Fabulous First Lines of 2017 (Round 1)

Elizabeth Bluemle -- June 22nd, 2017

By now, halfway into the year, we booksellers have seen hundreds of advance reading copies for books, all of which try to stand out in a crowded field. We can’t read them all, so those opening lines can have a big impact. Obviously, we don’t choose books only based on first lines, or even first pages, but a great opener is like a promise to the reader: enter and ye shall be entertained.

What makes first lines exceptional? I admit that, for me, a not-young reader with thousands of books in my rear-view window, anything that takes me by surprise has special oomph. I appreciate freshness and authority, and style that stands out from less distinctive writing, and I appreciate first lines that immediately reveal character or situation or mood, or offer me surprise, dread, suspense, or humor. 

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The Stories We Hear, the Stories We Tell

Cynthia Compton -- June 21st, 2017


Beth stopped by the shop this morning, carrying little Noah in the pumpkin seat, making him look much bigger (and heavier) than his two-month-old self. Ostensibly, she came for story time, but  Noah snoozed through the whole experience, which was good, because judging from the circles under Beth’s eyes, he’s been up at night a bit. His mom comes in at least once a week—during her pregnancy, she would drop by after OB appointments just down the street, usually adding a board book or baby toy to her collection for their first child. Beth is an attorney, and plans to go back to work in another month, but she’s struggling with the decision already, and we spend a little time comparing childcare options and work-from-home realities. We end the visit with muffins and hugs for mom, and a furtive squeeze of one exposed little foot…. oh, baby toes.

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When Less Is More

Meghan Dietsche Goel -- June 16th, 2017

When people ask me what kinds of books I like, I don’t know that I’ve ever answered that I really love novels in verse, but when I look over my personal staff selections at the store, a pattern clearly emerges. I’ve read several verse novels in a row that I’ve liked a lot, and it made me reflect on the impact of the format. This is not really a Reading Without Walls post for me, since that challenge invites us to focus on formats that we resist (and I clearly don’t). But it feels akin to that conversation because I feel like it’s still an under-appreciated genre for many.

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A Wrinkle in Summer’s Reading List

Kenny Brechner -- June 15th, 2017

Summer is all but here. Why I had such difficulty in making an appointment to interview her is certainly one of my many questions.

Kenny: Hello, Summer.

Summer: Hi there, Kenny. I suppose you asked for an appointment to hear my Summer Reading picks but I must warn you that it is not an ordinary year here in the glade and my time is short. It is only your longstanding service which made force upon me to allow a meeting at all.

Kenny: How so? Hmmn. Actually, where all the woodland creatures?

Summer: Your two questions are bound together. For this summer is an All Glade Gather.

Kenny: All Glade Gather?  I know not of what you speak.

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PG Can Mean Pretty Good

Cynthia Compton -- June 14th, 2017


We spend a lot of time on the sales floor handselling in the summer, when kids have more time to read, and less assigned reading by genre to complete for school. Usually, at our store, this is a conversation between three people: the bookseller, the young reader, and the parent or grandparent with a credit card. Often, the adult is the one asking for recommendations, as left to their own devices, most kids are very capable of finding reading material that they think they would enjoy. Adults, too, often have an agenda for their children. They want summer reading to be something healthy like exercise and eating kale, with a vaguely educational tone to the content or the process itself. Sometimes they want the “magic bullet” for a reluctant reader… “I don’t understand it, his brother LOVES to read, and but he’s just not that interested. He’d rather play (fill in the blank with sport, video game, or fidget device). ” Cue sympathetic look from the staffer, who then gives our secret sign* towards the register, alerting another bookseller to engage the kid as quickly as possible, in hopes that we can have a conversation without a hovering parent. Perhaps they want to feed the voracious reader with a new series, preferably one with lots of titles for ease of purchasing subsequent books, or a shiny sticker that exudes quality. Perhaps they want to share books they remember from their own school days, or provide some context for an upcoming family trip (quick, name three middle grade titles that reference Colonial Williamsburg. Ding! Ding! Ding!)

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Hello, England!

Elizabeth Bluemle -- June 13th, 2017

EXCLUSIVE: Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly seen filming ‘Holmes and Watson’ in Soho, London. (Photo credit: Rowan Pictures for Splash News, as seen in the Daily Mail UK)

It isn’t every day our bookstore ends up in the news in the U.K. Well, not really the news, but a news-related photo. And not really the store, but our tote bag, innocently brushing up against fame in its encounter with actor John C. Reilly and his pal, Will Farrell. That woman in the bear hug is no random fan or friend of the actors; she’s a Flying Pig alum – and works for one of them. I’ll back up.

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Very Pinteresting

Leslie Hawkins -- June 12th, 2017

Cat Grant: Supergirl’s boss, self-proclaimed Queen of All Media.

Over the next few weeks I’ll be taking a look, through the lens of my own experience, at various social media platforms and how they might be best utilized by children’s booksellers. For the sake of marketing my business, I wish that I could confidently declare myself the queen of all social media (apologies to Cat Grant). But the truth is, I often worry that I’m not making the most of the available opportunities (We’re not on YouTube! We’re not on Snapchat!) while simultaneously feeling that I spend way too much time trying to keep the bookstore showing up on our followers’ various feeds when I have so many other responsibilities. Continue reading

Joining the Resistance!

Meghan Dietsche Goel -- June 9th, 2017

Is it a TRAP? It recently came to my attention that about 60 Austinites are currently missing. Ominously, my investigations led me to an old Imperial prison moon. Determined to uncover the truth, I infiltrated the base with a well-seasoned crew to learn what I could. While most of the moon remained under the control of the First Order, a motley crew of Resistance fighters, smugglers, and bounty hunters had turned the tables on their captors and were hatching a plan to fight their way out.

I am posting this brief report in the hope that I can write more soon. As you can see, our visit did not go undetected. Once discovered, we promised to spread word of the group’s valiant resistance by sneaking back out the way we got in. As reporters, you know, we have our ways. We’re on the way out now, but with explosions on the horizon, we’re uploading these photos in the hopes that word will get to the Resistance about what we saw…

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A Window to Change the Amazon Narrative?

Kenny Brechner -- June 8th, 2017

We generally see the progression of history as a force of nature which is susceptible to nudges. Hegel depicted historical progression as a dialectical process which was tweaked and goaded by world historical elements. Isaac Asimov, in his classic Foundation trilogy, posited that an advanced form of statistics, psychohistory, could accurately predict the future but that once an accurate prediction was made the course of history could then be altered in a limited, surgical manner. In Foundation the outcome of psychohistoric prediction saw a Galactic Empire doomed to crumble, with a 30,000-year period of misery and suffering ensuing before the next Galactic Empire would form. The two foundations were established by Harry Seldon, the creator of psychohistory, to surgically direct the course of things so that the period between empires lasted only 1000 years.

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