The title of this post is a little misleading; for any reason I could isolate as the reason we do this thing, someone could pipe up, “Not me! That’s not the main reason I write/illustrate/edit/design children’s books!” But I can say with utter faith that all of us live for the moments when we see our work connecting with young readers. That is joy. Witness three-year-old Duncan’s delight reading a Mo Willems Elephant and Piggie book:
As booksellers, the daily mail delivery brings all kinds of good surprises. A lot of those surprises are from publishers sending us different kinds of materials to make our jobs easier—from advance copies of books to collateral to storytime kits to whimsical tie-in promo items. These mailings are invaluable, so I am definitely not complaining. That being said, managing the mail can be a surprisingly challenging task. When a busy week rears its head (say, during the final throes of planning an upcoming festival), it feels like I can blink and the walls around my desk are suddenly closing in. I always get asked about what mailings are useful to our store, so I thought I’d take a little tour through the boxes after a small build-up. What’s inside, you ask? Well, let’s see! Continue reading
As I was making my way to the Glade for our seventh annual interview with Summer, I found myself reflecting on a recently finished book, The Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert. My thoughts turned unbidden to the nature of the very Glade which I was approaching and whether it might in fact have common aspects with the Hazel Wood. Was storytelling a metaphor or a spell for world building, and if a spell who was telling the story here in the Glade? Now I’m not normally much of a lad for this sort of reflective thought, and I began to wonder if I was in fact ensorceled myself. Or was it just the odd turn of the seasons back in Maine where all the talk was of having pared down from four seasons to two this year, jumping from Winter straight to Summer. I put my disquiet aside. Needlessly.
“You should be going to every Girl Scout Jamboree in the country!” urged a troop leader to author-illustrator Sarah Dillard. Sarah, whose Mouse Scouts chapter book series is beloved by Daisies, Brownies, and Girl Scouts the nation over, had been invited to the Girl Expo in Vermont on our state fairgrounds, and her publisher, Random House, arranged for a booth where we could set up and sell the books. What struck me was how many Daisy and Brownie leaders hadn’t known about the books and were intensely interested in them. It was as though Sarah had filled a need in the Girl Scout universe heretofore unrecognized.
I wrote last year about partnering with the Austin chapter of the Anti-Defamation League to foster discussions about anti-bias and inclusivity. Since 2004, Austin schools have been implementing the Anti-Defamation League’s No Place for Hate® initiative, working together to challenge biases and pre-conceptions to help kids see themselves and each other with empathy. ADL has also done a lot of work to champion the idea that “books have the potential to create lasting impressions” through their Books That Matter program, a terrific book list we promote in-store. One of the books they have recently added to their recommendation list for topics of ability, disability, and ableism is Hello, Universe by Erin Entrada Kelly, which of course was recently honored with the Newbery Medal. So when we learned that Erin Entrada Kelly was coming to Austin for school visits, it seemed like a perfect opportunity to invite educators to join us for a directed discussion between Erin and ADL Austin’s education director, Jillian Bontke. Continue reading
PBS’s The Great American Read is an interesting beast. Of course any platform with broad reach whose reason for being is to explore and share the power of reading requires our promotional love and respect. Absolutely! Also, let us recognize at the outset that any top 100 books list will by necessity have grievous omissions and will please some people more than others. Yet here among our book industry selves it is still well worth considering the enterprise more critically.
My mother celebrated her 91st birthday last month at her assisted living senior residence. She’s lived there for almost four years now, initially going for a “brief stay, maybe a month or two” to recover from pneumonia. A couple of other illnesses followed, some arthritis gathered in her knees and shoulders, and then she found that she appreciated having others around for company, after living alone for some years after my dad died.
We kept their condominium nearby, all this time, just in case she decided to move back home with some visiting nursing as support. Each day or two, I drop by the empty residence and pick up the mail, run the water in the sink, and in the warmer weather, I water the hostas around the patio. But on her birthday last month, Mother decided that it was “all too much, really” and asked me to put the unit on the market. I began the process of finding all the documents, listing the property, and sorting through furniture and clothes, files and boxes of pictures, setting things aside for donation, to keep for someday grandchildren, or to move into my house for now. Some of it was easy: box up the dishes for college-aged kids moving into apartments, send the towels and sheets to the women’s shelter for folks starting over from scratch, and carry all those albums of black and white photographs home to spread out in the dining room at home and try to identify the generations of relatives and neighbors, birthdays and graduations.
This year’s ABA Children’s Institute is being held June 19-21 in New Orleans. An offshoot of the very popular Winter Institute, Children’s Institute is full of educational and networking opportunities tailored to booksellers specializing in children’s and young adult books. This is the sixth annual “kidstute,” and I’m excited to be attending for the first time this year. It will also be my first time visiting New Orleans, so I reached out to a few current and former NOLA residents to find out what I absolutely have to see in the limited time I’ll have to explore the city.
A couple of weeks ago, Austin author Chris Barton emailed to see if we could use a fresh infusion of signed stock and to let us know that he had proofs of Ekua Holmes’ gorgeous art for their upcoming Barbara Jordan picture book biography What Do You Do with a Voice Like That? to show us. Of course we were thrilled! We love seeing what Chris is working on. We’ve gotten to know Chris really well over the years, hosting him for release parties, educator panels, and even collaborating on a diverse book curation program together.
His email actually reminded me of the very first time I met Chris. Years ago, he came up to me at an event for a fellow SCBWI author to see if I wanted to look at an f&g of his first book, The Day-Glo Brothers, the story of the brothers who invented paint that glowed. I started thinking about different ways we have first connected with authors and how we might help make that interaction easier for local authors who are debuts or just new to town.
When you’ve owned a bookstore for what Dr. Phibes would have termed “some considerable time,” you have the mixed blessing of hiring many new booksellers along the way. I say mixed because it is often as Legolas described. “For such is the way of it: to find and lose, as it seems to those whose boat is on the running stream.” You see Farmington is a college town, being home to a small branch of the University of Maine, and I have had many great students work here for a time and then move on. Recently I had the pleasure of hiring someone who is a book person to her core, the delightful Clare Fournier! No need to take my word on that; here she is to answer a few questions for us.