Monthly Archives: August 2017

Let’s Talk About Racism

lhawkins - August 14, 2017

In the aftermath of the horrific white nationalist gathering in Charlottesville, I’ve heard and read some very pointed (and on point) feedback about the well-meaning platitudes that follow such events. Being who I am and doing what I do, I’m trying to absorb this feedback and learn from it, especially concerning how the children’s book community and others who influence kids can do better.
One hard truth we have to face is that, as much as we want to think that “this is not us,” that this is not who our country is, we aren’t going to change anything until we all accept that racism is alive and well and confront it head on. When it comes to what we teach our kids, maybe messages in books and songs and classrooms about how we’re all the same just aren’t enough. We, as a country, aren’t going to just “age out” of racism. I’ve been guilty of that assumption myself, noticing how white parents today are much less resistant to (even actively looking for) books featuring non-white characters compared to what I saw when I opened my bookstore 12 years ago. Yeah, it’s maybe getting better in my tiny little privileged corner of the universe. But out there in big wide world, not much has changed. As someone pointed out today, a lot of the neo-Nazis in that Charlottesville mob looked pretty young.
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This Shelf Is Reserved for Diverse Voices

Meghan Dietsche Goel - August 11, 2017

Working with publishers large and small is a huge part of what we do, but when you enter our store, the focus is generally on the books themselves or the authors and illustrators who created them. That’s how it should be. But publishers have their own voices too, especially independent presses whose carefully curated lists often reflect very personal, specific points of view. I think highlighting their voices can add something important to the conversation our store builds around books. I wrote a few months ago about an instore section I developed with Enchanted Lion Books, and we recently worked with Lee & Low Books to spotlight the robust catalog of titles they have built through 25 years of publishing stories “about everyone and for everyone.”
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Thrown from the Saddle by a Great Book!

Kenny Brechner - August 10, 2017

A great book can sometimes end just like a great vacation does, by making it hard to transition back to even a pleasant norm. This can be a problem for people who read copiously for a living. We have dietary restrictions. The conveyor belt of frontlist titles does not grow less insistent when a jam occurs. Re-reading cannot be more than an occasional indulgence. It’s a safety issue. And yet sometimes a book throws us so that in turning to the next book in our queue we taste nothing but ashes in our mouth. To head off into a different world is suddenly unpalatable. We are cast off course.
This sort of thing is rare for me, and I treasure it when it happens. The Resurrection of Joan Ashby, the debut novel by Cherise Wolas, caused such a breakdown. It had been a while. The last book to halt the line was Sally Green’s sublime culmination in Half Lost. I recalled picking up book after book but finding myself unable to engage. The need for another trip back to sit by Nathan’s tree was slow to fade.This recollection did not auger well for my current predicament.
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Making Everyone Feel Special

Cynthia Compton - August 9, 2017

We have a lovely family in our community who have been great supporters of our store. Their two sons, Drew and Sean, both have autism. They manifest this diagnosis in different ways, but neither boy likes loud noises, crowded places, or unexpected events. We met them for the first time several years ago, when the boys were still in strollers, out for a Sunday morning walk in our empty shopping center. I was inside, assembling a train table for delivery that afternoon, and when I saw the parents peeking in the windows of our closed store, I unlocked the door and offered to let them come in to play. Unfortunately, the door “dinged” as I opened it (do you have those bells on your doors, too?) and little Drew took offense to the sound. Dad and I exchanged apologetic looks, and I suggested that they walk up and down the sidewalk again, and in the meantime, I’d disconnect the doorbell. Then they could just come in quietly, and I’d go back to my Phillips head screwdrivers and directions-in-translation. They quickly agreed, and a friendship was born over a tantrum and lack of overhead store lights (we just kept the store dark, and let the sunshine do the work) for their almost weekly visits. Now, when they are headed over, Sandra calls on her cell phone first, and one of the staff jumps up on the stepstool to disconnect the offending dinger, and turns off the stereo. Their visits are no longer limited to off hours, as other customers are very accommodating to our quick “lights out” drill, and will even kindly lower their voices if told of the boys’ preferences.
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It’s a Graphic Question

Elizabeth Bluemle - August 8, 2017

This is a graphic novel.

This is a graphic novel.

This is not, but it cohabitates.

As sales of books in comics format have soared over the past several years, most booksellers and publishers have come to use “graphic novel” to provide an umbrella for a wide-ranging genre that includes nonfiction and other forms that defy the definition of “novel.” The term has become easy collective shorthand, but its inaccuracy irks many, including the very artists who make these books, many of whom use and prefer the term “comics.” So how do we resolve this terminology issue at the store? Continue reading

One School, One Book

lhawkins - August 7, 2017

I was delighted to receive a text message today from one of my oldest friends asking if I’d read the YA novel Every Day by David Levithan. Joey and I have been talking books since we bonded over our love for Harriet the Spy in grade school, so random texts about what we’re reading aren’t that unusual. I was surprised, however, that he was reading a young adult novel. He teaches advanced high school English and in the past has been notoriously snobby about even his students reading YA. This has been a point of contention, as you might well imagine given my chosen vocation. The reason Joey started reading Every Day is that it had been chosen for a One School, One Book summer read. It’s the third such text chosen by the school, he tells me, and the first one he will actually read. “The premise is very Woolfian,” he tells me. “A few pages in and I love it.” Continue reading

Where the Heck Do I Put That?

Meghan Dietsche Goel - August 4, 2017

Highlighting intro nonfiction in the picture book room

Shoppers sometimes know exactly what they are looking for, but often they’re looking for inspiration. With about 28,000 square feet, we have a lot of space to play with at BookPeople, which is a huge luxury when it comes out to laying out displays and face-outs and event spaces. But in a large space filled with nooks and crannies and corners blocking lines of sight, we have to think (and rethink) about where books will be seen to their best advantage. Creating an atmosphere of optimal discoverability can feel like a moving target because our title mix changes over time, but it’s also kind of fun to experiment. Earlier this year I wrote a ShelfTalker post about the ways creative sections can help call out topics or ideas that feel current and important and reflect our store’s point of view. But oftentimes the impetus for new sections is a lot more practical than philosophical.
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Renaissance Man or Fool?

Kenny Brechner - August 3, 2017

Though the penchant of small bookstore owners for hat-wearing is pronounced in many of us, you might think that comparing ourselves to Bartholomew Cubbins is a stretch. The lad did have 500 hats after all. Looking more deeply, however, we note that Bartholemew’s hats were ephemeral, lightweight, worn only for a moment. Our hats are heavy and in continuous rotation. This is clearly a case for weighting. Frontlist adult buying is the entire job of a bookseller at many large stores. If we weight that hat at 60 Cubbins hats, and consider other whole job hats we wear, Frontlist Children’s, Sidelines, Event Management, accounting, IT, Floor manager, handseller, Marketing, School relations, backlist buying, and so forth we can, viewing things scientifically, see that we have 600 hats right there and that doesn’t include the many lighter, 30 or 15 Cubbins hats we don for doing occasional display work, receiving and shelving. Do the math. The result is obvious.
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My Sidewalk’s on Sale

Cynthia Compton - August 1, 2017

I don’t like sales. I don’t like to shop at them, I don’t like to read about them (just throw away most of the newspaper on Thanksgiving Day, and pass the cranberry sauce) and I ESPECIALLY don’t like to have them. I don’t need to drag all that stuff out of the stock room to remind me of overbuying, errors in predicting trends, or old stuff that we forgot about, any more than I need to try on last year’s jeans before I send them to Goodwill. I can tell by looking that they don’t fit, and frankly, life’s too short to feel bad about yourself. And so my feelings of foreboding just grow all summer as I pass that slowly enlarging stack of boxes in the stock room, the graveyard of “onesies and twosies,” dented corners and slightly ripped packages, shopworn and a little faded from the sun, and merchandise that won’t survive a midwestern winter. We grow that pile of boxes until it threatens to teeter and topple, or until the kids go back to school, and use them to entice shoppers to visit for our annual sidewalk sale.
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