Angst and anguish unquestionably have their role to play in literature. Some genres, like luxury vehicles that can only run on super premium gas, positively require them. I know. I get it. Still, one can perhaps be forgiven for wondering if the peculiar strain of poetry entirely dedicated to conveying suffering, the sub genre I call Anguish Verse, that style which so commends itself to Poetry Readings in bookstores, is really quite the thing. Every occupation has its hazards, of course. Someone has to convey nuclear waste from the reactor to the underground cave. Poetry reading are going to be held and we are going to host them. Nonetheless, let us put fatalism aside for a moment and think more deeply about this matter.
Hello to friendships old and new! This is my first post for ShelfTalker, and I’m so pleased to be here. I’m writing today from the stockroom at 4 Kids Books, with an electric portable heater plugged in underneath my desk and a giveaway towel (promoting a beach book, obviously) wrapped around my shoulders like a shawl. Yep, that’s a typical spring week here in the heartland, where we ricochet from 60 degree days full of sunshine and kite sales to snow blowing under the store doorways, and hail warnings in between frequent power outages from high winds. We’re a hardy bunch, we midwesterners, and the daily weather eccentricities pale in comparison to what’s really important: March Madness and our college basketball pools.
First order of business: awarding the prize from last week’s contest. The person who guessed which Jason Chin book was the next bestseller after Grand Canyon was Linda, who aptly reasoned, “Island: A Story of the Galapagos because kids like big tortoises.” I’m thinking she might have a future as an acquisitions editor! Linda, send me an email as per contest instructions, and we will send you your signed copy of Grand Canyon. Heck, or Island! Your choice.
And now on to the dreaded tasks.
As Cary Grant famously said, “I’ve often been accused by the critics of being myself on the screen.” He was so talented and worked so hard that his performances seemed effortless and were often underappreciated. This seems to be a common problem for artists of all kinds.
Lovers of picture books know how frustratingly often the spareness of a text is equated with being easy to write. Even as a bookseller, I grit my teeth when I hear casual comments to this effect from adult customers and would-be writers; I can only imagine how infuriating it is for hardworking authors and editors. Ironically, when the hard work pays off, the text seems so simple and flows so naturally that it looks, well… easy. Continue reading
Handselling is the heart of bookselling, and nothing takes the place of engaging our customers in conversation and helping them find just the right thing. But sometimes the way we present our books can speak volumes even when we’re not talking.
The way I see it, certain necessities of the publishing business tend to follow a downward cycle beginning at necessary, trending to overused, and ending at being a source of inconvenience, money loss, and petty annoyance. We all know we need Strict On Sale dates for high-profile frontlist releases, for example, but do books that virtually no one is anticipating need them too just so that they can keep the big titles company on the holding shelf?
If you’ve ever stood at the lip of the Grand Canyon and doubted that a mere image ever could do it justice, Grand Canyon the picture book might change your mind. Ever since I got a sneak preview last year of Jason Chin’s glorious new title from Roaring Brook’s Neal Porter Books, I have been eagerly awaiting its public release. The scope and quality of the illustrations are so impressive, from the tiniest fossil details to the breathtaking four-page gatefold spread of the wide canyon view. This book is an achievement at a new level even for this gifted illustrator. We were lucky enough to get to host Jason’s launch party on Saturday, and it was a blast!
Spring is in the air in western North Carolina. Even though it’s February, the unseasonably warm temps have made the trees start blooming early and have turned my mind toward forthcoming books about gardens. Continue reading
Helping a customer find just the right book is one of the purest joys of bookselling. But I’ve also found that curating home libraries through our Books By Mail subscription service holds a special kind of magic. The curious thing about the process is that I’ve never met most of the kids in the program, and while some subscribers send me some general reading preferences, the sky’s really the limit. Because I don’t know my audience, beyond age and a few other descriptors, I try to look at each kid’s selection at its own project, looking at the list over time to think about just the right next book round out their library. For some kids that list is dozens and dozens of titles long at this point, which feels very rewarding. I get a real sense of connection to the readers, most of whom I’ve never met, just because I know we share all these books in common.
In the ordinary course of things we tend to think of books as either fiction or nonfiction. We had an experience at the bookstore recently that indicates that there is a third category. The Latin term for these books would be Genius Liberloci, books which are literally animated by the protective spirit of their contents. We’ll simply refer to them here as Animus Books. Here’s how we made this discovery at DDG.
One of our wonderful booksellers, Hannah, was helping me review the forthcoming picture books from a publisher’s summer list, from a traveling kit of F&Gs. There was one title in the box that she found unusually disturbing. This book, set up as a parable, conveyed darkness, irresponsibility, and callousness to her, as opposed to hopefulness and warmth. Called to attention by her exclamations of dismay, I read the book in turn and found that I shared her view of it.