Children’s Institute is one of my favorite book events of the year. It’s a conference that gathers booksellers, publishers, editors, publicists, authors, and illustrators passionate about books for children and teens. We know that, in addition to including the most rewarding and inventive of books imaginable, children’s books are also the segment of the book industry most helping to keep the whole darned machine afloat. Children’s Institute, with its author parties, educational sessions, keynotes with luminaries like Chelsea Clinton, Cheryl Willis Hudson and Wade Hudson, Phoebe Yeh, Kwame Alexander, Temple Grandin, and Angie Thomas, is a great big party / work-inspiration fest filled with some of the best people on the planet—which is why I am bereft that I am not able to be on a plane to New Orleans this week.
Events conspired to keep me from attending this year, which is a colossal bummer! My fellow ShelfTalker blogger pals doubtless will fill you in on the week’s grand activities. What I have to offer instead is this: seven things I’ll do to distract myself from the fact that I am not actually in The Big Easy and to create my own version of Children’s Institute here at home: Continue reading
Astronaut Clayton Anderson talks to a rapt audience.
I imagine it’s a different cycle for stores in resort communities, but for us the bulk of our kids events programming tends to correlate to the school year—whether that’s school events, book festivals put on in partnership with librarians, or bookfairs. Even our in-store author events calendar calms down a little bit for kids, as attention turns to stocking up on books for summer camp and vacations. Even though summer is always a shorter season than it seems, I find that this slower programming season offers an opportunity to step back and make sure that we follow through on all the things we’ve started along the way.
While it’s scaled back, our public author event schedule for kids isn’t totally on hiatus. Yesterday, we were lucky enough to host astronaut Clayton Anderson for more than 100 budding explorers—helping us test our new 4PM picture book event slot for the second time since we piloted it, and supporting the idea that this slightly earlier time just might be the solution to getting families through our area’s after work traffic crunch. It was an awesome, space-tastic event that let out in time for everyone to get home to dinner. I even picked up my own kids from camp early to join the fun. Although as this photo of my little astronauts proves, any well-planned event photo op is only as good as its participants!
Who are these children, you ask yourself? They are the students of two fourth grade classrooms at Cape Cod Hill School in New Sharon, Maine. I’ve had an Advance Reader’s Review project running for 12 years now with Mrs. Perry’s class there. Each year Katie breaks down the reading levels and interests of her students and then I bring in a set of ARCs, talk about the publishing process, and then leave them for the kids to read and produce reviews. Afterwards we get together again, look at their reviews online, and talk books.
I look forward to the project every year as the kids have always engaged strongly with it bringing insight, honesty, and charm to the table. It’s a chance for them to learn about the book industry while participating in it at the same time.
I’m spending the week in New Orleans at the American Specialty Toy Retailing Association (ASTRA) Marketplace and Academy, and in between enjoying the really great food, terrific jazz spilling out of every doorway, and the myriad of historical side streets to explore in the Queen City, I’m buying toys and games for the rest of the year for my store. I thought I’d offer you a beignet and a sip of my chicory coffee this week, while I share a few of the themes and highlights from the Land of Play. Here are some of the trends we’re talking about on the trade show floor.
Booksellers spend a lot of time honing our recommendations for customers, and we work to toe a graceful line between revealing enough of a wonderful book to hook a listener but not so much that we spoil a surprise or deprive readers of the joys of their own discovery. The unfolding of a story is a delicious treat, and its secrets should be held jealously by guardians.* There have been many times I’ve been grateful to begin a book without knowing anything about it. So how do we strike the right balance? And even when spoilers aren’t the issue, how do you craft a great book pitch? Here are the pointers I use for myself. I’d love to hear yours! Continue reading
At a recent school visit Hope Larson, who writes and draws amazing graphic novels for young people, said in her opening comments to the students that she refers to herself as a cartoonist, not a graphic novelist. This piqued my curiosity, as I often struggle with the correct nomenclature for comics and graphic novels and the people who create them. Based on past conversations on the children’s bookseller listserv I participate in, plenty of others in my job wrestle with this, too. So I followed up with Hope after the school visit and she shed some light on it for me.
Cartoonist Hope Larson (photo: Carolina Day School staff)
Schools are letting out, releasing kids into the glorious summer months. For many, summertime means camp, and for some that means leaving home for weeks at a time and heading into an uncertain future in the great outdoors. Sleepaway summer camp offers kids the opportunity to head off the beaten path, experience new things, and explore who they are on their own. Plunged into a completely foreign environment and routine, campers navigate a complex social world where personal identities are unknown and relationships must be negotiated from scratch. For some, camp offers exhilarating freedoms. For others, it offers deeply disconcerting new terrain. Either way, the experience is usually one to remember—a premise explored in two new graphic novels that explore the singular mix of excitement and adventure, anxiety and discomfort that can define the summer camp experience. Continue reading
I don’t know if necessity is the mother of invention but they are at least close relatives. Take ARCs, for example. We’ve always hated not finding them a good home once their sale date has come and gone. What is the definition of a good home? I have always considered it to be any place that allows the ARC to further achieve its reason for being, promoting a particular book and providing engagement with reading in general.
Karin among her charges.
Summer vacation began in earnest this week for our school-age kids, and the last of the high school commencements were held on Sunday. The graduation open houses, catered taco bars and video highlights of the JV tennis team season will sputter on for a month or more, but basically we’re in full sunscreen season here in Central Indiana. While our weekly activity and storytime schedule stays the same all year, lots of other things change in our store in the summertime, and we make some adjustments to accommodate the differences in tempo and volume.
I’ve been to 22 BookExpos over the years, and last week’s was on the quieter side, not as jam-packed as usual with booksellers and the general public (the latter surely poured in after I left, at Saturday’s BookCon). This was not a bad thing from an attendee standpoint; the lack of claustrophobia made browsing booths and meeting with editors, publicists, and authors much easier. Some of my discoveries are in a box heading back to Vermont, but I can share — in pictures more than words — a few of my favorite highlights, from inspiring speakers to cool promo merch to celebrity sightings: