Monthly Archives: February 2009

Stephen Colbert and Steve Martin Read Danielle Steel

Alison Morris - February 5, 2009

Today’s laugh-out-loud entertainment comes compliments of Stephen Colbert and Steve Martin, who have both been nominated for a Grammy in the Best Spoken Word category. In this wildly entertaining clip from last night’s "Colbert Report", the two read from a novel by Danielle Steel, as a demonstration of their reading prowess. (Thanks to sales rep Ted Wedel of Cheapeake & Hudson, Inc. for letting me know about this one!)

Be sure also to watch the clip (from the same Colbert Report episode) that was linked to in today’s Children’s Bookshelf, in which Stephen Colbert laments not having won a certain children’s book award.

The Colbert ReportMon – Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c Steve Martin Colbert Report Full Episodes
Paul McCartney Appearance Funny Political Videos
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How Many Books Would YOU Order for This Event?

Alison Morris - February 4, 2009

One of the biggest challenges about arranging author events is deciding how many books to order. Especially when the event will be a large off-site event requiring you to move books to an out-of-store location and then move what doesn’t sell back again. You don’t want to under-order, because running out of books makes you look incompetent and means you will miss out on sales. But you also don’t want to over-order by any large margin, because then you’re paying chunks of money in return shipping when you send those unsold books back to the publisher.

Having played the event-ordering game for almost ten years now, I think I’ve got it mostly figured out. I generally err a bit on the high side, but usually not so high as to leave us in shipping payment jeopardy. Every now and again, though, I have to place an order for an event when I’ve got NO IDEA what kind of numbers to work with. And I recently faced what might have been my biggest event-ordering challenge yet. 

Imagine for a moment that Mary Pope Osborne is doing an off-site event with your store, at a local middle school, and you’ve got to decide what quantity to order of each title in her Magic Tree House series, of which there are 40 fiction titles, and 19 non-fiction (the "Research Guides"). You know that, for each person in the signing line, Mary will (time willing) sign an unlimited number of hardcover MTH books but only two paperback MTH books. This suggests that, because so many families do own at least two of her books in paperback and are likely to bring them from home, you should order primarily hardcovers. But how many of each title? (Take into account the fact that the most recent MTH book was published four months ago, so there’s no hot-off-the-presses frontlist title driving hardcover sales at your event.) What about those people who don’t own MTH paperbacks but will want to buy them at your event? You can’t leave them high and dry, so you’d better order some copies of each title in paperback. But how many of each title? And what about M.P.O.’s non-MTH titles? How many of those should you order?

This all depends on how many people you’re expecting, right? Well, let’s say you have no clear idea of how many people might attend this event, because you’ve never hosted M.P.O. for an event before. You’re guessing the number could be anywhere between 400 and 800 people but guessing that the number will be close to the 500 or 600 mark.

So, let’s say there are 500 Magic Tree House fans at this event and 450 of them come with their own paperbacks from home. The remaining 50 people are each (possibly) going to purchase two paperbacks apiece. Are they more likely to want the first titles in the series or the most recently published titles in the series? Or do they have favorites in the series that they’ll want to buy? The same question applies to buying hardcovers.

Let’s say you order 100 boxes of books for this event. Question number one is, WHERE are you going to be able to store them in your bookstore between now and the event? Question number two is, how are you going to be able to GET all of those boxes to the event and how long will it take you to set up the book sales table? Question number three is, how many full-length tables will it take to display all of M.P.O’s titles in both paperback and hardcover? Question number four is, since you don’t have actual off-site cash registers that record ISBNs, how are you going to keep track of exactly which titles we’ve sold and in what quantity? Question number five is, HOW ANNOYING IS IT that the most recent paperbacks in the series are priced a dollar higher than all the previous books in the series so (grr!) you can’t just tell your booksellers that "all paperback MTH books except the Research Guides cost X"?

This hypothetical situation for you is (as you might have guessed) a real situation for me. And it’s a great one! Don’t get me wrong. We are THRILLED. Absolutely THRILLED to be hosting an event with Mary Pope Osborne this Valentine’s Day. In NO way should you interpret my deliberations as frustration with the fact that we’re doing this event. ALSO in no way should you doubt our ability to pull off this feat, as we’ve done events this large before and they’ve gone FLAWLESSLY. And had an adequate supply of books.

Nevertheless, let it never be said that ordering books is a walk in the park. Or a house in the trees. If my random stabs at numbers for this event come out looking squeaky clean, this will indeed feel a lot like magic!

Going Hog Wild for Good, Good Books

Alison Morris - February 3, 2009

When was the last time you spent time in an actual pigpen? For me it was last May, when our store co-hosted an afternoon and evening of delightful fun with authors Sy Montgomery and Howard Mansfield at the Natick Community Organic Farm. (See photo at right, in which a piglet mistakes my pants for dinner.) This is the same farm at which we hosted a Punk Farm on Tour event with Jarrett Krosoczka in October 2007, during which (as you may recall) Jarrett did a reading to three VERY large pigs. (Here’s a photo from that event to refresh your memory.)

What you probably don’t know if you read this blog but don’t often visit our store (for reasons of geography, I hope) is that we host a LOT of children’s author events. It’s rare for them to include barnyard animals, but nevertheless we usually have several children’s book authors and illustrators visiting us every month. Sadly, you don’t often hear about those events here because the events themselves take up so much time (see Monday’s post) that there’s little time left for blogging about them after the fact until so much time has passed that I’ve got piles of events I haven’t blogged about and the task of playing catch up is so daunting that I just… well, pass on it. Which is why you never heard about our Pigapalooza last spring. (Or most of the events we hosted before or since!)

I’d like to make up for at least this ONE oversight here, because this one was the most photogenic event we’ve hosted/sponsored in ages. The good-natured Sy Montgomery and Howard Mansfield drove about two hours down from New Hampshire to join us on the farm for two presentations about Howard’s picture book Hogwood Steps Out: A Good, Good Pig Story and Sy’s memoir The Good, Good Pig: The Extraordinary Life of Christopher Hogwood (which is one of my all-time favorite non-fiction books). Both of these books star the same "porcine wonder," as Kate DiCamillo might call him, as does this short video in which you’ll see both footage of the real Christopher Hogwood and the accurate depictions of him created by Barry Moser for Hogwood Steps Out.

When we weren’t enjoying the readings and presentations by Howard and Sy at this event, we savored the joys of the farm itself. For Sy the biggest of these was (what else?) the pigs. With the blessings of our farm friend Jane Harvey, Sy led me and Lee VanKirk, our store’s Event Coordinator, right into the pigpen where we got better acquainted with the farm’s piglets who were (thankfully) much smaller than the pigs Jarrett read to a year ago. 

These piglets were NOT, however, all THAT small anymore. Nor were they slow. Here’s one porker streaking by, which these gang were apt to do until they met with the joys of (dunh, dunh, dunh…) Sy Montgomery’s magical pig touch.

If you’ve read any of Sy’s books you know that the woman has an uncanny way with animals. She connects with them in a way most humans are either unable or unwilling to do. Part of her smarts, though, comes from learning what animals like. And what do pigs like (apart from eating anything edible)? Being rubbed on their bellies, back near their hindquarters. Seriously. It sends them to hog heaven. Here’s Sy demonstrating below:

See the look of calm in that pig’s eyes above? Awww, yeah, baby.

I love the look of serenity on this guy below, who looks as though he’s getting a special pig blessing from Lee.

Here’s Jane Harvey with her niece who is piglet-age herself but much smaller than these porcine peers.

Let me just say that you learn a lot about your coworkers when faced with an opportunity like this one. There are those who wouldn’t dare to get their boots muddy no matter how charming the author leading the charge, and then there are those who are not afraid to get down in the dirt and give a piglet some love. Bless Lee, who always looks so well-put-together you might think she’d be in the former camp, but no. Turns out she can charm barnyard animals with as much sincerity and ease as she does all the authors and customers who come through our doors. See what I mean?

If the noses above do nothing for you, try to resist the one below, which belongs to Sy and Howard’s WONDERFUL dog Sally, who came along to this event.

We had a decent-sized crowd turn out to see Sy and Howard, and we sold a decent number of books. But what stands out in my mind about this event was that it was a genuine thrill to spend time in the company of these two talented people and these MANY good-natured pigs. 

The end!

Book Art for Your Valentine and Your Budget

Alison Morris - February 2, 2009

If your book-loving Valentine’s walls are barren, consider giving them the gift of book illustrations this year. What follows are online galleries that sell original pieces of children’s book art and/or affordable prints, so you can (hopefully) find a piece of art that both announces your affection and fits within your budget.

While I didn’t see any prints available on their site, I couldn’t resist starting this post with Images of Delight, who sells original works of art by a number of British illustrators including Charlotte Voake, Polly Dunbar, and Chris Riddell. I’m featuring them first, because I think the Polly Dunbar image above would make the perfect gift for some Valentine out there. Possibly yours? Or you, yourself? (Who says you can’t be your own Valentine?)

Who couldn’t feel the love in the illustration by Anita Jeram, below, called "Noses." It’s one of hundreds of original pieces available from Storyopolis, in Sherman Oaks, California, which sells original pieces or lithographs by John Burningham, Jim LaMarche, Lynn Munsinger, Mark Teague, Chris Raschka, Marjorie Priceman, and Bagram Ibatouilline, to name just a few.

Readers Down Under (or those not averse to paying overseas shipping costs) can order giclée prints from Books Illustrated in Australia (note that the prices on the site are in Australian dollars but they’ll happily take your American money as payment). Choose from images by Graeme Base, Alison Lester, and many more illustrators including (sigh) Shaun Tan. I’d like to give my Valentine this print, below, from The Red Tree, for obvious reasons, but I’m tempted by hmmm… ALL the others as well.

Not to torture you with what you’ve missed, but aren’t you sorry you weren’t in attendance at Books Illustrated’s "All the Wild Wonders: Weeny Works by Wicked Illustrators" exhibit last year? I would have loved to have seen all these charming, miniature illustrations by talented folks like, oh, Bob Graham who contributed this tiny piece called "How to Heal a Broken Wing."

If you REALLY want to treat your Valentine right, maybe you could whisk him or her off to Paris and let them choose their own piece, in person, from the Jeanne Robillard Gallerie. A less posh (though still pricey) option would be purchasing an original work of art from their website, which features a number of French illustrators, some of whom you might recognize but many of which you probably won’t because their books have not (so far) been published here. This does not make their art any less striking, of course. Look how the shadows tell a story in this wonderful Isabelle Chatellard piece, which now has a place on my original art wish list:

Of course, closer to home for many of us is the Elizabeth Stone Gallery in Alexandria, Virginia, which is home to illustrations from talented people like Erik Blegvad, Elisa Kleven, James Ransome, and Lynn Munsinger, whose "Grandmas Teach You How to Dance" would make an especially nice gift for book-loving/dance-loving/mouse-loving grandmothers.

Grandfathers, on the other hand, might be charmed by this illustration from Scott Nash, of Grandpa wearing a red union suit. It’s just one of the many fun pieces available from, which also represents work by Peter Reynolds, Douglas Florian, and Marjorie Priceman, to name just a few.

The always generous Grace Lin is currently giving a substantial boost to the coffers of one of my favorite local organizations, The Foundation for Children’s Books, through a monthly event/fundraiser called "Small Graces." Each month in 2009, an unpublished, original painting by Grace is being auctioned off on eBay, with 100% of the proceeds to benefit FCB. The auction for Grace’s February painting (see below) is scheduled to start next week!

If you fail to win one of Grace’s pieces this way, you can also purchase one from the Child at Heart Gallery, which also carries original art and prints by Trina Schart Hyman, Matt Tavares, Mary Newell DePalma, David McPhail, and many more folks.

As anyone in Western Massachusetts knows, another FANTASTIC source of children’s book art is R. Michelson’s Galleries in Northampton, owned by author Richard Michelson, which are currently hosting their 19th Annual Children’s Illustration Show. The difficulty might be in deciding whether you’d like to own a piece of art by Mo Willems or Chris Raschka? Raul Colón or Jarrett Krosoczka? Tony DiTerlizzi or Mary Azarian or E.B. Lewis or Barry Moser or…? (The list of difficult decisions goes on and on.) As for me, I have a hard time just whittling down my favorite paintings by Mordicai Gerstein, never mind having to think about the rest. For a Valentine who loves stories, though, I think this one would make a fitting (and phenomenal) gift:

Finally, here’s one more art source suggestion. If your love is a lover of classic book illustrations, set aside a few hours in which to browse the extensive gallery at, which features illustrations scanned from the pages of classic books. Most are now available as affordable prints (an 8" x 10" costs $19), and there’s a relatively wide range of illustration styles represented on the site. Depending on your Valentine’s taste, he or she might go for one of William Heath Robinson’s illustrations for A Midsummer Night’s Dream:

or C.L. Hinton’s cover illustration for Under the Trees:

or maybe one of Heinrich Lefler’s illustrations for Die Prinzessen:

Of course if you can’t find art by one of your favorite illustrators at any of these or other online galleries, you can always check the illustrators’ own websites to see if they sell pieces there, or contact them to ask if/how they make their original works available. Many illustrators now sell work from their own site — sometimes even holiday-themed pieces or specially designed boxes of chocolates. Catia Chen, for example, sells both! (The print below is called "Valentine" and that’s a box of chocolates she designed, at right.)

Are there other galleries I’ve failed to mention here? If so, please tell me about ’em. And tell your Valentine to get crackin’ with the shopping, as February 14th will soon be here!