Category: Oz: Children’s Books (Page 2 of 17)

The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey by Susan Wojciechowski, illustrated by P.J. Lynch

Today is the sixth day in the traditional Twelve Days of Christmas. To celebrate, we’re running Clara’s Clarion-Ledger article about the ever-popular children’s book, The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey. Enjoy!

JacketThe Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey by Susan Wojciechowski is not a new Christmas story, but it is one that I would like to revisit as it has been recently published in a new 20th anniversary edition.

Illustrations by P.J. Lynch have made this book the miraculous wonder that it is, and Lynch says the challenge of painting this story was “not to do with costumes or tools; it was to try to match, in my pictures, the deep emotional core of Susan’s story, to try to somehow show that might be going on inside a character’s head, or inside his heart.”

In what looks like Appalachia, Jonathan Toomey is the best wood carver in the valley. However, he doesn’t speak to anyone, and the village children call him “Mr. Gloomy.” He spends his days bent over his work, carving “beautiful shapes from blocks of pine and hickory and chestnut wood.” The reason for his gloom, the narrator tells us, is that some years ago, he lost his wife and child to sickness.

“So Jonathan Toomey had packed his belongings into a wagon and traveled till his tears stopped. He settled into a tiny house at the edge of a village to do his woodcarving.”

When the widow McDowell and her son Thomas knock on his door, asking Jonathan Toomey to carve them a nativity scene, he shuts the door, grumbling, “Christmas is pish­posh.”

After a week, the widow McDowell and Thomas return to see what progress has been made on their manger scene, and Thomas sits at Mr. Toomey’s side, since he, too, wishes to be a woodcarver some day. However, he interrupts Mr. Toomey to tell him that he is carving the sheep wrong, that his sheep are happy sheep. “’That’s pish­posh,’” said Mr. Toomey. ‘Sheep are sheep. They cannot look happy.’” To which Thomas replies, “Mine did…they knew they were with the Baby Jesus, so they were happy.”

With each visit to Mr. Toomey’s, and with each subsequent character being carved to fill the manger scene, Thomas continues to tell Mr. Toomey the right way to carve his figures: the cow is proud that the baby Jesus chose to be born in its barn, the angel looks like one of God’s most important angels because it was sent down to baby Jesus, the wise men are wearing their most wonderful robes, and Joseph leans over the baby Jesus protectively.

When Mr. Toomey asks Thomas how Mary and the baby Jesus should be carved, he says, “They were the most special of all…Jesus was smiling and reaching up to his mother, and Mary looked like she loved him very much.”

Jonathan Toomey completes his carvings on Christmas Day, and it is indeed a Christmas miracle. The widow McDowell and Thomas gave him a miracle by asking him to carve the nativity scene. Twenty years later, the deep human experience and the power of the Christmas story lives on in this book.

“And that day in the churchyard the village children saw Jonathan throw back his head, showing his eyes as clear blue as an August sky, and laugh. No one ever called him Mr. Gloomy again.”

Merry Christmas, everyone.

Alice in Wonderland is turning 150!


by Lewis Carroll (Charles Lutwidge Dodgson), wet collodion glass plate negative, July 1860

by Lewis Carroll (Charles Lutwidge Dodgson), wet collodion glass plate negative, July 1860

“Tell us a story.”

This is the age-old petition of children. There is the delight and wonder of hearing words spun from thin air, where even the creator of a story doesn’t quite know what will happen next. And so on a “golden afternoon” in 1862, the three Liddell sisters, Lorina Charlotte, Alice Pleasance and Edith, ask for a story from Mr. Dodgson. Charles Lutwidge Dodgson was a mathematics lecturer at Christ Church College where the three girls’ father was the dean.

The heroine of the story on this particular day was Alice. In his article “Alice on the Stage,” published in 1887, Dodgson confessed that in some “desperate attempt to strike out some new line of fairy-lore, I had sent my heroine straight down a rabbit-hole, to begin with, without the least idea what was to happen afterwards.”

What happened afterwards is the story of a girl who falls into a land of nonsense, logic games, puzzles and paradoxes. Published under the pseudonym “Lewis Carroll,” Dodgson presented the first manuscript of “Alice’s Adventures Underground” to Alice Liddell as a Christmas gift in 1863. After meeting publisher Alexander Macmillan, Carroll then asked satirical cartoonist John Tenniel to illustrate his Alice.


by Nicola Callahan

Tenniel portrays Alice as a little girl with long blond hair (the blue dress would come later), and this is how we remember her today, although the real life Alice had short, dark hair with bangs cut straight across her forehead. Tenniel’s illustrations were carved into woodblocks by engravers, and then those woodblocks were used as masters for making metal copies to be used in the actual printing of the books. The true first edition was published late in 1865 as “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.”

In “The Lobster-Quadrille,” the Gryphon says to Alice,

“Come, let’s hear some of your adventures.”

“I could tell you my adventures — beginning from this morning,” said Alice a little timidly; “but it’s no use going back to yesterday, because I was a different person then.”

alice_02b-alice_rabbitAlice tells the Gryphon and the Mock Turtle her adventure starting with her falling down the rabbit hole, but when they ask her to repeat the story, she cannot tell it twice. So it is with the original creation of Alice’s story; a story that is told aloud is constantly changing and morphing. Alice’s adventures have been around for 150 years, and each time one reads it, there is something new to uncover, something different that wasn’t understood before. As it is with reading stories, they are constantly changing and evolving, and it’s no use going back to yesterday. Alice is not the same as she was 150 years ago. She has grown (not just by eating cake) and has evolved into different literary and illustrated interpretations.

Alice has lasted 150 years because Wonderland is a puzzle that can never fully be solved — it is a place that continues to ask questions. Fall down the rabbit hole and walk through the looking glass. You won’t be the same as you were yesterday.


Original to the Clarion-Ledger 

‘The Christmas Mystery’ By Jostein Gaarder, translated by Elizabeth Rokkan, and illustrated by Rosemary Wells


Jacket (1)There are officially 24 days left until Christmas. In the Christian tradition, Sunday marked the beginning of Advent, the period of anticipation and preparation before the birth of Christ on December 25th. This book is the perfect addition to any home, and will help your family on the journey towards Christmas, much in the same way Mary and Joseph journeyed to Bethlehem. The Christmas Mystery is a Norwegian tale about a young boy named Joachim who goes with his father to buy an advent calendar on November 30th. They find a very old one that looks home-made. The book-seller gives it to them for free, saying, “I think you should have it for nothing. You’ll see, old John had you in mind.”

When Joachim opens up the door to December 1st, a piece of paper falls out. On the back of the paper is a story of a little girl named Elisabet who follows a lamb out of the department store, and each day continues her journey following the lamb. The book is divided into 24 chapters, each representing a day of Advent, and would be perfect to read aloud for each day leading up to Christmas. Every chapter is preceded by a jewel-like illustration by Rosemary Wells, and flipping the pages feels like opening up the flap on an Advent calendar.

Discover the story within a story; as Joachim unfolds each day on the Advent calendar, he also reads about Elisabet’s journey through time to Bethlehem and the birth of Christ. Joachim and his parents also become involved in a journey to discover the identity of John, the man who made the Advent calendar, and the mystery of the real-life Elisabet, who disappeared 40 years ago on Christmas Eve. This Advent season, pick up the The Christmas Mystery for the whole family to enjoy the wonder and mystery of Christmas.

Eloise turns 60

782854I am Eloise.

I am 6.

Eloise is a the darling of The Plaza hotel, and this year is a “rawther” large celebration as she will be celebrating 60 years skittering down the hall and getting into hilarious hijinks in the most famous hotel in New York with her dog who looks like a cat, Weenie, and Skipperdee, her turtle. “The Plaza is the only hotel in New York that will allow you to have a turtle.”

While her creator, Kay Thompson, is now known for her stories about Eloise, she never set out to be an author. She loved performing and was an accomplished musician who coached Judy Garland and many other singers at MGM. Her most famous role in Hollywood was for portraying fashion editor Maggie Prescott in the musical classic, “Funny Face,” basing her character on Diana Vreeland.

Eloise’s familiarity with The Plaza is due to the fact that when Thompson wrote Eloise in the early 1950s, she was living rent-free at the Plaza while performing in the Persian Room. It was after one of Thompson’s last performances there that she was introduced to the young illustrator, Hilary Knight, who had trained under Reginald Marsh.eloise-sunglasses

In her account of how Eloise came to be, Marie Brenner says, “in the history of artistic collaboration, Kay Thompson and Hilary Knight would become as fused as Lewis Carroll and John Tenniel.” After Knight sent Thompson a Christmas card with Eloise atop Santa’s pack, Thompson knew that she needed to write Eloise down onto paper, and thus Eloise was born.

Kay Thompson’s Eloise: A Book for Precocious Grownups” was published on Thursday, Nov. 17, 1955, and on Friday morning at 11:30 editor Jack Goodman ordered a second printing. Now, there are many more Eloise escapades, the most well known including “Eloise in Paris” and “Eloise in Moscow,” among others.

It is impossible to imagine Eloise in any way but how she appears in Knight’s iconic pen and ink illustrations. There is a mischievousness to Eloise. Knight’s illustrations show her as if she can’t sit still for very long, and his medium allows him to capture the energy and imagination of a 6-year-old, and the hustle-and-bustle of New York. She is in fact a very naughty 6-year-old, and this realistic depiction of children was new and fresh, especially in 1955.

After many years of Eloise, Knight marvels that “Eloise, incredibly, will remain 6 years old forever.”

From Thompson and Knight’s magic, so many children (and precocious grown-ups) have come to love and revisit Eloise’s 60 years at The Plaza.

And as Eloise would say, “Ooooooooooooooooooo I absolutely love The Plaza.”



Original to the Clarion-Ledger

Children’s Books: ‘Vanishing Island’ author to visit

Original to the Clarion-Ledger

51OE5HRFxuL._SX328_BO1,204,203,200_A Jackson native who now lives in Memphis, Barry Wolverton will be visiting Lemuria Books on Wednesday, Oct. 28, at 5 p.m. to sign his newest book for young readers, “The Vanishing Island.

The protagonist is Bren Owen of the “dirtiest, noisiest, smelliest city in all of Britannia.” “Bren was what they called spindly— tall for his age, but unsteady, like a chair you might be afraid to sit on. He had been born in Map because he had no choice in the matter.”

It is 1599 and the Age of Discovery in Europe. Bren would rather be out on a ship exploring the world, but on the day he tries to surreptitiously board a ship as a stowaway, an explosion foils his plans, and he is sent to work at McNally’s Map Emporium, owned by the one and only map mogul, Rand McNally. It is there, as Bren tends to sick and dying sailors, that one of these sea dogs gives him a strange coin with indecipherable characters. This coin sends Bren on a quest that will take him far beyond the confines of Map and toward the Vanishing Island.

Spanning East and West culture and folklore, “The Vanishing Island” is perfect for fans of Robert Louis Stevenson’s “Treasure Island.” This book should be next on your child’s to-read list.


harry-potter-illustrated-scholastic“Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone: The Illustrated Edition” by J.K. Rowling, illustrated by Jim Kay

At the start of 2015, a few gorgeously intricate illustrations featuring characters from the Harry Potter series were released online. Further research showed that Jim Kay, an illustrator who won the Kate Greenaway medal for his illustrations in “A Monster Calls” by Patrick Ness in 2012, would be creating a series of illustrations for the first Harry Potter book, “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” (or in the UK, “The Philosopher’s Stone”.)

Kay’s illustrations are sheer magic. The colors are dynamic and the detail is so incredible that one could spend hours looking at all the illustrations in the book. With all of the Harry Potter books and movies, it didn’t seem possible that a tried and true classic could be made fresh, but Kay makes the wizarding world a reality. As Halloween draws near, perhaps one of the best scenes in all of children’s literature comes from “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.” It is after Harry and Ron have saved Hermione’s life from the troll on Halloween night. As Rowling writes, “from that moment on, Hermione Granger became their (Harry and Ron’s) friend. There are some things you can’t share without ending up liking each other, and knocking out a 12-foot mountain troll is one of them.”

Clara Martin works for Lemuria Books.

Meet Barry Wolverton

5 p.m. Oct. 28 at Lemuria Books.

Happy Halloween

Join us for a Harry Potter Trivia Night at 5 p.m. Friday. All ages are welcome, and the best costume will win a prize! For details, call (601) 366-7619 for more information.

Little Elliot, BIG PARTY!

LittleElliot_mirrorIf you haven’t met the cutest polka-dotted elephant in children’s literature, now is the perfect time to do so.

Children will identify with Little Elliot, an elephant of small stature, because while he may be small, his worth is no less just because of his size. In Little Elliot, Big City, Elliot feels unnoticed in a large and overwhelming New York City, where he is too short to reach the bakery counter, and so he is not able to buy a cupcake. Once he meets Mouse, his luck changes because with friends, anything is possible!

Little Elliot’s adventures continue in the most recent installment, Little Elliot, Big Family, a perfect story for the upcoming holiday season. When Mouse goes off to a family reunion, Little Elliot wonders who his family is.

Illustrated in warm reds and yellows, Little Elliot, Big Family, is a heartwarming story of finding family in all shapes and sizes. Author and illustrator Mike Curato is a name to watch. According to Publishers Weekly, he is “a terrific emerging talent, with gorgeously rendered images that bring to mind the moodiness of Chris Van Allsburg and the sweetness of William Joyce.”

Bring the whole family and meet Curato and Little Elliot at Lemuria Books TODAY at 4:30 p.m. Popsicles from Deep South Pops!

Original to the Clarion Ledger.


I was sitting in my little cubby behind the fiction desk at the beginning of the month when it hit me. Yet another anniversary of 9/11 is upon us. How can yet another year have flown by distancing us from the most deadly terrorist attack on American soil? The emotions, man. AND IT’S BEEN 14 YEARS. How can so many years have passed already, when I can remember September 11 of 2001 so clearly? In that moment of realization I just sat and let the painful memories wash over me. Each year I seemingly transport seamlessly back to my 10 year old self, where the magnitude of the atrocity is new and fresh. I fully expected to continue in this mindset as we approached and then passed this anniversary, in similar manner to the previous 13 I have experienced. Something happened though that reshaped my mindset of the historic twin towers that I couldn’t have imagined; my miracle appeared in book form.

JacketI received my daily stack of customer special orders that needed their owners’ notification of their arrival. As I generally do, I skimmed each title as I progressed through the stack. I may occasionally read an inside cover as well if I find it particularly interesting (this is how my own reading list becomes so spectacularly lengthy.) There was one book on this day that stopped my progress in its tracks. The title of the book was The Man Who Walked Between the Towers, a Caldecott Medal award winning children’s picture book by Mordecai Gerstein. I didn’t fully know what I was looking at; just a children’s book on the twin towers. Immediately my curiosity was piqued. I halted my work; I knew this was a book I needed to read at that moment.

As I discovered, The Man Who Walked Between The Towers recounts the French aerialist Philipe Petit’s acrobatics in the early morning hours of an August day in 1974. Petit, with assistance from cohorts, stretched a wire between the towers in an attempt to cross between the two as the sun rose. I became enthralled with the story as I was pulled into that hour that Petit entertained passers by a quarter of a mile up in the sky as depicted with the captivating illustrations within.

Something happened as I read this story. I was no longer only filled with pain and sadness when I thought of the twin towers, I was now also filled with the wonder, amusement, and even joy of this story. I was hit with a realization that filled me with a surpassing hope in this painful anniversary. Terrorists may have taken almost 3,000 lives on that September day, but they could not take everything. They can never take away the joyful moments that took place in and on the twin towers; I’m sure this incredible story is just one of many that could be told. This is the one that I know though, and I want to share it with you all. This is a book for all ages, but I think it can be especially important for children. It is important for them to know and remember the atrocities of 9/11, but also to know that there is always more that can never be taken away by evil.

A sincere thank you each and ever year to the first responders of 9/11. And my deepest sympathies to the family members of the victims. #neverforget

*On September 30th, a movie on this story will be released titled ‘The Walk.’


Why Young Readers Need Independent Bookstores

unnamed (3)


Carson Ellis

Carson Ellis

One of my favorite things about working in Oz is seeing reactions from people walking in for the first time. It’s a different reaction from the rest of the store, because being surrounded by children’s books brings about a unique feeling, one of nostalgia and hopefulness. You remember what you read as a child, where you read, who read to you. People are delighted and openmouthed, trying desperately to take it all in.

But the children are the best. Their eyes get big, their jaws drop. Sometimes they start running towards the first thing that catches their eye. They try to describe what they’re seeing, but mostly it’s just a lot of words like “Wow.” For children and adults, being surrounded by children’s books is a special, magical experience.

Levi Pinfold

Levi Pinfold

Independent bookstores themselves are magical entities. They pop up in the strangest places, inhabit the strangest buildings, and are run by the strangest people (it’s true, you know it). These buildings, these places, these people, they have histories and pasts and layers. They have stories, and that in turn gives independent bookstores their unique brand of magic: the place and person you buy that book from has as unique a story as the one you hold in your hands.

Jon Klassen

Jon Klassen

People feel that magic when they walk into Lemuria. Even children feel it. It’s a special kind of wonder you don’t get when you walk into a chain bookstore, and definitely not when you order a book off of Amazon. It’s a feeling that makes people excited to visit Lemuria, excited about reading, excited about even the idea of holding a book in their hands. It’s a feeling that manifests itself most beautifully in children. When they come into Oz, a place that seems so otherworldly, a place made just for them, with adults there to help them find something they love, something clicks. It’s a moment I love seeing, a moment I wish everyone could see at least once. All of a sudden the child realizes, “Wow. So this is what reading is like. So this is what books can do. “ They realize places of magic house objects of magic, and those objects are books.

William Joyce

William Joyce

I don’t think I need to explain why fostering a love of reading in children is so important. But I’ll do it anyway, for clarity’s sake. Reading allows children to imagine, to grow and think outside of the box. Reading allows children to learn about worlds outside their small personal ones, to grow in empathy and understanding. Reading provides children with opportunities to succeed, to improve themselves and their situations. Reading teaches children that they are not alone, that somewhere, someone understands their unique experience as a person and has a written a story to speak to them. Reading gives children power and self-confidence, the opportunity to choose what information they consume. Reading is a life-skill that offers so many wide-open doors.unnamed (2)

Anthony Browne

Anthony Browne

But to foster this love, to bring the magic to life, children need places like Lemuria. Readers from seven months to seventeen years old need spaces that seem magical, adults who appear to be wizards pulling books out of thin air. They need a place that ignites a desire to read, and they need guides who want to foster that desire. What they need are people who love books. And I can guarantee you won’t find those people in Amazon warehouses or behind the counters at chain bookstores. You find them in independent bookstores, because independent bookstores are created by people who love books, people who spend their entire lives trying to explain this love to others. So come on in. Bring your kids, stay a while. There is so much we’d like to share with you.

David Wiesner

David Wiesner

Donate Your Old Books!

On July 10, the Kindergarten classrooms at Batesville Elementary in Batesville, Mississippi, were completely destroyed by fire.

Please help us replenish their children’s book collection.

There are several ways to help:

If your old books need a new home, drop them off at Lemuria for a delivery to Batesville.

We also have a running list of books the school would like 17 copies of for their 17 PRE-K and K teachers. Place an order with us and we will get them to the school!

OR if you can’t get to Lemuria, ship your books to:

Lydia Aderholt
211 Jones Street
Batesville Mississippi 38606

Kids need books before school starts, so stop by the store today! Any and all donations are much appreciated.

-The OZ Team

“The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more you learn, the more places you’ll go.” — Dr. Seuss

Mississippi Book Festival Kids’ Books (Part 1)

Readers of kids’ books: mark your calendars for AUGUST 22. Meet great middle-grade and picture book authors at the first ever Mississippi Book Festival, held downtown at the State Capitol. Before meeting the authors, read their books!

Featured this week are Kimberly Willis Holt and Susan Eaddy, who will be on the Young Readers Panel and Children’s Illustrated Books Panel, respectively.


Dear Hank Williams by Kimberly Willis Holt (Macmillan, 2015)

Dear Hank Williams Jacket

Holt will be presenting her newest novel for kids, Dear Hank Williams, on the Young Readers panel. Dear Hank Williams is set in Rapides Parish, Louisiana, in the 1950s. When Tate’s teacher asks her students to choose a pen-pal, Tate knows just the person.

“That minute I knew exactly who my pen pal was going to be. Guess who, Hank Williams? I’ve picked you! Since you sing on the Louisiana Hayride and I’m going to sing at the Rippling Creek May Festival Talent Contest, we already have something in common.”

Tate writes letters so funny you will laugh out loud. After being sent to clean the kitchen after asking her Aunt Patty Cake too many questions about her past love life, Tate says,“Frog (Tate’s brother) is smart. He never is the least bit interested in the Christmas-tree-ornament stories. Curious people seem to have more chores.”

She’s “practicing to perfection” for the talent-show in order to beat golden-haired Verbia Calhoon. She spills her innermost secrets to the voice she hears on the radio, including tales of how she gets a dog for Christmas, whom she names Lovie. Aunt Patty Cake questions if Hank Williams even reads Tate’s letters, but Tate knows he does — so far he’s sent her three autographed photographs of himself.

Tate’s true story about her parents, her family, and the truth about herself unfolds in her letters to the country singer, and her voice is funny, Southern, fresh, and will even make you cry.

For readers ages 8-12.

Poppy’s Best Paper by Susan Eaddy, illustrated by Rosalinde Bonnet (Charlesbridge: 2015)

Poppys Best Paper

Eaddy will be on the Children’s Illustrated Books Panel with her new picture book, Poppy’s Best Paper. Poppy is a little white rabbit with long, floppy ears who wants to be a very famous writer. When her teacher, Mrs. Rose, tells them she will read one student’s paper in front of the class, Poppy gets to work. “At home, Poppy told Mr. Fuzz Dog, ‘I am going to write the BEST paper ever!’ ” She KNOWS that her teacher will pick her paper to read aloud to the class. Poppy plays adventure “treasure ahead!” She plays with Mr. Fuzz Dog, and she takes break after break. In fact, Poppy does everything EXCEPT write her paper!

Surprise, surprise, Mrs. Rose does not pick Poppy’s paper to read aloud. Poppy, disheartened, tries again, but keeps taking more breaks and not finishing the paper. Finally, she writes a paper Mrs. Rose reads to the class titled, “How to Get in Trouble.”

Poppy is similar to most students, and kids will identify with the struggle to finish homework. The illustrations by Bonnet are adorable, and Poppy is just one bunny amongst a group of other animal children. This book is perfect for kids going back to school and facing homework.

For readers ages 3-7.

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