Tuesday, May 10, 2011

On Being Part of a Community

So often when I go to work at The Blue Bunny Bookstore here in Dedham Square, I am reminded of the old "Cheers" theme song, "Sometimes you want to go where everybody knows your name..." and I smile. The familiar faces of our regular customers, delivery men, mail carrier, and fellow merchants all brighten my day.

Trying to keep a small independent business going these days is difficult, and I sometimes feel like the phrase "day late and a dollar short" was coined especially for me. There are daily frustrations of jobs left unfinished, of clogged sinks and leaking ceilings, of sales calls, service calls, piles of junk mail, book orders, mail orders, office supplies, and paying the rent.

But we keep unlocking the door every morning, and turning on the lights and the music, putting our mascot "sheep" outside, and trying to do our best. Because we are committed to our little store, and we are committed to our community: our neighbors in Dedham Square, our customers, our town, our fellow friends in independent bookselling.

One of the best parts of running our business is taking part in community events. Earlier this month, we collaborated with the Dedham Youth Commission, for the 12th time, on our annual "North Star Children's Ramble"--races for kids ages 4-12 held in conjunction with the 10K James Joyce Ramble that happens every spring. We spend months making and distributing flyers and posters, figuring out logistics, and soliciting book donations from our publisher friends. Even lugging tables, tents, and megaphones out much too early on a Sunday morning are all worth it to have more than 300 happy kids and their families celebrate "community" with us, running with joy, and all getting a prize package including a brand-new book.

The list of Blue Bunny events goes on and on... from weekly free storytimes (our favorite!) to author booksignings, workshops and open studios with Peter H. Reynolds, animal visits, easter egg hunts, valentine making workshops, charity hair-cutting days, publication of our own literary magazine for kids... we do it all, as long as we feel like it keeps us celebrating kids, creativity, and helping others along the journey.

This weekend we'll be participating in Dedham's first Open Studios event, on May 15th, from 11-4 p.m. We're excited about transforming The Blue Bunny into a Peter H. Reynolds gallery and workshop for the afternoon, hoping many of our fans and customers will stop by to say hello and watch Peter work and show his art. And we're excited for the other nearly 100 local artists who will be sharing their creative spirits with the rest of us!

I am so proud to be part of our community, and proud of our community organization Dedham Square Circle, for helping to bring so many good people together in one place. Hoping that the Dedham Open Studios event will be a terrific day in the memory of our town--and an inspiration for other ways to keep us all together as we go along. It's nice to be in a place "where everybody knows your name"....

Saturday, January 15, 2011

What's all the hullabaloo about the Newbery and Caldecott slight on
the Today Show?

This past Monday, the American Library Association announced the 2011 winners of the Newbery and Caldecott Awards, the highest honors in children's literature for illustration and writing every year. This year's winners, Clare Vanderpool, for her book Moon over Manifest, and Erin Stead, for her illustration of A Sick Day for Amos McGee, were bounced from the customary post-announcement interview on The Today Show, in favor of an interview with television personality "Snooki" instead.

While children's book lovers have cried foul all week, others have pointed to the sadly growing irrelevance of good literature for kids, in the age of mass marketed mega-bestsellers and pop culture. I wonder what it really means, and what we children's lit lovers can do.

I think we do what we always do, but do it louder and prouder! Read as much as we can, sing the praises of the stories and art we love, and pass it on to as many willing (and unwilling) kids as we can! Good stories will always matter until we stop believing. I challenge all book lovers to read one of this year's award-winning or honor books and tell a friend or a kid or a friend's kid about it! Keep fighting the good fight. Go team go!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Kids Love Books, Art and Writing!

At the Blue Bunny, we've always tried hard to find ways for kids of all ages to express their love of books, art, and writing. We've co-sponsored plenty of kids art contests with the Dedham Square Circle, Dedham Public Schools, and Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary. We've had our annual poetry contests and sharing nights in April to celebrate National Poetry Month. We've sponsored writing contests in conjunction with Peter's books "Tess's Tree" and just recently, "Guyku." And more recently, we've added more for kids to celebrate all things creative!

This year The Blue Bunny began gathering 7-10 year olds for a monthly book group, which has been well received and so much fun. Focusing on positive, fun choices for these early readers, and then meeting on a Friday afternoon for sharing and a book-themed project, has been a hit. Selections so far have included Judy Moody by Megan Macdonald and Peter Reynolds (complete with "me collage" projects) , Wayside School is Falling Down by Louis Sachar (crazy schools out of marshmallows and toothpicks!), Dessert First by Hallie Durand (cupcake decorating!) and Geronimo Stilton (with a guest lesson in cartooning by local cartooning icon Brendan Joyce). This month's pick is "The Get Rich Quick Club" by Dan Gutman, and the group will be meeting on Friday November 12th at 4 p.m. Let us know if you have a child who would like to attend.

Another first-time success was our end-of-summer creativity party in August. Children and adults were invited to come decorate their own journals, and then asked to share something creative they did over the summer. We had fabulous artwork, poetry, stories, and even an original created language! We hope to continue to grow this program every year.

And finally, a proud shout-out to The Blue Bunny's very own kids' creativity magazine, HUTCH. Published twice a year, our volunteer staff is now working on issue number 6! What an accomplishment. This great, professionally printed magazine includes art, poetry, stories, comics, book reviews and interviews by kids of all ages, supplemented with artwork and creative advice from our own author-illustrator Peter H. Reynolds, and guest author-illustrators each issue. We've been stuffing so much good stuff in each issue, featuring the work of approximately 30-40 children in each one. And to top it off, every issue launches with a celebration party at The Blue Bunny for contributors and their families. The magazine, although work-intensive, has been one of our store's crowning jewels in our continuing support for creative expression.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Picture the Dead: Score One More for the Case for Traditional Books

As the debate rages about the future of traditional printed books, and the availability of e-books soars, I add one more tally mark on the side of the "real deal." I recently read Picture the Dead, the new civil-war themed young adult novel by Adele Griffin and Lisa Brown, and my initial and continuing reaction as I read was "this book is lovely to hold." The combination of color, illustration, and texture complemented the story so wonderfully! I can't imagine enjoying it any other way. Kudos to publisher Sourcebooks Fire for the finished product, and to the authors for the perfect blend of story and picture.

The book is set locally in Brookline, Massachusetts, and uses the historic thrill of the then-popular practice of "spirit photography" as a backdrop to the story of Jennie Lovell and the tragic loss of both her twin brother and her fiance to the civil war. Mixing historical drama, love, mystery and the supernatural, the story is told through engaging text, with letters, portraits and scrapbook entries beautifully rendered by illustrator Lisa Brown.

I loved this story, and I loved this book! For another visual treat, check out the authors' website for the book, www.picturethedead.com and get a sneak peek of the treasures the book holds.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Everyone Loves a Birthday Party!

One of our best collaborations at The Blue Bunny has been with Joy Surprenant, founder of the non-profit Catching Joy. Her organization teaches young children the joy of volunteering and giving to others.

We have three new events planned with Joy, the first of which happens this Thurs. evening July 29th! It's a Special "Birthday Party" Storytime to help the local organization “Birthday Wishes” provide birthday parties for kids in area shelter homes. We’ll be reading birthday stories, decorating and filling goodie bags to donate, and capping off the night with yummy birthday cake.

All ages are welcome... we're just asking you to bring party favors to donate (no candy please, or under-3 choking hazards) or other party supplies in original packaging. See www.birthdaywishes.org for more info. FREE!

Other Catching Joy events include a "Save the Seals" Bedtime Storytime in August, and a haircutting event in September for the Pantene Beautiful Lengths hair donation for cancer patients program. Check our website for more info.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Bamboo People by Mitali Perkins

Award-winning author Mitali Perkins is coming to visit The Blue Bunny on August 26th for a booksigning and free writing workshop for parents and their tweens or teens to attend together. Her generous offer to visit prompted me to pick up my copy of her recently published novel, Bamboo People, and hope I really liked it! And...I did!

A great read for middle-schoolers, the novel follows the story of two boy soldiers in the contemporary civil strife in Burma, one on each side of the war. Perkins examines the unfortunate circumstances which lead both into the conflict, and subsequently bring the two together.

Without being too rough or violent, readers will surely get a picture of the situation in Burma, and be led to ponder the nature of friendship, loyalty to family and country, and the moral obligations of one human to another.

I am so looking forward to meeting Mitali and attending her workshop on Thurs. August 26th.

6 p.m. Booksigning with Mitali Perkins: award-winning young adult author, signing copies of her newest book, Bamboo People.

6:30 – 8 p.m . Parent/Child Writing Workshop! Cap off your summer with this Writing Workshop for kids and parents with award-winning children’s Author Mitali Perkins, “Magic Carpet: Creating a Sense of Place in Fiction” is a parent/child team event. Get creative with your child! FREE with pre-registration. Kids grades 5 and up with a parent or adult partner!

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Monthly Staff Picks at The Blue Bunny

A new monthly feature in our store, and on our website, are our monthly staff book picks. I know other stores have great fun and success with this exercise, and The Blue Bunny staff has been happy to join in. The monthly picks will stay posted on our website for those who want to follow what we've been reading. Best of all, there are no rules for staff picks! We have all been told to pick a favorite book--old or new, any genre, any age group.

This month's choices:

Peter Reynolds: The Chocolate War by Robert Cormier (young adult, ages 12-up) Originally published in 1974, it's been called one of the best young-adult novels ever written, and one of the first young-adult psychological thrillers. The plot centers on a boy who refuses to sell chocolates for a high school fundraiser and the consequences this decision brings from from his peers.

Janet Reynolds:
Nancy Drew, The Secret of the Old Clock by Carolyn Keene (ages 8-12).
Classic mystery for kids, this is the first in the Nancy Drew series, celebrating its 80th anniversary this year. A staple on every girl's bookshelf for decades. Back to River Heights--bring on the dark-colored sedans and late-model convertibles!

Cheryl Doucette:
The Ravenmaster's Secret by Elvira Woodruff (ages 9-12)
Historical fction based in 1735 London. This well-reviewed middle-grade novel tells the story of a young boy who gets caught up in aiding an escape from the Tower of London prison.

Margie Leonard:
Someday by Alison McGhee, illustrated by Peter H. Reynolds (all ages)
This bestselling picturebook recounts the poignancy of motherhood. A mother tells her daughter of all the milestones she will remember in her life as a mother, and confirms her enduring love. Great gift for Mother's Day, graduations, new babies, and other special events~!

Sue Hoffman:
Pete and Pickles by Berkeley Breathed (picture book for ages 4-8)
Written and illustrated by the well-known creator of the Bloom County comic strips. School Library Journal calls it "a heartwarming tale packed with adventure, imagination, and the all-important message of accepting differences." Sue has been a champion of this book since it was published two years ago.

Emma Hodges:
The Quiltmaker's Gift by Jeff Brumbeau (picture book for ages 4-8).
The book tells the tale of a greedy king who finds his happiness increase as he gives away his material possessions. The story's message is beautifully illustrated by Gail De Marcken.