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?”
There is no award ceremony more august, nor more somber, than DDG’s Stocking Stuffer of the Year Award. 2017, the ninth annual bestowal, has a distinct purpose, to restore the spotless integrity the award process enjoyed before our judges, in 2015 and 2016, ended up walking away with the top award themselves. To avoid this shame in 2017, I have asked our all-time top-selling sideline item, The Tantrix Discovery Puzzle, to be our judge. The Tantrix’s spotless reputation is of long standing and should insure a high standard this year from top to bottom.
One thing to know about The Tantrix Discovery Puzzle is that, like many clairvoyants from Pythia to the Alethiometer, the Tantrix speaks in patterns which must be interpreted. Fortunately, years of demoing the puzzle have made me fluent in interpreting the Tantrix’s speech.
…. for the bountiful blessings of spring advance copies, arriving daily by the boxful from our sales reps and publishers. Let their sturdy weight prop open our back doors so that the UPS and FedEx staff can wheel in the cartloads of holiday merchandise. We dream of someday reading these Spring and Summer offerings after the snow falls. Oh, wait, we have to shovel the sidewalk first, and add salt…
….to the turkeys. What were we thinking (???) when we bought all that merchandise at summer gift shows, in tucked-away booths in the corners of the fall regionals, and from unsolicited emails from vaguely familiar gift rep groups, which we carefully unpacked and priced and displayed, just SURE that they would sell like last spring’s fad fidget…
Image courtesy of https://www.pinterest.com/source/theeducatorsmarket.com/
The year’s cash flow for many bookstores dips just after summer and before the holidays. This is unfortunate timing. Fall is the biggest book-release season, so by the end of October and November, we have received hundreds of new books and thus owe a boatload of money to publishers in the two months *before* holiday shopping picks up. As I sat in my office paying bills the other day, a line from Poe’s famous poem, “The Bells,” began rolling through my brain, but instead of Poe’s “tintinnabulation of the bells, bells, bells,” I had a slightly different take. With apologies to our lyrical pal, Edgar A., here goes:
The Bills (dedicated to my colleagues in bookselling) Continue reading
Does your love of kid lit permeate every aspect of your life? If you, like me, have been looking for a way to incorporate your love of children’s literature into this year’s Thanksgiving celebrations with family and friends, look no further than these cookbooks featuring a wide and somewhat quirky array of recipes drawn from the texts of classic children’s books. Continue reading
Merrilee displays one of the hundreds of snowflakes she cuts every year.
Putting up our Giving Tree is a tradition that marks the beginning of our in-store holiday season. Inspired by the legendary Giving Tree program run by Carol Chittenden, former owner of Eight Cousins bookstore in Falmouth, Mass., our tree allows our customers to celebrate the holiday by giving books to those who need them the most. We fill the branches with hand-cut snowflakes tagged with kids’ names or book requests, depending on the featured organizations, and then our customers select and donate gifts to match. It’s an endeavor that I look forward to every year.
Our tree evolves based on our partners, so the format shifts from year to year. Sometimes organizations submit lists of specific kids whose first names and ages we print on snowflakes. Customers choose a name, select a gift, and leave it to be wrapped with the personalized snowflake as a one-of-a-kind gift tag. Sometimes, like this year, our snowflakes feature book requests from local high-impact nonprofits that we support. Continue reading