A Standing Ovation from Me — and Everyone at Children’s Institute

Elizabeth Bluemle -- May 5th, 2015

Jewell Parker Rhodes delivers her closing keynote to booksellers at Children’s Institute 3. Photo by Judith Rosen.

I was so sad that I wasn’t able to attend the ABC Children’s Institute this year, especially because it featured several panels and discussions about diversity in the children’s book world. And I’m monumentally sad that I missed hearing live and in person the beautiful, powerful closing keynote that author Jewell Parker Rhodes delivered on the true meaning of diversity in our field, the change we need to be striving for wholeheartedly and with purpose. But I am thrilled that PW reproduced the speech in its entirety for all of us to read. I was moved to tears by it, as were the audience members, who also showed their appreciation with a standing ovation.

Here is the link to Jewell Parker Rhodes’ Children’s Institute keynote speech. (I will also include the spelled-out link here: Debbie Reese alerted me to the fact that vision-impaired folks listening to articles cannot access links that aren’t spelled out. This is obvious but hadn’t ever occurred to me, so thanks, Debbie!)

Ms. Rhodes is an exceptional storyteller, which enables her to tackle a topic that can almost lose its urgency under a burden of ‘isms’ and ‘shoulds’ and make it personal, universal, funny, heartwrenching, and heartwarming.  I’m SO tempted to quote from it here, but that would cheat the experience of letting it unfold for you the way she told it.

Thank you, Jewell Parker Rhodes! Even though I wasn’t there to hear your warm, passionate words, I give you a standing ovation from my chair, too.

ShelfTalker readers, if you read the speech, please consider sharing your thoughts and/or appreciation (just a line or two is fine) in the comments here. I’d love for Ms. Rhodes to see how far the impact of her words travels!

The New Bookstore Dog

Josie Leavitt -- May 4th, 2015

One of the joys of owning a bookstore is the ability to bring a dog to work. Dogs and bookstore generally are a great fit because dogs like to hang out and most people’s faces light up when they see a dog, especially a puppy, at the store. It’s been almost two years since my old dog, Ink, came to the store. Last week I got a six-month old rescue puppy, Allie, who has been coming to the store. No one is really sure what kind of dog she is, but she appears to be part lab, part whippet and part something else. I do know that she is adored by staff, and customers are alliestarting to get to know her.

Here’s the thing about dogs and small town stores: everyone is just so happy for me. News has spread very quickly that there’s a new dog at the bookstore. People come by just to hi to Allie. Folks see me walking her in town and honk (which terrifies both of us) and wave. People bring treats in their pockets to meet her. They come in and ask how she’s settling in and scratch her head.

Allie has an expressive face and there’s very little that you don’t know about what she’s thinking. So far, she’s been great about not chewing books, but she has discovered our bookstore notebooks (for consignment, invoices and wish lists) and for some reasons finds their recycled covers absolutely yummy.  And when caught in the act of chewing something or doing something “bad” she just gets this look on her face like, “I’m not really doing anything bad. It just looks that way.” And it’s hard to not chuckle at her when she’s got an innocent look on her face and cardboard stuck to her muzzle.

allie and meThe bookstore staff has welcomed her with open arms. While she’s not a barker, she is very bonded with me and if I leave the back area she gets anxious, which isn’t fun for anyone. She also has the legs of a high jumper which makes her anxiety worrisome if she ever decided to bound over the puppy gate by the registers. We have a Dutch door for the office, so she can still hear what’s going on but can’t leap into the register area. I have to remind myself that it’s only been a week and actually she’s doing remarkably well. And honestly, the best part of having a dog at the store again is being able to take puppy breaks and walks.

In a very strange coincidence, at least three other people who either used to work for us, or work next door to us, have all gotten puppies, so it’s a regular canine play group some days! And, we’re selling heaps of The Art of Raising a Puppy by the Monks of New Skete.


Please Design Nonfiction Book Covers That Grab Kids

Elizabeth Bluemle -- May 1st, 2015

Sometimes, when I see new juvenile nonfiction titles, I feel as though they’re covered in dust already. I almost feel as though I’M covered in dust. And if I—an adult who loves nonfiction—react that way, I can only imagine how a 10- or 12-year-old would feel.

Some publishers make the argument that these books aren’t for bookstores. They’re for the school and library market. And my reply is, “Exactly.” I’m not sure why we would want to create books that have the most amazing true stories inside look dull and lifeless on the outside. Are we trying to make kids dread report writing as much as humanly possible? Are we trying to discourage their interest in the past, in other human beings, times, and places?

Good book covers of any kind engage readers by inviting them into the wonders within. They might portray an exciting moment of action, or pose a visual question the reader wants to answer, or simply present exciting graphic design that gives a reader confidence that whatever lies within will be interesting and worth their time.

I can sell great nonfiction to kids. Anywhere between 1/5 to 1/3 of the kids who come into the store prefer facts and true stories for their pleasure reading. Let’s give them books they will reach toward rather than shrink away from. I’m not talking about fake-y “Heeeeeyyy!” kinds of covers. I’m talking about smart, contemporary design that respects and admires the material in the book and the ultimate audience it’s aimed at. A book that lures kids into story is golden.

I’ve always felt that great fiction feels true, and great nonfiction reads like the most riveting story. And even kids who don’t think of themselves as enjoying nonfiction actually love it when it sparks their interest. How many times have you told a story to kids and had them on the edges of their seats, and afterward, they say, “Is that true?! Did that really happen??!” They want to know because it makes the story even better for those avid listeners if it’s true. If it really happened, that incredible tale of survival and endurance, that unlikely triumph, that small idea leading to a great innovation — well, that’s a tale that satisfies any reader.

And I think the sales department will reinforce that books that get read, get re-ordered, sell more copies, and live longer in your backlist.

Here are some examples of covers that I think are really successful at drawing kids in:


I’ve noticed that books adapted from adult nonfiction seem to already know the secret of offering covers that grab readers. Books designed with schools and libraries in mind should be just as lively and exciting for kids as books destined for bookstore shelves. Trust librarians to be savvy handsellers. They don’t want dry covers any more than booksellers do. Librarians want the books to appeal to kids! A great cover will give the worthy content inside the best possible shot at being eagerly picked up and perused.

And while we’re at it, make sure your page margins inside those books have enough air that readers don’t feel smothered by the content, especially kids who struggle with reading.

Thanks for listening. Librarians, what say you?

The Season of the Yeti

Kenny Brechner -- April 30th, 2015

Yetis have traditionally been understood to be solitary creatures, very rarely spotted and few in number. Looking at the fall lists, however, it is clear that we need to revise our understanding of Yetis. They are neither rare, solitary, nor hard to spot anymore.  In fact there are at least 10 children’s books featuring Yetis coming out between June and December. What has caused the Yeti to evolve in this extroverted manner?arewethereyeti

Surely the answer lies in the pages of all these new Yeti books. For starters we can see that the word itself is fun to play with, as evidenced by the fact that there are two separate books coming out this fall with the title Are We There, Yeti? The S&S marketing notes for the release of Ashlyn Anstee’s delightful version accentuate this point by noting that while the surprise trip which bus driver Yeti is taking the kids on is long indeed, prompting his passengers to repeat our title phrase many times, “The best surprise of all is yeti to come.” The children drive far into the mountains to the cave mouth of a Yeti school and all the kids have an outstandingly good time playing together. Anstee’s book embodies two key points of this season’s Yetis: they are fun-loving, and they are like human children but a little more so.

thethingaboutThese themes are shared by The Thing About Yetis by Vin Vogel. These Yetis have all the fun human kids have playing in the winter except more so, they are positively frenetic. Not sure how to have fun in the winter, what better role models than Yetis? Dear Yeti by James Kwan sees the Yetis as winter guides too, but in a calmer, more parental manner. This book introduces the third key theme: caretaking. Two kids hike off in the winter hills to find a Yeti. The Yeti, mysteriously in possession of notes from the lost kids, invisibly helps them stay safe and warm during their adventure. The other upcoming Are We There, Yeti? by Kerry Morris inverts this caregiving paradigm by having a lost baby Yeti found by a Tibetan Mastiff who returns the baby Yeti to his Mountain dwelling parents.

yetifiles2This fall will also see the second book in Kevin Sherry’s terrific series The Yeti Files, which has proven to be just the thing for reluctant readers. This book further establishes that the loneliness which had previously marked Yeti existence has passed on now, to the point that the Yeti clan is looking to pay its remission forward by taking an interest in helping out other monsters who are still experiencing loneliness, like the Loch Ness Monster.

This bring us back to a signal question, can Yetis survive their discovery? How long can they remain frontlist darlings once the newness of their real nature wears off? Perhaps not at this pace, but given that Yetis are all about outdoor fun, survival, and caretaking, which are mainstay picture book and early chapter book themes, they should continue to thrive long after this wave of celebrity has crested. Certainly they are handling the attention much better than many human celebrities do. Role models indeed!

50/50 Diverse Reads Project

Elizabeth Bluemle -- April 28th, 2015

Earlier in the year, I decided to spend 2015 reading a much richer selection of books. I determined that fully half of the books I read will feature main characters of color, preferably by authors of color (though current publishing statistics make that latter goal pretty hard to achieve). I wanted to share a few of these books from my reading so far.

An Angel for Mariqua by Zetta Elliott (Rosetta Press)—This book for ages 8-12 reminded me so much of books I loved as a fourth- and fifth-grader, the kind of books that explored in a warm and authentic way life’s problems and pleasures as navigated realistically by a young person I could identify with, even if some particulars of her circumstances were different from my own. (I was a desert kid, and most books I read were set in cities, suburbs, or a green countryside. As you might imagine, there were few kids in desert settings in 1970s chapter books. Heck, there still aren’t many!)

Mariqua is eight years old and in a rough patch, getting into arguments at school and leaving her grandmother at wit’s end. The gift of a wooden angel from a mysterious street vendor is the beginning of a series of small good things for Mariqua as she whispers her hopes into the angel’s ear at night. She meets a teenage girl in the same apartment complex who has secrets and struggles of her own but teaches Mariqua how to manage her strong feelings and learn to open up her guarded heart.

We are an over-the-top society these days when it comes to storytelling, and that’s a lot of fun, but children are also still learning to navigate their lives. I loved books about magic and adventure when I was a kid, but I also loved books about family, school, and community. There aren’t enough of those books in our current climate, and I couldn’t help thinking of how little room there is in publishers’ lists for books like this especially when the main character isn’t white and doesn’t live in the suburbs.

Lion, Lion by Miriam Busch and Larry Day (HarperCollins/Balzer + Bray) — An exuberant picture book with sly humor in the vein of Jon Klassen and Kevin Sherry, this one is for kids who like to put visual clues and cues together. A little boy calls for his missing Lion, but the lion who shows up is looking for lunch. The boy shows him several non-human lunch possibilities, but the lion dismisses each for various reasons (some of which will help the boy and his little kitten, Lion, later). Will this end badly for the tyke? Happily, the little boy is cleverer than Lion and all ends with a happy twist.

An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir (Razorbill) — This brutal, fast-paced fantasy feels both familiar and unique. Laia is not brave like her brother nor fierce like her rebel mother nor strong like her father. Laia’s family are Scholars, whose lands and rule were overtaken over by the cruel Martial Empire long ago. Laia’s rebel parents were captured and have disappeared, and now she and her brother live with their grandparents. As the book opens, Laia’s brother is arrested for treason by ruthless Masks — soldiers of the Empire who wear liquid metal masks over their faces — and her family disintegrates while Laia watches, helpless and terrified. Disgusted by her own cowardice, she finds her way to a hideout of Scholar rebels, hoping for their help to free her brother. In exchange for their help, she must disguise herself as a slave and go into service as the handmaiden of the sadistic leader of the Martial Empire, a woman so vicious her own son—a brilliant young soldier who wants nothing more than to escape his violent future—can’t love her. In addition to the palace intrigue and peril, this story offers love triangles and questions what lies at the very heart of courage, integrity, and loyalty.

The Jumbies by Tracey Baptiste (Algonquin) — If the Brothers Grimm had visited Trinidad and gathered stories there, they might have uncovered tales like this one. I’ve never read a book quite like it—unique, colorful, and memorable, not to mention scary! Aimed at ages 8-11, it has a marvelously rendered Caribbean island setting and invokes colorful creatures of myth and folklore from that region. This story is definitely for kids who like to be scared to the tips of their toes by things that go bump in the night. Corinne, 11, is very close to her hearty fisherman father. Both share a deep love of Corinne’s departed mother. Neither has ever paid much attention to tales of the jumbies and creatures who live in the forest that borders the seaside village, but one day Corinne and some friends venture into the woods, triggering a restlessness in the creatures there. Then, when a beautiful, mysterious woman shows up at the open-air market and takes an interest in Corinne and her father, Corinne knows something is not right. The woman insinuates herself into Corinne’s life and her father’s affections, while the wicked sprites and evil mischief-makers are emboldened to leave the forest and attack the villagers. As her father literally falls under the jumbie woman’s spell, it’s up to Corinne to discover the legacy of her mother and the secret strengths that lie within herself, with the help of her friends and a witch. An author’s afterword elaborates on the varieties of jumbies in Caribbean folklore.

Red Butterfly by A.L. Sonnichsen (Simon & Schuster) — I’d been hearing great things about this book, so it was high up on my reading stack. When I cracked open the covers, I admit I was a little disappointed to find that it was a novel in free verse. It’s hard for those novels to avoid having the same staccato rhythm, and most really aren’t poetry. Red Butterfly wasn’t entirely immune to those problems, BUT — I soon stopped caring because I was so intrigued by the story and characters and the way this adoption story unfolds.

So much about the story is mysterious in the beginning. Kara is a Chinese child who speaks English fluently but has bad Chinese language skills. She lives with her mother in a small apartment. They have little money, and Kara’s mother rarely ventures outside. When she does so, she covers up from head to toe. Kara’s father lives in America and sometimes sends money, sometimes doesn’t. Little by little, the reasons for Kara’s circumstances become clear. I won’t say more because part of the magic of this book is in discovering the story at its own pace.

I loved this book. I cried at the end of it, cared about the characters — especially a couple of secondary characters in the middle of the book who are deeply, lovingly rendered — and I think sensitive (the positive connotation) young readers will really love this story. My one quibble is that the turning point for Kara comes a bit too quickly, is resolved too suddenly.

So many of us have friends with daughters adopted from China. It’s a tale we think we know at least the main outlines of, but Red Butterfly illuminated an experience I’d never known about — American parents living in China for years before the adoption officially goes through, Chinese children who are undocumented because of the single-child rule, having no official identity and therefore no avenue for even being adopted. It’s clear that this novel was written by someone with intimate insider experience, and it shows in both the small details and the emotional resonance of the story.

Unusual Chickens for the Exceptional Poultry Farmer by Kelly Jones and Katie Kath (Knopf) — This charming middle-grade novel is lively and as much of a standout as The Jumbies, but for completely different reasons. It begins as the story of an immediately likable city girl and her parents, who inherit a farm and need to make sense of a completely unfamiliar setting. At first, you think it’s going to be the kind of bright, funny, warm, realistic novel that an author like Deborah Wiles writes—but then come, as the title promises, some very unusual chickens, some with quite alarming abilities. The mixture of the everyday and the humorously supernatural has a Roald Dahl flavor to it, but tilts less zany and more grounded. (There are even real facts about chickens and how to raise them peppered throughout the book, enlivened by great illustrations.) Twelve-year-old Sophie is resourceful and funny, an observant kid who writes letters to her deceased beloved abuela to keep her posted on Sophie’s new world, as well as to Agnes, original owner of the unusual chickens. She strikes up friendships with Gregory, the mailman (a refreshingly three-dimensional character and one of the only people in town who is “brown” like Sophie and her mother (her dad is white; her mom is Latina). Ethnicity is handled lightly but also directly in this book—for instance, Sophie has occasional moments of frustration due to people’s assumptions based on her mother and her own brown skin—which is also refreshing. These are brief, honest moments in a girl’s life and are folded so easily into a story that includes poultry thieves, shapeshifting creatures, communication from beyond the grave, as well as building an ideal chicken coop and finding friends. One of the most original, fun books I’ve read in a long time.


So that’s my update for now! The diversity revolution in publishing is beginning to have real legs, though we all need to do our part to make sure this isn’t another burst of enthusiasm that fades. Given the population of the United States, it is a win-win-win decision to bring all of our children into books that make them heroes, both ordinary and super, of stories.

Next up: The Lost Tribes by Christine Taylor-Butler (Move Books) and Ink and Ashes by Valynne Maetani (Tu Books).


Vermont Bibliophile Heaven

Josie Leavitt -- April 27th, 2015

All of us at most bookstores do more than our regular jobs. I am the newest member of the board of the Pride Center of Vermont and our annual celebration is on May 8th. I have been working hard to gather auction prizes. This year the auction is decidedly bookish and totally fun for bibliophiles.

I reached out to Chris Bohjalian (one of the truly lovely things about Vermont are the great writers we goinghave here and how easy it is to get to know them) to see if he would donate a visit to a book group as a prize. He responded with an enthusiastic yes, but offered up a different idea. “How would you like to auction off: Be a character in a bestselling novel?” I thought that was a fabulous idea and so did the rest of the board. This item is going to be the grande finale of the live auction. Can you imagine having a character named after you in any book? Let alone a book that, if Chris’s track record holds, will not only be on the best seller list for months, but will never go out of print?  What a great tribute to a loved one or something fun to do for yourself.

But the book donations don’t stop with Chris. Kim Fountain, executive director of the Center, had a good idea for a Vermont Bookstore Tour as a package. There are so many wonderful independent bookstores in Vermont that this seemed like a great idea. Of course the Flying Pig donated a gift certificate, and then I reached out to my friends. I had a storytelling gig at Bridgeside Books in Waterbury, and Hiata happily donated a gift certificate. Then I got smart and posted my query on the NECBA listserv and Village Square Books way down in Bellows Falls donated. Northshire responded immediately by mailing a sizable gift certificate the very next day!

I hadn’t heard from some stores and didn’t really think anything of it other than they were busy or had maxed out on their charitable giving for the month of May. Geographically, to complete the loop we had already, I really needed a store in Rutland or Middlebury. Vermont Book Shop in Middlebury was my choice, but I hadn’t heard from them. So I ordered a gift card online and paid for it myself (I’m learning that board members do this) designating the “from” part to be the bookstore itself. When Becky Dayton, the owner of the store, saw that she called me immediately. I explained what I was doing and she said,”Of course we’ll donate a gift card.” She refunded my $50 and mailed the donated card to the Pride Center that very day.

I have been heartened by the response from Norwich Bookshop as well. Liza Bernard emailed yesterday and asked if it was too late. I replied back a very happy, No!. And she’s mailing her gift card tomorrow. Everyone has been so wonderful about this package. Supporting the largest LGBTQ organization in Vermont while supporting independent bookstores just seems like a win-win for all involved. And, add to this the number of inns and cafes who have also donated along the indie tour route, this package is just amazing.

I’ll be wearing my auctioneer’s hat at the benefit and will be smiling the whole time as I try very hard to create a bidding war for these two book-related lots.


Getting a Yes

Josie Leavitt -- April 24th, 2015

It’s finally spring here, and with that comes two things: fundraisers for just about every cause under the sun, and folks asking for donations. During this season of benefits, if our store is typical of all indies, bookstores get asked to give something just about every day. This year has found me on the other side of the counter asking for donations as I’m newly on the board of the Pride Center of Vermont and our benefit is in May. As I’ve approached businesses for donations I’ve noticed several things and thought I’d share. Continue reading

Anatomy of a Great Community Read Launch

Kenny Brechner -- April 23rd, 2015

This was the inaugural year for the Kingfield School Community Read and they came up with a great plan for launching it! The book being used was kept an absolute secret. Excitement in the gymnasium was running high. The first thing to do was to figure out the name of the book!

Kingfield’s wonderful English teacher, Maggie Adams, had been the driving force behind the community read. A group of area seniors were invited to the launch. Then, grades 3-8 formed lines and teams were made up of one child from each grade and one senior. Maggie projected a group of Scrabble titles onto a screen, showing the letters to be found in the title. The first team to solve the anagram would be picked to reveal the books and hand them out.


A team solved it with only one hint, the first word being: The. Then the lights went out and the music came on. Principal Kim Ramharter and an able assistant wheeled out the books on a display wrapped as a present!

 The winning team tore it open and revealed 175 copies of Megan Frazer Blakemore’s great book, The Water Castle. Each winning team member grabbed a pile of books.

Then the team hit the stands and gave everyone in the room a copy The Water Castle. Huzzah!

I was up next, to tell everyone a bit about why The Water Castle is such a great book, and such a great choice for their Community Read, particularly one launched with mystery and puzzle solving.

After that, principal Kim Ramharter sat down and read everyone the first chapter.

Many people followed along in their copies.

There were still 10 minutes left for everyone to read more on their own before it was time to get ready for the bus. The Community Read launch mission was a giant success!


A Note to the Shipping Department

Josie Leavitt -- April 21st, 2015

Dear Big Five Publishing House Shipping Department,

I am writing today because I can’t take it anymore. Every day I receive books from your company and every day I despair a little more. No, not because the books are damaged (I’m actually surprised at how infrequently this happens, so yay, you!) but at the sheer waste that has been happening lately. I know you’re busy with therightpig merger and dealing with the kinks of combining two shipping departments, but this is crazy.

The bubble wrap to the right (I put the foot-high flying pig penny holder in the photo for perspective) represents the bubble wrap I got for three boxes of books. Here’s where my real issue takes hold: all of this bubble wrap came to protect five books.

I’m sure you’re scratching your collective heads right now, thinking surely, five books did not come in three boxes. Yes, yes, they did. Five books, picture books at that, came in three fairly large boxes. I understand why there was need for protection as we all know books packed in large boxes without copious amounts of bubble wrap or air pillows are far more likely to get bounced around and damaged during shipping. But I have a suggestion: why not combine the shipments into ONE box?  Books are friendly things and they like being together with other books.

And I cannot recycle this kind of bubble wrap where I live, so now I have to throw it out or somehow save it in my already crowded back room, where I currently have six feet of bubble wrap waiting for someone in town to move who wants free packing materials. And while it looks like it should stack well, it doesn’t ,and is forever falling to block our access to our restocking shelves. While I didn’t have to pay for shipping on these (thank goodness for that, or I’d have written a far less pleasant note) I didn’t actually order these books. They were complimentary copies. Please don’t get me wrong, I love getting your books and particularly love getting free books from you, but not in three separate shipments that create more work than necessary for my already overworked staff.

So, since you’re probably still shaking out the kinks since you merged, I have a few ideas that you might want to start adapting.

- Use the right-sized box for shipments. It feels like the folks in charge of printing boxes with your name company name only have made HUGE and LARGE boxes and no mailers or small boxes. If you forward me the name of the person, I will write to them as well.

- Perhaps ask stores if they want these free books before you send them out. Not all freebies are created equal (this is what no one will tell you, so you can thank me for my honesty later). Again, if I get the name of the person to speak to about that, I will draft a note post-haste.

- Maybe it’s because I live in Vermont, and we care about landfills here, but to not use material that can be easily recycled seems very 20th century, and isn’t your new company supposed to be an industry leader? Lord knows you’re big enough to be setting a better example.

Thanks so much for your time and I hope you all have a great day.


Josie Leavitt

“A Bookstore Is for Forever Books”

Elizabeth Bluemle -- April 20th, 2015

Trinity CLiF EventWhen you visit a school filled with exuberant toddlers and little kids, you never know what gems might pop out of their mouths. Last week, I had the happy occasion to visit with 65 children ages 2 1/2 to 5 years at a bright, open, cheerful school that had won a grant from the Children’s Literacy Foundation to supplement their library and send new books home with the kids. Every surface in the bright, clean, vibrant classroom was covered with books donated by the folks at CLiF, who provide a terrific curated list to teachers and invite them to choose from the list and add any other requests the teachers may have. 

every hero has a story

One of the celebration’s guests was Rebecca, head of Youth Services at Burlington’s Fletcher Free Library, who told the children about the library’s summer reading program, which is newly open to children below kindergarten age. Every participant not only gets to read great books and do fun activities all summer long, but also receives a free Jarrett Krosoczka-designed “Every Hero Has a Story” Platypus Police Squad T-shirt! Very exciting. I totally want one.

As a lifelong avid reader, public library patron, and former school librarian, I have always been a huge fan of libraries. They are – even more so than our beloved and important community bookstores – absolutely vital to a community’s survival (not to mention thrival). After my author story time at the CLiF celebration, there was a little Q&A with the children. I asked if they knew the difference between a library and a bookstore. One little girl, age 4 or so, raised her hand. Here’s what she said:

“A library is where you can go and get as many books as you would like and you take them home and then bring them back. You can take them out again, though, but then you have to bring them back. A bookstore is for forever books. It’s where you can take a book home and keep it forever.”

I couldn’t have put it better myself. A bookstore is for forever books! *sniffle* And a library is that magical place where you can take as many books out as you like, over and over again. It occurred to me that nonprofit literacy organizations like CLiF, First Book, and so many others are the perfect intersection of bookstores and libraries: they provide free books children can take home and keep.

CLiF booksAfter the presentations, the children were invited to eat some of the tasty and beautiful snacks the school had set up for them and their families, and – best of all – they got to choose two books each to take home and keep from the many treasures the CLiF grant provided. I wish I could show you pictures of the happy, well-controlled chaos of 65 little children gazing with delight and concentration at the tabletops filled with wonderful books to choose from, trying to pick the very most enticing ones to take home, clutching their riches in their arms as the party dispersed and teachers led the little groups back to cheerful, bright, book-filled classrooms and the prospect of going home with their brand-new forever books.

Events like these make me so grateful to be part of a field that brings kids not just knowledge and entertainment and inspiration, but sheer joy. We are lucky!