I know the coloring book craze has taken hold as a way for adults to relieve stress. But I am finding more comfort, as are my friends, by revisiting favorite picture books. I have been struggling with a rare case of insomnia that has me reaching for beloved picture books, both old and new, as the I watch the nighttime hours tick away. There is something lovely about picture books that can not only help with sleeplessness but with many adult stresses. A dear friend is moving to Chicago and we spent much of brunch talking about the impending move and the inherent anxiety around it. She offered that her journal and her picture book collection are helping keep her sane as she prepares to move. Continue reading
Kenny’s charming post yesterday, The DDG Deserving Reader Award Takes Root, reminds me that I have been meaning to celebrate the newest winner of the Flying Pig’s award for as-yet-unpublished humor writing. Every year, we give this award to a Vermont College of Fine Arts student. Back in 2004, when I graduated from their fabulous MFA program in writing for children and young adults, there were several literary awards available to students, but, as with many awards, they tended to go to more serious manuscripts; drama “weighs” more than comedy, although both forms take tremendous skill. So, back at work, we created the Flying Pig Grade-A Number-One Ham Humor Award, or FPGANOH-HA! (Pronounced, of course, eff-puh-gah-no-ha!, emphasis on the ha.)
As unseemly as it is to fall in love with one of your own store’s programs, I’m afraid that fate has befallen me regarding our DDG Deserving Reader Award. The DDG Deserving Reader Award, as reported earlier here by The Shelftalker News Desk, was created when my Harper sales rep Olga Nolan called to say that she wanted to help celebrate DDG’s 25th anniversary by donating $25. The money, however, had to be spent at the store by a child who loved to read but whose family couldn’t afford to buy him books.
Before I mention some of my recent best listens, I want to send out a request to publishers to make digital audiobooks as readily available as print ARCs. I am trying to read so many books from current and upcoming seasons; audiobooks are an invaluable help for my ordering. So pretty please, publishers, consider posting audio content to Edelweiss and/or NetGalley.
I have been on an audiobook tear lately. Booksellers are supposed to be reading months ahead of publication dates so that we can make informed orders for upcoming books. This means that we never, ever catch up with the current season’s or—heaven forbid—last season’s books that we’ve been dying to read. While I try to be more strict with myself about the books and ARCs I am reading (future and current seasons), I am more lenient with my listening self.
There are seasons to genres in the book world. Every year I’m amazed at the consistency of customers with their seasonal reading. Summer is the time of light books, mysteries, beach reads, chick lit, and fun books. The winter is the time of dense books that require more thought. Here’s the thing: I’ve never understood this. It’s always struck me that the order should be reversed but that clearly might just be me. There has always been something slightly depressing about reading books with harder themes in the winter when the weather is bleak and it’s dark so early. This is the season that I prefer to read the lighter books that are set in sunny climates. But clearly I’m in the minority based on what’s selling at my store. Continue reading
Sixteen years ago the great African American poet and children’s book author Lucille Clifton spent a week in Farmington as a Visiting Writer at the University of Maine at Farmington. The first time I met Lucille was the occasion when she steamed into the store and headed over to the picture book section. Almost without hesitation she announced, “You need more black faces in this section. The white children in Farmington need to see more faces of color. They can’t just see images of themselves.” Lucille punctuated this last observation by pointing at a picture book on a counter display. The funny thing was that the book in question was I Love You Like Crazy Cakes, which featured an adopted Chinese toddler on the cover.
I pointed that out to her and we had a good laugh over it. Lucille, it turned out, had a great sense of humor and was a panic in general. Afterwards she said, “My point remains.” I responded by saying that we actually did have a fair number of titles featuring African American protagonists and that they were mixed in with the other titles. Diverse books did not have their own section. Lucille asked me to point them out to her. That was an interesting and instructive exercise. I had more diverse books than she thought I did, but less than I thought I did.
The most important thing about being an ally to any cause that isn’t inherently one’s own is to remember to listen more than you speak. I’ve written a lot about diversity in publishing and children’s books in this blog over the years, and it has been a roller coaster of hope and frustration, progress and molasses. And while I sincerely hope my words have been more help than hindrance to the cause, it seems to me that maybe I could be most helpful by stepping aside regularly to share the microphone of ShelfTalker with my bookselling colleagues of color to hear a diversity of voices in this blog firsthand.
The Scholastic Summer Reading Roadtrip winged its way to the Flying Pig yesterday and many children came to enjoy this amazingly fun event. This event seemingly went off without a hitch when the doors opened and the kids arrived. As so often is the case with events, there was much craziness before this one started that was all sorted out in the nick of time. Events are complex creatures that have many moving parts, and when one part is suddenly out of line, there can be a domino effect that creates mild to moderate chaos. This event had several things that were stress-inducing, chief among them were guessing at the weather and a building issue that raised safety concerns. Continue reading
One thing that’s hard about celebrity spotting at the bookstore is that we can’t divulge names without violating our customers’ privacy, so we have to tell our stories with a little scrim in front of the most salient details. Still, I can’t resist sharing an anecdote from this week, because I come off like such an ass in it that I am still laughing and kicking myself in equal measure.
I have had an Orb Summoner for over a year. The Librarian of Years gave it to me when I asked her whether any of her colleagues read books well on into the future. “Ah,” she said, “only The Orb reads deep into the future, she is our seeress. Here is an Orb Summoner. It will go off if she is willing to speak with you about a book on the distant horizon.”
As of this morning it had never once lit. I happened to be staring at the Orb on my desk, actively wondering whether the Librarian had simply fobbed me off with a placebo of sorts, when it began to glow. I looked into the Orb and the Seer looked back!