Monthly Archives: September 2015

The Authors Answer: What Made Your Best School Visits Great?

Elizabeth Bluemle - September 29, 2015

Once in a while, I’ll throw out a question to my author pals on Facebook, and I’m always amazed by their generous responses. Recently, I asked, “Authors and illustrators: What have schools done to knock your socks off when you visit? From the simple to the sublime, I’m interested to share with our schools and for a possible PW post.” Well, the replies poured in, and there are so many great anecdotes and tips for schools that I could not deprive ShelfTalker readers.
The responses fell into a few major categories: preparation, creativity, and thoughtful attention to the small details.
James Preller: My go-to line is that authors don’t do school visits, schools do author visits. An important distinction. It is the small details that matter most. I am always happiest when students and teachers have spent time with the books. Like everything else in life, the more they put into it, the more they get out of it.
Kate MessnerMy best visits – both in-person and virtual visits – have happened at schools where kids are immersed in reading the books and creating related art of all kinds on their own. I’ve visited a number of schools where students made welcome signs & hosted a talk-show type interview for the school wide PA system: 
All-school reads make for really amazing author visits, too – I liked the twist on this that Melissa Guerrette & her school came up with. Instead of choosing one-book-one-school, they did a one-author-one-school project so that younger kids read my Ranger in Time chapter book and older grades read Capture the Flag. Melissa also did extensive, detailed blog posts about this so it’s a great model for other schools to follow:
Jan Carr: In one school, the class had read all my picture books, and had discussions before I arrived about what the commonalities of the various books were, though on the surface the books were very different. The keen-eyed kids had noticed threads that ran through – in language, characters, structure, themes, etc. So when I arrived and we talked about process, they were VERY tuned in and got so much more out of it. I agree with James Preller, that schools get out of it what they put in in preparation beforehand. Familiarity with the books is key.
Deborah Underwood: One school stands out because it was supremely organized, and clearly Author Day was a big deal to everyone there. There was a school-wide poster contest, and they even decorated the teachers’ lunch room for our lunch – tons of stuffed animals everywhere because of the animal nonfiction I’d written. After lunch, I was escorted to the library to sign, and class by class, the kids who had purchased books were escorted to the library. Each kid got a cookie, and there were chairs set up for them to sit in while they waited. So there was no signing chaos, and I got a chance to talk with each kid individually.

I also loved that visit because it was near where my dad lives, so he came along. Two of the kids asked him to sign their books. 🙂

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Underpants and More!

Josie Leavitt - September 28, 2015

We are very lucky to be hosting Dav Pilkey next week who is touring for the 12th Captain Underpants book: Captain Underpants and the Sensational Saga of Sir-Stinks-A-Lot  He’ll be going to two schools and doing a store event. Often publishers will send along some promo items that can be copied and distributed for the events. This is always hugely helpful. These kinds of things help create a richer event that the kids and these promo things are great fun. On Wednesday one of my co-workers texted the following message: “You won’t believe the swag you got for Captain Underpants event!!” I arrived at work the next morning expecting a box of pencils or tattoos. What I found instead was staggering. Continue reading

Random Hilarity at the Bookstore

Josie Leavitt - September 25, 2015

A quick note to our faithful readers. ShelfTalker had been subjected to a spam assault this week and we were unable to post our usual blogs. The tireless crew at PW worked very hard to get us back online and we are hopeful that everything has been fixed. Enjoy.
This past Sunday had me laughing pretty much all day with customer interactions. The weekends tend to be busier and funnier than the week. The random moments of hilarity came in many forms and they still make me laugh. Often little kids are the most funny and they don’t even know why, and then the slew of truly odd customer requests still has me scratching my head and tittering.
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Elision Master vs. Word Runner

Kenny Brechner - September 24, 2015

The release of Amazon’s new speed reading feature “Word Runner” came just as DDG’s own algorithmically controlled electronic speed reading program “Elision Master” is being released. To help give consumers a sense of what their market choices are, here is a feature breakdown.
Visual example taken from page 421 of Tolstoy’s War and Peace

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Dogs, Books, and Blogs

Josie Leavitt - September 18, 2015

Some readers might recall that I posted about my new dog a while ago. Since then, I’ve gotten not one but two letters from publishers with books for me to read on a dog theme. The first book was an adult book about dogs, and earlier this week I received a package from Eerdmans Books for Young Readers. Jessica Van Buren sent me a personal note about reading the ShelfTalker blog and my new dog. With the note she included four books about dogs for me to add to the bookstore collection about kids and dogs. What’s so lovely about this is two-fold. Continue reading

The Left Behinds

Kenny Brechner - September 17, 2015

The other day a two-year-old boy followed his mother around the store for 15 minutes or so. He had a camera held up to his eyes and took pictures the entire time with it. It rarely left his face. He literally was using it to both navigate and document his in-store experience. After they left I was very surprised to find the camera on the floor near the register. It came back to me that his mother had given him a book to hold and that he must have put the camera down thinking that it would stay there as at hand as if he had put it down on his living room floor.
It turned out to be an Olympus Trip 500, which you will rightly have assumed was a pre-digital model. It had no film in it, and its current retail value was somewhat dubious, but I fully expected to see them stream back in and claim it almost immediately. It suddenly occurred to me to take a picture of the camera before they came in.

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Halloween in September?

Josie Leavitt - September 15, 2015

Every year I’m usually the one at the store resisting putting books out before their appointed holiday time. I’m not a fan of rushing seasons, but as we get in more and more Christmas books, I can’t help feel pressure to at least get the Halloween books out, if for no other reason than to make room for the 2016 calendars and holiday books that are filling up the back room. I remember when I was a kid, Halloween candy came out in early October, not August. There is something inherently depressing to me about this rush towards these holidays. It’s like we all can’t just be in the moment without looking down the road to the next big occasion. As a bookseller, I’ve resisted this rush, but this year, I’m all in. Continue reading

The Five-Year-Old Conundrum

Josie Leavitt - September 14, 2015

I see this almost every day at the store: a child around age five comes in looking for a book. Their parent wants to get them an early reader, because they are learning how to read, but the kid doesn’t want “a baby” book. He or she wants a longer book, a book with a “story.” This brings up the interesting facet of bookselling: often the learning process of reading makes kids feel younger, and they don’t like that. Continue reading

My Quibble with Anniversary Editions

Elizabeth Bluemle - September 11, 2015

Why oh why do publishers mess with beautiful book covers when creating anniversary editions?
From the publisher’s point of view, if there’s nothing different and new about an old book, there’s nothing new to market. I understand that they want to differentiate the anniversary edition as a special book with something new to offer readers, but by and large, the anniversary covers are uglier than the originals. Either the gorgeous cover art is squished smaller to make room for a border — n.b., a full border instantly almost always makes a book look static and dull — or a banner proclaiming the anniversary takes up precious art space. And, the books are almost always a couple of dollars more expensive than the perfectly good original — for no discernible reason except to pay for the revamped cover design.
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Mal Peet’s Enchanted Mirror

Kenny Brechner - September 10, 2015

Having survived Autumn’s attempt on my life, I decided to fulfill my pledge to write up Mal Peet’s final book, The Murdstone Trilogy, A Novel. It is the tale of an aging writer, Philip Murdstone, with an award-winning history of writing realistic issue books. Murdstone has always been a man of unflinching integrity. At present, with his sales in a pronounced slump, Philip succumbs to his cynical agent’s forceful suggestion that he get with the program and write what’s popular, an epic fantasy, the very thing he detests with all his heart and soul.
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