Recently, a young woman in her mid-20s came into the store looking for a picture book to give her one-year-nephew, one that contained a same-sex couple, ideally aunts or uncles, but barring those, same-sex parents. “I’m getting married to my fiancée in two weeks,” she said, “and I’d really like to give my nephew a book he can understand, with a family like ours.” I scratched my head, trying to think of possibilities.
Guess what? It’s a publishing DESERT for young children of same-sex parents and kids with LGBT relatives.
A customer stopped by the store a month ago. As we chatted at the counter he shared with me that he was an author. His name was Ira Mark Egdall. I looked up Ira’s book on ipage, Einstein Relatively SImple: Our Universe Revealed in Everyday Language. Here is a screenshot of the search results.
At first glance this may seem like an ordinary interaction with an author passing through town, sharing news of a book with a dubious pun in the title. That was not the case, though. It was actually unusual for a number of reasons. First of all, sandwiched between the paperback and hardcover editions of Ira’s book is a book with the identical title, but a different author, Cecil Eckar. Ira informed me that it was a pirated version of his own book. Secondly, what you would not know unless you too had met Ira, was that the cover of Eckar’s pirated book literally featured an author photo of Ira, the actual author of the book. The photo appears to have been taken from Egdall’s own website.
By this time in August, our store’s walls, doors, and cabinet faces are covered with book reviews, pictures, and artwork produced by the participants in our summer reading program. We started on Memorial Day weekend, and will end officially on Labor Day, but as schools are back in session here this week and next, most of our summer reading friends will move their attention to classroom reading challenges and the intricacies of new locker combinations by this weekend. That’s probably a good thing, because we have covered every available square inch of the shop with their contributions, and we’re running out of both space and Scotch tape.
Our friend Pete makes dozens of appearances each year.
In a few weeks, inspired by an event at the end of Children’s Institute in New Orleans, Spellbound will be co-hosting its first Drag Queen Story Hour.
Harmonica Sunbeam warms up her audience at the Hudson Park branch of the New York Public Library. (Credit Amy Lombard for The New York Times)
Throwback to 2007 (I’m the one in the middle).
I first read Harry Potter as a senior in college, when a friend lent me the first three books out of the blue. I had no frame of reference for what the books were, but I was instantly hooked—just like everyone else. I came to BookPeople in fall of 2005, which meant I missed being a part of the release of Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince, but I was certainly there for the 5,000 person blow-out in our parking lot for Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. It was the most extravagant event I have ever been a part of, with character red carpets, a Diagon Alley set, a fire dancer, and the Austin Symphony Orchestra.
Waldo partygoers begin to gather.
This July was our seventh year of hosting Find Waldo Local here in Farmington, Maine. Personally, I enjoy the interplay of constants and variables. I love taking the same local hikes in different seasons year after year. Was there something different about searching for Waldo in 2018, I wondered?
If anyone has ever been surrounded by others in profusion it is Waldo. He is always in company. Yet he has been keeping a different sort of company this year because people are searching for more things more earnestly than usual. With the very nature of reality and history under strain, perhaps searching for Waldo has a special role right now? After all, looking for something which you are certain is really there might be a source of satisfaction, a respite for those whose quests are undertaken against a backdrop of anxiety and uncertainty. Perhaps even Viktor Frankl, had he been alive and summering in Farmington, would have searched for Waldo here this summer, and concluded that this simple, attainable, community-oriented search helped him find meaning in the more opaque world we share.
My husband had knee replacement surgery last week, so I have been fulfilling the roles of Bookstore Manager/Nurse/OffsiteBuyer/Chauffeur/StaffScheduler/PersonalChef/IcePackNinja for the last 14 days. It’s been tough. Not as tough that winter as the mom of three children under age 4 when everyone got chicken pox the week after we brought home the new Labrador puppy, but a challenge of scheduling and juggling nonetheless. Our summer activity schedule at the shop is in full swing, last-minute vacation travel shopping has been strong, and our student staffers are starting to think a lot more about new dorm rooms than extra shifts. We all manage these brief “mostly out of the shop” periods, of course, but I am particularly cognizant of our business owner coping strategies this time — perhaps because my “down time” is not on a beach with a book and a beverage, but in a lot of waiting rooms during physical therapy and followup appointments, where I have time to worry and wonder about my little shop’s health while I’m gone.
Vermont doesn’t win many awards for diversity, having one of the most homogenous populations in the country, but we have some amazing activists in our tiny state. A couple of years ago, a group of teen poets in Burlington began performing at slam poetry events, making a national name for themselves with their passionate words. This group of articulate, funny, strong, social-justice-minded teens call themselves Muslim Girls Making Change, or MGMC, and they’ve traveled to Washington, D.C., been written about in the Huffington Post, and are now represented in (and on the cover of!) the Rad Women series’ newest addition, Rad Girls Can: Stories of Bold, Brave, and Brilliant Young Women by Kate Schatz and Miriam Klein Stahl (Ten Speed Press). Look! There they are in the upper left corner. Four fabulously rad girls. In June of this year, they won a National Endowment of the Arts Human and Civil Rights Award alongside Michelle Obama. (That award came the day before courts upheld the Muslim travel ban. We still have such a long way to go.)
I don’t know about anyone else, but our store’s layout sometimes feels like a real world Rubik’s Cube I can’t quite solve. There are corners everywhere you turn, as the bookshelves snake through the store. And those nooks and crannies don’t always match up exactly with the number of shelves you need in each spot or offer easy flow between sections that relate. So every couple months, we get the itch to start moving everything around to try to find that perfect fit. Most of the time, our adjustments are relatively minor as sections grow a bit, shrink a bit, or are created to reflect new trends. Of course, there’s never any perfect solution because the literary conversation is always shifting in one way or another. So constant tweaks and shifts are part of the deal (and give us the fun of brainstorming new evolutions). Every now and then, though, we find ourselves more substantially bumping against spatial limitations, and then we get to go back to the drawing board in a larger way. Continue reading
We all, when wearing our frontlist buying hats, look for identifying characteristics of middle grade and young adult novels that will indicate their sales worthiness at our particular stores. The use of markups and tags in the ordering process illustrates that point. Many times, for example, a new book fills a certain cavity, a first-person narrator with a mental or physical condition not depicted before, the book contains a plot strand touching on a current social issue, or bears a striking resemblance to an established successful title, has a large print run size, a proximate author’s state of residence, and so forth. This is the coin of the frontlist realm.
Given the volume of titles in that realm our superficial reliance on a book’s tagged attributes is a flawed but necessary part of the process. When looking at what really makes a book excel, however, I’m convinced that a whole different class of attributes are involved. Let’s look at two YA novels coming out this fall that share a very particular quality that makes them exceptional: The Light Between Worlds by Laura Weymouth and The Brilliant Death by Amy Rose Capetta.