One of our best-loved and most brilliant staffers snorts derisively every time one of those little square feel-good or funny hardcovers comes into the store featuring a fuzzy kitten or a leering raccoon on the cover. She cannot believe anyone in their right mind would buy these books, and in fact she placed a bet with me last summer when I brought in three copies of Cats on Catnip from Running Press. She was receiving a Hachette order, came upon them, and just held one up to me, eyebrow cocked as if to say, “This? Really?” I eyebrowed her right back and said, “We will sell all three in a week and a half.” The bet was born and I won.
It’s that time of year when “Best Books of 2019” lists are as rampant as holiday bazaars, and every retailer in the country, it seems, has added an endcap display of bestsellers. Yesterday, on my way to staff our booth at our local Junior League Holiday Mart, I stopped at the hardware store for a package of AA batteries and some packing tape for today’s tear-down. Right next to the register was a book rack — not manuals on home repair and the many miracle uses of caulk, but an honest-to-goodness NYT bestseller display.
In a week and a half, on November 23rd—the very day that children’s book legends Susan Cooper and Steven Kellogg are scheduled to grace the store for an author event, in fact—the Flying Pig will turn 23 years old.
It’s hard to believe we’ve been around that long, although many betraying silver strands in my brown hair say otherwise. My then-partner Josie Leavitt and I were just 32 years old on that chilly but exciting opening day, and we had only been in Vermont for five months. The bookstore was an impulse, a potential hobby (ha!) we would run while pursuing our creative writing.
Nearly a quarter of a century later, here we are, a few miles north of where we started and still part of a vibrant, connected community. We’ve had the great good fortune of being part of our customers’ lives, seeing children grow up and bring in children of their own, seeing friends and neighbors through difficult times in their lives, and sometimes saying goodbye, always too soon. It’s an honor to be a longtime staple in a community. People trust us with confidences and questions, worries and wonders, deep sorrows and great joys. Bookstores are special places, and while bookselling is a questionable business (financially speaking), it is a wonderful vocation.
“We’re going to read some Thanksgiving stories today, my friends. Do you know what we do on Thanksgiving?”
“Have some Grandmas.”
“We have a Grandma, too. She brings presents and she doesn’t like our dog.”
“OUR GRANDMA IS DEAD.” “Oh, honey. I’m sorry. Do you think about her sometimes? “No, she’s dead. We went to the saddery and everything.” “The cemetery? That’s a nice place to go remember people.” “And then we had ice cream and I like ice cream but mostly cake.”
I have known since I read his first adventure in 2015 that Pajama Night needed Mother Bruce. It must be. It was destined to be. And in 2019 it was!
Mallett School’s Prime Time Reading, aka Pajama Night, is still, for 13 years running now, my favorite event of the year. How could it not be? After all, it has some of the best ingredients an event could have: a shared love of reading, widespread community support and partnerships, great authors, a great crowd, amazing decorations, and pajamas.
“My son is in 8th grade, and he needs to read that one book. CAUTIOUS AFTER DARK? I think that’s it. But you can check your computer. He’s in Mr. Teeter’s Gifted and Talented English class. Do you have it in paperback?”
“Hmmmmm…. I’m not sure what the classroom reading assignments are in every school right now, but maybe I can help. Would you like to text your son quickly to check, and I’ll look up that title…. ”
As I returned to the register to type, my staffer quietly walked over to the young adult section, slid a copy of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon from the shelf and placed it next to me on the counter. (“It’s OK,” she murmured. “We had another one from that class yesterday, and they wanted the “Dog Man at Night.” It took us a minute to figure out that 8th graders were not assigned Dav Pilkey graphics.”)\
Well, that title got your attention, didn’t it? Me, too. That imaginary half-asleep visual made me sit suddenly upright in bed one night this week, during those predawn hours when shopkeepers toss and turn, as the myriad of details and responsibilities and events and tasks mount in the 4th quarter, and each day we worry and wonder if we’re doing all the right things. And so our incredibly stretched brains work a little overtime, and process our anxiety through a series of strange dreams. This week, I dreamed that there were a family of snakes living behind and in the huge stacks of boxes in our storage room, peeking their little heads out unexpectedly when I moved around the baby toys, looking for that stack of Who Was? paperback overstock.
Of course, my brain was telling me that I’m anxious about all those boxes of merchandise, and perhaps advising a slowdown on the roller coaster of ordering new stock. Sadly, though, this dream will be followed by another in a few days, in which I step into our stock room only to fall into a giant abyss, falling down, down, down like Alice, with no White Rabbit to save me. That’s the dream of “you don’t have enough stuff!” and the fear of empty shelves, big title shortages, and the customer who remarks to her friend that they should “just head to Target, because this store is too picked over.”
Last week Mervyn, DDG’s Octopus oracle, delivered his predictions as to which titles would sell strongly during Downtown Farmington’s Early Bird sale. It is time now for us to do some fact checking.
The Early Bird started out with the usual spectacle of long, pre-dawn lines outside the downtown’s three story anchor store, Reny’s, whose well earned slogan is “Maine’s Shopping Adventure.” The Early Bird Sale involves all the downtown stores offering specials from 6 a.m. to 9 a.m. Reny’s offers time-sensitive specials. This means deeper discounts between 6:00-7:00, creating a bit of a stampede when the opening bells go off, as you can see in the photo.
At the beginning of Tuesday night’s Wrecking Ball release event, Jeff Kinney said that after 14 years of straightforward tours, he wanted to mix it up—and that’s exactly what he did. The show pulled out all the stops and more—raising the bar for interactive, kid-oriented fun that rewards longtime super-fans and newcomers alike. With a set that took a full afternoon to set up, a wheel of activities to drive the action, and plenty of goofy, unpretentious fun, the 2200 people in the audience were in for a rollicking ride. Continue reading
It looks like a new-baby book. And it IS a new-baby book, but it’s also so much more. Kyle Lukoff’s picture book, When Aidan Became a Brother (fabulously illustrated by Kaylani Juanita and published by Lee & Low), takes on—in the most clear, lovely, and warm way—the desire for families to unlearn gender assumptions, especially when a new baby arrives.
The story begins with Aidan, who, when he was born, was assumed to be a girl. His room was decorated the way girls often liked their rooms decorated; his clothes were the kinds of clothes many girls liked wearing. But Aidan was a boy, and after realizing it, Aidan and his parents set about to fix the parts of Aidan’s life that didn’t work anymore. Boom! Not a big deal, just a process. The simplicity and caring of this opening slays me; it’s like reading the first lesbian YA novel that didn’t end in tragedy. You mean, gender coming-out, too, can be a joyful and textured experience for a kid? Hooray!! Continue reading