For the Times We Live In

Kenny Brechner -- November 10th, 2016

As I Iay awake early Wednesday morning, realizing, among other things, that I wasn’t going to use the humorous post I had prepared last week for today, I found myself enumerating some of the things children’s books convey to their readers. I ticked them off like a flock of sheep: hope, perseverance and resilience in the face of adversity, appreciation of differences, receiving comfort from others, standing up to bullies and for your beliefs, learning from mistakes, absorbing and moving on from misfortune, going to sleep at bedtime after a story. That kindness, empathy, sacrifice, and generosity of spirit, matter.

harriet2Another book lesson came to me, that some things matter more than others. When I first read Harriet the Spy I was 10, and loved it so much, I cried out against the ending. “Ole Golly is right, Sometimes you have to lie.” I didn’t want that to be so. When I read the book again three years later I saw that it was wise and true. Friendship was a matter of adjustment. Doing that which is most important matters and getting books into the hands and hearts of children matters deeply.

If Diogenes had used a children’s book instead of a lamp he might have had more luck finding decency in people. We know where to look.

Choose Your American Dream

Elizabeth Bluemle -- November 8th, 2016

If anyone has the brain capacity to read this blog post on Election Day 2016, I doff my cap to you! On this most volatile, most important of election days, the children of our nation will be privy to all of the anxieties and hopes (and fears and stress and overeating) of the grownups around them. They deserve a window into this world of American citizens’ often hard-won, and sometimes denied, right to vote.

Here are some new and recent books for younger children that offer entertaining, informative, inspiring and powerful stories of what voting is and why it matters.

Oh, and have you voted yet? If not, this post will self-destruct in five seconds. Please stop reading immediately and go exercise your right and responsibility to help shape our nation’s future. Thank you!  Continue reading

An Intergenerational Partnership

Josie Leavitt -- November 7th, 2016

One of my favorite customers came in last week with a huge smile on her face. Susan is usually a cheery person, but the grin was something special and I could tell something fabulous was about to be shared when she came over to the register. Susan has been shopping at our store since the very beginning. She is a huge proponent of getting rid of educational testing in schools to focus on actual, real-life learning. Susan also fully understands the struggle with Amazon that all indies face. In short, she is a perfect example of an indie customer who just gets it.  Continue reading

The Dramatic Arc of an Event

Josie Leavitt -- November 4th, 2016

Bookstore events are not without tension, drama, despairing lows and fabulous highs. Wednesday night we hosted James Rebanks, author of the wildly popular The Shepherd’s Life and his newest book, The Shepherd’s View. The story of how an English shepherd and bestselling author came to Shelburne, Vt., is a story that is more than a year in the making and culminated in a standing-room-only event at Shelburne Farms with more than 225 people in attendance.  Continue reading

‘The Hero Is You’: An Interview with Kendra Levin

Kenny Brechner -- November 3rd, 2016

The idea of the Hero’s Journey often involves transformation. Whether involving a trip to the phone booth, slipping behind a hinged bookcase, or sliding down a pole into a cave, the journey involves a pendulum like transformation of persona. Kendra Levin, executive editor at Viking Children’s Books by day, has not only studied the Hero’s Journey in the context of the creative writing process, she has dramatically put it into practice. Yes, when she leaves her office at Penguin at the end of the day, Kendra transforms into a professional Life Coach. Not satisfied with that simple proof of concept, intent in fact on being as existential as possible, Kendra took matters even further by writing a book on using the Hero’s Journey to write books, The Hero Is You: Sharpen Your Focus, Conquer Your Demons, and Become the Writer You Were Born to Be.

These are deep waters, clearly. Furthermore, Kendra is the editor of some personal and store favorite authors, such as Curtis Jobling and Kersten Hamilton, and it seemed a pressing matter to find out more about her heroic journey.
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The Month of Mo’

Elizabeth Bluemle -- November 1st, 2016

Happy Candy Hangover Day, pumpkins! Time to put aside the tiny chocolate bars, the slim rolls of little round sweet-tart Smarties, the loose scatterings of off-brand Starbursts, the Tootsie Roll midgies, and the Holy Grail of dark chocolate, mini Kit Kats, and think about books again.

November has the most Mo’ of any month in the calendar; it actually puts the MO in MOnth.

There’s Movember, for one thing; that’s the moustache-growing celebration for men’s health (and no reason we women of a certain age can’t join right in). That’s the first No(vember) Mo. But in the literary world, there are several giant Mo’s:

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Random Acts of Kindness

Josie Leavitt -- October 31st, 2016

I woke up Sunday morning in a funk. I have been battling a cold that isn’t bad enough to make me miss work, but irritating enough that I wish I could. The weather has been decidedly grey and rainy in Vermont and has started to weigh on me. The long walk I had planned at Shelburne Farms with my dog Allie was curtailed by being told dogs won’t be allowed until Tuesday. Poor Allie didn’t understand why she was going back in the car so quickly, and my explanation was lost on her. I was cranky when I got to work.  Continue reading

Reading Sunshine + A Hint to Penguin

Elizabeth Bluemle -- October 28th, 2016

There’s a book I’ve handsold countless times over all 20 years of my bookselling life. It’s one of my favorite all-time books, not only for its gorgeous writing, but its sparkling comedic brilliance. It’s a book ostensibly for adults, but I’ve recommended it to precocious 10-year-olds and many, many teens. It’s a book that never fails to make fans; its readers come back to buy it for their friends. And it’s a perfect book to hand to a friend recovering from surgery or illness, because reading it is like reading sunshine.

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Katherine Hannigan’s Exceptional Ingredient

Kenny Brechner -- October 27th, 2016

Can you spot the author in the photo?

Great performances always contain an unexpectedly exceptional element. Take author school assembly presentations, for example. As booksellers who work school visits know, author presentations at assemblies are a distinct art form. Some things are crucial. A good PowerPoint is de rigueur, otherwise kids in the back can’t see. Also, it allows a young audience to divide its attention from the speaker to the screen, alleviating the natural strain of attempting to be a model audience which a school authority figure has outlined for them. Pacing, organization, interactive engagement, reinforcement that writing is a messy process, humor, only one or two photos of the author as a child – all these things play a role.
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Gifts of Picture Books

Josie Leavitt -- October 23rd, 2016

As promised, I have an update on my earlier post about twelve weeks of picture books. The concept is simple: my best friend moved to Chicago and I am sending her roughly a picture book a week. Kim is an avid picture book reader, who moved without her books because her partner is still in their Vermont house awaiting its sale while Kim is in an rental apartment. What began as a simple idea about sharing some of my favorite picture books with my BFF has become a wonderful discussion about the power of picture books in the life of an adult.  Continue reading