Merrilee displays one of the hundreds of snowflakes she cuts every year.
Putting up our Giving Tree is a tradition that marks the beginning of our in-store holiday season. Inspired by the legendary Giving Tree program run by Carol Chittenden, former owner of Eight Cousins bookstore in Falmouth, Mass., our tree allows our customers to celebrate the holiday by giving books to those who need them the most. We fill the branches with hand-cut snowflakes tagged with kids’ names or book requests, depending on the featured organizations, and then our customers select and donate gifts to match. It’s an endeavor that I look forward to every year.
Our tree evolves based on our partners, so the format shifts from year to year. Sometimes organizations submit lists of specific kids whose first names and ages we print on snowflakes. Customers choose a name, select a gift, and leave it to be wrapped with the personalized snowflake as a one-of-a-kind gift tag. Sometimes, like this year, our snowflakes feature book requests from local high-impact nonprofits that we support. Continue reading
My great Norton rep Suzette Cianco was at the store today attempting to stop me from writing this post by showing up for an appointment in the afternoon before I could make time to write this, literally forcing me to do it in the late evening. Who knew she could be so evil?
Preparing for the Holiday Season, like getting ready for a long hike, has a pronounced way of sharpening our focus and attention. For me, nothing brings the year more sharply into view than preparing our holiday gift guide, which is composed of 20 books in 10 different categories. At this point you may be thinking, “aren’t you a bit of an ass, Kenny, to do all that work, selecting titles and writing blurbs? Why not just use a regional gift guide like a sensible bookseller?”
I actually don’t know the answer to that. You may be right, but I’ve done it this way for more years than there are books in the catalog. Here is my not entirely spurious reasoning. I provide the book section to two local newspaper gift guides, 10 for each paper, so it gets big circulation to the community at no cost to me. Most importantly, though, I consider it the core of our handselling strategy for the season, and the singular embodiment of both core missions of every bookseller. We are here to promote what we love, and also to provide what the community is interested in. Many times those are two separate categories. For the Holiday 20, though, I strive to pick books which we are completely behind and love, yet which will also make highly successful holiday gifts.
I found the most amazing book in the PGW display at my fall regional show (I’m a member of the House of Heartland; we wear TWO scarves, because it’s cold in the Midwest) and it’s been sitting behind our counter at the shop for the last few weeks, passed between staff members, consulted and wagered upon like a Magic 8 Ball of books. It’s called The Story Cure, An A-Z of Books to Keep Kids Happy, Healthy and Wise by Ella Berthoud and Susan Elderkin, published in 2016 in the U.K. by Canongate, and distributed by our PGW friends stateside last month. It’s the second book by these bibliotherapists-turned-authors, following their adult-themed The Novel Cure (Canongate, 2013) and it is a simply charming collection of bookish recommendations for all nature of childhood maladies, from “tummy aches to teenage mood swings”, for the times “when a book is the best medicine of all.”
Last week, I challenged readers to narrow down their ‘desert island’ choices for picture book, middle grade, and young adult titles, just one book per category. In case you missed it, the guidelines for the contest—and more importantly, the responses—are here. All participants were entered into a drawing for a grand prize, where the winner receives autographed first editions of M.T. Anderson’s Landscape with Invisible Hand, Alison McGhee’s Pablo & Birdy, and Katherine Paterson’s My Brigadista Year. And the winner is:
A robust list of new and exciting nonfiction is crucial for the holidays. Fiction can be hard to choose for picky readers or kids that the gift buyer simply doesn’t know very well. But great nonfiction can win almost anyone over. Here are some of the books I’m excited to recommend this year. What about you?
At this point I’ve seen a lot of Holiday seasons come and go. Maybe not as many as a mature oak tree, but still, quite a few. There are many traditional retail elements to the season that become as helpful to a gnarled bookseller from a preparation point of view as a first frost is to our arboreal friends. One of my favorites is Downtown Farmington’s Early Bird Sale.
It’s time for our store’s annual “IT’S 4TH QUARTER, LET’S PANIC!” staff meeting, a Sunday night pizza-and-pop extravaganza when we review all the events scheduled in the next two months (and I do some mea culpas for booking the dog rescue AND the ninja event on the same weekend WITH the offsite author festival AND the reindeer visit….), unveil all the new wrapping paper, and do some staff training for new and returning holiday help. We vote on our staff Top 10 book choices in the picture book, middle grade, and YA categories, debate the dress code for Plaid Friday, and engage in some wheeling-and-dealing over shift coverage to accommodate everyone’s holiday obligations. Somewhere between the breadsticks and the Cranberry Sprite, slip in some staff training on customer service. Specifically, I want to give our folks some helpful words and phrases to use in conversation with customers, and some “red hot lava” sentences to avoid. Just in case you’re in staff training mode, too, I’ll share my list of “please, never say this”:
We’ve all played the desert island game, haven’t we? The game where you name three books (or movies, or foods, etc.) that you would bring to a desert island if that’s all you had for the rest of your life. When the category is books, I always try to cheat and count my Riverside Shakespeare as one book, even though it’s a two-volume boxed set and isn’t fair because it contains ALL OF SHAKESPEARE. Sometimes, I get away with it, but now that I’m the judge, and there’s a big prize, that won’t fly. Want to know what you’ll win? Autographed first editions of three fabulous 2017 titles: Katherine Paterson’s My Brigadista Year, M.T. Anderson’s Landscape with Invisible Hand, and Alison McGhee’s Pablo and Birdy.
Here are the rules:
This week I thought I’d take a look at some favorites from this year’s crop of interactive books for babies and preschoolers. First up, It’s the Troll: Lift-The-Flap Book by Sally Grindley (Hachette, Nov.). This follow-up to Shhh! is based on The Three Billy Goats Gruff. Lift the flaps and peep through the holes as the goats try to get over the bridge to the fields of fresh green grass. This tale combines physical manipulation of the book’s elements with reader participation reminiscent of the Pigeon books by Mo Willems for a truly interactive experience.
Our store always seems to overflow with boxes this time of year, but one day out from our new job as bookselling partners for the Texas Book Festival, the piles of boxes have merged throughout our office space to form a perilous maze-like obstacle course designed to catch bookseller toes and knees around every corner.
This is a challenge any bookstore faces when prepping and running multiple, simultaneous large conferences and offsites and festivals out in the community, because bookstores aren’t generally known for our expansive storage space. Store design typically maximizes selling and display space, and although at our store we’re lucky enough to have an entire floor of dedicated office, storage, and receiving space, it gets tight pretty quickly at the time of year. Luckily our bookfair inventory has recently been moved out of the way into a new warehouse, and the bulk of the festival books will actually be delivered via 16-wheeler straight to the tent. Otherwise, the building might actually burst at the seams. Continue reading