Category Archives: Uncategorized

Vacation Reading: How to Choose the Right Books

Josie Leavitt -- February 27th, 2015

I don’t get to go away too often. Vacations, the real kind, with sun and sand, seem to be an every two year or more occurrence. Happily for me, I’m in the beach cycle this year. As I pack for my trip the hardest question isn’t what clothing to bring, it’s what books to pack. Yes, I said books. I don’t have an ereader, and while I understand the benefit of them now, as I am forced to choose what books to bring, I wouldn’t have it any another way. I love the feel of a book on vacation at the beach. I do not WallFon.com_12771want to be tied to a device, any device, while I am on a beach, so I happily will pack a few books.The particular bend a book gets when it’s been read in the sand and sun, the random stains of sunblock, the spill of a beer carelessly dropped on the cover, these all tell the story of the book, and I love that.

Books have to match my mood, or the mood I think I’ll be in when I start reading. This is true pretty much every day, but never more so than on vacation where this is a limited selection of books to choose from. So, I have spent much time going through the galley shelves at the bookstore carefully trying to match my need for escapist fun with well-written, well-plotted books that will engage me during a whole day of reading by the water. Now for the fun part, or the sad part depending on what books I have to leave behind: choosing the books that make it in my carry-on. I have chosen adult books for this trip for two reasons: they are longer so one adult book is going to last for more days than a kids’ book, and I don’t get read adult as often, so this is a real treat for me. 

When I only have room for three books, what makes the cut is so hard. The new Ann Packer, The Children’s Crusade, is already in the bag. I was a big fan of her earlier book, The Dive from Clausen’s Pier, so that was easy. Now I have room for two more. The question I’m grappling with is, do I want a mystery (that’s almost always a yes for me) or something more sweeping and epic, or a short story collection that might lend itself to the wandering brain I usually have on vacation? Oh, the choices! Knowing myself as a reader is helpful, but still I need to weigh the balance of known authors versus taking a chance on an unknown and perhaps brilliant author? My second book is from Lauren Holmes, Barbara the Slut and Other People. A short story collection that looks very good, and seems to have a good mix of funny, poignant, and sexy.

The last book is more problematic. I have four books on the dining room table to choose from. One mystery, two books that promise to be “epics,” and another short story collection. I keep waffling between the mystery, A Good Killing and Kelly Link’s Get in Trouble. Here’s the real issue when a bookseller goes on vacation: do I read something that’s already out, or do I “discover” something new that’s not coming out for months? I don’t fly out until tomorrow morning, so I will delay deciding until tonight. And that leaves me one thing to pack right now: my reading glasses!

So, vacationing readers: how do you choose your books for vacation? And what do you choose?

Costume Character Advice Forum

Kenny Brechner -- February 26th, 2015

We are all aware that to better ourselves as booksellers, and as human beings, we need to try new things, to have different experiences. 20thanniversarypartyThe opportunity to follow that well-trodden wisdom presented itself to me with the offer of having a costumed character for a Children’s Book Week event. The world of costume character events is a blank portion of the map for us. True, we had done elaborate costume events for Harry Potter releases and we had all dressed as literary characters for our 20th anniversary party. Still, I’m fairly certain that everyone at the anniversary party grasped that I wasn’t really Jeeves.

The first thing to do though was to determine if any of the characters on offer made sense to us. The first one on the list that caught my eye was the Pout Pout Fish. This was intriguing because it could give me the opportunity of putting my Macmillan rep, Ellen Pyle, on  the spot. Pout-Pout-FishEllen is a huge Pout Pout Fish fan and it occurred to me that I could challenge her to back that up by wearing the costume. After closely considering that scheme I decided against it, largely because she might have said yes, something that was guaranteed to be memorable but also possibly a health risk.

Our deliberations were trending downward when one of my staff, Nicole, a college student who is very adult oriented in her literature reading, announced that The Poky Little Puppy had been a favorite book of her childhood, and that she was ready to step up and represent. That had been my top choice too. We were in.

I have a lot of questions about the whole thing, though, and I’m hoping that those of you who have costume character experience will chime in and answer. Are the costumes humane to wear? Could someone in a costume read a book to kids, or participate in a read aloud somehow? What are some of the best and worst experiences you’ve had with them? Tips, cautionary tales, avowals of personal growth and character development? Lay them on us!

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

 

Nerve-Wracking Things

Josie Leavitt -- February 23rd, 2015

I am so fortunate to have the staff that I do. I enjoy working with everyone and can honestly say that work is a pleasure. I get a lot done during the day.  But I’m also not naive enough to think that it’s tea and crumpets all the time. I know that I sometimes drive my staff crazy. Sometimes I make them down right nervous. I made a list of just a few of the things I do:

- I have the best intentions, really I do, of actually going to the post office with that package. I’m not certain when the post office phobia started and I know I should really deal with it. But I do eventually mail these things. The problem is I’m too efficient because before I go to the post office, I’ll run some other errands. I’ll make a deposit at the bank, pick up a late lunch (and by late I mean 4 p.m.) and then completely forget about the package in the front seat because I’ll I can think about is my hot, yummy-smelling chicken sandwich. Did I mention I got everyone a bag of those homemade chips and a massive brownie to share?

- I can lose things. My desk tends towards to a chaos that only I understand. Recently, Laura has been working very hard to clean up consignment books. Our paper trail is somewhat lacking, especially for books we’ve had a long time because it’s only been in the last two years that we’ve really been keeping excellent records. Laura entrusted me with the stack of consignment forms whose authors needed payment. She handed me the stack with a  very clear post-it breaking down who I owed what to. I took that stack home. I think she actually blanched when I did that, but said nothing. I came to find out that she and PJ talked about how it might have been a bad idea to not make copies of these forms first. Triumphantly, two days later, I returned the stack to its new resting place: the paid consignment folder.

- “Hey, want to be Cat in the Hat?” I shudder to think how many times I’ve asked that to unsuspecting staffers. I try to make it sound fun, but also know that staffers will be hotter than you can imagine, dressed as Curious George, Cat in the Hat, and Winnie the Pooh, etc. during their shift. I actually said to a co-worker on Friday, “Yes, there are air holes. They’re in the nose. You’ll be fine.” I would wear the costume, and did once, but generally, with our absurdly low ceilings I am too tall. Everyone else at the bookstore is under 5’4”, so they get asked more frequently. We actually insist that folks take frequent breaks so over-heating is not an issue.

- Apparently, my habit of leaving post-its for myself all around the back of the store is anxiety-producing. I guess that makes sense. Sometimes these little notes are up for weeks and then I get mad when someone takes them down. I never date these tiny action items so no one has a clue when I wrote it, when it needs to get to done, etc. I write these notes so I don’t forget to do something, but it’s been pointed out that if they just stay up like some new modern art, no one knows their status, and I’ve now ceased to actually see them, it’s sort of a pointless system.

-In the vein of post-its, I tend toward random stacks of books in areas where random stacks don’t belong. This again, is my action item area. But without telling anyone why they’re there, they are just a stack of books that is irritating and in the way. Often these are books that came to us damaged, and I’ve already called about them and am in the process of deciding where to donate them.

I want to be the kind of boss who is truly supportive of her staff, and it’s clear to me that my own behavior belies that impulse. So, today marks the first day that I will remove old post-its, clean up my messes, and realize that my organizational style might need some tweaking. And I’m certain once this behavior gets cleaned up, I’ll find some way to make the staff nervous anew.

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.

Questions and Answers About ‘Ask the Dark’

Kenny Brechner -- February 19th, 2015

Recommending a book outside a customer’s comfort zone is a high-risk, high-reward proposition for a bookseller. Most of the time we adopt the Wooster slogan, “safety first,” and steer clear of crossing that line. There are times, however, when we encounter a book of such power that the irony of staying in our own comfort zone as a bookseller seems markedly unworthy.

I have never felt that quandary more strongly than I did after completing Henry Turner’s debut novel, Ask the Dark, a first-person account by Billy, a rough and roughly used boy, for whom safety is a luxury which he cannot afford. When he perceives that a serial killer, targeting at-risk children, is operating virtually unnoticed in town, Billy finds himself in the unexpected role of being a detective. The extremity of Billy’s circumstances make him an excellent observer of both character and behavior, while, ironically his own character and behavior are deeply misperceived by all of the adults in his life.

In short, Ask the Dark is extraordinarily good. Everyone over 14 should read it. Yet, I am concerned that some of the very people who get the most out it, adults who harbor biases against children like Billy, and who would therefore benefit greatly from reading the book, might be put off by its dark themes, and the presence of a serial killer, thereby misperceiving the book in much the same way as the adult characters in Ask the Dark misjudge Billy. Can we, as booksellers skulk in safety when Billy showed such exemplary courage? To get some perspective on this I asked, well not the dark, but rather the author of this sensational book, Henry Turner.

KB: I’m pretty sure David Hume would have loved Ask the Dark, given its exploration of the fallibility of undeveloped first impressions. Even if dead philosophers weren’t your primary audience, was faulty epistemology something you wanted to connect with your readers about?

HT: Good question! I’d say yes – and no. I never intended any specific message with Ask the Dark –I never had what people call an agenda. What motivated me to tell the story was what I felt about Billy – how excited I got seeing him come through in the end and do what was right, no matter how badly things had been going for him. That said, I’ll tell you what I, personally, think. I think the world has dumped on Billy so much that his whole life has become one big reaction to the crummy way he’s been treated. His neighbors basically blame him for the life he’s born into – poverty and ignorance. And so far he’s been a delinquent, kicking against the world, blindly fighting back. He’s not really a criminal, because he is simply reacting; he’s not really in control of his behavior – or responsible for it. And that scares people. Because if he is not responsible and in control, then maybe nobody is! The whole fabric of society is undermined by the behavior of one kid! He seems to be saying, all you people who pick on me, you control things because of privilege, not character. But in the end, he proves he has character. Tons of it. Maybe more than anybody else!

KB: Many people seek out or choose to have experiences that have an element of extremity that suspends illusion, rock climbing, winter hiking, and so forth. Billy lives perpetually in a situation of extremity that he does not choose to have, but which nonetheless has a similar effect. He cannot afford illusions and is a very accurate observer of both character and behavior. For example, he perceives Jimmy’s character in leaving him behind in the house much more accurately than Jimmy’s father did. Is Billy’s own character separate from the extremity in his life, or is it a byproduct of it?

HT: A by-product in many ways. Poverty makes his life precarious. But social instability is the worst form of excitement – so he seeks fear and danger as an alternative. It’s his way to provide for himself – danger is his toy. He thrives on “maybe getting caught.” Fearlessness is his prized possession. Most boys envy guts, and Billy is all guts, because he has little else to keep him from dwelling on his real problems. The benefit is that he can still think clearly and make close observations while under extreme pressure!

KB: I found myself thinking of him as a detective. Is that intended?

HT: I definitely thought about the boy-detective genre when I wrote it – but I tried to emphasize that while he is not intentionally a detective, going through the motions of being one staves off the pressure he feels coming at him from all sides. Billy is naturally curious, though, and he has all the instincts and abilities of an achiever – but he was born into a life where he prematurely falls through the cracks. In his own way, he loves to learn and even study  – see his expert knowledge of hardware supplies and the proper use of tools. And finally, he has to confront right and wrong with a detective’s sense of justice.

KB:  Have you considered the potential dark irony that some readers, particularly adults who harbor biases against children like Billy, and who would therefore benefit greatly from reading the book, might be put off by its dark themes, and the presence of a serial killer, thereby misperceiving the book in much the same way as the adult characters in Ask the Dark misjudge Billy? As a bookseller who feels that adults with biases against kids like Billy, who discard and discount children they are uncomfortable with, absolutely should read Ask the Dark, I am thinking hard as to how to bridge that gap, bearing in mind that pushing against a customer’s biases via handselling is a touchy, high-risk, high-reward, proposition for a bookseller.

HT: I think they are in for a great discovery, those parents who might distrust him just for what he is. They are like the adults in the book who judge him by first impressions. I wrote the book with them in mind – the people who might reject him because of how he talks or what’s he’s done. And I was very much interested in what creates a hero. Billy represents an essential aspect of human nature – the impulsiveness people have that can go either way: to good or evil. Are heroes good? Are they socially acceptable? Billy has a knack for seeing evil where others cannot. The book’s dark themes are essential to illuminate these questions. Boyhood is a tough time, and we mustn’t run from honest descriptions of it. Boys can learn from Billy – and maybe their parents can, too. Billy is a courage-teacher, teaching us the courage to change. You see, I don’t want Billy’s antagonists to merely accept him. I want them to love him.

KB: Given that Ask the Dark is most likely a stand-alone, is there anything surprising you can share with us about Billy’s future?

HT: He has long-term health problems. He gets married. The fruit stand is a success. Oh, I know all about him! I even cut some scenes that I’m thinking of putting on my website, which give a few clues about the girl he falls in love with. I am definitely going to write more about him!

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.)

IMG_3306

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.

IMG_3303

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.

IMG_3330

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When the Flu Hits

Josie Leavitt -- February 13th, 2015

I’m not certain what’s going on in the rest of the country, but Vermont has been hit hard by the flu, one of the worst colds folks have ever seen and a stomach bug. When you have a small staff, illness can be a real problem. It’s not just an issue of having someone to actually work, but staying healthy is a challenge. Box of Tissues

Conveniently, we all waited to get sick until after the crush of the holidays. I’m sure it was because the pure adrenaline of the season kept all the bugs at bay. I got it first when we came back from annual week off. My fits of sniffling and sneezing for days was preceded by a very bad sore throat. It’s been a month, and I’m still coughing. Sandy got it next, pretty much the exact moment I felt well enough to work again. She was really sick with the flu and had a fever and chills. We had to force her to stay home. Then,  just as Sandy was rounding the corner to better health, PJ got the nasty cold that sidelined her for a few days. And now Elizabeth is deep in the heart of the worst part of the flu.

Every day now begins with the same ritual. The first one in disinfects everything at the register. The phone, the keyboard, the mouse, the credit card machine, etc. Pretty much anything that can be touched gets wiped down with an antibacterial Lysol wipe. I’m not sure what good this actually does, but it sure does make us feel like we’re taking action against the bugs. We have a ready supply of tissues and antibacterial hand sanitizer for use after we use the tissues. We are trying very hard to stay healthy, but it’s a struggle. The world of retail is practically designed to throw the maximum number of germs at you. Parents stop at the store to load up on books before they go to the pediatrician with their obviously sick kid. Adults are not as careful about their germs as they could be (not many folks over a certain age have embraced the “cough into your elbow” strategy that kids employ) and touching money and credit cards all day can is just asking to get a bug. Usually I feel like working retail builds up my immunity, but as I sit here writing this, coughing and sneezing anew, I can’t help but wonder if I’m now starting round two of the cold.

The only thing that’s good about being sick is having unfettered time to read without guilt. I used my downtime to read the new Dennis Lehane galley, World Gone By,  which I thoroughly enjoyed. I sometimes feel like adult mysteries are my guilty pleasure that I don’t indulge in that often because the kids’ books are stacking up on the bedside table. I spent all day reading and napping when I was sick and just loved it. I think we’re all so busy that it’s really hard to just take a day and not do anything, so when we’re forced by illness to slow down there’s a luxury to it, even with the irritation and discomfort of a nasty cold.

Readers: what do you choose to read when you’re home sick? Is there anything that you’re drawn to that helps you feel better?

The Blender in the Toaster Box

Kenny Brechner -- February 12th, 2015

We can probably all agree that packaging a blender in a box that is labeled as being for a toaster is not a good marketing decision. If attractively designed and reasonably priced these boxes will move off retail shelves as people who want to purchase a toaster buy them, it is true. One can easily see, however, that difficulties will ensue after the box is opened. This clear principle does not appear to commend itself uniformly to books, however, particularly for children’s fiction, where the nature of both the content and audience is very precise indeed.

Unfortunately, one often finds books whose covers are successfully designed to appeal to a set of customers other than the customers who would want to read their contents. While it will perhaps take a bit longer to determine the discrepancy than it would for the toaster purchaser who unpacks a blender, it won’t take that much longer and the result is much more insidious, because it is more far-reaching. The end result of the customer’s dissatisfaction will not result in a simple return but rather bad word-of-mouth and diminished long-term sales which negatively effect the author and the publisher, and a bad customer service experience that harms the bookstores relationship with its customers.

Here are two examples. Six Feet Over It, a delightful debut novel by Jennifer Longo. Let us look at the cover for a moment.

sixfeet

Here are the issues. The protagonist of the book is 15, not 23. She always wears the same pair of jeans and never wears anything else throughout the book. The book has a reader range of 11-15 and is humorous and snarky in tone, not angsty and dramatic. In short, the cover is designed to appeal to an entirely different audience in terms of both age and temperament than the story does.

Our second example is Donna Gephardt’s Death by Toilet Paper.

deathbytoilet

This cover would have been well designed if the book were a book of potty humor hijinks for 7 to 10 year olds. It is a good design for that. Though the book is humorous it also has a lot of depth and deals with a serious issue: the impact of economic downsizing on a middle grader, for whom the cheap toilet paper at home is emblematic of tough changes in the family fortunes. It’s an absolutely charming book and very painful to imagine it disappointing eight-year-olds who had been expecting to experience what the cover promised.

We feature both these titles at DDG and I can say that the charm of explaining to customers that the cover misrepresents the contents and why – which must be done every time we handsell the book – fades rapidly.

There is an easy fix for this. If the illustrator, or someone else integral to the cover art process, does what the covers are asking buyers to do – read and take the book to heart – this particularly unfortunate brand of failed cover art would likely disappear.

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?