Monthly Archives: December 2008

Santa Arrives Despite Absence of Chimney

Alison Morris - December 9, 2008

Can you get a repetitive stress injury from wrapping gifts? Though we are certainly witnessing signs of an economic slowdown, our store is nevertheless in holiday retail mode, our fingers sore from near-constant folding and cutting and taping and ribbon-curling. I’m having a hard time keeping a regular blogging routine as my store routine becomes busier with each passing day. (I say "busier" because it’s not like my usual routine leaves much time for slacking. Sadly.)

One of the more entertaining holiday diversions at our store of late was an event we hosted yesterday starring none other than… SANTA CLAUS. Yep. The guy in red. The jolly old soul. The realio, trulio bringer of loot. 

In what was a very clever, non-traditional publicity scheme, Little, Brown arranged to send us (umm… kids, stop reading here, please) a "professional Santa Claus." They worked with a professional Santa staffing agency (did you know there were such things?) to choose our guy, who was by all accounts PERFECT.

Santa (who goes by the name "Charlie Madden" on non-working days) entertained the audience at our store with a LIVELY reading of Priscilla and the Great Santa Search, then posed for photos with the kids in attendance. Little, Brown provided us with the necessary camera and film to take said photos and send kids home with them in souvenir Priscilla… frames.

I was, sadly, not present for all this jolly fun, but our assistant manager Kym Havens was, and raved about the results, despite our relatively small crowd, which was perhaps diminished by the day’s bad weather or the fact that many local kids had visited with Santa at a town-wide event a few days prior — that guy sure gets around. Kym’s sons Sam and Jack (ages 8 and 10, respectively) were COMPLETELY CAPTIVATED with Charlie’s… I mean SANTA’s, er… "performance" and so flabbergasted when they got to talk with him one-on-one that Jack forgot to tell Santa about the gift he most wanted. (I HATE it when that happens!)

Here’s a Christmas card-worthy photo of Santa with the Havens boys:

Jack and Sam had seen the guy in the big red suit arrive wearing street clothes, which became a topic of conversation later when Santa asked Sam, "So, did you recognize me without my business suit? Not many kids get to see Santa without his business suit!" Both boys decided this would give them definite bragging rights at school, just as Lorna and I can now boast that, yes, Santa got undressed in our office.

Build a Bookstore: Books for Adults

Alison Morris - December 5, 2008

What books for "grown-ups" should no self-respecting bookstore be without? I said this post would go up on Friday, and it is technically still Friday! (At least, it is for another 10 minutes…) It’s just much later in the day on Friday than I’d planned to be posting. As for WHY this post has been delayed by 15 or so hours, I plead "holiday retail" which is what vaporized 12 hours of my day (no exaggeration). As my apology gift to those of you who’ve been patiently waiting to list your favorite adult titles here, I’m going to allow you to list up to TEN books for today’s category! Yes, TEN!

So, again: What books for "grown-ups" should no self-respecting bookstore be without? You tell me. This week we’ve covered books for teens, middle grade readers, the picture book-age crowd, and wee ones. Now it’s the grown-ups’ turn.

You’re opening a bookstore: what are the first few adult books you’re going to put on your stock list (fiction, non-fiction, poetry — anything)? You are allowed to name up to TEN titles and you are allowed to name the same books that someone else has. But, sorry authors, you are NOT allowed to promote your own titles here. Except for you, Jane Austen.

Tell us booksellers what titles you want/EXPECT to see on our shelves. To get you started I will now attempt to assemble my own list of ten chosen-almost-at-random-from-hundreds-of-possibilities-at-a-VERY-late-hour suggestions here:

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee (which, like Goodnight Moon, should come pre-installed when you order store fixtures)
I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou
A Prayer for Owen Meany
by John Irving
The Dubliners by James Joyce
Seabiscuit by Laura Hillenbrand
The Letters of E. B. White
Darkness Visible: A Memoir of Madness
 by William Styron
Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
Everything Is Illuminated by Jonathan Safran Foer
Mountains Beyond Mountains: The Quest of Dr. Paul Farmer, a Man Who Would Cure the World by Tracy Kidder

And now, my patient friends, it’s YOUR turn. Have at it. First, though, I’d just like to say that you’ve been firing off some truly fantastic recommendations all week. I can’t wait to see what you come up with for this one!

Build a Bookstore: Books for Babies and Toddlers

Alison Morris - December 4, 2008

We’re in the final stretch of "Build a Bookstore" week, having already suggested must-have books for young adults, the middle grade set, and the picture book crowd. Today we address books for the littlest ones. Tomorrow we weigh in on books for the biggest ones (i.e. adults).

Name up to FIVE books for infants and toddlers (board books, picture books, bath books, cloth books, funky novelty-type books) that you think no self-respecting bookstore should be without! Yes, you can repeat others’ suggestions. No, you can’t mention your OWN books, unless your name is Margaret Wise Brown (which it’s not) or Eric Carle or… you get the idea.

To get the ball rolling, I will now list FIVE books for babies and/or toddlers that I think no store should be without. (Drum roll, please…)

The Very Hungry Caterpillar (board book especially) by Eric Carle
Pat the Bunny by Dorothy Kunhardt
My Very First Mother Goose edited by Iona Opie, illustrated by Rosemary Wells
Good Night, Gorilla (board book especially) by Peggy Rathmann
Cars and Trucks and Things That Go by Richard Scarry

No doubt you’ve noticed one GLARING omission from my list: Goodnight Moon. I think this book is so beyond "required" for bookstores that it almost qualifies more as a fixture than an actual book. In fact, I think it should just come WITH the shelving that a store orders, if that store plans on carrying any children’s books. For that reason (read: it’s just TOO obvious) I left it off my list. 

That does not mean, however, that you must leave it off yours. Up to five books for babies and toddlers… go!

Build a Bookstore: Picture Books (Fiction & Non-Fiction)

Alison Morris - December 3, 2008

It’s day three of "Build a Bookstore" week! So far we’ve tackled the challenge of naming five young adult books and five middle grade books no self-respecting bookstore should be without. Today your task (and mine!) is to list UP TO FIVE PICTURE BOOKS (fiction and/or non-fiction!) for lower elementary and/or preschool that you believe should appear on every bookstore’s shelves. Once again, you are welcome to repeat the suggestions of others (thereby giving an additional "vote" to those repeated titles).

I expect there to be a LOT of variation in today’s lists plus a lot of "classics," so that makes even more exruciating for me to limit my own list to JUST five… (What if the others I love don’t get mentioned here??) But so be it. Here, with much grimacing on my part, are FIVE picture books that I think no self-respecting bookstore should be without:

Lilly’s Purple Plastic Purse by Kevin Henkes
The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats
Blueberries for Sal by Robert McCloskey
Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak
The Gardener by Sarah Stewart, illustrated by David Small

Okay, that hurt.

Now it’s your turn. Up to FIVE picture books. Have fun.

(On deck for the remainder of this week: books for babies and toddlers tomorrow, books for adults on Friday!)

Build a Bookstore: Middle Grade Novels & Non-Fiction

Alison Morris - December 2, 2008

Yesterday I kicked off this week’s "Build a Bookstore" week by asking you to list up to five young adult novels that you think no self-respecting bookstore should be without, knowing that (of course) no one store can afford to carry everything.

Today your charge is to list up to five middle grade novels and middle grade non-fiction books (meaning non-fiction aimed at upper elementary and/or middle school) you think no self-respecting bookstore should be without. Yes, your list of titles can contain some of the same titles that others’ do. NO, you can’t list more than five titles, even if you find it torturous to limit yourself this way!

Once again I will put myself through the wringer here and list five choices of my own.

Walk Two Moons by Sharon Creech
The Watsons Go to Birmingham, 1963 by Christopher Paul Curtis
Hoot by Carl Hiaasen
Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry by Mildred Taylor
Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White

Such torture! ARGH! And, crud. I just realized I didn’t include a single non-fiction book. But… I stand by these five. No self-respecting bookstore should be without them. Nor should they be without the other titles I know you’re all gearing up to type in right now, so… GO!

Build a Bookstore: Young Adult Novels and Non-Fiction

Alison Morris - December 1, 2008

What young adult novels and non-fiction should no self-respecting bookstore be without? That’s my question for today, and it kicks off my "Build a Bookstore" theme for the week. Here’s what prompted this discussion.

We recently sold a copy of Dicey’s Song by Cynthia Voight and I decided, after a LOT of hemming and hawing and silently berating myself, NOT to reorder the book. I had already given Homecoming the axe a couple months ago, and now I, in essence, have done the same with this "classic" of young adult literature. WHY? Because that recent sale was the first one we’d had on that title in two years. Homecoming had been sitting for even longer. Given that we barely have enough room to shelve all the books in our YA section, let alone have adequate room for face-outs, I have to be a lot more choosy about how much space I devote to books I consider "important" that just aren’t pulling their monetary weight. We can ALWAYS special order out-of-stock titles for any customers who want them, so it’s not like we’re making these books unavailable — we’re just making them less immediately accessible. And if customers begin requesting them on a slightly more frequent basis (say three times a year rather than once every other year!), and/or if the publisher reissues them with newer (preferably better) covers, I can always alter my decision and put them back in the game. For now, though, they’re effectively "sitting the bench."

As I relegated Homecoming and Dicey’s Song (two books that I loved when I was in junior high) to the sideline, I thought about all those people out there who would think I’d made a terrible decision — who would say that no self-respecting bookstore should be without a copy of these seminal works. And that got me thinking about all the books we booksellers DO hold onto, even when they’re rarely (if ever) purchased by customers. As a buyer, you can only have so many of these designated "classics" before your store runs the risk of being something akin to a non-circulating library, rather than a profit-turning bookstore. But those MUST-HAVE books do exist! And I know for a fact that the list of titles that make that list differs from store to store, buyer to buyer, even reader to reader.

SO, this week I’m putting the question to you knowledgeable, book-loving folks. What books should no self-respecting bookstore be without? To make this a more interesting discussion/more helpful list of suggestions for stores, I’m limiting each day’s submissions to a specific age category. This will also give you more time to think about each of these categories before you’re prompted to supply your thoughts!
I’m placing another limit on you too: up to FIVE books per commenter. That’s it. You are allowed to name no more than five books for each age group. Putting this limit on your suggestions will (I hope) force each of you to really think about which books are true must-haves for any one batch.

Today’s topic is young adult novels and YA non-fiction (prompted by my aforementioned decision regarding Dicey’s Song).

TUESDAY will be middle grade novels and non-fiction for upper elementary/middle school.

WEDNESDAY will be picture books and non-fiction for lower elementary/preschool.

THURSDAY will be books for babies and toddlers (board books, picture books, bath books, cloth books, assorted odd novelty formats for little tykes).

FRIDAY will be (what the heck?) books for grown-ups. Because I know some of you actually read those too!

So: back to today’s topic. Your task is to list UP TO FIVE young adult novels and/or non-fiction books you think no self-respecting bookstore should be without. Yes, your list of titles can contain some of the same titles that others’ do. If the same title crops up repeatedly, that’ll suggest to the rest of us that that particular title is especially worthy (or "important’) by consensus.

I’ll go first (boy, is this hard!)
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie (an instant classic, in my book)
Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson
Tangerine by Edward Bloor
Monster by Walter Dean Myers
The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman

ARGH! I can’t tell you how painful that was, or how many titles wound up on the cutting room floor. I’m hoping those not included in my list of must-haves will show up in yours, so have at it! (And starting thinking NOW about what middle grade novels you’re going to list tomorrow…)