Author Archives: Kenny Brechner

Exercising Through the Holidays

Kenny Brechner -- December 18th, 2014

I was changing into my bathing suit last Friday morning in the locker room at the UMF Health and Fitness Center. It was 8:00 a.m. and there were five other grizzled middle-aged male regulars on similar missions, when the following conversation ensued.

“So Kenny, how many years have you had the bookstore now?”

“Twenty three.”

“Man, that’s a long stretch.”

“It has been a long run.”

“What do you attribute the store’s survival to?”

“Going to the gym every day.”

That answer was the source of a good group chuckle, but apart from being a bit of an overstatement it isn’t entirely a joke. Truth to say I had decided that this week’s post was going to be on the topic of how to survive the pressures of the holiday season, and I had come to the conclusion that every bookstore owner must have one big everyday activity outside the store that helps us make it across the finish line. For me that is a swimming workout.


The UMF HFC pool: a holiday season bff.

The holiday season is, of course, by far the most strenuous time of the year for booksellers. So far, at DDG, we are having our best December ever by a large margin. As of last week my eyes have been starting to close a little earlier in the afternoon every day regardless of my caffeine level. It might seem counter-intuitive to put in an hour of vigorous exercise every morning before going into the store, but I think it is actually more important than ever.

First of all it clears one’s thoughts and gives a real chance to think through what needs to be done at the store. Second, it “sets one up amazingly” as the saying is, so that one is in peak form for the period before exhaustion takes over in the afternoon. Third, it is tremendously good advertising for the store.  More than any other time of year, when people see me at the gym during December they always think about the store, ask how we are doing, and are reminded of the need to come down to the bookstore for holiday shopping. In the first hour of business in the morning I always see people roll in that I had just spoken with at the gym. Furthermore I take orders between sets in the pool, in the locker room and elsewhere. This last Saturday, for example I was on the stationary bike for a warmup when a local dentist marched over.

bostongirl“Do you have the new book by the author who wrote The Red Tent?”

“Oh, The Boston Girl,” by Anita Diamant, eh?”

“Yes! I heard  her on NPR. It sounded great.”

“I’m sure I do have copies in stock.”

“Can you hold one for me?”

“Well, there is still a mile and a half of water between now and when I get to the store. I might forget but I don’t think I will. I’ll give you a call to confirm that it’s on hold. Give me a shout if you don’t hear from me.”

“Awesome, I will.”

I did remember, and she came in and bought gifts for everyone on her list. Exercising through the holidays? It’s the best advertising and the best medicine there is!


A Giant Earmuff Launch

Kenny Brechner -- December 11th, 2014

Most of the time when you are driving, things go as expected with minor changes or surprises here or there: the house at the top of the hill has a for sale sign, a tree has fallen. Every now and then, however, something truly startling happens. The same is true of going through a lengthy frontlist catalog on Edelweiss.

I was going through the Simon and Schuster Winter 2015 books when the frontlist equivalent of a moose standing in the middle of the road came into view. I had the shock of seeing that something profoundly local to Farmington, Maine had become the subject of a new picture book coming out from one of my favorite non-fiction picture book author-illustrators, Meghan McCarthy.

(Photo courtesy of Ann Bryant:/Sun Journal)

(Photo courtesy of Ann Bryant:/Sun Journal)

Meghan’s previous works such as Pop: The Invention of Bubblegum, Daredevil: The Daring Life of Betty Skelton, and Aliens Are Coming: The True Account of the 1938 War of the Worlds Radio Broadcast, have all been showstoppers. It was thus with equal parts surprise and pleasure that I noted the January 2015 publication of Earmuffs for Everyone: How Chester Greenwood became Known as The Inventor of the Earmuff.

Earmuffs for Everyone explores not only the life and inventions of Chester Greenwood, but also the way in which some inventions, whose origins are in fact shared among several inventors, sometimes become popularly attributed to only one of them. This attribution is often due to the workings of creative public relations which come to resonate in the popular imagination. Thomas Edison’s “invention” of electricity is a good example. Today the back story of how the attribution came to reside with Edison rather than with Nikola Tesla has become of increasing interest. This is true of earmuffs as well, and McCarthy’s charming book recounts how what started out as a patent, and the successful production of a new variation in earmuffs by the young Greenwood ultimately become Chester’s attribution as the sole inventor of the earmuff itself. That story is filled with Farmington history and lore, and is delightfully recounted by McCarthy.

Chester Greenwood Day, which falls on the first Saturday in December, is a state holiday in Maine and the biggest day of the year in Farmington. It features an annual parade, a Greenwood flag raising, and a host of other activities. S&S had been planning on launching the book on Chester Greenwood Day, and from that point on I began working with them, and with Meghan, to make it a success. There was a lot to do.


(Courtesy of Bobbie Hanstein/The Daily Bulldog)

The Day started with the annual parade. It was snowing and throwing down some freezing rain but the town was undaunted. Meghan rode in the Chamber of Commerce Float.


(Courtesy of Bobbie Hanstein/The Daily Bulldog)

Next came the flag-raising ceremony, which Meghan participated in along with Chester Greenwood himself, portrayed by Clyde Ross.


After Chester gallantly offered a somewhat chilled Meghan a cup of hot chili, she dashed back to the bookstore for the book signing. We had a big crowd of around 70 people and sold 80 books.


Each book was signed with a custom illustration of Chester Greenwood.

Our next  task was to have Meghan judge the Chester Greenwood Day Earmuff Coloring Contest. We had more than 300 entries! There were 31 winners, one Grand Prize, a signed copy of the book, and 30 other prize winners, who all received a special pair of ‘Earmuffs for Everyone’ earmuffs provided by Simon and Schuster.

The Grand Prize winner is determined!

Prize Winner Aby Lord holds up her entry and her earmuff prize!

The Grand Prize winner was the only entry to transform the earmuffs.

The Grand Prize winner was the only entry to transform the earmuffs.

As the judge said of Leigha Higgins' winning entry, "Sometimes it pays to ask!"

As the judge said of Leigha Higgins’ winning entry, “Sometimes it pays to ask!”

What’s Selling Out of the Gate

Kenny Brechner -- December 4th, 2014

The opening days of the holiday selling season are always a time for bookstore buyers to be paying the closest scrutiny of how our handicapping of frontlist titles is playing out on the floor. What high-profile titles are selling to expectation? What dark horses have appeared? We wonder these things anxiously, seeking to fend off the great peril of being caught short on hot titles.

sandwichsmallTwo of my store’s bestselling titles this season are in the same genre, books for five- to eight-year-old girls, which has made for an exciting two-horse contest here. Pre-race favorite The Princess in Black, with its humor, adventure, LeUyen Pham illustrations, playful subversiveness, and Shannon Hale, a name brand that stands for quality, has been selling extremely well. Running right alongside it, however, is dark horse contender Dory Fantasmagory. How can this be? Well, when you are incredibly funny and heartwarming, when you deftly render the power of shared imaginative play and family interplay, when you have immortal lines like “Give me that banana. I’m calling Mr. Nuggy,” when you are in fact as all-around ridiculously wonderful as Dory Fantasmagory, then you are going to sell like crazy for us.

Uni 10-11The Princess in Black isn’t the only book featuring a unicorn with an alternative lifestyle that is doing really well this year. Amy Krause Rosenthal, continuing her recent tradition of delivering great picture books, has produced Uni the Unicorn. The book has a simple dual storyline featuring a unicorn who staunchly refuses to believe that little girls aren’t real, and her little girl counterpart, who is equally unswayed by her non-unicorn-believing friends and family. Uni the Unicorn has not only been delighting its core audience, it overcame my core disbelief that I could stand behind a unicorn picture book.

Another surprise unicorn seller for us has been Phoebe and Her Unicorn: A Heavenly Nostrils Chronicle. This graphic novel, with its snarky unicorn, heroine with attitude, and sophisticated humor, has a really broad range of appeal from 10 to adult.

secretlifeofThere is always one book that I feel coming in might be a total flop or a great seller. This year that was The Secret Life of Squirrels. Nancy Rose’s book filled with actual photographs taken by her of a squirrel, Mr. Peanuts, as he engages with elaborate miniature sets she built and placed on her porch, was obviously odd, but would it be a curiosity or an impulse buy? It is an impulse buy. We have been selling it like crazy.

Finally, in the crowded world of super cute animal photography books, a la Unlikely Friendships, which make for good family gifts, there is a real standout this year: Harlow & Sage (& Indiana). This photograph-laden account, narrated by a weimaraner named Harlow, recounts his friendship with Sage, a miniature dachshund. After Sage’s death a dachshund puppy appears in the house. Can he have a new friend? The book is simply so cute that it takes a strenuous act of will NOT to buy it.

Love to hear what surprise sellers you are seeing…

Yes, We Want to Use That Display But Where Can We Possibly Put It?

Kenny Brechner -- November 26th, 2014

Thanksgiving, as you may have noticed, is tomorrow. One thing I’m thankful for is having some great staffers working for me. Getting ready for the holiday season presents a world of challenges for us but which of them, I am sure you are wondering, constitutes the biggest challenge for our staff.  Well, the single hardest thing for them is working out how to absorb all the new items we receive during  October and November, and still display them in a dynamic way. We have limited space and books and sidelines simply do not sell if they are not displayed to the nines. As my assistant manager Karin Schott put it, “One requirement of being a bookseller is to have some spatial reasoning ability.”

Home sweet home for the new mixed Wimpy Kid display,

Home sweet home for the new mixed Wimpy Kid display,

Most situations yield to a quick Darwinian solution; however, many times it is clear that something serious has to give, and that a creative solution is called for. We do not despair. I am against that. Instead we hold a strategic, mobile conference, marching in a group around the store, floating ideas and taking measurements.

Here is an example of a recent dilemma. With the release of the latest Wimpy Kid book I ordered a mixed backlist display, not necessarily expecting to use the physical display itself. When we put it together, however, everyone liked it and wanted to use it. Personally, I felt that it was worth the effort to try to find a place for it because of its ability to attractively display backlist titles over time, and because the three-dimensional birds on it were so great. Nonetheless it was quite wide and tall. There was simply no place to put it out in the open floor without creating visual problems, foot traffic issues, and preventing UPS and Fed Ex hand trucks from getting into the receiving area. It was going to have to go against a wall somewhere. Things looked bleak but we refused to believe that there wasn’t a display unit or table somewhere along the wall that couldn’t be moved someplace else within the store.

The black display unit, a refugee from the children's alcove, cozies up to its new neighbors at the front left hand wall of the store.

The black display unit, a refugee from the children’s alcove, cozies up to its new neighbors at the front left hand wall of the store.

After a good deal of onsite discussion and measurements a plan was reached. A low rectangular table near the door could be placed in a space next to the Wind-Up display near the cash register, while the rolling cart there would fit behind the window up front. In the space where the table was a black wooden display unit from our children’s alcove would be moved and the Wimpy Kid unit would go into the children’s alcove against the wall.

Not only did it work, but all the impacted displays were the better for it. Just one more staff triumph in a long line of them running up to the holidays this year. Have a wonderful Thanksgiving, all of you ShelfTalker readers!

The Stocking Stuffer of the Year Awards

Kenny Brechner -- November 20th, 2014

It is that time of the year. The time to announce the Sixth Annual DDG Stocking Stuffer of the Year Awards. Sorting through the many worthy contenders gracing our fun laden shelves was no easy labor, and we are very grateful to the panel of previous winners who served as this year’s judges. To help present the official announcement of this year’s awards I am joined today by the head of the panel of judges,  2013 Award Winner in the Most Shockingly Good Value category, The Mini Wooden Catch Ball.

This Years Chief Judge, 2013 Award Winner, The Mini Wooden Catch Ball

Kenny: First of all many thanks to you and the other panellists for all your hard work.

The Mini Wooden Catch Ball: It certainly was hard to sort through so many outstanding entrants, to have the fate of so many worthy toys in our hands, to be the deliverer of laurels but also the extinguisher of dreams. I had hoped that this weighty responsibility would have induced my fellow panelists, as ex-winners, to realize how important maintaining the integrity of the process was. I hoped in vain.

Kenny: Hmm. Well, we booksellers, working as testers under your direction, were all impressed by your exacting standards. Yours in particular.

The Mini Wooden Catch Ball Yes, well, the whole thing, life I mean, is very straightforward to me. Either the ball lands in the cup or it does not.

Kenny: Gotcha. Now, before we announce the winners, I do have one question for you. Athletes often talk about whether one of their colleagues is a good teammate or not. Is that something you took  into account, how well the nominated toys behave towards the other sidelines during your hours of leisure when the store is closed?

The Mini Wooden Catch Ball: Oh, absolutely. After all there is no better indicator of how a toy will conduct himself with children than how he comports himself with his fellow toys.

Testers Kenny and Karin, under the stern direction of the judges, launch the stick’n chick’ns at The Snowman target. (Snowman Target courtesy of PRH)

Kenny: Great point. Okay on to this year’s winners. I know that there were three categories this year, Most Shockingly Good Value, Best New Science Toy, and Overall Champion.

The Mini Wooden Catch Ball: The most hotly contested prize involved the Most Shockingly Good Value, for which we had two total standouts, The Flick’n Chick’n and The Cyclone Flyer.

Kenny:That must have been tough, they are both only $1.99 and are both sensational fun.

The Mini Wooden Catch Ball: True, but the Cyclone’s flying habits were found to be a bit more stable and dependable, and the cheekiness of the chickens did not commend itself to all the judges. It was a close run thing indeed, but The Cyclone Flyer took home the prize.

Kenny: I see. And what about our next category, the Best New Science Toy?

The Mini Wooden Catch Ball: Well we had three very strong finalists, The Inflatable Political Globe, The Stunt Brothers Parachutists, and The Mirascope. This was one of the most difficult deliberations I’ve ever experienced, because The Stunt Brothers not only taught me a lot about gravity, but also a great deal about friendship and loyalty. Nonetheless, the Mirascope’s ability to cast an illusory doppelganger of small objects proved so amazing that all other considerations were washed away, at least in the eyes of my fellow judges, that is.

Light Up Rail Twirler: Oh stow it already, cup.

Kenny: Umm. I see. Well then, that brings us to the 2014 Stocking Stuffer of the Year Overall Champion.

The 2014 Overall Champion contenders relax together after the competition.

The Mini Wooden Catch Ball: Ah. it grieves me to report that it came down to three finalists, The Jackrabbit Woodland Animals Mini Rollers, the Ogo Bild Bits and the Zmorph windups. We all loved the Ogo Bild Bits, they are a marvelous and personable construction toy, but for the judges it came down in the end to just two. As adorable as the Woodland Rolling Animals are, as warm and generous is their nature, the unmistakable and astonishing wind-up transformation from car to dinosaur seduced the other judges away from their moral compasses. The Zmorphs carried home the top honor.

Kenny: I’m, uh, sorry to hear that sheer awesomeness triumphed over the quieter bonds offered by adorable rolling woodland creatures. Still, the Woodland Creatures, the Ogo Bild Bits, and the Zmorphs still seem to be fast friends! Well, thank you once again for all your time and effort.

The Mini Wooden Catch Ball: It was our pleasure. We’re all looking forward to sharing the holiday season with your customers both in the store and under the tree!

Mission Accomplished!

Kenny Brechner -- November 11th, 2014

The concept of the quest is intrinsic to both epic literature and to life. I speak from experience here. I’ve had a quest these last six years, and that was to get Chris van Dusen to come up to Farmington for Mallett School’s Prime Time Reading Night, also known as Jammie Night.

Jammie Night is my favorite annual local book event. Why? Because it is a flat-out great event. Here’s how it works. The Mallett community comes back to school at 6:00 p.m.: parents, kids, teachers, librarian, principal, all dressed in their pajamas for an evening of read-alouds. I produce a children’s book author. The evening starts with that author reading her book to the assembled throng in the gymnasium, which has been lavishly decorated around the book’s theme. Afterward, families can either go listen to one of five different community readers in five different classrooms, read together in the gym, or purchase a book and have the guest author sign it. The evening ends with the author reading a second book to the whole audience and then concludes with good-nights and more book signings.

Part of 2011′s failed scheme.

It’s a wonderful evening of shared reading as a community and we have had many lovely authors participate. There was only one dark cloud. Circus Ship is the Mallett School’s all-time favorite book, and getting Chris to the event has been a desperate goal since 2009. Once a year I made the attempt to sign him up, trying every ploy I could think of, all unsuccessfully. And yet, like George de Long, commander of the Jeannette Polar Expedition, I can say that I was “not yet daunted.” And thus I am here today to depict success, glorious success, last week.

The amazing ‘Circus Ship’ decorations are revealed. These incredible creations were the work of Mallett librarian Amanda Paradis-Roberts and a team of other helpers.

Chris thrills the crowd with his ‘Circus Ship’ presentation. That’s me running the ladybug, and librarian Amanda Paradis-Roberts doing giant book duty. I’m not sure who let the ostrich in the gym.

One of the highlights of the evening was the Q&A at the end. Mallett is a K-2 school. One of the kids asked if ‘Randy Riley’s Really Big Hit,’ which features a boy who builds a 100-foot robot to save the earth by hitting a giant flaming meteor back into space using a smokestack as a bat, was a true story. Another child followed up by declaring that she was great at building robots, had all the parts she would need, and just needed Chris to give her the robot-building instructions.

Chris was just terrific with the kids!

He brought in poster-sized prints of his original cover art to show kids while they were hanging out with him during the signing time.

The evil Circus Master, Mr. Paine, couldn’t spot any of the animals in the gym. Foiled again!

Several times during the evening Chris said, “Hey Kenny, this is a great event.” Well yeah, I’d been trying to get that across for six years. Mission accomplished.

Holiday Guide Strategies

Kenny Brechner -- November 6th, 2014

When it comes to Holiday Gift Guides there are several different strategies bookstores employ. The most common, and the simplest, is to use the Holiday Gift Guides produced by regional trade organizations. Others of us, whether from being gluttons for punishment, or through what Poe called “the mad pride of intellectuality,” produce our own in one form or another.

One such approach is for a store to produce, print and distribute their own catalog.  By far the best of these that I have ever seen, I say at the risk of imperiling my pal Elizabeth Bluemle with a surfeit of self esteem, is Pig Tales, that she produces for the Flying Pig.  It is sensational. I use a different, more efficient, but less exalted strategy. I make a guide called The Holiday Twenty which I produce for two area newspapers to use in their Holiday inserts. That guide, and those books, then become the focus of our in-store display, advertising and handselling efforts. We also have an online version to go with it.

In any case, for those of us in this guide-producing subculture the end of October marks a busy time of finalizing picks for different categories and blurb writing. Having just gotten my copy done I stand ready to share my picks in the categories that are relevant to children’s books.

The gift book of the season is clearly The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings: Deluxe Pocket Boxed Set. If you are not sure why,  it is either because you haven’t seen it yet or you have deeper personal issues than those which can be properly addressed in a Holiday Gift Guide. I can assure you that it does not matter how many other boxed sets of the Lord of the Rings you already own, this hobbit-sized version is completely desirable and must be possessed by any right-thinking person. The imprinted titles on the spine, the well designed box, the agreeable price, the tasteful use of color and Tolkien Runes, all conspire to demand that Tolkien lovers be given this edition as soon as the Holiday Season allows. They cannot wait any longer than that. (Honorable mention to the very fetching Moomin Deluxe Slip-cased Anniversary Edition!)

We have four picture book picks. There were a very high number of exceptional wordless offering this year, but I tried to maintain some balance to meet different handselling scenarios. This year our picks are as follows:

Sparky, by Jenny Offil

Delightful illustrations, subtle humor, charm and unexpected tugs on any but the hardest heart strings make this story about adapting to the nature of a pet one of the finest picture books published this year.

Jim Curious, by Matthias Picard

This wordless three-dimensional picture book provides a truly jaw dropping undersea adventure. It comes with two 3–D glasses because Jim Curious is an experience made for sharing.

The Book with No Pictures,  by, B.J. Novak

Unless you are worried about having too much fun, sharing a picture book sans pictures with the young readers in your life, The Book with No Pictures is a perfect fit. Laughter and imagination are sure to accompany every reading.

Full Speed Speed Ahead! How Fast Things Go, by Cruschiform

The best science-based picture books take one simple concept and develop them to spectacular effect. In Full Speed Ahead, each spread lists a speed on the left and then some animals or machines that go that speed on the right. For example, three things moving 2 MPH are a Tegenaria spider, an Excavator, and a person walking. With every new spread the speed increases. It’s sensational fun, at whatever speed you read it, not to mention educational!

For novels, I went with two YA and two middle grade. Namely…

Death By Toilet Paper,  by Donna Gephardt

Ben Epstein has lost his Dad. He and his mom are living on the financial edge and are about to fall off if the “Grand Plan” cannot be implemented before they are evicted. Full of humor and tenderness, this deftly told story will engage its young audience deeply, and with warmth and support.

Half Bad, by Sally Green

Here we come to a book that grabs readers from the first moment they enter its pages. Half Bad affords the sublime fascinations of an alluring, unsafe narrator set in a deeply grey political landscape whose powers are determined to be black and white at terrible cost. Its readers find themselves carried and then swiftly captured in an irresistible current of intrigue and imagination as visceral as it is elegant.

The Glass Sentence, by Sylvia Grove

The Glass Sentence features a highly imaginative and engaging premise which is clearly related and accessible, while also possessing roots grounded intricately in social and political history and cartography. This tightly knit and compelling world offers deep satisfaction for all readers of interest who will regale themselves with its dire actions, complex villainy, highly absorbing characters, and sublimely engaging interior and outer landscapes.

Dorothy Must Die, by Danielle Paige

All is not well in Oz and Dorothy and her lackeys are the reason. A terrific romp through a classic fantasy world with a narrator that modern teens will relate to, Dorothy Must Die is big fun from start to finish.

I’m always interested to see, make note, and take stock of the books publishers are spending money on for the Holidays. The core of our Holiday handselling, however, lies in the books we stand behind the most ourselves. And in this regard, producing a gift guide clarifies the mind wonderfully, quite as much as the smell of tubs of burning slow-match did for Jack Aubrey before going into action.

Concise Critical Capsule Captures Crown

Kenny Brechner -- November 5th, 2014

It is time to announce both the winner, and to reveal the regal grand prize, of the Compelling Contest which ran here on October 23rd  challenging the alliterative acumen of its amiable antagonists.

There were some terrific entries here, but one of them stood out: Karin Thogerson’s recap for The Fault In Our Stars.

Cancer couple courtship culminates in cryfest.

The two runners up were Kate Braasch’s Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus! entry:

Public plug prohibits pigeon piloting public pick-upper. Premeditating and pesky pigeon persists and petitions piloting. Pensive pigeon’s prayer precluded; possible portage post? Parable pleases people and pigeons proportionately.

And Margaret’s Blueberries for Sal entry:

Moms and moppets maneuver Maine mountain, making menu of mazarine morsels. Mischievous mayhem materializes: moppets misplaced! Maternal mistrust materializes — maybe a monster! Mercifully, mutatis mutandis, mistakes are mitigated.

And what of the regal reward? Karin will receive the amazing new giant morphing wind-up dinosaur car, modeled by DDG’s own Karin Schott! Drum roll please…


Thanks to everyone who entered!


Two Rural Maine Schools With One Author Who Cares

Kenny Brechner -- October 28th, 2014

Few authors make as much of a difference in their communities as does acclaimed Maine children’s author Cynthia Lord. Aside from being a wonderful writer, and the recipient of many notable awards, including the Newbery Honor for her first book, Rules, Cynthia is also one of the hardest working, most professional writers I know. Cynthia does many full-day school visits around the country, and she provides well developed, interactive programming both in the classroom, and in the auditorium. These visits are part of her professional life, and have a business side to them of course, but Cynthia is more than just a total pro. She cares deeply about young readers and, recognizing that there are rural districts in Maine that lack the resources to bring her in for a full day of school visits she has worked with me on special occasions, volunteering her time to bring a dynamic experience to area children who would never be able to experience it otherwise.

Take this last October 16th for example. Cynthia did a whirlwind tour with me of Jay Elementary School and Livermore Falls Elementary School, doing two presentations in each school, one for kindergarten to second grade and one for third to fifth. This is made possible by the broad age range of her work. She has a delightful picture book series featuring Hot Rod Hamster, along with a Hot Rod Hamster I Can Read book, a charming new chapter book series called the Shelter Pet Squad, to go along with her three terrific middle-grade novels, Rules, Touch Blue, and Half a Chance.

Getting the books out for sale. Myself, that is, some of Cindy’s books, and her alter ego, The Lord coffee mug.

Cynthia in the act of demonstrating her surprising and remarkable superpower while I go over the pre-order checklist to make sure everyone got their books..

In short these four presentations were absolutely electrifying with a whole auditorium full of kids with their arms raised to answer questions and give their input from start to finish, from the K-2 set helping Hot Rod Hamster choose his way through race day or having the grade 3-5 students working on developing a story idea and plot structure for a novel whose protagonist is desperate to have a dog but who has the obstacle of an allergic parent standing in the way.

A K-2 presentation gets under way.

Waiting to have a book signed.


Personalizing a book that came in from home with a special note from the family for Cynthia.


District librarian Cheryl Mills wrote to me afterward. “Thank you so much for bringing Cynthia Lord to our school. Her visit generated LOTS of enthusiasm and excitement. The students fell in love with Cynthia and are still talking about her in conversation!!!! Her books are flying off the library shelves. What a great experience for our kids.”

Before we left for the day, special ed teacher Susan Wiles brought in Scholastic paperback copies of Cynthia’s picture books that she sells to raise funds in an in-school bookstore. Susan has been running the bookstore every Friday for the past eight years. All of the books are $1.00 and she collects box tops in order to continue buying books. The students in her classroom help out every Friday by picking up students in the other classrooms, stocking shelves, taking care of sales, and setting up/taking down the books. Cynthia graciously signed all the copies of her book that the bookstore had and then ran out to her car to donate copies of the Hot Rod Hamster picture books Susan didn’t have!

Cynthia with Susan Wiles. Superpowers indeed!

Compelling Contest!

Kenny Brechner -- October 23rd, 2014

Alliterative Analytical Acuity Alert!

Test your alliterative skills by submitting the Best Behaved Blurb.

First choose one of the following six books. Then submit your blurb by posting it in the comments below using the same single letter as the beginning letter for each word (a, an of, and, the, are, are also allowed). The winning entry will receive a regal reward!

Six Sensational Subjects and a Sample Submission

The Fault in Our Stars

The Hobbit

The Hunger Games

Blueberries For Sal

Diary of a Wimpy Kid

Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus

Sample Submission


This tale of a terrific tractor takes the time to tell of a towering task.  The tiny tractor trundles toward a tempest of  towing trouble. A total triumph of a tractor tale!  

Brandish Blurbs Below!