Zooping It Up!

Meghan Dietsche Goel -- September 8th, 2017

When Hervé Tullet’s Press Here burst onto the scene in 2011, it became an instant must-have for every collection, proving that you don’t need a digital device—or even flaps, pop-ups, or fuzzy pages—to have a whole lot of interactive fun. His follow-up, Mix It Up, was equally successful, this time using clever instructions to immerse kids in color theory, seemingly allowing them to create new colors by dabbing blobs, shaking the book, and SMOOOOSHing the book’s pages together (ok, so the smooshing sound is just what we yell when we do it at home).

And now we have Say Zoop! It clearly follows in the steps of the others, yet also takes the format to a new level. The previous two books help kids enter into a planned experience through playful, yet carefully plotted prompts. But while those books trick kids into thinking they’re in charge, Say Zoop! actually puts readers at the helm, helping them create something that’s wholly their own along the way. The book’s basic rules are deceptively straightforward. If you see a blue dot, say oh. If you see a red one, say ah. For a yellow dot, say wahoo! But there’s nothing simplistic about it. Continue reading

The New Commons Project

Kenny Brechner -- September 7th, 2017

Something great has come to Farmington and its name is The New Commons Project. What is the New Commons Project, you ask, and what makes it better than the old commons? First let’s check on the Project’s definition of commons.

” A commons is something that belongs to all of us, a communally held resource from which no one can be excluded and for which we are all responsible. At the New Commons Project, we believe that art, literature, and ideas are a commons.”

Fair enough but what is the New Commons Project exactly?

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From the Mixed Up Calendar of Mrs. Basil-the-Bookseller

Cynthia Compton -- September 6th, 2017


Memo to 4 Kids Staff re: displays

Hey, kids!

It’s September, which means we need to keep “Back-to-School” picture book rack out (but further back, towards the puzzles), “Apples and Apple Picking” on the front counter, and move “AUTUMN” to the front display right by the entrance. Tape those paper leaves to the coat tree, and just set it right in the middle of the table.  Over in Middle Grade, make sure that “SOCCER” is rotated with the “FOOTBALL & CHEER” display, but that can leach over into the YA department, as long as you don’t take over any of the John Green space. (Some things shall not be disturbed, no matter the sports season, and we need to presell a LOT of TURTLES, you guys. A LOT of TURTLES.) Oh, and since the Cubs are doing pretty well (ahem), just find a place to keep baseball books and Cubbie stuff out, too, OK?

Yes, I know there’s no room. Yes, I know that I want to keep the hurricane and We LOVE Texas books right out on the table. It’s important. Kids are watching the news. Their teachers are signing up to adopt classrooms in Houston and they’re recording readalouds on the Hurricane Harvey Book Club site… they need context. But while you’re straightening those hurricane and storm titles, pull out anything we have on Florida. There’s a lot of snowbird grandparents down there that our kids will be Skyping with this week.

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When YA Is Done So, So Right

Elizabeth Bluemle -- September 5th, 2017

I love YA fiction, but I’m curmudgeonly about it. For instance, it’s taken me a long time to come around to tolerating first-person present-tense narratives. For my taste, they can too easily lend themselves to self-conscious, awkward descriptions (“I brush my straight brown hair out of my eyes and shrug my shoulders”), and the challenges of the format can end up making narrators sound interchangeable—a “uni-voice” of precocious, observant, wry teen girls telling their stories. And it makes me sad to feel cranky about them, because they are funny, insightful storytellers who just can’t seem to escape their first-person present-tense sand traps.

But! Every so often come books so skillful the format disappears and I get sucked completely into the story. Angie Thomas’s The Hate U Give (HarperCollins/Balzer + Bray) was one of those stunners, and Erika L. Sánchez’s I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter (Knopf, Oct.) is another.

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Gearing Up for a New School Year

Meghan Dietsche Goel -- September 1st, 2017

So creepy! So comfy!

As children’s booksellers, our mission begins and ends with serving our community. This means not only championing great books, but getting out there and building curious, engaged readers. One thing I love about this job is that there are truly so many natural literacy partners and stakeholders out there who are doing great things and who love to collaborate. At the top of that list are the schools. We work more and more closely with our local school districts every year, and the more we work together, the deeper and more impactful our literacy programming becomes. We’re actively expanding our school partnerships in a number of ways, really focusing on the potential of this work through new festivals, citywide summer reading programming, bookfairs, and good old-fashioned author events.

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Amazing Kate Messner, Amazing Auction

Elizabeth Bluemle -- August 31st, 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 30th, 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 29th, 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 24th, 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 23rd, 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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