Monthly Archives: August 2017

Amazing Kate Messner, Amazing Auction

Elizabeth Bluemle - August 31, 2017

Kate Messner. Photo from

Kate Messner is a woman who makes things happen. Somehow, even without Hermione Granger’s Time Turner, she manages to get more done in a day than any three humans I know. In addition to effective time use, another of Kate’s crowning qualities is her generosity–of time, of energy, of information, of spirit. She is an author whose website and Twitter feed I love to point new and aspiring authors toward, because she doesn’t use her platform to plug herself and her writing; she uses it to share helpful resources and interesting news relevant to children’s book writers and lovers. She’s a major cheerleader for other authors, and she’s someone who values direct and immediate action. All of these qualities are evident in her latest effort, the #KidLitCares Auction for Hurricane Harvey relief.
Because she is a master of social media and connectedness and quick work, Kate has already gathered more than 200 auction ‘items’ to raise money for the Red Cross relief effort for Hurricane Harvey and its flooding aftermath. She’s blogged about the items up for bid with additional details and deadline information. You can scroll down the list on her website’s blog to learn about these amazing offerings, from Skype visits and manuscript critiques from authors, illustrators, agents, and editors, original artwork, signed books, career consultation with agents, and more.  Continue reading

Shaking Things Up

Cynthia Compton - August 30, 2017

The regular event calendar for our store is consistent year round. We host a preschool and caregiver event every weekday morning at 10:30, and then keep our event space free for birthday parties on the weekends (for more on that sprinkle-filled festival, see Happy Birthday Party Blues). Mondays are for Paint-a-Story (described in The Messier the Better); Tuesdays bring Stories & Snacks, a more traditional 4–5 stories on a theme followed by muffins and conversation; on Wednesdays we host MOPS (mothers of preschoolers) and playgroups, and on Thursday we celebrate Silly Songs & Stories, a half hour of shorter tales and rhythm instruments, dancing, singing, and on my braver weeks, my ukulele or guitar.
We established this routine years ago, and often laugh when customers ask if “that messy book and art thing” or the “books and bongos” class will happen next week—of course it will. Other than holidays for which we close (Thanksgiving, Christmas, Mother’s Day and Easter) we ALWAYS keep our regular events in place. Even in December, when our party room is rimmed with tables for gift wrapping and an embarrassing amount of unreceived books (the elves work nights, thank goodness), we just push everything back and host our weekly silliness. Partly, we do that to maintain a sense of destination about our store, and keep our regular customers engaged. Surely, we use events as gentle ways to bring in new people, meet their children, and try to charm our way into their hearts (and maybe budgets.) Relationships take time, and we want to offer as many opportunities as we can to become friends. Being part of a parent’s weekly routine, and seeing children frequently allows us to ask about progress with potty training and phonics and wiggly teeth, and share momentous occasions like first words and wobbly steps.
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The 4th Annual ‘Best New First Day of School’ Book Award

Kenny Brechner - August 29, 2017

I have what appears to be terrible news. The winner of this year’s Best New First Day of School Book Award, A Letter to My Teacher by Deborah Hopkinson, is different from its three glorious predecessors, Edda; Steve, Raised by Wolves; and Sophie’s Squash Goes to School.
At first this idea of difference appalls us. We want, like nervous schoolchildren, a comforting and familiar continuance, a benign recurrence of established themes. Yet it cannot be. For in our inclination to stasis we are betraying the very lessons of First Day of School books, a dark irony if there ever was one. Change must be. Stasis is itself a negative agent of change, it deforms the very thing of value we wish to preserve from change. The first day of school is all about transforming expectations, anxiety, and knowledge into a multi layered learning experience, how can we pervert its intrinsic character by expecting well trodden genre tropes from First Day of School books?
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Prepositions and Pronouns Contest

Kenny Brechner - August 24, 2017

Young adult book trends often start out like an unlooked for thunderstorm, a few sprinkles here and there and then the heavens open. One new trend we’ve noticed at DDG are book titles featuring little more than a preposition modifying a personal pronoun. Though there were earlier titles, such as This Is What I Did, by Anne Dee Ellis, I trace this trend back to the success of Gail Forman’s If I Stay. It began to pick up steam with titles like We All Looked Up, by Tommy Wallach. A quick perusal of our Upper and Lower YA sections indicated that the deluge is upon us.
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The Bookseller and the Very Bad Day *

Cynthia Compton - August 23, 2017

I went to sleep with the Edelweiss grid open and now there’s drool on the keyboard and my author visit pitch for that new YA fantasy is just fjkldkjslkdfldkfjlsdkfjlkjlksdjfldkfjlsdkfjldskfjldksfjldskfj….. and it’s submitted and when I got out of bed I tripped on that stack of ARCs and I spilled coffee on my last clean shirt (and I have a school presentation this morning) and I could tell it was going to be a really bad day.

At morning staff meeting Antonia got the jelly doughnut and Nichelle got the last apple fritter so I had to eat the leftover granola bar from the drawer under the register with no coffee because I spilled it. All of the folding chairs were gone, too, so I had to sit in the bean bag chair. I said I would get a backache in the bean bag. No one even answered. I could tell it was going to be a quite horrible day.
I think I might move to Canada.
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Shining a Light on Girls’ Education with ‘Girl Rising’

Elizabeth Bluemle - August 22, 2017

In these challenging days, any positive action we can take feels fundamental, essential. The overwhelming tide of events we have little control over is helped only by doing whatever we can, however small, however local, to make things a little better near us. On Thursday evening, August 17, we were all still reeling from the terrible attack in Charlottesville and the escalating nuclear threats and counter-threats, so were grateful to have something inspiring to look forward to: an event with award-winning nonfiction author, Tanya Lee Stone, presenting a partial screening of the Girl Rising documentary and her book, Girl Rising: Changing the World, One Girl at a TimeThe event was a fundraiser for Vermont Works for Women, a local organization dedicated to improving the lives of girls and women in our state by providing education, programming, and advocacy to create economic equality and opportunity.

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Challenging the Canon

Meghan Dietsche Goel - August 18, 2017

Last week, fellow ShelfTalker Leslie Hawkins wrote a compelling piece on talking to kids about racism directly so that they can see it and name it and react to it. She pointed to Holly McGhee’s Come with Me as a title designed to help kids engage with tough topics and figure out what they can do. I completely agree and think that books that depict kids finding ways to push back against hatred and racism and bias can be especially impactful—books like The Story of Ruby Bridges, Emmanuel’s Dream, Separate Is Never Equal, We’ve Got a Job. But as Grace Lin reminded everyone in a PBS video last week, there are plenty of books that introduce racism but don’t call it by name, and some of those books come labeled with the word “classic.” It’s embedded racism in bestselling, famous stories that we can’t afford to gloss over with young readers, even if it’s tempting to keep turning the pages to get back to the fun parts.

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Tools for Troubled Times

Kenny Brechner - August 17, 2017

Even old-school nature documentaries struggled with identifying what set human beings apart from the rest of the animal kingdom. The narrator would begin by declaring “man, the tool maker.” Tool making, we understood, set us apart. And yet as the documentary progressed a chimpanzee would be filmed turning a leaf into a funnel and using it to extract ants from a tree. Unmistakable tool making, We were dished! Or were we?
The issue remained ambiguous and yet I believe that old idea was onto something. We are as imposed upon by biological imperatives as any other mammal, to be sure. We are capable of the same level of reflexive and sustained prejudice and violence as that exhibited by a group of territorial weasels. It is not physical tools which make us our best selves but rather the creation of intellectual constructs, tools of the mind such as the First Amendment, and  adherence to principles such as non-violence and critical discourse, which elevate us over a state of nature.
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Putting the Fun Back in Fundraisers

Cynthia Compton - August 16, 2017

As the school year begins, so do the myriad of events hosted by PTAs, sports teams, service clubs and groups. Customers (and people claiming to be regular customers) approach the counter daily with a single typed sheet on letterhead extended before them like a foam play sword, requesting donations for auctions, raffles, back-to-school nights and festivals. We are happy to be included, of course, in their planning, but sometimes the sheer volume of requests is difficult to accommodate. While the soliciting volunteer often asks for “just anything, really” to fill their basket, we are torn between wanting to empty our “slightly damaged” shelf in the stock room and the potential marketing opportunity of an event — it IS our reputation we’re sending with our brochure and donation, and shabby or shopworn merchandise is just not quite the impression we were hoping to achieve.
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