Monthly Archives: March 2008

Could Nudity Harm Indiana’s Minors, Booksellers?

Alison Morris - March 31, 2008

One of the big topics in the bookselling world recently has been the news that the state of Indiana has put a new law on the books that will require any businesses that sell "sexually explicit material" to register with the state government. To quote from PW‘s article on this subject, "‘Sexually explicit material’ is defined as any product that is ‘harmful to minors’ under existing law. There is a $250 registration fee. Failure to register is a misdemeanor."

While the law applies only to stores that are newly established, relocated, or that to sell "sexually explicit material" for the first time after the law goes into effect on July 1st, established bookstores are understandably upset about it. The American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression has condemed the law on grounds that it is a violation of Indiana booksellers’ (and customers’) First Amendment rights and therefore unconstitutional. They are considering filing a legal challenge to the law.

Indiana booksellers, 15 of whom signed a letter sent by ABFFE to Indiana’s governor last week, are concerned that the state’s vague definitions of "sexually explicit material" could get them into trouble for selling books on health and human sexuality, many titles considered classic literature, and who-knows-how-many young adult novels.

The Indiana Library Federation’s "Intellectual Freedom Manual" provides more specific insight into the wording Indiana uses in Title 35, Article 49. Matter is reportedly considered "harmful to minors" if it "describes or represents, in any form, nudity, sexual conduct, sexual excitement, or sado-masochistic abuse; considered as a whole, it appeals to the prurient interest in sex of minors; it is patently offensive to prevailing standards in the adult community as a whole with respect to what is suitable matter for minors; and considered as a whole, it lacks serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value for minors."

Could this be any LESS specific??

The fact that nudity in itself is considered "harmful to minors" threw me for a loop. I expected to see "sexual conduct" mentioned, but nudity?! How many art books can you think of that DON’T contain nudity? Or, to play the opposite end of the age spectrum, how many potty training books avoid images of naked toddlers?

As for the "prurient interest in sex of minors," it raises for me the same question asked (in the Indianapolis Star article) by Henry Carlson, a professor at Indiana University School of Law-Indianapolis and expert on the First Amendment: "The problem is, minors have an interest in sex, prurient or otherwise, and how do you distinguish what is normal and what is prurient?"

Question on the table: If you were (or are) an general or children’s bookseller in Indiana, what do you do under this new law? Do you register with the state and see your store’s name listed alongside self-professed peddlers of pornography? Or do you make the decision NOT to register, and run the risk of facing charges or being fined? You tell me.

And if you have an answer to the question of how you determine whether a teenager’s interest in sex is normal or prurient, I’d like to know that too!

Will Future Dolls Have to Settle for Mundane Meals?

Alison Morris - March 27, 2008

I was guilty of considerable sighing and whining this week when I discovered that one of my favorite titles to handsell is in the spring is now out of print: Mudpies and Other Recipes: A Cookbook for Dolls written by Marjorie Winslow and illustrated by the brilliant Erik Blegvad (who illustrated another out-of-print favorite, Hurry, Hurry, Mary Dear! by N.M. Bodecker). At some point I ought to write this book a proper bibliobituary, but first I’d like to give it a lengthier salute here.

Originally published by The MacMillan Company in 1961, Mudpies is one of those perfect little gift books that I suspected suffered some for its inability to fit perfectly in any one section of a bookstore. It’s got the trim size of a chapter book but doesn’t really belong with those like-sized titles as it hasn’t got true chapters — it’s a recipe book (obviously). It would easily get lost in a cookbook section, though, as it’s so very small and thin, and besides, it doesn’t really BELONG in the cookbook section, unless you’ve got small children and dolls browsing in yours, which most of us do not.

In our store this book took up residence in our "small books" section, which sits above our picture books and (I’ll admit) is often overlooked by our customers. Occasionally the book would also get moved to a place of honor among the featured gift books or "small gems" that routinely rotate in and out of position near our cash registers. But my favorite spot to feature Mudpies was on our annual spring-themed book display, where some lucky customer would inevitably find it and utter audible chuckles as they found themselves being completely and utterly charmed by its contents, which are indeed completely and utterly charming.

Yes, this book is indeed a cookbook for dolls, and a very detailed, deadpan one at that. Allow me to reprint a few selections from the text for you from my very own copy of the book which (THANK GOODNESS) I bought before it couldn’t be easily had.

First, a snippet from the book’s foreward:

Doll cookery is not a very exacting art. The time it takes to cook a casserole depends upon how long your dolls are able to sit at table without falling over. And if a recipe calls for a cupful of something, you can use a measuring cup or a buttercup. It doesn’t much matter. What does matter is that you select the best ingredients available, set a fine table, and serve with style.

Here is one of the book’s five recipes for Appetizers:

Scoop up a shovelful of sand that has just been licked by a wave. Pack this into the tiniest sea shells you can find . Sprinkle these with a pinch of dry sparkling sand and serve.

From Soups, Salads & Sandwiches:

Pick a flower from a dogwood tree. Remove the petals and place them on a flat pan or rock. In each petal wrap a long green pine cone and secure with a toothpick. Broil in the sun.

From Main Dishes, my favorite recipe in the book:

Melt one ice cube in a skillet by placing it in the sun. When melted, add 1 cup water and sauté slowly — until water is transparent. Serve small portions, because this dish is rich as well as mouth-watering.

The Pastries & Desserts section follows in the same manner and includes recipes for Mud Pies, Mud Pies à la Mud, Pie-Throwing Pies, Easy As Pies, Sawdust Cake, Pine Needle Upside-Down Cake, Pencil Sharpener Pudding, Putty Fours, Instant Mud Custard, and this one…

Pick a dandelion from the lawn carefully, so as not to disturb the fluff. Hand it to your doll and tell her to lick.

By now you have the idea. The book concludes with four recipes for beverages (including Rainspout Tea) and Suggested Menus.

What you don’t get from my little snippets here is the joy of seeing this text alongside Eric Blegvad’s perfect pen and ink illustrations. To get the full effect, you’ll just have to get your hands on a copy of this book. Somewhere… Somehow… (sigh)

Happy 30th Anniversary, Children’s Book Shop!

Alison Morris - March 25, 2008

A little over a week ago I spent a lovely evening at the Children’s Book Shop in Brookline Village, where Gareth and I joined a crowd of others celebrating the store’s 30th anniversary and toasting its inimitable owner, Terri Schmitz.

I’ve been wanting to feature photos of Terri’s store for ages now and just hadn’t yet made it over there with my camera. This party, though, was the swift kick I needed. Unfortunately it was also a bit distracting! Who knew it would be so hard to be social and remain focussed on documenting the store itself? As a result this post may include less about the little details of Terri’s store than I’d like. But it will include more people, as a trade-off!

The Children’s Book Shop sits just a few paces from the Brookline Village stop on the T (Boston’s subway system), which means it’s in a great location for foot traffic. It’s also about half block from a MAJOR intersection on one of Boston’s biggest thoroughfares. But… you wouldn’t know either of those things from the photo below, which I happened to snap at an freakishly quiet moment! Trust me when I say that there are normally a lot more cars on the street and people on the sidewalk. I wanted to include this shot despite its ghost town appearance so that you see could the lovely old building that’s home to the store, and note the fact that it’s abutted by other small businesses, of which there are many more on this street.

Below is (obviously) a shot taken in much closer range! What looks like a sculpture of a bicycle out front is actually one of the town’s newer bike racks.

And here is one of Terri’s wonderful window displays! Yes, she does them herself; yes, they’re usually quite elaborate; and no, I don’t know how she finds the time!!

The current display has a princess theme, which you might have guessed from the books in the shot below, or the presence of the pink-lipped frog…

Or the castle from which dangles a fantastic Rapunzel braid! The left side of the window features a pumpkin-shaped carriage,which you can just barely glimpse in my full display photo above.

And now we’ve stepped inside the door, where Terri’s and my Little, Brown rep Roger Saginario is apparently doing his best imitation of Richard Nixon for Terri’s and my Harper Collins rep, Anne DeCourcey. Ducking between them is Jackie Miller of Reach Out and Read. And, yes, that is the back of the store you can see there. But don’t be fooled by the size of the place. Terri packs more quality literature and expertise into this small space than most stores several times as large.

On the left below is the woman of the hour, Terri Schmitz, being entertained by the always entertaining Karen Gudmundson, who is also a HarperCollins rep, though she no longer sales to either me or Terri. (Remember my remarks about the close relationships many of us forge with our reps? Well, here’s proof we still socialize with them even when they’re no longer "ours.")

In the next photo, wearing a hat (her signature accessory) is the legendary, nice-as-can-be Anita Silvey. Talking with Anita is Rusty Browder, who owned the Children’s Book Shop for seven years before Terri bought it from her (23 years ago, for those of you slow with the math).

And this is author/illustrator Leo Landry who was manager of the Children’s Book Shop for 20 years before he switched to writing and illustrating books full-time. Standing beside him is Erica Wainer, longtime Children’s Book Shop bookseller turned Houghton Mifflin editor.

Did you notice the books those two are carrying above? That’s The Wall tucked under Leo’s arm and Tree of Life being cradled by Erica. Both Leo and Erica were taking advantage of the opportunity to get books signed by Terri’s dear friend, the amazing Peter Sis.

The shot below shows a glimpse of life behind the store’s front counter. Here’s how said counter looks as you’re approaching it, IF the people behind it at that time are Peter, former bookseller Polly Cornblath, current bookseller Courtney, and (playing the part of sommelier) Polly’s husband, Mark Manin.

As for Peter’s presence at the party, this is not the first time he’s helped Terri celebrate a Children’s Book Shop milestone. He created a fantastic poster in celebration of the store’s 20th Anniversary that looks like this:

The posters are available for sale in the store and you can admire them as you walk through the aisles, as several have been dry-mounted and hung such that they dangle above you as you browse, like this:

In the photo below Peter is saying wonderfully entertaining, sincere things about Terri and her store:

And here he leads us all in a toast to a wonderful woman and a wonderful store:

And here is where the social tour abuts the physical store tour. Yes, that’s food for the party below, but see what’s behind it? The beginning reader section! Like our store (which I promise to feature soon) Terri’s section includes a couple spinner racks, in addition to what you see on the shelves of the case where (oh, what a luxury!) all books can be displayed face-out! Jealous, jealous.

Behind the beginning reader section, to the right, is the center aisle at the back of the store. Because the bookcases in the center of the store are (until the very back bit) low, and have a flat top, books can be displayed face out along the entire length of the cases, which is something I wish we could do at our store. Because you can see over the bookcases you can also get your bearings easily and find your way to the sections you’d like to see. The colorful tags you see sticking out from the history section are the dividers between subsections. When was the last time you were in a store with enough children’s non-fiction to warrant "Gold Rush" subsecti
 or "Vietnam War"? In a library this wouldn’t be unusual, but in a bookstore? Extremely rare.

The taller bookcase at the end of the center aisle contains the poetry section.

To the right of the center aisle is this one, featuring books in foreign languages.

Here’s a shot looking over the Activities, Sports, and Humor sections in the center aisle to the back right corner, where Gareth is chatting in front of the Multicultural Books section.

What you can’t see in the photo featuring Gareth above is the audiobook section, which is to the right of the natural-colored wood rack in the right-hand corner above. Most bookstores are seeing a decline in their audiobook sales these days, as increasing numbers of customers seem to be downloading them online. But Terri’s store still stocks an impressive selection.

On the store’s back wall, to the right is "New Non-Fiction." Again, you know you’re in a GOOD bookstore with a lot of non-fiction when they’ve got enough new older non-fiction to warrant separating out the new and featuring it in this fashion.

And to the left of that, "Natural Science," which occupies two entire cases.

And to the left of that, the Young Adult section:

Now we’re in the back left corner of the store, where we can turn around and look all the way up to the front counter. To our right is the Intermediate Fiction section. Feel free to pause in this aisle and take a seat on the bench that blends in so nicely with the bookcases around it.

Walking towards the front of the store, you pass the Intermediate Fiction section then arrive at the picture books. (See the first Young Adult bookcase way back there in the corner? That’s where we just were, one photo ago.)

Do an about face from here and you’ll be looking over the board book case (which I somehow failed to photograph!) at the bookcases that are on your right as you enter the store. They feature new picture books, new novels, seasonal displays, and… plush. Great book-related plush!

And that pretty much concludes your not-entirely-detailed-but-a-decent-overview tour of the Children’s Book Shop! The one space that’s not the least bit covered here is the basement, which is home to Terri’s office and the store’s overstock, but I wasn’t about to duck out of the party to photograph the "inner sanctum." You’ll have to ask Terri to give you the FULL tour when you drop by her store.

Here, though, is the original drawing by local author/illustrator Peter Reynolds that hangs on the basement door, where our tour ends.

My night at the Children’s Book Shop’s 30th anniversary celebration ended with the gift that went to every guest at the evening’s party — a fabulous goody bag…

that contained this signed print by Peter Sis:

Yep. Now I’ve got yet ANOTHER reason to love Terri and her wonderful store. And as the sign below attests, I’m HARDLY the only one with those feelings… It takes a village (a Brookline Village in this case!) to keep ANY store in operation for 30 years.

Edible Reading, Readable Eating

Alison Morris - March 24, 2008

I have not yet met Laura and Leo Espinosa, the duo behind Otis and Rae and the Grumbling Splunk, a new Houghton Mifflin picture book that is splashy, spunky, and almost spelunky (the characters go camping, not caving).

I have, however, snooped around on Laura and Leo’s lively website and spent time on Leo’s blog, in preparation for meeting this husband-and-wife team at next weekend’s Belmont Children’s Picture Book Festival organized by author Melissa Stewart.

There’s lots of fun stuff on Leo’s blog, including some fantastic sketches, but what really rocked my socks was this: A FRANNY K. STEIN BIRTHDAY CAKE!!

Franny is the wacky mad scientist star of the Franny K. Stein series by Jim Benton, which just happens to be a hit with lots of first through third graders and a few older kids too (e.g. the person writing this blog). Part of the reason I dig Franny so is that boys love her. Did you catch that? BOYS love this series of books about a GIRL. How I wish that wasn’t such a rare thing! And how glad I am that at least some gals like Franny are helping to bridge that aggravating gender gap. (While messing about with chemistry sets, no less.)

In any case, apparently Leo’s son Ben is one of Franny’s many boy fans, hence the reason he wanted a Franny cake for his birthday. And what a cake! I’m not sure when I’ve seen a better home-baked likeness.

Paired with last week’s post about the birthday cake our store got for Pete, our receiver, I realize I seem to be running with a cake theme these days. By coincidence my timing is perfect! The annual Edible Book Festival falls on (or about) April 1st every year. That means it’s time to fire up your mixers, folks!

A few of last year’s entries that tie in with spring and the holidays:

The Bake Way for Ducklings entry in the 2006 University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Library and Information Studies Edible Books Festival:

And the Passover Haggadah created by Gene Epstein for the 2007 Edible Books Festival at Loganberry Books in Cleveland, OH:

Have you hosted one of these events at your store or library? And if so, was it a hit? I’m thinking our store ought to get on this bandwagon in future years. And that we should invite Leo and Laura Espinosa to participate!

Sitting on a Great Story

Alison Morris - March 22, 2008

Would-be authors: tired of wondering if your manuscripts are being rejected without even having been read? Worried your well-chosen words will never surface from the slush pile? Have I got a solution for you!

Why not head over to the lobby of your favorite publisher sporting pants like these "Story Book Jeans" I spotted recently on Etsy:

I say break out your faded denim and go to town! How could anyone NOT look at your butt when it’s sporting your novel’s wildly arresting first sentence? Or, if you’re worried you’d be sitting on the better parts of your story, maybe you could thumbnail your picture book up the side seam of your pants leg, then casually cross your legs when you take a seat across from that editor you’ve always admired. It seems to me that this is a much easier route than tattooing yourself with words or images from your would-be book, seeing as how you’d pretty quickly run out of visible surface space on which to promote your NEXT future award-winner.

Of course it’s true that either of these methods could easily land you in an article like the one great one featured in Children’s Bookshelf two years ago, in which editors recounted the oddest places they’d had anyone pitch a book to them. But, hey, at least you’ll feel like someone actually saw your work. Even if it they only saw it for as long as it took you to pass them by.

Let the Receivers Eat Cake

Alison Morris - March 19, 2008

We’ve got one guy at our store who does all the receiving and returns work for our busy business: Pete Sampson. How Pete can keep it all straight is beyond me (especially when he splits his time between our store and Brandeis University, where he’s the assistant track & field coach), but he does so without complaint and with a stellar sense of humor. We couldn’t help playing to that when we purchased a cake in celebration of Pete’s recent 38th birthday. I doubt the bakers at Roche Brothers (our local grocery store) had been asked to write this exact message in icing before, but Pete certainly found it entertaining:

To all you hard-working receivers out there, I lift a fork to you! Here’s hoping your year is one of intact boxes, accurate packing slips, and an ample supply of box cutters.

Do You See What I See?

Alison Morris - March 18, 2008

I love that you never know what a particular kid is going to connect with in any given book. You’ll often expect it to be X, but later find it was Y, which is often some variable you hadn’t even considered before!

Such was the case for me recently, when I sent three books to a kindergarten-aged pal o’ mine named Mirin. In Mirin’s package were The Girl in the Castle Inside the Museum written by Kate Bernheimer and illustrated by Nicoletta Ceccoli, Timothy and the Strong Pajamas by Viviane Schwarz (which I asked her to please share with her younger brother Rowan), and The Luck of the Loch Ness Monster written by A.W. Flaherty and illustrated by Scott Magoon.

In the case of the latter, I thought maybe the monster theme or the picky eating theme or the plucky girl theme or even the sea-going boat theme would probably stand out for Mirin, but… no. She latched onto a still-more kid-friendly theme than any of these — one I barely noted as I read the book, and should have. Obviously. Duh.

An expert artist and writer (I can’t believe she writes like this in kindergarten), here’s the Valentine I received from Mirin:

Tucked inside it was this note: 

Translation: "Dear Alison, Thank you for the books. I took the Loch Ness Monster one to my grandma’s house because the girl in it was going to her grandma’s house too. Love, Mirin"

OF COURSE! The Grandma connection! How could I have missed it!

I would like to think that this means that The Luck of the Loch Ness Monster is now grandmother-themed enough to have a rightful place on our Mother’s Day display or a Grandparents’ Day feature, but one of the challenges of assembling a book display is the fact that books that don’t APPEAR to fit the theme do NOT, in most cases, fit the display. Instead they look like books other customers have discarded on your table because they didn’t know where to reshelve them or were simply too lazy to do so. If you fill your displays with books that don’t look like they belong on them, your display will look cluttered and you will look clueless. Sad but true.

It’s unfortunate, then, that so many books can fit a million different bills at once but visually appear to fit only one or two. Last week I was giving a book talk to parents at the Wellesley College Child Study Center and asked the director, Mary Ucci, if there were any themes or topics that she was looking for in books these days and having a hard time finding. She said that "attachment" is a theme on which they’re forever needing good books, and that her all-time favorite attachment book is Make Way for Ducklings. In the book (as you all know, I hope) Mr. Mallard leaves (and is gone for quite some time, actually) but he comes back again. It’s as simple as that, and yet what example could be more relevant to the life of a preschooler in an age of business travel and/or two working parents?

My parents read Make Way for Ducklings to met countless times when I was a child, and since then I’ve read it almost as many times to myself and/or others. But if you’d asked me to name the best book with an attachment theme, McCloskey’s masterpiece would not have come to mind. Of all the themes I could easily spot in that book, that one was simply not on my immediate radar.

Obviously the conclusion here is that kids aren’t the only ones who connect with books in unique or surprising ways. As readers we each come to a text with our own ideas and experiences and needs and wishes — what we see on the page is inevitably influenced by all of these things. I love it whenever kids like Mirin or professionals like Mary allow me to see a book through a different lens and find something there that I hadn’t seen previously.

What about you and your thematic connections? Do you have some good attachment book suggestions or have a funny "I thought this book was about ____, but so-and-so saw it as ______ " story? If so, please share! I can then at least make those recommendations to others, even if I can’t necessarily use them in a book display!

Time for My Annual Review

Alison Morris - March 13, 2008

It was a year ago today that my first post appeared on PW‘s web site, and ShelfTalker was born. It seems fitting, then, that I take a moment to ask you this question: How am I doing?

How often are you reading my posts? In what ways are you finding them useful or entertaining? Which posts have been your favorite? What would you like to see more of? What topics are you most interested in hearing about? What window into a bookseller’s life would you like me to open for you? What do you think I should do differently?

Please take a minute to share your thoughts and feedback with me, either in the comments post or (if you’d prefer that the world not read your remarks) via e-mail. You can write to me at shelftalkerATgmailDOTcom.

While my blogging year has included a LOT of late nights, a number of technical-difficulty-induced headaches, and no lack of doubts about the sanity of my decision to take this on, it all feels worth it whenever one of you tells me you’ve gained some insight and/or entertainment from one of my posts. I love having the opportunity to share my observations, joys, and gripes with all of you — even on those occasions when so many of you seem to disagree with me!

To all of you who’ve visited this blog often or even just intermittently for the past 12 months, thanks for reading. As someone who knows how valuable a person’s reading time can be, I feel honored that you’re choosing to spend some of that precious commodity on my blog!

A post-script for those of you who’ve been having trouble leaving comments on my posts:
The comments field on this site is finicky, in that it’ll ask to you identify the letters in the box below your remarks (to verify that you’re not a spammer) then will sometimes tell you that you got the letters wrong, even when you didn’t. To avoid losing my remarks to this glitch, I usually type my comments in the box, highlight them, copy them by hitting CNTRL-C, and then take the little spammer test. If I fail the test the first time around, I hit CNTL-V to paste my original comments back into the comments box, and then take the test once more. It almost always works on that second try!

Where Pigs Fly

Alison Morris - March 12, 2008

Gareth and I recently made a last-minute trip to Montpelier, Vermont to visit his mom (hi, Judith!). While we were there we managed to find a tiny pocket of time in which to zip (an hour’s drive) up to the town of Shelburne, with the sole purpose of paying a visit to The Flying Pig Bookstore, owned by my remarkable bookseller pals Elizabeth Bluemle and Josie Leavitt! I’ve known Elizabeth and Josie for years, but this was my first time paying a visit to their LOVELY store, which is now in its second incarnation, in a different town, in a larger space, with a much larger section of books for adults.

As I’d always expected, the Flying Pig is an absolute delight! It’s housed in what, some 200 years ago was the Olde Shelburne Inn, which means it’s got a beautiful historic storefront, and a lot of character inside. I confess that the deep snow, bitter cold temperature and lack of available time kept me from crossing the street to take a wider shot of the place, but here’s how it looks up close:

The minute I stepped into this store I was struck by its warmth and inviting feel. The windows draw in a fantastic amount of light, and the brightly colored walls make the place feel cheerful, even on a very wintry day. As you enter the store you face one of several cozy "nooks" that run along the left-hand side of the store and are immediately greeted by a custom-made flying pig table on which sits a large poster touting the store’s forthcoming author events. (It would be hard for any customer who sets foot in this store to claim that they never knew so-and-so was coming!)

Of course, while the pig table is greeting you, it’s very easy for the booksellers at the Flying Pig to greet you as well. If look to turn to your right from this point, you can see the point of sale counter, and anyone there can see you and say hello. This is ideal from a customer service perspective, and a great theft deterrent too.

Unfortunately Elizabeth couldn’t be at the store the morning I was there, but Josie greeted me the minute I walked in the door and gave me an EXPERT tour. The gist of which follows!

To your left as you face the pig table is a display of face-out picture books, then (as you move to the left) a lot of toddler-friendly titles.

In the back right corner of the pig table nook is the Folk & Fairy Tales section, which is chock full of titles. 

And on your right are the hardcover picture books. Look at all those spines!

And that’s not all of the hardcover picture books. This section continues on the back of the bookcases above and is followed by the paperback picture book section, which form the left wall of the next delightful little nook (see below). The back wall  is comprised of Classics and Poetry, and that’s the adult mystery section on your right. This might seem like an odd fit, but there are books for grown-ups behind you as you stand at this point, so it doesn’t seem quite so odd when you’re there!

Now on to the next nook, which is home to a HUGE Middle Grade section and two comfy seating cubes:

And now for the last nook, which is right in front of the register and home to gift suggestions and sideline items:

You’ve now traveled the full length of the store’s "nook side" and arrived at the point of sale counter! And, OH that counter! What with the dropped ceiling, the pendant lamps, and its perfect periwinkle surface, I experienced SUCH counter envy in this store! That’s Josie in the black shirt standing right in front of it, talking to me (which accounts for the slightly funny expression on her face — sorry, Josie!).

It’s the little design details of this store that really jumped out at me and make all the difference, I think when you’re making a store look clean and crisp and unified. Here’s one example: the beautiful periwinkle surface of the point of sale counter is carried through all the section signs in the store. See? Here’s the surface of the counter:

And here’s a section sign:

My other favorite design detail in this place? The floor mats! Did you notice the one at Josie’s feet in the counter photo above? It’s emblazoned with the Flying Pig logo, in roughly the same blue as the paint on the store’s walls. Notice how those floor mats carry their store’s logo the entire way through the store as you turn and look away from the counter toward the front entrance (below):

To the left of the bookcases you see in the photo above is a long aisle of books for "grown-ups." (Just to reorient you, the entrance to the store is in the back left-hand corner of the shot you see below.)

Now do an about-face: What you’re looking at is the rear corner of the store, to the right of the point of sale counter. Straight ahead of you are the books for teens and young adults, plus the fantasy section, on your left.

Off to the right is another nook (the non-fiction nook):

Also on the right is a spinner rack that is CHOCK FULL o’ Leveled Readers and Chapter Books:

I was really amazed by how much this spinner racks can hold, actually, and the clever ways that Josie and Elizabeth have created more space by including them. There are two in the teen and YA section, which include such subsections as Teen Series, Teen Chick Lit, Teen Romance, and "For Twilight Fans."

Behind those spinners, near the very back corner is what was once a pipe or support beam (I can’t remember which Josie said was the case), but I love that it’s now been tranformed into usable selling space thanks to the miracle of slat wall:

Do another about-face. Look toward the front of the store, past Josie who’s shelving books on your right. Hopefully this will give you some sense of the distance here from fore to aft. (Remember the entrance is in that back left corner, a little ways behind the chair at the end of the adults’ aisle.)

You’ve now seen pretty much the entire sales floor of the Flying Pig. Now on to the store’s events space, upstairs! I stupidly took no photos that show you what the trip is like (short and lovely), but the route goes like this: you walk out the store’s front entrance, through a door on your left, up the stairs, and through another door into THIS! This amazing, airy, bright events space! Oh the events space envy!

Those are some HIGH, HIGH ceilings, my friends. And look at the light pouring in through those windows!

The entrance to the events space is opposite the wall with those high windows, through the door you see in the photo below. In that photo you can also see the spiral staircase to to your left (as you exit) and the "loft" that overlooks the room you’re standing in. No, the store does not have authors present from that lofty height, but it does make the space seem that much cooler. And what a great space to stage, say… Romeo and Juliet? West Side Story? Evita?

Below is a shot of Gareth and Josie in the events space, just to give you some sense of how a grown-up looks in the place. It can be difficult for this store to lure authors all the way up to their corner of New England, but when you see this room and know that they can (and do!) pack about 150 people into it, that strikes me as reason enough to send lots of folks their way.

I spent a wonderful 45 minutes in the Flying Pig and wish I could have spent several hours more. Even if you’ve never met Josie and Elizabeth, I guarantee you that being in their store will make it easy for you to see why they’ve earned the adoration of their community in addition to the sincere admiration of booksellers like me.

Why No Bookseller Can Read Everything

Alison Morris - March 10, 2008

We’ve had sales reps visiting our store almost every day for the past several weeks, most of them bringing along stacks of galleys to add to our ever-growing piles. The other day I boxed up all the ARCs of books that have already come into our store, save a handful I thought our booksellers might still be keen to read in galley form. I also cleared off a shelf that had previously held some display props, and only then did I have enough space in my office bookcase to house the galleys for titles coming out between now and August, of which there seem to be more and more each season.

Thinking some of you might need help visualizing this predicament, I took some photos so you could see for yourself. In the shot below is the (cheap) Ikea bookcase that is home to our children’s and YA galleys, sorted by month, so that I can easily remove old ones from the shelf in order to make room for new ones. (The ones I remove get donated to a local organization called Read Boston.) Ignore the top shelf (which on the left houses older galleys I still hope to read one of these days and on the right houses back issues of the Horn Book and various children’s literature reference books) — the shelves below those are all galleys for books being published between now and August (a handful at the end are September and October). Yes, there are a few we have multiple copies of, but those duplicates are offset by the fact that I also took a number of forthcoming galleys home to clutter up my bookcases there. AND some of our galeys have been borrowed by other booksellers and by the few kids who read and review ARC’s for us these days. AND there are a few publishers who don’t send us complete sets of their galleys, so not all of their books are here either.

Not too bad, you’re thinking? Well… I thought the same thing. When they’re lined up the impossibility of reading all those books somehow seems a bit less frightening. It’s deceptive. So I took another photo but staged things a bit differently for this one. I pulled all the galleys off the shelf that correspond with books being published only in the month of MAY, so that you can see how tall just that one month’s pile turns out to be. I even removed any duplicate galleys, so you couldn’t accuse me of cheating for effect.

(That’s a bit scarier looking, no?) For the sake of scale, I also took a (rather unflattering shot) of me, standing beside that May galley pile. Wearing shoes my height = 5′ 4.

There are about 60 galleys in that pile, which stretches out to approx. 4 feet of books coming out from predominantly large publishers in just ONE month this year. And, again, there are some galleys missing from that stack, so I’m certainly not accounting for everything.

Even the laziest bookseller in the least busy bookstore in the country STILL couldn’t  possibly read all the books coming out in a given season nowadays. And those of us at the opposite end of the spectrum (which describes most of the booksellers I know) are lucky if we’re managing to make much more than a dent. Especially when it comes to months as jam-packed as this coming May!