One day about twenty years ago, in the early days of the Flying Pig, a vigorous middle-aged woman walked up to the counter to make her first purchase. We needed to set up her customer account, so we asked her name. “Betty Miles,” she said. “Betty Miles!” I exclaimed. “There was a children’s book author I used to love by that name. She wrote a bunch of novels.” “Well,” she said, “That was probably me.” And it was.
It seems silly to say this, but maybe because I had grown up in Arizona and California, so far away from Vermont, and maybe because I’d read Betty Miles’ books so many decades ago, it had never occurred to me that I might run into a favorite author of mine so far from… my childhood? It was a lovely discovery, and I have hummed along happily for years with Betty as a customer, enjoying the sweet connection every time she walks in the door. But today I learned a new piece of information that rocked my world: in addition to those books I’d loved, it turns out Betty also wrote my very favorite story on the beloved anthem of my youth: the “Free to Be…You and Me” story, “Atalanta.”
I still have my copy of this vinyl record. Just looking at it makes me smile.
When I do book talks to teachers at after-school staff meetings there are two things* I always bring. One is a selection of books that are responses to particular areas of interest relayed to me from the teachers, fifth grade books on westward expansion, second grade books on animals, and so forth. The other is a sample of strong, very new, non-fiction titles pulled off our shelves.
I spent yesterday afternoon at just such a staff meeting. By the time I booktalked my way over to the non-fiction picture book pile I had reached a stream-of-consciousness handselling-zone that Gertrude Stein herself would have envied. Very much in the flow now, I found myself developing a new theme. Trade publishers were totally committed to their non-fiction picture books today. Gone were the days of lousy illustrations accompanying lackluster text.** A fact that was clearly evident in their employment of some of the best children’s book illustrators on the planet for this batch of non-fiction new releases. The great illustrations I was holding in my hands brought out wonderfully the appeal of their non-fiction topics when combined with high-interest thematic approaches and strong writing.
One of my closest friends just moved to Chicago from Vermont. Her move, while permanent, has an odd feeling of temporariness to it because she didn’t move with her partner, who will join her once they sell their Vermont house. So, my friend Kim is living in a condo with very little furniture and none of her children’s books. She doesn’t have an enormous collection, but the books she has, she loves. As a book person, it saddens me that she doesn’t have books with her, especially as we head into Halloween and the holidays, which are her favorite times for savoring a picture book. So, what I want to do is send her a book a week, roughly twelve weeks of books through Christmas, and I need suggestions from our readers. Continue reading
I have a good friend I text with fairly often. When she starts driving, she’ll pass the phone to her 10-year-old daughter, Sophie, who will continue to text. These texts charm me because Sophie is a sophisticated little texter. But the real charm is what we talk about: books. Sophie is usually handed the phone when they’re driving to the bookstore. The other day, my phone dinged to alert me to incoming text. The text began quite simply: “Hi, it’s Sophie on Mommy’s phone.” Continue reading