Author Archives: Elizabeth Bluemle

An Unexpected Wrangle with the Easter Bunny

Elizabeth Bluemle -- March 20th, 2015

easter grass roundWe’ve always been surprised by how good business is around Easter. You’d think Valentine’s Day would be the stronger bookselling holiday, but the Easter Bunny brings better sales than St. Valentine and St. Patrick put together. Some of it is likely due to the optimism New Englanders feel in springtime; those newly sunny, springy days bring out happy shoppers. And some of it may be due to parents, these healthy Vermonters, wanting to pop something in their kids’ Easter baskets that doesn’t contain sugar.

For 18 years, we’ve had ads or a signboard for the store that says, Fill Their Baskets with Books. When there’s time, those words on the signboard are nestled in a festive drawing of a basket with eggs and a couple of books. When there isn’t, just the words suffice.

In the past, my concerns about the sign were only about whether it might be too Christian. After all, of course, many families don’t celebrate Easter Sunday. And even though the Easter Bunny is as far removed symbolically from the religious Easter story in the national imagination as candy canes are from the traditional Christmas story, it is still a Christian holiday. Occasionally, we’ve chosen a signboard that mentions both Easter and Passover, but Passover isn’t a gift-giving holiday like Hanukkah is, and we have never sold many Passover books beyond family Haggadahs and a few picture and board books, so it hasn’t been too worrisome to highlight Easter as a holiday with a big place for books.

So I was surprised when one of our staff members mentioned her discomfort with our sign because it might tip off kids old enough to read to the fact that parents, um, help out the Easter Bunny. As a kid who clung to a belief in Santa for a long time, I am sympathetic to the charms of childhood magic and am happy to uphold and protect children’s delight and belief in that magic. The current signboard has no images and doesn’t mention Easter at all; the words “fill their baskets with books” could simply mean, “fill their shopping baskets with books,” but its proximity to Easter is definitely suspect. On the other hand, it seems pretty easy to come up with explanations that don’t shatter the story. Perhaps the Easter Bunny solicits parental help for the non-egg, non-candy portions of Easter gifting, especially since it doesn’t know a child’s reading interests. Unlike Santa, who has armies of elves gathering intel, the Easter Bunny hops alone.

Yesterday, our bookseller who is uncomfortable with the sign received a phone call from a customer, a lovely person whose family shops often at the store and prefaced her concerns with the sign by saying how much they love our store. The customer’s daughter is nine, and though the child hasn’t seen our signboard yet, her mom is worried that she would read it driving by the store and begin to doubt. “It’s not a nice sign,” said our bookseller to us privately, and that gave me serious pause. Is it really not a nice sign? Aren’t there so many ads about Easter on TV, and so many displays in markets and drugstores that would send an even less subtle message about who is responsible for the goodies that show up on lawns and in houses across the country? Is our little sign really likely to be the big spoiler? I suppose that doesn’t really matter. I’m not responsible for the choices other advertisers make, but I am responsible for my own.

Perhaps personal bias makes me less sensitive about the Easter issue. I loved Easter as a kid — the hard fist-sized sugar eggs you could peer into, with miniature scenes inside! the malted milk robin’s eggs with their pale, pretty speckles; the Peeps, which I preferred slightly stale and chewy; the bright oblong candy eggs that held a center of spun fluffy sugar; the sugar sugar sugar! and the messy happy egg-dyeing. I clearly remember the eerie magic of going to my grandmother’s little house in Phoenix and searching for the baskets the Easter Bunny had hidden there — always behind the bedroom doors — for my sister and me. But frankly, the Easter Bunny didn’t rate like Santa. I was not strongly attached to the notion of the giant bunny and didn’t feel it had any particular interest in me as a person, unlike the jolly red-suited grandfather-type who invited a letter filled with my hopes and dreams once a year. And so perhaps I am not as attuned to sensitivities around this holiday.

Maybe we do need to rethink our signboard. Perhaps for many children, Easter Bunny magic might be overturned by the suggestion that parents help out with some of the goodies. It’s hard to let go of the sign altogether, though. Since books are such welcome additions to Easter baskets, but not necessarily intuitive ones, we have always felt that a little suggestion brings in a lot of business. But is it worth alienating families?  I don’t want to contribute to less magic in the world. One of the great joys of bookselling — of being human — is bringing delight and surprise to the lives of little people.

I suspect there’s a better tag line out there that might serve the purpose with less risk of spoiling the surprise — and I know which bookseller I’m going to ask to write it.

Literary YA Enchanters: Laura Ruby and Her Kin

Elizabeth Bluemle -- March 17th, 2015

Bone Gap

There are so many good writers for young people out there these days, writers whose strengths lie in great premises, pitch-perfect kid appeal, flawless pacing, intriguing world-building, irresistible humor, and more.

And then there are the writers who do some or all of the above, but with an extra magic. They spin their tales with fabulous language, a deft attention to cadence, tone, and atmosphere, a brilliant sense for the gaps and leaps, sparseness and richness, vividness and delicacy of narrative art. They are the writers who make other writers remember why they love writing.

I just finished reading Laura Ruby’s Bone Gap (HarperTeen/Balzer + Bray) and it created a kind of haunting mysterious gorgeousness that comes along once in a while and thrills a reader like me to the — well, to the bones.

I won’t say much about Bone Gap‘s plot except to say that it involves two brothers, fractured lives, a tiny, overly interconnected town, strangers both beautiful and monstrous, violence under a veneer of creepy blandness, and ominous corn. I couldn’t set this book down.

It spun a web around me in a way that reminded me of books by a few other YA writers whose gifts with language strike me similarly. They all have styles that are unique and mesmerizing. If you want to sink into language and beauty that is simultaneously stark and lush, add Bone Gap to your reading stack along with Julie Berry’s All the Truth That’s in Me (Speak), E. Lockhart’s We Were Liars (Delacorte), and Franny Billingley’s Chime (Speak) (and her equally astonishing The Folk-Keeper (Aladdin).

While I don’t only love gorgeously written books, I do especially love them. But I’m extra picky about prettily written books, because there’s a line where ‘poetic’ becomes ‘precious,’ and I don’t like books that feel self-consciously or self-indulgently beautiful, books with no plot, or the kind that evaporate from memory the moment I’m done reading the lovely language.

Gorgeous books, to me, are the ones that reignite a blaze of appreciation for the subtleties and possibilities of language—the things you almost forgot words can do when strung together in dazzling, unexpected ways—and admiration of the fascinating elisions and collisions that happen in the narratives of confident storytellers. 

There can be a fine line between a soufflé and a mess of egg, and it’s a difference of artistry, practice, a lot of work, and maybe a little luck. All I know is, these writers have some kind of special hot-wired connection to a particularly wild and ungovernable Muse, and we are the charmed, haunted beneficiaries.

Publishers: If You Ever Wonder Why You Haven’t Been Paid by a Bookstore

Elizabeth Bluemle -- March 16th, 2015

Bookstores are many, many things. One of them is a morass of details. Sometimes we will hear from a vendor about a missing payment, and it’s clear the vendor is under the impression that we have actively chosen not to pay their bill. While it’s true that invoice juggling can happen with retailers (there are certainly lean cash-flow months and full cash-flow months), for us, this happens only with invoices for hundreds (or thousands) of dollars, when we are waiting to be paid by a school or library before we can cut a large check.

Compounding this issue is that small indie booksellers may not have dedicated bookkeepers; bill-paying is just one of the hats bookstore owners wear. An important hat, of course, but one among many. On top of that is the fact that some vendors (the smaller ones) often just send a single invoice instead of the additional monthly statements sent by larger vendors. In an ideal world, one invoice would be enough. We do understand that it is costly and time-intensive to send more than one bill through the mail. Except. We get a lot of bills. Here is a couple of months’ worth of invoices, statements, and credits from vendors (Josie took some home, so this is not even all of them!):

stack of bills

As tall as the paper invoice stack is, the email “piles” are even bigger. Floods of emails pour into the bookstore every day. We deal with hundreds of vendors; I don’t even want to calculate how many invoices and statements that adds up to over the year.

For booksellers, the vast majority of bill-paying and email reading has to happen outside of store hours. During the work day, we are on the store floor helping customers, we are receiving orders and stocking the shelves and calling customers to let them know their books have arrived, we are answering phones and tracking down obscure requests and missing shipments, we are meeting with sales reps to order seasons of new books and sidelines, we are processing returns and damages, we are reorganizing sections and reshelving books customers have looked at, changing displays, and planning events.

So in case you’re a publisher or a sidelines vendor or an individual author waiting to be paid by a bookstore, this might give you a window into why your check hasn’t arrived just yet. We’re good for it, just running to catch up.

Censors at the Gate?

Elizabeth Bluemle -- March 6th, 2015

see-no-evilEvery day, we’re asked about the age-appropriateness of individual books for the children who come to our store. With 25 years of experience as a teacher, school librarian, and bookseller, I have a pretty solid sense of which books will resonate most with which age ranges. But, oh, there’s a range, and oh, there are dangers.

In books for elementary school-aged kids, parents worry most about ideas and images that might disturb their young ones, cause nightmares or introduce them to issues the parents feel their children aren’t ready for. When we get to books for the tween years and beyond, parents are worried more about sexual content (and sometimes violence, but usually just sex – which is a topic for another post) that their 12-and-ups might encounter on the page.

A number of problematic issues arise when a parent asks, “Is this appropriate for my child?” The first is that we usually don’t know the parameters set by each family. Some parents don’t mind language at all, but want no mention of substance abuse or sex. Or the suggestion of sex is fine as long as it isn’t graphic. Or sex and substance are tolerable if “responsibly handled,” a phrase that itself might be interpreted variously. The variety of preferences held by adults is specific, individual, and takes some nimble, nonjudgmental questioning to suss out. Those are just the adult’s preferences.

Which leads us to the second problematic issue: the young reader has preferences and limits of his or her own, which can lead to some interesting conversations (read: arguments) at the store between parent and child. We booksellers are often pulled in by parents who want us to support their case against reading a book. Booksellers need to be trustworthy for both parents and young readers. If we recommend books parents later decide are too mature, we lose their trust. But if young readers feel we are patronizing them, or colluding in censoring their reading, we lose their trust, and that feels even worse.

We also have our own biases. Every time a 12-year-old picks up a book that we adult booksellers know to have intense scenes or themes, the quandary arises: how much do we say to the customer, and why are we saying it? As former young readers ourselves, we know how often as children we read books way beyond our “age appropriateness,” and we know that those books helped form us – as critical thinkers, as armchair adventurers, as people forming our own identities and opinions. We also know that our child selves read books we might wish we hadn’t, encountered scenes that seared images of horror or devastation or cruelty in our tender brains that perhaps we weren’t ready for. The responsibility feels big to tread this ground thoughtfully.

Add to this mix that we are retailers, who must answer to all of our customers or lose business. We are also viewed as authorities in our field, trusted advisers to readers of all ages, so we take a hit if we miss. And finally, we are fallible, forgetful human beings, who may not remember that a character halfway through a middle grade book drops the F-bomb or, 10 or 15 years after reading a YA title, recall that two campers had sex in a tent. (And is that really our responsibility?) There’s a lot going on with a simple book recommendation.

So how do we toe the line between our strong belief in the rights of readers to choose whatever they want to read for themselves, and helping parents make informed decisions about what they buy at our store? How much do we trust that kids will stop reading what’s too much for them, and skim over mature content they don’t understand?

Personally, I try for a lighthanded approach, aiming to respect both parent and child. Talking with kids about the books they’ve read and loved so far gives me a sense of where their own radar lies, their preferences, their tolerance for challenging topics, darker writing, mature themes. And listening to the ways parents voice their questions and concerns gives me a sense of where their own lines are drawn. It’s not always easy navigating those often conflicting waters, but it’s some of the most important work we do if we are to be welcoming gatekeepers rather than censors.

Scratch a Bookseller… Find a Star

Elizabeth Bluemle -- March 3rd, 2015

I admit, I’m a teeny bit reluctant to write this post, because we have a rising star at the Flying Pig, and once she’s discovered by Big Music, she’ll be gone faster than you can say “Norah Jones.” But, as wonderful a bookseller as she is — and she is fabulous! — she is an even better singer/songwriter, the kind of talent that makes you know in your bones you’ll get to say someday, “I knew her when.”

Bloom1

Laura Heaberlin and Cricket Blue band mate Taylor Smith. Photo credit: Kevin Bloom

Her name is Laura Heaberlin, and she’s already won awards as a singer-songwriter. She’s well known in the Vermont indie music world, part of a duo called Cricket Blue. She and male band member Taylor Smith create gorgeous harmonies, write complex and layered lyrics, and spin a haunting, addictive sound. I defy anyone to listen to “Eve and Adam” just once. (You can download their 4-song EP for free at www.cricketbluemusic.com or click on the CD cover image below. The music is really beautiful.)

The reason we’re celebrating Laura’s fab talent today in particular is that Paste Magazine, which is running a 50 State Project rounding up the best of the music scene in each state, just listed “10 Vermont Bands You Should Listen To Now.” Cricket Blue is #3 on the list! Congratulations, Laura!!

Album Front Square

bookstore laura

Laura in bookseller guise.

I will say that the Flying Pig is no stranger to creative talent. Our youngest staff member, David Kerr, is a phenomenal saxophone player who started his college career at Berklee College of Music last fall and is burning up stages all over Boston. Even in high school, he practiced six hours a day; seasoned musicians invited him to gig even before he started shaving. If you’re a die-hard jazz fan, I predict you will be hearing his name in the not-so-distant future.

Also on the star roster is our first-ever employee, Emily Raabe, an award-winning poet and now a children’s book novelist and feature writer for major media. And of course, Josie Leavitt has twice won the coveted Vermont’s Funniest Stand-Up Comic award (an annual people’s choice award sponsored by the alt weekly, Seven Days), and has a vibrant life as a standup comedian and teacher.

I think if you polled indie bookstores all over the country, you’d find a similar story. Creative people tend to be eclectic readers, drawn to books and ideas and the multitude of worlds found in the millions of pages found in bookstores. So many writers and illustrators worked in bookstores before their careers took off, and I know of filmmakers and actors, as well, who were once booksellers.

So let’s hear it: indie colleagues, what creative brilliance will you boast on your staff, past or present? Feel free to brag about your booksellers here!

The Stars So Far (Through February 2015)

Elizabeth Bluemle -- February 24th, 2015

Hello, ShelfTalker readers! It’s time for a new year of starred reviews. The Stars So Far is a project in which I foolishly decide to gather all of the year’s starred reviews for children’s and YA books from BooklistThe Bulletin of the Center for Children’s BooksHorn BookKirkusPublishers Weekly, and School Library Journal. (In the next update, I’ll add 5Q5P titles from VOYA – Voice of Youth Advocates. I didn’t do VOYA last year, and I missed their input, so I’m adding them back in. Hooray!).

Please note: starred reviews are counted only when they have been officially printed by the review magazines, so if your book has an upcoming star, never fear; it will be included in a future update.

This is a detail-laden process, and as careful as I try to be, there will be bobbles here and there. If you want the cleanest, most comprehensive version of this list, check back here several days after the original post, when I’ll have been able to make any fixes. Publishers, please alert me to any oversights at ebluemle AT publishersweekly.com, including the review sources and dates for the starred reviews. Thanks!

Receiving a starred review is a wonderful honor for a book and its creators. We hope this list will be a handy resource for readers and buyers of all stripes — and that it won’t cause readers to overlook fabulous books that haven’t happened to receive a star. Sometimes, those are children’s very favorite books. So — read widely, read often, and stop binge-watching M*A*S*H. (That last was a note to myself.) Oh, and please consider ordering your books from indie bookstores!

FIVE STARS

Challenger Deep. Neal Shusterman, illus. by Brendan Shusterman. HarperTeen, $17.99 ISBN 9780061134111

Earmuffs for Everyone! How Chester Greenwood Became Known as the Inventor of Earmuffs. Meghan McCarthy. S&S/Wiseman, $17.99. ISBN 9781481406376

Supertruck. Stephen Savage. Roaring Brook/Porter, $12.99. ISBN 9781596438217

Tightrope Walkers, The. David Almond. Candlewick, $17.99 ISBN 9780763673109

X. Ilyasah Shabazz with Kekla Magoon. Candlewick, $16.99 ISBN 9780763669676

 FOUR STARS

Fatal Fever: Tracking Down Typhoid Mary. Gail Jarrow. Boyds Mills/Calkins Creek, $16.95 ISBN 9781620915974

Roller Girl. Victoria Jamieson. Dial, $12.99 pb ISBN 9780803740167

Wolfie the Bunny. Ame Dyckman, illus. by Zachariah OHora. Little, Brown, $17 ISBN 9780316226141

THREE STARS

Alex Crow, The. Andrew Smith. Dutton, $18.99 ISBN 9780525426530

All the Bright Places. Jennifer Niven. Knopf, $17.99 ISBN 9780385755887

Bunker Diary, The. Kevin Brooks. Carolrhoda, $17.99 ISBN 9781467754200

Case for Loving, The: The Fight for Interracial Marriage. Selina Alko, illus. by Sean Qualls and Selina Alko. Scholastic/Levine, $16.99. ISBN 9780545478533

Counting Crows. Kathi Appelt, illus. by Rob Dunlavey. S&S/Atheneum, $17.99 ISBN 9781442423275

Dead I Know, The. Scot Gardner. HMH, $17.99 ISBN 9780544232747

Death of the Hat, The: A Brief History of Poetry in 50 Objects. Paul B. Janeczko, illus. by Chris Raschka. Candlewick, $17.99 ISBN 9780763669638

Echo. Pam Muñoz Ryan. Scholastic Press, $19.99 ISBN 9780439874021

FDR and the American Crisis. Albert Marrin. Knopf, $24.99 ISBN 9780385753593

Fine Dessert, A: Four Centuries, Four Families, One Delicious Treat. Emily Jenkins, illus. by Sophie Blackall. Random/Schwartz & Wade, $20.99 ISBN 9780375868320

Ghosts of Heaven, The. Marcus Sedgwick. Roaring Brook, $17.99 ISBN 9781626721258

Gordon Parks: How the Photographer Captured Black and White America. Carole Boston Weatherford, illus. by Jamey Christoph. Albert Whitman, $16.99 ISBN 9780807530177

Grasshopper and the Ant, The. Jerry Pinkney. Little, Brown, $18 ISBN 9780316400817

Hold Tight, Don’t Let Go. Laura Rose Wagner. Abrams/Amulet, $17.95 ISBN 9781419712043

Last Stop on Market Street. Matt de la Peña, illus. by Christian Robinson. Putnam, $16.99 ISBN 9780399257742

Listen, Slowly. Thanhhà Lai. Harper, $16.99 ISBN 9780062229182

Little Red Riding Hood. The Brothers Grimm. Minedition, $29.99 ISBN 9789888240791

Maine Coon’s Haiku, The. Michael J. Rosen, illus. by Lee White. Candlewick, $17.99 ISBN 9780763664923

Mesmerized: How Ben Franklin Solved a Mystery that Baffled All of France. Mara Rockliff, illus. by Iacopo Bruno. Candlewick, $17.99 ISBN 9780763663513

Mosquitoland. David Arnold. Viking, $17.99 ISBN 9780451470775

P. Zonka Lays an Egg. Julie Paschkis. Peachtree, $16.95 ISBN 9781561458196

Raindrops Roll. April Pulley Sayre. S&S/Beach Lane, $17.99 ISBN 9781481420648

Razorhurst. Justine Larbalestier. Soho Teen, $18.99 ISBN 9781616955441

Shadow Scale. Rachel Hartman. Random, $18.99 ISBN 9780375866579

Sidewalk Flowers. JonArno Lawson, illus. by Sydney Smith. House of Anansi/Groundwood, $16.95 ISBN 9781554984312

Stella by Starlight. Sharon M. Draper. S&S/Atheneum, $16.99 ISBN 9781442494978

Truth Commission, The. Susan Juby. Viking, $18.99 ISBN 9780451468772

Turning 15 on the Road to Freedom: My Story of the 1965 Selma Voting Rights March, as told to Elspeth Leacock and Susan Buckley. Lynda Blackmon Lowery, illus. by PJ Loughran. Dial, $19.99 ISBN 9780803741232

Wangari Maathai: The Woman Who Planted a Million Trees. Franck Praevot, illus. by Aurelia Fronty. Charlesbridge, $17.95 ISBN 9781580896269

War That Saved My Life, The. Kimberly Brubaker Bradley. Dial, $16.99 ISBN 9780803740815

TWO STARS

28 Days: Moments in Black History That Changed the World. Charles R. Smith, Jr., illus. by Shane W. Evans. Roaring Brook, $18.99 ISBN 9781596438200

Ambush of Tigers, An: A Wild Gathering of Collective Nouns. Betsy R. Rosenthal, illus. by Jago. Millbrook, $19.99 ISBN 9781467714648

Audacity. Melanie Crowder. Philomel, $17.99 ISBN 9780399168994

Bear Ate Your Sandwich, The. Julia Sarcone-Roach. Knopf, $16.99 ISBN 9780375858604

Beastkeeper. Cat Hellisen. Henry Holt, $16.99 ISBN 9780805099805

Bird & Diz. Gary Golio, illus. by Ed Young. Candlewick, $19.99 9780763666606

Blackbird Fly. Erin Entrada Kelly. Greenwillow, $16.99 ISBN 9780062238610

Bone Gap. Laura Ruby. HarperCollins/Balzer + Bray, $17.99 ISBN 9780062317605

Boy Who Harnessed the Wind, The: Young Readers Edition. William Kamkwamba and Bryan Mealer, illus. by Anna Hymas. Dial, $16.99 9780803735118

By Mouse and Frog. Deborah Freedman. Viking, $16.99 ISBN 9780670784905

Chasing Freedom: The Life Journeys of Harriet Tubman and Susan B. Anthony, Inspired by Historical Facts. Nikki Grimes, illus. by Michele Wood. Scholastic/Orchard, $18.99 ISBN 9780439793384

Cuckoo Song. Frances Hardinge. Abrams/Amulet, $17.95 ISBN 9781419714801

Deep Sea. Annika Thor, trans. from the Swedish by Linda Schenck. Delacorte, $17.99 ISBN 9780385743853

Draw What You See: The Life and Art of Benny Andrews. Kathleen Benson, illus. by Benny Andrews. Clarion, $16.99 ISBN 9780544104877

Drum Dream Girl: How One Girl’s Courage Changed Music. Margarita Engle. HMH, $16.99 ISBN 9780544102293

Eden West. Pete Hautman. Candlewick, $17.99 ISBN 9780763674182

Elvis: The Story of the Rock and Roll King. Bonnie Christensen. Holt/Ottaviano, $17.99 ISBN 9780805094473

Everybody Sleeps (But Not Fred). Josh Schneider. Clarion, $16.99 ISBN 9780544339248

Finding Serendipity. Angelica Banks. Holt, $16.99 ISBN 9781627791540

Finding Spring. Carin Berger. Greenwillow, $17.99 ISBN 9780062250193

First Snow. Peter McCarty. HarperCollins/Balzer + Bray, $16.99 ISBN 9780062189967

Fish in a Tree. Lynda Mullaly Hunt. Penguin/Paulsen, $16.99 ISBN 9780399162596

Founding Fathers, The! Those Horse-Ridin’, Fiddle-Playin’, Book-Readin’, Gun-Totin’ Gentlemen Who Started America. Jonah Winter, illus. by Barry Blitt. S&S/Atheneum, $17.99 ISBN 9781442442740

Game of Love and Death, The. Martha Brockenbrough. Scholastic/Levine, $17.99 ISBN 9780545668347

Gingerbread for Liberty! How a German Baker Helped Win the American Revolution. Mara Rockliff, illus. by Vincent X. Kirsch. HMH, $16.99 ISBN 9780544130012

Gone Crazy in Alabama. Rita Williams-Garcia. HarperCollins/Amistad, $16.99 ISBN 9780062215871

Great War, The: Stories Inspired by Items from the First World War. David Almond, John Boyne, Tracy Chevalier et al., illus. by Jim Kay. Candlewick, $19.99 ISBN 9780763675547

Half a Man. Michael Morpurgo. Candlewick, $16.99 ISBN 9780763677473

Half Wild. Sally Green. Viking, $18.99 ISBN 9780670017133

Hold Me Closer: The Tiny Cooper Story. David Levithan. Dutton, $17.99 ISBN 9780525428848

Home. Carson Ellis. Candlewick, $16.99 ISBN 9780763665296

Hoot Owl, Master of Disguise. Sean Taylor, illus. by Jean Jullien. Candlewick, $15.99 ISBN 9780763675783

Imaginary, The. A.F. Harrold, illus. by Emily Gravett. Bloomsbury, $16.99 ISBN 9780802738110

Infandous. Elana K. Arnold. Carolrhoda/Lab, $18.99 ISBN 9781467738491

It’s Only Stanley. Jon Agee. Dial, $17.99 ISBN 9780803739079

Lucky Strike. Bobbie Pyron. Scholastic/Levine, $16.99 ISBN 9780545592178

March: Book 2. John Lewis and Andrew Aydin, illus. by Nate Powell. Top Shelf, $19.95 ISBN 9781603094009

Meet the Dullards. Sara Pennypacker, illus. by Daniel Salmieri. HarperCollins/Balzer + Bray, $17.99 ISBN 9780062198563

Moonpenny Island. Tricia Springstubb, illus. by Gilbert Ford. HarperCollins/Balzer + Bray, $16.99 ISBN 9780062112934

Murder Is Bad Manners (A Wells & Wong Mystery). Robin Stevens. Simon & Schuster, $16.99 ISBN 9781481422123

My Bike. Byron Barton. Greenwillow, $16.99 ISBN 9780062336996

My Pen. Christopher Myers. DisneyHyperion, $16.99 ISBN 9781423103714

Over the Hills and Far Away: A Treasury of Nursery Rhymes. Collected by Elizabeth Hammill. Candlewick, $21.99 ISBN 9780763677299

Penderwicks in Spring, The. Jeanne Birdsall. Knopf, $16.99 ISBN 9780375870774

Poem in Your Pocket, A. Margaret McNamara, illus. by G. Brian Karas. Random/Schwartz & Wade, $16.99 ISBN 9780307979476

Popcorn Astronauts, The: And Other Biteable Rhymes. Deborah Ruddell, illus. by Joan Rankin. S&S/McElderry, $17.99 ISBN 9781442465558

Potato King, The. Christoph Niemann. Owlkids, $17.95 ISBN 9781771471398

Question of Miracles, The. Elana K. Arnold. HMH, $16.99 ISBN 9780544334649

Red Butterfly. A.L. Sonnichsen, illus. by Amy June Bates. Simon & Schuster, $16.99 ISBN 9781481411097

Sand Swimmers: The Secret Life of Australia’s Desert Wilderness. Narelle Oliver. Candlewick, $16.99 ISBN 9780763667610

Seeds of Freedom: The Peaceful Integration of Huntsville, Alabama. Hester Bass, illus. by E.B. Lewis. Candlewick, $16.99 ISBN 9780763669195

Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda. Becky Albertalli. HarperCollins/Balzer + Bray, $17.99 ISBN 9780062348678

Smek for President! Adam Rex. Disney-Hyperion, $16.99 ISBN 9781484709511

Smick! Doreen Cronin, illus. by Juana Medina. Viking, $16.99 ISBN 9780670785780

Such a Little Mouse. Alice Schertle, illus. by Stephanie Yue. Scholastic/Orchard, $16.99 ISBN 9780545649292

Sweep Up the Sun. Helen Frost, photos by Rick Lieder. Candlewick, $15.99 ISBN 9780763669041

Thickety, The: The Whispering Trees. J.A. White, illus. by Andrea Offermann. HarperCollins/Tegen, $16.99 ISBN 9780062257291

Trap, The. Steven Arnston. HMH, $16.99 ISBN 9780547824086

Trombone Shorty. Troy Andrews, illus. by Bryan Collier. Abrams, $17.99 ISBN 9781419714658

Under a Painted Sky. Stacey Lee. Putnam, $16.99 ISBN 9780399168031

Unusual Chickens for the Exceptional Poultry Farmer. Kelly Jones, illus. by Katie Kath. Knopf, $16.99 ISBN 9780385755528

Use Your Words, Sophie! Rosemary Wells. Viking, $16.99 ISBN 9780670016631

Walls Around Us, The. Nova Ren Suma. Algonquin, $17.95 ISBN 9781616203726

We All Looked Up. Tommy Wallach. Simon & Schuster, $17.99 ISBN 9781481418775

When Otis Courted Mama. Kathi Appelt, illus. by Jill McElmurry. HMH, $16.99 ISBN 9780152166885

Whisper, The (The Riverman Trilogy: Book 2). Aaron Starmer. FSG, $16.99 ISBN 9780374363116

Wonderful Year, A. Nick Bruel. Roaring Brook/Porter, $17.99 ISBN 9781596436114

Yard Sale. Eve Bunting. Candlewick, $15.99 ISBN 9780763665425

ONE STAR

Abe Lincoln: His Wit and Wisdom from A-Z. Alan Schroeder. Holiday House, $17.95 ISBN 9780823424207

All the Rage. Courtney Summers. St. Martin’s Griffin, $18.99 ISBN 9781250021915

Amazing Age of John Roy Lynch, The. Chris Barton, illus. by Don Tate. Eerdmans, $17 ISBN 9780802853790

Ares: Bringer of War (Olympians #7). George O’Connor. First Second, $16.99 hc, $9.99 pb ISBN hc 9781626720145 ISBN pb 9781626720138

Ask Me. Bernard Waber, illus. by Suzy Lee. HMH, $16.99 ISBN 9780547733944

Baby Swap, The. Jan Ormerod, illus. by Andrew Joyner. S&S/Little Simon, $16.99 ISBN 9781481419147

Bayou Magic. Jewell Parker Carhodes. Little, Brown, $17 ISBN 9780316224840

Bear and Duck. Katy Hudson. HarperCollins, $17.99 ISBN 9780062320513

Beast Keeper. Lucy Coats, illus. by Brett Bean. Grosset & Dunlap, $5.99 pb ISBN 9780448461939

Beetle Busters: A Rogue Insect and the People Who Track It. Loree Griffin Burns. HMH, $18.99 ISBN 9780547792675

Ben Draws Trouble. Matt Davies. Roaring Brook, $17.99 ISBN: 9781596437951

Black Dove, White Raven. Elizabeth Wein. Disney-Hyperion, $17.99 ISBN 9781423183105

Blown Away. Rob Biddulph. HarperCollins, $17.99 ISBN 9780062367242

Book of Storms, The. Ruth Hatfield, illus. by Greg Call. Henry Holt, $16.99 ISBN 9780805099980

Boy & the Book, The. David Michael Slater, illus. by Bob Kolar. Charlesbridge, $16.95 ISBN 9781580895620

Boy in the Black Suit, The. Jason Reynolds. S&S/Atheneum, $17.99 ISBN 9781442459502

Boy Who Lost Fairyland, The. Catherynne M. Valente, illus. by Ana Juan. Feiwel and Friends, $16.99 ISBN 9781250023490

Boys Don’t Knit. T.S. Easton. Feiwel and Friends, $16.99 ISBN 9781250053312

Breaking Sky. Cor McCarthy. Sourcebooks Fire, $16.99 ISBN 9781492601418

Burning Nation (Divided We Fall, Book 2). Trent Reedy. Scholastic/Levine, $17.99 ISBN 9780545548731

Bus Ride, The. Marianne Dubuc. Kids Can, $15.95 ISBN 9781771382090

Button Hill. Michael Bradford. Orca, $9.95 ISBN 9781459807556

Capital Days: Michael Shiner’s Journal and the Growth of Our Nation’s Capital. Tonya Bolden. Abrams, $21.95 ISBN 9781419707339

Case of the Missing Carrot Cake, The (A Wilcox and Griswold Mystery). Robin Newman, illus. by Deborah Zemke. Creston, $15.95 ISBN 9781939547170

Castle Hangnail. Ursula Vernon. Dial, $16.99 ISBN 9780803741294

Cat & Bunny. Mary Lundquist. HarperCollins/Balzer + Bray, $17.99 ISBN 9780062287809

Catch You Later, Traitor. Avi. Algonquin, $16.95 ISBN 9781616203597

Chicken Followed Me Home, A!: Questions and Answers About a Familiar Fowl. Robin Page. S&S/Beach Lane, $17.99 ISBN 9781481410281

Chosen Prince, The. Diane Stanley. Harper, $16.99 ISBN 9780062248978

Cold Legacy, A. Megan Shepherd. HarperCollins/Balzer + Bray, $17.99 ISBN 9780062128089

Cottage in the Woods, The. Katherine Coville. Knopf, $16.9. ISBN 9780385755733

Crown Affair, The: From the Files of a HardBoiled Detective. Jeanie Franz Ransom, illus. by Stephen Axelsen. Charlesbridge, $16.95 ISBN 9781580895521

Darkest Part of the Forest, The. Holly Black. Little, Brown, $18 ISBN 9780316213073

Dear Mr. Washington. Lynn Cullen, illus. by Nancy Carpenter. Dial, $16.99 ISBN 9780803730380

Detective Gordon: The First Case. Ulf Nilsson. Gecko Press, $16.99 ISBN 9781927271490

Distance Between Lost and Found, The. Kathryn Holmes. HarperTeen, $17.99 ISBN 9780062317261

Door in the Moon, The (Obsidian Mirror). Catherine Fisher. Dial, $17.99 ISBN 9780803739710

Dragon’s Guide to the Care and Feeding of Humans, A. Laurence Yep and Joanne Ryder, illus. by Mary GrandPré. Crown, $15.99 ISBN 9780385392280

Ember in the Ashes, An. Sabaa Tahir. Razorbill, $19.95 ISBN 9781595148032

Every Last Promise. Kristin Halbrook. HarperTeen, $9.99 pb ISBN 9780062121288

Fetch. Jorey Hurley. S&S/Wiseman, $17.99 ISBN 9781442489691

Finding the Worm. Mark Goldblatt. Random House, $16.99 ISBN 9780385391085

First There Was Forever. Juliana Romano. Dial, $17.99 ISBN 9780803741683

Firstborn. Tor Seidler. S&S/Atheneum, $16.99 ISBN 9781481410175

Flutter & Hum: Animal Poems/Aleteo y Zumbido: Poemas de Animales. Julie Paschkis. Holt, $17.99 ISBN 9781627791038

Fort. Cynthia DeFelice. FSG, $16.99 ISBN 9780374324278

Girl at Midnight, The. Melissa Grey. Delacorte, $17.99 ISBN 9780385744652

Great Good Summer, The. Liz Garton Scanlon. S&S/Beach Lane, $16.99 ISBN 9781481411479

Grounded: The Adventures of Rapunzel (Tyme #1). Megan Morrison. Scholastic/Levine, $17.99 ISBN 9780545638265

Growing Up Pedro. Matt Tavares. Candlewick, $16.99 ISBN 9780763668242

Hellhole. Gina Damico. HMH, $17.99 ISBN 9780544307100

High Tide for Horseshoe Crabs. Lisa Kahn Schnell, illus. by Alan Marks. Charlesbridge, $16.95 ISBN 9781580896047

Hippos Are Huge! Jonathan London, illus. by Matthew Trueman. Candlewick, $16.99 ISBN 9780763665920

Honest Truth, The. Dan Gemeinhart. Scholastic Press, $16.99 ISBN 9780545665735

I Am the Wolf… and Here I Come! Bénédicte Guettier, trans. from the French by Penelope Todd. Gecko Press, $14.95 ISBN 9781877579424

I Don’t Want to Be a Frog. Dev Petty, illus. by Mike Boldt. Doubleday, $16.99 ISBN 9780385378666

I Was Here. Gayle Forman. Viking, $18.99 ISBN 9780451471475

I’ll Meet You There. Heather Demetrios. Holt, $17.99 ISBN 9780805097955

If You Find This. Matthew Baker. Little, Brown, $17 ISBN 9780316240086

In. Nikki McClure. Abrams Appleseed, $16.95 ISBN 9781419714863

In a Village by the Sea. Muon Van, illus. by April Chu. Creston, $16.95 ISBN 9781939547156

Kidney Hypothetical, The: Or How to Ruin Your Life in Seven Days. Lisa Yee. Scholastic/Levine, $17.99 ISBN 9780545230940

Last Leaves Falling, The. Sarah Benwell. Simon & Schuster, $17.99 ISBN 9781481430654

Last Time We Say Goodbye, The. Cynthia Hand. HarperTeen, $17.99 ISBN 9780062318473

League of Beastly Dreadfuls, The. Holly Grant. Random House, $16.99 ISBN 9780385370073

Legends: The Best Players, Games, and Teams in Football. Howard Bryant. Philomel, $16.99 ISBN 9780399169045

Liars, Inc. Paula Stokes. HarperTeen, $17.99 ISBN 9780062323286

Lies I Told. Michelle Zink. HarperTeen, $17.99 ISBN 9780062327123

Like a River: A Civil War Novel. Kathy Cannon Wiechman. Calkins Creek, $17.95 ISBN 9781629792095

Little Mouse Santi, The. David Eugene Ray. Bienville Ray LLC, $15 ISBN 9780692252253

Little Red Henry. Linda Urban, illus. by Madeline Valentine. Candlewick, $16.99 ISBN 9780763661762

Look! Jeff Mack. Philomel, $16.99 ISBN 9780399162053

Lost in NYC: A Subway Adventure. Nadja Spiegelman. Illus. by Sergio Garcia Sanchez. Candlewick/Toon, $16.95 ISBN 9781935179818

Lost Marble Notebook of Forgotten Girl & Random Boy, The. Marie Jaskulka. Sky Pony Press, $16.99 ISBN 9781632204264

Lost Track of Time, The. Paige Britt, illus. by Lee White. Scholastic Press, $17.99 ISBN 9780545538121

Luck Uglies, The: ForkTongue Charmers. Paul Durham. Harper, $16.99 ISBN 9780062271532

Lumberjanes Vol. 1: Beware the Kitten Holy. Noelle Stevenson and Grace Ellis, illus. by Brooke Allen & Shannon Watters. Boom! Studios, $14.99 ISBN 9781608866878

Lunch Witch, The. Deb Lucke. Papercutz, $14.99 pb ISBN 9781629911625

Magonia. Maria Dahvana Headley. Harper, $17.99 ISBN 9780062320520

Mahalia Jackson. Nina Nolan, illus. by John Holyfield. HarperCollins/Amistad, $17.99 ISBN 9780060879440

Mama Seeton’s Whistle. Jerry Spinelli, illus. by LeUyen Pham. Little, Brown, $17 ISBN 9780316122177

Marilyn’s Monster. Michelle Knudsen, illus. by Matt Phelan. Candlewick, $15.99 ISBN 9780763660116

Mark of the Thief. Jennifer A. Nielsen. Scholastic Press, $17.99 ISBN 9780545561549

Masterminds. Gordon Korman. HarperCollins/Balzer + Bray, $16.99 ISBN 9780062299963

Max’s Math. Kate Banks, illus. by Boris Kulikov. FSG/Foster, $17.99 ISBN 9780374348755

Messengers, The. Edward Hogan. Candlewick, $16.99 ISBN 9780763671129

Monkey Wars. Richard Kurti. Delacorte, $17.99 ISBN 9780385744416

Monty’s Magnificent Mane. Gemma O’Neill. Candlewick/Templar, $15.99 ISBN 9780763675936

Moon Bear. Gill Lewis, illus. by Alessandro Gottardo. S&S/Atheneum, $16.99 ISBN 9781481400947

Ms. Rapscott’s Girls. Elise Primavera. Dial, $16.99 ISBN 9780803738225

My Heart and Other Black Holes. Jasmine Warga. HarperCollins/Balzer + Bray, $17.99 ISBN 9780062324672

My Name Is Truth: The Life of Sojourner Truth. Ann Turner, illus. by James Ransome. HarperCollins, $17.99 ISBN 9780060758981

My Three Best Friends and Me, Zulay. Cari Best, illus. by Vanessa Brantley-Newton. FSG, $17.99 ISBN 9780374388195

New Shoes. Susan Lynn Meyer, illus. by Eric Velasquez. Holiday House, $16.95 ISBN 9780823425280

New Small Person, The. Lauren Child. Candlewick, $17.99 ISBN 9780763678104

Octopuses!: Strange and Wonderful. Laurence Pringle, illus. by Mary Henderson. Boyds Mills, $16.95 ISBN 9781590789285

One Family. George Shannon, illus. by Blanca Gomez. FSG, $17.99 ISBN 9780374300036

One Plastic Bag: Isatou Caesey and the Recycling Women of the Gambia. Miranda Paul, illus. by Elizabeth Zunon. Millbrook, $19.99 ISBN 9781467716086

Orangutanka: A Story in Poems. Margarita Engle, illus. by Renée Kurilla. Holt, $17.99 ISBN 9780805098396

Orphan Army, The (Nightsiders #1). Jonathan Maberry. Simon & Schuster, $16.99 ISBN 9781481415750

Paper Things. Jennifer Richard Jacobson. Candlewick, $16.99 ISBN 9780763663230

Peep and Ducky Rainy Day. David Martin, illus. by David Walker. Candlewick, $14.99 ISBN 9780763668846

Polaris. Mindee Arnett. HarperCollins/Balzer + Bray, $17.99 ISBN 9780062235626

Prairie Fire. E.K. Johnston. Carolrhoda, $18.99 ISBN 9781467739092

Prickly Jenny. Sibylle Delacroix, trans. from the French by Karen Li. Owlkids, $16.95 ISBN 9781771471299

Princess Academy: The Forgotten Sisters. Shannon Hale. Bloomsbury, $17.99 ISBN 9781619634855

Princess Pistachio. Marie-Louise Gay. Pajama Press, $10.95 ISBN 9781927485699

Queen’s Shadow, The: A Story About How Animals See. Cybèlé Young. Kids Can, $16.95 ISBN 9781894786607

Read Between the Lines. Jo Knowles. Candlewick, $16.99 ISBN 9780763663872

Ready Rabbit Gets Ready! Brenna Maloney, photos by Chuck Kennedy. Viking, $16.99 ISBN 9780670015498

Red: A Crayon’s Story. Michael Hall. Greenwillow, $17.99 ISBN 9780062252074

Remembering Inez: The Last Campaign of Inez Milholland, Suffrage Martyr. Robert P.J. Cooney, Jr. American Graphic,. $14.95 ISBN 9780977009527

Return to Augie Hobble. Lane Smith. Roaring Brook, $16.99 ISBN 9781626720541

Rhymoceros. Janik Coat. Abrams Appleseed, $15.95 ISBN 9781419715143

Rise and Fall of the Gallivanters. M.J. Beaufrand. Abrams/Amulet, $16.95 ISBN 9781419714955

Rodeo Red. Maripat Perkins, illus. by Molly Idle. Peachtree, $16.95 ISBN 9781561458165

Saint Anything. Sarah Dessen. Viking, $19.99 ISBN 9780451474704

Salt & Stone. Victoria Scott. Scholastic, $17.99 ISBN 9780545537483

See You Next Year. Andrew Larson, illus. by Todd Stewart. Owlkids, $16.95 ISBN 9781926973999

Shadow Cabinet, The (Shades of London #3). Maureen Johnson. Putnam, $17.99 ISBN 9780399256622

Shadow of the War Machine (Secret Order #3). Kristin Bailey. Simon Pulse, $17.99 ISBN 9781442468054

Should You Be a River: A Poem About Love. Ed Young. Little, Brown, $18 ISBN 9780316230896

Sin Eater’s Daughter, The. Melinda Salisbury. Scholastic Press, $17.99 ISBN 9780545810623

Six. M.M. Vaughan. S&S/McElderry, $16.99 ISBN 9781481420693

Small Elephant’s Bathtime. Tatyana Feeney. Knopf, $16.99 ISBN 9780553497212

Sona and the Wedding Game. Kashmira Sheth, illus. by Yoshiko Jaeggi. Peachtree, $16.95 ISBN 9781561457359

Soulprint. Megan Miranda. Bloomsbury, $17.99 ISBN 9780802737748

Special Delivery. Philip C. Stead. illus. by Matthew Cordell. Roaring Brook/Porter, $17.99 ISBN 9781596439313

Spots in a Box. Helen Ward. Candlewick/Templar, $16.99 ISBN 9780763675974

Start of Me and You, The. Emery Lord. Bloomsbury, $17.99 ISBN 9781619633599

Stick and Stone. Beth Ferry, illus. by Tom Lichtenfeld. HMH, $16.99 ISBN 9780544032569

Stolen Moon, The (Lost Planet #2). Rachel Searles. Feiwel and Friends, $15.99 ISBN 9781250038807

Story Thieves. James Riley. S&S/Aladdin, $16.99 ISBN 9781481409193

Strange Wilderness, This: The Life and Art of John James Audubon. Nancy Plain. University of Nebraska Press, $19.95 ISBN 9780803248847

Super Fly: The World’s Smallest Superhero! Todd H. Doodler. Bloomsbury, $14.99 ISBN 9781619633797

Tapper Twins Go to War (with Each Other), The. Geoff Rodkey. Little, Brown, $13.99 ISBN 9780316297790

Terrorist: Gavrilo Princip, the Assassin Who Ignited World War I. Henrik Rehr. Lerner/Graphic Universe, $11.99 pb ISBN 9781467772846

There Will Be Lies. Nick Lake. Bloomsbury, $17.99 ISBN 9781619634404

This Side of Home. Renee Watson. Bloomsbury, $17.99 ISBN 9781599906683

Tiger Boy. Mitali Perkins, illus. by Jamie Hogan. Charlesbridge, $14.95 ISBN 9781580896603

Tragic Age, The. Stephen Metcalfe. St. Martin’s Griffin, $18.99 ISBN 9781250054418

Tricky Vic: The Impossibly True Story of the Man Who Sold the Eiffel Tower. Greg Pizzoli. Viking, $17.99 ISBN 9780670016525

Troto and the Trucks. Uri Shulevitz. FSG, $16.99 ISBN 9780374300807

Turtle and Me. Robie H. Harris, illus. by Tor Freeman. Little Bee, $16.99 ISBN 9781499800463

Undertow. Michael Buckley. HMH, $18.99 ISBN 9780544348257

Unlikely Hero of Room 13B, The. Teresa Toten. Delacorte, $17.99 ISBN 9780553507867

Unlikely Warrior: A Jewish Soldier in Hitler’s Army. Georg Rauch, trans. from the German by Phyllis Rauch. FSG, $17.99 ISBN 9780374301422

Vanishing Girls. Lauren Oliver. Harper, $18.99 ISBN 9780062224101

Vivian Apple at the End of the World. Katie Coyle. HMH, $17.99 ISBN 9780544340114

Way Home Looks Now, The. Wendy Wan-Long Shang. Scholastic Press, $16.99 ISBN 9780545609562

Whale Trails, Before and Now. Lesa Cline-Ransome, illus. by G. Brian Karas. Henry Holt, $17.99 ISBN 9780805096422

Where Are My Books? Debbie Ridpath Ohi. Simon & Schuster, $17.99 ISBN 9781442467415

Where is Pim? Lena Landström. Gecko Press, $16.99 ISBN 9781927271735

Wherever You Go. Pat Zietlow Miller, illus. by Eliza Wheeler. Little, Brown, $17 ISBN 9780316400022

Whisperer, The. Fiona McIntosh. Knopf, $16.99 9780553498271

Wild About Shapes. Jérémie Fischer. Nobrow/Flying Eye, $16.99 ISBN 9781909263383

Wild Boy and the Black Terror. Rob Lloyd Jones. Candlewick, $16.99 ISBN 9780763662530

Wild Ideas: Let Nature Inspire Your Thinking. Elin Kelsey. Owlkids, $18.95 ISBN 9781771470629

Winner’s Crime, The (Winner’s Trilogy #2). Marie Rutkoski. FSG, $17.99 ISBN 9780374384708

Wish Girl. Nikki Loftin. Razorbill, $16.99 ISBN 9781595146861

Work of Art, A. Melody Maysonet. Merit Press, $17.99 ISBN 9781440582547

Worst in Show. William Bee, illus. by Kate Hindley. Candlewick, $15.99 ISBN 9780763673185

Wrong Side of Right, The. Jean Marie Thorne. Dial, $17.99 ISBN 9780803740570

Yo Miss: A Graphic Look at High School. Lisa Wilde. Microcosm, $12.95 ISBN 9781621069874

You Can Do It, Bert! Ole Könnecke, trans. from the German by Catherine Chidgey. Gecko Press, $16.95 ISBN 9781927271032

You’re in Trouble (Jasper John Dooley). Caroline Adderson, illus. by Ben Clanton. Kids Can, $15.95 ISBN 9781554538089

 

An Overlooked Fallacy About Sales of Diverse Books

Elizabeth Bluemle -- February 20th, 2015
Dude I said Fallacies

© Megan Hammond. Used with permission. Thanks!

Every time I think I’ve pondered the diversity-in-publishing issue from most angles, something new pops up. Sometimes, it’s something so incredibly simple I can’t believe it hasn’t occurred to me before. The newest realization was this: someone said to me recently that diverse books don’t sell, and I replied jokingly, “Heck, MOST books don’t sell.” And it’s true. Many, many books don’t earn out their advances, but we don’t say about them, “Gosh, books about white characters and/or by white authors just don’t sell.” That would be absurd, right? Well, when you have only one title on your list per season that’s diverse, and it doesn’t sell, and you say that therefore “diverse books don’t sell,” you’re saying something equally absurd. Absurd, and a logical fallacy, to boot.

Sales success is a mysterious formula. Sometimes no matter how much a book is pushed and hyped and marketed, it just doesn’t catch on. Other times, a book expected to sell modestly hits it big (Pioneer Girl, most recently). There is no sure-fire way to know. And you absolutely cannot create an entire, vague category called “diverse books” (especially based on so few samples), and decide that you can accurately analyze the success of that category.

There’s just no way to truly evaluate the sales of diverse books until there’s a real marketplace full of them. Imagine evaluating those books with the same ruler that we treat the rest of the publishing list — looking at a list of, say, 50 titles, hoping that two or three will really break out, that another 20 or 30 will at least earn out or better, and that the rest will probably putter along somewhere near or below that earn-out line. (Publishers, correct me if I’m wrong about this generalized distribution of sales expectations for a season’s list.)

And while you’re pondering that, please take a look at Malinda Lo’s fabulous essay on the subtle and subconscious ways that people’s own assumptions, cultural backgrounds, and experiences come into play when reviewing books, especially those by authors (and/or main characters) with backgrounds, experiences, and surroundings different from their own. It’s eye-opening, insightful, and full of helpful concrete examples.

Hundreds of Booksellers! And John Green

Elizabeth Bluemle -- February 17th, 2015
IMG_3298

This is what a fraction of 500 booksellers looks like.

It’s been two or three years since I’ve been able to get to Winter Institute, the American Booksellers’ Association’s conference dedicated to bookseller education. Publisher sponsors also attend, sharing their top picks for spring releases and giving us sneak peeks ahead to the fall season. Let me tell you, there’s something uniquely wonderful about being in a room filled with booksellers from all across the country. These are people who, when the official sessions about books end, pick up with personal conversations about — books they love. Bookselling is one of those professions that draws enormously dedicated, passionate people who work very hard for little money. Well, maybe some of them make lots of money, but I don’t know any of them. Booksellers are smart, funny, interesting people with a depth of knowledge, a breadth of interests, and the courage of their convictions, and I am honored to call so many of them friends. (In case it sounds like I’m complimenting myself in this paragraph, I’m wearing my blogger hat, not my bookseller hat, when I say all of that.)

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Author John Green was one of this year’s keynoters, and he teased the room about booksellers’ notorious pessimism (then again, he doesn’t have to balance a bookstore’s accounts at the end of the year). He gave a terrific talk, appreciative of the importance indies have played in making his own books — and so many others’  – so successful. In addition to discovering new talent and creating blockbusters by word of mouth, indie booksellers also keep backlist alive through continued handselling long after publisher marketing campaigns have ended and the promo machine is quiet. “Indie bookstores are what make evergreen books evergreen,” said John Green. He said he and his brother had always only toured indies, which I hadn’t realized. Go, John Green!

One of the best things he said was about why he thinks his books and online videos have been so wildly popular with millions of teens. “Marketing to teenagers is not pretending I know stuff I don’t know about Snapchat, but sharing what I do know and am passionate about. .. They LIKE passion and unironic enthusiasm.” He left us on our feet, applauding.

Before we leave John Green, I have to mention Diane Capriola and her bookstore crew from Little Shop of Stories in Decatur, GA, for their introduction to his talk. The guitarist struck a chord, and the bookseller singers growled out, to the tune of “Wild Thing:”

John Green
You make my heart sing
You make the register ring

John Green
I love you
But seriously, dude, when are you going to write another book?
Come on, move me.

It was hilarious and JG called it the best introduction he’d ever had.

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The rest of Winter Institute was a whirlwind of sessions on bookseller education, most very useful (on topics ranging from diverse books to wringing 2% more margin from our stores to planning for succession after retiring) and lunches with publishers large and small who shared their favorite spring titles and asked booksellers for feedback on a variety of matters. The huge Grove Park Inn resort in Asheville, N.C., kept us in good shape going back and forth to workshops held in opposite wings. And the author receptions — one evening for the major houses, one evening for smaller publishers — were wonderful, festive, and celebratory.

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Me with Chris Grabenstein and his latest funny, book-celebrating MG adventure, ‘The Island of Dr. Libris.’

One of the highlights of any trade show or conference is the chance to go to dinner with authors and publishers and fellow booksellers. I met a whole new group of bookstore people at Random House’s fete for Chris Grabenstein in honor of his new book, The Island of Dr. Libris. It was such a fun dinner, and I read the ARC on the way home, finishing it on the plane where I happened to be sitting next to one of the world’s great 10-year-olds, a preternaturally articulate, funny snowboarding fiend from Nashville. He was SO delighted to be given a free book, one that telegraphs fun from the very cover. When I showed him it had also been autographed by the author, his jaw actually dropped. I live for moments like that.

My other favorite thing about Winter Institute was meeting the energetic and brilliant Ilene Gregorio, a.k.a. I.W. Gregorio, author and v-p of development for We Need Diverse Books, and getting to be on a panel on diversity in our field and in books for young people with fellow bookseller Cynthia Compton from 4 Kids Books & Toys in Zionsville, Ind., and fab moderator Joy Dallanegra-Sanger. My cold had taken residence fully by the time of this panel, so I’m not sure my offerings were as meaty as I’d have liked, but the room was chock full of booksellers (so heartening!), and I did get to invite everyone to participate in the 2015 50/50 Read, where for every book about white main characters I read, I’m reading a book featuring main characters of color (ideally by writers who are also POC). (Side note: this project has made reading so FABULOUS again! Booksellers love books and reading, of course, but it is also necessarily work. This 50/50 Read project has made reading fresh and new again, an unexpected and marvelous side benefit.)

Winter Institute was my third back-to-back conference, so I was ready to come back home to my bookstore and my own bed. But it reaffirmed that the community of booksellers across our country is as dedicated and creative, as thoughtful and passionate, as ever, if not more so. I do love my profession and am so lucky to be part of it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Publishers, Let Your Digital ARCs Live Longer!

Elizabeth Bluemle -- February 11th, 2015

At Winter Institute, I shared a cab and a great long conversation with a bookseller I’d never met before, James from Half Price Books. We covered a range of bookselling topics, from used books to multiple-store ordering processes to sharing recent titles we’d loved, During that last bit,  there was at least one title the other mentioned that caused us to exclaim, “I wanted to read that, but it expired!”

I suspect we are not the only bookseller who encounter the sorrow of an expired Edelweiss or NetGalley ARC in Adobe Digital Editions. I do understand that publishers don’t want ARCs to replace book sales, and so expiration dates for some categories of readers might make sense after a certain point in the book’s release life. But booksellers have tall, tall piles and we purchase multiple copies of the books we fall in love with. It’s especially incomprehensible to me when a digital ARC expires before the book’s release date. We really do want to sell your books; why would you want to make that harder?

What is the purpose of having such short (30-day, 45-day, 60-day) expiration dates for booksellers? Giving us several months to read your titles seems like a win-win; you wouldn’t be losing sales — we aren’t your typical potential retail customers. We wouldn’t NOT buy a book because we’ve read it already. We are MORE likely to buy it if we’ve read it already. And we purchase multiple copies.

Please let your books live longer in Edelweiss and NetGalley for booksellers. Sure, we learn about great reads from our sales reps long before the release date, but we can’t always read all of the ones that catch our attention, at least not right away. They take their place in our queue. Sometimes it just takes a little while for a bookseller to catch up.

Oh! And for those of us who double our page counts by also listening to audiobooks, is there any chance you’d consider digital audio ARCs?

 

Diversity: One Thing YOU Can Do Now

Elizabeth Bluemle -- February 3rd, 2015

Before I get into my blog post, of course I need to jump and shout for the books that took home medals and honors at the ALA Youth Media Awards yesterday! Congratulations, all of you wonderful, talented writers and artists!! I was in the audience for the awards announcements in Chicago and was overjoyed to see many of my own personal favorites celebrated. Since everyone in the children’s literature blogoverse is likely to be writing about the awards, I will not, except to say that I was gratified to see a more diverse list of winners across the award spectrum than we have perhaps ever seen before. Thank you, dedicated ALA committees!

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I was fortunate enough to attend the Day of Diversity sponsored collaboratively by ALSC (the Association for Library Service to Children) and the CBC (Children’s Book Council). I can only imagine the amount of time and effort that went into planning this event! Thank you, ALSC and CBC, for taking this important step toward action for children and children’s books. The event was the first of its kind for these organizations, and as such there was a limited number of attendees. It felt like a kickoff to what I hope can turn into a two- or three-day conference for hundreds of participants.

(Note: I will recap the presentations in a future post. For those who would like to read up on the day sooner, Debbie Reese did a nice job of presenting the day and her own perspective here, Zetta Elliott posted some of her thoughts here, Edi Campbell posted here, and Sarah Park Dahlen has posted here. Now that everyone is returning from ALA, you can also use a search engine and type in ALA, CBC, and “Day of Diversity” — several blog posts should crop up this week.) If you’re impatient to get to the “what one thing can I do now?” part of this post, it’s at the end.

Every attendee brought a different perspective and range of experiences to this conference. The speakers were eloquent and moving, and the moderators were fabulous. There were some deeply personal stories told and some grim statistics and urgent pleas shared that I will carry with me always.

What I appreciated most was the focus on action, not just talk. This conversation—about the appalling lack of diversity in children’s books and its severe life- and culture-altering consequences—has been going on for decades, and yet little has changed even as the urgency has grown. In fact, some numbers (for both literacy achievement and for diverse representation of ALL of our nation’s people in children’s books) have gotten *worse* over the past several years. With so much conversation happening in the mainstream, especially over the past couple of years, especially with the advent of movements like #WeNeedDiverseBooks and other social media efforts, how can that be?

It can be because the power structure itself, the race and class make-up of the decision makers and gatekeepers, hasn’t changed much at all. It is not inclusive, not by a long shot, not yet. There are hard conversations to be had and radical shifts to be made.

We all know by experience that large-scale social change can grind all too slowly. So what can we do now, each one of us, right now, to create change in our own communities and spheres of influence? ”Moving Into Action” panel moderator Satia Orange challenged us at the end of the day: What will you personally do to create change? What will you do by the end of this week? by February 28? and by the end of August 2015? “Do something dramatic!” she said. People were invited to come to the guest microphone and share something specific that they will do to make change happen.

This challenge is such a good one! Specific, concrete steps are the ones that stick and end up leading to long-term, big-picture goals.

So, what can one person do?

Here are a few possibilities, ideas that came out of discussions during the day. I invite you to choose one, just one, to do this week. And one (maybe the same one, expanded, or a different one) to do in February. And then inspire yourself to plan a little bigger to begin by August.

The ideas below are all things one person can do. Really.

1) Adopt a classroom and send the children a book (or books, if you can afford it) every month to enrich and diversify their collection. For ideas on titles, check out The Brown Bookshelf, the CBC Resource Page of book lists, the book lists created for Pat Mora’s Día de los Niños programs, my own World Full of Color diversity database, SLJ’s list of culturally diverse books, Debbie Reese’s recommended lists (one of which is here) and any number of great lists that can be found online. This idea was shared by Crazy QuiltEdi blogger Edi Campbell. It’s so simple and so helpful an idea that it knocked my socks off. Just about anyone reading this post can do this, and spread the word. Gather friends together to sponsor an underserved school! Each friend adopts one classroom and donates a book a month. 

2) Buy a book by an author of color featuring a main protagonist of color. This is pretty simple, folks. And I would add that if you do that at your local bookstore, they will be more likely to continue to stock their shelves with diverse books.

3) Go further and shift your reading habits. Early in the year, I had thought it would be interesting to try reversing the dismal national publishing statistics; that is, I would read 90% books featuring main characters of color and only 10% featuring white people. Unfortunately, that’s unrealistic for several reasons including the lack of books to fill that 90%, as well as my bookseller’s need to read to read a lot of what’s on publishers’ lists to make buying decisions. So what I came up with, what my experiment will be for 2015, is to Read 50/50. I think it’s very possible to alternate in this way, and I invite anyone interested to join me. Thanks to Zetta Elliott, I also just read Ebony Elizabeth Thomas’s Dark Fantastic blog post and learned about NCTE’s 2015 National African American Read In, a month-long reading invitational. Share your reading plan with friends. Share your passion!

4) Help a teacher by alerting her or him to Perspectives for a Diverse America‘s K-12 Literacy-Based Anti-Bias Curriculum. Common Core teaching plans often limit themselves to Appendix B titles, but don’t need to. Link them to Appendix D, a resource for diverse titles and Common Core applications.

5) Partner up. Ask your local hospital to consider including library card applications in the take-home bags at hospitals. If the hospital doesn’t already work with Reach Out and Read, a program that helps distribute free books to families, tell them about it. Same with any pediatricians you know.

6) Chat with a librarian. One librarian at the Day of Diversity mentioned that their system gives kids a “side card” that allows them to check out paperback books even when they have overdue books and can’t use their regular cards. That way, children aren’t ever punished by withholding reading. Talk with your local librarian and invite her or him to consider such a program.

7) Make books your birthday gifts. For adults as well as children, give people the pleasure of a book that you love, and branch out with the choices. Find beautiful books written by authors of color, books that offer mirrors or windows into the lives of main characters of color. Surprise someone with a glorious book!

I’ve got plans for the bookstore, as well, and will continue to blog about our efforts and diversity in publishing and children’s books here at ShelfTalker.

What are your ideas for grassroots diversifying?