Before we moved our store to Shelburne, we got upwards of 400 costumed children trick-or-treating on Halloween. It’s a long-standing tradition that kids from Charlotte descend on the one-street village and trick-or-treat. I used to love seeing all the different outfits the kids would come up with, ranging from the simple Ninja Turtle to the very complicated sarcophagus that practically had its own transport system. But Shelburne has something Charlotte lacked: neighborhoods and sidewalks, so kids tend to seek candy where they live. As a result we don’t get any kids seeking candy on Halloween. This has always made me a little sad. This past weekend I was at my favorite coffee shop in Shelburne when a family approached me.
I hadn’t gotten my coffee yet, so was a little sleepy when Maddy came up to me. Maddy is about seven or eight and newly moved back to town. Her grandfather has been a stalwart supporter of the bookstore since the day we opened. Maddy asked a little nervously, “Do you want to see a picture of my jack-o-lantern?” Of course I did. I was expecting a cute little pumpkin, not an homage to the bookstore. Apparently, young Maddy has fallen in love with the store since her family moved back to Shelburne after a multi-year absence, and this love translated to a sketch of the pumpkin and the carving of the actual pumpkin. To say that these made me happy is an understatement. The lit pumpkin is almost haunting it’s so beautiful. And honestly, it’s not every day a child designs and executes a fire-breathing flying pig!
My friend and fellow Vermont College MFA grad Betsy Wernert is a children’s librarian as well as a fabulous writer, avid reader and book reviewer. Years ago, Betsy created a set of cryptid characters who introduced great books to kids. We were also classmates with another terrific writer, Trina St. Jean, who was working on a novel about a sasquatch. Back then, there wasn’t much in the way of stories with cryptid heroes, but wow, has there been an explosion of them this year! Or, to use my favorite term for a group of yeti(s), a flurry.
The Thing About Yetis by Vin Vogel
(Dial, $16.99) ISBN 9780803741706
This is a book we Vermonsters — I mean, Vermonters — can really identify with. Even the most snow-loving creatures on the planet, the furry yetis, can get a little sick of winter. This book is a celebration of the joys offered by seasons both snowy and sunny.
As the Holiday Season draws near there are a crush of responsibilities that clamor for attention at the bookstore. One of them is the production of the Holiday 20: our picks of the top 20 books to give as gifts this Holiday Season. The Holiday 20 serves as both the store’s principal display and handselling center and also provides the materials for two local newspaper Holiday Top Ten lists I make for their Gift Guides. With everything on my plate I am very fortunate that the Year 2015 herself has agreed to help provide the Holiday 20 picks.
Kenny: Thank you for… wait a moment… you’re not the Year 2015!
Librarian of Years: No Kenny, like you the Year 2015 has chosen to delegate some of her responsibilities, so she assigned this task to me. I am the Librarian of Years.
Kenny: I had no idea the Years had a library! How extensive is it?
Librarian of Years: The Library has two sections, the Current Year Reading Room, which is quite extensive by the end of the Year, and the Permanent collection. Only 100 books from each Year are selected for the Permanent collection. The rest of them are given to our woodland creatures to do with what they will. The library was founded in 483 BC. Until 1612 only 50 books were selected, and from then on 100. You can do the math.
We take many, many special orders a week. It’s a multi-step process that involves the customer asking for a particular book, us ordering the book and then calling the customer when the book arrives in the store. However, some customers have asked us to stop calling their homes when the the book comes in. The reason for this is as funny as it is a sad: they don’t want their spouse to know they’ve ordered a book. No, these aren’t books for a special occasion, these are just books they want to read. But clearly this speaks to a rift in the home about how many books are being purchased. It’s almost as if the bookstore has become the affair. Continue reading
My store only has six employees, including the two owners. Our schedules are vastly different, with some folks only working on the weekends and others only available specific days of the week. Honestly, we have been attempting an all-staff photo for more than a year and a half and haven’t been able to pull it off. Trying to coordinate for a staff meeting is challenging enough, but to have a day when someone can take our staff picture is even harder. We had been using an older staff photo that most of us just hated vehemently. Some staffers even asked that we destroy the old photo once we got a new one, that’s how bad it was! Continue reading
Costume events are pretty hilarious, because they’re really meant for the wrong people. Costumed characters generally make little children cry, and make grown-ups smile goofy smiles like little kids. Okay, those are both exaggerations. Lots of kids adore meeting their plush heroes and heroines, and some grownups remain sadly unmoved by encounters with oversized fuzzy whimsy. On Thursday, we were fortunate to have not a single tear wept at the fins of the Pout-Pout Fish, and we did receive many childlike grins from grownups driving by the waving light-blue sea creature outside our bookstore.
One mom saw the fish and pulled a fast left into our parking lot. She came over carrying a beaming tiny tot. “You don’t understand!” she said excitedly. “This is our son’s VERY FAVORITE BOOK! We have to read it every night. He [indicating the fish] is the hero of our house right now! I just called my husband to tell him we would be home late.” She turned to her son. “What does Pout-Pout Fish say?” And together they chanted, “Glub Glub Glub!” Let me tell you, hearing a not-quite-one-year-old say “glub glub glub!” in a tiny bright voice with a big open smile will pretty much make anyone’s day. It’s a little bit possible that the Pout-Pout Fish chanted along with them, but since costume characters aren’t supposed to talk at all, it didn’t happen. The mom and her son were overjoyed to discover some Pout-Pout books they hadn’t read yet in addition to the brand-new one.
Little A. meeting his hero:
Nothing makes a person think about the value of civility quite like having the comment field of your blog posts disabled because spammers thought it was a good idea to launch a brute force attack on thousands of WordPress blogs, a robotic frenzy of inserting malware into comment fields to redirect readers to dubious websites. Not personal, of course, but not a demonstration of exemplary etiquette either, one feels.
The comments application will be restored soon, but in these latter days of its absence I thought I would touch on a simple, but to me very important, matter of civility in email communication: the quick acknowledgement response. When email was new to the world I made them as much like formal letters as possible. My initial impulse was that the transition of communication forms should not devolve the quality or character of the communication. When I first started receiving responses from my editor at a local newspaper that simply said “got it” I was nonplussed. This did not seem like quite the thing. Yet very quickly the light came on. I got it too.
Yesterday we were very fortunate to host Jarrett Krosoczka for two school presentations and a store visit. Jarrett is best known for the wildly popular Lunch Lady series, but he is touring to support his new picture book, It’s Tough to Lose Your Balloon. School visits are always a lot of fun, and for this trip, we went to the JFK Elementary School in Winooski, Vt., which is a school delightfully filled with the bright colors and languages of many New Americans who have settled in Vermont. One of the great benefits of owning a bookstore is being able to bring authors and illustrators to kids. I have seen it time and time again where one or two children start thinking differently after a visit in a way they’ll never forget. It’s as if the world opens up in a way they’d never considered. Someone, a grown-up, is validating their burgeoning passion for art and making up stories. Continue reading
Many of our readers know that my store is in a very small town with a population of just over seven thousand. In a town this small, with the store located in the even smaller village, it’s very easy to help customers better because we know them, we know all of them. This is why having an independent bookstore can be such fun. Every week we have to act as detectives for what kids might like for their birthdays because customers know there’s a very good chance we’ll know them. Last week a unique situation popped up that still makes marvel at the tightness of a small town. Continue reading
Around the store, we affectionately referred to the other week as Hell Week. Not only did we have two major author events plus four school events to coordinate, but each member of our small team of staff had significant out-of-store obligations and fires to put out, all converging in this same five-day period. When there are only six of us to begin with, and all of us are part-time at the bookstore, it’s a plate-spinning circus act of organization and communication. We knew going in that last week would be a challenge. What we didn’t know was that we would come out of it with four new true friends.