Little Readers’ Storytime Book Club

Our friend Kristen (known on Instagram as @hellokristendickson) took summer reading to a whole new level by launching @storytimebookclub, a neighborhood book club for little readers. We encourage you to follow their weekly adventures as the kids gather on Wednesdays for a neighborhood story time play group like no other! Each week, neighborhood’s little readers join together for a new themed storytime and activity, and we’re way jealous.

We asked the @storytimebookclub creator and mom-in-chief if she had any advice to share and here are her tips and wisdom for getting something started where YOU live! Continue reading

Fall Storytime Favorite: Toto’s Apple

We do a lot of reading in our house, which means I’m always on the hunt for our new favorite book. I recently discovered Toto’s Apple by Mathieu Lavoie at our local Half Price Books and instantly fell in love with Toto, a delightful little worm who devises a series of inventive problem solving measures to reach an apple high in a tree. Every time we read it I admire his tenaciousness, especially because he uses arts and crafts to overcome each of his obstacles — you’re a worm after our own hearts, Toto.

Every now and then we do a special storytime party, and I knew Toto would be the perfect book to kick off the first day of fall. It has it all – apples, trees, leaves, squirrels, birds – it’s basically fall bingo in picture book form. So I invited my daughters Jane (four) and Rose (two) to help me bake mini apple pies (with leaf crusts, their favorite part) which we devoured while we read the book, and afterward we made simple popsicle butterflies, just like Toto makes for himself in the book. It was fun and simple and made storytime just a little more magical. 

What’s your family’s favorite storytime book? Let us know in the comments below!

Written by Kristen Dickson from @hellokristendickson, a girl mom in Texas looking for that everyday magic.

The Big List of Storytime Books

We read a lot of storytime books around here – before naptime, before bedtime, before breakfast, after breakfast, for breakfast – you get the idea. My daughters are three and almost two, which means that our library is well-loved (aka the covers now dangle from most of the books → aka time for some new books → aka cue all the jazz hands emojis because there’s nothing better than shopping for new books, right?).  I polled a bunch of my mom friends for their kids’ best storytime books, and here’s what we came up with – tried and true classics mixed in with some contemporary gems.

So! If you like Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown, you might like these other books about going to bed:
Goodnight Moon.jpg
The Going To Bed Book by Sandra Boynton
Llama Llama Red Pajama by Anna Dewdney
Good Night, Good Night Construction Site by Sherri Duskey Rinker and Tom Lichtenheld
Goodnight Already by Jory John and Benji Davies
Sleep Like a Tiger by Mary Logue and Pamela Zagarenski
Good Night, Gorilla by Peggy Rathmann
Goodnight Train by June Sobel and Laura Huliska-Beith
Little Owl’s Night by Divya Srinivasan
The House In the Night by Susan Marie Swanson and Beth Krommes
It’s Time to Sleep, My Love by Nancy Tillman and Eric Metaxas
Dream Animals by Emily Winfield Martin

Continue reading

Holiday Gift Ideas for Booklovers

Happy Holidays! Christmas is right around the corner, which means we have both GIFTS and BOOKS on the brain (since we always have books on the brain). So, let’s put those two together and round-up some ideas for the hard-to-shop-for booklovers in our lives. 

 (Of course, HPB gift cards always make great gifts too, for the treasure-hunting loved one whose favorite activities include browsing HPB bookshelves.)  

For dads who gets lost in sweeping fantasy, creatures, magic, and high stakes . . .

The Game of Thrones series, by George R.R. Martin; The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien; The Bone Season by Samantha Shannon 

For warm-hearted sisters who believe in happy endings . . . 

 The First Phone Call from Heaven by Mitch Albom; Fly Away by Kristin Hannah

For uncles who like their thrillers with a side of bone-cracking suspense:

Command Authority by Tom Clancy; Six Years by Harlan Coben; Night Film by Marisha Pessl

For your college professor friend who celebrates well-written fiction: 

We Are Water by Wally Lamb; Life after Life by Kate Atkinson; The Good Lord Bird by James McBride

For the college sophomore for whom every day is Friday the 13th:  

NOS4A2 by Joe Hill; Joyland by Stephen King; Doctor Sleep by Stephen King

For the niece who thinks the most fascinating subject matter is humanity itself: 

Autobiography by Morrisey; Mary Poppins, She Wrote: The Life of P.L. Travers by Valerie Lawson; Waiting to be Heard by Amanda Knox; The Last Lion: Winston Spencer Churchill by William Manchester and Paul Reid; Countdown by Alan Weisman; The World Until Yesterday by Jared Diamond 

For the middle school librarian whose only Christmas wish is more books — always, more books: 

Flora and Ulysses by Kate DiCamillo; The House of Hades by Rick Riordan; The Cloak Society by Jeramey Kraatz; The Rise of Nine by Pittacus Lore; Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Hard Luck by Jeff Kinney; The Dork Diaries 6: Tales from a Not-So-Happy Heartbreaker by Rachel Renee Russell; Randi Rhodes: Ninja Detective by Octavia Spencer 

For the girl who lives in the Teen Fiction section  . . . and is probably working on her own YA trilogy: 

The Girl of Fire and Thorns Trilogy by Rae Carson; The Raven Cycle Trilogy by Maggie Stiefvater;  The Seven Kingdoms Trilogy by Kristin Cashore; Mila 2.0 by Debra Dizra; Pivot Point by Kasie West; The Lost Sun: United States of Asgard series by Tessa Gratton; Daughter of Smoke and Bone series by Laini Taylor; Imaginary Girls by Nova Ren Suma

For the person who can remember exactly where they were: 

Five Days in November by Clint Hill; Dallas 1963 by Bill Minutaglio; November 22, 1963: Witness to History by Hugh Aynesworth

For the husband who needs to know exactly where his food came from — and washes it down with a nice Malbec:

Eat Vegan Before 6 by Mark Bittman; Essential Scratch & Sniff Guide to Becoming a Wine Expert: Take a Whiff of That by Richard Betts; The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook by Deb Perelman; The Pioneer Woman Cooks: A Year of Holidays by Ree Drummond 

For the uncle who loves movies, and the Internet, and everything in between: 

William Shakespeare’s Star Wars by Ian Doescher; How to Tell If Your Cat is Plotting to Kill You by The Oatmeal and Matthew Inman; What Does the Fox Say? by Ylvis, Christian Lochstoer and Svein Nyhus  

What about you? Which books are you giving as gifts this year? — Kristen 

Kristen is Public Relations Specialist at Half Price Books Corporate. 
You may follow her on Twitter at @kristendickson.

Top 66 Books About Families, Dysfunctional or Otherwise

Ah, the holidays. That magical time of year when we’re surrounded by good cheer, delicious food, and those nearest and dearest — our families. Definition of family certainly varies from person to person; some folks have brothers and sisters, moms and dads, and aunts, uncles and cousins, while other families look a little different. I personally love stories about families (the more dysfunctional the better) — my favorites are This is Where I Leave You by Jonathan Tropper (included below), Circle of Friends, by Maeve Binchy, and Counting by 7s, by Holly Goldberg Sloan, along with movies; I love classics like E.T., Annie, Chitty-Chitty Bang Bang, and The Sound of Music, plus newer films like The Family Stone, The Darjeeling Limited, and The Royal Tenenbaums. We asked our 3,000 bibliomaniacs for books that define “blood is thicker than water” in every way imaginable, and here’s what they reported back.

(1) Geek Love, by Katherine Dunn (2) Little Women, by Louisa May Alcott (3) Helter Skelter, by Vincent Bugliosi  (4) Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austen (5) A Series of Unfortunate Events: The Bad Beginning, by Lemony Snicket  (6) Flowers in the Attic, by V.C. Andrews  (7) East of Eden, by John Steinbeck  (8)Why be Happy When You Could be Normal, by Jeanette Winterson (9) Where’d You Go, Bernadette, by Maria Semple (10) Wonder Boys, by Michael Chabon (11) Queen’s Own, by Mercedes Lackey (12) The Thornbirds, by Colleen McCullough (13) The Witching Hour, by Anne Rice (14) The Liars’ Club, by Mary Karr (15) Tilt, by Elizabeth Burns (16) Ten Kids No Pets, by Ann M. Martin (17) The Penderwicks, by Jeanne Birdsall (18) Walk Two Moons, by Sharon Creech (19) Her Fearful Symmetry, by Audrey Niffenegger (20) Julie of the Wolves, by Jean Craighead George (21) Anne of Green Gables, by L.M. Montgomery (22) The Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins (23) Sharp Objects, by Gillian Flynn (24)Freedom, by Jonathan Franzen  (25) Ordinary People, by Judith Guest (26The Yearling, by Marjorie Rawlings (27) Random Family, by Adrian Nicole LeBlanc (28) Salvage the Bones, by Jesmyn Ward (29)One Hundred Years of Solitude, by Gabriel Garcia Marquez (30) A Christmas Carol, by Charles Dickens (31) Beezus & Ramona, by Beverly Cleary (32) The Other, by Thomas Tryon (33) The Thirteenth Tale, by Diane Setterfield

(34) Middlesex, by Jeffrey Eugenides (35) Franny & Zooey, by J.D. Salinger (36) All-of-a-Kind Family, by Sydney Taylor (37) The Watsons Go to Birmingham, by Christopher Paul Curtis (38) Danny, the Champion of the World, by Roald Dahl (39) The Believers, by Zoe Heller (40) This is Where I Leave You, by Jonathan Tropper (41) Don’t Let’s Go to the Dogs Tonight, by Alexandra Fuller (42) The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, by Junot Diaz (43) Lookaway, Lookaway, by Wilton Barnhardt (44) The Sound and the Fury, by William Faulkner (45) Harry Potter series, by J.K. Rowling (46) Ethan Frome, by Edith Wharton (47) The Little House on the Prairie, by Laura Ingalls Wilder (48) Awkward Family Photos, by Mike Bender (49) Bee Season, by Myla Goldberg (50) To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee (51) A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, by Betty Smith (52) Betsy-Tacy, by Maud Hart Lovelace (53) Family: The Ties that Bind…And Gag!, by Erma Bombeck (54) The Middlesteins, by Jami Attenberg (55) The Enchanted Book, by Jan Brett (56) Long Day’s Journey Into Night, by Eugene O’Neill (57) The Borrowers, by Mary Norton (58) Life Among the Savages, by Shirley Jackson (59) We Have Always Lived in the Castle, by Shirley Jackson (60) Sounder, by William H. Armstrong (61) Cat’s Cradle, by Kurt Vonnegut (62) Light Years, by James Salter (63) Fathers and Sons, by Ivan Turgenev (64) Barney’s Version, by Mordecai Richler (65)One For the Money, by Stephanie Evanovich (66) The Godfather, by Mario Puzo

Any notable familes we left out? Let us know in the comments! — Kristen 

Kristen is Public Relations Specialist at Half Price Books Corporate. 
You can follow her on Twitter at @kristendickson.

Books Authors Read with Jeramey Kraatz

We continue our “Books Authors Read” series with children’s author Jeramey Kraatz, who wrote The Cloak Society and The Cloak Society: Villains Risingwhich the School Library Journal declared “will likely find the same wide appeal as Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson books.” Jeramey himself is a lovely, wonderful person too — he joined us Sunday for a signing and a “Make Your Own Comic Book” activity with a bunch of kids who were very excited about creating their own superhero/supervillain narratives. We love his books, too. Thanks, Jeramey! — Kristen D. 


I was born on Friday the 13th  (my name was almost “Jason”). Horror-movie marathons were a regular occurrence in my childhood. I feel at home with zombies, maniacs, and the soul-crushing abyss. Even when I was a kid, these were the kinds of tales I gravitated to. So, in honor of Halloween, here’s a non-exhaustive, completely objective collection of books and stories that have creeped me out over the years, listed roughly in the order in which I read them, from elementary school to now.

1. Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark  – Alvin Schwartz (writer), Stephen Gammell (art)

Obviously. These were the Holy Grail of the book fair in elementary school. The kind of books you’d stay up late reading aloud at your friend’s house or hide from your parents because you were afraid they’d take them away from you. There’s a whole generation of readers out there who were equally entertained and traumatized by these gruesome little stories. (And that art. It’s just as gruesome as you remember.)

2. The Fear Street Sagas – R. L. Stine

I made the jump from Goosebumps to R.L. Stine’s teen series while I was still pretty young. There’s no telling how many of those books I read (seriously, go check out the series Wikipedia page—there are over 100 of them), but the Fear Street Saga books were the ones I read over and over again. They were part historical fiction, part family history, and packed with the kind of overwrought drama and twists I loved as a kid. And they were pretty gruesome, too—I remember one death scene involving the kitchen maid and a bunch of rising dough that was the most horrifying thing kid-me had ever read. At least until…

3. Urban Legends (generally)

Here is a very clear memory I have of being in the fourth grade: Jason, my best friend, had checked out a book of urban legends from the Ector County Library and brought it to school, where we passed it back and forth to each other, devouring the tales of insane murderers and men with hooks for hands. (I was especially creeped out by the “Don’t look behind you” and “Humans can lick, too” legends.) We made it about halfway through the book before school was out. That night, those stories were all I could think about. The nightmares were brutal.

The next day, Jason showed up to school and didn’t have the book with him. He told me he didn’t want to read it anymore, not elaborating any further. He didn’t have to.

4. Lord of the Flies – William Golding

I don’t know if I read the book or caught the movie first, but Piggy haunted me.

5. From Hell – Alan Moore (writer) and Eddie Campbell (art)

Moore’s incredibly layered telling of the Whitechapel murders is dense, sprawling, and, occasionally, completely insane. Campbell’s black-and-white art evokes more horror than any amount of blood-red ink could have (the chapter-long murder sequence comes to mind). It’s a must-read for anyone interested in Jack the Ripper. 

6. House of Leaves – Mark Z. Danielewski

This is the book that scared me more than any other! I’m not ashamed to admit it. I’m usually a really slow reader, but I devoured this weirdo labyrinth of a novel in one weekend while I was in grad school. It was one of those experiences where I read until I couldn’t keep my eyes open anymore, and didn’t realize I was dreaming until I was already convinced my bedroom door had opened up into a dark, unending hallway. I woke up terrified and sweating, and had to finish the book immediately.   

7. In Cold Blood – Truman Capote, and 8. Helter Skelter – Vincent Bugliosi with Curt Gentry

When I’m working on a project, I don’t like to read anything that’s in a similar genre if I can help it. A few years ago when I was editing The Cloak Society and starting on the sequel, Villains Rising, I went through a big true crime phase. I’d just moved into a new place—my first time to live alone—and was in the middle of re-reading In Cold Blood when I started the audiobook of Helter Skelter as something to listen to in the background while I unpacked.

In retrospect, it’s really easy to see what a dumb idea this was.

9. The Haunting of Hill House – Shirley Jackson

It’s the classic haunted house story for a reason. It’s slim, and starts off fairly tame, but is deceiving in how claustrophobic and layered it is. That’s one of the best things about the book: you don’t realized how unhinged the narration is until its too late, and by the end you’re wondering if the house was ever really haunted at all. It’s a great example of a book letting you use your own imagination to fill in the gaps of the horror scenes, which is always creepier than just telling you what’s happening (to me, at least).

Also, everyone in this book does some serious Mad Men drinking. No wonder they were seeing things.

10. The Shining – Stephen King

If you’re avoiding it because you’ve seen the movie a dozen times, know that it both gives a lot of great backstory to the characters AND is different enough that things will still catch you by surprise. I just read it earlier this month, and am kicking myself for not having done so earlier. It’s kind of the opposite of Jackson’s book in that there’s no doubt this hotel is one bad, haunted place, but the real horror is in watching Jack slowly fall apart, from his perspective and the POV of his family.

11. Uzumaki – Junji Ito

Uzumaki is a manga about a town obsessed with spirals. It starts out with one man obsessed with the shape, and then gets weirder and weirder as the madness spreads. There’s a vortex that opens up in someone’s forehead, snail people, hair battles…I don’t even know how to describe it other than that it’s got some incredibly potent scenes and images of horror that will stick with me for a long, long time.  


Jeramey Kraatz is the author of The Cloak Society series, including The Cloak Society and The Cloak Society: Villains Rising

You may follow him on Twitter at @jerameykraatz.

Books Authors Read with Maggie Stiefvater

Editor’s Note: We are so excited to have Maggie Stiefvater at our Flagship Store in Dallas next week! She’ll be joining us Wednesday, September 25 at 7 p.m. for a book signing and Q & A. Please note that Maggie has asked readers to buy at least one of her books from an HPB, so please either buy a book the day of the event or bring in a receipt from another HPB; we will begin handing out signing passes starting at 9 a.m. on Weds the 25th (the day of the event). Additional books may be brought from home or from another store. Email if you have any questions. 

We asked Maggie to come up with a list of books she recommends — thanks, Maggie! We appreciate it. — Kristen D. 

I give a lot of love to my favorite fictional bits and bobs in most book recommendation posts I do, so I thought this time around, I’d list a few of my favorite nonfiction/ research/ mythology books. These are some true things I read before I make things up.

1. An Encyclopedia of Fairies, by Katharine Briggs. This big, dusty, out-of-print tome was my first real introduction to the fairy folklore of the United Kingdom. It’s a lovely alphabetical encyclopedia of all the various pretties and nasties that could kill you in a supernatural way as of the time of writing. It’s where I tell people to begin if they’re interested in British fairy lore.

2. The Golden Bough, by James George Frazer. Really, this is not the only book on comparative mythology out there, or the best, but it was the first for me — the first book I read that talked about myths from several different places and then said, “these all look a lot alike. Let’s DISCUSS.” How I adore discussing. So while #1 on my list gives you the specifics of some folklore, this one asks you to look at the general. Not to sound too geeky, but as a fantasy author, it’s invaluable. If you think hard about what purpose old mythology served, it better positions you to create new ones that might resonate in the same way, two hundred years later.

3. Songbook, by Nick Hornby. Probably this feels like a sharp left turn, but I don’t think it really is. Nick Hornby’s best known for his novels (Hollywood loves them, you’ve seen them on airplanes, they involve Hugh Grant), but this collection of essays on music is my favorite book by him. Music is as much an inspiration to me as mythology is, and it’s sort of the same thing — it’s a way we make sense of the world. Just another way we tell ourselves stories.

4. Wall and Piece, by Banksy. Even though this book is written by a guerrilla street artist and has nothing to do with music or mythology, it’s not a left turn, either. Because art is just another way of story-telling, of course, and Banksy is an artist famous for writing his own mythology.

5. The Career Novelist, by Donald Maass. Okay, I haven’t read this one in awhile. And it is an actual left turn from the other books in this list. But it’s the one book on the industry that really made an impact before I was published. It’s older, so some of what it says about the book industry is no longer right, but the broad concepts remain true. It’s a great guide on how to remain pragmatic in a career built on emotions.

Maggie Stiefvater is the #1 New York Times bestselling and award-winning author of the Shiver trilogy, The Raven Cycle, & The Scorpio Races. You may visit her online or follow her on Twitter at @mstiefvater.

Books Authors Read with Ruthie Baron

We continue our “Books Authors Read” series with author Ruthie Baron, who wrote Defriended, an awesome horror mystery that has zipped its way around the Half Price Books corporate office at lightning speed. Ruthie herself is super funny, smart, and fun — and a huge Veronica Mars fan. We like her very much. Thanks for putting together this list for us, Ruthie! — Kristen D. 


Dangerous Angels by Francesca Lia Block

I’m cheating with this because it’s actually a collection of five books that tell the story of Weetzie Bat, the slinkster-coolest girl in all of LA, and her dreamy, badass clan of friends, lovers, friends’ lovers, daughters, daughters’ lovers, daughters’ band mates, etc. My freshman year of high school, I gave Dangerous Angels to a senior I really wanted to be friends with (she started giving me rides home from school so the plan worked!), and I’ve probably given away 20 copies since then—anyone who likes passion, wonder, or awesome clothes will like these books. 

Salvage the Bones by Jesmyn Ward

One of my favorite genres of fiction is “protagonist I want to be like whose situation I don’t want to be in.” It’s not that Esch, the 15-year-old newly pregnant narrator of Salvage the Bones, is some sort of saint, but she’s fiercely loyal, deeply loving, and crazy smart, so watching her and her rural Mississippi family prepare for an approaching gulf storm is wrenching… and gripping and beautiful and tender and makes for one of the best books I’ve read in the last 10 years. 

September Girls be Bennett Madison

I have not been able to stop thinking about this book since I devoured it last month—it’s a coming-of-age story that calls shenanigans on the “today you are a man,” bar mitzvah-y idea of coming of age, because of course change is not a singular event and being a man (or a woman or a teenager or a sex siren sea creature) is not a singular thing.  The writing is sharp and gorgeous and haunting and–best of all–hilarious and an absolute pleasure to lose yourself in.

The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater

Blue Sargent lives with a coven of psychic women in a town that houses a posh boarding school, the hot rich guys who go to said boarding school, and at least one big magical mystery.  If you’re not sold yet, let me assure you that it is even more than the sum of its spooky, weird, very funny parts.

Tears of Autumn by Charles McCarry

I love a spy novel (I’m seriously considering getting this tattooed on my person), and this one is as thrilling and absorbing as they come.  McCarry was a CIA agent during the 50s and 60s, so his writing about the Vietnam War and his JFK assassination theory are especially believable, but the geopolitical history lesson is just the icing on the good old fashioned intrigue cake.

Ruthie Baron is the author of Defriended

You may follow her on Twitter at @ruthiebaron

Best Young Adult Book Club Fiction

Two months ago we posted our list of the Most Popular Book Club books, compiled from submissions from our 3,000 bibliomaniacs, and then last month published the Top Underrated Book Club books. You may have noticed a lack of Young Adult titles on those lists, and for good reason — we were saving them for this month’s list:

(1) The Fault in our Stars by John Green; (2) Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli; (3) The Book Thief by Markus Zusak; (4) Milkweed by Jerry Spinelli; (5) Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver; (6) The Perks of a Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky; (7) Looking for Alaska by John Green; (8) Where Things Come Back by John Corey Whaley; (9) Winger by Andrew Smith; (10) Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta;(11) Imaginary Girls by Nova Ren Suma; (12) The Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson; (13) Hold Me Closer, Necromancer by Lish McBride; (14) Ready Player One by Ernest Cline; (15) The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E Lockhart; (16) The Good Thief by Hannah Tinti; (17) Me and Earl and the Dying Girl by Jesse Andrews; (18) Every Day by David Levithan; (19) Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein; (20) Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell; (21) The Disenchantments by Nina LaCour; (22) Boy 21 by Matthew Quick; (23) Winter’s Bone by Daniel Woodrell; (24) Ship Breaker by Paolo Bacigalupi; (25) Bog Child by Siobhan Dowd; (26) Uglies by Scott Westerfeld; (27) Prep by Curtis Sittenfeld; (28) Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson; (29) Please Ignore Vera Dietz by A.S. King; (30) The Giver by Lois Lowry; (31) The DUFF by Kody Keplinger; (32) Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher

There were a ton of titles we wanted to include but didn’t quite make the cut — so which ones would you have included on this list? Let us know in the comments! – Kristen D.

Kristen is Public Relations Specialist at Half Price Books Corporate.
You can follow her on Twitter at @kristendickson.