Costume events are pretty hilarious, because they’re really meant for the wrong people. Costumed characters generally make little children cry, and make grown-ups smile goofy smiles like little kids. Okay, those are both exaggerations. Lots of kids adore meeting their plush heroes and heroines, and some grownups remain sadly unmoved by encounters with oversized fuzzy whimsy. On Thursday, we were fortunate to have not a single tear wept at the fins of the Pout-Pout Fish, and we did receive many childlike grins from grownups driving by the waving light-blue sea creature outside our bookstore.
One mom saw the fish and pulled a fast left into our parking lot. She came over carrying a beaming tiny tot. “You don’t understand!” she said excitedly. “This is our son’s VERY FAVORITE BOOK! We have to read it every night. He [indicating the fish] is the hero of our house right now! I just called my husband to tell him we would be home late.” She turned to her son. “What does Pout-Pout Fish say?” And together they chanted, “Glub Glub Glub!” Let me tell you, hearing a not-quite-one-year-old say “glub glub glub!” in a tiny bright voice with a big open smile will pretty much make anyone’s day. It’s a little bit possible that the Pout-Pout Fish chanted along with them, but since costume characters aren’t supposed to talk at all, it didn’t happen. The mom and her son were overjoyed to discover some Pout-Pout books they hadn’t read yet in addition to the brand-new one.
Little A. meeting his hero:
Nothing makes a person think about the value of civility quite like having the comment field of your blog posts disabled because spammers thought it was a good idea to launch a brute force attack on thousands of WordPress blogs, a robotic frenzy of inserting malware into comment fields to redirect readers to dubious websites. Not personal, of course, but not a demonstration of exemplary etiquette either, one feels.
The comments application will be restored soon, but in these latter days of its absence I thought I would touch on a simple, but to me very important, matter of civility in email communication: the quick acknowledgement response. When email was new to the world I made them as much like formal letters as possible. My initial impulse was that the transition of communication forms should not devolve the quality or character of the communication. When I first started receiving responses from my editor at a local newspaper that simply said “got it” I was nonplussed. This did not seem like quite the thing. Yet very quickly the light came on. I got it too.
Yesterday we were very fortunate to host Jarrett Krosoczka for two school presentations and a store visit. Jarrett is best known for the wildly popular Lunch Lady series, but he is touring to support his new picture book, It’s Tough to Lose Your Balloon. School visits are always a lot of fun, and for this trip, we went to the JFK Elementary School in Winooski, Vt., which is a school delightfully filled with the bright colors and languages of many New Americans who have settled in Vermont. One of the great benefits of owning a bookstore is being able to bring authors and illustrators to kids. I have seen it time and time again where one or two children start thinking differently after a visit in a way they’ll never forget. It’s as if the world opens up in a way they’d never considered. Someone, a grown-up, is validating their burgeoning passion for art and making up stories. Continue reading
Many of our readers know that my store is in a very small town with a population of just over seven thousand. In a town this small, with the store located in the even smaller village, it’s very easy to help customers better because we know them, we know all of them. This is why having an independent bookstore can be such fun. Every week we have to act as detectives for what kids might like for their birthdays because customers know there’s a very good chance we’ll know them. Last week a unique situation popped up that still makes marvel at the tightness of a small town. Continue reading
Around the store, we affectionately referred to the other week as Hell Week. Not only did we have two major author events plus four school events to coordinate, but each member of our small team of staff had significant out-of-store obligations and fires to put out, all converging in this same five-day period. When there are only six of us to begin with, and all of us are part-time at the bookstore, it’s a plate-spinning circus act of organization and communication. We knew going in that last week would be a challenge. What we didn’t know was that we would come out of it with four new true friends.
In my experience most small stores tend to be like the residents of Orwell’s Animal Farm: all aspects of our operation are equal but some aspects are more equal than others. We try to do a good job with everything, but, lacking an array of specialized full-time staffers, we make choices of emphasis based on our own personal strengths and predilections.
A glance at the highly technical chart on the right starkly indicates DDG’s emphasis on school business over events. In terms of children’s books events are in fact largely merged into our school business. The truth is that, though we work hard to do a great job with the events we take on, if I tried to run an event schedule as robust and awesome as my ShelfTalker pals at The Flying Pig, I would not have the time to pour into our school account business, which is a passion for me.
Every few years we get asked to sell books for David Sedaris when he comes to the Flynn Theatre in Burlington. This is an enormous event for us. First of all everyone on staff loves his writing and we sell a lot of his books. So meeting him again is always a treat. The fact that I got to shake his hand and was utterly delighted reminds me that I’m not only a huge fan, but a giddy one at that. I have always loved his writing and find his readings to be full of wonderful moments of comedic timing and heart, with a wry edge of the sardonic as well. But for me the real magic of an event with David is the signing line. I’ve worked a lot of book events in 19 years and I’ve never met anyone who enjoys it quite as much. Continue reading
Drum roll, please – it’s time for the penultimate roundup of 2015 starred reviews given to books for children and teens!
The Stars So Far is a project in which I foolishly decide to gather all of the year’s starred reviews for children’s and YA books from Booklist, The Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books, Horn Book, Kirkus, Publishers Weekly, and School Library Journal. Some of the reviews are harder to track down than you’d think, so publishers, please alert me to omissions at ebluemle at publishers weekly.com.
Before writing to tell me I’m missing a star, please note that starred reviews are counted only when they have been officially printed and released by the review magazines. If you know that a book will be given a star next week or next month, please don’t send an email. I will add those stars as they are published by the review magazines. Thank you! (I am aware that this roundup does not yet include Kirkus’s 10/15/15 reviews.
This is a detail-laden process, and as careful as I try to be, there will be bobbles here and there. If you want the cleanest, most comprehensive version of this list, check back here several days after the original post, when I’ll have been able to make any fixes.
Finally, this list was painstakingly compiled by an independent bookseller. If you use this round-up for ordering, please consider using an online or bricks-and-mortar independent bookstore. Indies give so much back to their communities in the form of donations, taxes, jobs, events, and caring expertise.
And now for the stars: Continue reading
Every year the Shelburne Community School introduces all the kindergartners to our small village by walking around and visiting all the kid-appropriate places in town. The bookstore is a big part of that day. I generally love this day. The little ones are so little that 22 of them fit very comfortably on the rug in the picture book section. Each class comes in with their teacher and several parent volunteers. They walk in holding their partner’s hand (safety first when walking about town) and settle in quickly. This year there were no introductions as the teachers just hung back and let me start things off. Generally, I wouldn’t mind this, but shortly before the children arrived we received upwards of 20 boxes that need to be dealt with as 13 of them were for an event on Monday with David Sedaris. Continue reading
While in Providence for the NEIBA show last week, I had the opportunity to visit the Providence Media Lab, As220 Industries. The tour was sponsored by Ingram Publisher Services. The Maker Movement was new to me. I felt that I had wandered into a Cory Doctorow novel, which is not a bad place to be. The Maker Movement’s melding of computer coding, technology, hacking, design, recycling, artisanship, and art is an integrated and open source means of personal expression to be sure. First let’s go on the tour and then discuss what it all means for booksellers.
Here are my tour mates pictured outside As220 Labs. From right to left, Niki Marion of Odyssey Bookshop, Donna McDermid from Phoenix Books, Yours Truly, Jan Hall of Partner’s Village, Ron Smithson, Director of IPS Field Sales, and Amy Graham from The Vermont Book Shop. Not in the photo is Stacie Williams, IPS Field rep and excellent photographer. All the terrific photos here are courtesy of Stacie.