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A Book Wagon in Vermont

Josie Leavitt -- July 14th, 2014

I walked into work on Sunday and saw a massive stack of graphic novels on the counter. The stack was so large I thought that perhaps someone on staff was reorganizing the entire section. Just as I was about to ask about it, a woman in pigtails with a sharp focus added more to it, apologizing for taking over part of the counter. I assured her amassing a large pile of books is never a problem. I asked about the sheer number of graphic novels she was purchasing and she said they were all for the Starksboro READ Book Wagon.

I followed her back to the graphic novel section, which was fairly decimated, and asked more about photo-32the Book Wagon. Secretly, I’ve always wanted a Flying Pig Book Mobile, so the idea of a Book Wagon was intriguing. The customer, Mary O’Brien, the Book Wagon coordinator, explained the simplicity of the wagon. First let me explain that Starksboro is a lovely small town in rural Vermont, with surprising pockets of poverty and a population of under 1,700. Once a week a volunteer (they rotate weeks) drives to the three trailer parks, three day care centers and the old school house. Children get to pick out one book and keep it. Forever.

This is not a lending library on wheels, this is a free bookmobile. Mary explained that the number of free books they’ve given away just keeps climbing, up from 65 at the beginning of the summer to just over 90 last week. Think of the ripple effect of this. Ninety kids took home books to keep last week. Almost 100 children added a book to their personal collection, or started a collection. To own a book when there might not be any in the house is a huge thing. And the Book Wagon team seems to be very attentive to what the kids have been clamoring for. Mary only bought graphic novels and board books. She knows these kids and wants to have books they’re eager for, or have asked about, on the wagon. The wagon raises money for these book purchases through donations and a yearly auction, and they spend it wisely. We helped Mary stretch her budget by offering 20% off all her purchases.

Imagine you’re a kid in one of these seven locations when the book wagon, which sadly is just the volunteer’s car (I was hoping for an ice cream truck with shelving) pulls up: you get books brought to your location. So, if no one can drive you to the library, you can still get books. You get to browse among the titles, many of which are available on the wagon because you said you wanted them, and you get to take one, read it and keep it. The validation for young readers with the READ Book Wagon is just marvelous. The power of the written word is being reinforced every week. And the Book Wagon folks seem to divide their purchases among several independent bookstores, so everyone benefits. So many people wonder about how to get kids to be readers – the Starksboro READ Book Wagon has that all figured out.

Sideline Serendipity

Elizabeth Bluemle -- July 11th, 2014

While we carry sidelines (i.e., non-book items) from all over the world, it’s a special pleasure to stock toys, stationery, journals, gifts, greeting cards, etc., from local folks.

Every Christmas, my sister gives me either a small calendar or a packet of fine letterpress stationery on the most toothsome paper. They are made by ZoëInk, a Burlington designer whose aesthetic is delicious. The website gives just the tiniest taste of the range of designs available; suffice it to say that they are tasteful, bold, restrained, whimsical, and deeply pleasing to the eye.

zoenk

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“That Book”

Kenny Brechner -- July 10th, 2014

Bean-Dog-235x300

I run at least two ARC review projects every year in 4th-6th grade classrooms, and in every ARC review classroom there is one of them: an ARC that the whole class has been reading and passing around and is on fire about. That book has a fair number ofcommon elements. It is a quick and easy read, usually a tad below grade level, and heavily illustrated, if not a graphic novel. It always has a strong vein of humor.

Most of the time it’s a surprise to me. for example last year I was all wrong about Charise Mericle Harper’s first Bean Dog and Nugget book The Ball.  I’m a fan of her work, especially Go! Go! Go! Stop! but I thought these characters were a little disturbing on the visual plane. The kids were enthralled though.  Continue reading

Lend Us Your Ears: What Shall We Listen to Next?

Elizabeth Bluemle -- July 9th, 2014

golden compass audioI love a compelling audiobook. I’m a sucker especially for male British narrators (bonus points if they are named Simon), followed closely by female British narrators and Lenny Henry (who actually is a male British narrator but does other accents so beautifully he gets his own category). Any narrator not in one of those three rubrics is assessed on a case-by-case basis.

I must be an aural learner, because I can recall even more detail when I’ve listened to a book than I can when I’ve read it. I wouldn’t ever choose to give up reading with my eyes — it’s hard to skim over passages of exposition in an audiobook, for one thing, and it’s a lot more difficult to locate lines you heard earlier and loved — but the pleasure of hearing someone tell a story well never gets old. We are a storytelling species, after all.

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He Bought It Himself

Josie Leavitt -- July 7th, 2014

Lots of kids see their first real taste of independence at the bookstore. Whether it’s being able to bike to the store alone, or pay with their own money (see my blog post about how the way children pay), kids enjoy a certain freedom at the store. With this freedom, and lack of prying parental eyes (or those of friends), comes the ability to choose what they really want.

Usually, these purchases are for the fiction titles. Kids will come in clamoring for the latest John Green book or the next book in a favorite series. Last week a boy, about 10 or so, came in holding a bike helmet, hair plastered to his head, and strode to the counter.

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When You Walk As Waldo

Kenny Brechner -- July 3rd, 2014

I had thought that the sort of dark, soul-testing experiences which Wodehouse depicted in his short story, Tried in the Furnace, could only be found in fiction. Real experiences, I assumed, could not be that heart and sinew rending. I was wrong. I was naive. When you put on the clothes, and walk around town as Waldo, such illusions vanish.

A quality Waldo.

A quality Waldo.

This is our third year doing the Find Waldo Local event but I had been shielded from this unsavory knowledge until now. You see my son Reid, who has both the physique and the mental grit to make an outstanding Waldo, had worn the outfit the first two years, walking the town, winning the second place ribbon in last year’s fourth of July parade, being Waldo at the party, doing what had to be done. Continue reading

How Folks Order Books

Josie Leavitt -- July 1st, 2014

After owning a bookstore for 18 years, I have seen special-order requests come in many ways. Normally, special orders come from customers who are actually in the store, or calling up. But as lives get busier the special orders have been coming to us in a variety of clever ways.

Let’s face it: people multitask just about everything now. Often this means when they see me, they remember that there was a book they wanted to order. Funnily, or irritatingly (depending on my mood and available time), they will follow me around the supermarket describing the book(s) they’d like me to order for them. Do not misunderstand me, I love that folks want to order from us and don’t just go online and order when they think of the book they need. It’s just odd to be doing bookstore business while I’m buying toilet paper and dish soap.

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How Many Books = Too Many Books?

Elizabeth Bluemle -- June 30th, 2014
Susanna Hesselberg untitled

© 2006 Susanna Hesselberg (click on image for artist website)

Like all book lovers who hold on to loved volumes, and who have moved many times, and have inherited books from family members, I struggle with keeping my collection — well, if not pared down, at least sane. And by “sane,” I mean mainly relegated to bookcases, instead of threatening to crush me under toppling stacks.

I have moved within cities, between states, and across the country, every time with dozens and dozens of book boxes. (I think Bekins and Booska have me on a banned customer list by now.) Recently, my sister and I inherited my father’s book collection, and his books number in the several thousand. He loved to read about magic, travel, photography, loved mysteries and books about words and wordplay. He had excellent taste in these categories, and his books are beautiful. But most of them are in storage, and I cannot figure out how, without building myself a house made entirely out of books, I will be able to keep them.

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The Unputdownables, Or, One-Sitting Reads

Elizabeth Bluemle -- June 27th, 2014

The great thing about being a bookseller: so many books to read! The terrible thing about being a bookseller: SO many books to read. They’re a mixed blessing, these stacks of advance reading copies and digital shelves filled with downloaded goodies from NetGalley and Edelweiss (booksellers’ treasure chests). With the sheer number of titles published every year, even the really good ones can start to blend together. Which makes the one-sitting reads — those books you cannot stop reading, the ones you make little bargains with yourself about trading task time for reading time, the ones you end up staying awake until 3 a.m. for — all the more memorable.

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An Exit Interview with the Redoubtable Carol Chittenden

Kenny Brechner -- June 26th, 2014

As you may have heard, venerable children’s bookseller Carol Chittenden of Eight Cousins in Falmouth, Mass., will be retiring in January. Carol is a close pal, and we have shared many confidential communiques over the years, but I suspected that some of her best stuff was still being held in close reserve. An exit interview seemed to be the perfect cover to lure Carol into making an astonishing disclosure or two.

Kenny:  Dog years have a seven-year ratio with ordinary years. How does it work with bookstore years, would you say?

Carol: Drills, rather than dogs, are the correct metaphor here. Bookselling operates on variable speed calendars: fast when the customers are buying, endless when they’re not. To counteract this, I always feel we need to be twice as busy during the slow times, doing all the things that we won’t be able to take care of when we’re gift-wrapping and receiving and shelving double time.

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