Wednesday, November 24, 2010


Many people enjoy spending time with family on Thanksgiving, but those aren't the people in this movie. Claudia Larson (Holy Hunter), a middle aged art restorer, is fired right before her trip home for Thanksgiving. More and more bad news and annoyances pile on Claudia before she arrives coatless at her parents' home in Baltimore. Her spinster aunt has moved from dotty to delusional. Her mother tries to set her up with a sad schoolmate who had a crush on her. Her judgmental sister with the perfect life arrives. And of course, the Thanksgiving dinner is ... lively. The bright spot of the weekend is when her favorite, bohemian witty brother, Tommy (Robert Downey Jr.), shows up with a handsome friend, Leo Fish (Dylan McDermott), in tow.

Home For the Holidays is directed by Jodi Foster and features some excellent subtle performances, like Holly Hunter's Claudia, and some excellent not so subtle performances, like Robert Downey Jr.'s Tommy, but this is not a typical feel good holiday movie. There are a few scenes of family discord, some bittersweet moments of realization, all sprinkled with familiar bits of humor. But if you are one of those people that don't enjoy going home for the holidays, this movie offers sympathetic insight, and in the spirit of the holiday, reveals reasons to be thankful for family.

Reserve your copy of Home For the Holidays.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Bink & Gollie by Kate DiCamillo and Alison McGhee

Bink is messy, charismatic, and delightfully charming. Gollie is savvy, sensible, and superior. Together they make the most mismatched best friends I’ve seen in a while. This three chapter picture book is a great new early reader that has been topping many prominent ‘best’ lists for 2010! Written by Newbery Winner Medalist Kate DiCamillo and New York Times bestseller Alison McGhee with illustrations by Tony Fucile, Bink & Gollie will put a smile on your face from the moment you start the book till the very end! Their adventures include everything from buying socks, taking Fred the Fish to the movies, and climbing the Andes Mountains! Bink & Gollie has a touch of Pippi Longstocking, sprinkled with a little bit of Dennis the Menace, and of course some Clementine! With a combination like that, how can you not love Bink & Gollie?

Here are a few things you didn’t know about Bink (From the Bink & Gollie Website)
1. Sometimes she dream’s about Andy Warhol. She doesn’t know if this has to do with Campbell’s soup cans (she loves soup!) or Andy Warhol’s hair. In any case, she dreams of Mr. Warhol.
2. She wishes that she had a very fast go-cart so that she could duplicate Mr. Toad’s wild ride in her back yard and charge a small fee for admission!
3. She is fond of mysteries that can’t be solved.
4. She loves a lot!
5. She hopes a lot!

And of course, here are a few things you didn’t know about Gollie!
1. Her name was originally spelled Golly, but that reminded her of pollywogs, so she changed it to Gollie.
2. She once accidently stapled her thumb to a dish towel.
3. For Bink’s next birthday gift, she would like to install a pulley-basket-elevator between her part of the tree and Bink’s.
4. One of her secret dreams is to be a Major League Baseball Player.
5. She is convinced that if she concentrates hard enough, she will be able to turn herself at will into a bird.

By this point you are probably thinking that Bink & Gollie is going to be pretty awesome, aren’t you? Well, simply CLICK HERE and you can reserve your copy today! You and your child definitely won’t be sorry! If you just can’t wait till you get your copy, be sure to check out the book trailer below!

Monday, November 22, 2010

Publishers Weekly's Best Children's Books of 2010

Earlier this month, Publishers Weekly released their Best Children’s Books of 2010. The annual list includes not only picture books, but also highlights fiction and non-fiction. Below are some of the highlights of their list. If you would like to place a hold on a certain book, simply click on the title.

Picture Books

The Boss Baby
Marla Frazee (S&S/Beach Lane)
"From the moment the baby arrived, it was obvious he was the boss." Frazee takes a sublime metaphor for the havoc that a baby can wreak, and runs with it; new parents and siblings will be laughing every step of the way (most likely through exhausted tears). Those who question whether child care is a full-time job, "with no time off," will quickly have their answer.

The Extraordinary Mark Twain (According to Susy)
Barbara Kerley, illus. by Edwin Fotheringham (Scholastic Press)
Based on the 130-page biography of Twain that his 13-year-old daughter Susy wrote, Kerley's superb study of Twain's life presents aspects of the writer seldom seen, as Susy describes his "fine" and "not-so-fine" qualities alike ("Papa uses very strong language"). Fotheringham's visual flourishes, as well as the inclusion of "journal" booklets of Susy's writing, complete this entertaining behind-the-scenes account.

Bunny Days
Tao Nyeu (Dial)
This trio of stories is as silly as it is subversive, as a group of hapless bunnies have unfortunate run-ins with mud, a vacuum cleaner, and a pair of scissors. Despite the shock of seeing "bunnies without tails and tails without bunnies," Nyeu's cartoon world is always comforting and warm. In each instance, Bear is able to set things right thanks to a washing machine, fan, and sewing machine, so that in the end, "Everyone is happy."

It's a Book
Lane Smith (Roaring Brook)
Via a hilarious conversation between a technophile and a booklover, Smith delivers a pitch-perfect and timely ode to the tenuous relationship between printed words and those that appear on-screen. Smith's message is as much for parents as it is for kids, yet children will readily recognize the absurdity of, say, trying to translate Treasure Island to textspeak. And in case Smith's stance isn't clear: this one's not available as an e-book.

A Sick Day for Amos McGee
Philip C. Stead, illus. by Erin E. Stead (Roaring Brook/Porter)
What goes around comes around, in the best possible way, in this story of a zookeeper who gently tends to the animals in his care (playing chess with the elephant, reading stories to an owl), then gets similar treatment when he falls ill. As depicted in Erin Stead's delicate and precise illustrations, the friendship is made all the more poignant by inclusion of an elderly protagonist, an underrepresented demographic in picture books.

Knuffle Bunny Free
Mo Willems (HarperCollins/Balzer + Bray)
Willems's conclusion to his Knuffle Bunny trio is as heartfelt and emotionally true as its predecessors, bringing Trixie's relationship with her stuffed rabbit to a moving conclusion that feels inevitable in the best of ways. Willems writes with respect, honesty, and empathy for Trixie, as her inner confidence (very) gradually takes the place of the external comfort Knuffle Bunny has unfailingly provided.


Bink and Gollie
Kate DiCamillo and Alison McGhee, illus. by Tony Fucile (Candlewick)
DiCamillo, McGhee, and Fucile introduce two iconoclastic—and instantly iconic—heroines who turn striped socks, an imagined mountain-climbing expedition, and an "unremarkable" goldfish into friendship-testing (and strengthening) experiences. Bink and Gollie would call this trio of stories a "bonanza," and they'd be right.

Ling and Ting: Not Exactly the Same!
Grace Lin (Little, Brown) Over the course of six blithe, slice-of-life stories, two Chinese-American twins demonstrate that while they share much, they are unquestionably individuals, too, despite the assumptions of others. The stories exude a timeless charm, and while twins will appreciate the validation, Ling and Ting's message will hit home with all children who have felt dismissed or misunderstood.

Frank Cottrell Boyce (HarperCollins/Walden Pond)
In a story that's equal parts Willy Wonka and Big, Boyce offers a hilarious yet moving exploration of what it means to be a man and, in particular, a dad (whether on Earth or in outer space). Twelve-year-old Liam's extraterrestrial journey, as he masquerades as a friend's father, will have kids rethinking the notion that adulthood is a breeze.

They Called Themselves the K.K.K.: The Birth of an American Terrorist Group
Susan Campbell Bartoletti (Houghton Mifflin)
A powerful study of the development of the Ku Klux Klan, from its formation to the present day, Bartoletti's accessible and chilling work makes use of letters and other writings of some of the group's founders, as well as her own firsthand research, including a visit to a Klan gathering. A searing examination of fear, hate, violence, and an organization that, despite progress, persists to this day.

To view the entire list, click here!

Friday, November 19, 2010

Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade

By Robert M. Grippo
& Christopher Hoskins

We're less than a week away from Thanksgiving! Family and food are very much a tradition for this holiday, and so is the Macy's Thanksgiving Parade. For six decades many folks, especially children, have started their Thanksgiving Day off by watching this amazing parade on television. But the parade actually started much earlier in 1924, with real animals, instead of balloon animals. And what was the first balloon to appear in a Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade? Felix the Cat!

You can read even more fascinating facts, peruse vintage advertisements and photographs, and relive parades of the past in the entertaining photo filled book,
Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. Robert Grippo devotes a chapter to each decade and writes knowledgeably and lovingly about all aspects of the parade. If you enjoy watching the parade, you'll certainly enjoy reading this book.

Reserve your copy of Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010


The Big Bang Theory is one of those rarities on TV these days -- a funny sitcom with heart. Penny (Kaley Cuoco), a waitress / actress, moves into the apartment across the hall from Leonard Hofstadter (Johnny Galecki) and Sheldon Cooper (Jim Parsons) -- who are both scientists and geeks. Leonard is immediately smitten, as are his two friends, Raj Koothrappali (Kunal Nayyar) and Howard Wolowitz (Simon Helberg) -- likewise scientists and geeks. All three go to great lengths to spend time with Penny. Raj and Howard have two completely opposite approaches to this endevour, as Raj can't speak to women unless he's intoxicated, and Howard uses every possible smarmy, bad line in the book. Sheldon, Leonard's roommate, is an analytical, obsessive compulsive who doesn't fall prey to Penny's charms, but who more often than not is dragged along on Leonard's quest. The four of them are a geek squad that unabashedly enjoy their non-mainstream interests, while pursuing decidedly mainstream interests, like relationships. IOW, not that much different than Penny, who drifts into one shallow relationship after another, while pursuing an acting career. But as they each interact more and more, they find the best relationship is their developing, odd friendship.

I had avoided the show for years because the premise of sounded full of ugly stereotypes. But appropriately enough, I caught an episode at my local comic book shop (Kingdom Comics) and laughed myself silly. Yes, all the characters exhibit some typical traits of their respective roles, but the actors make them real people, not stereotypes. Yes, much of the humor is a result of the culture clash between the geeks and the actress, but both sides reveal their foibles and learn from each other. And there are a lot of foibles, especially with Sheldon.

Each episode is about 21 minutes long, and self contained, so it's easy to fit them into a busy schedule or zip through an entire disc if you are looking for an evening of entertainment. You don't have to be a geek to enjoy the sitcom The Big Bang Theory, you just have to enjoy stories about friendship ... and dealing with difficult people.

your copy of The Big Bang Theory Season 1.
Reserve your copy of The Big Bang Theory Season 2.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Marvel Masterworks: The Uncanny X-Men

By Chris Claremont and Len Wein
Art by Dave Cockrum

Today the X-Men are one of Marvel Comics most recognizable superheroes, thanks to three movies and a few animated TV shows, but back in 1975 the X-Men were something of a failure, and existed only in reprinted comic books. That all changed when writer Len Wein and artist Dave Cockrum created the "All New X-Men!" and introduced them in Giant Sized X-Men #1. For the first time readers met Nightcrawler, Storm and Colossus, and for many, Wolverine since he had only appeared previously in one issue of The Hulk. Needless to say, in good condition, this comic goes for hundreds of dollars. However, you can still read an affordable reprint of it, and the first seven issues of X-Men (#94-100), in Marvel Masterworks: The Uncanny X-Men.

Marvel Masterworks is the name of a line of books that reprint classic Marvel comics and make them accessible to new readers. And these issues of the X-Men should definitely be accessed, as not only do they relate the history of the X-Men, but they still rank amongst the most entertaining comics made. Yes, some of the writing is a little clunky for modern tastes, but it still sweeps up the reader with great characterization and an engaging plot. The art is less cinematic with no digital embellishments, but it is vibrant, beautifully designed, and some of the best of its era. Dave Cockrum's Storm is still one of my all time favorite portrayals.

Chris Claremont was brought on the second issue (X-Men #94) to handle the scripting, and two issues later was writing the book without Wein. He immediately put his stamp on the book. Cheesy villains, like Krakoa the Living Island, were replaced by threats of a more realistic nature, like Sentinels -- government sanctioned mutant hunting machines. The plots became more interlaced, with new elements introduced every issue that would play out in future issues. The characters were given more depth as they struggled to get along with each other, and team members, as well as readers,
learned bits of and pieces of their history. The settings for the story moved out of New York, and became international and even interstellar! And readers were treated to the everyday life of superheroes -- going on fishing trips and dates and celebrating the holidays. These stories were great reading when I was a kid, and reading them as an adult I was happy to discover they still have that exciting sense of wonder. I highly recommend this book.

Reserve your copy of Marvel Masterworks: The Uncanny X-Men here.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Ninth Ward by Jewell Parker Rhodes

“Every year, folks say, ‘Hurricane season is going to be bad.’ But it never is. I think Katrina will die before she lands. She’s already messed up Florida. Shown how bad she is. What else could she want?” Ninth Ward by Jewell Parker Rhodes depicts the days leading up to and following the epic disaster known as Hurricane Katrina. Set in the historic Ninth Ward district of New Orleans, the story is told through the eyes of twelve-year old Lanesha, who lives with her Mama Ya-Ya. Lanesha, who also sees the spirits of ghosts, is a precocious, young girl, who finds a special place in your heart. This story will take you on a rollercoaster of emotions, because we all know what happens. Still fresh in the minds and hearts of America, the story of Hurricane Katrina and what happens in the Ninth Ward, told through Lanesha, will grab a hold of you all over again!

Monday, November 8, 2010

Doreen Cronin's New Book!

New to the Children’s Department!

From the bestselling author of Click, Clack, Moo: Cows that Type and Diary of A Worm comes Rescue Bunnies by Doreen Cronin!

Newbie is a Rescue Bunny trainee. She has passed the Physical Fitness Test. She has passed the Emergency Rescue Roping Test. She has even passed the Blind Taste Test. Now it’s time for the toughest Rescue Bunny test of all…the Field Test! It involves a scared giraffe in a sinking mudhole, some hungry hyenas, and dance moves that sneak up on you! Will Newbie have what it takes? The right stuff? Can she handle the truth? One thing is for sure…she will have you at hello!

Check out what author Doreen Cronin and illustrator Scott Menchin have to say about Rescue Bunnies!

Be sure to get your copy of Rescue Bunnies today at the Homewood Public Library!