Often a really wonderfully written and original book defies easy classification, encompassing more than one category or genre. The best-case scenario, as far as I’m concerned, would be having enough copies of every title we carry so that we could shelve it in multiple sections. We usually don’t have that many in stock, though, unless it’s a hot new release or related to an upcoming event. So hard choices have to be made.
‘Tis the season to build the BookPeople holiday catalog book list. The catalog comes out in November and is BookPeople’s biggest production. Featuring book essays by booksellers on each spread (paired with themed photos), the catalog offers a fun window into who we are.
With only three spreads of our catalog dedicated to kids’ books (one for ages 0-7, one for ages 7-12, and one for ages 12+), I have to be strategic about my selections. There are always some shoo-ins, but I also carve out space to spotlight 2017 titles that aren’t necessarily as obvious or that haven’t already been highlighted through in-store events or other promotions.
When autumn approaches it is time to return the favor, and so I sought her out for my annual interview to get some insight into which books published this Fall will be most worthy of our attention. I found her in high spirits and unusually preoccupied.
Kenny: Hi there, Autumn.
Autumn: Ah, I was wondering when you would turn up. Hail and well met and all that. Now mind yourself and don’t get in the way of our training.
Kenny: Training? Who is training and for what?
Autumn: Why, for the seasonal primacy of course!
Kenny: Seasonal primacy?
I visited a local preschool this week to share some books during their reading time. We offer visits to pretty much anyone who asks, from schools to nursing homes to service organizations, sometimes bringing a guest reader (police and firefighters are especially popular) or a book rack and a few dozen titles for a mini book fair, or to present state reading award nominees (can I “booktalk 14 titles in 30 minutes, to 8 middle school classes in a row?”… yes, yes I can) and sometimes just to share new releases that we’re excited about.
Regular visits outside the store are not only nice breaks in the retail schedule, but they keep relationships with local organizations active and offer the opportunity to meet additional school staff and administrators. While this particular preschool is one that I have visited many times before, the invitation for this week was from a new teacher, and as the school has grown by one class per age level, this was also a new group of kids to meet. Packing my tote with 4 picture books, a puppet or two, and a bottle of water, I confidently set out to greet my new friends, and reminded the store staff that I’d be back in about an hour.
Requests for thriller and horror titles have been creeping steadily upward over the past year, and I realize that I’m not up on the best of the recent scariest kids’ books anymore. It’s been several years since horror had a strong fan base among our children and teen readers, but it seems to be coming back. Continue reading
Killing off parents is a time-honored plot device in children’s adventure stories. After all, how are kids supposed to have the freedom of movement required to solve mysteries, follow bad guys, chase dragons, or generally save the world from impending doom if they have doting parents who expect them to be home in time for supper?
Likewise, being placed in a miserable foster home of one sort or another is a common springboard for drama and/or adventure in the lives of fictional kids. Most young readers and their parents seem to understand the need for the first choice and take it in stride without worrying too much about real-life implications. But does the miserable foster family device skew the impression that kids and adults have of foster families in the real world?
When Hervé Tullet’s Press Here burst onto the scene in 2011, it became an instant must-have for every collection, proving that you don’t need a digital device—or even flaps, pop-ups, or fuzzy pages—to have a whole lot of interactive fun. His follow-up, Mix It Up, was equally successful, this time using clever instructions to immerse kids in color theory, seemingly allowing them to create new colors by dabbing blobs, shaking the book, and SMOOOOSHing the book’s pages together (ok, so the smooshing sound is just what we yell when we do it at home).
And now we have Say Zoop! It clearly follows in the steps of the others, yet also takes the format to a new level. The previous two books help kids enter into a planned experience through playful, yet carefully plotted prompts. But while those books trick kids into thinking they’re in charge, Say Zoop! actually puts readers at the helm, helping them create something that’s wholly their own along the way. The book’s basic rules are deceptively straightforward. If you see a blue dot, say oh. If you see a red one, say ah. For a yellow dot, say wahoo! But there’s nothing simplistic about it. Continue reading
Something great has come to Farmington and its name is The New Commons Project. What is the New Commons Project, you ask, and what makes it better than the old commons? First let’s check on the Project’s definition of commons.
” A commons is something that belongs to all of us, a communally held resource from which no one can be excluded and for which we are all responsible. At the New Commons Project, we believe that art, literature, and ideas are a commons.”
Fair enough but what is the New Commons Project exactly?
FROM THE DESK OF THE SHOPKEEPER
Memo to 4 Kids Staff re: displays
It’s September, which means we need to keep “Back-to-School” picture book rack out (but further back, towards the puzzles), “Apples and Apple Picking” on the front counter, and move “AUTUMN” to the front display right by the entrance. Tape those paper leaves to the coat tree, and just set it right in the middle of the table. Over in Middle Grade, make sure that “SOCCER” is rotated with the “FOOTBALL & CHEER” display, but that can leach over into the YA department, as long as you don’t take over any of the John Green space. (Some things shall not be disturbed, no matter the sports season, and we need to presell a LOT of TURTLES, you guys. A LOT of TURTLES.) Oh, and since the Cubs are doing pretty well (ahem), just find a place to keep baseball books and Cubbie stuff out, too, OK?
Yes, I know there’s no room. Yes, I know that I want to keep the hurricane and We LOVE Texas books right out on the table. It’s important. Kids are watching the news. Their teachers are signing up to adopt classrooms in Houston and they’re recording readalouds on the Hurricane Harvey Book Club site… they need context. But while you’re straightening those hurricane and storm titles, pull out anything we have on Florida. There’s a lot of snowbird grandparents down there that our kids will be Skyping with this week.
I love YA fiction, but I’m curmudgeonly about it. For instance, it’s taken me a long time to come around to tolerating first-person present-tense narratives. For my taste, they can too easily lend themselves to self-conscious, awkward descriptions (“I brush my straight brown hair out of my eyes and shrug my shoulders”), and the challenges of the format can end up making narrators sound interchangeable—a “uni-voice” of precocious, observant, wry teen girls telling their stories. And it makes me sad to feel cranky about them, because they are funny, insightful storytellers who just can’t seem to escape their first-person present-tense sand traps.
But! Every so often come books so skillful the format disappears and I get sucked completely into the story. Angie Thomas’s The Hate U Give (HarperCollins/Balzer + Bray) was one of those stunners, and Erika L. Sánchez’s I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter (Knopf, Oct.) is another.