Embracing the Future

Josie Leavitt -- September 6th, 2016

Back in the day when the bookstore first opened 20 years ago, there were only paper catalogs. Boxes of them would arrive and we would sort them by the imprints we were likely to order from. There was a good divide-and-conquer approach to ordering. Elizabeth and I would each take catalogs and mark them up and then trade them back and forth. Now, there really are no paper catalogs as almost all publishers have switched to the Edelweiss order platform online. I understand the savings, both financial and for the environment, by this shift, not to mention having the most current book release information. Ordering online, while ultimately easier because the order data can be easily downloaded into the bookstore’s POS system saving countless hours of data entry, is still not something I enjoy.  Continue reading

Last Gasp of Summer Reading

Josie Leavitt -- September 2nd, 2016

Most Vermont public schools started on Wednesday and there has been a steady stream of kids in the store getting what they think will be the last few pleasure reading books they can. Kids moving up grades into the unknown world, new teachers, and homework loads make them understandably anxious about their reading time. I love this yearly phenomenon. It speaks to the power of reading in a profound way. Kids who spent the summer reading whatever they wanted are already feeling bereft at the potential loss of this special time.  Continue reading

A Gallery of Our Favorite Bookcases

Kenny Brechner -- September 1st, 2016

Few things are inhabited by as much charm as a well-loved bookcase. I thought it would be fun to feature some photos of especially dear ones here. Given that the best place to find a brook trout is in a brook, it seemed clear to me that the best place to find charming bookcases would be in the homes of people who make their living creating, producing and selling books. Putting theory into practice I put out a call two weeks ago to ShelfTalker readers asking that they send in a photo of a favorite bookcase along with a description of why it is a personal favorite. The delightful results are below. I added a fun book to spot in each bookcase. Thanks to everyone who sent in photos!

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Turning Twenty

Elizabeth Bluemle -- August 30th, 2016
E and J hanging flag 2006 Liz Shayne

Hanging the flag at our new store location in 2006.

On November 23, the Flying Pig will turn twenty years old, and we are starting to plan our party! It’s hard to believe we have been around for two decades. We still call our current location in Shelburne “the new store” – even though we’ve been here ten years, the exact same length of time we were in our old store in Charlotte.

Back in 1996, we opened our doors with 6,500 books and 850 square feet of selling space in a sweet little building that served as the town’s old post office. Twenty years later, we have almost twice as much space and five times more books, toys, cards, and gifts. We’ve seen babies grow into young adults, and young kids grow into grown-ups with children of their own (whom we call Flying Pig grandchildren). We’ve hosted a wedding in the bookstore, we’ve had a baby take his first steps in our picture book section, and we’ve seen so much laughter and many tears over the years as customers navigate their lives with us as one of their community anchor points.

Our moving party at the old location in 2006.

Our going-away party at the old location in 2006. (These kids are all grown up now!)

I’m not big on the horn-tooting, but it feels good to have created something real. A bookstore feels worthy to me, and welcoming, and inclusive. (If only we could give away the books for free, that would be perfect! Like a library, but with brand-new books people could keep.) Bookstores – those containers of joy and knowledge, those supporters of passion and curiosity – are most definitely worth celebrating.


Our 2006 party poster, designed by Betsy Wernert. I’m delighted that Betsy is now a librarian in Ohio, but man, do I miss her graphic design skills!

One thing we’d like to do for the party is to have a looping slideshow, with photos from store events over the years. We are inviting families to contribute pictures of themselves, both back then in our early days and now. It will be amazing to see how they’ve grown over the past twenty years!

We’ll have music and food, maybe face-painting for the kids, and funny toasts to staff former and present. We may celebrate our long-time customers with a silly raffle.

What else shall we do?

For our tenth anniversary, we paired up with the Shelburne Arts Center and invited our customers to paint tiles for display at the store. These tiles are incredible, from the most abstract toddler creations to elaborate pigs with 3D tails, favorite books, and renditions of Toot and Puddle and Charlotte.


Some of the tiles customers created for our 10th anniversary.


More tiles. If you look very closely, you might see a iittle tail sticking up out of the book in the third tile down.

I remember that Eight Cousins’ Carol Chittenden commissioned an amazing alphabet chair that lives outside the store in Falmouth.


Best internet photo of the chair? Shelf Awareness! Thanks, SA folks! (

While I have dreamed of a big flying pig statue outside our store for as long as we’ve been in business, that’s not going to happen. I’d like to do something special, but the Big Idea hasn’t hit me yet. I’m not worried, though. We always get some crazy idea.

My colleagues, you booksellers who have celebrated significant anniversaries, what were the best things you have done to celebrate those anniversaries? The most memorable? The funniest? The most touching?

I can’t wait to write after our party to let you know ours.


From our tenth anniversary party.

Babies as Customers

Josie Leavitt -- August 29th, 2016

One of the first outings for many newborns is a trip to the bookstore. I’ve seen this time and time again. Whether folks are new parents or seasoned parents, there is comfort in a visit to the bookstore. I love this. It sets a pattern very early in a child’s life, that the bookstore is a haven, a fun and safe place to spend some time. When a new customer comes in having just moved to town and had a baby (there seem to be a lot of them at the moment), the first time at the bookstore is a very important trip. Continue reading

Spinal Taps

Elizabeth Bluemle -- August 26th, 2016

While the design of book spines occupies interesting and unique territory in the world of books, perhaps no one is as invested in them as booksellers and librarians, who look at thousands of them every day and use them as vital tools for locating mis-shelved books. Some spines we admire aesthetically are pragmatically confounding.

Recently, I was looking for It Ain’t So Awful, Falafel on my bookshelf. People generally scan items to sort first by color, then by other information like text (unless the title is giant and bold and thick and highly contrasted on the spine, in which case it can catch our eye before color). Remembering that the cover is yellow, and the book is thick-ish, I scanned in vain for a medium-thick yellow YA spine.

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The 2016 Best New First Day of School Book Award

Kenny Brechner -- August 25th, 2016

The first day of school is all about embracing new possibilities, experiences and friends. Yet when we are compiling our back-to-school displays at the bookstore our thoughts go to old favorites. We cling to familiarity, which is always a danger in life. Isn’t it true, after all, that some of those favorites were themselves winners of our Best New First Day of School Book Award, such as last year’s winner, Steve Raised by Wolves, or the 2014 champion Edda? How are we to avoid the disgraceful irony of reaching only for past favorites for books on a topic such as the first day of school, which is all about embracing new possibilities?

The answer to solving that difficulty lies in this year’s winner. Not only is Pat Zietlow Miller’s Sophie’s Squash Go to School completely worthy of any former champion it will spend time with on back-to-school displays, but its theme is none other than overcoming our attachment to the familiar and our consequent resistance to new experiences.

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The Art of the Deal at the Bookstore

Josie Leavitt -- August 23rd, 2016

There is something adorable about watching kids try to get their parents to buy them books. Often, families will come for gift buying, not personal buying, or a child has been told that they can only get one book. Children don’t always understand these strictures, or they don’t really believe them. Every day, I watch kids try to finesse their parents and get books. And I’m a very happy accomplice at times. Continue reading

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up… the Bookstore Basement

Elizabeth Bluemle -- August 22nd, 2016

We at the Flying Pig, like most of the clutter-bound world, *love* Marie Kondo’s brilliant little bestseller, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. Kondo’s approach is so simple it’s foolproof: put your hands on everything, keep what sparks joy, and give the rest of your stuff a new life elsewhere. Care gently for what’s left, give it space and appreciation, and you will have a restful, clean, happy space around you.

Obviously, there’s more to the book and philosophy than outlined above, but the tenets above are at the heart of the book, and several of us on staff have, if not completely transformed our living spaces, at least made many changes in our homes as a result of this little book. I couldn’t help thinking of Marie Kondo as five staff members and I delved into the basement storage at the bookstore. We should appreciate this space; it’s almost as large as our store. But of course that’s a bit of a curse as well as a blessing, since it allows us to accumulate and save items we really should be dispatching. Continue reading

Recommendation Challenges for Seasonal Customers

Josie Leavitt -- August 19th, 2016

I love summer at the bookstore. Every day tourists come in and marvel at the store and our selection. What I particularly enjoy are my returning customers. The ones who love Vermont and our store. They might only come once a year, but these folks look forward to their visit. And it surprises me how many of them I remember from year to year. One family came in the other day and proudly announced, “This is the twentieth year in a row we’ve been coming to your store!” Continue reading