Like my friend and blogging colleague Elizabeth Bluemle, I have spent the last few days at the Javits Center, visiting the 116th annual NY Toy Fair (see Elizabeth’s fun roundup at Lions and Tigers and Toys, Oh My).
Climbing the stairs to “catch em all” at Javits.
I come to this event wearing several hats: as a board member of the American Specialty Toy Retail Association, I have some “hosting” duties at social events and use the opportunity to catch up with colleagues and projects; as a shopkeeper I have orders to place and vendors to visit in order to see new releases and make plans for the ever-important fourth-quarter sales; and as your personal ShelfTalker ambassador, I spend my time in the aisles looking for toy trends of the year. Some of these trends are actual types of products (like slime, putty, and modeling compounds), some are themes (like llamas, yetis, and pineapples), and still others are play patterns or reflections of our current societal interests (like superheroes and obsession with bodily functions). As I attempted last year in Postcard from Toy Fair, here’s my impressions of this year’s themes in play so far.
Photo from GearBrain
When I tell the untutored that I’m heading to Toy Fair in New York, their faces turn young and wonderstruck. “TOY FAIR?!” they say. You can hear the seven-year-old toy fanatic who lurks inside us all. It’s hard to burst their bubbles and tell them that, while this giant annual exhibit at the Javits Center is indeed filled to the rafters (literally) with toys, the convention itself is all business.
In order to get through the door, buyers have to provide two pieces of personal identification proving they work for their stores, along with three invoices totaling $1,000+ each for past toy purchases from various companies (not easy for smaller stores to provide). Not only aren’t children allowed into Toy Fair—admittedly, that could lead to meltdowns of epic proportions—but spouses aren’t welcome, either. Everyone who attends must be an exhibitor, an official buyer, or press. It’s pretty wild.
That’s Frank Domenico on the right, my great Ingram in-house rep. This photo is from an old NEIBA event but Frank was at WI14 stationed in the shipping area. Ingram provided the shipping services and even though other Ingram folks tried to get Frank to take a break and leave the shipping area, he refused and stayed there the whole Institute taping boxes for people and guarding the room all night!
The books and swag we ship back to ourselves from Winter Institute are time capsules of a sort. We experience the conference, packing up the books we pick up at author dinners and receptions in the shipping area as we go. The conference ages in our thought in normal time only to be reset suddenly when those shipped boxes reappear.
This phenomenon was particularly marked for those of us on the northeast this year given that the shipments were coming from Albuquerque. Truth to say they arrived last week and I had intended this post for last Thursday; however, a time-sensitive topic of importance was unfolding and I put this post off until today. That was unfortunate for two reasons. First, putting off a post which is literally about the interrelated flow of experiences over time exposes one to dark irony. Second, I am home this afternoon with a rare head cold and the Brechner brain is operating at around 5% of normal capacity. A terrifying thought, I know, but let’s not dwell on that.
The opening sentences of a book, like the first moments of a movie, set the stage for the story. First lines create expectations in readers, and the best storytellers use them to make a promise to us about the experience we are about to have. They set the tone for the entire book—not an easy undertaking. Because first lines are so important, and so challenging to do well, and so much fun to read, I scour ARCs (advance reading copies) every year looking for great openers. I’ve been doing this fairly regularly since 2010, and wow, have there been some incredible first lines! (I usually quote M.T Anderson’s in these annual great-first-line posts, because he is the undisputed master of first lines, but I shouldn’t repeat myself, so you can read some of his—along with other doozies) here.)
What follows are opening lines from books from winter and spring of 2019. (Please note: almost all of these are taken from ARCs. If you authors have revised these lines for the finished books, please contact me so I can edit. Here are the best first lines I’ve discovered so far: Continue reading
Customers give me things. Some call from the Starbucks drive thru down the street: “I need a birthday present for an eight-year-old girl, she’s a really good reader. Can you have it wrapped and run it out to the car – the baby is asleep – and do you need coffee?”
Some give me colds. “Do you have any ACHOO!!! oh, sorry! tissues? We just stopped by to find something for Matthew, here, to do. He’s been home from school for two days with a fever, and is just getting so bored! I thought a trip to the bookstore might cheer him up.”
Lots of children bring us pictures they’ve drawn, which I tape to the wall behind the counter, after careful discussion and admiration of their subject and technique. Some young friends bring me “treasures” – a favorite was a little boy who came in with a baggie containing some red string, a rock and a little plastic wheel. When I asked him if he wanted me to trade him something for this gift (every children’s shopkeeper should have a drawer full of stickers and publisher swag for just this purpose), he said “No, you can just keep it up here to look at it.” And I did.
It’s come to the attention of many independent booksellers that certain large publishing houses are placing ads on social media featuring links to buy their titles on Amazon. To be clear, I’m talking about “sponsored” (i.e. paid) posts, not free content. Not just regular posts saying “Buy our book” and pointing to Amazon instead of one or more of their other customers (say, Barnes and Noble, Target, or maybe the hundreds of independent booksellers on Indiebound.org) or even posts pointing to the publisher’s own title page, where several buying options are usually displayed in a line, sometimes including the option of bypassing retailers altogether and letting the consumer buy directly from the publisher. Nope. Continue reading
We run bookfairs for a growing number of local schools around town, the majority of which take place onsite at the schools. However, like many bookstores around the country, we offer an in-store bookfair program as well. Like any bookfair, the success of instore bookfairs varies wildly and really depends on the community engagement each school is able to generate to support their fundraiser. This week we hosted the annual instore bookfair for Casis Elementary, a school that always hits it out of the park. Their Family Night event at the store attracts hundreds and hundreds of people every year (our clicker count for the store logged over 800 people during their event on Tuesday) and creates an amazing energy that truly makes our store feel like theirs for a few magical, slightly chaotic hours.
One of the many things I love about YA literature is the responsibility the author has to her audience. This responsibility is nuanced and variable, but it is nonetheless real. Chuck Palahniuk doesn’t need to worry about it. Angie Thomas does. It entails empathy and caring for the reader’s experience, providing both truthfulness, understanding and hope in some form and measure. Mistakes are an opportunity, not a fatality. Effort has meaning, even if it is not a linear meaning. A given character may be evil, even unredeemable, but a reader’s humanity is understood as a given. A character may be given over to despair or sacrifice something in vain, but the reader will always find portals leading to a constructive understanding of the narrative left open to them.
Welcome to Nuremberg, Germany, and the 2019 Spielwarenmesse Toy Fair! This year I was thrilled to be invited to join a group of colleagues from the American Specialty Toy Association in an “exchange visit” of sorts to the world’s largest Toy Fair — some 12 FULL HALLS of toys, games and the magical stuff of play. If you have visited the Javits Center (and back in the day, the Fifth Ave. Toy Building) for New York Toy Fair, you know how enormous and overwhelming that show can be. The Nuremberg event, held from Jan 30 to Feb 3, hosted 70,000 visitors from 130 countries, with exhibitors grouped into 12 product categories ranging from infant play to high technology, from trains to dolls, games and building sets. The sheer size and scope of the event is both inspiring and exhausting, and while we walked for what seemed like miles of aisles each day, I am very sure that we only sampled a portion of the event. I thought I would share a few photos, to entice you all to join me next year!
This is one of Book Culture’s mystery books. Can you guess the book inside?
Flying Pig co-founder Josie Leavitt may be retired from bookselling (though she takes substitute shifts now and then), but she still loves books and indie bookstores. Recently, she was in NYC and visited Book Culture on the Upper West Side. She found herself intrigued by their display of ‘mystery date’ books: books wrapped in brown paper with no title, author, or publisher noted, just a few enticing clues to make readers want to take a chance on a blind date with the hidden title.
Josie and her partner took a chance on four of these unknown books and were delighted with their choices. They’ve read three of the four so far and all, Josie reported, “were right on target.” One was a short story collection her partner said she wouldn’t have picked up on her own, and she LOVED it.