Monthly Archives: November 2009

Black Friday Recap

Josie Leavitt - November 30, 2009

Black Friday rocked! That’s the word from the Flying Pig. Our first ever Black Friday sale was a huge success.

Big sale weekends are festive. There is something really exciting about a store that is truly jam-packed with people carrying armloads of books. We worked hard making recommendations, ringing people up, and yes, even wrapping. We played Christmas music, stocked up on cookies and hit the ground running at 9 a.m.

Did we pull in our fantasy cash? Yes, pretty much. And better than money was the sheer number of brand-new customers who came to the store. Who all said how much they loved it.

It’s always amazing to me that folks haven’t been to the store yet. I know that’s silly — we live in a large county — but after thirteen years, I’m still surprised. The beauty of the Friday sale was that our gorgeous newsletter (designed by Elizabeth, who worked like crazy to get it ready for this past weekend) was given out to every customer. So not only did folks load up on great books, they got to see, read and enjoy our newsletter. This year’s edition features more than 160 books. I have to trust that these folks will come in to order books from us and not go to Amazon. That’s the risk any bookseller takes when they produce anything. You just keep your fingers crossed that the Shop Local message has sunk in, and in Vermont, it certainly has.

While our weekend was outstanding, even though the sale was only for Friday, I was confined to my house for a small case of piglet flu. Not full-blown H1N1 by any means, but the worst cold I’ve ever had. So, while I slept the weekend away, the cash registers continued to ring.

It’s a Nice Day for a Black Friday

Josie Leavitt - November 25, 2009

Huge Black Friday Sale! For the first time in thirteen years, that’s what our ads say this week. We’ve never had a Black Friday sale before, but we thought we’d ride the Buy Local wave and see if we can’t get folks to buy books closer to home.

We are blessed with an event space upstairs, The Loft, and that’ll be our real discount area. Overstock of which we have a little (okay, a lot) will be on sale, as will coffee table books, hurts and great books that are out of print. The main store will see 20-25% off retail.

Organizing a sale this large is actually a lot of work. The Loft currently has 72 folding chairs set up, so those need to get put away, by someone who isn’t me. While I don’t play tennis, I’ve developed a wicked case of tennis elbow from shelving books for more than a decade. Consequently, I find myself unable to fold up chairs without serious elbow pain. Who knew shelving could be such a hazard?

Then we have to set up the portable tables around the room. That’s easy. The hard part comes with trying to decide what to put on sale and at what discount. Should autographed books go for 10% or 15%? Yummy treasures from days gone by that are great, but have been superseded by newer, hotter titles – what should their discount be? [Elizabeth intercedes here: we will not be getting rid of yummy treasures in favor of newer, hotter titles, but we will sell the hardcovers of books that are out in paperback now.] It’s hard to know. We’ll make our best guess on everything and then be flexible with customers who want to bargain.

With a sale come the books you never want to see again. The books you were returning that inadvertently got sent to the wrong publisher (I hate it when that happens), so they’ve come back to you and you’ve paid freight twice. Somehow these books never quite make it back to their rightful resting place because by the time you get them back from the wrong publisher, they’re now out of print. And you’re stuck with them. These are books that languish in the discount bin. Why you bought that title in the first place dogs you every day at work. These books, these mistakes, these titles that make you shake your head and chortle at your stupidity, these books have to go. We actually borrowed a tip from another bookseller who smartly had a bin with this sign: "We’ll give you a nickel for anything you take out of this bin." Worked like a charm, she said, so we’re trying it.

I’ll post next Monday and tell you how it went. But right now, Eizabeth and I get to spend the next few days going through our entire store’s overstock, deciding which books to move up two flights of stairs from our basement. I’m already tired and I haven’t even made a sale. But I know I’ll have a great turkey sandwich with stuffing and cranberries to tide me over.

I hope everyone has a great Thanksgiving, full of family, fun and maybe a few stolen hours to just sit back and read a great book between football games.

Your Go-To Holiday Books?

Elizabeth Bluemle - November 24, 2009

As holiday traditions go, almost nothing is cozier than gathering together and sharing stories, including cherished books. It’s a time of candlelight, spiced air, chubby little hands pushing on grown-up knees as children lean in to see the pictures in a favorite story.

At the bookstore, we have several customers who come in every year and ask for "this year’s Christmas book," meaning, the one they will want to add to the family’s treasured collection. So far this year, Lauren Thompson and Jon Muth’s The Christmas Magic has been that book. It’s a beautiful marriage of art and text, showing a simple Christmas preparation by a very human Santa getting ready for the big night. The writing is lyrical, and Muth’s treatment of light has never been better. (Scholastic, $16.99. ISBN 978-0439774970)

Chanukah isn’t yet represented by the breadth of literary offerings Christmas enjoys, but there are many terrific books out there. This year’s top hit at The Flying Pig has been Eric A. Kimmel’s mischievous Zigazak! A Magical Hanukkah Night, illustrated by Jon Goodell, in which two pesky demons wreak havoc at a Hanukkah celebration until a wise rabbi manages to outwit them — and points out the hidden good in the chaos. (Doubleday, $16.99. ISBN 978-0385326520)

In our family, we have several go-to holiday books, the ones Christmas and Chanukah wouldn’t be the same without. Every year, Josie and I and various members of our families read these books aloud to one another over the course of the holidays, and these evenings accrete like coral onto the stories we read: each book carries with it echoes and images of the years before, the bright eyes, the laughs, the hidden tears, the inside jokes borne of mis-heard words and memorable interruptions. That is, the stories become stories containing stories, and these are unique within each family. I love that.

Here are our must-reads. 

The Trees of the Dancing Goats by Patricia Polacco (Aladdin, $7.99. ISBN 978-0689838576).
We’d love this story even if our family didn’t celebrate both Chanukah and Christmas, but it’s especially wonderful since we do. A Jewish family, preparing for its own festival of light celebrations, discovers that many of their neighbors, who celebrate Christmas, have been stricken by scarlet fever. In an act of grace and generosity, young Trisha rallies her family to help make their neighbors’ holidays joyous.

A Christmas Memory by Truman Capote; illustrated by Beth Peck (Knopf, $17.95. ISBN 978-0375837890). We love this story for its true, sweet friendship between a boy and his elderly cousin, both ignored and scolded by most of the adults in the house. They are allies, co-conspirators, and with their dog, Queenie, have gentle adventures. Capote’s writing is so beautiful as he evokes those rare days. Here are a few favorite passages:

"The person to whom she is speaking is myself. I am seven; she is sixty-something, We are cousins, very distant ones, and we have lived together—well, as long as I can remember. Other people inhabit the house, relatives; and though they have power over us, and frequently make us cry, we are not, on the whole, too much aware of them. We are each other’s best friend."

"Inside myself, I feel warm and sparky as those crumbling logs, carefree as the wind in the chimney. My friend waltzes round the stove, the hem of her poor calico skirt pinched between her fingers as though it were a party dress…."

"Morning. Frozen rime lusters the grass; the sun, round as an orange and orange as hot-weather moons, balances on the horizon, burnishes the silvered winter woods. A wild turkey calls. A renegade hog grunts in the undergrowth."

"Scented acres of holiday trees, prickly-leafed holly. Red berries shiny as Chinese bells: black crows swoop upon them screaming. Having stuffed our burlap sacks with enough greenery and crimson to garland a dozen windows, we set about choosing a tree. ‘It should be,’ muses my friend, ‘twice as tall as a boy. So a boy can’t steal the star.’ "

"My, how foolish I am!" my friend cries, suddenly alert, like a woman remembering too late she has biscuits in the oven. "You know what I’ve always thought?" she asks in a tone of discovery and not smiling at me but a point beyond. "I’ve always thought a body would have to be sick and dying before they saw the Lord. And I imagined that when he came it would be like looking at the Baptist window: pretty as colored glass with the sun pouring through, such a shine you don’t know it’s getting dark. And it’s been a comfort: to think of that shine taking away all the spooky feeling. But I’ll wager it never happens. I’ll wager at the very end a body realizes the Lord has already shown Himself. That things as they are"—her hand circles in a gesture that gathers clouds and kites and grass and Queenie pawing earth over her bone—"just what they’ve always seen, was seeing Him. As for me, I could leave the world with today in my eyes."

Beth Peck’s illustrations are perfect for this book — as delicate and quavery as the old friend’s frame, as bright and cheery as their friendship.

This 50th anniversary celebration has a CD narrated by Celeste Holm, which I haven’t yet heard but will probably make me burst into tears. In a good way.

A Child’s Christmas in Wales, by Dylan Thomas.

I have two equally loved versions of this book. A beautiful hardcover illustrated by the marvelous Edward Ardizzone (at left; David R. Godine, $16.95, ISBN 978-0879233396), and a luscious little paperback illustrated with woodcuts by none other than Ellen "The Mysterious Disappearance of Leon (I mean Noel)" Raskin (New Directions, $9.95, ISBN 978-0811217316).

This is Dylan Thomas’s homage to the Christmases of his boyhood, when the snow was thicker and whiter, when everything about Christmas was better than it is now. (Sound familiar? Ah, the good old days!) It’s the sheer acrobatic brilliance of the language here that we most love. This is the most delicious read-aloud for having words trip off the tongue. Here, try these passages:

"All the Christmases roll down toward the two-tongued sea, like a cold and headlong moon bundling down the sky that was our street; and they stop at the rim of the ice-edged fish-freezing waves, and I plunge my hands in the snow and bring out whatever I can find. In goes my hand into that wool-white bell-tongued ball of holidays resting at the rim of the carol-singing sea, and out come Mrs. Prothero and the firemen."

"But that was not the same snow,  I say.  Our snow was not only shaken from whitewash buckets down the sky, it came shawling out of the ground and swam and drifted out of the arms and han
and bodies of the trees; snow grew overnight on the roofs of the houses like a pure and grandfather moss, minutely ivied the walls and settled on the postman, opening the gate, like a dumb, numb thunderstorm of white, torn Christmas cards."

I think I could read that last paragraph every night for the rest of my life and still be delighted by it each time.

The Story of Holly and Ivy, by Rumer Godden; illustrated by Barbara Cooney (Viking, $17.99. ISBN 978-0670062195)

Barbara Cooney’s charming illustrations grace this gratifying everything-turns-out-all-right story of an orphan yearning for a doll in a toy-shop window and, of course, a home. She finds both through a series of fortunate events (this is no Lemony Snicket tale, that’s for sure). This is a longish picture book, which makes it excellent for slightly older children (ages 4-8) at Christmastime.

Mr. Willowby’s Christmas Tree, by Robert Barry. (Doubleday, $15.95. ISBN 978-0385327213). A quick read and a very satisfying little story about recycling. Just kidding, it’s not about recycling, although an overtall tree gets lopped off at the top and, instead of being thrown out, is given to the maid for her table. But her piece of tree is too tall, too, and its top is cut off and given to the gardener. And so on, with each "tree" getting successively smaller, until the seventh and final family enjoying the tree turns out to be a little family of mice. Adorable, timeless illustrations make this a crowd-pleaser year after year.

And speaking of shared trees, we can’t do without Night Tree by Eve Bunting; illustrated by Ted Rand (Harcourt, $17. ISBN 978-0152574253; also in paperback: $7. ISBN 978-0152001216). This is like a drink of icy clear water—so refreshing! A family heads into the woods looking for their Christmas tree. When they find it, instead of cutting it down, they decorate it—with apples, sunflower seed balls, tangerines, and other edible treats for the animals in the woods. Lush snowlit night scenes help create the magic of this book, and the boy’s vision of all the animals gathered around the tree enjoying their holiday feast is one of those images that stays with you forever.

The Gift of the Magi, by O. Henry, illustrated by P.J. Lynch (Candlewick, $15.99. ISBN 978-0763635305). Also illustrated by Lizbeth Zwerger (Aladdin, $5.99. ISBN 978-0689817014).

This is another case of being torn between two equally worthy illustration styles, so we trade off between them in alternating years.

Do I need to recall this story to anyone who loves books enough to read this blog? I doubt it, but in case you have missed the ultimate O. Henry story, it is this: a poor young couple in love, having no money for Christmas, each sells his or her most precious possession to buy the other a present. But in typical O. Henry fashion, there is a twist: each has sold the one thing the other’s present depends upon. The phrase "It’s the thought that counts" has its very origins in this story.

Lest we get too sentimental, we also have our sheerly fun reads. There is a new Night Before Christmas every year, of course; this year, it’s Rachel Isadora’s cheery version set in Africa. The collage art is just gorgeous, and my nephews are going to LOVE this take on the familiar poem.

And we can’t resist the gleeful, childlike joy of Marla Frazee’s Santa Claus, the World’s Number One Toy Expert (Harcourt, $16. ISBN 978-0152049706), with its towering shelves of toys (the fun, simple kinds, like balls and dolls and jacks, etc.) and repeated exuberant images of Santa pogo-sticking around his studio or putting on his Santa suit, polka-dotted undergarments on up to the boots.

For Chanukah fun, we like to read stories from Zlateh the Goat and Other Stories, about the foolish residents of Chelm, on cheery Chanukah nights.  Isaac Bashevis Singer; translated by Elizabeth Shub; illustrated by Maurice Sendak. (Harper, $17.95. ISBN 978-0060284770; also in paperback $7.95. ISBN 978-0064401470).

Finally, two of our Christmas staples have gone out of print. Peter Collington’s brilliant wordless book, A Small Miracle, about a lonely woman and her unexpected holiday visitors, remains the unavailable holiday title most requested at the bookstore.

And Bonny Becker’s gloriously illustrated, hilarious light romp, The Christmas Crocodile, is always a favorite with the children; I wish it were still in print, as well, so I could recommend and sell it to other families.

That’s a long list of must-reads. Do we really get to them all every year? Strangely enough, we really do.

What are your go-to holiday reads, and why?

Llamas and Circus Animals

Josie Leavitt - November 23, 2009

Author events on Saturdays are always fun. This past Saturday we had not one, but two events – we were lucky enough to have two great author/illustrators.

Anna Dewdney was our first event, at 11 a.m.  We had a roomful of toddlers who were there to hear any of the Llama Llama stories. Anna was a charming reader who did admirably with the noise of some kids, who made it a challenge to hear, let alone read, and she didn’t miss a beat. (Check out this little guy, on the left who thought the lamp was really cool.) Rather than take questions after each story, Anna smartly chose to take questions at the end. There was one little boy who had a question in the middle of the second story. Rather than interrupt the flow of the reading (the kids had finally settled down), she waited to call on him. She nodded to him and said she’d get to him, but he had no faith and continued to keep his little hand in the air. At one point he used his other hand to prop up his elbow. I should mention, he was in the front row.

His question was actually really astute. He noticed that Llama Llama’s toy, the dolly llama, expressions mirrored Llama Llama’s. His question was very simple: "Why llamas?" I loved the answer. Apparently whenever Anna drove by farm animals, even as an adult, she’d make their noises. Mooing for cows, baaing for sheep, but one day she drove by some llamas and didn’t know what sound they made, so she just went, "llama llama." And thus a great character was born. Sometimes it’s that simple and charming.

Chris Van Dusen came at 4 p.m. and captivated a small group of kids who all were fascinated by the process of creating the art for a picture book. The crowd for this event was older and they just loved watching him draw a flying pig. One boy, about eight or so, had declared just last week that he wanted to be an artist. His eyes were wide as he watched Chris draw. It really felt like a life-changing moment for this child.

Not only did Chris read from his newest book, The Circus Ship (utterly charming, if you don’t know it), he brought some of the original paintings. He explained his process of working from the the back to the front of the painting, from the farthest away to the nearest.

I love meeting illustrators because I have no artistic talent, and no real idea how anything can be painted,  and it’s great to see how they do what they do, and so easily. To hear any artist tell of the process of sketching and then tracing the lines and using gouache (or other medium) to create a fully realized painting always astounds me.

Meeting all these talented folks is one of the best perks of my job. And a great side benefit is I get to sell their books for the holidays. Pretty much a win-win for all involved.

Is Sarah Palin’s Book the Year’s Best Read-Aloud??

Alison Morris - November 20, 2009

In a word, NO. At least, not if you trust the opinions of the kids John Oliver read aloud to in a hilarious clip featured Wednesday on "The Daily Show" with Jon Stewart. Watch it and weep (with laughter, that is) as these youngsters announce several things they would RATHER do than have to listen to Mr. Oliver read any more pages of Going Rogue which, as it turns out, is no Chicka Chicka Boom Boom.

Thanks to my friend Tim Scarlett for the link! The read-aloud section begins about three minutes into this clip.

The Daily Show With Jon Stewart

Mon – Thurs 11p / 10c

Excitement Over Sarah Palin’s Book Release

Daily Show
Full Episodes

Political Humor

Health Care Crisis

Display Ideas That Make Money

Josie Leavitt - November 19, 2009

The holiday season is upon us. While this means increased sales and traffic, it also means seasonal displays must be created. I have to confess that if it were up to me, we’d have the same displays we had in 1996 when we opened. Thankfully, I’m blessed with staff who are not only good at displays, but they actually like them.

Over the years I’ve learned a few things about displays. Good displays are eye-catching, but also make people stop and actually look the books in the display. The holidays give you a great chance to make things look appealing. Two staffers spent part of the weekend putting gorgeous sliver and gold bows on gift books. The effect of this is two-fold. First, books that are already visually arresting now are even more so, and second, by having them wrapped, even a little, it sends a message that this book, this book right here would make a great gift.  The subtlety of this pleases me. There are no garish signs, just these lovely, tasteful bows. We’ve wrapped all the Penguin Classics in these bows and the display dump looks stunning.

Stocking stuffers are great impulse buys. I like to have these little books, generally those small ones under $8, right by the register. I’ve often joked that I should just have the whole store on the front counter, because everything would sell faster. There’s something about that point of purchase that makes things look enticing and it’s so easy to just add a book or two. A mix of stocking stuffers for men and women and kids is on the counter at all times because you never know what folks are looking for. This is where I like to have my really unique items. Last year we sold over two hundred construction vehicle utensils from a silver display pail.

The other thing I like to do is bundle gift ideas. This is nothing new, but sometimes harried shoppers are all too happy to buy a book and plush toy that already look like they go together. When it’s time to wrap (and we do offer free gift wrapping — up to a point) I think it’s fun to wrap the book and then tie the toy on with ribbon. 

Basically, the challenge of the holidays is to make everything as easy as possible for your shoppers. One thing we do that really makes it easy for people to shop is to have a dedicated bookcase full of our newsletter books, with a copy of the newsletter hanging off a shelf. This creates an opportunity for independent shopping. This helps frees staff time for customers who need more guidance in their book choices.

The basic thing to remember is to make the store look magical, in whatever way works for your store; to make it easier for shoppers to get all their holiday shopping done at your store; and finally, while the holidays are totally insane, remember that you’re helping every family create a memory, and that’s a pretty powerful thing.

Special Orders… More Than You Wanted to Know

Josie Leavitt - November 18, 2009

As the holidays get closer, the number of special orders we take rises exponentially. I thought I’d take a moment and trace how a special order goes from your list to our store.

1. Customers come in with a title, usually somewhat wrong, that they are looking for and whoever answers the phone at the store, helps them find it. I should say that is the hardest part of the special order process. Deciphering a title is a real skill. See the blog post When Titles Go Bad to understand the challenges we face.

2. The title gets placed on our latest purchase order (this is the form we use to order from). We rotate our orders with the three distributors we work with. Baker & Taylor and Ingram each have noon order deadlines. Bookazine has a three p.m. deadline. On days it’s crazy busy, we’ll do a morning order and then an afternoon order. I should say, if the customer doesn’t need the book immediately, we’ll order direct from the publishers, althougk at this time of year, my publisher orders tend to be restocking the hot titles I have to have in the store.

3. The book in question gets "tagged" i.e,. marked for the customer, in the computer, so we know who ordered it. Anywhere that book appears in my computer system, I can tell who it’s for.

4. We send the order by the designated deadline. Then the next day, we unpack the boxes. Sometimes we get in enough boxes that the UPS or Fed Ex man has to make two trips from his truck.

5. We then tackle the boxes, pulling all the special orders out and putting them in a separate area. This process works best if there are three people working on the order. One person checks in the books, one person shelves (this is imperative as space becomes a premium when a dozen boxes need to get processed) and one person calls the special order customers.

6. Each book gets wrapped with the person’s name on it and then placed on our special case that’s just for special orders. Usually, the week before Christmas there are so many special orders, they’ve taken over the counter and most of the floor in the corner. It’s crazy, but it’s fun.

7. During the holidays, most customers come in within a day or two to pick up their books.

8. This process gets repeated more times than I can count from now until Christmas Eve.

Of course, the above assumes everything works perfectly, that no order has been forgotten, that all the boxes arrive the day they’re supposed, and that there’s enough time in the day to actually do steps five and six. It’s exhausting and fun.

In Memory of the Amazing Esther Hautzig

Elizabeth Bluemle - November 17, 2009

Esther Hautzig wrote one of the most beautiful, unique contributions to WWII children’s literature—The Endless Steppe. It was a story based on her own childhood, banished with her family from Poland to Siberia because her father was denounced as a capitalist. When she passed away earlier this month, one of my bookselling colleagues, Rondi Brower from Blackwood & Brouwer Booksellers in Kinderhook, N.Y., shared a personal tribute to Ms. Hautzig, and I’ve asked if we might share it with ShelfTalker readers.

Because ShelfTalker is a booksellers’ forum, we like to share the platform with guest columnists when we encounter something especially beautiful or funny that is relevant to the interests and concerns of children’s booksellers at large.

For readers who aren’t familiar with Ms. Hautzig and her marvelous books, here’s a snippet from her Wikipedia entry:

"Esther Hautzig (née Rudomin) ([…] born October 18, 1930, died November 1, 2009) is an American writer, best known for her award-winning book The Endless Steppe (1968). She was born in Vilna, Poland (Vilnius, Lithuania today). Her childhood was interrupted by the beginning of World War II and the conquest in 1941 of eastern Poland by Soviet troops. Her family was uprooted and deported to Rubstovsk, Siberia, where Esther spent the next five years in harsh exile. The Endless Steppe is an autobiographical account of those years in Siberia. After the end of the war, Esther and her family moved back to Poland when she was 15. She married Walter Hautzig, a concert pianist, and had two children, David and Deborah, one of whom (Deborah) grew up to be a children’s author." (The image of Esther Hautzig comes from her HarperCollins author page; I couldn’t find the photographer’s name for attribution; will happily add it if anyone has the info.)

And now, here’s Rondi Brower’s lovely piece about Esther Hautzig. Thank you so much, Rondi, for writing it and sharing it with our readers:


I hadn’t thought of Esther Hautzig lately. It has been several years since I’ve seen her, maybe not since the Jewish Publication Society reissued her translation of The Seven Good Years and Other Stories of I.L. Peretz (2004?). I first met her in the early 1990’s, when she did a book signing at a Jewish Book Fair I was providing books for in Hudson, N.Y. She and her husband Walter had a house in Columbia County and they came up from New York City. She was a vibrant, fun woman, with an inner light, a spirit I can’t describe, but something very special. It was always a joy to speak with her.

Recently, I have been thinking about survivors. What is it that makes it possible for some people to get up every day and go on, no matter how terrible their surroundings or situation or prospects? And not just continue, but succeed and find joy in life. It started when I read David Kherdian’s book about his mother’s experiences during the Armenian genocide (The Road from Home: The Story of an Armenian Girl, HarperCollins). Then last week I listened to Jennifer Roy’s Yellow Star (Marshall Cavendish, Recorded Books), the true story of her Aunt Sylvie, one of the eight child survivors of the Lodz Ghetto. Where did these children find enough inner strength? How did life continue to have meaning? How did they manage to put it all behind them and LIVE and find some happiness? I don’t think I could do it, but I am inspired by the stories of people who have.

So it turns out I have been thinking of Esther. Because she was another one of those amazing people. She was one of the "lucky" Polish Jews. The Russians sent her family to Siberia for the crime of being capitalists before the Nazis could send them to concentration camps for being Jews. She told her own story beautifully in The Endless Steppe (HarperCollins). She experienced cruelty, horror, and starvation, yet still managed to survive, and thrive. She gave us beauty, laughter, light and literature — gifts to treasure.

Here’s an obituary, and here are Esther’s books still available in print:

The Endless Steppe (Harper digest size) 9780064405775 $5.99
The Endless Steppe (Harper mm – teen) 9780064470278 $5.99
A Gift for Mama (Puffn) 9780140385519 $4.99
Remember Who You Are: Stories About Being Jewish (Jewish Publication Society of America) 9780827606944 $16.95

Rondi Brower


Elizabeth here:

If anyone has memories of Esther Hautzig and her books to share, please do. And here’s to all survivors — may the inspiration of their efforts and courage never meet an indifferent heart.

In-Flight Illustrators

Alison Morris - November 16, 2009

I didn’t expect to share my recent flight home from Nebraska with any book illustrators other than my husband, but by chance three of them were sharing the friendly skies with me — at least in a manner of speaking. As I slid the November 2009 issue of United’s Hemispheres magazine out of the seat pocket in front of me, I found myself looking at a clever, colorful illustration that could only be the work of the incredibly talented John Hendrix, whose illustrations for Deborah Hopkinson’s Abe Lincoln Crosses a Creek: A Tall, Thin Tale (Introducing His Forgotten Frontier Friend) helped land it on my list of last year’s most entertaining picture books. And Hendrix’s recent biography of the controversial John Brown, John Brown: His Fight for Freedom (Abrams Books for Young Readers, October 2009) was recently named by PW as one of the best children’s books of 2009, with good reason. The bold colors, sweeping lines, and over-sized figures of his illustrations positively leap from the page, providing a vibrant and energetic landscape for a captivating story.

I love the vibrance and energy of Hendrix’s cover for this magazine too. (Click to view it larger.) A blurb inside explains, "Illustrator John Hendrix’s insightful rendition of paint-by-numbers depicted on this month’s cover conveys the dramatic vision of a rebuilt and reinvigorated New Orleans."

Absentmindedly turning Hemisphere‘s pages, I’m next brought up short by some ink and watercolor illustrations whose styling looks verrrrrry familiar. Glancing over my shoulder, Gareth’s brain proves a half-second faster than my eyes, which are scanning the page for a name. "That looks like Graham Roumieu," he says, and I immediately recall the many hours we’ve spent laughing over his outrageous memoirs of Bigfoot: In Me Own Words: The Autobiography of Bigfoot, Me Write Book: It Bigfoot Memoir, and Bigfoot: I Not Dead. (No, these books are not appropriate for children. Mature teenagers, yes. Children, no.) Gareth and I had the pleasure of meeting Graham in person at New York Comicon last year and were honored to have him sign a copy of 101 Ways to Kill Your Boss for us. To quote a fellow blogger, "Graham Roumieu is pee-in-pants brilliant." Thankfully while I enjoyed his illustrations for "Dispatches," they did not provoke that particular reaction from me. See how you fare.

Another ten pages further, and I’m beginning to think someone contacted a large number of my favorite book illustrators and asked them to ALL contribute editorial art for this one issue, because who should appear next but (sigh…) Oliver Jeffers, whose books are (all of them) beyond wonderful. Included in that praise is the forthcoming The Heart and the Bottle (Philomel, February 2010) of which I recently bought many copies for our store, and (of course) Lost and Found. Remember last December when I confessed my jealousy of those living in the U.K. who’d have the chance to watch a short animated film based on this delightful picture book? Well, we’re even now, as I bought a copy of the DVD as soon as it became available. Though at the time I didn’t realize (ahem) that DVDs produced in the U.K. generally can’t be played on DVD players in the U.S. (Riiiiight… Stupid me.) Disaster was averted, though, when Gareth discovered that the media player on one of his computers was kind enough to "ignore" the DVD’s foreign formatting so that we could, at last, enjoy seeing Oliver’s book brought to life on the not-exactly-big-but-more-than-sufficient screen. I’m pleased to report it was WELL worth the effort. Very, definitely, absolutely worth the effort. Like Oliver Jeffer’s depiction of a whirlwind visit to Mexico City, it was muy, muy especial.

Also muy, muy especial was the chance to see the work of talented illustrators like these on printed pages outside the world of (thank goodness we still have them) BOOKS. Sightings of editorial art like these are fewer and fewer nowadays, when so many newspapers and magazines (what few remain) fill their visual blanks with photographs rather than illustrations. And think how much more frequently you now see photographs on the covers of books, too. (sigh…) Nice to see that at least I can still be satisfied with SOMETHING while flying the friendly skies. (Which would you rather have — peanuts or art?)

Bookish Holiday Gifts – A Selection of Finds from Etsy

Alison Morris - November 13, 2009

What on earth are you going can you give your reader friends who need something OTHER than books? Etsy to the rescue! Once again I’ve pulled together an assortment of book-related suggestions for you.

A short Etsy tutorial for those of you not yet familiar with the website: If the item you’ve clicked on is "SOLD OUT" by the time you get to it, fear not! Click on the "store" link beneath the seller’s profile (on the right-hand side of the screen) to get to their main store page. You may find another (newer) listing for that same item elsewhere in their shop, and/or info. on how you can contact the seller to ask about an item’s availability.

Don’t see anything below that would strike your gift recipient’s fancy? Search Etsy for items with the keyword "reading" or "book" to see hundreds of items you’re missing.

The first clever list in this line-up is a set of "Library Decor" coasters from Ephemeralogie, whose store features LOTS of very clever book-themed coasters. 

AND great book-themed paperweights like this one, featuring a library circulation desk.

I love the clothing and accessories (including owl and cat!) that come with the Miss Librarian paper dolls from Miss Brigette a.k.a. Brigette Barrager, made famous in a recent ShelfTalker post

Also look at Brigette’s fabulous "Librarian Bookended" print. 

I like to think about the sentiments that would best accompany these photograph notecards from Crescent Creations. Keep them in mind for Valentine’s Day too!

What could be cuter than a book-loving narwhal? This rubber stamp from Vozamer will allow you to put his smiling face everywhere.

Sweet Water Crafts’ store features several great book-themed totebags. My favorite is this one:

I love this amazing book sculpture from Elven Crown Book Art.

Here’s another lovely book sculpture — this one from Rhymes with Magic.

The funny (and slightly sexy) tone of this tshirt from Production Apparel makes it a winner in my book.

Someone you know would go Wilde for this t-shirt from PunControllable.

I almost wish I needed a set of coasters, because if I did, I’d be ALL OVER the ChicalooKate Literary Classics Ceramic Coaster Set from House of Six Cats:

I’ve seen a lot of recycled book projects, but this is one of the most unique and lovely I’ve seen. A paper boat with a hull made from a book’s cover and sails made from its pages. At $140 I’m not sure it’s exactly a "frugal frigate" (thank you, Emily Dickinson), but it is at least a LOVELY one (thank you, Cotton Bird Designs).

I love the book clocks Karen Miller makes, like this one, from a copy of Me.

My little crafter’s heart beats faster at the sight of this beautiful paper wreath from Simple Joys Paperie:

SpoonerZ is selling these GREAT bookmarks made from (what else?) SPOONS!! Especially perfect for the cook in your life, these are created custom — stamped with whatever message you’d like! 

I love the message spouted proudly by this monster on a magnet made by Vozamer: 

I’m guessing a number of ShelfTalker readers could do with one of these wall decals from Single Stone Studios:

Butterflies were part of the crafts I created for our wedding (as you’ll see in a future post!), so perhaps that’s why I’m in love with the framed paper butterflies from Terror Dome. (Does this shop’s name not remind you of The Hunger Games??) This particular bunch is cut from the pages of Wuthering Heights.

Finally, for all of the people who give YOU great holiday gifts, you can puch
e these lovely letterpress cards from Simple Song Designs, to say (what else?) thank you!