Monday, November 15, 2010

Alternative Books For Harry Potter Fanatics

Have you read the Harry Potter series enough to have it memorized? Unfortunately the series is over but there are tons of books similar to Harry Potter still waiting to be read! The books below are great alternatives full of magic, mystery, and fantasy that will fill the "Harry Potter void," at least temporarily.

The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis:

Four young adventurers playing hide-and-seek in the home of an old professor stumble upon an enchanted wardrobe that will take them places they never dreamed. Stepping through the wardrobe door, they are whisked into the spectacular parallel universe known as Narnia--a fairy-tale realm of magical proportions where woodland animals talk and mythological creatures roam the hills. Aided by Narnia's rightful leader, the lion Aslan, the four children will discover their own strength and lead Narnia into a spectacular battle to be free of the White Witch's glacial enslavement forever.

The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien

In ancient times the Rings of Power were crafted by the Elven-smiths, and Sauron, the Dark Lord, forged the One Ring, filling it with his own power so that he could rule all others. But the One Ring was taken from him, and though he sought it throughout Middle-earth, it remained lost to him. After many ages it fell by chance into the hands of the hobbit Bilbo Baggins. The Lord of the Rings tells of the great quest undertaken by Frodo and the Fellowship of the Ring: Gandalf the Wizard; the hobbits Merry, Pippin, and Sam; Gimli the Dwarf; Legolas the Elf.

A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle

Meg Murry, her brother Charles Wallace, and her mother were in the kitchen for a midnight snack when they found a disturbing stranger. The unearthly stranger told them, "Let me sit down for a moment, and then I'll be on my way. Speaking of ways, by the way, there is such a thing as a tesseract." A tesseract is a wrinkle in time. A Wrinkle in Time is the story of the adventures in space and time of Meg, Charles Wallace, and Calvin O'Keefe. They are in search of Meg's father, a scientist who disappeared while engaged in secret work for the government on the tesseract problem.

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

The future America (now called Panem) is made up of 12 Districts, each District serving a purpose, whether mining, fishing, farming, etc. The produce from every District is used mostly to benefit the affluent citizens living within the Capitol, leaving the District natives suffering with poverty and starvation. Every year the Government living in the Capitol hosts The Hunger Games, where a boy and a girl (aged 12 - 18) from each of the 12 Districts is selected at random to enter a televised event where all 24 'tributes' will have to kill or be killed in an arena containing various weapons and utilities. The last remaining survivor will return to their District a hero with a new life of fame and fortune and the Governments reward of one years supply of food for their District.

The Book of Three by Lloyd Alexander

Set in the mythical land of Prydain, the book draws together the elements of the hero's journey from unformed boy to courageous young man. Taran, an assistant pig keeper, grumbles with frustration at home in the hamlet Caer Dallben; he yearns to go into battle like his hero, Prince Gwydion. Before the story is over, he has met his hero and fought the evil leader who threatens the peace of Prydain: the Horned King.

His Dark Materials Trilogy by Philip Pullman

In the epic trilogy Philip Pullman unlocks the door to worlds parallel to our own. Dæmons and winged creatures live side by side with humans, and a mysterious entity called Dust just might have the power to unite the universes--if it isn't destroyed first.

Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl

Ethan Wate is struggling to hide his apathy for his high school "in" crowd in small town Gatlin, South Carolina, until he meets the determinedly "out" Lena Duchannes, the girl of his dreams (literally--she has been in his nightmares for months). What follows is a smart, modern fantasy--a tale of star-crossed lovers and a dark, dangerous secret.

Percy Jackson Series by Rick Riordan

The Lightning Thief Percy Jackson is a good kid, but he can't focus on his schoolwork or control his temper. When his mom tells him the truth about where he came from, she takes him to Camp Half-Blood, a summer camp for demigods. There, Percy learns that the father he never knew is Poseidon, God of the Sea. Soon Percy finds himself caught up in a mystery that could lead to disastrous consequences. Together with his friends--a satyr and other the demigod daughter of Athena--Percy sets out on a quest to reach the gates of the Underworld (located in a recording studio in Hollywood) and prevent a catastrophic war between the gods.

The Lost Years of Merlin T.A. Barron

Young Emrys washes up on a Welsh beach with a woman who claims to be his mother. For years, they share a hovel, but Branwen tells him nothing about his past. One day he discovers that he has some unusual powers; using them to kindle a fire in Branwen's defense, he is blinded by the flames. However, he learns to see without eyes using his "second sight." Desperate to know about his past, Emrys, now 12, sets off on an ocean journey. He lands on Fincayra, where he plunges into a dangerous quest to rescue the island from the destructive blight caused by a pact between its king and an evil power.

Twilight by Stephanie Meyer

Bella Swan's move to Forks, a small, perpetually rainy town in Washington, could have been the most boring move she ever made. But once she meets the mysterious and alluring Edward Cullen, Bella's life takes a thrilling and terrifying turn. Up until now, Edward has managed to keep his vampire identity a secret in the small community he lives in, but now nobody is safe, especially Bella, the person Edward holds most dear.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Harry Potter: I Spy a Few Changes…

Most books-turned-movies will at some point find portions of the plot lost in translation. Here are a few pointed differences between each book and movie in the Harry Potter series.

(Know a difference that we didn’t include?? Comment back and let everyone know that you're a true Harry Potter fan and fill the rest of us in!)

Harry Potter and the Sorcerers Stone

The Mirror of Erised:

Book: When Harry gazes into this mirror, which shows the deepest desires of the person who is peering into it, he sees the entire Potter clan.

Movie: When Harry stands before the mirror, he only sees Lily (his mother) and James (his father) standing beside him.

Norbert the dragon

Book: Harry and Hermione give Norbert to Charlie Weasley.

Film: Norbert is taken away by Dumbledore.

Draco Malfoy:

Book: Harry and Draco first meet in Madame Malkin's robe shop in Diagon Alley.

Film: Harry and Draco first meet on the Hogwarts Express.

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

Polyjuice Potion:

Book: The Potion causes the drinker to assume the exact appearance of the target, including their voice and any disabilities (such as poor eyesight) and abilities.

Film: When Harry and Ron drink the potion to become Crabe and Goyle, their voices remain unchanged and Harry still requires the use of his glasses.

Deathday Party:
Book: Includes a Deathday celebration for the Gryffindor ghost, Nearly Headless Nick, which Ron, Harry and Hermione attend.
Film: The Deathday celebration is completely ommited.

The Sorting Hat:
Book: In one scene, Harry is sitting in Dumbledore's office and sees the hat. He actually picks up the hat and places it on his head.
Film: In the same scene, Harry just converses with the hat while it's sitting on its stand.

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

Sirius Black:
Book: Sirius Black is given a lot of back-story and a detailed history. The way in which he escaped from Azkaban is also explained.
Film: His back-story is all but cut and the way he escaped from Azkaban isn’t

Fidelius Charm:
Book: The charm, which hides locations from those who don’t already know where it is, is explained.
Film: The details of this charm are omitted, which is important because it doesn’t explain how Sirius was supposed to have betrayed the Potters.

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

Quidditch World Cup:

Book: Harry and most of the Weasley clan are fans of Ireland.

Film: Harry and Ron support Bulgaria.


Book: The book includes information on S.P.E.W, Hermione's Society for the Promotion of Elfish Welfare.

Film: This organization is not included, and not seen in any of the other movies.


Book: For the final contest in the Triwizard tournament, Dobby the houseelf gives Harry Gillyweed to enable him to grow gills and breathe under water.

Film: Neville learns about the properties of Gillyweed from Mad Eye Moody and gives the plant to Harry.

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

The playing of quidditch is completely omitted from this film, while it is present in the book.

Mrs. Weasley:

Book: Mrs. Weasley encounters a bogart at Grimmauld Place, which shows all of her loved ones deceased.

Film: This scene is omitted from the film.


Book: Ron, Hermione and Malfoy all become prefects.

Film: This information is ommited.

Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince

The funeral of Dumbledore is not shown in the movie, while it plays a very large and important part of the book.

Hogwarts Express:

Book: When Harry is paralyzed by Malfoy on the train, then hidden under his invisibility cloak, he is found by Nymphadora Tonks.

Film: Luna Lovegood is the one who accidentally discovers Harry, because she is wearing her Spectrespecs and finds him.

Post By KTO, Boulder Book Store Fall Intern

Monday, November 1, 2010

Quidditch for Muggles

J.K. Rowling introduced countless ideas and mythical creatures to the muggle world with her Harry Potter series. For example, Quidditch, the game played on flying broomsticks, is an impossible game that almost every kid hopes to play one day. Now, Quidditch is being played in colleges and high schools across the country, just without flying broomsticks and winged balls. Players run around a field wearing goggles and a cape while holding a broomstick between their legs and shooting balls through mounted hula-hoops. Surprisingly, the game is quite aggressive and many players have the wounds to prove it.

The popularity in the mythical game has dramatically increased over the past year. The Quidditch World Cup being held in New York November 13th and 14th will have over 60 teams nationwide competing for the spray painted gold prize. Hard-core Quidditch players are even trying to get enough support to make it an NCAA sport. In order to do so 50 schools must sponsor Quidditch as a varsity sport. Some even say that if Quidditch is able to reach NCAA status a future in the Olympics is possible.

J.K. Rowling has inspired people everywhere to think outside the box with her unattainable ideas. These ideas are now becoming reality with new technology and a lot of hard work. Scientists in the US and England are actually working to create and invisibility cloak. The cloak blocks certain microwaves and electromagnetic radiation to keep things invisible.

Edith Kollath has actually created the first ever book that "breathes." The series of books, called Things is based off the Monster Book of Monsters textbook from the Harry Potter series. The books actually look like they are breathing as they open and close (click on the picture of the book for a video). Also, Bertie Bott's Jellybeans have been concocted to mimic the candy that Harry eats. These jellybeans include brussel sprouts, caterpillar, diesel, and rotten egg flavors, just to name a few.

The Daily Prophet, the newspaper in the Harry Potter series, shows moving pictures instead of still life images. CBS is teaming up Entertainment Weekly to create a small screen that is actually inserted in a magazine to live up to the idea by J.K. Rowling. This two inch by one and a half inch screen will primarily be used for advertising, but maybe in the future it will hold moving pictures just like it does in The Daily Prophet.

Overall, the ideas Rowling introduced to the world makes us yearn for a little magic in our lives. The complex game of Quidditch can be simplified to allow muggles to play without flying broomsticks or magic, and now muggles can even buy breathing books. Bertie Bott's Jellybeans allow the muggles to taste what Harry actually tasted the first time he bit into an earwax flavored candy, and scientists are working hard to create a real life invisibility cloak. With these small changes muggles can get a glimpse into the life Harry Potter lives, just without his magical powers.

Quidditch photo:
Invisibility cloak:
Breathing book:

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

A Brief History of the Mind Behind the Wizard

The Harry Potter series came to fruition by JK (Joanne Kathleen) Rowling. Rowling was born in England in 1965. Even at a young age, she was enthralled with the fantasy genre and often wrote short stories that took place in a fantastical world. Rowling attended Exeter University and acquired degrees in French and Classics.

The idea to write a series about the young boy attending wizardry school first manifested itself while she waited for hours for her delayed train to London’s King Cross Station. Over the next five years, Rowling made an outline for all the books, but didn’t actually start writing Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (Sorcerer’s Stone in the US) until few years later. After briefly living in Portugal and teaching English as a second language, she married and gave birth to her first child. Following the birth of her daughter, death of her mother and end of her short-lived first marriage, her writing began to flourish, and she and her daughter moved to Edinburgh, Scotland.

It was in Edinburgh where the first Harry Potter book was finalized and eventually published. At the time, Rowling decided she wanted to teach in Edinburgh, which required her to get a postgraduate certificate of education. The course to get the certificate was yearlong and full time and was completed after she finished writing the first Harry Potter book and while simultaneously living on state welfare. Rowling wrote her book in various cafés around the city because at the time, taking her daughter for a walk was the best way to get the child to fall asleep.

Many of her characters are semi-inspired by her own life. She has said that Hermione is loosely based on her as an 11-year-old girl and Ron Weasley has many qualities of her childhood best friend. She also said that during her tumultuous years after her separation from her husband and moving to another country, she was diagnosed with clinical depression. This depression was the inspiration for the Dementors, the guardians of the wizard prison Azkaban, who survive by sucking the souls out of their victims.

Rowling’s life after Harry Potter paints her as a true ‘rags to riches’ heroine. She was listed by Forbes to be the first person to become a billionaire (US dollars) author. She also received honorary degrees from St. Andrews University, University of Edinburgh, Napier University, University of Exeter, University of Aberdeen and Harvard. She remarried in 2001 and gave birth to a son and daughter in the following years.

· Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone (Sorcerer’s Stone US title): June 1997 (UK) September 1998 (US)
· Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets July 1998 (UK) June 1999 (US)
· Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban July 1999 (UK) September 1999 (US)
· Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire July 2000 (UK & US)
· Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix June 2003 (UK & US)
· Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince July 2005 (UK & US)
· Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows July 2007 (US & UK)

· Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (Chris Columbus, 2001)
· Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (Chris Columbus, 2002)
· Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (Alfonso Cuaron, 2004)
· Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (Mike Newell, 2005)
· Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (David Yates, 2007)
· Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince (David Yates, 2009)
· Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1 (David Yates, November 19, 2010)
· Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 (David Yates, July 15, 2011)

*This Post is the first of an ongoing series as Boulder Bookstore counts down the weeks until the November 19th premier of the next film, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1

Post By KTO, Boulder Book Store Fall Intern

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Boulder Writers’ Circle Meetup

Guest post by Laura Whittemore:

If you are interested in waking up your inner writer, blast through “writer’s block,” or discover the joy of writing, join the weekly Boulder Writers’ Circle Meetup which meets every Tuesday at 6:30 PM. It is a gathering place for all writers, authors, song writers, aspiring authors, journalists, and poets who want to expand the creative art of painting images with words.

Each BWC Meetup includes reading your weekly assignment, participating in writing exercises from a variety of prompts. Only positive feedback is given by the group to highlight the gems and to encourage the writing process. You will be amazed at what is brought forth when prompted to write without expectations.

I will introduce tips on writing, editing, blueprinting and discovering your writing style and writing voice. Since writing is a solitary act, why not join this growing community of writers at the Boulder Writers’ Circle. Where else can you be heard and appreciated by like minded wordsmiths compelled to follow your heart wherever that may lead?

To maintain your writing habit and keep the momentum going, please visit

Laura Whittemore is co-author of 2 books published by the Brain Injury Hope Foundation. Her 30 year career in education is the foundation of her Life Coaching business, inspiring clients in life choices and the creative writing process. Laura started the Boulder Writers’ Circle to share the joy of writing.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Author Banquet for Literacy

Are you overdue for a date night? Treat yourself and someone special to an evening out with other book lovers, support literacy, and enjoy after dinner talks by some of the most successful authors of our time. Note: Gentlemen don’t have to wear ties unless they want to!

The Mountains & Plains Independent Booksellers Association, a non-profit professional association of independent, locally owned bookstores in Colorado and surrounding states, would like to invite book lovers to an Author Banquet for Literacy on Saturday, September 25, at the Marriott Denver Tech Center, 4900 South Syracuse Street, Denver, Colorado.

All proceeds from the Banquet and book sales will go toward the Mountains & Plains Literacy Grant Fund, which has donated over $85,000 to literacy programs in the region since 1990.

Guest author speakers are Ian Frazier, Nevada Barr, Connie Willis, Holly Arnold Kinney, and Master of Ceremonies is author Margaret Coel.

For complete information and a reservation form, call 1-800-752-0249 or visit the Mountains & Plains website at and click on Author Banquet for Literacy

Monday, August 2, 2010

See what our staff is reading!

Wilson, by Daniel Clowes

Meet Wilson. He's a jackass: a scornful, judgmental man without much capacity for self-reflection. And though he is hilarious, he is certainly not likable. That is, until life presents him with opportunities to delve deeper. Clowes continues to display his knack for tearing down walls of normalcy to reveal the raw emotional truths beneath.

Reviewed by: Tracy


The Happiness Project, by Gretchen Rubin

One woman's account of how she tried to change her life for the better, this book is also a compendium of spiritual, scientific, psychological, and experiential research on the universal pursuit of happiness. It remains light, honest, and refreshingly accessible throughout. Informative without being dense or overbearingly authoritative, this was a great plane read.

Reviewed by: Christine


The Outside Boy,
by Jeanine Cummins

"We stayed there, joined a
t the hair, joined at the knuckles...I think he felt it too—some unspoken sense that if we stayed very still, if we blurred into each other, it mightn't be real. " This excerpt is from the prologue of this stunning tale of self-learning and the meaning of family in the dying context of the Irish Traveller society of the late 1950's.

Reviewed by: Laina


A Vintage Affair,
by Isabel Wolff

An unexpected friendship with a vintage clothing client leads Phoebe into a journey of healing as she comes to terms with losing her best friend. This is a gorgeous story of grief loss and new beginnings, the tangled dynamics of family, the horrors of losing a dear friend, and the potency of helping a new one. Light enough for summer reading, powerful enough to last you all year.

Reviewed by: Laina

Monday, July 26, 2010

Brown vs. Board of Education: One of the Little Rock Nine to Speak at Boulder Book Store!

In 1957, Carlotta LaNier was one of the 9 brave students to attend the previously all-white Little Rock Central High School in Arkansas, under U.S. military guard and enduring endless taunting from their white peers. Just three years after the U.S. Supreme Court ordered the desegregation of the nation's schools via Brown vs. Board of Education, these students were the first African-Americans to graduate from a overwhelmingly white-majority school during a time when racial tensions were running high across the country.

LaNier had not written about the events that unfolded during her high school years until Mighty Long Way: My Journey to Justice at Little Rock Central High School, her memoir due out in paperback July 27, 2010. Her recollection of attending Central High gives the reader a personal insight into the immense challenges presented by LaNier's pursuit of a better education.

LaNier moved with her family to Colorado in 1962, where she graduated from what would become the University of Northern Colorado (UNC). She has spent the last 30 years working as a successful real estate broker, a career that included the founding of her own company in 1977. For their courageous action during a period of turmoil within the American school system, LaNier and the rest of the Little Rock Nine were presented with the country's highest possible civilian honor, the Congressional Gold Medal, in 1999.

Currently, LaNier serves as president of the Little Rock Nine Foundation, as well as on the board of trustees for the Iliff School of Theology and the University of Northern Colorado. She has two grown children and currently lives with her husband in Englewood, Colorado.

Carlotta LaNier will speak and sign Mighty Long Way (One World, $16.00) on Monday, August 2, 2010 at 7:30 pm at Boulder Book Store, 1107 Pearl Street, Boulder, CO.

Check out what our staff is reading!

The Butterfly Mosque, by Willow Wilson

A fascinating and intensely personal account of a local young woman's journey from Boulder to Cairo and atheism to Islam. When Wilson marries an Egyptian man, she is incorporated into his family and Egyptian society. She beautifully articulates the joys, frustrations and contradictions of adopting her new roles as a wife, a Muslim and a de facto Egyptian woman.

Reviewed by: Jen R.


West Wind, by Mary Oliver

West Wind shows a unique side of Mary Oliver—one still steeped in the nature she takes in on her daily walks, but more contemplative of death and the darker aspects of nature. Her well-known style is fully intact in this darkly ruminative collection. One thing is for sure: Mary Oliver retains her post as what Maxine Kumin deemed "an indefatigable guide to the natural world."

Reviewed by: Stephanie W.


Light Boxes, by Shane Jones

An eloquent fable that lies at the intersection of Calvino, Gorey and Borges. The author doesn't waste a word in telling the story of a village beset by an interminable February. Readers won't find half as much delight, disturbance, imagination or mystery in a book three times the length. I flipped from the final page back to the first, in hopes of recapturing the thrill of reading.

Reviewed by: Scott


The Secret Confessions of Anne Shakespeare, by Arliss Ryan

This tale of William Shakespeare’s wife is a romance unlike any other. Anne Shakespeare’s husband and lovers pale in comparison to her true love - writing. I’ve never read another work that captures the passion that springs between creator and creation. Ryan’s devotion to both her character and the craft of literature bring to life the exquisite thrill of being an artist.

Reviewed by: Kira

Monday, July 19, 2010

Check out what our staff is reading!

The Big Short
by Michael Lewis

Dubious of financial reform? You'll be true believers after reading this book. Lewis chronicles four flamboyant renegade traders—a one-eyed recluse, an offensive crusader and two chump-change investors from California—who bet heavily against the subprime mortgage market. A blistering indictment of the Wall Street mindset that brought us to the financial brink.

Reviewed by: Harry


Paradise Road
by Jay Atkinson
Paradise Road is a modern depiction of Jack Kerouac's meandering American journey chronicled in On the Road. Atkinson discovers that the interstate highway system has led to the destruction and closure of many of the backroads that Kerouac trod; yet Atkinson also discovers that the small towns visited by Kerouac still thrive on local commerce and community-based ties.

Reviewed by: Odysseus


The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest
by Steig Larsson

Here it is in the U.S. at last: the conclusion to Larsson's much-loved Millennium Trilogy. No more waiting to find out: Will Lisbeth Salander win against the corrupt government institutions that have continually victimized her? Can she trust others enough to accept their help in proving her innocence? The ending is satisfying, but I am sad the author died without completing the series.

Reviewed by: Alyssa


The Fiddler in the Subway
by Gene Weingarten

Weingarten is the best nonfiction writer you've never heard of. His accolades include discovering Dave Barry and winning two Pulitzers, plus he's an expert hypochondriac. The namesake essay—his Pulitzer-winning piece on violinist Josh Bell, who once busked in a busy Metro station during rush hour—is an illuminating read worth the price of admission.

Reviewed by: Michael D.


Dead Until Dark
by Charlaine Harris

The inspiration for the True Blood Series on HBO reads like Twilight on V (the hip designer drug of choice for humans derived from, you guessed it, vampire blood). Sookie Stackhouse is our plucky protagonist, ordinary southern girl with one extraordinary disadvantage: She is telepathic. With plenty of lust and violence to spare, this makes a great summer read!

Reviewed by: Ashanti

Thursday, July 15, 2010

How Graphic Texts Help Kids (Boys, Especially) Become Better Readers

by Karla Oceanak

I’m a reader, a writer, and a mother of three boys. My house is atumble in books in general (not to mention dirty socks, Legos, hockey gear, etc.), but I bet you’d notice straightaway the preponderance of comic books and graphic novels littering every surface.

My boys like graphic texts. Yes, they read “plain” novels and nonfiction, too, but in our house the books with the most tattered covers and cracked spines have titles like Calvin and Hobbes, The Far Side and The Wimpy Kid.

Now you’ve gotta understand that I’m an English-major type. Perhaps like you, I’ve been trained to believe that “literature” (in a British accent) is by definition dense and difficult. Frothy, simple books might be fun reads, but they don’t count, really.

Or do they? When I started writing Artsy-Fartsy and working with illustrator Kendra Spanjer on our particular take on the graphic novel concept, I was pretty confident kids would like the book. But would it be “good” for them?

Part of the Aldo Zelnick shtick involves fun but challenging vocabulary. So yes, that vitamin-fortified component would meet with both Mom- and English-major approval. (It’s like sneaking wheat germ into their cupcakes.) But the silly story and the drawings? The sprinkles of illustrated potty humor?

These questions nagged me. So I did some research. Here’s what I learned.

Kids need to read to become good readers.
In a 2007 study by the National Endowment for the Arts, researchers found that the highest reading scores on standardized tests correlated with the frequency of reading for fun. For fun! Another classic study of 5th graders showed that total daily time spent reading—regardless of what was being read—predicted reading scores. Kids who read 90 minutes a day tested in the 98th percentile on reading tests; kids who read just 5 minutes a day tested in the 20th percentile.

Apparently, when it comes to reading, volume matters more than that esoteric, subjective criterion we call “quality.” If our goal is to get and keep kids reading every day, we need to let them choose books they enjoy. This includes graphic texts.

Visuals increase comprehension and recall.
In her book Teaching Visual Literacy in a Multimedia Age, Glenda Rakes points out that combining visuals with text increases comprehension. Using PET scans, researchers have seen that the left brain lights up when exposed to verbal information and that the right brain lights up when shown visual information. Combine visuals with text and you get connectivity. Graphic texts feed both halves of the brain. And because visuals are stored more readily in long-term memory, we remember better when text is accompanied by visuals.

Boys, especially, may need visuals.
In Connecting Boys with Books 2, Michael Sullivan says that the corpus callosum—the bridge of nerve tissue that connects the brain’s two hemispheres—is, on average, 10 percent larger in girls than in boys. What’s more, functional MRIs show that when boys read, the left hemisphere of the brain lights up, but when girls read, both hemispheres light up. Girls visualize earlier and better than boys do, which means that boys, especially, benefit from text illustrated by graphics.

I could go on and on, because I wolfed down lots of research on the reading brain, the reluctant reader, vocabulary acquisition, etc., and I find it all fascinating. (Get Proust and the Squid by Maryanne Wolf if you want a geek-peek into how the brain reads.)

But suffice it to say that I felt vindicated. Graphic texts “count!” Even though Artsy-Fartsy and the Aldo Zelnick comic novel series is “a fun read,” it’s good for kids because it keeps them reading. Children who are taught that only some reading “counts” are being set up to think of themselves as reading failures. Besides, it’s not true. And it’s an attitude that, over time, may well quash their reading altogether.

Mark Twain said that the person who doesn’t read is no better off than the person who can’t read. Lifelong literacy means continuing to read, for self-education as well as for pleasure. I’m sure I’m preaching to the choir here, but let’s keep our kids reading for fun, so they’ll grow into grown-ups who revel in the pleasures of a good book, and who one day live in their own houses with kids and books atumble.

Karla Oceanak is the author of Artsy-Fartsy and Bogus, the first and second books in the alphabetical Aldo Zelnick comic novel series for kids.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Our Staff is Reading...

The Tassajara Bread Book
by Edward Espe Brown

Edward Brown, master baker and zen priest, strikes a balance between both of his callings in this remarkable cookbook. Simple, clear instructions take the mystery out of baking bread and dozens of recipes, from wholesome to decadent, and strive to nourish both the body and the soul. An addition to your bookshelf that is sure to be used again and again.

Reviewed by: Jen R.


Home Ground
edited by Barry Lopez and Debra Gwartney

An elegant encyclopedia that celebrates the poetry of the American landscape: Wrack line, kiss tank, coyote well, rip rap. Far from a dry recitation of facts, each entry reinvests our geography with elements of story. Barry Lopez, Linda Hogan, Barbara Kingsolver, Jon Krakauer and dozens more lend their eloquent voices to this eminently readable collection.

Reviewed by: Scott


Beatrice and Virgil
by Yann Martel

In Yann Martel's award winning Life of Pi, he explored issues of God and human nature by writing about a boy, a tiger, and a raft. Now Martel tackles the Holocaust and the face of evil by giving us a taxidermy shop and unfinished play about a monkey and a donkey. Strange, compelling, and with a chilling ending, Beatrice and Virgil is a literary masterpiece.

Reviewed by: Mandy

by Gregory David Roberts

Shantaram positively radiates. Gregory Roberts provides an intimate portrait of Bombay that is difficult to leave. His novel, which closely imitates his own life story, transports the reader to a world as colorful as it is heartbreaking. Full of rich and unforgettable characters, the city itself becomes the tragic heroine in Roberts’ search for meaning.

Reviewed by: Darcy


The Spartacus War
by Barry Strauss

Down through the centuries, the "Spartacus War" and its charismatic leader have inspired revolutionaries, Marxists, and Kirk Douglas. But given the dearth of firsthand sources and their often contradictory claims, Strauss' authoritative account of this conflict is a remarkable piece of historical reconstruction. His writing is fluid, and his scholarship impressive and insightful.

Reviewed by: Warren

Monday, July 5, 2010

What Our Staff is Reading This Week

The Wisdom of the Last Farmer
by David Mas Masumoto

After his father's stroke, the author is left struggling to make up for his absence on the family farm. An exploration of the fragility of mortality and man's connection to the natural world, Matsumoto's writing is poetic. Each chapter reads like a highly descriptive personal essay. Combined, the stories of life on the farm are a successful vehicle for examining life in general.

Reviewed by: Christine

The Surrendered
by Chang Rae Lee

This harrowing novel follows the lives of both Korean and American survivors of the Korean War. June and Hector are reunited despite their secret of history of violence and lost love. Lee slowly reveals their parallel tales building the novel's tension and showing us a world permanently marked by wars and atrocity.

Reviewed by: Arsen


The Privileges
by Jonathan Dee

The Morey family has it all—looks, charms, wits and money, lots of it. What they lack is scruples, ethics and some basic humanity. Dee tells the story from all four of the family members' perspectives. The Morey's pathological inability to think about their past and the corrupting influence of money leads to family even less savory than their eel namesake.

Reviewed by: Arsen

All Other Nights
by Dara Horn

Civil War intrigue, Jewish history and beautiful spies are the foundation for Horn's enthralling novel. Jacob Rappaport, a 19-year old private, is dispatched to New Orleans to kill his plotting uncle on Passover. That's the easiest of his assignments. Marriage to a Virginia spy is the most difficult but delectable mission. Rappaport's cunning and morals are sorely tested in this novel.

Reviewed by: Arsen


Making Toast: A Family Story
by Roger Rosenblatt

When his daughter Amy passes away unexpectedly, writer Roger Rosenblatt and his wife are recruited to help raise their grandchildren. Like Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion, Rosenblatt's book explores the country of those "left behind" by addressing how even the mundane things are altered. To quote Richard Ford, "These are brilliant lessons, fiercely learned."

Reviewed by: Scott

Friday, July 2, 2010


The Phantom of the Opera has been a beloved, twisted tale since its publication a century ago, but why should the lives of Erik the Phantom, and Christine halt on the final page? Readers have wondered how the story would be different had Christine stayed with the Phantom instead of departing with the Viscount de Chagny, and now they can find out as local author Kae D. Jacobs writes an alternative fate for the celebrated characters. While the renowned Opera Ghost is presumed dead at the end of Gaston Leroux's The Phantom of the Opera, Jacobs has found a way to revive the character by avoiding the finality of death. Picking up where Leroux left off, Beyond the Masque begins with the famous Phantom planning to end his life over the loss of Christine Daeé. Before his suicide can be achieved, Christine experiences a change of heart and returns to Erik soon after, leaving Raoul the Viscount. However, happily ever after doesn't come without trial and patience, and as Erik drifts down from Phantom to human, Christine battles with forgiveness and grace; Jacobs takes pride in the reality of her romance novel, saying that the goal for continuing Erik and Christine's tale was to make it "real life and believable", which she most certainly achieves. "I wanted this book to be believable on a level that people who are going through relationships can attach to it, not that it's so far above them," Jacobs elaborates. Women of all ages will be able to relate to Beyond the Masque as Jacobs confronts issues such as relationship conflicts, problems arising in marriage, self-acceptance, doubt versus trust, grace, and much more.

Taking advantage of the small door left open by Leroux, Jacobs bravely pushes through, re-entering the story of obsession, music, and love while adding unsuspecting twists to story, all written with the flavor of 19th century-style prose. Fans of Leroux's story and Andrew Lloyd Webber's musical adaptation will fall in love with the Phantom all over again, becoming reacquainted with the disturbed genius in a new way.

This is Kae D. Jacobs' first novel, originally self-published and then later signed over to Granite Publishing & Distribution. Beyond the Masque is but a prelude to a trilogy, labeled Bonds of Children.

To check out fun facts about Kae D. Jacobs and discover how Beyond the Masque came into being, visit the author's website at:

Kae D. Jacobs will be speaking and signing copies of Beyond the Masque (Granite Publishing & Distribution, $24.95) at the Local Authors Event, Wednesday, July 7 at 7:00pm, in the upstairs Ballroom of Boulder Book Store. Other participating authors include E Smith & Bettsee Gotwald (Evolutionary Guidebook), Irv Sternberg (writing as Mark Irving, The Persian Project), and B. Michael Fett (Beautiful Hardship: My Story).

See you soon at Boulder Book Store, 1107 Pearl Street, Boulder, CO.