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Good Kate DiCamillo! Good Harry Bliss!

Elizabeth Bluemle -- September 25th, 2018

Oh, ShelfTalker readers! The Flying Pig had the most fantastic visit from two of our favorite children’s book creators on the planet, Harry Bliss and Kate DiCamillo. Candlewick Press brought them to Vermont to celebrate their new picture book, GOOD ROSIE!, and we were lucky to host them offsite on Sunday. This book is 100% adorable, brilliantly written and illustrated, about a little dog who, while happy with her human companion, is lonely for a dog friend but isn’t sure how to find one. Her experience at the dog park is hilarious, and the way she happens upon unexpected friends will charm the hearts of introverts everywhere. Plus, the line about Rosie feeling lonely “in an empty-silver-bowl sort of way” is my favorite picture book phrase since “Trixie went boneless” and “and it was still hot.” Perfect perfect perfect.

It’s a testament to how much of a draw Kate and Harry are that people were willing to leave the allure of the absolutely glorious fall day outside and head into the Main Street Landing Film House, but they were. More than 200 folks poured in and filled the seats—except for the front row, which I’d diligently reserved for a particular 10 guests, but then forgot to tell those guests to head for reserved seating. Oops! That counts as one of the goofiest oversights in event history. I hope Kate, Harry, and Jennifer from Candlewick will agree that otherwise, all was smooth sailing. Continue reading

Elements of Pre-Order Success

Kenny Brechner -- September 20th, 2018

As Independent booksellers look to gain traction in the pre-order market, many of us are actively engaged in understanding its nature. Successful pre-order campaigns, like many of life’s other notable missions, involve a complex of factors working together effectively. These factors include early discovery, established customer buying patterns, in-store and online marketing done in conjunction with publisher marketing efforts and the carrot of desirable swag.

The ABA put together a pre-order task force recently which I participated in. Seven titles with fall release dates were chosen for our promotions and we all looked to explore the means to grow our individual store’s presence in this key market. There is no question that the effort was a success. At DDG our pre-order numbers for these titles was much higher than they would have been without the outreach.

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A Story Time Drag Queen Is Born

Leslie Hawkins -- September 19th, 2018

As promised, here is a follow-up on my post from last month about planning for Spellbound’s first-ever Drag Queen Story Hour.

Readers, I am pleased to report that this event was a huge success by every metric (attendance, enjoyment, sales) and we will definitely be doing it again, ideally as a regular story time offering. I couldn’t be more pleased with the outpouring of love and support for this event. Continue reading

Middle-Grade Murders

Elizabeth Bluemle -- September 18th, 2018

In a recent foray into our advance reading copy bookshelves, I came across three or four upcoming middle-grade books featuring murder as a plot line. It’s almost casually mentioned on the back covers, with descriptions like, “When Alice’s friend is murdered, she and her pal Calvin are on the hunt for the killers. But can they stop them from striking again?”

The treatment of murder as a springboard for entertainment aimed at younger and younger children disturbs me. In an age where respect for human life and dignity is already in danger, how have we become so comfortable with the normalization of murder? Our culture’s endless thirst for violent death as entertainment does stymie me. I’m not immune to the effectiveness of high-stakes situations in entertainment; I found “The Wire” and “Breaking Bad” and “Dexter” brilliant (with some glitches here and there, but that’s not for this post), and they were extremely violent. I also understand why human beings are obsessed with mortality. But we have so normalized murder in our “entertainment”—especially the murder of young women—that I think there’s been a numbing effect on us all, and it is trickling down to our children.

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Celebrating the Readers in Our Neighborhood

Meghan Dietsche Goel -- September 14th, 2018

Last year, my son came home from kindergarten with a “Good Citizen” award. It was a cute little acknowledgement for doing something nice for someone else that entitled him to a gift certificate at a neighborhood hamburger place. He could not have been prouder walking in to redeem his reward and get his congratulations. It struck me as such a sweet way to make kids feel special and feel seen, and I had a thought: What if we could help do something like that, but for readers? We do a lot of work with schools—sending more and more authors out every year for incredible events, booktalking in classrooms, offering curated local bookfairs, partnering on large district-wide festivals and events—but maybe we can do a little more to build pride in individual readers who need some acknowledgement?

I sent out exploratory emails to some librarian friends at the end of last year for feedback and then worked with Tomoko Bason, our art director, to get some eye-catching cards designed. We went with two designs, one for younger kids who might be more excited by the idea of being called a Star Reader, and one for older kids who might prefer a less “cutesy” approach. For the kids who come in to redeem their cards, we’re keeping colored stars on-hand that they can write their first names on for celebratory display. I’m imagining that will be more appealing to the younger kids, but anyone who wants is welcome to put up their own. We’ve often done this for summer reading programs over the years, and I love seeing all the names fill in. So I can’t wait to see these special stars start to go up. Continue reading

Is This an Exceptional Moment for Picture Books?

Kenny Brechner -- September 13th, 2018

Sofonisba Anguissola Self-Portrait (1556)

The exceptional quality of several picture books released recently found me possessed of the belief that we are living in a time of unique excellence. It is perhaps wise, however, to suspect that our sense of the moment we live in, as compared to other points in time, is less than accurate. Every generation has felt that the previous generation was more moral than the current one, that teenagers are running wild, and that the world is being ruined by innovation. These perspectives can’t be perpetually true, of course, but the fact that they are always current is itself instructive.

Nonetheless our perception of the present moment, for good and for bad, can’t be discounted out of hand either. To find out if there is any merit to my belief that the present moment is an exceptional time for picture books I endeavored to ask someone who would know, an expert from another time period. I put the issue to the fabulous Renaissance painter Sofonisba Anguissola.

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Special Orders at the Bookstore

Cynthia Compton -- September 12th, 2018

(phone ring) “4 Kids Books & Toys, how can I help?

“Hi, do you have any books about building roller coasters? For a six-year-old boy? And his birthday is Thursday, so I don’t have time to order.”

“I can help you. Thursday gives us lots of time. Does he already have any books about roller coasters, so that we don’t duplicate titles?”

Ahhh, the magic of special orders. With two wholesaler warehouses within one day of our store on a delivery truck, we have the luxury of racing against the mighty online behemoth to keep our customers well read and gifted. In fact, in our employee training notebook, we instruct our new booksellers to say that books not in stock “are in the warehouse, and can be brought over” rather than “ordered.” Customers who may be loathe to commit to a “special order” (which for some reason sounds like a big deal) are perfectly content to have a book or two “brought from the warehouse and held behind the counter.” (Semantics, thy name is retail.)

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A Different Kind of Comfort Read

Elizabeth Bluemle -- September 11th, 2018

Seventeen years ago, when the horrific events of September 11 unfolded in front of us, we were at first speechless. We gathered loved ones close and tried to make sense of what had just happened. In the weeks following that tremendous tragedy and loss, people came to the bookstore looking for comfort. They weren’t even necessarily seeking a book; they simply wanted to be surrounded by books, by calm, quiet, familiar and beloved books depicting a world they thought they understood. Parents asked us for recommendations for books to help them talk with their children, and children found comfort in returning to happy, safe, gentle books like Ramona the Pest and Ginger Pye and Understood Betsy.

Today, our nation is in a very different place than it was nearly two decades ago, and yet our national stress levels are at another high. People are once again seeking refuge in bookstores. This time, their comfort reading—though it really can’t be called that—is entirely different.

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Mid-Term Musings

Leslie Hawkins -- September 10th, 2018

It’s only 57 days until our country’s mid-term election. Now is a good time to put out a display to encourage voting, both for our youngest customers who are future voters and for their parents and other family members who are eligible now. Maybe some of us have ongoing displays encouraging civic engagement for all ages and maybe some of us only trot out the election books and voting booth decor during presidential election season.  Continue reading

Books on the Brain: A Bookseller’s Literary Scramble

Meghan Dietsche Goel -- September 7th, 2018

Last year’s BookPeople catalog proofs.

The BookPeople holiday catalog is a big production. Every year, booksellers compete to have their essays featured along with themed photo shoots to accompany the buyers’ curated holiday gift guide. It’s not exactly a strict best of the year overview, though there’s certainly a lot of crossover with our end of year lists. It’s more designed to express our personality as a store as we offer our own gift picks for every type of reader, across age, style, and genre. The catalog really drives sales for us in November and December, so it’s worth putting in the time to make it as good as we can. It’s a fun but slightly overwhelming task. Continue reading