Book Review: Sleep No More: Six Murderous Tales

Sleep No More: Six Murderous Tales by P. D. James

Book review by Jim Scott

I implore you join the throngs who love the work of this British grand-dame of mystery writers. Called by many the “queen of crime,” and others “the doyenne of detective novelists,” James left a legacy of over a dozen, priceless mystery novels and short stories.  She received the Mystery Writers of America Grandmaster Award and the National Arts Club Medal of Honor for Literature.  She was awarded the Order of the British Empire and was created life peer in the House of Lords as Baroness of Holland Park.

            I have selected Sleep No More (2017), a delicious collection of her short stories to induce interest in and further exploration of this thoughtful and meticulous writer’s work.   

            Should you move along to her mystery novels, you will discover “detective story” told as penetrating analysis of men, women and society, dissecting social privilege, politics, the nature and expression of romance, beauty, the fine arts, and religion.  There, her literary protagonists are Scotland Yard police commander Adam Dalgliesh – a Jaguar-driving inspector and poet; and Cordelia Gray, private investigator and owner of Pryde Detective Agency in London.  

            James subtly undergirds her work with the use of irony and control of structure.  This touch is evident throughout her detective masterpieces, Death Comes to Pemberly (2011). Beware,, for as in all of James’s work, murder (often grisly, never delicate) is the focus, and always within a larger conversation marked with intelligence, manners and meaning.

Hip Hot and Happening in the Bookshop – Jerry Spinelli

We are excited to announce that Jerry Spinelli will be in the Bookshop on November 3 from 11am-1pm.

A little bit about Jerry:

When Jerry Spinelli was a kid, he wanted to grow up to be either a cowboy or a baseball player. Lucky for us he became a writer instead.

He grew up in rural Pennsylvania and went to college at Gettysburg College and Johns Hopkins University. He has published more than 25 books and has six children and 16 grandchildren.

Jerry Spinelli began writing when he was 16 — not much older than the hero of his book Maniac Magee. After his high school football team won a big game, his classmates ran cheering through the streets — all except Jerry, who went home and wrote a poem about the victory. When his poem was published in the local paper, Jerry decided to become a writer instead of a major-league shortstop.

In most of his books, Jerry writes about events and feelings from his own childhood. He also gets a lot of material from his seven adventurous kids! His wife, Eileen, also a children’s book author and will be joining him here at the Bookshop.

In addition to the Newbery Award winner, Maniac Magee and Wringer, Jerry has a number of books on the middle school summer reading lists.  His latest book is Jake and Lily.

Come join us and welcome Jerry to the neighborhood.

Kids’ Corner – “Mossy” by Jan Brett

Children’s author, Jan Brett, has done it again with her beautiful new book  Mossy.

Mossy is an Eastern box turtle who lives at Lilypad Pond.  She spends so much time there that the moss around the pond began growing on her carapace, until her shell was covered with it.  When the weather turned warmer tiny ferns and wildflowers began to bloom on her back until she was walking around underneath an amazing garden.

One day Dr. Carolina came across Mossy and decided that she would be perfect in her museum so she took her back and put her in a beautiful viewing pavilion for everyone to see.  Mossy, however, became sad.  She missed her misty pond and her new friend Scoot.  When Tory, Dr. Carolina’s niece, realized how sad Mossy was they decided to take her home.  But how would they share Mossy with the museum visitors? 

The illustrations in this book are so beautiful.  From Mossy and her garden to the border images you will discover new treasures hidden within each scene.  This is a beautiful story to share with a child and to teach them about preserving and respecting nature and all of its creatures.

Kids Corner – “Olivia and the Fairy Princess”

For fans of Olivia you will be excited to hear that she is at it again. 

In Ian Falconer’s latest story, Olivia is upset that her friends always want to dress up as princesses.  Including some of the boys!  Olivia has always been one to march to the beat of her own drum so rather than dress as a princess at her friend’s party she dons a “French sailor shirt, matador pants, black flats, a strand of pearls, sunglasses, a red bag and her gardening hat.”  She complains that not only do the girls (and some of the boy) always dress up as princesses but they are always pink, fluffy princesses.  Why can’t they dress like princesses from other countries like Thailand, Africa or China?

Olivia cries to her mom that “if everyone’s a princess, then princesses aren’t special anymore!  Why do they all want to be the same?” 

Olivia goes to be thinking about what she might be, other than a princess.   A nurse?  A reporter?  A humanitarian?  Then it occurs to her…

You will have to come in and check out the book for yourself, I’m not going to spoil it!

This Week in the Bookshop – Tons of New Children’s Books

You would think that just having come back from Disney that I would be sick of all things kids but when I walked into the Bookshop upon my return and saw all of the new books we have in our beautiful children’s area I couldn’t help but get sucked in. 

Creative New Stories

Pete the Cat I Love My White Shoes by James Dean and Eric Litwin

Pete is this really cool cat that has bright white shoes.  One day Pete goes for a walk and steps into all kinds of things that cause his white shoes to change color.  Being the laid back cat that he is Pete doesn’t let it get him down.  This book was a huge hit at our Storytime yesterday morning.

Little Sweet Potatoby Amy Beth Bloom and Noah Z. Jones

This is a sweet (pun intended) story about a little sweet potato that gets thrown out in the world and finds out that not everyone is sweet like he is.  He runs into all kinds of mean and silly plants before finally finding where he fits in.  This is an a cute picture book about appreciating others and oneself.

Twisted Classics

Goldilocks and the Three Dinosaursas retold by Mo Willems

If you know and love Mo Willems (Knuffle Bunny, Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus, and many more award winning children’s picture books) this story will not disappoint!  I found my self chuckling as I read along.  This is the story of Goldilocks retold with dinosaurs instead of bears.  The dinosaurs set a trap of chocolate pudding in the hopes of catching a chocolate-filled-little-girl-bonbon.  However, they forget to lock the back door and she gets away.  In true Mo Willems style this book is one that you will read to your kids again and again.

Goldilocks and Just One Bearby Leigh Hodgkinson

One day Bear gets lost and finds himself in the big, noisy city.  To escape all the noise he goes into a high rise apartment for a bit to eat and a brief rest.  While he is sleeping the owners of the apartment return home and find him.  Once bear opens his eyes he sees a familiar face, it is Goldilocks all grown up and the Mom of the family.  This is a cute take on the classic.

Historical Picture Books

First Mothersby Beverly Gherman and Julie Downing

Fun stories about the women behind the White House, the presidential moms.  Did you know that Abraham Lincoln’s mother was a wrestler?  With interesting facts and fun illustrations Gherman and Downing make learning history entertaining.

Electric Benby Robert Byrd

Any thing and everything you could want to know about Benjamin Franklin all in a picture book!  Living in Philadelphia (or nearby as we are here in the Bookshop) you cannot get away from the presence of Ben Franklin.  Byrd shares with youngsters the world of Ben Franklin through interesting facts and vibrant illustrations.

Beautiful AnimalBooks

The Conference of the Birdsretold by Alexis York Lumbard and illustrated by Demi

This 800 year old classic is retold with beautiful illustrations.  This story of a flock of birds looking for their king teaches the reader about conquering one’s faults and practicing the virtues of humility, patience, and courage.  Did I mention the beautiful illustrations?  This is definitely a book that you will want to have in your collection and as well as give as a gift.

Small and Tall Tales of Extinct Animalsby Helene Rajcak and Damien Laverdunt

Did you know that there was a Pennsylvania Bison?  Where did all of the Passenger Pigeons go?  In this beautifully illustrated book Rajcak and Laverdunt share some strange and interesting animals that used to roam the earth.

These are just a few of the great new books we have so stop by and check them all out!

Kids Corner – “Those Darn Squirrels Fly South”

FINALLY a book that illustrates that people are happier in warm weather!  I knew this was the case but could never convince people.

InThose Darn Squirrels Fly South author Adam Rubin and illustrator Daneiel Salmieri (the same team that brought usDragons Love Tacos) tell the story of Old Man Fookwire.  

Old Man Fookwire is a grump!  The one thing he loves to do is paint the birds in that live in his area during the summer months.  He is content to paint the birds unless the darn squirrels get in the way.  Every year summer fades to fall and the birds fly south.  Fookwire is content staying in the cold and being a grump but the squirrels are curious to know where the birds go and what they do.  The squirrels decide to build flying mobiles and follow the birds south. 

When the birds and squirrels land on the warm beach they are amazed and happy.  They soak up the sun and drink fruity drinks and have a grand time.  Soon though they begin to miss Fookwire so they give him a call.  Fookwire hears the squeak of the squirrels and misses them so he drives south to see what they are up to.  When he arrives, and the squirrels give him a full body hug, he laughs for the first time since any of them can remember.

With their humorous style of writing and telling stories with pictures, Rubin and Salmieri have created another classic for your children’s picture book collection.

To find out what happens to Fookwire and the squirrels you have to come to the Bookshop and read the book. 

Kids Corner – Usborne Publishing

I have come across a publisher in the past few years who’s books for children I am drawn to for their subject matter and presentation.  This publisher is Usborne.  Apparently I am not the only one who has fallen in love with their ability to share stories and facts in beautiful, colorful and witty ways.  Usborne was named the Children’s Publisher of the Year for 2012. 

We have started to carry a few of their products in the Bookshop so I wanted to share a bit about them with you.

Usborne is a major, independent, award-winning UK publishing company, and Children’s Publisher of the Year 2012. They publish almost every type of children’s book for every age from baby to teenager.

Founded by Peter Usborne in 1973, Usborne pioneered a completely new generation of entertaining, colorful and friendly non-fiction books. Since its foundation, Usborne has been the publisher that children themselves love for its humorous, factual and fun books.

Usborne has so many different types of books in their collection that I can’t cover them all here but I would like to share a few of my favorites.

Children’s Classics:  If you love reading the classics to your children then you definitely need to check out the Illustrated Classics for Girls and the Illustrated Classics for Boys.  Each collection contains six timeless classic stories with beautiful illustrations.  The Classics for Girls shares the stories of The Railway Children, The Wizard of Oz, The Secret Garden, Black Beauty, Little Women and Heidi to “enchant and delight” readers.  The Classics for Boys tells the thrilling stories of Robin Hood, Gulliver’s Travels, Moonfleet, Around the World in 80 Days, Robinson Crusoe and The Canterville Ghost filled with “action and adventure”.  These are stories you will read again and again and the beautiful books are something that will be passed down through the generations.

Sticker Books:  What is more fun for a child than stickers?  Stickers that can be used with their ever expanding imaginations!  Usborne has taken sticker books to a whole new level.  One of their most popular sticker books is theDoll’s House Sticker Book.  This is a gorgeous sticker book with beautifully decorated rooms just waiting to be filled with furniture and accessories.  The book includes eleven rooms spread over three stories in the house, including a master bedroom, two children’s bedrooms, a baby’s nursery, a kitchen, living room, study, dining room and attic.  Children will have hours of fun arranging the house just as they want it, with objects ranging from chandeliers to china, as well as toys, ornaments and even food.

In addition to theDoll’s Housewe have sticker books to create imaginative fairy kingdoms, picture and word matching in both English and Spanish and dot-to-dots.

I have to stop there but if your child loves science, crafts/activities, history, puzzles, basically everything then you have to check out Usborne because I know you will love it as much as we do.

This Week in the Bookshop – Did you complete your summer reading?

The nights are cooler and the notebooks and backpacks are lining the shelves at the stores.  That’s right, school is starting in less that 2 weeks.  Where did the summer go?

Did you (or your children) complete their summer reading requirements?  We still have our summer reading room stocked full of books at 20% off through the end of the month so hurry in before summer ends.

If you are wondering if you child or children have summer reading requirements and they are in middle or high school, the answer is YES!  If they attend St. Elizabeth’s or The Montgomery School for all grades (kindergarten on up) the answer is YES!  We have the lists so stop by and we can help you select a book for that procrastinator in your life.

Your Input – We love it!

When a customer requested a “Mr. Happy” by Roger Hargreaves book a few months ago for his child, I was delighted.  I had forgotten about these small, square, retro books I grew up on when I was younger.  This memory in turn brought me to purchase the series for the store- we had to have these!  What a delight it has been to have parents smile and laugh with nostalgia while reading these books in the corner to their little ones in our children’s section. I love it. Another perfect example of the magic bookstores can bring to families.

There is an overwhelmingly vast selection of children’s book out there to choose from- quite a daunting task!  I continue to try my best at picking unique, engaging and magical books for your children that hopefully will provide them with cherished memories of reading time with mom and dad. I still have a trunk in my mother’s basement of a select few books (ok more than a few) that she read to me (over and over and over at my insistence- oh how wonderful you mothers and fathers are!) and that I hope to read to my children one day. 

I always welcome suggestions from parents about great children books that they love and their children love and will continue to stock our shelves with your requests- nothing makes me happier!  I have acquired some real gems for our collection- so thank you to all who have engaged me in suggestion and conversation! Keep it up!

So come check out our “Mr. Men and Little Miss” books out, and if you have any other suggestions for our children’s corner- I’d love to hear it.  Meanwhile here is a little information for your brain on one of my favorite children’s authors.

Charles Roger Hargreaves (9 May 1935 – 11 September 1988) was an English author and illustrator of children’s books, notably the Mr. Men and Little Miss series, intended for very young readers (hey I still read them!). He is Britain’s third best-selling author, having sold more than 100 million books.

As an adult, he spent a year working in his father’s laundry and dry-cleaning business before starting out in advertising. But his original ambition was to be a cartoonist; and, in 1971, while he was working as the creative director at a London firm, he wrote the first Mr. Men book, Mr. Tickle, when his son,Adam, asked his father what a tickle looked like!  Hargreaves drew a figure with a round orange body and long, rubbery arms, which became Mr. Tickle.  He initially had difficulty finding a publisher; but, once he did, the books became an instant success, selling over one million copies within three years and spawning a BBC animated television series, narrated and voiced by Arthur Lowe.

By 1976, Hargreaves had quit his day job. In 1981, the Little Miss series of books began to appear. It, too, was made into a television series in 1983, which was narrated by John Alderton, who, with Pauline Collins, voiced the Men and Misses, respectively. Although Hargreaves wrote many other children’s stories, including the Timbuctoo series of twenty-five books, John Mouse, and the Roundy and Squary books, he is best known for his 46 Mr. Men books and 33 Little Miss books.

Each book in the original Mr. Men and Little Miss series introduced a different title character and his/her single dominant personality to convey a simple moral lesson. The Mr. Men and Little Miss characters frequently reappeared in other characters books. The books’ simple stories, with brightly-colored, boldly-drawn illustrations, made them very popular, with sales of over 100 million worldwide across 28 countries.

The stories are set in a fictional universe called “Misterland”, which is inhabited by the Mr. Men and Little Misses themselves, as well as some ordinary human characters. Misterland is connected to the real world, as referenced in the story Mr. Fussy: “‘I’m your cousin,’ replied Mr. Clumsy. Your long lost cousin from Australia.’”

Now, isn’t that delightfully silly?


Kids Corner – The Man in the Moon

Sometimes there are books that I put on the shelves that I think to myself “I really need to read that one”.  The Man in the Moon by William Joyce was just one of those books.  What drew me to the book was the beautiful illustrations, something Joyce is famous for.  You might be familiar with some of his other works like Dinosaur Bob and The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore (also an Academy Award winning short film).  The Man in the Moon is the start of the Guardians of Childhood series that Joyce has been working on for almost twenty years and tells the story of the boy who would become Tsar Lunar, the Guardian who watches over the dreams of all the children of Earth.

You already know all of the Guardians of Childhood:  Santa Clause, the Tooth Fairy, the Sandman, the Easter Bunny to name a few.  However, did you know the very first Guardian was the Man in the Moon (MiM)?

Joyce tells the story of how MiM’s parents saved him during a battle with the evil Pitch, the King of Nightmares.  MiM’s parents and his best friend, Nightlight, were all killed during the battle but their spirits remained in the stars.  MiM was raised in the tunnels of the moon by the Moonbots, Moonmice and giant Glowworms.  He had a great childhood, including meals of lunar ice cream and space juice nectarine. 

As MiM got older he discovered Earth and the children that lived there.  When the children of earth lost balloons they would float up to MiM and he could hear their hopes and dreams in the balloons.  MiM got together with his friends, Santa Clause and the others, to bring joy to the children on earth.  However, the one thing he could not change was that the children were still afraid of the dark.  MiM then discovered Dreamsand on the surface of the moon and that by kicking over all the rocks the Dreamsand would glow and light up the moon. 

Now that the moon was 100 times brighter the children of Earth could see the glowing face of the moon and know they were not alone in the dark.

“A fabulous recapturing of an old, real fairy-tale world. Dark. Mysterious. Stunning!” —Maurice Sendak, Caldecott-winning creator of Where The Wild Things Are

“William Joyce, to put it simply, is a genius, and we are lucky to have another book from him. The Man in the Moon is filled with tenderness, love, and enchantment. It’s an unforgettable story which will, I predict, take its rightful place in the hearts of children everywhere.” —Brian Selznick, author/illustrator of the Caldecott-winning The Invention of Hugo Cabret