"Life returned to the old bus. Stella's fingers fluttered and her soccer players spun. Babies crawled, people laughed, kids fought, granddad's scratched dogs, meetings were planned, couples met..."
Bob Graham's new book A Bus Called Heaven is an inspiring story about turning trash to treasure, community organizing, and standing up for what you believe in! This book stars a stellar little activist named Stella and is set in a colorful, real-life neighborhood! She and her friends and family work together to turn an abandoned bus into a place where folks can take a load off, play fussball, dance, or do homework in good company!
We've been thinking a lot about community-building and grass roots efforts here at Green Bean Books! We've recently been awarded a grant through our local development commission to fund 75% of an amazing project to build an open air fort for our garden.
We have created an indiegogo campaign in hopes of funding the final 25%, which amounts to approximately $10,000. If we reach our goal, Green Bean's garden will serve as a year-round, all-weather fort for our children's programming, art advocacy, as well as a place for families and friends to read away any afternoon!
We are passionate about doing our little part to prevent the demise of independent bookstores and by exposing children to the joyful experience of touching, feeling and turning actual pages in a fun and curiosity-provoking setting. We really appreciate your help in fulfilling this mission!
Check out some of our other favorite picture books about community!
Here at Green Bean Books we wax ecstatic at the mere MENTION of a muskrat! We've paid homage to these semi-aquatic rodents with an old-fashioned muskrat vending machine after all! Imagine my delight when, during this muggy morning's re-reading of Tove Jansson's Comet in Moominland , I made the acquaintance of a PHILOSOPHER MUSKRAT!
"I am the Muskrat," said the wretched creature faintly. "A philosopher, you know. I should just like to point out that your bridge-building activities have completely ruined my house in the river bank, and although ultimately it doesn't matter what happens, I must say even a philosopher does not care for being soaked to the skin!"
Thus proceeds Muskrat's first surly soliloquy. Muskrat moves in with the Moomins and begins to conduct his vita contemplativa from a hammock among their flowering trees, deeming all endeavors save musing, the drinking of palm-tree wine, and the munching of an occasional ginger-nut "UNNECESSARY!" Muskrat remains stoic even regards the impending arrival of an EARTH-SHATTERING super comet! (Real-life muskrats are notoriously adaptable and omnivorous. (NOT PICKY EATERS!))
The only crack in the facade of his dispassion is occasioned by his sitting on Moomintroll's lemon peel and crystallized pear cake! "'Now I shall be sticky for the rest of my life, I suppose," said the Muskrat bitterly. "I only hope I can bear it like a man and a philosopher." The motley crew gobbles up the contriturated treat despite the muskiness!
Muskrat is just one scruffy sample of how Jansson's stories integrate goofiness and gravity. She's a master of both sincerity and slapstick! Big Questions and bloopers! This is true of her Moomin chapter books, her comics, and even of her grown-up books--of which I am an especially vocal enthusiast! The Summer Book is a riotous and heart-wrenching story about the life of an island-dwelling little girl and her grandmother. Read more about this prolific author, illustratress and fellow muskrat-maniac here!
Bonus muskrats in literature! From Raggedy Ann's Wishing Pebble by Johnny Gruelle ! "Everyone is invited for ice cream soda at the Muskrats' house."
Maybe it's because I was born smack-dab in the middle of summer... or maybe it's because I'm about to have a summer baby of my own... or maybe (just maybe) it's just that summer is so elusive here in the Pacific Northwest, that even though I never considered myself a summer person before living here, I've finally learned to love these lazy days of July and August. Bikes, sunshine, trips to Sauvie Island and the sound of fresh berries hitting the bottom of a tin pail: "kuplink, kuplank, kuplunk!" No matter how busy I get (and it doesn't get much busier than preparing for a new baby!), Summer is about burying my nose in a book--picking up new titles and revisiting old favorites.
One of my newest traditions (inspired a young customer!) has been to kick off the past few summers with a re-read of The Penderwicks series by Jeanne Birdsall. As breezy and carefree as any day in July, the hilarious Penderwick girls always leave me longing for more adventures. And if the Penderwicks are a lighthearted day at the beach, then my new favorite summer middle-reader, Summer of the Gypsy Moths, by Sara Pennypacker, is a hot dark night full of gorgeous fireflies. Packing a wallop of intrigue, mystery and heart, Gypsy Moths is the perfect book for late-night reading by flashlight.
It's nearly impossible to pick a favorite summer picture book from the crop of new releases in the store. A sleuth of gorgeous titles like Holly Hobbie's Gem, Beach Feet, by Konagaya Kiyomi, and Jonathan and the Big Blue Boat, by Caldecott Award-Winner Philip Stead, all arrived in just the past few weeks. Our summery store display keeps on growing, and includes favorites from years past, like Mama Is It Summer Yet? by Nikki McClure, A Beach Tail by Karen Lynn Williams, and Suzy Lee's, Wave.
It's also been especially wonderful searching for summery board books for this baby-on-the-way. Look Look Outside!, the fourth book in the Look Look! series by Peter Linenthal is just as incredible as the others, and will be the perfect compliment to a summer stroll through our neighborhood. Customer favorites like Summer, by Gerda Muller and What Do You See?, by Martine Perrin, have also found their way onto my shelves at home. (I have no willpower when it comes to books.)
Clearly, I spend an awful lot of time thinking about what makes a great summer read. (I even wrote a piece on some favorite Young Adult summer books a few years back, over here.) If there's one thing they all seem to have in common, it's the overarching theme of limitless possibility. Kids know what adults so easily forget--that summer is a time when anything can happen. Adventure is always around the corner if only we are open to it. And as we move into these last days of high summer, I hope you find plenty of adventure and fun, both in your books and your days. (I know I will.)
It seems that alien encounters (of the fictional kind) are everywhere I turn lately.
- Legendary science fiction author Ray Bradbury, passed away last week at the age of 91, and moving tributes are popping up everywhere.
-Local author/illustrator extraordinaire (and alien lover!) Mark Fearing, will be visiting Green Bean on June 30th to share his new graphic novel, Earthling! with us.
-Practically every box of books I've received in the store the past few weeks has contained one (or several) great new alien or space exploration titles.
- To top is all off, my husband and I finally decided to watch Attack the Block last night and both fell hard for it. While definitely not a movie for younger audiences, it was still a fantastic science fiction flick about resourceful kids during an alien invasion, with moving political and social undertones. Bradbury would have loved it, I'm sure.
Whether you've got a 7 year-old or 30 year-old Star Wars fan in your house, you are no doubt deeply familiar with the level of devotion science fiction fans have for their literature and movies. As a kid, I can remember being totally captivated by movies like ET and Flight of the Navigator, and authors like Ray Bradbury and H.G. Wells. There were many, many attempts to make my first two wheeler (with a banana seat) take flight.
Even though fantasy quickly took over as the preferred genre of my adolescence, I never quite forgot my love for those old sci-fi stories of exploration and other planets. Like a lot of grown-ups, I still can't resist a good alien story.
My favorite books these days feature sympathetic beings from other worlds, like the sweet alien in Oliver Jeffers' The Way Back Home, and the whole silly crew of Aliens Love Underpants, by Claire Freedman. But The Man on the Moon, the newest picture book by William Joyce, is the perfect blend of science fiction and fantasy, and is a wonderful book for readers of all ages and lovers of both genres. The Boy Who Cried Alien, by Marilyn Singer (just released this month!) takes an entirely new approach to a well-known story with hilarious results .
The Spaceheadz series by John Scieszka, is full of madcap adventure for sci-fi loving chapter book readers. Star Jumper: Journal of a Cardboard Genius, by Frank Asch was also one of my favorite chapter books series this year. If you've ever wondered what it would be like to escape earth (and all your problems) for awhile, then look no further than this gem of a series. It would be nearly impossible to choose a favorite graphic novel, but it really doesn't get much better than Zita the Spacegirl by Ben Hatke. I just wish she had been around for my 10 year old, science-fiction loving self to discover!
So what about you? Do you have a sci-fi lover in your home, or have a favorite alien-encounter story from your childhood? The next time I'm looking for a little escape from the mundane, I will try to remember my own adventures as a kid, and look no further than the night sky and a book.
Last year, I "ran away from home" (any semblance of ordinary home-life) and into a 1969 Oasis travel trailer. My trailer was parked in the driveway of a lovely and tolerant friend in Portland, Oregon and not in the prickly burr-filled, hot as heck Hard Pan, California desert, but it made me feel scrappy and salt-of-the earth anyway--a bit like I was living in a middle-reader book à la Susan Patron's Newberry award-winning The Higher Power of Lucky.
I decided to revisit this honest and inspiring pebble of a book because of it's resemblance to this year's winner--the unstoppable Jack Gantos' Dead End in Norvelt. Each takes place in a Podunk town, and each offers readers a rare and refreshing dose of realism. It is her eavesdropping on the rock-bottom stories of 12-Steppers at Hard Pan's Found Object Wind Chime Museum that occasions 10-year-old Lucky's quest for her own higher power, for example.
Having grown up dad-less and dirt-poor, having faced the sudden death of her mother, having adjusted (mostly) to trailer life with a new loving but flawed French legal Guardian, having befriended outcasts, and having committed herself wholeheartedly to the field of entomology (she takes Darwin for her role model!), I would argue Lucky never lacked any power but the power to see that power, and belief in the love of her friends and new-found family. Lucky fearlessly fends of killer snakes for Pete's sake!
It takes a harrowing head-long odyssey into a dust storm, during which Lucky straight-up saves a five-year-old, reviving him with cold beans, ketchup and fig Newtons, and a final informal and impromptu send off for her mother for Lucky to find some faith in the strength of her own spirit!
The Higher Power of Lucky is the perfect book for anybody building a new life in the wake of change big or small, or running away to figure out what to come back to.
Check out the NYTimes article about the uproar instigated by Patron's inclusion of a particular male body part on the FIRST PAGE of the book! I totally side with Patron on this one--I found Lucky's fixation on the word to be a pretty awesome illustration of the utterly normal curiosity about new language and bodily functions common to all adolescents (and grown-ups too)!
See also From the Mixed-Up Files of Ms. Basil E. Frankweiler, my favorite book and another unforgettable runaway story!
As long as there have been children's picture books, there have been talking animals. Talking animals and their equally talkative friends. Who wear clothes. Or possibly ride bikes. Or go to school. So ubiquitous are our fictional, anthropomorphized friends, that we hardly notice the trends in popularity of certain animals over the years.
Bunnies were a beloved subject in the early years of the picture book. Ducklings too. There was the exotic animal and insect trend of the eighties. The great llama and wombat crazes of the 2000's. Bears and dogs never really go out of style. Last year was a particularly good one for not-quite-animals: friendly monsters, aliens, zombies and the like. This year, the sweet and humble porcupine seems poised for takeoff.
When publishers release their catalogs for the season, I can't help but flip through and notice which animals have fallen out of favor and the new ones who are taking center stage. Who will be next? Last night, after watching these adorable videos about a pair of twin sloths in Costa Rica for the four hundred millionth time, it finally hit me: SLOTHS. At least I hope so. Where are all the sloth picture books?! Think of all the untapped picture-book-potential in those huggable, plucky (and endangered) little creatures.
Sure, "Slowly, Slowly , Slowly," Said the Sloth, by Eric Carle is a classic. The lesser known but totally hilarious, Slow Loris, by Alexis Deacon, has always been a Green Bean favorite, even if it isn't exactly about a sloth. Last year saw the release of Wake Up, Sloth!, a gorgeous, imported pop-up book by Anouck Boisrobert that does a wonderful job of explaining habitat loss to little ones.
But there aren't many others. The majority seem interested only in the sloth's pokey nature (for obvious reasons). But did you know that sloths also love to hug things? And that rescued babies like to clutch stuffed animals at all times in lieu of their mothers? Or that they are amazing climbers? Untapped potential, I say. Let's hope the picture book folks are listening, because:
Do you have a favorite underrepresented animal? Hedgehogs? Lizards? Worms? Which animals do you think deserve a little time in the spotlight?
We've been talking a lot about poetry lately at Green Bean, and with good reason: April is National Poetry Month, and we're still receiving submissions for our Green Bean Poetry Zine! We also have a ridiculously cool event and poetry reading with Oregon Poet Laureate Paulann Petersen coming up on Sunday April 22, at 2pm.
With all this poetry talk, it's hard not to post exclusively about the gorgeous new illustrated poetry collections for younger readers arriving at the store every day, but what about collections for older kids? It's true that your average middle-grader would rather read fantasy novels from morning to night if given the choice, but finding the perfect book of poetry for them can be as rewarding as it is challenging.
Based loosely on a poem by Walter Dean Meyers and the Red Wheelbarrow poem by William Carlos Williams, Love That Dog by Sharon Creech is a favorite with both kids and adults. Slim and easy to digest (but packing the emotional wallop of a freight train), it is the perfect verse-novel for introducing older kids to different poets and forms of poetry without seeming obvious. The young narrator's voice is so authentic and effortless and his poetry so heartfelt, that kids may even be inspired to write a poem or two of their own.
Maybe I'm just biased because he happens to be my favorite poet, but there does seem to be something about William Carlos Williams' poetry that resonates with readers of all ages. The new middle grade poetry collection by Gail Carson Levine, Forgive Me, I Meant to Do It! owes a similar debt to WCW. You may already be familiar with his perfect, hilarious, and smug little poem about the frozen plums:
This Is Just To Say
by William Carlos Williams
I have eaten
that were in
you were probably
they were delicious
and so cold
Levine has crafted an entire series of "False Apology Poems," in the same vein, including her own version of This Is Just To Say.
The result is a collection of poems that is as deep and engaging as it is laugh-out-loud funny. It would be the perfect book for a middle-grade book club, or as an anytime read for that picky young reader in your life.
So what about you? Do you have a favorite middle grade poetry collection or verse novel? Silverstein? The Make Lemonade trilogy? Feel free to share in the comments or at Sunday's poetry reading! And don't forget that tomorrow is the last day for kids to submit to the zine for publication! We can't wait to see what everyone creates!
Bringing the outdoors indoors with a stack of Elsa Beskow this afternoon. Elsa was aptly knighted "The Beatrix Potter" of Scandinavia for her sweet and sprouting stories! Wouldn't it be great to be the Beatrix Potter of someplace! Elsa was also an active member of the Scandinavian women's movement and you can find hints re. rights like freedom of speech in many of her books! She was also an early champion of holistic education!
"Lisa and her grandmother lived on the edge of the wood in a cottage with a garden all around it. Beyond the garden was their vegetable patch and a meadow sloping down to the lake, where the Water Lilies were just out. Behind the cottage was the real forest, full of Twinflowers, Bilberries and Wintergreen."