Monthly Archives: October 2010

“THE Norton Juster?” Yep.

Elizabeth Bluemle - October 13, 2010

After a long day, Norton Juster contemplates a new career in high(way) finance

This was the question we heard most often when customers called to reserve seats for the event:

“Is Norton Juster really coming to the Flying Pig? The real Norton Juster?”

“Yes, he is,” we’d happily reply.

“But,” they’d persist, in case we were somehow misunderstanding, “THE Norton Juster? The actual same person who wrote The Phantom Tollbooth?”

The disbelief and awe in their voices would have made the author blush. “Yes,” we were delighted to reassure the callers. “It’s the very same man.”

Pause. “Are you sure?”

“We really, really are.”

“Right here in Shelburne?”

“Yes, here in Shelburne.”

“Okay, wow, okay, then — I’ve got to bring my kid and my wife and my sister. Wow.”

“We’ll put you down for four, sir.”

It wasn’t hard to understand their astonishment. We ourselves could hardly believe it, and we’d hosted the man before. When a book is as perfect and enduring as The Phantom Tollbooth, it’s a challenge to imagine some regular mortal just typing it out on bond paper. It has its own authority and integrity and apparent inevitability, like a piece of music that doesn’t seem created so much as plucked from the ether. (Ahem. You may have guessed by now that the book was a personal literary touchstone for me. But 49 years of in-print popularity leads me to suspect I’m not alone.)

Mr. Juster’s appearance was scheduled for 10/10/10 (the Mathmagician certainly would have noticed this date’s deliciousness). Our Flying Pig Loft holds up to 80 people comfortably, especially if we have kids sit on quilts on the floor in the front, where they pack in quite nicely. We made the reading a ticketed event. The purchase of The Odious Ogre, Norton Juster’s new worth-the-wait collaboration with Jules Feiffer, bought families automatic entrance. We did an email blast, made signboards, and posted signs and calendar listings in the store and elsewhere, as well as on our website. We’ve found one of the best new ways of getting the word out about events is through the online Neighborhood Forums we belong to. These are online networks set up regionally for neighbors to share news both personal (“Lost cat!”) and professional. We took reservations until we filled up a little beyond full capacity, knowing that a few attendees would likely suffer last-minute changes of plans due to sick kids or Columbus Day weekend surprises.

We recruited a Charlotte, Vt., dad whose lovely, wonderful daughters we’ve seen grow up over years, to help us with some special decorations. In short order, the talented graphic designer and artist Tom Baginski, with help from his equally talented and lovely wife, Allison, constructed a purple tollbooth complete with ‘highway’ signs. When the big day arrived, we were ready! Tom made the store exterior so much FUN with his amazing pieces.

The token (aka fender washer)

Norton Juster at table, top left. It's hard to get good establishing pix in this room.

We bought fender washers from the hardware store, so that as families came through the tollbooth, they received a “token” in exchange for their names. We crossed off reserved guests from our list, and advised unregistered guests to wait just a few moments while we checked on seating. Admitted guests dropped their tokens into the slot and went upstairs to find seats, browse among the books. In addition to loads of The Odious Ogre, we carried The Phantom Tollbooth in paperback and hardcover, Sourpuss and Sweetie Pie, and The Dot and the Line, which is one of my all-time favorite books to give to friends of all ages. The Hello, Goodbye Window was a little harder to commandeer copies of, currently living in a between-printings fugue state. Book sales were brisk—hooray! always a happy occasion—and people were especially delighted to find the hardcover Phantom Tollbooths. Booksellers planning to host Norton Juster should make sure to have plenty of these on hand. At our store, the hardcovers outsold the paperbacks at least 6:1.

NJ shares the indignity of posing for a photo shoot in which he, not his character, cowers under the giant hand.

After introducing THE Norton Juster to a crowd of more than 70 fans, we sat back, beaming, and listened to his sonorous voice read from the beginning of The Odious Ogre (which is full of fabulous words kids will want to roll off their own tongues, too), then share some of its backstory. He spoke about his beginnings as a writer, his father’s relentless but clever punning, and shared a bit about his experience in the Navy (where his whimsical drawings of elves and other fantastical creatures drew unwelcome attention from a commanding officer, who told him that Navy men don’t draw elves.) He spoke a bit about his career as an architect (fun fact: his firm designed the fabulous Eric Carle Museum), and how The Phantom Tollbooth got its start.

Norton Juster is a consummate raconteur; he tells a great anecdote, has a mischievous sense of humor, a vocabulary that delights, and a teasing wit. During his prior visit to the store, he told a story of introducing Jules Feiffer at some awards dinner—he hadn’t been asked to make the introduction, but saw a chance and seized the mic—with a completely fabricated life history for Feiffer that painted him, if memory serves, as a Horatio Alger-esque urchin who had overcome great odds to be there receiving his award. How can you not love a person who does that?!

The man himself answering questions.

Audience members asked questions, and received answers that pleased them. Talking about The Odious Ogre‘s origin, Mr. Juster endeared himself to all of the children in the audience by talking about playground bullies he had known (who didn’t in fact expire from exposure to kindness like The O.O. does, since real life doesn’t always turn out the way you might want it to). He revealed the friend for whom Milo in The Phantom Tollbooth is named, and he spoke about the playful way he and Jules F. would try to outwit each other during that book’s creation by writing things the other couldn’t draw, and vice versa. Feiffer hated drawing horses, so of course Juster put in a cavalry. (Feiffer purportedly proposed, “Couldn’t the armies of Wisdom ride giant cats instead?”) Juster described the Triple Demons of Compromise — one tall and thin, one short and fat, and the third exactly like the other two. (Draw that!) In revenge for these nefarious actions, Feiffer drew Juster as The Whetherman (p. 18 for those following along in their books).

NJ mugging for the camer-- I mean, taking Tock's token.

Those are just some of the marvelous tidbits we soaked up like happy sponges on Sunday. Kids and adults carried books, both brand-new and lovingly tattered, to be autographed, and when they headed downstairs to the bookstore afterward, our staffers said they’d never seen a happier crowd. They clearly felt the magic of being in the presence of both a man who is both a legendary storyteller and a very funny regular guy. (For the record, Norton Juster’s wife, Jeanne, is so wonderful and personable and sharp and kind; we think she’s the reason he hasn’t acquired a legendary ego, as well.)

For those of you who grew up reading and re-reading The Phantom Tollbooth, what mesmerized you about that book?

A Novel Way to Get Kids to Read

Josie Leavitt - October 12, 2010

In Vermont we have a kid-voted-on book award called the Dorothy Canfield Award. Every year a committee chooses 30 books from the previous year, then kids from grades four through eight vote on the ones they like the best. Kids have to read at least five books to be able to vote. Teachers do their best to get the kids interested in the books, but in our local school, the librarian has come up with a challenge that has gotten the kids really fired up.
Melanie Chambers (not her real name — I didn’t have time to check with her), the librarian, has thrown the gauntlet down: if the kids in the school read a total of 1000 DCF books by the end of March she will dye her hair blue. Wow. Blue. And it’s a permanent dye. Essentially, she is challenging each student to read a minimum of 10 books. The day she announced this challenge our store was brimming with kids eager to pick out DCF books for the weekend. Is this bribery? Yes and no. It’s fun and there’s nothing wrong with it. Kids are excited about reading and their librarian has made it fun. They have plenty of time to read the books. It’s a collaborative effort designed to get all the kids reading.
The beauty of the DCF list is the kids really have ownership of it because they get to choose the winner. The winning author comes to Vermont for an enormous celebration where all kids from every school in Vermont get to attend. It’s a big deal and it can bring some really big names to the state who might otherwise not come to Vermont.
We’re working with the school to support this effort by having a very small in-school book fair that features only the 30 DCF books. Easy for us, a money maker for the school and it makes a blue-headed librarian one step closer to reality. I’m all for that.

Board Books I Love to Handsell

Josie Leavitt - October 8, 2010

I have been remiss in talking about books I love to handsell. I’ve picked out three board books from this year that are really fun to put into customers’ hands.
The first is a Sandra Boynton book, Perfect Piggies! A Book! A Song! A Celebration!. The die-cut pig snout on the cover sets the tone for fun with this humorous book. Raucous rhymes, and dancing pigs fill this board book. What’s great about any Boynton book is the adult appeal in them. The humor tickles kids and adults don’t seem to tire of reading it, over and over again.  The art, full of pig tails and bellies, makes me smile every time I show it to customers. Reading a line or two of this book practically guarantees a sale. Also, there are tons of pig collectors who would find the book a lovely addition to their collection.
Another book I just love is Matthew Van Fleet’s Heads. Like his other books, Dog, Cat and Tails, the book is a touch-and-feel book with a pull-the-flap. The art, with lots of exotic animals, is realistic and still cute and full of personality. The rhyme works and actually tells a story. For instance, you see the elephant with flies buzzing around its head, then you pull the flap and see how its ears work to get rid of the flies. And a huge shout-out to Simon & Schuster for making the book sturdy enough that I feel comfortable demonstrating the sturdiness of the flaps to potential customer. Nothing is worse  than showing a customer a lift-the-flap book and seeing just how flimsy the flaps are, and both you and the customer know within moments the book will break. I just put books like this back on the shelf and show them something else. Oh, a great thing in Tails is the last page, a fold-out page that names all the animals from the book and shows them in their habitat.
This book isn’t a book, but a new series of books from Workman, called Indestructibles. These books are designed for babies, they are board books without the board. The books are “Chew proof, rip proof, non-toxic and washable.” They are designed to be drooled on, crushed and played with. Now, this innovation wouldn’t really mean much if the books weren’t good, and I’m happy to say, the books are great — 12 titles ranging from classic nursery rhymes like Humpty Dumpty, Hey Diddle Diddle, Mary Had a Little Lamb and other fun titles like Plip-Plop Pond, Creep! Crawl! All the titles are wordless with bold colors and bright art. At $4.95 each, these books make great new baby gifts.
I’ll be moving chronologically through the bookstore with some of my favorites. Next up, picture books!

Selling Color to Customers: A Bookseller’s Guide

Elizabeth Bluemle - October 7, 2010

This is a continuation of yesterday’s post about the NEIBA trade show panel on how to sell multicultural books to white customers. After hearing from our wonderful guests — author Mitali Perkins, Candlewick President and Publisher Karen Lotz, and Tu Books Editorial Director Stacy Whitman — I spoke from the bookselling angle.

In this discussion, we were focusing primarily on representations of race and ethnicity in children’s books, although multiculturalism also includes diversity of cultures, religions, gender and sexual orientation. We were also talking about books NOT aimed at educating readers about race, but books that happen to feature main characters of color, across the whole spectrum of genres: humor, family stories, fantasy, magic, adventure, nonfiction…. and our goal of finding and sharing the stories of Black, Asian, Hispanic characters doing all the fun stuff their Caucasian counterparts do in books.

I encouraged booksellers to look honestly at our own assumptions about what people will want to read, and what we think to show them. (This goes along with Mitali’s suggestion to look at what we face out in our stores, and feature in displays.) I spoke about inadvertent racism, and about taking a look at our own reading habits. Are we ourselves reading widely? Are we ignoring ARCs with brown faces on the cover? It’s so easy to fall into “monocultural” thinking, especially when we are surrounded by it.
Thinking about our own approach to race in children’s books requires ongoing self-assessment for all of us booksellers, me included. For instance: when I handsell books to customers, I usually gather three to five possible titles and booktalk each one. And even though this topic is obviously extremely important to me, I still sometimes find myself needing to remind myself to include books with main characters of color in these groups of books when recommending them to white customers. Not often, but sometimes.
And I confessed to sometimes wanting to ‘take the easy way out’ when I sense a customer’s resistance to a book just because of the race of the main character. It’s not appropriate to lecture customers or make them feel bad, but you can use your own enthusiasm for the book—and your book-recommending expertise, which they already appreciate—to make headway.
For instance, when you see that resistance look on a customer’s face and they say those coded things like, “I don’t think that’s really for him,” or “Oh, she wouldn’t like that,” you can say, “Kids in town LOVE this book!” (Of course, that has to actually be true. You never compromise your integrity or reputation by pretending a book is good or popular when it isn’t.) And you can make one more gentle try, by saying why you chose that book for that customer’s grandchild: “You mentioned that Christopher loves sports, and the boy in this book is training for a cutthroat kite-flying championship. Three boys made kites after reading this adventure.” If they still say no, at least they will be more aware of why they’re saying no.
I have never once had a white kid customer avoid a book with a kid of color on the cover, unless the book looked bleak. Adults tend to be much more conscious of race, and therefore sometimes when I am booktalking a little stack, I don’t show the covers as I speak. I just loosely hold the books as I talk about them, and then hand the stack over to the eager customer. Again, I think this helps make people aware of why they are rejecting a book, especially if they have been interested in a story and suddenly find that interest dampened. And that awareness is the first step toward change.
And perhaps, after three or four more visits to the bookstore that always match Christopher with terrific books he loves, she’ll be willing to take a chance. The more we normalize broad reading choices, and the more regularly we convey with our own behavior the expectation that of course customers will be interested in wonderful books about main characters of all colors, the more successful we will become at selling those wonderful books.
The language we use to booktalk books is very important. I encourage booksellers to handsell books with people of color on the cover the same way they booktalk books with white kids on the cover when talking to white customers: hook them with the story, the character, the dilemmas and adventures. You don’t mention race unless race IS the story. Take historical fiction as a parallel. For many kids, the minute you describe a book as historical fiction, their eyes glaze over. But if you say, “This book is about a girl who gets kidnapped from her home and tries to escape and become a spy,” well, they’re in.
I concluded my part of the panel discussion with a mention of resources.
One of them is this list I’ve compiled of more than 685 contemporary multicultural titles that feature kids of color, but that are not “race issues”-driven books. You can sort them by age range, and click on any title to learn more. One great feature is that you can add comments to books. I invited everyone (and invite you!) to add their successful booktalks for these titles in the comments sections. Again, it’s the World Full of Color library.

FP Multicultural Cheat Sheet

I will also be posting (1) my PowerPoint presentation from the panel, (2) a “cheat sheet” for bookstores that lists 70+ outstanding multicultural books you can recommend for babies through teens, and (3) online resource links, many of which are available in ShelfTalker posts here, and here, as soon as I can figure out where to upload larger pdfs. (Panel attendees, I have your email addresses and will send you the resources directly, but the PowerPoint pdf test email got rejected by email servers for being too large, so I’m trying to figure that out, too.)
Professor Zetta Elliott’s article, “Something like an Open Letter to the Children’s Publishing Industry,” is extremely powerful, and if we substitute “booksellers” for “publishers” and “publishing industry,” it may help remind us of what’s at stake here, and how we can help. She writes: “What I am trying to say to children’s publishers is that the lack of books for children in our communities IS A MATTER OF LIFE AND DEATH. I am not asking you to level the playing field as a “favor” to people of color. I am asking you to work with us in our efforts to transform children’s lives. Isn’t that why you chose this field in the first place? … And, of course, there is a desperate need for ‘slice of life’ stories that don’t (only) focus on racial or cultural conflict…. People of color make up a third of the population, and before too long, we’ll reach 50%. In 2050 will we still be petitioning the children’s publishing industry to be more responsive to our needs….?”
The great news is, there are some really fundamental, simple things we can all do to be responsive, and I hope you all will share your own tips and techniques for making bookstores colorful and welcoming to all of our customers, and for sharing terrific books by and about people of color with a wide audience.

Candlewick, Fire Escapes, Tu, and Moi

Elizabeth Bluemle - October 6, 2010

(l. to r. Karen Lotz, Elizbeth Bluemle, Mitali Perkins; inset, Stacy Whitman) I stole the main photo from Mitali's blog and Stacy's photo from her blog. Thanks, you two!

Flooded subways and technical snafus didn’t thwart our multicultural panel at NEIBA this past weekend. I had been so excited about our speakers: author Mitali Perkins, Candlewick President and Publisher Karen Lotz, and Stacy Whitman, Editorial Director of Tu Books, the new multicultural fantasy imprint of Lee & Low Books.
I introduced the panelists and outlined my purpose in convening them: to examine our own biases and assumptions about the books we recommend to our customers, and to bring great books featuring kids from a multitude of races/ethnicities and cultures to the attention of all readers.
(Right here, I want to differentiate between books ABOUT race and books featuring kids from different races. There are many wonderful books about racial issues and questions of identity that readers of all backgrounds love. The thrust of this workshop, however, was to seek out and find ways to share books about ordinary kids (who just happen to not be European/Caucasian) having great adventures, both realistic and fantastical.)
Mitali Perkins opened the discussion with the most wonderful description of her early reading life, as a little girl who identified with Mary Lennox in The Secret Garden, with Anne of Green Gables, with Fern in Charlotte’s Web. She, like all children, identified with the characters in the books, not with the color of their skin. She quoted Hazel Rochman: “Fiction makes immigrants of us all.” Her talk turned powerful when she related her first experiences with racism on the playground of a new school — the first time she saw herself as “other.”
She spoke brilliantly about books serving as both mirrors and windows, and the need for all children to have both kinds of books: those that reflect themselves, and those that provide entree into other lives and cultures and worlds. She also pointed out that children who are not born into the dominant culture become adept at picking up cues, at crossing culture lines and learning what it’s like to live other lives, while children of the dominant race/culture who are not exposed to people and literature beyond their own become monocultural.
She also brought up novelist Chimamanda Adichie’s admonition to avoid the “danger of a single story,” that is, the danger of thinking that one story from a culture is representative of all stories from that culture.
One of the most useful ideas for booksellers came from the end of Mitali’s talk, when she suggested we invite people of color (she didn’t use that limited and somewhat troubling phrase, just said “people,” but we knew what she meant) into our stores and ask them to share with us honestly what they see. Do our stores speak of welcome, inclusion? Look around at what we face out, what we pull out for table and window displays; are a variety of people represented? What are we communicating to our customers?
Mitali is so articulate, and she also brings the most delightful warmth and liveliness and grace and tolerance to even the most difficult anecdotes (like the terrible playground incident) she relates.
Karen Lotz from Candlewick spoke next. I’d invited her because I’ve always felt that Candlewick does a wonderful job offering books that happen to feature characters of color without relegating them to a niche market. Every book is presented with an equal presumption of value, and is expected to sell in the mainstream marketplace. How do they manage that when it seems to be a challenge for so many publishers?
Karen said that she is lucky, in that Candlewick feels free from gatekeepers of the kind that would control or limit what they publish. Candlewick is a creatively-led house, story-driven, driven by the artists’ vision for the books. She said their “whole team shares the mission of broadening the range of books available to children” at every age level.
Part of the reason Candlewick has embraced multiculturalism so consciously from its early years is that in 1998, the employee-owners of the company commissioned an independent study to look at expanding its U.S. audience, and the study came back suggesting that some of the Candlewick list was “too white and too British.” You’d never know it to look at their list now! (Makes me want to commission a whole raft of studies….)
One of the “aha!” moments from Karen’s talk for all of us was her anecdote about a mysterious summons for a meeting with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar that had something to do with Candlewick’s  wildly successful “Ology” books. When they met, it turned out that Mr. Abdul-Jabbar wanted to know where these books were for brown kids, the books with high production values that make kids excited, the “books with bling.” Where indeed? That opened Candlewick to the idea of making the investment in those extra production touches on books for kids outside the dominant culture.
She mentioned an Indonesian idiom, cuci mata, which means to “wash your eyes” and see the world anew. It was a phrase President Obama’s mother taught to her children, and Karen thought of it in relation to her conversation with Mr. Abdul-Jabbar — one of those serendipitous moments that makes you see something in a fresh way. As Candlewick continues to learn and grow, Karen said, she (and other publishers) are also looking for tips from us on how best to sell books across color lines.
Karen’s presentation was both lovely and inspiring. She’s a marvelous publisher, and her humble admission that she is still learning struck such a wonderful note. (Full disclosure: Candlewick pubs my books, so I would have every reason to be biased about Karen Lotz, but ask anyone who attended the panel and they will agree with my assessment, truly.)

Stacy Whitman, as she appeared to those of us in Rhode Island

Stacy Whitman from Tu Books had gotten stuck in the flooded NYC subway system on her way to catch a train to the trade show in Providence, and since our panel convened at 10:15 am, there was no chance she’d make another train. But she gamely agreed to phone in her portion of the panel discussion, and joined us via one of those three-armed grey com phones they rustle up in convention centers. (Thanks to NEIBA’s Steve Fischer for helping us get that worked out!)
I can’t imagine trying to talk to an invisible audience (silent because they want to hear every word coming in over the speaker phone), but Stacy did a great job.
She spoke about the origins of Tu Books, a new imprint of Lee & Low that is focusing on fantasy and science fiction featuring characters of color. (I really, really want to find other ways to say “nonwhite folks” without defining people by what they aren’t. If anyone has suggestions for an inclusive term that is better than “people of color,” please let me know!)
Stacy mentioned RaceFail, an online discussion of the many ways racism rears its ugly head via exclusion, whitewashing, and other nefarious practices in publishing and other media. Click here for an article followed by a list of links to other articles and conversations on this topic.
The audience’s “aha!” moment during Stacy’s talk was when she raised a question. “Keep in mind how diverse our communities really are,” she said, even if they have homogenous pockets. How are you reaching those diverse customers? Do you need to do a different kind of outreach than you are currently doing?
She mentioned the following as great outreach possibilities:
Library outreach (book talks in libraries)
Social networking possibilities
School outreach (book talks) – Also, are there kids who never order from the book clubs?? Fundraise to get books to those kids, too.
We were so grateful that Stacy was able to “join” us, despite the travel and technical challenges of her morning. Her imprint’s first two books debut next year, and you can follow her blogs here and here.
This post’s length has already approached the limits of human endurance, so I will share my part of the panel presentation (with resources!) in a separate post.
I will close with this wonderful feedback from a member of the audience. Margie Leonard of The Blue Bunny in Dedham, Mass., said, “Every time there’s a booksellers’ gathering in New England, we should have this seminar.” Another bookseller found me in the corridor later and said, “It was really nice to step back and think about why we do what we do, in addition to all the workshops on our business practices.” And Suzanna Hermans of Oblong Books & Music said, “We already try to do this, but I’m newly fired up!” I think we all were. Thanks so much to our wonderful panelists!!

The Peepers Are Here!

Josie Leavitt - October 4, 2010

Oh, it’s that time of year again: when tourists flock to Vermont to see the leaves of autumn. Their arrival marks a shift in buying habits. Were it not for them, this would be a slow time of year. A time to gather yourself before the rush of getting ready for the holidays. The peepers, as they’re called (I’m not really sure how that term got coined, but it’s cute, so it’s stuck) are classic tourists. And every tourist, it seems, wants a memory of their trip.
It’s our job as a Vermont bookstore to be fully stocked in our Vermont books. There are lovely books of covered bridges which I couldn’t keep in stock yesterday. Two separate parties came in within minutes of each other each seeking the book. The first group got my last copy. The group of ladies from Texas seemed devastated, but I called another store in the area and had them hold it for them. The women were stunned. They’re from a town in Texas where they don’t have an independent bookstore. They browsed and bought a mass market romance that I’m sure they didn’t really need, but I felt like they were returning the favor.
Another set of peepers had come all the way from England and they were flying pig collectors. We have four shelves by the register where we display some of the flying pigs customers have given us. I kept trying to explain that none of those was for sale, that they were gifts. This woman just didn’t care. She was good-natured about it, but a little relentless. I showed her the flying pigs we had for sale, but no dice. We talked about mysteries and she had this look on her face. Finally, I asked her what was going on. She said our flying pig statue by the front door would fit in her suitcase. She collects flying pigs and wouldn’t it be great for me to give it her. I raised my eyebrow and said, “Seriously, leave the pig alone.”  I tried to get her to talk about how beautiful the foliage is and she just wouldn’t have any of it.  She just kept coming back to the statue. Her friend finally dragged her out of the store after they bought a short story collection.
When I closed up I checked the front door. The statue was still there.

Trade Show Update

Josie Leavitt - October 1, 2010

The title of this post is a misnomer. I’m not actually at the New England Independent Bookselling Association (NEIBA) Fall Conference right now in Providence, Rhode Island. I’m at home with a sick dog who got a nasty staph infection. I feel like I’m at the show, though, because Elizabeth is texting me with ideas she’s learning.
If I had been at the Conference yesterday I would have attended the day of education and I would have gone to Large-Scale Author Events: How to Book Them and How to Handle Them.  Elizabeth wrote to tell me that publicists love it when big events get lots of local press. Ironically, I was working at home on press releases when I got this. One thing she mentioned was sending copies of the book authors are promoting to the feature editors at the papers. It never occurred to me to do that before, but what a great and simple idea.  It’s also a great way to distinguish yourself from the sea of emails the newspaper must receive.

The next text was Elizabeth inquiring about whether or not we rented our credit machine. We don’t, and that’s good. She was attending The Fine Art of Accepting Credit and Debit Cards with Michael Barnard. I must say I caught this session at Winter Institute last year, and Michael is amazing. He makes the fine print of our monthly merchant statements decipherable. Michael works at Rakestraw Books in California and he really just wants all stores to stop losing money by not being smart about their acceptance of debit and credit cards. There are hidden fees everywhere. Elizabeth said there are a lot of things she wants to go over with me as the best procedures for taking a credit card or a debit have already changed since Winter Institute in January.

I didn’t hear last night about the Children’s Dinner featuring Jon J Muth, Jennifer Donnelly and Jerry Pinkney. I got a very funny video from Elizabeth’s table of several folks saying Hello to me. Very nice, and it seemed that a great time was had by all. If I could have gotten the photo to load, you would have seen the lovely table decorations done by Carol Chittenden, of Eight Cousins, Falmouth, Mass., also known as the Martha Stewart of NECBA, decorated the tables. Suffice to say, everything looked festive, fun and just slightly bookish– in other words, perfect for the dinner.
Expect a full report from Elizabeth on Monday or Tuesday.