My first post for the ShelfTalker team last January celebrated the success of I Dissent, BookPeople’s top kids’ book of December 2016. This year, customers are once again choosing over and over again to share the stories of determined women with strong minds who accomplish great things. The crowd-funded launch of Good Night Stores for Rebel Girls last year was not only record-breaking, it also produced a gorgeous book blending the stories of well-known heroes such as Serena Williams, Marie Curie, Misty Copeland, and Jane Goodall along with tales of activists, journalists, students, and pirates whose stories remain relatively unknown. Incredibly wide-ranging and inclusive, the one-page profiles of 100 women and girls from all walks of life, cultures, and ages collectively paint a picture of a world in which pretty much anything is possible. And now the record-breaking book has become a record-breaking series. Continue reading
The day before this post begins, as is recorded here, I had employed some dark magic to summon a mighty gift wrapper from afar, using grammarie to call her forth from retirement. When the store opened there was no sign as to whether my efforts had been fruitful or vain. Suddenly, at 10:12, our reams of wrapping paper began to shake on their cutters, lightly at first and then approaching a frenetic tenor. The door opened of its own accord and Carol Chittenden, the mighty founder of Eight Cousins, walked across the store’s threshold. The spell had worked.
She shed her coat and asked whether we had a sufficient array of small wrap scissors on hand. I reported that we did not. With a wave of her hand we did!
You don’t mind if I call you by your first name, do you? Technically, you’re my supervisor this time of year, and I certainly don’t want to start rumors about an inappropriate work relationship, but then again, we’ve been working together for a lot of holidays now, so I think that some familiarity is allowed. You may not remember this, but years ago, before I managed the 4 Kids outpost of your production/distribution empire, I actually sent you personal letters every year. (I’m not sure that I ever sent a thank you note for the year that you came through with BOTH a Teary Deary doll AND a Thumbelina. That was epic.)
One thing that has been tremendous fun in taking a few shifts at the bookstore is seeing all the fabulous new cards we’ve gotten in. Elizabeth has always been the card buyer and the store is known for really wonderfully funny and smart cards. I try to look at them all when I pop by, but of course I miss some, and am thankful for one of the funniest bookstore exchanges I’ve ever had.
An older woman came up the register and held up a card I couldn’t see. Total aside here, but why do so many people hold things up at the bookstore, either from across the floor or too far away from my aging eyes to see at the counter, and ask me questions about it? “Have you read this?” someone will ask from the front of the store. Maybe I have or maybe I haven’t, all I know is I can see you’re holding a book, most likely a blue one, and there is no way I can read anything on said item. This exact scenario played itself out over and over this past weekend.
Back to the older woman. She came up to the counter with a card I couldn’t see and asked, somewhat loudly, “Shouldn’t this say ‘fucking?’ ” Every head in the store turned toward me, as if I was the one who dropped the F bomb at the bookstore. I know I have a propensity for foul language, but I would like to think that I’m not going to swear that loudly at a busy cash register. Apparently, I was the only one who thought that, as even co-workers said, “Really, Josie, at the register.” I looked at the woman and said, “Excuse me?” She smiled and held up a card, which of course I couldn’t see.
Then she brought the card closer to me and I started laughing. As someone who curses while texting, the card was fabulous and showed the auto-correct struggle all people who text and curse face. Phones don’t like it when you text the F bomb, and they offer up things like “ducking” as an alternative. It said, “I ducking love you.” Then the text bubbles reveal several forms of duck, ducking, etc, and ends with “I love you a lot.” I laughed even harder as she continued to swear as she explained all the text bubbles to me, saying, “Look, right here, it should say ‘fucking’ again.” I was literally dying and had to remind her that there were children in the store. She bought the card and apologized for swearing so much. I offered her some sugar plums and she left while giggling. I’m not sure I’ve enjoyed a card purchase more.
And, I cannot wait to see what fun this ducking weekend brings.
\When I saw My Miniature Library from Lawrence King a few months ago, I instantly fell in love. It just delighted me on so many levels. I’ll admit that as a child I had a wall shelf in my room for years dedicated to displaying my collection of tiny things, so perhaps this spoke to my heart in a unique way, but I think the appeal is pretty universal. Offering 30 classic books from Jabberwocky and The Owl and the Pussycat to Thumbelina and The Frog Prince to books of birds and butterflies and maps, this big box offers a bounty of mini book magic.
We have been featuring the package prominently since it came out in September, but I had an epiphany today. Why not turn these awesome little books into Christmas ornaments to trim a charmingly bookish tree? A little cutting, folding, pasting, and voilà! As someone with limited patience for crafting, this was just right for my skill set too. I’ve started making them for the store display and am going to bring a second set home as a fun family project for the weekend. Continue reading
Looking at our staffing needs for the upcoming weekend I determined that we could use a bit of gift wrapping help. Some bookstore owners might have solved this problem through traditional means, such as hiring someone. Others. like Elizabeth, might have asked a former co-owner, none other than our old ShelfTalker stalwart Josie, to pitch in.
I considered the first option too mundane, and the second option impossible, and therefore cast my mind back to favorite childhood books for inspiration instead. I was rewarded with a resolve to follow a course charted by a character I absolutely loved as a child, The Toad from Mary Nash’s Mrs. Coverlet books. You see, in the second book, Mrs. Coverlet’s Magicians, The Toad ordered a dark magic kit from an advertisement on the back of a comic book, and he used the kit to great effect, sidelining the odious Miss Eva Penalty when she moved in as caretaker during the absence of the Coverlet children’s’ father. Not only that, but he even used the kit to draw forth a snow storm on Christmas Eve. Sure, Toad’s older siblings, serious Malcolm and practical Molly, were appalled by The Toad’s methods, especially Malcolm who had a complicated conscience after all. You see Toad had created a crude wax image of Miss Penalty laying peacefully in bed, which is just what happened for real as she stayed happily in the guest bed during her whole stay and never wished to leave it. Now some might consider Toad’s sorcery a dubious course of action, but I felt that his methods had worked splendidly and were not at all to be written off.
We’re in full-on elf at the shop, and the curling ribbon is flying. So, too, are the Post-It notes, as we endeavor to communicate between shifts and team members about new product, special orders, assembly instructions, and all the myriad of details it takes to successfully load the sleigh. Keeping in mind that many of our young customers are Santa experts, we cannot afford to slouch in the holiday magic department. Here’s a sampling of the collage of notes currently behind our register:
After being gone from bookselling for a year, I’ve been able to really see why bookselling is so much fun and so hard. During this holiday season I have had the pleasure of working at the bookstore for a few shifts and I’ll be working heaps more in the next two weeks. There is nothing quite like the Flying Pig, or any indie bookstore, on the weekends before Christmas. Customers were streaming in and we were short-staffed, and Elizabeth and I were the two staffers working. To say that we were busy is an understatement.
I dusted off my Santa hat and worked this past Friday and Saturday. For the past year I’ve been the Development Director at the Pride Center of Vermont, the largest LGBTQ organization in the state. The work is fulfilling, taxing, and meaningful. And so is working at bookstore. What follows are a few observations from my bookstore weekend.
• Bookselling is very physical. By the end of Saturday’s eight-hour shift my shoulders from receiving, my hands hurt from shelving, my legs ached from running around the store all day, I got one paper cut, one cardboard burn. and almost sliced part of my thumb off wrapping a gift. And I didn’t get to eat lunch until 4.
At the center of La Belle Sauvage, the first book in Philip Pullman’s new trilogy, is a quest to reach sanctuary amidst many perils. For any new book the idea of sanctuary may be found in reaching the hands of its intended audience. Booksellers have a role to play in that quest and we tend to divide books into three categories. First, books that will achieve their quest without our help, books that will sell themselves. Second, books that are worthy of sanctuary and which will require our active assistance to get there. Third, books that are doomed, books beyond the aid of publicity, word of mouth or handselling.
When the first book of Pullman’s return to the world of The Golden Compass, La Belle Sauvage, was announced I figured that this book was a category one book, and that lovers of His Dark Materials would come streaming in to get it. That did happen in some places around the country but central Maine was not one of them. I was shocked by the lack of interest here. Since, for DDG, the first Book of Dust was not a category one, that meant determining if it was a category two or three, and if a two, how to do my part to aid its quest.
We’ve had varying levels of success with Santa at the shop over the years. Early on, we hired a Santa from a local talent service, and prepaid a sackful of money for a professional red-suited Claus, who appeared 5 minutes late, complained about the full parking lot (it’s CHRISTMAS, for heaven’s sake! drive around back, already) and wanted breaks every 45 minutes regardless of the length of the line of children waiting. It was not magical, but the pictures were good, and we had a big crowd. We replenished our bucket with miniature candy canes, totaled our sales for the day, and resolved to do it differently the next year.