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Book Boxes and BBQ

Leslie Hawkins -- June 25th, 2018

Macaroni and cheese casserole

As you may have heard (or been lucky enough to experience), Children’s Institute 6 took place last week in New Orleans. Thanks to a scholarship from Simon and Schuster, I was able to attend even though my bookstore is very small and has no discernible travel budget. In addition to the overall CI6 experience, I also have to thank the staff of Simon and Schuster for a delicious excursion to Calcasieu for a break from hotel food and a chance to enjoy some leisurely conversation with amazing authors over several courses of fancy comfort food.

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A Call to Be Brave

Meghan Dietsche Goel -- June 22nd, 2018

Blue Willow goes big!

As with any good Children’s Institute, the last two and a half days in New Orleans have been a whirlwind. There’s the delightful blur of familiar faces: colleagues we adore for their expertise, enthusiasm, and creativity (who we don’t see often enough) along with a packed slate of programming designed to challenge the status quo and push us forward. A long time ago, an adult book buyer told me that at trade shows he could always identify the children’s booksellers because they’ were so much more prone to smiling. Whether or not that’s true, Children’s Institute’s first annual costume contest certainly opened the conference with flair, creativity and a whole lot of smiles, as Kenny and Cynthia documented earlier this week. I’ll admit I neglected to take as many pictures as I should have the last few days, but of course I have to give a special shout-out to my fellow Texans from Blue Willow whose costumes (that they carefully drove down from Houston) were as outsized as our state.  Continue reading

CI6 Costume Party Q&A

Kenny Brechner -- June 21st, 2018

Well I have 20 minutes to do a post from New Orleans. Not enough time. So here is a tiny FAQ about last night’s opening ceremonies. As you will know from reading Cynthia’s account yesterday, the Children’s Institute opener was a costume party.

Did you get a chance to meet up with any of your fellow ShelfTalkers, Kenny?

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Once Upon a Time in NOLA

Cynthia Compton -- June 20th, 2018

When 309 children’s booksellers gather to learn, to share books, and to tell stories, they act them out, too. Our opening reception at ABA Children’s Institute was billed as a Welcome Mardi Gras, inviting all attendees to dress as a character from a favorite backlist titles. Our fellow story-time professionals took this invitation quite seriously, and we enjoyed a lovely party as many childhood characters came to life (although I don’t remember that Pippi Longstocking ever drank rosé, she certainly looked charming holding the glass). Here are some favorites of mine from last evening:

Dr Seuss’s Cat appeared in every corner, it seemed, and guest author (and judge) Andrea Beaty was feted by her own Ada Twist.

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The Jazz is Even Sweeter This Week

Elizabeth Bluemle -- June 19th, 2018

Children’s Institute is one of my favorite book events of the year. It’s a conference that gathers booksellers, publishers, editors, publicists, authors, and illustrators passionate about books for children and teens. We know that, in addition to including the most rewarding and inventive of books imaginable, children’s books are also the segment of the book industry most helping to keep the whole darned machine afloat. Children’s Institute, with its author parties, educational sessions, keynotes with luminaries like Chelsea Clinton, Cheryl Willis Hudson and Wade Hudson, Phoebe Yeh, Kwame Alexander, Temple Grandin, and Angie Thomas, is a great big party / work-inspiration fest filled with some of the best people on the planet—which is why I am bereft that I am not able to be on a plane to New Orleans this week.

Events conspired to keep me from attending this year, which is a colossal bummer! My fellow ShelfTalker blogger pals doubtless will fill you in on the week’s grand activities. What I have to offer instead is this: seven things I’ll do to distract myself from the fact that I am not actually in The Big Easy and to create my own version of Children’s Institute here at home: Continue reading

Bookseller Summer School

Meghan Dietsche Goel -- June 15th, 2018

Astronaut Clayton Anderson talks to a rapt audience.

I imagine it’s a different cycle for stores in resort communities, but for us the bulk of our kids events programming tends to correlate to the school year—whether that’s school events, book festivals put on in partnership with librarians, or bookfairs. Even our in-store author events calendar calms down a little bit for kids, as attention turns to stocking up on books for summer camp and vacations. Even though summer is always a shorter season than it seems, I find that this slower programming season offers an opportunity to step back and make sure that we follow through on all the things we’ve started along the way.

While it’s scaled back, our public author event schedule for kids isn’t totally on hiatus. Yesterday, we were lucky enough to host astronaut Clayton Anderson for more than 100 budding explorers—helping us test our new 4PM picture book event slot for the second time since we piloted it, and supporting the idea that this slightly earlier time just might be the solution to getting families through our area’s after work traffic crunch. It was an awesome, space-tastic event that let out in time for everyone to get home to dinner. I even picked up my own kids from camp early to join the fun. Although as this photo of my little astronauts proves, any well-planned event photo op is only as good as its participants!

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Amazing ARC Ads

Kenny Brechner -- June 14th, 2018


Who are these children, you ask yourself? They are the students of two fourth grade classrooms at Cape Cod Hill School in New Sharon, Maine. I’ve had an Advance Reader’s Review project running for 12 years now with Mrs. Perry’s class there. Each year Katie breaks down the reading levels and interests of her students and then I bring in a set of ARCs, talk about the publishing process, and then leave them for the kids to read and produce reviews. Afterwards we get together again, look at their reviews online, and talk books.

I look forward to the project every year as the kids have always engaged strongly with it bringing insight, honesty, and charm to the table. It’s a chance for them to learn about the book industry while participating in it at the same time.

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Greetings from Toyland

Cynthia Compton -- June 13th, 2018

I’m spending the week in New Orleans at the American Specialty Toy Retailing Association (ASTRA) Marketplace and Academy, and in between enjoying the really great food, terrific jazz spilling out of every doorway, and the myriad of historical side streets to explore in the Queen City, I’m buying toys and games for the rest of the year for my store. I thought I’d offer you a beignet and a sip of my chicory coffee this week, while I share a few of the themes and highlights from the Land of Play. Here are some of the trends we’re talking about on the trade show floor.

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The Art of the Reveal

Elizabeth Bluemle -- June 12th, 2018

Booksellers spend a lot of time honing our recommendations for customers, and we work to toe a graceful line between revealing enough of a wonderful book to hook a listener but not so much that we spoil a surprise or deprive readers of the joys of their own discovery. The unfolding of a story is a delicious treat, and its secrets should be held jealously by guardians.* There have been many times I’ve been grateful to begin a book without knowing anything about it. So how do we strike the right balance? And even when spoilers aren’t the issue, how do you craft a great book pitch? Here are the pointers I use for myself. I’d love to hear yours! Continue reading

A Cartoonist by Any Other Name

Leslie Hawkins -- June 11th, 2018

At a recent school visit Hope Larson, who writes and draws amazing graphic novels for young people, said in her opening comments to the students that she refers to herself as a cartoonist, not a graphic novelist. This piqued my curiosity, as I often struggle with the correct nomenclature for comics and graphic novels and the people who create them. Based on past conversations on the children’s bookseller listserv I participate in, plenty of others in my job wrestle with this, too. So I followed up with Hope after the school visit and she shed some light on it for me.

Cartoonist Hope Larson (photo: Carolina Day School staff)

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