\When I saw My Miniature Library from Lawrence King a few months ago, I instantly fell in love. It just delighted me on so many levels. I’ll admit that as a child I had a wall shelf in my room for years dedicated to displaying my collection of tiny things, so perhaps this spoke to my heart in a unique way, but I think the appeal is pretty universal. Offering 30 classic books from Jabberwocky and The Owl and the Pussycat to Thumbelina and The Frog Prince to books of birds and butterflies and maps, this big box offers a bounty of mini book magic.
We have been featuring the package prominently since it came out in September, but I had an epiphany today. Why not turn these awesome little books into Christmas ornaments to trim a charmingly bookish tree? A little cutting, folding, pasting, and voilà! As someone with limited patience for crafting, this was just right for my skill set too. I’ve started making them for the store display and am going to bring a second set home as a fun family project for the weekend. Continue reading
Looking at our staffing needs for the upcoming weekend I determined that we could use a bit of gift wrapping help. Some bookstore owners might have solved this problem through traditional means, such as hiring someone. Others. like Elizabeth, might have asked a former co-owner, none other than our old ShelfTalker stalwart Josie, to pitch in.
I considered the first option too mundane, and the second option impossible, and therefore cast my mind back to favorite childhood books for inspiration instead. I was rewarded with a resolve to follow a course charted by a character I absolutely loved as a child, The Toad from Mary Nash’s Mrs. Coverlet books. You see, in the second book, Mrs. Coverlet’s Magicians, The Toad ordered a dark magic kit from an advertisement on the back of a comic book, and he used the kit to great effect, sidelining the odious Miss Eva Penalty when she moved in as caretaker during the absence of the Coverlet children’s’ father. Not only that, but he even used the kit to draw forth a snow storm on Christmas Eve. Sure, Toad’s older siblings, serious Malcolm and practical Molly, were appalled by The Toad’s methods, especially Malcolm who had a complicated conscience after all. You see Toad had created a crude wax image of Miss Penalty laying peacefully in bed, which is just what happened for real as she stayed happily in the guest bed during her whole stay and never wished to leave it. Now some might consider Toad’s sorcery a dubious course of action, but I felt that his methods had worked splendidly and were not at all to be written off.
We’re in full-on elf at the shop, and the curling ribbon is flying. So, too, are the Post-It notes, as we endeavor to communicate between shifts and team members about new product, special orders, assembly instructions, and all the myriad of details it takes to successfully load the sleigh. Keeping in mind that many of our young customers are Santa experts, we cannot afford to slouch in the holiday magic department. Here’s a sampling of the collage of notes currently behind our register:
After being gone from bookselling for a year, I’ve been able to really see why bookselling is so much fun and so hard. During this holiday season I have had the pleasure of working at the bookstore for a few shifts and I’ll be working heaps more in the next two weeks. There is nothing quite like the Flying Pig, or any indie bookstore, on the weekends before Christmas. Customers were streaming in and we were short-staffed, and Elizabeth and I were the two staffers working. To say that we were busy is an understatement.
Elizabeth and I during a rare lull on Saturday.
I dusted off my Santa hat and worked this past Friday and Saturday. For the past year I’ve been the Development Director at the Pride Center of Vermont, the largest LGBTQ organization in the state. The work is fulfilling, taxing, and meaningful. And so is working at bookstore. What follows are a few observations from my bookstore weekend.
• Bookselling is very physical. By the end of Saturday’s eight-hour shift my shoulders from receiving, my hands hurt from shelving, my legs ached from running around the store all day, I got one paper cut, one cardboard burn. and almost sliced part of my thumb off wrapping a gift. And I didn’t get to eat lunch until 4.
At the center of La Belle Sauvage, the first book in Philip Pullman’s new trilogy, is a quest to reach sanctuary amidst many perils. For any new book the idea of sanctuary may be found in reaching the hands of its intended audience. Booksellers have a role to play in that quest and we tend to divide books into three categories. First, books that will achieve their quest without our help, books that will sell themselves. Second, books that are worthy of sanctuary and which will require our active assistance to get there. Third, books that are doomed, books beyond the aid of publicity, word of mouth or handselling.
When the first book of Pullman’s return to the world of The Golden Compass, La Belle Sauvage, was announced I figured that this book was a category one book, and that lovers of His Dark Materials would come streaming in to get it. That did happen in some places around the country but central Maine was not one of them. I was shocked by the lack of interest here. Since, for DDG, the first Book of Dust was not a category one, that meant determining if it was a category two or three, and if a two, how to do my part to aid its quest.
We’ve had varying levels of success with Santa at the shop over the years. Early on, we hired a Santa from a local talent service, and prepaid a sackful of money for a professional red-suited Claus, who appeared 5 minutes late, complained about the full parking lot (it’s CHRISTMAS, for heaven’s sake! drive around back, already) and wanted breaks every 45 minutes regardless of the length of the line of children waiting. It was not magical, but the pictures were good, and we had a big crowd. We replenished our bucket with miniature candy canes, totaled our sales for the day, and resolved to do it differently the next year.
The other day, we had a sale that might have been a first: we sold a stack of books intended to stock another bookstore. Not only that, but our customer admitted she was buying them for a big box store.
In her recent post Tinsel and Lists, my fellow ShelfTalker Cynthia mentioned the customers who have to make sure you stock [insert classic book title here] before deeming your bookstore worthy. We’ve all had those customers, as well as the oft-chuckled-about customers who test our knowledge base (albeit in a less haughty way) when they ask us for that book with the blue cover that used to be in the window and might have the word “the” in the title. In my experience, there are myriad ways we are tested every day.
Bad Kitty Takes the Test by Nick Bruel (Roaring Brook/Porter)
One busy day in the store recently, I rounded a corner to the endearing tableau of three little boys intently reading a book together, along with one of the store’s companionable dragons.
I loved this so much, the simple face-to-face connection, the way one book can bring people together. While this isn’t an unusual sight at the bookstore — families and friends look at books together all the time — these little guys’ absorbed, shared attentiveness went straight to my heart.
‘Tis the season of book lists: “Best Of’s,” “Top Tens,” and “Critic’s Choice.” Our social media feeds and our online newsletter subscriptions lead with titles like “Best Gift Books for Boys” and
“Books All Girls Should Read” as well as the picks from seemingly every public library system, every parenting magazine, every literary journal, and all the newspapers that print book reviews. Parents and grandparents forward and print out these lists, carry them into our stores, and use them as qualifiers for purchases (“this one is listed as a PERFECT gift for 10 year old boys…. he’s 6, but really, really bright…”) or offer them to us for fulfillment: “Here’s the list of the best books. Pick three, and wrap them separately. What’s your return policy?”