Drum roll, please – it’s time for the penultimate roundup of 2015 starred reviews given to books for children and teens!
The Stars So Far is a project in which I foolishly decide to gather all of the year’s starred reviews for children’s and YA books from Booklist, The Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books, Horn Book, Kirkus, Publishers Weekly, and School Library Journal. Some of the reviews are harder to track down than you’d think, so publishers, please alert me to omissions at ebluemle at publishers weekly.com.
Before writing to tell me I’m missing a star, please note that starred reviews are counted only when they have been officially printed and released by the review magazines. If you know that a book will be given a star next week or next month, please don’t send an email. I will add those stars as they are published by the review magazines. Thank you! (I am aware that this roundup does not yet include Kirkus’s 10/15/15 reviews.
This is a detail-laden process, and as careful as I try to be, there will be bobbles here and there. If you want the cleanest, most comprehensive version of this list, check back here several days after the original post, when I’ll have been able to make any fixes.
Finally, this list was painstakingly compiled by an independent bookseller. If you use this round-up for ordering, please consider using an online or bricks-and-mortar independent bookstore. Indies give so much back to their communities in the form of donations, taxes, jobs, events, and caring expertise.
And now for the stars: Continue reading
Every year the Shelburne Community School introduces all the kindergartners to our small village by walking around and visiting all the kid-appropriate places in town. The bookstore is a big part of that day. I generally love this day. The little ones are so little that 22 of them fit very comfortably on the rug in the picture book section. Each class comes in with their teacher and several parent volunteers. They walk in holding their partner’s hand (safety first when walking about town) and settle in quickly. This year there were no introductions as the teachers just hung back and let me start things off. Generally, I wouldn’t mind this, but shortly before the children arrived we received upwards of 20 boxes that need to be dealt with as 13 of them were for an event on Monday with David Sedaris. Continue reading
While in Providence for the NEIBA show last week, I had the opportunity to visit the Providence Media Lab, As220 Industries. The tour was sponsored by Ingram Publisher Services. The Maker Movement was new to me. I felt that I had wandered into a Cory Doctorow novel, which is not a bad place to be. The Maker Movement’s melding of computer coding, technology, hacking, design, recycling, artisanship, and art is an integrated and open source means of personal expression to be sure. First let’s go on the tour and then discuss what it all means for booksellers.
Here are my tour mates pictured outside As220 Labs. From right to left, Niki Marion of Odyssey Bookshop, Donna McDermid from Phoenix Books, Yours Truly, Jan Hall of Partner’s Village, Ron Smithson, Director of IPS Field Sales, and Amy Graham from The Vermont Book Shop. Not in the photo is Stacie Williams, IPS Field rep and excellent photographer. All the terrific photos here are courtesy of Stacie.
This is one of those occasional ShelfTalker posts that is pretty specific to booksellers and publishers, so you might not care to read it if you’re not one of those folks.
Last Winter Institute during the Publisher Roundtables, our group of 10 booksellers was asked about marketing materials that are most useful to us (and are actually used by us) in our indie stores. Edelweiss came up as a great way to distribute e-ARCs, and I had some ideas for other things that would be helpful to me as a bookseller trying to help publishers promote their books — and could streamline that process.
- Anything downloadable or embeddable — shelf talkers, book trailers, promo flyers, etc. — would ideally be located on Edelweiss. Individual emails are okay, but they get lost by the time the books come out, so having them permanently linked to their books in Edelweiss would be convenient for everyone involved.
- Something very handy, to me at least, would be Indie Next deadlines for each book noted at the top of marketing materials for books. To some booksellers, that might seem pushy, but it can be worded gracefully (along the lines of, “If you’re inclined to nominate this book for Indie Next, the deadline is May 15”) and would be very helpful to those of us who mean to nominate but lose track of time. Reminders help.
- I would love to be able to request digital ARCs and audio from within Edelweiss. If enough booksellers were requesting titles that aren’t (yet) available, there might be a threshold at which publishers decide it’s worth their while to provide them. It would also be helpful to have a better understanding of how publishers decide what to offer on NetGalley and what to offer on Edelweiss. I’m all about one-stop shopping for assets.
Anyone else have ideas or responses? If so, please email me at ebluemle @ publishers weekly.com and I will add your comment, name, and company to this post in an update. (Our comments section is still being worked on since the spam attack from a couple of weeks ago.)
Oh, he tried to keep it from us, but the tireless journalists at ShelfTalker uncovered a secret about one of our own: Kenneth Brechner of DDG Booksellers in Farmington, Maine, who is also ShelfTalker’s Thursday blogger, has just won the prestigious MSBA Business Friend of Education Award from the Maine School Management Association (“Maine’s Advocates for Public Education and Strong Leadership”).
What makes this award extra impressive is that it often goes to corporations that donate money to the schools, but this year, the organization recognized the many ways this fine indie bookseller contributes to schools through collaborative bookstore programs and time spent volunteering in a variety of ways in the schools.
Last year, Kenny’s store won the WBNA’s Lucile Micheels Pannell Award for Best General Bookstore, about which the award committee’s Kelli Chipponeri wrote, “This year my selections were heavily influenced by the bookstores that are the epicenters of their communities. The outreach that these booksellers do, with little resources and support, makes them not only cultural touch points for the people who shop at their stores, but influence and promote reading, art, and education (as well as other ideas that feed the mind and soul) in communities.”
Kenny has always been the Flying Pig’s gold standard for school involvement, and we couldn’t be more thrilled that his countless hours of work and enthusiastic school support have been officially recognized by the ENTIRE STATE OF MAINE! Congratulations, Kenny!
The NEIBA Show Gazette
Lisa Poole (r.) and Sarah Goddin (center) of Quail Ridge Books came all the way up from North Carolina just for the HR Seminar. They are counting themselves lucky to be standing that close to my pal Vicky Titcomb (l.). Please note that I am well aware that this reveals what a lousy photographer I am.
Though on the surface one would think that the task at hand was simple and straightforward, I knew that giving a ShelfTalker account of the first day and a half of the New England Independent Booksellers Association trade show would represent a stern personal challenge for me. Apart from the fact that being opinionated about the proceedings would be rude, Diane, the supreme commander of ShelfTalker, had instructed me to take photos and I am a lousy and under-equipped photographer, particularly on the road as I don’t have a smartphone, just a tablet. Still, one of the big lessons we come to these gatherings to hear reinforced is the importance of stretching our personal barriers and trying new things, so voila.
I have a confession to make: if I didn’t co-own the bookstore, I suspect I would have been fired years ago. Don’t get me wrong, I’m very good at my job, I tend to play well with others, but I’m horrible at systems. I’m internally organized in a way that makes sense to me and not necessarily to others, and I have a pretty good memory. This combination makes for some frustration with co-workers. I find systems to be one extra step in a process that I’ve already finished. It’s almost like making a list at the end of the day to cross off all the things you’ve accomplished. I’d much rather just move on to the next task, or take my dog on a walk.
Readers of this blog know that I have a dog, Allie. She comes to the store, has gotten letters and books from publishers, and now she’s partly responsible for new customers coming to the store. My dog is part whippet, part Lab, and all needs-to-run-a-lot-every-day. The only safe place for her to do this is the dog park which is down the street from the bookstore. At first I resisted the dog park because honestly, it made me nervous. All those dogs playing and running: how would they all get along? Turns out pretty darned well.
Here’s the thing about the dog park. Dogs play and have fun while the owners just stand around until it’s time to leave. There are benches, and sometimes we sit. There is a fairly committed cadre of us who are at the dog park twice a day. It turns out, just about everyone who goes to the dog park is a reader.
We see a lot of self-published books at the store. All are by people passionate about their creations and hopeful they will find a broad audience. But while we would love for these books to sell well, most of them don’t, for a variety of reasons. First of all, it’s hard for ANY book, published by any outfit, to rise to the attention of readers. It takes the right push at the right time for a book to take off, and that is an art, not a science. It’s true for all books; that’s just the reality of publishing and marketing. Self-published books have additional challenges. Sometimes the subject matter has a limited audience. Often, the books suffer from poor production values, not having the advantage of professional design. They might feature text that hasn’t been edited for clunkiness or shaped into a satisfying narrative arc. They might present art that isn’t as professional as that found in books published by traditional houses. And the cost of small press runs usually leads to disproportionately high cover prices. All of this can add up to a hard sell for customers.
But every once in a while, we are delighted to see a self-published book like this one.
Pax, Sara Pennypacker’s new novel, has the rare quality of isolating its subject to the point of making the story a living portal for its readers. The story’s motion is rendered in precise parallels and dynamic echoes. Apples fall passively from a tree. A toy soldier is hurled as far as it can be thrown. A boy’s father and grandfather passively remain where they have fallen. A boy, Peter, and his fox, Pax, separated by a moment of falsity, struggle independently to return to where they belong, to be reunited. Porch doors are left open.
A book that successfully explores, describes, and embodies the operation of truthfulness provides a gauntlet of irony for anyone trying to describe it. Labels must necessarily miss the mark, for they are static and the process of truthfulness is dynamic. For example to say that Sara Pennypacker’s new novel, Pax (HarperCollins/Balzer + Bray, Feb. 2016), is an exceptionally powerful story is as easy and true as pinning down the reasons for that power are elusive and variable.