Snowflakes dangle from the ceiling, wrapped shelves gleam in gold and silver, catalogs are stacked on practically every surface, and books are piled as far as the eye can see. The holiday season is upon us, and the bookselling elves have certainly been busy!
We just finished putting up our very last holiday display up today, so I thought it might be fun to check in with the mad paper cutting genius who spearheads our wrapping and cutting and twirling every year. Merrilee Wilkerson has been making things look pretty at BookPeople for 24 years, and she graciously offered some expert tips for aspiring elves. Continue reading
That most honorable of Awards, the DDG Stocking Stuffer of the Year Award, has found its luster stained of late. The last three years running, 2015, 2016 and 2017, were marred by the unseemly spectacle of our judges awarding the top prize to themselves. Though steps were taken to avoid this odious outcome these last two years, those measures proved ineffectual. Clearly stronger and more potent safeguards were needed to insure a return to the state of unblemished integrity the award had earned in the past.
This year I chose to interrogate potential judges in a manner so direct that there would be no possibility of moral backsliding. The Judge who emerged from this investigative inferno was The Erratic Invader, a Clockwork Spaceship from a bygone era of ethical behavior in toys.
Kenny: Can you swear to me that you will not grant the Stocking Stuffer of the Year Award to yourself?
Erratic Invader: I did not unwind my way across the stars to perform an iniquitous deed.
Kenny: Can you clearly state your answer as a yes or a no?
Erratic Invader: The moral compass of the stars is infinite. It will brook no prevarication.
Back in the summer, I wrote a little post called Dear Parents, with love from your bookseller, with some general suggestions for making the most of a trip to the bookstore with children in tow. I’d like to add to that list a bit, with a holiday-themed version on parenting advice from your friendly neighborhood bookshop and its slightly footsore staff, who are currently operating on equal parts caffeine, the broken bits of decorated sugar cookies, and dreams of …. well, sleep. I will call this the “Naughty and Nice” customer list, and allow you to choose your allegiance accordingly.
Let it be known that:
While bookstores are beacons of truth and inclusion, at this time of year, we must prioritize the needs of our youngest little reindeer over all else. There is to be no audible discussion in our stores of “believing” or “not believing.” We cannot provide you with new, creative Elf on the Shelf ideas, Mensch on a Bench inspiration, or hear your “when my kids found out” stories. Come back later, like in January, when we have lots of time to chat.
Ornament-making for the tree at the nearby nursing home.
Hello from Josie Leavitt, who writes a guest post today:
This Saturday was the 22nd anniversary of the Flying Pig Bookstore. It has been almost two years since I retired from the store and being a customer at store is delightful. I find myself popping by the store a lot lately. Going to the store is a lot like having coffee with a fun friend. The conversation is delightful and it leaves me feeling good. There is often something unexpected that happens at the store; either I wind up helping sell books or I get to visit with customers I’ve missed.
Elizabeth with celebratory flowers on the store’s 22nd anniversary.
I get to see the store with very different eyes than I did for 20 years as an owner. Rather seeing everything that’s wrong, missing, askew, dirty, etc, all I see are masses of books with their riot of colors making promises about great stories. The store is so colorful in a very calming way. It feels very warm and inviting. The new shelf talkers are fun to read. And I have to read these because I don’t know the books anymore. I am enjoying getting to know the new books. For the first time they actually feel new. There is something about ordering frontlist so far ahead that can take the fun out of new release day. Now, every day feels like that because there is always something new to see at the store. I read reviews and then forget them unless it’s a book I want to order.
…in this season of plenty, when somehow October mysteriously disappeared like the best of the trick-or-treat candy does after bedtime, when November has sailed by on autumn wind carrying left-behind signs from protest marches and polling places and plans for the holidays that are suddenly, alarmingly HERE….
…to ask our publisher partners for extended credit terms, faster shipping, an extra two percent if we buy the display, and oh! please add another case or two of catalog titles, perhaps cushioned to prevent damage with a little extra bubble…
…wrap “in birthday, Hanukkah, or Christmas?” as we inquire of each customer as they bring their purchases to the register, and watch their smile of delight as we gesture toward the giant rolls of…
We always see a resurgence of interest in the classics come holiday time. Hardcover copies of The Wind in the Willows and Now We Are Six tumble out of the store with renewed vigor, along withThe Sword in the Stone, Treasure Island, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (perhaps my favorite version is this one, a lovely small book with gilded page edges which used to have a silver-edged companion, Through the Looking-Glass), The Hobbit (which has about six handsome hardcover versions and I love them all for different reasons), Eloise, Uncle Wiggily’s Story Book, and on and on and on. Suddenly poetry sells again for both children and adults, especially (and unsurprisingly) Shel Silverstein. The Nutshell Library fills many a stocking, and Zlateh the Goat heads into Hanukkah homes. There are countless classic favorites that find new life at the holidays—and yet there are two big holes in the list, books I’d love to be able to offer my customers, but can’t. Continue reading
Last week I had the pleasure of co-hosting a fundraiser for a local nonprofit that’s responsible for implementing the Dolly Parton Imagination Library program in our county. As most of you are probably aware, this fantastic program mails free books to enrolled children every month between the time of their birth until age 5. It began in Dolly’s home state of Tennessee and now distributes books to kids all over the country and overseas as well. Continue reading
I had one of those personal and poignant bookselling moments yesterday, when in conversation with a customer she mentioned that her seven-year-old daughter has been diagnosed with selective mutism. You may be a little bit familiar with this term, as I was, from Christina Collins’s powerful debut middle grade novel AFTER ZERO, which was published by Sourcebooks in September. In the book, eighth grader Elise moves into public school after an isolated childhood in which she was homeschooled by a mother coping with crippling depression. Struggling to understand the complicated social cues of middle school, Elise makes a few blunders that are heartbreaking in both their honesty and her subsequent shame, leading her to conclude that maintaining absolute silence is her only safety. She begins to tally the words she speaks aloud each day, with the goal of reducing that number of utterances to a perfect zero, the absolute silence of anonymity and safety. In spite of gentle prodding from teachers, concern and then avoidance by classmates, and well meaning but ineffective intervention from the adults in her life, Elise desperately tries to take control by abandoning speech entirely, and committing to voicelessness. A quote from Sakya Pandita, which Elise taped to the inside cover of her school notebook, reminds her that “Silence is the means of avoiding misfortune. The talkative parrot is shut up in a cage. Other birds, without speech, fly freely about.”
Christina’s Collins’s powerful middle grade novel about voice.
As has been reported elsewhere, Amazon has chosen to locate its new Headquarters in an area stretching from Queens, New York to Arlington, Virginia. This vast new campus will cross six states, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, and Virginia.
The geographical extent of Amazon’s Headquarters raised some initial concerns about such issues as conflicting municipal, payroll and property taxation rates, interstate commerce, eminent domain, scale of political influence, and employee citizenship. These concerns have been resolved by the unusual step of granting the new campus District status, making it the nation’s second District, along with the District of Columbia.
Our wonderful customer, Anne, begins her holiday gathering by bringing in book reviews, clippings, and interviews.
As a retailer, I’m supposed to deck my halls for the holiday season pretty much the moment the first autumn leaf flutters to the ground. Fourth quarter makes or breaks our year as a business, so it’s vital to attend to “the season.” But as a human being, I dislike the relentless consumer madness our culture has created around the holidays. So I strike compromises at the store, reluctantly setting up a couple of low shelves with holiday books just after Halloween—people start asking for them in August and I’ll bring them out from the back but cannot bring myself to create a display that early—and I also relent by setting out the holiday boxed cards in early November, putting two shelves of Hanukkah cards in the top spots because, even though we don’t sell many, Christmas tends to drown out all the other seasonal holidays, and I’m striving for at least a little equity. But there’s one thing I do love about early holiday prep, and that’s the influx of aunts, uncles, and grandparents coming in with their lists of family members, eager to match each reader with the perfect book.