Monthly Archives: February 2012

What You Read When You’re Sick

Josie Leavitt - February 10, 2012

I have been sick this week. It’s the first time a long time I can remember being home for days on end with little energy to do anything productive. My reading tends towards dystopia and outdoor survival when I don’t feel well. I think perhaps it’s the struggle and triumph of others that makes me feel better, and the tension of day-to-day or moment-to-moment survival keeps me alert.
Currently, I’m reading a May galley by Dayna Lorentz called No Safety in Numbers.  The book follows four teens as they deal with a biological bomb that has gone off, threatening all the folks trapped in the mall. Each chapter is from a different point of view and this helps my clogged brain. I can focus on short, gripping chapters. The characters are well drawn and the situation seems all too plausible. It’s part of a trilogy, and I now find myself thinking about what’s going to happen next and hating that I have to wait.
The other book I’m reading just came out. Will Weaver’s The Survivors is the sequel to Memory Boy. Volcanoes have ruined the earth and Sarah and her brother, Miles, are doing their best to weather the violence brought on by the extreme living conditions. This is a gripping book that has been a delight to read while my sinuses keep a drumbeat in my head. And there’s something about that drumbeat that actually heightens the action.
Lastly, perhaps my favorite thing to read when I’m sick are my New Yorker cartoon collections. Currently, I’m going through the CDs that come with The Complete Cartoons of the New Yorker. I have been working my way through all 60,000+ cartoons, focusing on the late 1980s. The cartoons, grouped by decade, really provide a humorous commentary on the history of the country.
So, while I sip yet another cup of Thera-Flu, I was wondering: what do other people read when they’re sick? And what do you recommend to customers who came in seeking books for sick family members?

Great News on the Diversity Front – Plus Twibbons

Elizabeth Bluemle - February 9, 2012

I’ve been champing at the bit to revisit the topic of including the nation’s many children of diverse races, creeds, and colors in the literature we provide for them. The significance of creating books that are both “windows and mirrors” for young readers, as Mitali Perkins and others have so eloquently put it, cannot be overstated.
If you have followed ShelfTalker for a while, you’ll know by now that this topic is really important to me. (For a post about mainstream children’s books needing a lot more main characters of color, take a look at Where’s Ramona Quimby, Black and Pretty? For a post linking to the online World Full of Color library—listing 500+ books featuring kids of color where race is not the driving issue of the story—click here. For a post about increasing diversity in the publishing field, check out The Elephant in the Room, a post extra-dear to my heart because of the amazing art created for it by several incredible illustrators. And for a post with some wonderful thoughts about these issues from author Mitali Perkins, publisher Karen Lotz of Candlewick Press, and editor Stacy Whitman of Tu Books, click here.)
For any folks who shut down at the mention of the words “multicultural” and “diversity” (and I wish that didn’t happen, but it sometimes does), I add the pragmatic argument that broadening the scope of what we offer readers not only affects minds and hearts and intellects, but will eventually prove to be vital for publishers, financially speaking, as the population of the U.S. — i.e., future readers — continues to diversify.
So, on to the good news!
The Children’s Book Council’s new CBC Diversity Committee.
Last year, a group of children’s book editors desirous of actively talking about and tackling these issues started gathering for lunch discussions. Over time, this grew into a full-blown initiative spearheaded by the wonderful people at the Children’s Book Council. Last week, I was overjoyed to have a chance to attend the kickoff celebration for the CBC Diversity Committee, which describes itself as “dedicated to increasing the diversity of voices and experiences contributing to children’s literature. We endeavor to encourage diversity of race, gender, geographical origin, sexual orientation, and class among both the creators of and the topics addressed by children’s literature. We strive for a more diverse range of employees working within the industry, of authors and illustrators creating inspiring content, and of characters depicted in children’s literature.”
To this end, the CBC has kicked off a blog/website that will serve as a clearinghouse for information and resources, and that suggests specific steps we can take to make a real difference.
The party was wonderful. Somehow, I never made it to the snacks, but they looked lovely. It was just too much fun to say hi to everyone and hear how they’d become involved in this project. Robin Adelson, Executive Director of the CBC, had invited the committee members to speak, and it was inspiring and touching (and often funny, and sometimes angering on their behalf) to hear these passionate, articulate book people speak of the experiences in their own lives that led them to love literature, and children’s books, and to crave seeing themselves and others in those books. The CBC website has started to post these stories in its blog; so far, you can read fascinating posts on “How I Got Into Publishing” by Little, Brown editor Alvina Ling and Roaring Brook editor Nancy Mercado, along with the first in what will be a series of posts on “Books That Changed My Life,” the first being Nancy Mercado’s discussion of Nicholasa Mohr’s wonderful Felita. Coming up will be posts by Stacey Barney, Editor, Putnam Books for Young Readers; Antonio Gonzales, Associate Marketing Manager, Author Visits, Scholastic; Connie Hsu, Editor, Little, Brown Books for Young Readers; Cheryl Klein, Senior Editor, Author A. Levine Books/Scholastic; Daniel Nayeri, Editor, Clarion Books/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt; Caroline Sun, Senior Publicity Manager, Integrated Marketing, HarperCollins Children’s Books; Namrata Tripathi, Executive Editor, Atheneum/Simon & Schuster; and Stacy Whitman, Editorial Director, Tu Books/Lee & Low Books.
There was more diversity in the room during the kick-off party than one normally sees in a room full of publishing folks, and that was heartening to see. We still have a long way to go, however, and I am SO grateful to the CBC and all the wonderful publishing committee members for taking this enormous step toward opening up conversations about what works (and what hasn’t yet worked, and how to fix that) when it comes to publishing and marketing books for young people featuring main characters of various races and ethnicities, and recruiting a truly diverse field of publishing and creative professionals.
Want to get involved? Start here and here and then add a Twibbon. The CBC Twibbon is a little CBC Diversity Committee icon that will display as a decoration on your Twitter icon (size and placement are adjustable). A single Tweet will go out to spread awareness, saying you’re supporting the Diversity Committee—although this can be disabled if you don’t want that for some reason—and then you can keep the decoration on your Twitter icon as long as you’d like. There is also a Facebook option, though I haven’t quite figured that one out yet. But you can certainly Like the CBC’s Facebook page and find great photos from the kickoff party there, too.
Also: I continue to invite publishers to send me lists of their recent titles featuring main characters of color where race is not the driving issue of the story so that I can keep the World Full of Color database up to date. I’ve gotten behind for this season, and am looking forward to adding many, many new titles in the next couple of weeks. (Email titles to me at ebluemle at publishersweekly dot com)
The Highlights Foundation’s workshop: Creating an Authentic Cultural Voice
Writers interested in addressing some of these issues in their work will be interested to hear that the Highlights Foundation is offering a Founders Workshop on writing across cultures, called “Creating an Authentic Cultural Voice” April 26-29, led by Mitali Perkins and Donna Jo Napoli, with special guests Alvina Ling and Kathryn Erskine. Some of the questions they’ll be addressing include:

  • Who has the right to write multiculturally?
  • How do we bring humility to our research?
  • What audience are we writing for?
  • Does the term “multicultural literature” match the needs of today’s book market?
  • How is authentic cultural voice achieved?

I loved this quote by Mitali from the Highlights press release: “When to cross a border of race, culture, or power in creating fiction? If a particular community is processing a shared experience of suffering through the healing power of story, maybe it’s time for our ‘outsider’ version to wait. When we have more power in society than our protagonist, it’s always good to ask whether to speak on his or her behalf. If we still feel compelled by the story, we must lean heavily on research, imagination, and empathy. Always, love deeply within that community and listen well. Someone once said that to cross a border of power to tell a story, a writer better live there first, shut up, and hold a bunch of babies.” Amen!
Readers, what ideas do you have for increasing awareness and getting great multicultural books into the hands of kids everywhere?

Bring a Friend to the Bookstore

Josie Leavitt - February 7, 2012

We asked our staff to brainstorm ways to bring new customers to the bookstore this winter. While I was busy thinking of ways to reach out to the masses in our county who have never set foot in our store, Kelly came up with a fairly ingenious idea.
Bring a Friend to the Bookstore is so simple, it’s shocking. Rather than casting a wide and expensive net to any and all potential customers, Kelly’s idea is to ask good customers to bring someone to the store who’s never been here. We are taking folks who already love us and have been loyal supporters, folks who get us and understand our value in the community, and asking them to share us with a  friend who might not know about us. We can get no better advertising than that kind of love and enthusiasm. All the staff is being asked to think of six friends or customers they really like, and send them a postcard with a little handwritten note. I’m very excited by this idea.
But wait, it gets better. To sweeten the deal, we’ve partnered with the coffee shop across the street to give everyone a cup of coffee on us. So, we’ve created a date with a friend for the purpose of introducing them to the store. I think it’s brilliant. Kevin, the coffee shop owner, is even underwriting the cost of the coffees because he’s happy for the new business. Kevin printed up the gift certificates and even swapped out his logo for ours and added a sentence: A Gift From the Flying Pig Bookstore. How lovely is that? The gift certificates will be good for a month so we can really track how this promotion is going to work.
I just think it’s a great excuse to spend some time with a friend. I mean really, what’s better than books and coffee?

As Promised: Awards by Publisher

Elizabeth Bluemle - February 6, 2012

It appeals to me as a bookseller to break down the awards by publisher, not only to take a look at what works and imprints have been recognized for their achievements, but — practically speaking — as an easy way to make some direct publisher re-orders. Here’s hoping it helps some other booksellers, librarians, and teachers, too.
To see a list of which publishers won how many awards apiece, and which authors and artists won multiple awards, see last week’s round-up post here.
And now… the awards by publisher! And once again, congratulations to all!
ABRAMS Abrams Books for Young Readers
Pura Belpré Illustrator Award WinnerDiego Rivera: His World and Ours, illustrated by Duncan Tonatiuh, written by Duncan Tonatiuh.
Sydney Taylor Notable Books for Older ReadersThe Mishkan: Its Structure and Its Sacred Vessels by Rabbi Avrohom Biderman.
Odyssey HonorGhetto Cowboy, written by G. Neri and narrated by JD Jackson.
Calkins Creek
Sibert Honor BookBlack & White: The Confrontation between Reverend Fred L. Shuttlesworth and Eugene ‘Bull’ Connor, written by Larry Dane Brimner.
Sydney Taylor Honor Books for Older ReadersHammerin’ Hank Greenberg: Baseball Pioneer by Shelley Sommer.
Geisel Honor BookI Want My Hat Back, written and illustrated by Jon Klassen.
Sydney Taylor Honor Books for Younger ReadersNaamah and the Ark at Night by Susan Campbell Bartoletti with illustrations by Holly Meade.
Sydney Taylor Notable Books for Older ReadersTerezin: Voices from the Holocaust by Ruth Thomson.
Sydney Taylor Notable Books for TeensRequiem: Poems of the Terezin Ghetto by Paul Janeczko.
The Sydney Taylor Book Award Winner for Younger ReadersChanukah Lights by Michael J. Rosen with artwork by Robert Sabuda.
Belpré Illustrator HonorThe Cazuela That the Farm Maiden Stirred, illustrated by Rafael López, written by Samantha R. Vamos.
The Sydney Taylor Book Award Winner for Older ReadersMusic Was It: Young Leonard Bernstein by Susan Goldman Rubin.
Yalsa Award FinalistMusic Was It: Young Leonard Bernstein, written by Susan Goldman Rubin.
Belpré Author Honor BookMaximilian and the Mystery of the Guardian Angel: A Bilingual Lucha Libre Thriller, written by Xavier Garza.
Sydney Taylor Honor Book for Teen ReadersThe Blood Lie by Shirley Reva Vernick.
Hyperion Books
Caldecott HonorBlackout, illustrated and written by John Rocco.
Geisel Honor BookI Broke My Trunk, written and illustrated by Mo Willems.
Eerdman’s Books for Young Readers
Mildred L. Batchelder AwardSoldier Bear, originally published in Dutch in 2008 as Soldaat Wojtek, written by Bibi Dumon Tak, illustrated by Philip Hopman, translated by Laura Watkinson.
Sleeping Bear Press
Sydney Taylor Notable Books for Younger ReadersLipman Pike: America’s First Home Run King by Richard Michelson with illustrations by Zachary Pullen.
Little, Brown & Co.
Alex AwardIn Zanesville, by Jo Ann Beard.
Caldecott HonorMe … Jane, illustrated and written by Patrick McDonnell.
Printz HonorWhy We Broke Up, written by Daniel Handler, art by Maira Kalman.
King Author Honor—Eloise Greenfield, author of The Great Migration: Journey to the North, illustrated by Jan Spivey Gilchrist.
Balzer + Bray
King Author Book Winner—Kadir Nelson, author and illustrator of Heart and Soul: The Story of America and African Americans.
King Illustrator Book Honor—Kadir Nelson, illustrator and author of Heart and Soul: The Story of America and African Americans.
Alex AwardThe Scrapbook of Frankie Pratt: A Novel in Pictures, by Caroline Preston.
Morris FinalistGirl of Fire and Thorns, written by Rae Carson.
HarperCollins Children’s Books
National Book Award Winner for Young People’s Literature—Thanhha Lai, Inside Out & Back Again.
Newbery HonorInside Out & Back Again, written by Thanhha Lai.
Stonewall Honor BookPink, written by Lili Wilkinson.
The Sydney Taylor Book Award Winner for Teen ReadersThe Berlin Boxing Club by Robert Sharenow.
Geisel Honor BookSee Me Run, written and illustrated by Paul Meisel.
Sydney Taylor Notable Books for Older ReadersIrena Sendler and the Children of the Warsaw Ghetto by Susan Goldman Rubin with illustrations by Bill Fransworth.
National Book Award YPL Finalist—Gary D. Schmidt, Okay for Now.
Theodor Seuss Geisel AwardTales for Very Picky Eaters, written and illustrated by Josh Schneider.
Yalsa Award FinalistSugar Changed the World: A Story of Magic, Spice, Slavery, Freedom and Science, written by Marc Aronson and Marina Budhos.
Houghton Mifflin Books for Children
Sibert AwardBalloons over Broadway:  The True Story of the Puppeteer of Macy’s Parade, written by Melissa Sweet.
Sibert HonorThe Elephant Scientist, written by Caitlin O’Connell and Donna M. Jackson, photographs byCaitlin O’Connell and Timothy Rodwell.
Stonewall Honor BookMoney Boy, written by Paul Yee.
Sydney Taylor Honor Books for Younger ReadersAround the World in One Shabbat written and illustrated by Durga Yael Bernhard.
Children’s Book Press
Belpré Illustrator Honor BookMarisol McDonald Doesn’t Match /Marisol McDonald no combina, illustrated by Sara Palacios, written by Monica Brown.
Lee & Low
Morris FinalistUnder the Mesquite, written by Guadalupe Garcia McCall.
Pura Belpré Author AwardUnder the Mesquite, written by Guadalupe Garcia McCall.
Sydney Taylor Honor Books for Older ReadersIrena’s Jars of Secrets by Marcia Vaughan with illustrations by Ron Mazellan.
Graphic Universe
Sydney Taylor Honor Books for Older ReadersLily Renee, Escape Artist: from Holocaust Survivor to Comic Book Pioneer by Trina Robbins with illustrations by Anne Timmons and Mo Oh.
Sydney Taylor Notable Books for Younger Readers

  • Joseph and the Sabbath Fish by Eric A. Kimmel with illustrations by Martina Peluso;
  • Marcel Marceau: Master of Mime by Gloria Spielman with illustrations by Manon Gauthtier;
  • Picnic at Camp Shalom by Jacqueline Jules with illustrations by Debbie Melmon;
  • Sadie’s Sukkah Breakfast by Jamie Korngold with illustrations by Julie Fortenberry;
  • The Littlest Mountain by Barb Rosenstock with illustrations by Melanie Hall;
  • The Shabbat Princess by Amy Meltzer with illustrations by Martha Aviles.

Stonewall Honor Booka + e 4ever, drawn and written by Ilike Merey.
Bloomsbury USA

Alex AwardSalvage the Bones, by Jesmyn Ward.
Farrar Straus Giroux
Alex Awards

  • Big Girl Small, by Rachel DeWoskin.
  • The Lover’s Dictionary, by David Levithan.

Newbery MedalDead End in Norvelt, written by Jack Gantos.
Henry Holt & Company

Belpré Author Honor BookHurricane Dancers: The First Caribbean Pirate Shipwreck, written by Margarita Engle.
Newbery HonorBreaking Stalin’s Nose, written and illustrated by Eugene Yelchin.
Sydney Taylor Honor Books for Teen ReadersThen by Morris Gleitzman.
Roaring Brook
Flash Point
YALSA Award for Excellence in Nonfiction for Young AdultsThe Notorious Benedict Arnold: A True Story of Adventure, Heroism & Treachery written by Steve Sheinkin.
Yalsa Award FinalistBootleg: Murder, Moonshine, and the Lawless Years of Prohibition, written by Karen Blumenthal.
Neal Porter
King Illustrator Book Winner—Shane W. Evans, illustrator and author of Underground: Finding the Light to Freedom.
Roaring Brook
Caldecott HonorGrandpa Green, illustrated and written by Lane Smith.
National Book Award YPL Finalist—Debby Dahl Edwardson, My Name Is Not Easy.
Sydney Taylor Notable Book for Younger ReadersThe Golem’s Latkes by Eric A. Kimmel with illustrations by Aaron Jasinski.
Sibert Honor BookWitches!: The Absolutely True Tale of Disaster in Salem written and illustrated by Rosalyn Schanzerand.
Yalsa Award FinalistWheels of Change: How Women Rode the Bicycle to Freedom (With a Few Flat Tires Along the Way), written by Sue Macy.
Dial Books

National Book Award YPL Finalist—Franny Billingsley, Chime.
Printz HonorThe Returning, written by Christine Hinwood.
Morris FinalistBetween Shades of Gray, written by Ruta Sepetys.
Schneider Middle School Award (ages 9-13)close to famous, written by Joan Bauer.
Sydney Taylor Notable Books for Older ReadersThe Cats in the Doll Shop by Yona Zeldis McDonough with illustrations by Heather Maione.
Alex Awards

  • Ready Player One, by Ernest Cline;
  • The Talk-Funny Girl, by Roland Merullo.

Batchelder HonorThe Lily Pond, written by Annika Thor, and translated by Linda Schenck.
Morris FinalistPaper Covers Rock, written by Jenny Hubbard.
Alex Awards

  • The Night Circus, by Erin Morgenstern;
  • Robopocalypse: A Novel, by Daniel H. Wilson.

Alfred A. Knopf
National Book Award FinalistAlbert Marrin, Flesh & Blood So Cheap: The Triangle Fire and Its Legacy.
Printz HonorJasper Jones, written by Craig Silvey.
Schneider Teen Award (ages 14-18)The Running Dream, written by Wendelin Van Draanen.
Sydney Taylor Notable Books for Older Readers

  • Flesh & Blood So Cheap: The Triangle Fire and Its Legacy by Albert Marrin;
  • When Life Gives You OJ by Erica S. Perl.

Listening Library
Odyssey AwardRotters, written by Daniel Kraus and narrated by Kirby Heyborne.
Odyssey Honors

  • Okay for Now, written by Gary D. Schmidt and narrated by Lincoln Hoppe;
  •  Young Fredle, written by Cynthia Voigt and narrated by Wendy Carter.

Schwartz & Wade
Caldecott MedalA Ball for Daisy, illustrated and written by Chris Raschka.
King Author Honor Book—Patricia C. McKissack, author of Never Forgotten, illustrated by Leo and Diane Dillon.
Sydney Taylor Notable Books for Younger ReadersI Will Come Back for You: A Family in Hiding during World War II by Marisabina Russo.
Tricycle Press
Sydney Taylor Notable Books for Younger ReadersOne Little Chicken by Elka Weber with illustrations by Elisa Kleven.
Scholastic Audiobooks
Odyssey HonorThe Scorpio Races, written by Maggie Stiefvater and narrated by Steve West and Fiona Hardingham.
Scholastic Press
Printz HonorThe Scorpio Races, written by Maggie Stiefvater.
Schneider Middle Grade Award (ages 9-13)Wonderstruck: A Novel in Words and Pictures, written by Brian Selznick.
Sibert Honor BookDrawing from Memory, written and illustrated by Allen Say.
Atheneum Books for Young Readers
Printz WinnerWhere Things Come Back, written by John Corey Whaley.
Morris AwardWhere Things Come Back, written by John Corey Whaley.
Free Press
Alex AwardsThe New Kids: Big Dreams and Brave Journeys at a High School for Immigrant Teens, by Brooke Hauser.
Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
Stonewall Book AwardPutting Makeup on the Fat Boy, written by Bil Wright.
Simon Pulse
Stonewall Honor Bookwith or without you, written by Brian Farrey.
S&S (primarily) authors who won awards for their bodies of work:
Coretta Scott King–Virginia Hamilton Award for Lifetime Achievement—Ashley Bryan
Margaret A. Edwards Award for lifetime achievement in writing for young adults—Susan Cooper
Sydney Taylor Notable Books for TeensOyMG by Amy Fellner Dominy.
Andrew Carnegie Medal—Paul R. Gagne and Melissa Reilly Ellard, producers of Children Make Terrible Pets. The video is based on the book written by Peter Brown, and is narrated by Emily Eiden, with music by Jack Sundrud and Rusty Young, and animation by Soup2Nuts.

Once More, With Feeling

Josie Leavitt - February 2, 2012

The battle against Amazon seems to be never-ending. The New York Times featured a long story over the weekend about Barnes & Noble’s struggle to fight the online behemoth with ebook content. I’m not even going to discuss the absolute irony of the article about B&N feeling the pressure from Amazon, when in fact, B&N is responsible for the closure of many indies in the 1990s.
The death knell for the physical book seems to be getting louder every day as the ebook threatens to subsume the publishing world as we know it. I have had it.
Books with pages and covers and that yummy book smell are not going away. To constantly say that they are is giving Amazon more power than it deserves. Yes, the ereaders are fun, and there might be something nice about having thousands of books in one little device, but real readers, the people who have kept bookstores open for years, are not all going to switch to the new technology. Maybe I’m being a Pollyanna here, but I’ve more customers tell me that they actually don’t like their Nook, Kindle or other ereader. They want real books. And our sales for January bear this out as we ended up 10% over last January.
Are we all fighting for our lives? Hell, yes. But let’s stop whining about it. Whining never made me want to support a cause. Want to make the book stays around forever? Stop letting three-year-olds play with book apps. A book doesn’t make noise at you. A book doesn’t have ten links to press per page that take you away from the story. A book doesn’t sound words out for you. A book lets you use your imagination – some anti-book folks would say, forces kids to use their imagination. I think every kid should be able to read The Cat in the Hat and feel a growing anxiety about when the parents are coming home. There shouldn’t be a hundred ways to pull you out of the story thereby diluting it. Kids have enough distractions thrown at them every day, a book should be a sanctuary. And yes, some books are going to be work, but that’s okay. I struggled with reading until I was eight and I survived quite nicely.
If children now grow up with ebooks that start to feel like video games how can a book with pages, words and pictures compete? These kids will expect books to do more with no effort on their part. I see a lack of imagination every day with kids. A child comes in with a stuffed animal and I ask what the animal’s name is and eight times out of ten the animal either has the name it came with on the price tag, or it doesn’t have a name. These kids need heaps of free time where all they have to do is think and imagine. I cannot comprehend not naming a favorite stuffed animal, or just calling it Dog.
Here’s another way to keep the book alive. Start talking to pre-teens and teens about the importance of the real book and bookstores. These kids have surprising amounts of money at their disposal. These are also the kids who latch on to a cause and fight for it and make it the law of their household. Make their cause your store and real books. Talk to them about shopping locally and supporting your town. They’re smart, they’ll get it.
Books are not sexy compared to ereaders. They don’t do anything but provide words on a page. And that is a wonderful, wonderful thing.