Monthly Archives: May 2020

‘Our Friend Hedgehog’

Kenny Brechner - May 21, 2020

That Lauren Castillo’s Our Friend Hedgehog is evocative of childhood classic read-aloud stories is unmistakable. Why though? To answer that question we should start out by asking which classics it is evocative of. I wouldn’t be surprised if that varied reader to reader but to me the books it summoned were Tove Jansson’s Moomintroll series, A.A. Milne’s Pooh books, Else Minarik’s Little Bear stories. All these books are marked by classic illustrations and when I pounced upon Our Friend Hedgehog a few pre-pandemic months ago it was because Lauren Castillo is a personal favorite illustrator and I was excited to see, in her first published written work, what sort of a story she had to tell. That the accompanying illustrations would be delightful was a given.

The characteristics Our Friend Hedgehog shares with the four books it evoked for me are a sublime blend of warmth and wonder, gentle adventure, kind humor, allayed misapprehension. discovery and friendship. The sense of possibility in a young reader is developing all the time of course, and it can also be curtailed by sad circumstances of environment. These classic books provide an exercise in world building which clothes childhood possibility in a living, magical garment. When the Snork Maiden tries to talk Moomintroll out of diving for breakfast dishes from the attic down to the kitchen in their submerged house Moominmama announces, “why shouldn’t he if he finds it thrilling?” That same sense of permissiveness and support for interest and adventure quietly illumines Our Friend Hedgehog.  It is conveyed through the interwoven actions of friendship and the natural world.

As with Emily from Little Bear and Christopher Robin from Pooh, Hedgehog and his animal companions make a human friend in Annika Mae Flores. The engaging and appealing Annika Mae provides a perfect guide for young readers to inhabit and explore this sunny world.

The comfort found in the timeless charm of Our Friend Hedgehog will be a happy discovery to many readers who are living through this most unsettled and uncertain of times.  For adults, sharing it with a child, it will be a welcome passage back to treasured inner landscapes of their own childhood,  the very agency of association enhancing the comforting effect of experiencing a new world so imbued with beloved aspects of the past. For children it will be just sheer delight, companionship, and wonder. Our Friend Hedgehog is a book that will still be there whenever you return to it.  It is of course a book to share. That’s why I’m sharing it with you.

The Flying Pig Games

Elizabeth Bluemle - May 19, 2020

Imagine our delighted but bemused surprise when large boxes of Suzanne Collins’s The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes arrived at the bookstore last week from Scholastic. Sure, back in January, we’d planned a big hoopla around the fourth Hunger Games release and couldn’t wait to read it, but COVID-19 had knocked those plans—and even thoughts of the book itself—into the far outfield (or, more aptly, into a far and disused corner of the arena).

With scores of beautiful copies to sell and a very much shortened promo window on our end, there was nothing for it but to create a video. So on my day off, I recruited three people from my “pod” (the little group of friends and family I can hang out with in person these days, still socially distanced) to help me out. Here’s what we came up with:

There’s no way of knowing how many books we’ll sell, but given the excitement around the book (I’ve started it, and it’s REALLY REALLY great so far!), a well-placed roadside signboard, and our two hammy actors, we have high hopes. Let the Games begin!