Books for October Souls: Children’s Picks

For a few of us, autumn and Halloween create the happiest, most delightfully spooky season imaginable. Not only is the weather wonderful (crunchy leaves, hot drinks, warm sweaters, and those brilliant reds and oranges!), but the books I want to curl up with at this time are among my favourites. Here are a few to make fellow October souls happy:

Children’s Picks:

Julia’s House for Lost Creatures by Ben Hatke

Julia's House for Lost Creatures

Honestly, this is among my favourite picture books ever written. Julia moves into a huge house, which she thinks a grand idea until she actually spends a bit of time in it…and realizes it’s really quite lonely! She puts up a sign that invites all lost creatures to come and take up residence in her house, the result of which is… Well, you’re just going to have to read it. I really can’t say enough about how absolutely wonderful this story is, though. So, do read it.

Cinderella Skeleton by Robert D. San Souci, illustrated by David Catrow

Cinderella Skeleton

My opinion on this book may be a little unconventional, but I honestly think this is the best illustrated Cinderella adaptation. Cinderella is a skeleton, her prince is one too, and it’s not just her shoe she loses when she runs down the stairs. The illustrations are beautiful, and the story strikes just the right balance of playful macabre and sweet story.

Crankenstein by Samantha Berger, illustrated by Dan Santat


This one is just plain funny. Meet Crankenstein (chances are you know him). He’s having a day that leaves him feeling nothing but cranky. But when one Crankenstein meets another? Let’s just say this is one book with which we can all identify.

Zombelina by Kristyn Crow, illustrated by Molly Idle


Okay, so taking your leg off while dancing may not be everyone’s idea of fun, but for Zombelina, it’s just one of her many creative dance moves. With her kooky family encouraging her, Zombelina explores the world of dance on her own terms, but when her first ballet recital gives her stage fright, she has to trust in herself enough to finish the performance.

Frankenstein Makes a Sandwich by Adam Rex

Frankenstein Makes a Sandwich

If you haven’t yet experienced the world of Adam Rex, you’re in for a treat, and Frankenstein Makes a Sandwich is an excellent entry point. Full of funny stories surrounding Frankenstein’s attempts to live a normal life, this picture book will leave you in stitches. Wait. Not literal stitches. Stitches from laughing. Anyway, moving on…

Boris and Bella by Carolyn Crimi, illustrated by Gris Grimly

Boris and Bella

Opposites attract in this ghoulishly good story of Bella and Boris, two contrary people who just can’t stand each other…and come to love each other. Humour meets the saccharine, and with Gris Grimly illustrating, every reader is sure to be pleased.


Chelsea Cain! An Interview with Chelsea Cain!!

Our bookseller Brandi Bailey (BB) recently had the opportunity to interview Chelsea Cain (CC)!

Chelsea and Brandi
Chelsea and Brandi

A few of you may remember her our recent Bedtime Stories for Adults event (if not, have a look at #themomentbeforepjs on Twitter) for the launch of Suzie Vitello‘s book The Moment Before.


We adore her…for good reason! @ChelseaCain

Our Fav Queen of the Damned
Our Fav Queen of the Damned

BB: Let’s start with some background, I know that you and I share a Nancy Drew heritage, and I personally think it’s a crying shame that your Nancy Drew satire, Confessions of a Teen Sleuth, isn’t in active print any longer.

Find this it.
Find this one…read it.

How does the early influence of things like the Hardy Boys, Nancy Drew, Scooby Doo, et al influence your thriller writing today?

CC: I love the idea of a “Nancy Drew heritage,” like it some sort of recessive gene.  I definitely have the Nancy Drew mutation on my eleventh chromosome.  It was mysteries or nothing for me.

“She always has close calls when she solves a mystery!”
“She always has close calls when she solves a mystery!”

I really had zero interest in the books my friends were reading about girls who rode horses or girls who lived on prairies or girls who had to make friends at new schools (unless one of those friends was murdered and the girl had to investigate).  I have branched out a little since then.  I have even read whole books in which not a single character is menaced by a psychopath.  But I don’t like writing them.  High stakes drama is exciting, it reveals character, and when it’s done well it’s utterly absorbing.  Everything else falls away.  It’s a form of meditation, only with more cardiac activity.  Also, notice that I have never written a standalone thriller.  Honestly, I don’t really like to read standalone thrillers.  Ideally, I like there to be at least three books in a series before I even pick it up.  With a standalone anything can happen.  But if there are sequels, you can enjoy the thrills with the pleasant comfort of knowing the main character probably won’t bleed out in the last chapter.

“I have even read whole books in which not a single character is menaced by a psychopath. ” 


BB: One other question about influence: Your writing group has given rise to several well-know authors who aren’t exactly known for pulling any punches when it comes to their readers’ delicate sensibilities, our good friend Chuck being the most controversial. How has this camaraderie helped craft your present style?

CC: I have learned most of what I know about writing from the people around that table.  They are my first audience and my dear friends.  They are also all deeply disturbed, perverted, twisted individuals.  There is no shocking them.  You would not believe what we read out loud to one another on a weeknight.  No shame whatsoever.  It’s no wonder I have no censor function.  But they are unerring in their feedback.  Not individually – individually they have all given me terrible advice – but when they see something as a group I know I’m in trouble, and I listen.  Correction, first I cry.  Then I listen.

“They are also all deeply disturbed, perverted, twisted individuals.”

 BB: So, enough about famous friends and titian-haired teenagers, let’s talk about One Kick.

Read This!
Read This!

I loved it! It’s edgy and dark while being incredibly fast paced. It’s rare for me to be able to become so invested in a character when I devour a novel in less than a day, but I am incredibly invested in Kick. What’s the compromise you make between pacing and character development? Is it even a conscious decision?

CC: I try not to segment it like that.  Ideally the two aren’t mutually exclusive.  Character can be revealed in all kinds of ways.  A seat-of-your-pants fist fight can (and should) show you a lot about a character.  So I guess the answer is that I don’t compromise.  It’s not like I’m thinking ACTION, ACTION, ACTION, BUBBLEBATH.

“It’s not like I’m thinking ACTION, ACTION, ACTION, BUBBLEBATH. ” 

Every scene has to carry its weight, and every scene has to serve the story.  But it’s all just an excuse to explore character.  It’s like solving a riddle.  All the little details accrue.  Patterns emerge.  New information changes perspective on past events.  (Can you tell I’ve been in therapy?)  This book is third person, but it’s entirely in Kick’s POV, which is a departure from my other series.  Writing a thriller in the head of a single character is hard.  There’s no cutting away.  We never know what other characters are thinking.  We only see the world through Kick’s lens.  Because we don’t have any other perspective to weigh in we have to know Kick well enough to know when she’s wrong.  There’s no room for error.  So I had to make every scene count.  I wish I could say that it was all intuitive.  But I have to work at character development.  It takes layering.  I don’t get it right the first time.  Pacing is just maintaining tension.  Once you crack which narrative tools to use, you can make just about any scene a page turner.  Eating cereal can be terrifying.  Character is so much trickier because it’s as much about what’s withheld as what’s shared.

“Eating cereal can be terrifying.”

 BB:I really cannot praise the delicate balance between Kick’s fragility and toughness enough. This is a stunning portrait of a survivor. What research did you do to sculpt her character? Did you read the Elizabeth Smart book which gets name dropped in the novel? Was there any particular real-life victim you were modelling her after?

CC: Thank you! It was important to me that Kick be strong, but also vulnerable enough that we would root for her. She owes a lot to the stories of Elizabeth Smart and Jaycee Dugard.  I followed every detail of both of those cases.  Who doesn’t love a resurrection narrative?  Those girls were presumed dead until the minute they were rescued.  Elizabeth Smart grew up to be a wholesome, smartly-coiffed young woman.  But wouldn’t it have been awesome if she’d learned how to shoot and throw knives and pick locks and she’d started responding to Amber Alerts?

BB: The network of pedophiles at the center of this thriller is chilling. How did you even go about looking into that world without locking your own children up safely inside 24/7? Does the fact that you’re a mother color this tale at all?

CC: Well I tried to avoid Googling “child pornography” for obvious reasons. This is harder than you might think if you’re trying to research child pornography cases.  There was this article I had read in the NY Times that I was trying to find and I kept trying to use these euphemisms to find it, and was having no luck at all.  Finally I Googled “New York Times Child Pornography” and it came right up.  But it’s not like I was poking around in the dark corners of the Internet.  The scary stuff is all from People Magazine and USA Today.  It’s from the metro section of your local newspaper.  These stories, when they do happen, blow up and I think they create a sense that the world is more dangerous than it is.  Most kids who are abducted are not taken by strangers, and most kids who are sexually exploited know their abuser.  I’m not worried about my kid being snatched by a guy in a van; I’m worried she’ll get skin cancer because I don’t put enough sunscreen on her. Statistically the latter is a lot more probable.  For me the idea of a network of pedophiles, while scary, is also wishful thinking.  A network is interconnected – that’s its vulnerability.  Once you find a way in, you can bring down the whole evil enterprise.  You just need an entry point.  And a quick-witted avenging angel who can get past any lock.

“I’m not worried about my kid being snatched by a guy in a van; I’m worried she’ll get skin cancer because I don’t put enough sunscreen on her.”

 BB: It seems like you might intend to bring us some more Kick (Two Kick?) in the future. Might this be true? Are we seeing a series being born?

CC: Look for book two at Elliott Bay Book Company in August, 2015.

Upcoming Must-Read YA

I adore this book, so much so that I read it in a single sitting.

Hanging around the dead is not as interesting as it sounds, and as far as Leigh is concerned, having the bereaved as your clients leaves a lot to be desired. She’s stuck selling graves at her family’s cemetery and hasn’t been able to negotiate her way free of it. For the past few years she’s been one of her family’s sole supports, and as long as she works at the graveyard, her younger sister Kia can keep her normal life. Leigh’s decision, however, is not as simple as it seems on the surface. Not only did her dad uproot the family after he bought the cemetery without telling anyone, Leigh’s best friend died unexpectedly over the summer, and Dario, the new worker (and Leigh’s crush), is employed illegally. This book is a coming-of-age story that deals with greater issues of loss, opportunity, immigration, and what it means to find yourself buried beneath trauma.

I loved every moment of this story. You can pick it up in our store on August 26th!

A Peek into Your Reading Future

A few of the fiction books being released early this year that I’m quite excited to get into your hands!

What to Read: Dangerous by Shannon Hale

Why You Should Read It: Shannon Hale, author of wonderful books including Princess Academy and Goose Girl, brings us a book unlike anything she’s previously released. Maisie Danger Brown has always dreamed of being an astronaut, so when she wins a trip to a NASA-like space camp, she’s beyond thrilled. The camp is everything she had hoped it would be…until an alien artifact buries its way into her body. You’re absolutely going to want to read Dangerous.

What to Read in the Meantime: I’m going to direct you to a Bradbury classic to get your thinker brains going; pick up a copy of Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 and delve into a delectable science fiction world.

You can grab your own copy of Dangerous off our shelves 2014 March 04.


What to Read: Deception’s Princess by Esther M. Friesner

Why You Should Read It: I feel like this is, in many ways, the story I wanted Disney’s Brave to be (but–bookseller woe–movies don’t quite satisfy me in the way a book does). Maeve is the youngest of five princesses. After her father becomes High King, his court is transformed into a place of dangerous intrigue, where she is only viewed as a prize to be won! Never in her life has Maeve considered herself an object to be owned, and she’s more determined than ever take control of her life and her own fate. Mature, thoughtful, and engaging, this is one story you won’t want to miss!

What to Read in the Meantime: I’d pick up Robin Lafever’s Grave Mercy for a taste of medieval elegance, intrigue, and scandal!

You can grab a copy of Deception’s Princess off our shelves 2014 April 22nd.


What to Read: The Return of Zita the Spacegirl by Ben Hatke

Why You Should Read It: Third in the Zita series, The Return of Zita the Spacegirl is even better than it predecessors. Being held as a criminal on a penitentiary planet isn’t what Zita had in mind, so she begins to plot her escape…but when she realizes a few of her past decisions have had horrible consequences, her whole intergalactic journey is thrown into question.

What to Read in the Meantime: If you haven’t done so already, picking up the first two Zita books is a really good idea.


If you’re already familiar with Zita’s story, pick up Tony Cliff’s Delilah Dirk and the Turkish Lieutenant for a rollicking read!

You can grab this book off our shelves 2014 May 13


Alright, three is a good start for me.

What’s on your reading list this coming year?

My Dirty Little Bookseller Secret

by Holly Myers

Pippi LongstockingRemember that book compiled by Frank Warren, Postsecret, in which ordinary people confessed the extraordinary? My confession? I re-read. My dirty little bookseller secret. And like all the kids who have re-read Harry Potter nineteen-thousand times, my re-reading actually started when I was in the fourth grade.

We read Pippi Longstocking that winter just before holiday break. I loved the tale of the stiff-braided wondergirl with her long name and daring sensibilities. Once we had finished reading it as a class, I promptly re-read it myself over school break. I remember reading it by the light of my cheesy string of Christmas lights.

I made it a tradition and re-read all of Pippi every year through junior high. I suppose that also explains why I think of Pippi as a Christmas title.

Re-reading is like craving comfort food. When life takes an unexpected turn there is great solace to be found in mac and cheese or re-entering a beloved land.

The Eyre AffairDandelion WineAs an adult I am completely unashamed to admit that Jasper Fforde’s Thursday Next series is one I have re-read several times. Whenever my reality gets too much — more bills than cash, cat vomit, online book retailers — this series which stars the intrepid literary detective Thursday Next is truly a balm for my soul.

In Fforde’s alternate universe, literary questions spark all manner of crimes that are dealt with by the likes of Thursday and her peers, LiteraTecs in Spec Ops 27. Even after several re-reads, I am still dazzled by Fforde’s astonishing wit, which is aimed straight at the heart of a booklover.

When I really need escape, when my very world is threatened by global warming, poverty, and war, I do in fact seek for me the ultimate in comfort in Ray Bradbury’s classic Dandelion Wine. For me when I need to wrap myself in an unconditional cloak of innocence I will re-read the chapter on new tennis shoes. Bradbury’s lyric stream-of-consciousness writing depicts faultlessly the purity of childhood as our hero Douglas Spaulding yearns for new tennis shoes.

I’ll keep reaching for an occasional serving of meatloaf and certain books to help me through rough patches, but neither will be the sole source to feed me.

Small Press at Elliott Bay Book Co.

In addition to the thousands titles published by the larger publishing houses, we here at Elliott Bay are also proud to support several small publishers and self published authors from all over the world. Here are just a few of the titles that we’ve received within the last month or so.

Tale of Cloran HastingsTale Of Cloran Hastings, by Brandon M. Dennis

Cloran is an old seafarer who is set to retire and finally settle down with his fiancee Adaire when his king sends him on one last mission to the far off island of Miotes. Telling himself that it’s only one last journey, Cloran gathers his shipmates and heads out on his ship Wavegazer. Unfortunately, the sea itself seems to have other plans for this captain and his crew.

Bubble CollectorThe Bubble Collector, by Vikram Madan

This wonderfully illustrated collection of poems that poke fun at a wide range of subjects, Madan’s book is reminiscent of Dr. Seuss and Shel Silverstein. Almost every style of poem is represented here, from hilarious haiku to parodies of popular poems, The Bubble Collector is a great book to introduce children to the joys of poetry.

Chicago Center for Literature and PhotographyThe Chicago Center for Literature & Photography

We are proud to present the complete catalog of titles published by The Chicago Center for Literature & Photography. Each small, hand-bound book is an original work and would make a welcome addition to any library. Topics range from travel memoir to post-apocalyptic science fiction and feature authors that I’m sure we’ll be hearing more about in the near future.

For more information on Elliott Bay’s consignment program please visit our website or email us at

Children’s Bookmark Contest!

Calling all young talented artists!


Help us celebrate our 40th Anniversary by telling us a story in pictures! Design the front of our book-themed bookmark using the template provided (just click the link below):

Anniversary Bookmark Template

The finished bookmark dimensions will be 6 1/2” x 2”.


A panel of judges will select a runner-up from each of the three age catagories and one overall winner whose design will be come our new bookmark. Use your colored pencils, markers, crayons, fingerpaints or watercolors to create an original hand-drawn design. No copyrighted images in your design, and no computer generated illustrations, please.


Entries must be received by May 15, 2013.

Winners will be announced on June 1, 2013. Runners-up will receive a $25 Elliott Bay Book Co. gift certificate and the overall winner will have their creation reproduced for bookmarks for our store. and be awarded a $50 Elliott Bay Book Co gift certificate. (All designs become the property of Elliott Bay Book Co and cannot be returned.)


We look forward to seeing your creative and cool anniversary designs!

Spring Booknotes from Our Staff – Children’s & YA

Oh No, George!

by Chris Haughton (Candlewick)

When the young boy goes out, he leaves his dog George home alone and asks him to be good. But when George sees his favorite food is he able to resist? When George spots the cat will he give him chase? Will George dig in the dirt? When the boy comes home and finds George has not been good he takes George for a walk, and George is again faced with the same temptations. Can he be good this time? The bright, child-like art of this funny picture book will have kids smiling as George tries his best to meet the challenge to be good. –Holly

Magritte’s Marvelous Hat

by D.B. Johnson (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)

For those who love the paintings of René Magritte this lovely and surreal new picture book is certain to please. “Everything we see hides another thing, we always want to see what is hidden by what we see,” the famous artist is quoted as saying, and that is certainly true for this imaginative tale of a painting dog who buys a wondrous new bowler hat. Two sets of special see-through pages create simple magic, and the major art of the main character’s celebrated namesake figures prominently throughout with a humorous canine twist. Take a look! –David

The Book of Perfectly Perilous Math

by Sean Connolly (Workman)

Can you survive Pizza Peril and not lose your new job? Or death by Zombies on The Rope Bridge? You can with a bit of thinking and some advice from your old pal Euclid. This collection of math word problems will entertain and engage as adventurers use math skills to escape dire situations. Plenty of space is provided to work out the problem (and hints on what skills are needed too). The solution isn’t merely laid out at the end of the chapter but worked out in a math lab that translates the principles involved into a hands-on experiment. Fun math tips and tricks are peppered throughout the book too. Make friends with your inner math nerd! –Holly

A Greyhound of a Girl

by Roddy Doyle (Amulet)

Roddy Doyle is a writer who never disappoints me. Doyle’s story is of twelve-year-old Mary O’Hara, her mother Scarlett, her Granny, and a mysterious woman Mary meets named Tansey. Tansey, in fact, turns out to be the ghost of Mary’s Great Grandmother. The story is full of humor and sentiment that touches one’s heart. Doyle writes dialogue like no other, sharp and humorous. His characters grab life and embrace it with all their being. I loved this book and you will too. Read it to the family. -Greg

Grave Mercy

by Robin LaFevers (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)

In the 1400s, Brittany was still its own country, constantly fighting off France’s relentless advances. In Robin LaFevers’s fearless new fantasy, all that stands between Brittany’s freedom and its subjugation is a gaggle of nuns at a convent. But these women are not what they seem; sworn handmaidens of the god of death, they are highly trained assassins. On her first mission, seventeen-year-old Ismae is sent to bring a traitor to justice, but what seems a simple kill is just the first snowfall of an avalanche of betrayal and treachery. Fans of Graceling and The Hunger Games will lose themselves in LaFevers’s gorgeous mythology. –Leighanne

The Great Cake Mystery

by Alexander McCall Smith (Anchor)

Great detectives are born, as is the case with Precious Ramotswe, founder of the No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency, the highly popular adult mystery series. In her very first case, after a piece of cake and other food goes missing at her school one of Precious’s classmates is accused of thievery. But Precious is not convinced of who the thief is and vows to uncover the true culprit. Young readers will be introduced to the clever mind and good heart of this beloved character while being introduced to the landscape and culture of Africa. –Holly

Booknotes, the newsletter of The Elliott Bay Book Company, is written entirely by bookstore staff. It represents a sampling of recently published books that we have enjoyed reading. We appreciate every opportunity to assist in finding books to meet your interests.

Fall Booknotes from Our Staff – Young Adult

The Chronicles of Harris Burdick
by Chris Van Allsburg (Houghton Mifflin)

Nobody who’s ever perused the pages of The Mysteries of Harris Burdick could ever forget them. So when I heard there was a compilation of stories based on these puzzling images, I was delighted. Within these pages we meet a boy on a quest to understand and manipulate time, witness a pair of nasty twins receive a most imaginative comeuppance, and double-take as a baby girl with an oatmeal-smeared chin floats into the air. But instead of explaining away one mystery, these amazing stories take the reader further down a spiraling rabbit-hole of possibility. Which was exactly what Harris Burdick had in mind. –Leighanne

The Apothecary
by Maile Meloy
illus. by Ian Schoenherr (Putnam)

In 1952 America, Cold War politics are prevalent, and fourteen-year-old Janie reluctantly moves to London with her blacklisted parents. Her new life soon becomes interesting when her schoolmate’s father, the local apothecary (or pharmacist, as we’d call him), is kidnapped and Soviet spies seem to be coveting his sacred book of medicines, The Pharmacopoeia. With her fearless friend Benjamin, they conspire to save the book and his father, and prevent an impending Russian nuclear experiment! An enthralling mix of history, fantasy, alchemy, and adventure, a dash of teen romance, and a splash of political intrigue, this to-be-continued story grabs you the minute you meet its plucky young heroine. –Erica

by Marie Lu (Putnam)

In a distant future, the United States has collapsed into two separate lands: the Republic, a country of order and class, and the Colonies, a land in perpetual war with its neighbor. Day and June both live in the Republic but lead very different lives. June is a prodigy brought up to take her place among the nation’s elite. Day, a child of slums, was destined to die before his wits and cunning led him to the top of the Republic’s most-wanted criminal list. When an act of murder throws their worlds together, Day and June both discover that the Republic may not be all that it seems. Fans of The Hunger Games will love the first book of this trilogy. –Casey S.

Legend will be published Tuesday, November 29th. Pre-order your copy today. 

Booknotes, the newsletter of The Elliott Bay Book Company, is written entirely by bookstore staff. It represents a sampling of recently published books that we have enjoyed reading. We appreciate every opportunity to assist in finding books to meet your interests.