Monthly Archives: June 2008

The Man in the Yellow Hat Knows the Quickest Way to Harlem

Alison Morris - June 11, 2008

Every time I see the title Curious George Takes a Train pop up in a sales report, I misread it as "Curious George Takes the A Train." (EVERY. SINGLE. TIME!) My brain then IMMEDIATELY begins playing a loop of Duke Ellington‘s "Take the A Train." The tune is a rather pleasant accompaniment to my work, so I don’t actually mind it, but I kick myself every time for not being able to read this title properly. I’m going to coin my own disorder here and say that I have swinglexia.

Last weekend when Gareth and I were in New York City visiting friends and attending MoCCA (more on that soon!),at one point we hopped a ride on the A train, and my brain immediately snapped to sounds of Duke Ellington and images of Curious George. I’m picturing a new ad campaign for the MTA

Anything trip you up like this on a regular basis? Are there things you misread with regularity? If so, please share.

Tying the Knot to Harper Lee’s Tune

Alison Morris - June 10, 2008

I’ve long thought I escaped conception without the girl gene that says  "PLAN A BIG THEME WEDDING," but I nevertheless gasped with enthusiasm when I saw a reference to a wedding with a To Kill a Mockingbird theme while poking around on the blog of potter Rae Dunn, whose work I enjoy. Rae created beautiful egg-shaped favors for the wedding’s guests. Wanting to imagine in what OTHER ways the bride and groom of this ceremony played off the Mockingbird theme, I did a little poking around, only to find that Rae was in EXPERT company on her work for this wedding. Yes, it appears as though only wonderfully artistic people made contributions to this affair.

Before I go into the details, let me back for one minute and address something first: when I say this wedding had a To Kill a Mockingbird "theme," I do not mean that the happy couple traipsed down the aisle in oversized ham costumes. Nor did they invite a silent and reclusive neighbor to attend or ask their redneck relatives to crash the party and hurl racial slurs. Race was not the topic of the day, nor was justice. But books and childhood treasures were. And family. And bird feathers and trinkets and, well… Can you imagine a book with a more perfect "spirit" to invoke on such a meaningful day? As one of Harper Lee’s number one junkies I’ll say I can’t.

But back to the talented people who contributed to this wedding, AND (by extension) to this blog post. For starters, there’s the bride. Viola Sutanto is a designer who lives in San Francisco and runs a business called Chewing the Cud, through which she designs logos and ad campaigns, books (for Chronicle Books) and clean, beautiful letter-pressed invitations and announcements for events such as her OWN wedding. Pasted here are a couple peeks at the invitations she and husband Phillip Ting came up with for their ceremony.

And then there are the photographs Anna Kuperberg took at the wedding. Let me just say right now that I’m a photo buff but I’m not often fond of wedding photography. I am using zero hyperbole, then, when I say that Anna’s photos are stunning. Truly. Her two photo blogs (Kuperblog, which features a wide variety of photo subjects, and Slobber Space, which features her photos of dogs) have become two of my most oft-visited feeds. Pair Anna’s ability to capture a beautiful ceremony with Viola’s ability to design one, and voila: you’ve got some serious wedding eye candy. All of the photos in this post were taken by Anna.

With Anna and Viola’s permission (thank you both!) I’m including photos here that offer you a taste of what Viola and Phillip’s wedding was all about. The text that explains what’s in the photos below comes from Viola’s captions on Want to see more than what’s included here? Visit Anna’s full gallery of photos from the grand affair.

"Viola loves books. Phillip loves movies. ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ was their favourite story of all time and became the inspiration for the wedding. From child-like bird illustrations to references in book forms and movie elements, the entire event was designed to bring to life this sweet coming-of-age story."

"The bird motif that initially appeared in their bookmark-the-date announcements fluttered in the afternoon breeze at the ceremony location. Guests [were] invited to write wishes for the couple on the bird cut-outs."

"Viola made a mini stack of books that the ring-bearer carried down the aisle and book boxes that held the bridesmaid bouquets. "

"Instead of seating cards, guests [were] invited to discover their names on colorful journals that nestled in the milk crates. The crates were hand-stained and decoupaged with photos of vintage food labels taken by the couple during their travels together." 

"The tables were named after characters from ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ and corresponding letter grades… Viola made a custom runner that adorned the head table as a gift for Phillip. She printed their vows and favourite poems and hand-drew playful illustrations throughout the piece." 

"The theme of discovery and childhood memories were carried through at the dinner tables where treasure boxes revealed photos of guests and childhood trinkets. The childhood photos of the couple and guests were a wonderful conversation opener. Menus with trivia questions kept the guests entertained as they awaited their entreés."

Of all the photos Anna Kuperberg took at Viola and Phillip’s wedding, I think my favorite is probably the one of Phillip reading his vows to Viola from a handcrafted "book." Both of them look so unabashedly happy. Which is how any wedding, with any theme, should make the couple feel.

So, wedding afficianados AND those of the just-elope variety, what do you think of To Kill a Mockingbird as a wedding theme: a good choice, or no? Is there a book that YOU think would be well-suited to such an occasion? How about the book that would LEAST well-suited to a wedding theme? What book-themed wedding would you be the most keen to attend and/or have for yourself and what details would you include to pull it off?

Choose Two Books for Your Own Adventure

Alison Morris - June 6, 2008

This past Monday, an article in the Rutland Herald entitled "Two Books and a Beach Towel" was referenced in Shelf Awareness. In the article, several booksellers and librarians were asked to imagine that they were being sent off to a deserted island this summer but that "each person is allowed to take only two books: one old favorite to reread, and one not yet read."

As Shelf Awareness noted, "Among the booksellers interviewed were Sandy Scott, Galaxy Bookshop, Hardwick; Stan Hynds and Erik Barnum, Northshire Bookstore, Manchester Center; Dennis and Marsene Pryor, Annie’s Book Stop, Rutland; Lynne and Bill Reed, Misty Valley Books, Chester; and Claire Benedict, Bear Pond Books and Rivendell Books, Montpelier."

The challenges for me here are two-fold: the first is trying to figure out WHAT librarian or bookseller could take only TWO books on any outing that would last more than maybe three days!! (That’s where the whole premise of this challenge is insane, but we’ll forget that for a second…) The second is trying to figure out what books I would take in the face of such evil restrictions.

I decided to ask a couple of my colleagues for their thoughts. Like many of those quoted in the Rutland Herald article, our crew is definitely keen on packing the classics.

Lorna Ruby, my book-buying compatriot, says this *might* be cheating (meaning she’s just going for length here) but she picked The Complete Works of Shakespeare to reread and Anna Karenina to read for the first time. (She was tempted to include The Secret Garden instead of The Complete Works…, but if she’s got to choose something that will take her a while, that seemed unwise.) 

Ignoring the "choose a long book" scheme, I’m choosing to reread A Prayer for Owen Meany (which I’m due to read again) and choosing to read O, Pioneers by Willa Cather (which I’ve been hearing my 91-year-old grandmother talk about for years).

The lovely Lisa Fabiano (bookseller extraordinaire) says she’d reread To Kill a Mockingbird and she’d read… some classic she hasn’t read before (she’s still debating which one) as she thinks that would be a good opportunity to read and reflect on it at length. (And apparently being trapped on a desert island would be what it would take for some of us to FINALLY pick up the books we were never forced to read in high school!)

Elizabeth Wolfson, who was my delightful intern last summer and is now a Smith grad looking for a teaching job (anyone in Massachusetts hiring? she’s GREAT!) says she’d reread Matilda by Roald Dahl ("I’ve read it about 100 times and could just keep re-reading it!") and would like to finally try reading Pride and Prejudice ("because I’ve been hearing so many great things about it for so long").

Another of our wonderful booksellers (which describes all of them), Marilyn Lustig said, "I’d want to be writing and enriching myself," and with that in mind she’d reread her very own copy of Amy Krause Rosenthal’s An Encyclopedia of an Ordinary Life to which she’s been adding her own entries, making it a combination book and journal. As for what she’d read for the first time, she chose a dictionary! (Clever, clever…)

One little observation we’ve all made about this challenge: because you’re allowed such a small number of books, you could actually decide to make these two titles a reading/re-reading goal for the summer, whether or not a deserted island is available to you. (Though if it is, I recommend sending yourself along with more than just two books! Or, better still, taking me with you. I’ll bring enough books for both of us!)

Now it’s your turn. REMEMBER, you are allowed just TWO books! Two! One you’ve read and one you haven’t. What will you be packing?

In China Learning English Is Monkey Business

Alison Morris - June 5, 2008

I was both intrigued and entertained by Mike Meyer’s "Learning to Speak Olympics" article in the New York Times Book Review last week. In it, he talks about the English lessons Chinese school children have been receiving for several years now by way of an cartoon monkey. As Meyer explains, "Mocky is the poster monkey for the drive to have 35 percent of the population conversant in English by the Olympics."

As part of this initiative, the Chinese publishing industry has apparently been rolling out a VERY diverse array of English language books. Meyer describes their appearance in one bookstore this way:

With 230,000 titles on display, Book Mansion is China’s largest bookseller. Textbooks fill one of its five floors, each the size of an Olympic swimming pool. There’s an entire aisle of English-Chinese dictionaries and another filled with preparation manuals for English competency exams…

Book Mansion categorizes its manuals by category: leisure English, phone English, taxi English, job-hunting English, even badminton English. I opened one of the many books titled “Olympic English” and found this: “I have made a reservation for tonight through the telephone. My name is Cable Guy.”

The Chinese government has provided police with a book called Olympic Security English designed to educate officers in the conversations necessary for “Dissuading Foreigners From Excessive Drinking” and instructions on “How to Stop Illegal News Coverage.”

Meyer’s article is entertaining, interesting, and in places disturbing. I shudder at the thought of Chinese government officials selecting the necessary phrases to include in their police handbook. And who were the authors of Love English who decided to teach Chinese citizens that the words "I’m bored" mean "Do you want to have sex?"??

All of this, though, has me pondering what phrases and words I would put in an introduction to the English language, were I writing one specifically timed to coincide with this year’s summer Olympics. What sentence or idea do YOU think China’s citizens ought to learn before when the world shows up and tunes in this August?

My Way or the Hemingway

Alison Morris - June 3, 2008

Here’s a short t-shirt post to ease you back into my blogging routine, on the heels of the NINE delightful posts you’ve hopefully been reading the past few days, compliments of Josie and Elizabeth! How on earth they found nine chunks of time in all the BEA hubbub is beyond me, but I for one am SUPER grateful they did. Reading their reports was almost as good as being there!

THANK YOU, Josie and Elizabeth!!

And now… another book-related item, because so many of you seem to be enjoying these. This week’s wearable entertainment comes compliments of where you can (yes) buy this awesome t-shirt. But first tell me just what you think the HEMINGway is… Short sentences, maybe? Witty understatement? Hmm.

Flying Pig Reports from BEA 9

Alison Morris - June 2, 2008

Josie here, exhausted, back at work from a great show. It was loads of fun. I can’t wait to really unpack my books and make stacks of what I’m going to read first. I listened to the David Sedaris CD sampler the other night and fell asleep laughing. And what is the first box I open today? His new book, Engulfed by Flames! I gotta say, I’m feeling too old to fly across the country, get home at 2 am and work the whole day. Who planned this scheduled? Oh, I did. Whoops. Can’t wait ’till next year.

One last thing: I have to give Alison a huge round of applause for being able to sustain this blog week in and week out. It’s been fun to guest blog, but it’s not easy and she does a great job and I’m thrilled to be giving it back to her. I can’t wait start reading her blog posts again.

Flying Pig Reports from BEA 8

Alison Morris -

Elizabeth here, with a swag update. After several BEAs, you get really picky about the totes you pick up. Anything with a zipper is prized beyond gold, because you can sling galleys in there and check them through on the plane. Scholastic was generous with blue-and-black 39 Clues backpacks, and Little, Brown gave out fab black and red Twilight Saga zippered totes at the ABC Children’s Not a Dinner, where we were also treated to a preview of the movie! Edward seems well cast. Scholastic was also giving out snazzy gold metal Harry Potter winged pins. My main secret swag snag: the Inkdeath galley (which seems to have disappeared from my tote bag; I suspect foul play).

Flying Pig Reports from BEA 7

Alison Morris - June 1, 2008

Elizabeth here. Went to the Lewis Black comedy show at the gorgeous old Orpheum Theatre in downtown L.A. I hadn’t seen much of him before, so his particular blend of crank and contemporary was new to me, and hilarious to all of us. Topics ranged from losing one’s virginity to voting for Santa Claus, with healthy doses of cultural criticism throughout. It must be fun for the comics to play to such sympathetic crowds. The Saturday night show is always fantastic — we’d loved previous years’ evenings with Bill Maher, Paula Poundstone and Bob Newhart — so I’m making a note to try never to miss it again. It’s also a fundraiser for ABFFE and the Association of American Publishers’ Get Caught Reading Campaign, so audience members get to feel good while they’re laughing their behinds off.

Flying Pig Reports from BEA 6

Alison Morris -

Josie here. Okay today was a blur — a fun blur, but a blur nonetheless. The day started with Elizabeth, my partner in life and the store, signing her picture book, My Father, the Dog at the Candlewick booth. The signing was (get ready for shameless proud boasting) so full they went an hour beyond the time it was supposed to. I was so happy for her. I then went from event to event, culminating in the amazing Random House cocktail party at Dodger Stadium. I’ve never been on a real baseball field before so it was a thrill. The dugout was surprisingly clean. The coolest part was that all the bookstore names were on the marquee that went around the stadium. To walk in and see Flying Pig in lights was totally cool. While the party itself was delightful, the getting there and back was somewhat fraught.

On the way over to the stadium we got lost, a little. The half-hour drive turned into 45 minutes. That wasn’t so bad considering it was L.A. and these things happen. Coming back to the hotel was a whole other story. To his credit, our driver was trying, in vain, for a short cut. I knew something was amiss when I noticed we’d passed the Pupuseria restaurant the fifth time. A name like Pupuseria is a really good landmark. There is no doubting that you’ve passed it, again and again. It’s not like Quiznos, which can be found on every corner. After an hour on the bus, anger at missed dinner reservations turned to out right hilarity with my fellow passengers who turned out to be the staff of First Book. Their mission is getting kids free books. They have been hosting great signings all weekend, and if you drop your business card in their box, they will donate a book to a kid. So, go to their booth, just outside the children’s wing in the West Hall. By the time we were heading in the right direction, the traffic was so bad we gave up and walked the eight blocks back to the hotel. An hour and a half after we started out, we all arrived back at the hotel, weary, but happy for the newfound friends.