Finding Time to Read

Cynthia Compton -- July 26th, 2017

What are you reading? And when?

I had an undergraduate literature professor who frequently liked to reference earlier works by the authors of the assigned reading during lectures, usually to underscore how little we earnest, bespectacled English majors actually knew about the context of the work we were discussing. “In your mythical free time,” he would intone dryly, “you might peruse ….. (insert three or four titles here) … ,”  which had those of us in the front two rows frantically scribbling titles in the margins of our looseleaf paper binders. (No laptops in class for those of us of a certain age.)

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The Wild Bunch(es)

Elizabeth Bluemle -- July 25th, 2017

Author Jan Gangsei and her loyal helper, with treats for the Wild Bunch.

It’s been such a fun few days at the Flying Pig! We got to celebrate the launch of Jan Gangsei’s new MG novel, The Wild Bunch, and we got to help 17 exuberant ELL students in grades 2-5 pick out summer reading books. These are the days I most love my job!

Jan Gangsei is a rock star of an author. She writes extremely kid-appealing books, she gives a great presentation, and she comes armed with book-themed goodies — in this case, gummy worm “bait,” Goldfish crackers in a pail marked “fresh fish,” Raisinets labeled “squirrel poop” and an empty M&M bag (you have to read The Wild Bunch to understand this one), and s’mores made with marshmallow Fluff instead of toasted marshmallows (brilliant!).


(We served the treats outside, since marshmallowy fingers and books aren’t the best combination.)

Jan whetted readers’ appetites for The Wild Bunch with a reading, answered questions, and signed books.

We had been concerned about scheduling an event on a summer Saturday morning, since it’s pretty hard to compete with a sunny Vermont day, but the store was hopping and we had a nice turnout. It helps that Jan’s new book is a great summer read for campers and reluctant outdoors-kids, since it revolves around a kid, Paul, who’s dragged on a camping trip with his dad, his dad’s two friends, and their two sons. Paul’s an indoor kid, a gamer who would rather be on his computer, setting him up for a variety of misadventures out in the wilderness.

At one point, I thought Jan was going to have kids compete in activities from the book, since she’d brought along a slingshot toy in its package — but it turned out that the slingshot was a prize for a lucky audience member. She also did something that was so classy, and so supportive of the bookstore: she bought a $25 gift card, then had all of the attendees write their names on slips of paper, pop them into a bucket, and then had me draw a winner from the audience. (The winner spent it immediately — on Jan’s book and a few others.)

It was a lovely morning, and all day long after the event, people came in looking for signed copies of the book. Some were friends of Jan’s, and others were strangers who had seen the event in Find and Go Seek or Kids VT, but missed it. So the glow of the morning lasted all day.

As for the ELL students two days later — what joy! They piled into the store with three teachers, eager to choose their books. Everyone got to choose at least one book, and kids who had met their reading challenge for the summer so far got to pick two. It was a whirlwind of activity, with us recommending books to kids who were searching for everything from dinosaurs to alchemy. They were at the store for about an hour, and it was easily one of the best hours of my bookselling year. It’s hard to describe the pure joy of this annual event.

One of the teachers took me aside and told me that one of the boys, who had also been to the store last year for this same event, had taken the book he got last year with him to fourth grade *every single day* — taking it out of his backpack at silent reading time, proud of owning a book to call his own. She said it gave him confidence and a sense of belonging all year long. How amazing is it that one book can mean so much to a child? (Psst, Jeff Kinney, it was one of yours!)

I wish I could share the ADORABLE photo of them, but their parents weren’t there, so I couldn’t get the appropriate permissions. Just trust me that they were the grinning-est, sparkliest, funniest kids you can imagine.

Between Jan Gangsei’s event and the ELL student visit, it was a banner three days! Here’s wishing you all a banner week, too!

To See Or Not to See

Meghan Dietsche Goel -- July 21st, 2017

Movie adaptations can create exciting bubbles of energy and enthusiasm around beloved titles in a bookstore. Regardless of the box office performance, this can be a really great thing for a book. And why not? Who can resist the allure of seeing a beloved story or world brought to life? Of course, sales following the movie surge taper off and can even be impacted by a film’s reception, but the heightened media awareness definitely helps get the book in readers’ hands. We’ve seen a huge surge in Captain Underpants series sales all summer; Everything, Everything is going strong; and now we’re starting to see a ramp up on A Wrinkle in Time.

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A Heartfelt Spotlight on Journalism and Justice

Kenny Brechner -- July 20th, 2017

Sometimes the relevance of a book to contemporary events is not linear, even if that is the author’s intent. An old-fashioned sensibility, and a commitment to the truth, layer even the most current of event topics with the upsides and downsides of a personal attachment which reaches beyond literary pragmatism. Take Trell, for example.

Dick Lehr, a one-time Boston Globe Spotlight investigative reporter, current Boston University Journalism professor and author of many well regarded nonfiction books, has written an upper middle grade novel. If we imagine justice as an overturned cart, Trell explores the role that journalism and law can play in working to set the wheels of the cart back on the ground even when set against the competing pressures of racial politics and corruption. For a book whose primary sell in point is its immediacy to current events Trell is surprisingly, and in many senses pleasantly old fashioned.

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…next time, won’t you sing with me?

Cynthia Compton -- July 19th, 2017

A is for alphabetizing, the simplest and yet most challenging of frontline bookseller tasks. It’s on every day/s “to do” list, yet will never, ever be truly done.

is for Board Books, which exponentially expand each buying season. As the phenomenon of childhood compression continues, longer and longer stories are reduced to cardboard pages with flaps. Where do we shelve the Touch and Feel version of the City of Bones series, now?

C: Camp care packages, the salvation of the July end-of-day ztape, as padded envelopes are filled and mailed to Lake Mosquitogotcha, replacing the weekly shopping trips for wrapped birthday gifts.


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Graphic Novel Palooza

Elizabeth Bluemle -- July 18th, 2017

The fastest-growing, fastest-selling section of our store over the past year has been graphic novels for younger readers. Long ago, it outgrew its shelves and graduated to a full wall case. Truth be told, we need a bigger wall case for middle grade graphic novels. Here are a few recent and upcoming titles the kids in our region are excited about:

The Adventures of John Blake: Mystery of the Ghost Ship by Philip Pullman and Fred Fordham (Graphix; out now) The marketing materials say 8-12, but I think 10-13 is the sweet spot for this spooky/dark action adventure tale from Philip Pullman.

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Spin Me Right ‘Round

Leslie Hawkins -- July 17th, 2017

If you’ve worked in a bookstore, you’ve probably had some experience with (and some opinions about) the ubiquitous floor display known as the “permanent spinner rack.”

Presumably the “permanent” tag differentiates it from cardboard displays, or “dumps,” that usually end up in the recycling bin after a season or so; though I’ve never seen a temporary spinner, cardboard or otherwise, so I sometimes wonder at the nomenclature. But I digress…

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While Visions of Trolls Dance in My Head

Meghan Dietsche Goel -- July 14th, 2017

Hello again! Returning from a two-and-a-half-week vacation is overwhelming and comforting at the same time, between getting caught up and getting back into a routine. I admit I had grand plans of posting from the road, but between my kids’ unpredictable sleep schedules and computer issues, my various plans all fell apart. But I had a great time off, and as with any good vacation, books played a big role.

For just over a week of our trip, my husband Samir and I went to Iceland to drive the famous Ring Road. Inspired by a stack of books in a remote gas station gift shop, I decided that the best way to while away the 30+ hours was to read the brutal (and lengthy) Njál’s Saga aloud. Trapped in the car, Samir couldn’t exactly stop me, but he ended up warming to the literary adventure.

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Books That Turn ‘Non-Readers’ Into Readers

Elizabeth Bluemle -- July 13th, 2017

The other day, a mom came into the store raving about Jason Reynolds’s Ghost. While this is nothing new — it’s a perfect book — her reason for raving was that the book was a turning point for her son, who hadn’t ever loved a book (past the age of six) and could rarely be persuaded to open one voluntarily. Ghost captivated him, and proved to him that a book could be more than worth his while. He went on to read everything Jason has written, and was beyond thrilled when we gave him the ARC to Ghost‘s forthcoming sequel, Patina (both books published by Atheneum).

We’ve heard this story so many times in our 20 years, and so many different and unexpected books have been the turning point for young readers.  Continue reading