see here) -- so have fun at the movies, and happy reading!

July Promotion: Redeem Your Frequent Buyer Card!
Is your frequent buyer card full? Will you fill one in July? Redeem it this month for an extra 5% off, for a total of 25% off a purchase of up to $150! If you're not sure how close you are, ask us!

New hours and receipt discount during Weavers Way renovation

Monday 11-6
Tues-Fri 11-7 (later during events)
Sat-Sun 10-6 (unchanged)
During this time, the co-op will become a "pop-up store" with numerous events for kids and adults. If you come to the bookstore with a co-op receipt whose time coincides with that day's event, we'll give you 5% off your purchase -- in addition to any other discounts! This includes the summer movie discount, the July discount, and the regular book club book discount!

Meanwhile, there's also the Co-op's Mt. Airy Village Loyalty Card:
Conversely, you can get a card punch from us (and other Village businesses) for a purchase over $5 (one per day) during the renovation, and when the card is filled you'll receive $5 off a Weavers Way purchase of over $50.

Summer Sidewalk Sales
Our upcoming summer sidewalk sales -- full of hardcovers and paperbacks at deep discounts -- are scheduled for the weekends of July 28-29 and August 18-19. Check our website for more details.

And of course we always have a selection of discounted books in our sale section, including many hardcovers for paperback prices!

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Jen’s Five Tales of the Fair Folk

Elves and fairies are often portrayed these days as small, cute, and, above all, safe. In light of our fairytale/superhero-movie-ticket book promotion this summer*, here are some excellent fairy tales in which -- while they may be funny (or worse, scathingly ironic!) -- the Folk are formidable friends...or formidable enemies...or both.

The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien (Random House, 3 vols, $7.99 each)
The elves of Middle Earth are, for me, the archetype of elves as keepers of wisdom and dignity. In 1953, Tolkien was appalled when an editor went through his manuscript and changed the word “elven” to “elfin” throughout. Wouldn’t that feel like a different story...?

[Note about the cover image: the LotR books we carry in the store are the standard three volume set, with their own titles on the cover -- so I've amused myself by finding a picture of the single-volume paperback (1076 pages!) that was the version I read as a kid.]

Welcome to Bordertown, edited by Holly Black and Ellen Kushner (Random House, $10.99)
In the ‘80s and ‘90s came a flood of books from the Borderlands, the newly created edge -- and its floodplain -- between our world and that of Faerie; a place where both magic and technology work ... sometimes. Basically, if you're gonna ride a motorcycle, you want to have some good spells on hand for when the engine cuts out on you. And vice versa. Bordertown is where runaways from both sides of the border go to start a new life. Now the birthplace of urban fantasy is back, and newbies are always welcomed...

Changeling by Delia Sherman (Penguin, $8.99)
If you hang with the Fair Folk, you have to pay attention to the rules -- even the ones you don’t know. New York Between is the immigrant folklore overlay to Manhattan, and Neef is the mortal changeling of Central Park. Not only does she get herself an unwanted quest by breaking the rules, she also gets to spend it with her fairy twin -- the unsuspecting changeling kid who's growing up in her place.

Lords and Ladies by Terry Pratchett (HarperCollins, $7.99)
In the little kingdom of Lancre, everyone knows that there are no elves anymore, and that if they ever came back, they would be wonderful, beautiful, and, well, glamorous. Any stories to the contrary are just old wives’ tales. The witches of Lancre, on the other hand, aren’t Everyone, and they know what would really happen...

Tam Lin by Pamela Dean (Penguin, $8.99)
So if you take the Ballad of Tam Lin, turn Carterhaugh into Carter Hall on a college campus, send a professor’s daughter there to study, throw in a bunch of literary allusions... It’s quite a story. Just keep an eye on the Classics department.

*Keep an eye out for similarly relevant lists throughout the summer...

June 2012, Jennifer Sheffield

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Quote: Adrienne Cecile Rich

When Adrienne Rich died at the end of March this year, I delved into my college diaries to find out what I'd said about reading The Fact of a Doorframe in Intro to Literature, and what I'd said the first time I saw her read. What I found was a poem called "Bears," which I hadn't remembered copying in ... in fact, I hadn't remembered it at all until I reread it, and the words washed over me once more with power and longing and the memory of unknown losses.

At the store last week, I took The Fact of a Doorframe off the shelf to write this post, and I couldn't find the poem. I searched the pages, the table of contents, the index ... and finally I looked at the front cover and realised that this was not "Poems Selected and New, 1950-1984" but instead "Poems, 1950-2001". Reissued and revised to include the whole of her career to that point, and clearly not just expanded, but shuffled -- some poems in, some poems out.

So here is one of the poems now lost from the collection. Who keeps it now?


Wonderful bears that walked my room all night,
Where are you gone, your sleek and fairy fur,
Your eyes' veiled imperious light?

Brown bears as rich as mocha or as musk,
White opalescent bears whose fur stood out
Electric in the deepening dusk,

And great black bears who seemed more blue than black,
More violet than blue against the dark--
Where are you now? upon what track

Mutter your muffled paws, that used to tread
So softly, surely, up the creakless stair
While I lay listening in bed?

When did I lose you? whose have you become?
Why do I wait and wait and never hear
Your thick nocturnal pacing in my room?
My bears, who keeps you now, in pride and fear?

-- Adrienne Rich, The Fact of a Doorframe: New and Selected Poems, 1950-1984, originally from The Diamond Cutters, 1955

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Cordelia’s Five Newbery Honor/Medal Winners Featuring Female Main Characters Who Overcome Parental Loss and Conflict in Unusual Ways

Walk Two Moons by Sharon Creech (Harper Trophy, $6.99)
1995 Newbery Winner.

One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams-Garcia (Amistad, $6.99)
2011 Newbery Honor.

Higher Power of Lucky by Susan Patron (Atheneum, $6.99)
2007 Newbery Winner.

Because of Winn Dixie by Kate DiCamillo (Candlewick, $6.99)
2001 Newbery Honor.

Moon Over Manifest by Claire Vanderpool (Yearling, $7.99)
2011 Newbery Winner.

Click here for the list of all Newbery Medal and Honor books from 1922 to the present!

June 2012, Cordelia Jensen

Monday, June 18, 2012

Celebrating Translators – Elliott’s Five Favorites You Don’t Know You Already Know

Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi, translated by Mattias Ripa and Blake Ferris (Random House, $13.95)
Can you imagine not just translating the meaning, culture, and emotions of the text, but also making sure the words will fit in the captions and speech bubbles? This team of translators brought us a work that changed how we think about Iran, and was the first graphic memoir many of us fell in love with.

The Grimm Reader: The Classic Tales of the Brothers Grimm, translated by Maria Tatar (Norton, $16.95)
Grimms' fairy tales are so deeply part of our culture that it’s easy to forget they are translated from German. Maria Tatar has made the stories fresh, and restored a cultural depth that has been lost in simplified, scrubbed, mass-media versions. Definitely a version for adults. (How did these become “children’s stories,” anyway? Read her intro to find out!)

The Prague Cemetery by Umberto Eco, translated by Richard Dixon (Houghton, $27.00)
Richard Dixon says that, including brief interruptions, translating Eco’s novel took eight months: “I worked fairly slowly on the first draft because there was a lot of research to do. That first draft is always the most important – it’s the stage when errors creep in. I then worked through another two drafts, trying each time to work on getting it to sound as natural and readable as possible, especially the dialogue. After the third draft I printed it all out, gave it a final read-through, made the last few changes and sent it to Eco and the publishers.”

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson, translated by Reg Keeland (Random House, $15.95)
Translator Steven Murray, who translates in UK English under the name Reg Keeland, has produced books which prove it DOES pay to translate crime. Only about 3% of all the books published in the U.S. each year are translations — but Murray’s English versions of Larsson’s Millennium Series may help change that.

Please Look After Mom by Kyung-Sook Shin, translated by Chi-Young Kim (Random House, $14.95)
Who would we be if we did not have access to other lives, other stories, other cultures? Without translators, there would be no Women of the World book club, no Homer, no Hans Christian Anderson, no Bible. Even though translators often work in anonymity, with their names appearing only in small print buried in a book’s front matter, they are no slouches. Chi-Young Kim has received the Man Asian Literary Prize (2011), the Korea Literature Translation Institute Translation Grant (2011), the Daesan Foundation Translation Grant (2008, 2005), and the 34th Modern Korean Literature Translation Award (2003).

June 2012, Elliott batTzedek

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Janet's Three Nightmare-Producing and Two Comforting Equals Five Picks for May

I got hooked after seeing my daughter retreat to her room for days on end with the first of three. We have them, complete with a cookbook and a full-color guide to Panem. Only you can discover the true meaning of:
The Hunger Games by Suzannne Collins
(Scholastic Press, $8.99)
Catching Fire by Suzannne Collins
(Scholastic Press, $17.99)
Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins
(Scholastic Press, $17.99)

One Love, adapted by Cedella Marley (Chronicle Books, $16.99)
Love and harmony on every level are restored by this new release of Bob Marley's most sung melody, illustrated in bright joyous colors by Vanessa Brantley-Newton.

Tickle Time! by Sandra Boynton (Workman, $6.99)
"If you're feeling blue and you don't know what to do, there is nothing like a TICKLE TIME to make you feel like new." Need I say more?

Janet Elfant, May 2012

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Cordelia Announces the 2012 Winner and Runners Up for the E. B. White Read-Aloud Awards for Picture Books

The E.B. White awards are given by the American Booksellers Association to books that "reflect the playful, well-paced language, the engaging themes, and the universal appeal to a wide range of ages embodied by E.B. White’s collection of beloved books." Every owner or staff member working in an independent bookstore is allowed to vote. Every year, at the annual ABA convention, the recipients of these awards are honored.

1. I Want My Hat Back by Jon Klassen (Candlewick, $15.99)

Honor Books:
2. Press Here by Herve Tuller (Chronicle, $15.99)
3. Stars by Mary Lyn Ray & Marla Frazee (Beach Lane Books, $16.99)
4. Over and Under the Snow by Kate Messner & Christopher Silas Neal (Chronicle Books, $16.99)
5. Goodnight, Goodnight Construction Site by Sherri Dunsky Rinker & Tom Lichtenheld (Chronicle Books, $16.99)

To see a full list of all the winners, check out:

Cordelia Jensen, May 2012

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Der Mai ist gekommen...

...and brings with it blue, blue skies, warm winds and an exuberance of colors and fragrances.

The month of May also contains National Children's Book Week; here are five favorites that will remain part of my family's literature journey FOREVER:

Grandfather Twilight by Barbara Berger (Puffin $6.99)

Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? by Eric Carle (HenryHolt, $7.95 board, $16.99 hardcover)

If You Were My Bunny by Kate McMullan (Cartwheel, $6.99)

D'Aulaire's Book of Greek Myths (Random House, $29.99 hardcover, $19.99 paperback)

The Owl Who Was Afraid of the Dark by Jill Tomlinson (Egmont, $8.95)

Mesmerizing illustrations, sweet and heart warming story lines will make your and your children's heart happy and light.

AND these books will create unforgettable memories of cozy snuggle times (your teen will cringe now, but it’s all right).

Claudia Vesterby, May 2012

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Deep Cuts: Mecca Jamilah Sullivan's Writing Profile

We are re-posting our February 2010 interview with Mecca Jamilah Sullivan in honor of her reading here with us tomorrow!  Join us this Friday, May 11, from 7-9 pm for our Nor'easter Open Mic, featuring Sullivan and Nathan Long, with an hour of open mic to follow!  For more information, you can visit our site or the Nor'easter blog

Writing Profile: Mecca Jamilah Sullivan

February 22, 2010

1) How would you describe your writing?

I write fiction that is propelled by characters and their language. I’m always interested in people—who they are and how they’ve become that way, what they do and why they do it, how their decisions change their world, what experiences change them and force them to grow. I really enjoy walking for a while in characters’ heads and lives, figuring out how they think and how they speak. In many ways, I think our voices reflect the depths of who we are and what we’ve experienced. So as a lover of character-driven fiction, voice is really important to me, as well.

2) How does writing fit into your everyday life?

When writing isn’t a part of my day, I definitely notice its absence. Which doesn’t mean that I get to write fiction every day, of course. There are lots of days when I don’t write more than a to-do-list and a couple of belabored emails. I think it’s important for writers to acknowledge all of the different kinds of writing we do. I once took a course on print culture from the Renaissance era onward, where the professor drew our attention to all the various kinds of print we take in every day— the text on sugar packets, five billion kinds of street signs, the logos on the bottoms of our boots. I think writing is sort of the same way. We collage and troubleshoot words in so many ways, and spend lots of hidden time putting words together. I have good friends who treat nearly every email they send like a confection, kneading and pinching and frosting it until they feel it’s done.

Right now, I’m doing a lot of critical writing for my Ph.D., which is definitely different from my fiction. In many ways, though, it works the same muscle; almost any kind of writing gives us the chance to conjure up thoughts and images, then lasso them into being with words. Letters, journal entries, even to-do-lists, even business memos, I imagine, can offer moments of play. On days when I don’t get to write fiction, I try to really enjoy the creative aspects of whatever I am writing. But I make a note of it, and my day does feels a little different. I feel best when I’m creating things with words.

3) What authors and/or poets and writers inspire you?

Oh, there are so many. I am a huge, huge fan of Toni Morrison. I recently rediscovered her short story “Recetatif,” and sort of fell tragically and beautifully in awe all over again. I admire her for so many reasons, and talking about her always feels to me like trying to talk about love, to anatomize it. Her narrators are always completely authoritative and yet infinitely supple—they let you know that they have an important story to tell and that they are in control of that story, but they somehow also charm you into listening, settling in, going along for the ride, no matter how challenging and even painful it may be. I have similar feelings about Virginia Woolf, especially in To The Lighthouse, and Ralph Ellison, and William Faulkner. Jamaica Kincaid’s narrative voices always make me itch for a pen. As does Gayl Jones’s imagination, and James Joyce’s, too.

And there are lots of younger contemporary writers whose work inspires me. Junot Diaz, Edwidge Danticat, and Sapphire stand out as models of folks who explore multiple worlds and multiple experiences—hip-hop culture, immigrant culture, issues of sexuality and gender, exile and alienation, all kinds of fusions and fractures—on a contemporary urban stage that my generation can relate to. I grew up in Harlem in the 1980’s and 1990’s, and I think I’ll always be drawn to stories rooted in that kind of time and place. The voices of rappers like Queen Latifah, Sugar Hill Gang, and the Notorious B.I.G. loom about as large for me as a lot of these authors I’ve mentioned. So I admire writers who’ve been able to tap into the urgency and complexity of young, urban voices and bring them to other parts of the world.

4) How does the community of Philadelphia play a part in your writing?

Philly has always felt like a home away from home for me. My mother was born and raised in North Philly, and that side of my family is still here. On a basic level, Philly and writing have always gone together for me. Throughout elementary school, I would come and spend a week or two of my summer vacation with my grandmother, and I’d always do a lot of writing. Every morning she’d clip the Cryptogram word puzzle from the Inquirer for me, and I’d do the puzzle and then write little stories based on whatever the quote turned out to be.

Now, Philly’s writing community is a sort of home-base for me. Most of the stories that I’ve published were written here, on the slanted stoops of buildings in the Art Museum area, or on the bus en route to West Philly, or in coffee shops downtown. Art in general is really alive in a special way in Philly. Community art is such an important part of the culture here, with the Mural Arts program, for example, which makes a walk through this city like a trip through Wonderland for anyone who loves art. And there are so many talented writers here—communities like Big Blue Marble, the Chapter and Verse series, the Light of Unity series, Moles not Molar, Running Wild Writers, and the Kelly Writers House all bring rich, interesting new fiction and poetry within close reach. Then, too, the legacy of writers like Sonia Sanchez, John Edgar Wideman, and W.E.B. Dubois is definitely an inspiration in itself.

5) What is the last book you have read that you enjoyed? Tell our Big Blue Marble community a little about it.

This is a tough one. I suppose that would be Jamaica Kincaid’s Mr. Potter. It’s a really stunning book about the life of a seemingly unremarkable Antiguan man, told from the point of view of his daughter. As in all of Kincaid’s work, the narrator taps into this unrelenting first-person voice that hooks you immediately, and makes you crave her when she’s gone. The book follows the narrator as she imagines and reconstruct her father’s life, thinking through how forces like colonialism, poverty, racism and classism, infidelity and love have shaped him, and, in turn, shape her. It’s one of Kincaid’s more recent novels, and I think it reflects everything that I admire about her work, and everything I try to do in my own. It makes you fall in love with the characters even through their missteps and cruelty, makes you root yourself in her fictional world, even with its real-world treacheries and flaws.

Mecca Jamilah Sullivan is from Harlem, New York. Her writing has appeared or is forthcoming internationally in publications including Callaloo, American Fiction, Best New Writing, Crab Orchard Review, Bloom, Lumina, Amistad, The Minnesota Review, 2010 Robert Olen Butler Fiction Prize Stories, Baobab: South African Journal of New Writing, American Visions and GLQ. She is the winner of the Charles Johnson Fiction Award, the William Gunn Fiction Award, the James Baldwin Memorial Playwriting Award, as well as honors from Glimmer TrainGulf CoastAmerican Short FictionBest New Writing, Philadelphia Stories, the Boston Fiction Festival, Sol Books, Temple University, Del Sol Press, the NAACP, and others. She is the recipient of scholarships, fellowships, and residencies from the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, The Yaddo Colony, the Hedgebrook Writers’ Retreat, the New York State Summer Writers’ Institute, the Center for Fiction, and Williams College. She holds a Ph.D. in English Literature from the University of Pennsylvania.  She recently completed her dissertation on voice and difference in contemporary women’s literature of the African Diaspora.