Monthly Archives: May 2017

Free at Last!

Cynthia Compton - May 31, 2017

Our school bells rang for the last time this year on Thursday afternoon (actually, we don’t have bells anymore, but if I say that the computer-generated timer “dinged” it’s just not the same visual, is it?) We get out of school pretty early here in central Indiana, especially compared to my East Coast friends. But the combination of our history as an agricultural state and the Indianapolis 500, which ran on Sunday (Did you see it? What a race!) supports our custom to end classes before Memorial Day. We go back (entirely too) early in August, which makes for some very hot two-a-day football practices and lots of discussion about dress codes at the junior high, but the entire months of June and July represent glorious freedom.
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Playing Chicken with the Summer Tourists

Elizabeth Bluemle - May 30, 2017

Most kids are still in school here in Vermont, but summer has started in other parts of the country, so we are in the teeter zone. These are the few weeks in between our slower season, when one or two staffers can handle the store alone, and the tourist season, when we really need three or four.
In the teeter zone, we’re playing a dangerous game of guessing when we can be lean on the sales floor and in the back room. In late springtime, this is especially true, since staffers need time off for travel and graduations and other activities, and staffers are also out of the store working offsite events. So you make deals with each other: you take this shift, I’ll take that one, and you just hope that your gamble on the shifts that leave one person alone will work out. Selling books isn’t quite as hectic trading on Wall Street, but it can be surprisingly crazy when you’re solo. (Cynthia’s recent post is dead-on about what a typical bookstore day looks like.) This weekend, there were consequences to the gamble, and my teeter tottered the wrong way.
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Crafty Characters in the Bookstore

Meghan Dietsche Goel - May 26, 2017

I love the way the character of the store changes to reflect the personalities of the booksellers we have on staff at any given time. And right now we have a trio of creative crafters on our team whose inspired (and hilarious) designs are adding oodles of whimsy to our store’s energy. And they just keep trying to top themselves in what’s becoming an epic craft versus craft competitive showdown.

Staci and Eugenia stand off against Drew Daywalt.

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Name the Blank Contest

Kenny Brechner - May 25, 2017

There is a lot to be said for receiving a good questions that one doesn’t know the answer to. Dispensing information we’ve already acquired has its place, of course, but digging around and learning something new is a finer thing. The other day a longtime customer, who is a very thoughtful local chiropractor, asked me one of those questions.  It went like this.

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One Ringy Dingy (snort), Two Ringy Dingies

Cynthia Compton - May 24, 2017

8:06 am: (ring) “4 Kids Books & Toys, this is Cynthia…. Well, we open at nine, but I’m here, so how can I help? Yes, there’s story time today at 10:30. No, you don’t need a reservation. Yes, this rain is neverending, isn’t it? Three kids indoors since Saturday? Absolutely, come over early to play.”
8:15 am: (ring) “4 Kids Books & Toys, this is Cynthia…. an AmEx card? No, we didn’t find one, but give me your name and phone number, and if it turns up, we’ll text you right away. Yes, I remember you were here last night to get a couple of titles for that Accelerated Reading goal for your son that’s due today. Which one did he read? Is he in the car? Tell him I said good luck, and I’m holding his spinner.”
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Kindness: Pass It On

lhawkins - May 22, 2017

Yesterday I watched a roomful of young children watch and listen with rapt attention to a story set in a country none of them had ever heard of, in a time before any of them were born, and in a circumstance none of them have ever experienced and hopefully never will. Not only were the children gathered here visibly moved, they also came away with a feeling of hope and empowerment that they, themselves, even at their tender ages, can do concrete things to make the world a better place. Such is the power of story.

Vedrun Smailovic, aka The Cellist of Sarajevo

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Reading Together: Where to Begin?

Meghan Dietsche Goel - May 19, 2017

We get a lot of questions at the store from parents looking to introduce that special chapter-a-night reading experience to their kids and wondering where to start. I definitely don’t think you have to have kids to be an incredible children’s bookseller, but this is one question that my experience as a parent has helped me personally answer with a little more context than I used to.
Let me say at the outset that I don’t think anyone needs to rush into longer stories. With the dynamic interplay of text and art, picture books remain the best format for exploration and discovery and conversation for my kids, and we read them every day. But my four-year-old loves stories, and there’s something really special about sinking into a story that keeps going and evolving past the end of the chapter—not to mention the joys of running upstairs every night to continue the tale.
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‘That Konner Wilson’

Kenny Brechner - May 18, 2017

Having a bookstore in a small college town is a bittersweet undertaking when it comes to staff. Legolas knew what he was talking about when he said, “For such is the way of it: to find and lose, as it seems to those whose boat is on the running stream.” We always have at least two college student booksellers at DDG and during 26 years I have been fortunate and saddened to have many terrific booksellers work with us here at the store for a few years and then graduate and move on, leaving a living relationship which endures even as it changes.

See if you can spot Konner in the picture above!

This is as it should be, to be sure, but that doesn’t mean one shouldn’t mark the spot now and again. You see the whole staff is in denial over losing Konner Wilson, who just graduated from UMF and will be leaving for Chicago, for a Master’s program in Writing for the Screen and Stage. Konner proves an important point; skills are interchangeable but personality is not.  Konner has a great work ethic and is a real team player, absolutely, but most of all she is a true original. She has a fun and decisive character which includes entertainingly purposeful bad advice and a great sense of personal theater.
We’re all going to miss her but we’re also excited that she is staying in bookselling and has taken a job at The Book Cellar out in Chicago. The title of this post came from the idea Konner put forward when we were preparing to do our video store tour. “Everyone should always refer to me by saying, ‘yes, that Konner Wilson,’ as though I’m super famous and it’s hard to believe I work here.”  In order to help explain how she is that Konner Wilson, an exit interview was clearly in order.
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Fidgets, Fads, and Folderol

Cynthia Compton - May 17, 2017

“Do you have any spinners?”

It’s the predictable chant at the end of most phone calls at the shop these days. There are two distinct sets of phone flurries: one at opening time, when adults (usually moms), dispatched by their school age chidren, call the list of local stores who stock fidget toys looking for new shipments. Then there’s the 3:30 pm “just off the school bus” group, who make the same round of calls, hoping for better news. On good days, when we HAVE received a new batch, our affirmative response is often met by a yell. “MOM!!!!! WE HAVE TO GO TO 4 KIDS NOW!!!” We’ve learned to hold the receiver a little further away from our ears.

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Getting to Diverse: Pitfalls and Potholes Along the Way

Elizabeth Bluemle - May 16, 2017

Sarah Park Dahlen and Molly Beth Griffin’s brilliant graphic, illustrated by artist David Huyck, showing the dismal percentages of children’s books in 2015 reflecting kids from various diverse backgrounds. Even cartoon animals get more representation. If you subtract them from the mix, the white representation skyrockets even higher. (Thanks to Sarah, Molly, and David for making this image available via a Creative Commons license.)

While progress has been slow, the conversation about diversity in publishing has grown and changed and strengthened in the past several years. Thanks to social media movements like We Need Diverse Books, as well as longstanding efforts by trailblazers like Cheryl and Wade Hudson, and vocal social critics and activists like Zetta Elliott, Edi Campbell, K.T. Horning, Daniel Older, Debbie Reese, Christopher Myers, and many, many others, the discussions and definitions of diversity have become increasingly nuanced as more and more people join the conversation and begin to raise the thorniest issues underlying the lack of diversity in the book world.
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