I have always been drawn to fictive and vanished books, manuscripts alluded to in other works of fiction or history which are in fact either wholly imaginary or else once truly existed but no extant copy has “escaped those waves of time, which have wrecked the bark of Menander, and left of Sappho but a few floating fragments,” as Andrew Lang put it. So when a good customer stopped in to request my assistance for a project concerning fictive books I was delighted to help. I even went so far as volunteering your assistance as well!
My customer is looking for the names of fictive or vanished children’s books which are marked by strong exposition in their references rather than simple offhand mentions. Let’s consider vanished books first. My favorite literary reference to them is in Clark Ashton Smith’s The End of the Story in which a young traveler is visiting a monastery in rural France, which happens to have an exceptional library. He is regaled there by an enthusiastic abbot as follows.
I *loathe* our annual inventory weeks. There is nothing about handling every single book and unsold sideline in my shop that “sparks joy,” nor do I feel compelled to fold the baby lovies and receiving blankets into thirds and stand them in upright rows on the display rack.* Frankly, I have been looking at some of this merchandise since the leaves changed color, and I’m sick of it. Brand new titles with shiny jackets and tempting cover blurbs are arriving daily, and as always, the holiday season put me behind in reading galleys and ARCs. Some of those gorgeous new books are complete unknowns (admittedly, I made some buying decisions STRICTLY on Edelweiss markups and friend “likes”)… and they flirt like cute strangers in the coffee line, smelling all good with their new ink and paper cologne, and looking crisp and fresh with their unopened covers and bright white pages. (Even those earnest ecru paged deckle-edged titles, normally not my preference to pick up and caress, have a certain unshaven scruffy appeal.)
Ah, friends. We recently had a bone-rattler at the bookstore, one of those terrible (and fortunately rare) interactions that makes us wonder why we ever got into retail in the first place. More on that in a moment. Fortunately, it came on the heels of two amazing, wonderful interactions that make us deeply grateful to have a little store in the heart of our community.
For booksellers the old dictum “You break it, you buy it” would more accurately read “You bend it, tear it, stain it, rumple its pages, or crease its spine, you buy it.” But that’s not very catchy, now, is it? Whether you’re selling delicate glassware or the comparatively more hearty printed book, all shopkeepers confront the problem of how to deal with damages and how best to communicate those policies to the customer. Continue reading
I’m sure this isn’t what our publishers partners want to hear, but I’ll admit that once December rolls around I don’t get into a lot of the mail that comes my way. We don’t have the room for any more signage or unplanned displays, and since the bulk of boxes that arrive in December contain samples from the summer lists, it’s not terribly time sensitive. But now that we’re into the new year, I dug into the boxes and piled up all the f&gs I could find into an all-you-can-read picture book free-for-all for our kids’ specialist team meeting today.
When we do these, I tend to hang back a bit and listen as the booksellers discover their own favorites. I will be reading all of these again on my own (often multiple times) and discussing them with my reps before placing my orders and choosing our in-store features. But these meetings let me glimpse the books through other readers’ eyes, enjoy impromptu read-alouds, and see how people respond in real time.
When I walked in the room, Merrilee was regaling the crowd with a reading of A Piglet Named Mercy while Eugenia made appropriately timed oinking and burping sounds. After cheering for the triple-chinned baby porcine wonder, we all debated the correct pronunciation of “porcine” for a few minutes before the internet informed us we were all correct. Then everyone split up the piles to see what they could find. Continue reading
One of the books The Year 2019 drew our attention to during last week’s interview with her was S.E. Grove’s The Waning Age. Given the highly exceptional imaginative qualities of her earlier middle grade fantasy work, the Mapmaker’s Trilogy, Grove’s foray into YA seemed well worth investigating further.
The Waning Age is set in a dystopian San Francisco in which the social fabric has been reshaped by waning, the permanent loss of an ability to feel emotion which is experienced by all children between 10 and 12. Class issues predominate in a world where pharmaceutical companies produce high-end emotional cocktails such as love, desire and excitement which only the wealthy can afford, while everyone else scrambles to purchase cut-rate emotions like panic or anxiety at the drugstore chains.
Thanks to A Scholarly Skater for this Book of Hours from medieval France. Literal book love!
Obviously, booksellers love books. You’d have to be bonkers to go into this business if you didn’t. Most of us love reading most of the time. Not ALL of the time, though, which might be surprising to non-booksellers. We are only human, and since reading is an important part of our work but can’t actually be done at work, sometimes it piles up past the point of enjoyment. And we spend many hours reading titles that might not otherwise top our personal choice lists. And, like everyone else in this culture, we are surrounded by temptations to do anything else on the planet besides read a book. Finally, since we do read so much, it can be harder to find books that feel fresh and exciting, that spark new pathways in our imaginations and hearts. So every once in a while, even booksellers need to remember how much we love reading.
How to do that?
I wrote a couple of posts last year about participating in a literacy program at my son’s elementary school, reading with kids who could use a little extra one-on-one time. The program I work with asks us to follow a specific structure. The first reader brings out a book from his or her backpack and reads it to me for about six minutes before we chat about it. Then I read from a book I’ve brought for about six minutes, and then we discuss. Then the kids switch and I do it again. I bring a handful of diverse choices each time and let the kids pick whichever ones strike their fancy. I very much enjoy it, not only because the kids are awesome and it’s really fun, but also because it’s such a great hands-on exercise in the challenge of winning over reluctant readers.
Last year I got to know two wonderful second graders and wrote a bit about the quest to select books that both fit the criteria of the program and engaged the kids. The key last year was ultimately embracing the fact that my two readers were very different and making sure my selection catered to both. By the end of the year, one was totally enamored with Dog Man, but remained a selective reader overall. The other had completely embraced books, most notably latching onto the endless fun to be found within Where the Sidewalk Ends. After three weeks of poetry at the end of the year, she came to our final session with her very own copy prepped with poems to read together. It was amazing! Continue reading
I appeared for my interview with The Year 2019 right on time. Unpunctuality is dangerous when dealing with a Year, I have found.
Kenny : Thank you for taking time to speak with me.
The Year 2019: Delighted.
Kenny : I hardly know where to begin. Never have I had so many questions for a New Year. Hmmn, Perhaps we should start there. Would you agree that that the number of questions being directed at you is unusually high?
The Year 2019: It is not a matter of agreement, Kenny, but of hard data. The number of questions laid at a New Year’s feet are strictly calculated, and we are paid accordingly.
Kenny : Paid! How are you paid?
The Year 2019: In Ylphs.
Happy New Year! It’s ShelfTalker’s 13th year (!), and since 2007, we’ve grown from one blogger—former bookseller Alison Morris, now at First Book in Washington, D.C, was our very first poster—to five. It’s a pleasure to write about the ups and downs of bookselling, the magical moments in our stores, and the authors and books who inspire us and transform children’s lives. And we especially love to hear from you; your comments bring the incredible children’s books community here to ShelfTalker. Thank you!
There are so many fantastic books coming out this year — stay tuned for Kenny’s post on Thursday for a taste of some of his favorites. As for me, I’m resurrecting my 50/50 Read resolution, which is an easy way to make sure my reading is diverse and rich; at least half of the books I read will be by authors and illustrators of color.
What books are you excited about this year? And have you made any reading resolutions? Please share—your idea might spark inspiration for another reader!