Oh, how I love the geeky girl books. Not the books that are geeky, but those with female main characters who are just different. Those interesting, quirky, smarter-than-the-average-bear girls who say what they think, and think about everything. They are my favorite characters in each genre, from Matilda to Calpurnia to Emika to Rosalind*, an eclectic sisterhood of smart and edgy and sometimes awkward young women, lovable yet often isolated by intellect and left alone by peers of their own age. They stand out at every level, but perhaps never more so than in middle grade fiction, especially those titles set in middle school, that Hunger Games of the American education system, when fitting in and keeping your head down may equate directly to survival.
Monthly Archives: April 2018
Glom on Mom: An Early Reader for Parents
Elizabeth Bluemle - April 10, 2018
This weekend, we had the cutest parade of little kids. Each was more adorable than the next, wobbling in with their flyaway hair and haphazard winter-into-spring clothing layers. And they were fabulously well-behaved at the bookstore, at least, until Mom and Dad stepped over the invisible toddler patience line and lingered too long, chatting and browsing. Then would come the tot meltdowns, which are also sort of heartbreakingly adorable, at least when they are skillfully and relatively quickly managed by parents. (I mean, who doesn’t feel like crying with outsized, totally inappropriate rage and exhaustion while running errands? But as adults, we’re supposed to have stopped doing that.)
I feel for parents who bring their toddlers shopping. We booksellers try, when we have a moment, to entertain and distract little ones long enough for the grownups to browse for a few minutes, but those bouts of peace are generally short-lived. One mom came in with twin two-year-olds and a six-year-old, looking for Dr. Seuss’s Hop on Pop, and she looked so frazzled I wanted to wave a magic wand and give her a three-hour nap. “I long for the time when my body is my own again,” she said. “Someone is always hanging on me.” She immediately looked guilty for saying it, and I had to reassure her. “I hear a version of that sentiment at least once I week,” I said. In fact, I hear it so often that I once wrote a parody of Hop on Pop in honor of all the moms we know. It’s called Glom on Mom: Or, What Dr. Seuss Should Have Told Expectant Mothers About Life with Toddlers. Continue reading
Cracking the 6-Minute Book Challenge
Meghan Dietsche Goel - April 6, 2018
I wrote a while back about the literacy program I have been participating in at my son’s school. Basically, I stop by every week to read with two second grade readers who could use a little extra one-on-one time. Each reader joins me in the hall for 15 minutes. The first reader brings out a book from his or her backpack and reads it to me for about 6 minutes before we chat about it. Then I read from a book I’ve brought for about 6 minutes and discuss. Then the kids switch and I do it again.
It’s been an interesting process for me. Obviously as booksellers we recommend books all the time for reluctant readers or their parents. But this is a completely different setting—one that has proven both tricky and rewarding as a handselling test. I bring a handful of books each time, but the truth is that I don’t always get it exactly right. Of the two kids, one is a far harder sell than the other. He’s very sweet, but he’s not always in the reading mood and just isn’t grabbed by every story. This experience has been a great reminder that while we give tons of tips and tricks to parents who want to engage their reluctant readers at home, that one-on-one work can still be hard even with a pile of terrific books at the ready. At the end of the day, though, the willingness to keep showing up to try something new goes a long way.
Gertie’s Leap to Sameness
Kenny Brechner - April 5, 2018
“Why are these two covers so drastically different?” You see, I had asked one of our customers for her opinion on the hardcover versus the paperback edition of Gertie’s Leap to Greatness and got a question in return.
It was a good question. Another related question is why had I asked for her opinion in the first place? Fair enough. When I first saw the new cover that was to be used for the paperback edition of Gertie I had a visceral reaction. Why was this happening was my first thought. Gertie is a wonderful book and a store favorite featuring a strong-minded character, completely immersed in her own persona. She has no artifice to speak of, no degree of identity separation. Impulsive, creative, with a warm heart and feelings that run hot, she is deeply likable but also trouble for herself. It is a story with a terrific lesson about mistakes not being the end of the world, and the enduring value of truth to self. Gertie is also immensely relatable to her audience of 7 to 11 year old readers.
Bye Bye, Geoffrey
Cynthia Compton - April 4, 2018
“Have you heard that Toys R Us is closing? You must be so glad!” is the greeting from dozens of customers over the last few weeks. “Yes, I heard that,” I reply. “Did you guys come in to visit me today—or is there something I can wrap for you? I am unpacking new books… would you like to see?”
“So how’s business? Are you guys OK?” is usually the follow-up query, delivered either sotto voce with a sympathetic look from a parent, or in the appraising raised eyebrow glance of the grandparent—that look that causes you to check your shirt for dribbles of donut frosting and a stray sprinkle or two. “We’re just great—how are YOU guys? Wow, the kids get bigger every time I see them—my goodness, you’ll be taller than me in a week or so! Did you get an April calendar of activities? There’s a great author event tomorrow!”
And so we smile and tap dance and book talk and gift wrap and dazzle them with service, avoiding the hundredth or so conversation about another chain closing, another retail demise, another conversation about how “everyone buys online, now, you know.”
Elizabeth Bluemle - April 3, 2018
I’m always telling my children’s book illustrator pal and Flying Pig staffer Liza Woodruff that her artwork would make the most charming greeting cards, but since that’s a completely different endeavor from the world of picture books, and Liza is really busy these days, she hasn’t bitten—yet. But over the past few months, I’ve been delighted to come across two new independent greeting card lines that feature the work of famous children’s book artists who have taken that leap. They couldn’t feature two more different styles, both of which are extremely appealing to our customers. Continue reading