31 Dec
2011

I Want My Hat Back
by John Klassen

*Brendan's Pick*

"I Want My Hat Back, by Jon Klassen, is the best children's book of all time. It will be the first, and perhaps only book that my children read. It will teach them all the things they need to know: your hat is liable to skip town if you don't keep track of it, bears are very polite, rabbits are untrustworthy, and turtles can usually use a hand. This book has never failed to make me laugh, and I doubt it will fail you. It's gold, Jerry, gold!"

31 Dec
2011

The Wind in the Willows
by Kenneth Grahame

*Henry's Pick*

I was going to write a review of this, but I found this quote by Christoper Robin Milne (a.k.a. Christopher Robin). I have always seen similarities between The Wind in the Willows and Winnie the Pooh. Both are stories about animals mucking about in a semi-fantastic world, having adventures, but really just getting into and out of trouble with their animal friends.

  • A book that we all greatly loved and admired and read aloud or alone, over and over and over: The Wind in the Willows. This book is, in a way, two separate books put into one. There are, on the one hand, those chapters concerned with the adventures of Toad; and on the other hand there are those chapters that explore human emotions – the emotions of fear, nostalgia, awe, wanderlust. My mother was drawn to the second group, of which “The Piper at the Gates of Dawn” was her favourite, read to me again and again with always, towards the end, the catch in the voice and the long pause to find her handkerchief and blow her nose. My father, on his side, was so captivated by the first group that he turned these chapters into the children's play, Toad of Toad Hall. In this play one emotion only is allowed to creep in: nostalgia.
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31 Dec
2011

Harold and the Purple Crayon
by Crockett Johnson

*Jill's Pick*

Whenever people talk about children's lit I feel a little left out. I remember reading constantly, but the famous ones that everyone seems to have in common weren't the ones I loved. Except for one. Harold and the Purple Crayon. I read Harold and the Purple Crayon over and over and over again. And then I would force my second grade teacher to let me go back to my first grade class and read it to them because I felt like it needed to be done. This book would help them like it helped me! The idea of being able to create whatever I wanted like Harold, was a concept that got my goat. I lived in my head as a kid so that purple crayon would have come in handy. I identified with Harold. He was most logical person I knew other, than myself. Of course to guard your apples you would need to draw a dragon! Sand also reminded me of picnics which also made me hungry and why have one pie when you can have nine? One of my favorite parts though, was that he was going for a walk in the moonlight. Wherever he went, the moon followed him, just like it followed me. That's how I knew Harold was the truth. Later on in life I ended up writing about Harold to get me into college. I still connect with Harold and having that need to create and watch what other people can create out of nothing. Aside from being a terrific story the illustrations are simple and beautiful and I highly recommend it to everyone in the world.

 "But he didn't seem to be getting anywhere on the long straight path. So he left the path for a short cut across a field. And the moon went with him".  
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31 Dec
2011

Welcome!

Hello there, and welcome to the Kards Unlimited family. For those of you who may not be familiar with Kards Unlimited, here's the deal: We are a 3rd generation family owned retail experience! We are unique, eclectic, sometimes irreverent, sometimes weird (and we are referring to both the staff and the store). In short, we are as far removed from a "Hallmark style" cookie-cutter chain store as you can get. Through this blog we want to share with you what makes us different, and why that's a good thing. We will be posting at least weekly, although when we get going I think it will be much more as we love to hear ourselves talk. We have been amusing ourselves and the Shadyside community for more then 40 years, and now its time to share the love. Please give us feedback and comments, we thrive on discourse! (nerd alert!)

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31 Dec
2011

The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams

*Carly's Pick*

Have you ever loved a toy so much that you were sure that it must have a soul? Did you think that just maybe it had its own adventures when you weren't looking? This book is for anyone who has ever believed that imagining something with all your heart can make it come true. It's the tale of a charming, sensitive toy rabbit who wants more than anything to become real. It touches on the sometimes uncomfortable process of growing up, the magic of childhood, the transformative power of love, and what it truly means to be real--and it still manages to be a beautiful story, elegantly written and wonderfully illustrated. I return to this book again and again, just as I have since I was very little, and it makes my heart swell every time.

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30 Dec
2011

Happy Birthday, Dame Agatha!

Agatha Christie started me on my life long love affair with mysteries. I read my first one when I was 12, and just re-read the whole series this year. Her books are the perfect wholesome junk food (think granola bars) for the mind. They have everything: murderromanceintriguehigh societygoodevil!, plus, many of them feature two of the most iconic detectives in the history of mysteries, Hercule Poirot and Jane Marple (no offense to Mr Holmes, and Lord Peter Wimsey).

Only the Bible has sold more copies (and the Guy who wrote that has a great PR department!)

Fun Fact: AC is one of the two best-selling authors of all time (and she is in exalted company, Willy Shakespeare is the other one)

I used to be all about Poirot, his quirks and affectations were easy to love. However, the fluffy old maid Miss Marple was less accessible and, in fact, I had never read any of the Miss Marple stories. Then , in 2007, I had one of my periodic bouts of completion-ism, and decided the time had come to read ALL the Agatha Christie books. Well, old Miss Jane became a particular friend of mine, maybe liking her comes with age. Speaking of age, it delights me that both of Christie's main sleuths are old. And I'm not talking 50ish. From the very first books M. Poirot and Miss Marple are described as elderly and infirm, and they frequently use this to their advantage, purposely appearing old and confused to trick a vital clue from a witness or trap a killer. Christie's detection is done in the mind, not searching out the fingerprint or cigar ash, but relying on brains and experience. The idea that the mind improves with age is a comforting and novel thought, especially in today's youth-obsessed culture.

This man is the definition of the word dapper.

Fun Fact: M. Poirot is the only fictional character to have been given an obituary in the New York Times.

I started with Death on the Nile, and recommend that's where you start too. Although, there is a vocal minority here at Kards Unlimited that votes for Murder on the Orient Express (I just really like the movie, that's all! - Chris). Death on the Nile wins my vote because of its rich cast of "characters" in the truest sense (some of these people are odd, no doubt about it!) In fact, one of the best things about AC's books is her speedy, but thorough character development. And of course, that the killer is almost always a surprise. Sometimes shockingly so. Although AC is no longer my favorite English mystery writer, (that would have to beDorothy Sayers, her literary creation Lord Peter Wimsey is my true love) she remains my go-to girl for the times I want to kick back and turn off my brain, without the unpleasant aftertaste that so much popular fiction leaves.

Read on for a list of my Agatha Christie faves:

Poirot:

The Mysterious Affair at Styles, Peril at End House, Murder on the Orient Express, Murder in Mesopotamia, Death on the Nile, An Appointment with Death, Hercule Poirot's Christmas, Five Little Pigs, Cat Among the Pigeons (not much Poirot in this last one, but lots of political intrigue)

Miss Marple:

Oh you saucy, saucy minx!

The Body in the Library, The Moving Finger, A Murder is Announced, 4.50 from Paddington, At Bertram's Hotel

Final Fun Fact: Did you know that the honorific "Dame" is the female version of "Sir", meaning that the recipient has been admitted into knighthood? So, AGATHA CHRISTIE WAS A KNIGHT!!

"I was a knight? That's really cool! Thank you, Wikipedia!"

 

30 Dec
2011

Hunger Games Series by Suzanne Collins

*Henry's Pick*

There is nothing more thrilling to me than a great young adult series and this one has me riveted.These books are so much fun that I was shouting and pumping my fist in the air as I read them alone in my house. Suzanne Collins has mixed 1984, Battle Royale, Twilight, and Project Runway into a thrilling series that reminds you of all of those elements, and none of them at the same time. She matches a gripping, well-crafted story with a contemporary eye for political allegory that most of today’s authors have neglected. These are the exciting kind of books where you cant put down the one you are reading, and can't wait to pick up the next one.

30 Dec
2011

God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater by Kurt Vonnegut

*Ryan’s Pick*

Standing outside the courthouse with a roll of toilet paper and a marker Eliot tears off a square and hands it to each person that happens by. On each square are these words: “I love you.” And he means it. Eliot Rosewater is either the greatest philanthropist or the craziest man-child to ever live in Kurt Vonnegut Jr.’s fantastic mirror of Earth.  With a multi-million dollar bank account and an open heart, Eliot Rosewater (reprising a small role from Vonnegut’s acclaimed Breakfast of Champions) manages the hardships of the people of Rosewater County, Indiana with the gusto and comic timing that only Vonnegut can produce. Despite a severe drinking problem and what appears to be an unstable mind, Elliot wins over the hearts of complete strangers  while losing the respect and friendship of his father, wife, and friends.
Other than his first novel (Slaughterhouse V) Vonnegut professed God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater to be his favorite of all the books he wrote. If you want science fiction don’t buy this book. If you want to meet the most intriguing and complex characters ever created then there is no better way to spend the weekend than by curling up with this novel of human compassion, misunderstanding, and unreserved love – done only the way Vonnegut can.