Board Books I Have Loved (as mentioned on Vancouver Co-op Radio)

Well, I haven’t blogged in a coon’s age.  But let’s all be thankful that the Age of the Coon has passed and I am blogging right now!

I was on Vancouver Co-op Radio’s It Takes a Village parenting show today talking about books for babies: why to share ’em with your little one, how to choose ’em and ones that particularly tickle me.  Here is my list of favourites, in no particular order.

1. I Like it When… by Mary Murphy.  Harcourt.

When I was a student librarian at Vancouver Public Library, one of the librarians there pointed out the beauty of this book to me. Because the penguins are genderless, there are so many possibilities for their relationship.  They can be mom and tot, dad and tot, grandparent and tot, big sibling and tot, foster parent and tot – it’s totally multipurpose and applicable to any family situation.  Plus, I love that their bellies look like scrambled eggs.

2. Hickory, Dickory Dock & Other Mother Goose Rhymes by James Marshall.  Out of print 😦

Every baby needs a Mother Goose book.  Sadly, it may not be this one because it’s out of print (don’t forget Abebooks, people!).  I love this book because I think the illustrations will tickle adults and, as I mentioned on the radio, it’s really important for big people to enjoy the books that they’re reading to babies.  This book also has wonderful potential to grow with baby and remain a favourite even until Kindergarten when they can really laugh at the pussycat who has gout.

3. Bow Wow board books by Mark Newgarden & Megan Montague Cash. Harcourt.

I found out about these on Phil Nel’s blog and fell in love with them.  This is another one adults and older siblings will appreciate while still remaining totally baby friendly with their flat, bright colours and thick outlines.

4. I Kissed the Baby! by Mary Murphy. Candlewick.

The black and white contrasting images are obviously perfect for babies, but I love the back-and-forth dialogue in this book.  Without realizing it, you start doing voices and intonation and it becomes a lil’ lesson in conversation with babies.  It’s also fun to ask the “Did you kiss the baby?” question to your baby, pause, and await their babbling response.  It also makes a nice, very simple felt story for the 2-3 year old crowd.

5. All of Baby Nose to Toes by Victoria Adler.  Illustrations by Hiroe Nakata. Dial.

I was insane over this book when it came out in picturebook format and I was so pumped last year when it came out as a board book.  I love to share this one at babytime because there is so much room for interaction.  It ends up being a bit of a massage session as almost every part of the body is rubbed or snuggled or kissed.  So lovely.

6. Any board book by Hervé Tullet. Phaidon.

He’s simply the bomb. A total original. Love.

7. Black on White (or White on Black) by Tana Hoban. Greenwillow.

I think these books are boring, but that is because I am not a baby.  Looking at these books for a baby is akin to watching Jurassic Park for adults – it’s exciting, captivating and really awesome.

8. Welcome Song for Baby by Richard Van Camp. Orca.

This is one that will be old news for British Columbians as it was in the Books for BC Babies bag a few years ago.  But for anyone who doesn’t know it, it’s the ideal baby face picture book.  The images are beautiful and inclusive and the text has the most wonderful rhythm.  Tried and true, this book is.

9. Any of the Simply Small books from Simply Read Books

Beyond the ridiculous cuteness factor, these are the some of the best baby books with a light narrative.  The stories are short and simple, the outlines are clear and bold and little makes me happier than a big-eyed beaver named Bitsy.

Zoom, Zoom, Zoom – I’m Going Somewhere Better Than the Moon!

Well, my bookshelves are empty so I must be moving.

I am really quite excited to be moving back to Vancouver to take up the reins as the Head of Youth Services at the West Vancouver Memorial Library.  It is a truly amazing place and one I have always had my eye on for employment.  It is tremendously well-supported by the community, known for innovation/general tech awesomeness and has an entire floor and reference desk for the youth department.  It is also a one-branch system, which I think are the best: you can really get to know an entire community, be adventurous in your collection development and pilot new and exciting things without having to get the A-OK from the folks six levels and many buildings away.

I have spent the last year covering for a maternity leave position as the Head of Youth Services at the Port Moody Public Library and absolutely adoring it.  Like a complete lunatic, I cried twice during my final days last week – once at my going away party and once when one of our circ staff presented me with this personalized quilt:

Comparing where I was about a year ago is really quite odd now.  When I finished school in May 2010 with too many graduate degrees (my MLIS and MA in Children’s Literature) I was really wrestling with the thought of trying to make it “out east.”  I have always had a deep obsession with all the amazing children’s literature stuff that happens out in the New York/Bostonish area so I applied for the position of Librarian/Educator at the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art.  By some miracle I was shortlisted for the position and had a phone interview where I spent most of the time getting too excited about James Marshall.  As I was waiting to hear back from the Carle for their final decision, I interviewed at Port Moody and was offered the job.

Now I was in a pickle: do I take the Port Moody job, an amazing position that will give me tons of valuable management experience, pays well and is close to home?  Or do I turn it down in the hope that I might get the dream job of a lifetime at the Carle?  I obviously went with the former and withdrew from the Carle competition, but not before shaking my fist at myself and saying “You better have made the right decision, lady!”

I know that I did.  And the last year has been really swell: In addition to leading the youth department at Port Moody, I have sat on two awards juries (BC Book Prize and CCBC’s Best Books for Kids and Teens Committee), continued reviewing for Quill & Quire including two feature reviews, recently started reviewing apps for School Library Journal and had some amazing public speaking opportunities thanks to the Vancouver Children’s Literature Roundtable.  I have also been able to stay within driving distance of the other half of my black little heart, which is always a plus when navigating the world of employment.

Hmmm…I realize that I have used the word “amazing” a lot in this post, but I think I’m going to leave it that way.

So, although you didn’t ask – that’s what’s shakin’ in the life of Shan. Apologies for the self-indulgent post that will likely only be of interest to my mom and some European spammers asking for my bank account information.

Canuck and Yankee Picturebooks: Best o’ the Best in 2011 (so far)

I am going to be on Vancouver Co-op Radio’s “It Takes a Village” parenting show on Thursday, August 18th from 4-5pm PST to talk about chidlers, reading, and some of my favorite picturebooks this year.  I will be mentioning some of these while I’m on the show.

Oh Canada

My dear mentor and friend, Professor Judi Saltman, is the lady responsible for my fierce sense of nationalism for Canadian children’s books. So let’s start with those produced close to (my) home:

Alligator Bear Crab: A Baby’s ABC by Lesley Wynne Pechter.  Orca.

The alligator on the first page manages to look both friendly and sort of menacingly hungry at the same time.  Sold!  But really, the animals that make up this alphabet book have a quirky character that tickles me, and that I think will tickle parents and tots.  I love the inclusion of distinctly Canadian animals (including a Canada goose, moose and orca) without all the stereotypes – which is often what happens when artists set out to do a deliberately Canadian alphabet book.

Cinnamon Baby by Nicola Winstanley.  Illustrations by Janice Nadeau.  Kids Can Press.

It’s difficult for me to write about this book without my heart exploding with happiness.  It is the dearest, dearest tale of Miriam and Sebastian’s crying, colicky baby.  The illustrations (Parisian and quaint) show fountains of tears springing up from the pram with the words “The baby cried at the sky.  It cried at the flowers.  It cried at the sunshine and the wind in the trees and at everyone who passed.”  Miriam finally figures out what to do to make the baby stop crying and it speaks so beautifully to the bond between mother and child.  Perfect for new mothers, new big siblings and a Kindergarten read-aloud.

Kitten’s Summer by Eugenie Fernandes.  Kids Can Press

Librarians run around like crazy people whenever the seasons change, trying to get their hands on all things seasonal for patrons.  Eugenie Fernandes’ Kitten books are my hands-down faves for the circling of the planet and my review for Kitten’s Autumn explains why. Kitten’s Winter will be coming out in September.  Kitten’s Spring is available now.  The set is complete in 2011!

Ones and Twos by Marthe Jocelyn.  Illustrations by Nell Jocelyn.  Tundra Books.

What would this country do without Marthe Jocelyn?  Probably curl up and die, that’s what.  From simple concept books to middle grade to YA, this woman can do it all.  This book is brilliant because it doesn’t take the ol’ one to ten approach to counting.  It focuses on finding pairs and the combinations are so vibrant and dear.  I especially like “One sings, two talk” which matches the cover illustration.  This book is illustrated by Marthe’s daughter, Nell Jocelyn, and her bright, busy collages are Uh.  Maze.  Ing.

Pussycat, Pussycat Where Have You Been? by Dan Bar-el.  Illustrations by Rae Maté.  Simply Read Books.

When a Canadian picturebook gets mentioned in the New York Times, it is a big dang deal. And this book deserves it. Bar-el’s continuation of the classic nursery rhyme is just divine.  The perfect gift for a person who has just entered the world.

What Are You Doing? by Elisa Amado.  Illustrations by Manuel Monroy.  Groundwood.

This book shows children all the amazing things they will get to do when they learn to read – from enjoying comics to understanding hieroglyphics!  It’s great.  But don’t take my word for it.  Listen to Sarah Ellis.

Predicted Favourite: A Few Blocks by Cybele Young.  Groundwood.

Okay, this one just came out about three weeks ago and it hasn’t come in at the library yet.  But the reviews have been fantastic (not surprising since everything that Groundwood cooks up is generally fantastic) and I can’t wait to get my paws on it.

Yankee Doodles

My Baby Blue Jays by John Berendt.  Viking.

Author John Berendt was lucky enough to have a pair of baby blue jays nest on his balcony and smart enough to take pictures of the whole thing!  This true story, accompanied by amazing photographs, details the building of the nest, the laying of the eggs, the hatching, the feeding and the first flight. Some of the photos are a bit blurry but I think this actually lends a realistic charm. A perfect choice for children growing up in urban settings.

Loon Baby by Molly Beth Griffin.  Illustrations by Anne Hunter.  Houghton Mifflin.

This book…this book!  There is no cuter lil’ baby in picture books this year; this little scrap of feathers reminds me a lot of Tango in Tango Makes Three.  He has such a scruffy little personality.  The story is a simple one of a baby worrying that his mother will not return, and the northern setting and lyrical language makes it a great bedtime or storytime read-aloud.  My favourite line ever: “The breeze ruffled his fluff.”  Perfection.

Me…Jane by Patrick McDonnell.  Little, Brown.

I have a black little heart but this book actually made me cry.  At my desk.  AT WORK.  There is no better choice for encouraging a curious heart in a child.  This story of a young Jane Goodall and her stuffed chimpanzee (Jubilee) will stay with me forever.

Monday is One Day by Arthur A. Levine.  Illustrations by Julian Hector.  Scholastic.

I see so many working parents every day in the library and this book perceptively deals with the separation anxiety that children (and adults!) feel when the weekend comes to an end.  The rhyming text lists all the fun that the weekdays can bring;I particularly love “Friday’s last-tie day: Can you help me pick the one?”  I also can’t say enough about the illustrations which portray all kinds of families from all sorts of backgrounds.

Perfect Square by Michael Hall.  Greenwillow.

An artistic approach to the concept of shapes from the Shape Master, Michael Hall (My Heart is Like a Zoo).  Bonus points for lots of craft extension potential.

The Rain Train by Elena De Roo.  Illustrations by Brian Lovelock.  Candlewick.

Every library in Vancouver needs this book.  Better make that the entire Pacific Northwest.  It’s a triple threat as it’s got 1) the rain. Aka: all that ever happens in this region of the world 2) trains, 3) bedtime story potential.  Oh – and 4) STELLAR ONOMATOPOEIA! I’m talking “Ca-shish” and “Spitter-spat-spit” and “Ping-itta-pang.”  I can’t wait to read this one at a rainy day storytime.  Which is basically every storytime in the Vancouver area.

Roly-Poly Egg by Kali Stileman. Tiger Tales.

When it comes to illustrations alone, this one about a bird named Splotch may be my overall fave.  Splotch’s…well…splotchiness is so energizing and joyful and I love the added bonus of kids developing fine motor skills while tracing the path of the egg.  The big flaps at the end are also a nice touch.  This is another one begging for a Kindergarten class art project.

Tweak Tweak by Eve Bunting.  Illustrations by Sergio Ruzzier. Clarion.

A sweet cumulative story with a very classic feel.  Mama Elephant tells Little Elephant to tweak her tail twice if she has any questions.  Many tweaks later, Little Elephant has learned a bunch.  After reading this book once, I felt like I had known it my whole life.  Hard to put my finger on exactly what it is, but it’s a winner.  It also contains one of the most interesting alligator illustrations I’ve seen in awhile; he’s sort of chubby and docile.  Not like that hungry guy back in Alligator Bear Crab.

Plus One From the French

Would any Best Books of 2011 list be complete without this?  I mean, really.  As the kids call it in my library, it’s the “magic” book.

A Creative Use For Paint Chips

One of the greatest joys I find in starting a new book is the task of selecting a new bookmark.  I have developed a rather strange habit of collecting various colours of paint chips that I can then match to book covers.  It’s kind of like accessorizing.  Behold (I have also included some super articulate reviews in the captions):

A lovely use for my sea foam green chip:

I loved this book.

Dark navy goes with a lot, but this was a particularly good match:

This book was weird. You won't want to eat KFC ever again after reading this.

I knew I was going out on a bit of limb picking this stormcloud lavender but it found a good home:

This book was creemazing (creepy/amazing). I still have to remind myself that Christian isn't real and I don't have to check my closets for him before going to bed.

The best thing about this hobby is that it gives you something to do if your significant other is putzing around at Home Depot or some other ghastly place.  There is also the added fun potential of seeing if the name of the colour on the paint chip corresponds at all with the plot of the book.  Martha Stewart paint chips are the worst for this as she has really boring names for colours like “Spanish Moss” or “Azurite” (all Martha chips are displayed here).  Benjamin Moore is usually a bit more expressive.

A Pink Best Birthday Saturation Point?

How many pink, adorable birthday books by wonderful female illustrators can the market handle?

Apparently two – and one a month at that!  I had a deja-vu moment tonight when I read a review for Jennifer Larue Huget and LeUyen Pham’s The Best Birthday Party Ever.  Looking at the book cover didn’t help me either.

Did I order that book?  Yeah, I think I did.

But I hadn’t.  I had ordered this:

That’s The Best Birthday Ever! By Me (Lana Kittie).  Now, they’re clearly not identical books and the illustrators have completely different styles.  But you have to admit that there’s some definite similarities in titles and colour schemes.  Also, they were released a month apart. The Best Birthday Ever! By Me (Lane Kittie) was released January 4th and The Best Birthday Party Ever was released February 22nd, which makes me feel a bit less like a dunce for being completely confused.

About ten minutes later, I had another confusing moment when I was checking to see if I had ordered Arthur Geisert’s new wordless wonder, Ice. We already had two books titled Ice on order but they were a little different:

Someone really needs to start a book review blog comparing and contrasting books with the same title.  The above comparison would be especially interesting, methinks.

The Top 10 Most Uninspired Rainbow Magic Fairies

Warning: snark alert.

But seriously, doesn’t this “Daisy Meadows” gal grind your gears some days?  Am I the only one who thinks “What the crap – they’re really reachin’ here!” when I see some of these gals?  Behold:

Flora the Fancy Dress Fairy: That ain’t no fancy dress!  That’s a mermaid costume, lady.

Carrie the Snowcap Fairy: A snowcap?  Is that even a thing?

Grace the Glitter Fairy: Okay, I know that the chidlers who read this series probably aren’t concerned with mutual exclusivity, but don’t all these fairies qualify as glitter fairies?  Aren’t they all glittery?  Or is Grace merely the most glittery of them all?

Imogen the Ice Dance Fairy: I’m picking this purely because of the name “Imogen.”  Far out, Daisy.  Interesting to note that the new version features the name Isabelle instead.  Also, ice dance is lame, with the exception of this.

Megan the Monday Fairy: No one likes the Monday fairy.  And that skirt looks much more appropriate for Saturday.

Abigail the Breeze Fairy/Evie the Mist Fairy: Like snowcap, I think that the breeze/mist are not consequential enough to require their own representatives in the fairy world.

Mia the Bridesmaid Fairy: This is the one that fans picked in some vote a while back, so I probably shouldn’t make fun of it.  But really, I can’t help but imagine the Bridesmaid fairy as one who carries around a lot of vodka and broken dreams and insists that she’s not married yet because “She’s putting herself first” (also, wasn’t this book made into a terrible movie with Katherine Heigl?)

Paige the Pantomime Fairy: Because every child is concerned with pantomiming.  And why the dang is she classified as a “Christmas Fairy” on the website?

Kate the Royal Wedding Fairy: No fascinator?  Girl, please.

Diary of a Holds List. Or, Engaging Chidlers With Generous Allowances.

I have the privilege of visiting every single elementary school in town (there’s only 7 so it’s not that heroic) to promote the Summer Reading Club.  The community is relatively affluent, so lots of the kids are super readers with their own respectable home libraries.  It can sometimes be challenging to engage these kids (especially the older ones) with the library when they can simply stop by Chapters to buy what they want, or pay to attend an event that seems way cooler than any library program.

So I have started throwing out tidbits of book news to the kids to peak their interest when I can tell that they’re not so impressed by the library.  The latest bone I’ve been throwing out is the release date of the new Diary of a Wimpy Kid book and mentioning that kids can already put their name on the library holds list for the title.

Well, in about a week there’s been 18 holds on the book.  And it’s still five months away from being published!  And it’s not just Wimpy Kid. I’ve also been promoting the new Creepella Von Cacklefur series that comes out in August and each of the two books now have over 20 holds. Big Nate On a Roll, which also comes out in August, has a respectable 6 holds.

Now, from a collection development standpoint, it may seem like I’ve created a bit of a monster.  I wouldn’t be surprised if there are 50 holds on the new Wimpy book by November. You may be worried that poor lil’ Kid #48 will be using one of those assistive bath device seats before he gets his paws on the book.  But you should see how pumped the chidlers get when they hear that a new installment of a beloved series is forthcoming.  It’s insanity.  I have actually started prefacing the news with “I have something to tell you, but you have to promise not to freak out.”  And all the advance holds actually gives me a really good idea of how many copies to buy.  I’ve already purchased 10 copies of the new Wimpy book and I will gladly buy more as the holds list increases.  Even if I have to weed 20 of these books in two years (and I don’t think I will since the original Wimpy books are all out), the buzz that was created and the demand that was met will make the purchases well worth it.

So there’s yet another argument for librarians to stay current.  Knowing what popular authors have books on the burner, and when those books will be available, can help crack those tough nuts.  When we can give kids something they probably won’t find on their own (and can’t buy!) – like a brand new book announcement gleaned from Twitter or Publishers Weekly – we become valuable. It’s not just about selling what the library has, but what the library will have.  We have to show that we’re with it, we know what kids want, and it will be ready and waiting for them as soon as it’s released.

When YA characters grow up and you gotta shelve ’em somewhere

Super articulate post title, I know.

As you’re probably aware, two very popular young adult series are getting a major epilogue treatment.  Both the Wakefield twins and the Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants gals have returned/are returning as adults in new books – and I’ve really been struggling with where to shelve these ladies.  With the adult fiction?  The YA fiction?  The Gimmick Aisle? (we don’t have one of those at my library, but I wish we did).  After puzzling and puzzling until my puzzler was sore, I came up with two very different solutions.

Sweet Valley Confidential: Ten Years Later

Shelved as Adult Fiction


First let me tell you that this book is unforgivably bad.  I have seriously worked with eleven-year-old ESL children who have mastered grammar and syntax better than Ms. Pascal.  I generally don’t use this blog as a forum to pan books, but I’m still angry that I read this thing.  Today I even apologized to our Adult Services Librarian for spending $10 of her budget on this sentinel of hell.  But I digress.  Here are my reasons for putting it with the adult books.

  • We don’t have any Sweet Valley High books at my library.  This may change when the movie comes out, especially since Diablo Cody is keeping it in the eighties and teens may want to pick up the original books (though they would have to be the true originals without the new millennium updates that came out a few years ago).  But since we don’t currently have any of the SVH books, I don’t think it makes sense to stick Sweet Valley Confidential all alone in YA.  There’s no context.
  • I might be wrong, but I think the vast majority of people who want to read this book are my age: 25-35 year olds who are picking it up for the nostalgia factor.  At least two dozen people on Goodreads have mentioned this, and they ain’t spring chickens.  Disclaimer: I am at the BOTTOM of that 25-35 year old age range.  And I was born three weeks early, so that gives me an unfair disadvantage.
  • Perhaps the most obvious reason, this book was published by St. Martin’s Press – not a YA/children’s publisher.
  • I don’t want it stinking up the YA section. HA!  But seriously…

You’d think I’d do the same thing with the new Traveling Pants book, hey?  Nope.

Sisterhood Everlasting

Will be Shelved as Young Adult Fiction (I think)


First I have to say that this book doesn’t come out until June and I purposely haven’t read any reviews.  I want to experience the book completely blind; I listened to all four books on audiobook last year, am sort of a fan, and would like to be surprised at what happens.

  • Unlike Sweet Valley High, there are teens still actively checking out the Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants series from my library.  There is a perfect little spot next to those in the YA section for the new book.
  • I don’t think there’s really been time for much Pants nostalgia to set in yet. The first Pants book only came out eight years ago.  SVH was around thirty years ago.   Therefore I’m not sure any adult over 22 years old would really recognize the characters in the adult section.

Of course, I won’t really know until I read the book.  I’ll be more than happy to re-class it if the themes are really adult, and/or if I think it can stand on its own legs in the adult section without the context of the other four books.

If anyone has any opinions (without providing any spoilers or even basic plot information for Sisterhood Everlasting) I’m all ears.  I would also like to take this opportunity to say that if, in 2025, there is a new adult book entitled Geronimo Stilton: Whiskers of Truth detailing his sexual betrayals and new “adult” life in New York City, I will write another post about my shelving decision.

Name this book and earn my eternal gratitude

Nothing makes me feel like a bad librarian more than my inability to solve this mystery.

In Grade 12 I took Music.  It was the kind of class where everyone played their own instrument and most of the time was spent practicing (we also had to bring in our favourite song of all time for the rest of the class listen to – I brought some Beastie Boys song because I was trying to be cool).  All my Music class time was spent practicing the french horn.  I was not good at playing the french horn.  Because I was so loud/bad, I was relegated to practicing in a storage closet.

This ended up being amazing because this was the storage closet where all the extra novel study book sets were kept!  So I just spent the whole time reading.  I probably read The Giver six times.  It was sweet.  And during this time I stumbled upon a book that I became absolutely obsessed with.  I liked it so much that I…well…erm…sort of took a copy home for myself.

What I remember from the plot – most of this is taken from a post I put up on the abebooks Book Sleuth forum a couple weeks ago; a post that has had no responses 😦

A sort of angsty, misfity teen boy falls in love with an artsy girl. I think they may have met at an art gallery.  I remember that she had black hair that was cut sorta bad ass and jaggedy. They proceed to have a pretty intense sexual relationship with lots of naughty bits in the book.  Then the artsy girl gets pregnant. I believe at that point they run away together. Then she has a miscarriage.  Intense.  The last chapter is set several years in the future (I believe) and the artsy girl is now dating an old professor. The angsty teen boy still pines for her.

What I remember of the cover:

I believe the cover was orange on the top half and white on the bottom half.  The orange was that kind of bright, intense “Penguin” orange that is part of the Penguin logo.

In the middle of the cover, there was a cut off photograph showing two people on a sort of old, brown, 1970s-ish couch.

What complicates things:

This could have been a young adult novel, but it could have easily been an adult novel.  We read lots of adult novels in my high school.  Sadly, I KNOW NOTHING about adult novels.

I have tried the YA route whilst searching for this but have come up with nothing.  I’ve tried subject heading searches in WorldCat, looking at reader-produced lists on teen pregnancy fiction on Amazon and Goodreads, and even lazy old Google searches.  I have even checked the Penguin sight in hopes that this actually is a Penguin book (because of the colouring) but no dice. I first encountered the book circa 2000, so it was definitely written before that.

Mom, if you are reading this (because I know you probably are because you look at my Twitter all the time), is there a book with an orange and white cover with a photo on it lying around the house in Regina anywhere?  If so, please mail it to me.

If anyone has any ideas, please, please, puh-lease share them with me.  If you are a member of the Sheldon-Williams Collegiate faculty, you can send me a bill for the book.  But I can’t tell you how much the book was worth because I can’t remember the title….

A reference question on fantasy for a Grade 6 Harry Potter hater

I don’t want to be redundant with these reference question posts, but I can’t help but jot something down when I find myself handing over a giant stack of books to a hungry lil’ chidler.

Tonight a Grade 6 gal came in looking for some good fantasy books.  The staff member on the Information Desk called me out to field this one.  I joyfully skipped away from my current duty of something boring and administrativey to help out.

Fantasy is a tough genre when it comes to recommending things as it can mean very different things to different people.  This is how it went down:

What she had already in her book bag:

  • Princess Academy by Shannon Hale

This was a big tip-off.  No Susan Cooper/Tolkien/Brian Jacques/Monica Hughes for this gal!

What she told me she likes:

  • All Roald Dahl (oh, now we’re talkin’!)
  • Scarlett by Cathy Cassidy (d’oh!  I’ve never read it!)
  • Candy Apple and Poison Apple series (hmm…the plot thickens)

What she nixed right off the bat:

Before I recommended anything we had a bit of general chat about what’s super popular in the fairy tale/fantasy genre right now.  She expressed immediate disdain for the following:

  • Harry Potter (never read it, doesn’t want to)
  • Princess Diaries series (she read some and they got “too boring”)
  • Spiderwick Chronicles (no explanation, just a scrunched up nose)
  • The Graveyard Book (she tried it but never got into it)
  • A Tale Dark And Grimm by Adam Gidwitz (I told her about the plot and she was promptly horrified)

Further adding to the challenge was that she has seen almost every movie made in the history of the world.  This means she has seen lots of the terrible, terrible movie versions of very unterrible books.

What I recommended:

From what she told me, I was getting a distinct British humour/fairy tale/more-complex-book vibe from her (the Apple series aside).  Here’s what I recommended. I’ ve put them into categories here because organization please me.

For their cheeky Dahl-esque humour:

  • Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket (she loved the movie so I gave her Book 4 as the movie roughly ends around Book 3)
  • The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart
  • The Willoughbys by Lois Lowry
  • Cosmic by Frank Cottrell Boyce (after hugging it and saying “I almost don’t want to give this to you because I want to take it home again and read it”)

For their fairy tale-ness:

  • Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine
  • Fablehaven series by Brandon Mull
  • Inkspell trilogy by Cornelia Funke
  • Sisters Grimm series by Michael Buckley

Plug for Canadian fantasy:

  • Silverwing by Kenneth Oppel

Wild Card:

  • When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead (it turns out someone bought this for her and she hasn’t read it yet!)

What she noticed on display and took:

  • Witch’s Business by Diana Wynne Jones

Now that I’m sitting here writing this post, I can think of so many more, but the poor dear had to carry her bag home so I think that was quite enough for one visit.

Very interesting how these things play out…and this may be the first child I have ever encountered who claims to like fantasy, but loathe Harry Potter.