One busy day in the store recently, I rounded a corner to the endearing tableau of three little boys intently reading a book together, along with one of the store’s companionable dragons.
I loved this so much, the simple face-to-face connection, the way one book can bring people together. While this isn’t an unusual sight at the bookstore — families and friends look at books together all the time — these little guys’ absorbed, shared attentiveness went straight to my heart.
‘Tis the season of book lists: “Best Of’s,” “Top Tens,” and “Critic’s Choice.” Our social media feeds and our online newsletter subscriptions lead with titles like “Best Gift Books for Boys” and
“Books All Girls Should Read” as well as the picks from seemingly every public library system, every parenting magazine, every literary journal, and all the newspapers that print book reviews. Parents and grandparents forward and print out these lists, carry them into our stores, and use them as qualifiers for purchases (“this one is listed as a PERFECT gift for 10 year old boys…. he’s 6, but really, really bright…”) or offer them to us for fulfillment: “Here’s the list of the best books. Pick three, and wrap them separately. What’s your return policy?”
There is no award ceremony more august, nor more somber, than DDG’s Stocking Stuffer of the Year Award. 2017, the ninth annual bestowal, has a distinct purpose, to restore the spotless integrity the award process enjoyed before our judges, in 2015 and 2016, ended up walking away with the top award themselves. To avoid this shame in 2017, I have asked our all-time top-selling sideline item, The Tantrix Discovery Puzzle, to be our judge. The Tantrix’s spotless reputation is of long standing and should insure a high standard this year from top to bottom.
One thing to know about The Tantrix Discovery Puzzle is that, like many clairvoyants from Pythia to the Alethiometer, the Tantrix speaks in patterns which must be interpreted. Fortunately, years of demoing the puzzle have made me fluent in interpreting the Tantrix’s speech.
…. for the bountiful blessings of spring advance copies, arriving daily by the boxful from our sales reps and publishers. Let their sturdy weight prop open our back doors so that the UPS and FedEx staff can wheel in the cartloads of holiday merchandise. We dream of someday reading these Spring and Summer offerings after the snow falls. Oh, wait, we have to shovel the sidewalk first, and add salt…
….to the turkeys. What were we thinking (???) when we bought all that merchandise at summer gift shows, in tucked-away booths in the corners of the fall regionals, and from unsolicited emails from vaguely familiar gift rep groups, which we carefully unpacked and priced and displayed, just SURE that they would sell like last spring’s fad fidget…
Image courtesy of https://www.pinterest.com/source/theeducatorsmarket.com/
The year’s cash flow for many bookstores dips just after summer and before the holidays. This is unfortunate timing. Fall is the biggest book-release season, so by the end of October and November, we have received hundreds of new books and thus owe a boatload of money to publishers in the two months *before* holiday shopping picks up. As I sat in my office paying bills the other day, a line from Poe’s famous poem, “The Bells,” began rolling through my brain, but instead of Poe’s “tintinnabulation of the bells, bells, bells,” I had a slightly different take. With apologies to our lyrical pal, Edgar A., here goes:
The Bills (dedicated to my colleagues in bookselling) Continue reading
Does your love of kid lit permeate every aspect of your life? If you, like me, have been looking for a way to incorporate your love of children’s literature into this year’s Thanksgiving celebrations with family and friends, look no further than these cookbooks featuring a wide and somewhat quirky array of recipes drawn from the texts of classic children’s books. Continue reading
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: