Although the Christmas whirlwind is upon us, a group paused for a minute this week to welcome the author of an 2019 novel. We were lucky enough to sit down with Houston author and sign language interpreter, Lynne Kelly, to talk about her upcoming release, Song for a Whale. A radiant story about a Deaf girl who sets out to show an isolated whale that he’s not alone, her novel was inspired by the plight of a real-life whale who sings at a much higher pitch than other whales.
To 12-year-old Iris, who has always felt separated from her hearing friends and family, that sort of loneliness feels all too familiar. So when she hears about the whale (named Blue 55) whose voice goes unrecognized by others of his kind, she feels a compulsion to help. What follows is a wildly hopeful quest to prove to Blue 55 he’s not alone by sharing music composed to match his singular frequency. The thing is that Blue’s heading for Alaska and Houston isn’t exactly en route. But she finds an unexpected ally (and travel partner) in her Deaf grandmother who’s looking to leap back into life after a tragedy. Before anyone can stop them, the two conspirators have headed north to make new friends, touch glaciers, rock some cruise ship karaoke, and find one very special whale. Continue reading
This week I asked all my DDG booksellers to talk a little about the book they care about selling the most this Holiday season.
Eliot: My favorite book from this year is Ottolenghi’s new cookbook, Ottolenghi Simple. I like the book for a number of reasons, from its intuitive layout and easy to follow directions to its categorization of recipes by time, number of ingredients and overall difficulty, which is great if you’re short on time or just feeling lazy (which is its own category in the book). What I love most, though, is the sheer number of times I’ve been totally surprised by the flavor of the dish I just made. I mean, I never thought anchovies could make an irresistible pasta sauce or that the outside skin of lemon could add more flavor than the juice itself. I love trying new things and being surprised and this book has yet to fail me in both those regards.
We’re in the home stretch, fellow Santa staff and holiday helpers, and I’m proud to know each and every one of you. With just two weeks to go (plus or minus your store’s Christmas Eve special hours, or Christmas Day service — I’m looking at you, airport and resort stores) we will be putting the last few boxes on the sleigh very, very soon, and settling down for our own long winter’s nap. I wanted to use my post this week (which you won’t have time to read, but you can forward it to one of your elf-interns) to cover a few key reminders for success in this tinsel-covered marathon.
Guess what, folks? It’s the second Josie Leavitt guest post of the season! Josie writes:
This is not the first time I’ve written about snacks, and it likely won’t be the last, even though I’m officially retired from the store. (I suspect I will always fill in at the store a little here and there and pull some more shifts during the holidays.) I realize, since I’ve been away, that I equate the store with certain food rituals. The biggest ritual is raiding the snack bin in the back room. Back in my tenure that snack bin could usually be counted on to have a myriad of yummies ranging from cookies, energy bars (usually only there as a last resort if someone had skipped lunch), candy bars and some sort of other sweet thing. The expectation of food runs very high during the holidays when we tend to act like we’re under siege every day and unable to leave the premises.
I’m a little embarrassed to admit this publicly, especially since I’ve been selling audio books for the last few years through my bookstore’s website, but until recently I’d never actually read an entire book that way. I’d downloaded some with the best of intentions but never quite followed through, mostly due to some assumptions about my inability to focus on long-form audio. Continue reading
As the holiday season arrives, I take a moment to refresh my mental arsenal of go-to funny picture books, because at this time of year in our store, funny stories simply fly. We certainly sell plenty of luminous, moving, and heartfelt picture books in December, but invariably the bestselling picture book from our holiday catalog each year has been funny—books like The Bad Seed, Lion Lessons, The Princess and the Pony, Unicorn Thinks He’s Pretty Great, or Niño Wrestles the World. And of course there’s always and forever Bark, George. Funny books often offer irresistible, bite-sized “hooks,” and they’re a safe bet with a broad swath of kids. I totally get it. Unlike my oldest son who has always wanted to listen to any book someone was willing to read him, my youngest honestly tends to wander off part of the way through unless something captivates him early on with a dramatic twist, interactive element, or hilarious surprise. Continue reading
This year was different. A haunting will do that, I suppose. Compiling our annual list of the top books for the season, The Holiday 20, is always a reflective experience, a kind of retail meditation. The list is the core of our fourth quarter marketing, in store, on our website and in the Gift Guides of two local newspapers. The particular qualities of tone, sentiment, the nature of the reading experience, and the adherence to the interests of an established gift recipient pool which commend a book as a great seasonal present, mark the Holiday season at the bookstore as a kind of parallel dimension, an extra room that appears once a year and then fades back into ephemera.
After the list was completed I became aware of shadow presences that had been lurking in the periphery, ghosts, the books of Holiday 20s past. Given its mystical aspects it is actually surprising that I have never experienced a Holiday 20 haunting before now. Though to be sure time plays the crucial role of stowing away years of such lists, their forgotten glories and failures, before a haunting can manifest.
Tuesday morning, bright and chipper, feeling refreshed from my four hours of actual sleep following the several hours of tossing and turning that is traditional for retailers in the month of December, I pulled into the store parking lot two hours before opening. I was feeling smug about the bag of muffins on the passenger seat that I had remembered to pick up on Monday afternoon for story time, and the file folder full of completed order forms that a kind school media specialist had dropped off at a library author event the night before. Look at my efficiency! Bravo to my multi-tasking! I was holiday sweatered and sensibly shod for a full day of recommending great books, wrapping adorable gifts, and spreading literary sunshine… well, at least melting some hearts and their icy grip on their wallets.
A customer came in today to scout some possibilities for her seven-year-old’s Christmas presents. Young Rose’s wish list includes “a fluffy fluffy robe,” “a real pink clock,” and “a fancy readable chapter book just for me.” This last item is what she came in for, and Rose’s mom wanted to spot some titles to run by Santa.
The words “readable… just for me,” Rose’s mother explained, means that she wants a chapter book she can read on her own without adult help. Rose reads at around an easy reader level 2, so it turned out to be a bit of a challenge to find a chapter book that fit the description.
Snowflakes dangle from the ceiling, wrapped shelves gleam in gold and silver, catalogs are stacked on practically every surface, and books are piled as far as the eye can see. The holiday season is upon us, and the bookselling elves have certainly been busy!
We just finished putting up our very last holiday display up today, so I thought it might be fun to check in with the mad paper cutting genius who spearheads our wrapping and cutting and twirling every year. Merrilee Wilkerson has been making things look pretty at BookPeople for 24 years, and she graciously offered some expert tips for aspiring elves. Continue reading