I’ve never come away from chatting with a classroom full of kids about ARCs they’ve read and reviewed for me without some interesting takeaways. The conversation below with two Cape Cod Hill School classes, one fourth grade and one fifth grade, who had just completed our annual Galley Review Project was not an exception. Note that while kids this age like nonfiction, the use of inserting fictional elements into the narrative to create dialogue is very important to them. Here are the kids!
Kenny: What surprised you the most about the book you read?
Emma Z: That seeing a unicorn in the parking lot wasn’t surprising to the people in the book. (Pip Bartlett’s Guide to Magical Creatures)
Brody: There was a boy who looked nice but he did something that was not nice at all.
Emma H: I read about Dolly Madison. (Women Who Broke the Rules: Dolly Madison) I was surprised that she was a famous girl who did a lot of things and helped her husband a lot.
Drum roll, please — it’s time for the the mid-year roundup of starred reviews given to books for children and teens!
The Stars So Far is a project in which I foolishly decide to gather all of the year’s starred reviews for children’s and YA books from Booklist, The Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books, Horn Book, Kirkus, Publishers Weekly, and School Library Journal. Some of the reviews are harder to track down than you’d think, so publishers, please alert me to omissions at ebluemle at publishers weekly.com.
Before writing to tell me I’m missing a star, please note that starred reviews are counted only when they have been officially printed and released by the review magazines. If you know that a book will be given a star next week or next month, please don’t send an email. I will add those stars as they are published by the review magazines. Thank you!
This is a detail-laden process, and as careful as I try to be, there will be bobbles here and there. If you want the cleanest, most comprehensive version of this list, check back here several days after the original post, when I’ll have been able to make any fixes.
And now for the stars:
I am just now getting to unpacking the box of galleys I mailed myself from Book Expo. Most of these galleys, some signed, are for friends. The sheer plethora of available galleys at the trade show really feels like a mini-shopping extravaganza with other people in mind. Yesterday I gave out the last of the gift galleys to two friends and a friend’s kid. After almost 20 years in business, it’s easy to forget that galleys are special and very, very fun to have. Continue reading
Recently, I visited a school so far north in Vermont that cell service there comes from Canada. I’d been invited as the visiting author guest to help the town’s school and public library celebrate the grand finale of their year-long literacy program courtesy of the wonderful Children’s Literacy Foundation (CLiF). I spoke to 110 K-3 students, then 110 kids in grades 4-6—and ended with a visit to a preschool with 10 toddlers and young children. At this event, a boy told me about a book that had “changed [his] whole life.” More on that in a bit.
These finale programs are fantastic fun. First, the town librarian introduces the fun summer reading programs available to the kids after school ends, then the author (at this event, it happened to be me) does a half-hour presentation, and then every child gets to pick a book to keep. CLiF chooses a fine selection of brand-new titles for the kids to peruse—everything from Caps for Sale to Inkheart to Anna Hibiscus to books about Nascar. It’s a great mix of literary and popular titles, and it’s a blast after my presentation to be one of the adults helping the kids find just the perfect book to take home and treasure. (Since I recommend books to children of all ages every day at the bookstore, it’s a familiar gig—and so much fun not to have charge any money for the books!)
Great moments with children always come out of these events. You can see the love of books lighting up their faces, and the utter joy of receiving a present they can have forever. You hear the most touching or interesting or perceptive or thoughtful or funny things from the kids. I have a couple of memories from this visit that I can’t resist sharing:
The Alex Awards, which “are given to 10 books written for adults that have special appeal to young adults, ages 12 through 18,” are a source of particular interest to me. The underlying concept of the award embodies the kind of thinking booksellers do all the time in assessing the possibility of multiple handselling audiences for a book. The how, where, and why books crossover from Young Adult to Adult (such as The Night Circus) and vice versa are both interesting and useful. The benefits of literary bridges are immense. Successful crossover books provide substantive momentum at critical points in a reader’s life. They promote multi-generational connections. Apart from any other considerations, Alex Award winners also tend to be some of our biggest sellers.
Working in a small village means I run into customers all the time when I’m doing my own errands. Yesterday I was at the drugstore picking up some much needed allergy relief, and two of my favorite young customers were also shopping. Manny is nine years old and is a fixture at the bookstore with his younger sister, Daisy. Manny is a voracious reader of all things Hardy Boys. He started reading the series months ago and is now on book 50. He comes in weekly and orders two more books. We now have the entire series in stock, just for him. I’m already plotting for what to suggest for him to read when he finishes the series. Continue reading
We have a saying at the bookstore when summing up the retail day, “We worked hard for no money.” We sing this out like the Donna Summer tune we’ve borrowed it from. Oftentimes there are days where we feel like we offer help to everyone and show them books and they just don’t buy anything. Book talking, whether to folks intent of buying or just curious to learn more about books, takes just as much energy and focus. Sundays are usually the “I’m just browsing” crowd, so we’re used to that. But every bookseller has a fantasy of folks not needing a ton of help, and still buying heaps of books. Well, this day was yesterday. Continue reading
Something happens to people, parents, teachers and kids this time of year: the frenzy of the end of school winds people up in a blur of assemblies, graduations, cupcake parties, and getting teacher gifts. The slow slouch towards summer vacation sees a flurry of activity for most bookstores. This is a wonderful and slightly exasperating time. Here are some helpful things to make the the last few of school a little easier for your local bookstore. Continue reading
With summer now visible on the horizon, and summer reading on our minds, we are fortunate that Summer herself agreed to share some of her own reading list with ShelfTalker readers.
Kenny: I know how busy late Spring is for you. Many thanks for taking the time to speak with us.
Summer: I’m delighted to do so, Kenny.
Kenny: First off I have a question for you.
Summer: Why then, unburden yourself of it.
Kenny: Well, most readers refine their literary opinions, and make their book selections, at least in part, based on interactions with other readers. I know how well read you are but do you have the opportunity to discuss what you are reading with anyone, and if so who? Do you and the other three seasons have a reading group or anything like that?
True confession: I had several pages of notes on itty-bitty paper with funny things authors said and quotes from award speeches I wanted to share with you, and those notes have vanished into the ether. I blame Mac Barnett and Jon Klassen. Because they don’t know me personally and so I can. So I may as well start off my Magical BEA Moments Part 2 with them.