There are days at the store where I think all of us on staff feel like super heroes. People come in with needs all the time. Usually it’s help with books they’re desperate to read whose title they just cannot remember, or needing assistance for that perfect present or, as was the case last weekend, book report help. Maybe it doesn’t seem like helping someone with a book title merits super hero status, but I think it does. Continue reading
For the past several years, I’ve maintained a list of the year’s starred reviews for children’s books, posting quarterly updates here in ShelfTalker. The review sources have been: the Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books (BCCB), Booklist, Horn Book, Kirkus, Publishers Weekly, and School Library Journal. The task is straightforward and sounds simple, but takes many, many, many, many hours to gather, add to a spreadsheet, standardize the listings, and make them into a printable list for readers.
I’d been gathering the 2016 stars since fall 2015, and was starting to compile my first quarter’s roundup when a random post on the Child_Lit listserv (an online children’s literature discussion list I highly recommend) led me to a miraculous discovery: someone else had started pulling together starred reviews! Woot!
If we could clone a single person from the past, Solomon is someone who would get strong consideration. The man had useful negotiating skills, not to mention a magic ring. Still, when thorny situations involving competing interests come up sometimes it’s not all that hard to channel him. Let’s pick an apropos topic at random and see if that is true. (The topic wheel is spun and settles on the following topic – authors who unexpectedly bring their own books to events covered by a bookseller)
Reading is thought of as solitary passion, but it’s actually one that’s shared. Readers talk about the books they’ve loved and they want to share them, regardless of the age of the reader. The books we read as children, at least for me, were the ones with the biggest impact. I struggled as a child with reading. Undiagnosed dyslexia made letters seem almost foreign to me until about age eight. When I was able to read fluently, I found that a whole new world had opened up. One of the things that made me happy as a reader was hearing from friends what they loved and what they shared with me. Continue reading
Once in a while, I come across books that are beloved by kids and families—some universally loved, others with a narrower but just as passionate audience—that I’m pretty sure wouldn’t make it through today’s acquisitions meetings. I’m not talking about books with dated, sexist, racist, or otherwise unacceptable social content; it’s pretty clear why those would hit the recycling bin now. The books I mean are simply off-beat, quirky, or darker than we adult bookmakers are currently comfortable producing / than readers are currently comfortable buying.
The oddest thing happened last month. I went off into the Vernal Glade to interview Spring regarding her picks for the season. When I got there the Glade was empty of all except an oak tree. It was very unlike her to miss an appointment and I have decided to walk back over today and see if I can find out what happened!
Kenny: Hello there. Hello. Spring. Is anyone here?
Oak Tree: Hi there, Kenny. And don’t ask. I lost a bet to Summer.
In 2009, I began maintaining a list of children’s books featuring main characters of color with stories that were not primarily about racial issues. I was looking for books where fully realized individual characters led the action in stories that ranged from mysteries, fantasies, and adventures to friendship and family stories. I wanted to find a broader range of books in which contemporary young readers might see themselves and their friends’ lives reflected, accepted, celebrated as mainstage actors. These stories certainly might include thoughts or questions about identity and culture, but were not driven by them. To date, this World Full of Color database has 1,275 titles.
But because of my criteria, my diversity database necessarily excludes hundreds of fantastic books where the plots are driven by issues of race. I grieve these omissions and wonder what to do about them. They are often some of the best written, most powerful and important books to arise from our literature, and I find myself unhappy about their exclusion from the database.
I returned from a week’s vacation late Saturday night. I woke up Sunday morning in my own bed but found myself straining to hear the ever-present ocean I had grown so accustomed to during the week. There is always an adjustment upon returning home, especially from a beach vacation. The biggest one I discovered is not being able to literally lounge all day and just read. There is something so lovely about surrendering to the pull of a lazy day in the sun and a good book. Continue reading
Several years ago at a BookExpo convention, I noticed two people dressed in khakis, navigating the aisles to deliver a magnificent Mayan king figure to their elaborate, jungled booth. They turned out to be a couple from Vermont, Jon and Pam Voelkel, promoting their new book, Middleworld. Now, nine years later, they have four books in the Jaguar Stones series and give one of the liveliest, most fun and informative author presentations on the circuit, jam-packed with information about Mayan culture and enthusiasm for their subject.
Admittedly, it’s pretty easy to be enthusiastic about the Mayans. Except for their mealworm snacks. When the Voelkels visited a local school this week, one of the students’ highlights at their visit was to see their teacher, Dana, down a mealworm just like the Mayans. Well, maybe not exactly like the Mayans. These mealworms are dried (and I think roasted) in a snack pack from California. Yes, I’m talking about the ever-popular lunch-box favorite, Larvets, The Original Worm Snax. Continue reading
It’s a bookstore anniversary year for your ShelfTalker bloggers. Josie noted here in January that she and Elizabeth were preparing assiduously for the Flying Pig’s 20th anniversary. DDG will be 25 this year and we are in planning mode ourselves. One idea I had was to pick one book of the year for each of our 25 years, from 1991-2015. It’s a difficult process and I decided to talk theory with the world’s greatest expert on this sort of selection, The Librarian of Years, who has been gracious enough to speak with us here before.
Kenny: Thanks so much for helping out again!
Librarian of Years: Absolutely!
Kenny: First of all, is the selection of a single Book of the Year something you do personally?
Librarian of Years: Oh yes, we have an entire Library wing dedicated to displaying them!
Kenny: Great! My main question involves selection philosophy. For example, in 1991 I have good memories of both Griffin and Sabine, which was such a big book that year, but also of Possession, which came out in paperback that year, and is the first new release I remember handselling with abandon.