One of the perks of being the parent of young children as well as a children’s bookseller is watching the reading experience from both sides of the fence in real time. As booksellers, we hear a lot about reading level, and for good reason. Matching the right kid to the book that’s the right fit at the right time is invaluable. When I was a kid, my mom gave me The Wind in the Willows to read on my own just a little too early, perhaps forgetting the complexity of the language within. Even though I was a voracious reader, that book sat on my shelf for a long time, untouched, as I refused to return to the story that had daunted me. But then, at a certain point, it became my favorite.
This time of year I take a long swim in a lake before work. I was out on the water yesterday, thinking about how one of my favorite settings for a book involves taking the world as we know it and twisting one of its key elements to great effect. In the Bartimaeus trilogy, for example, the one twist involves England’s aristocracy being composed of magicians, which form the governing elite. That allowed for a fascinating exploration of class issues.
What about us, though? Was there a tweak that would be worth considering? Then it hit me. What if our government was run by children’s book characters instead of actual people? Which character would I choose to be president?
Summer has (sadly) ended for our school-aged crowd, and summer reading prizes are packed away in the stock room. Waldo has been found, sand toys are banished to the secondary storage unit (otherwise known as my garage), and we’re hearing more about school assigned reading in the aisles at the store. As sad as all this loss of “our” kids’ free time makes our staff, there is much excitement about the start of book club season at the shop, and preparations are underway to host both familiar friends and some new groups this fall.
Our store book clubs vary in frequency, length, and commitment. Mostly, we just post the schedule and invite kids (and parents) to jump in any time. Some of our customers have been “clubbing” with us for years, and kids move up through early chapter, middle grade, and young adult groups. We have one mother/daughter group that started when the girls were in kindergarten, and have met (mostly) monthly ever since. When they graduated from 8th grade, I attended their school convocation, and plan to be a blubbering mess at their high school baccalaureate in two years. We have made our way through a lot of chapters together, both in our pages and in our lives.
On Sunday, three visitors strode into the store with purpose. I had a hunch they might be teachers, because the children’s books they asked for were particularly interesting, recent, and a couple of them are still slightly off the radar of the general reading public. It turned out these field-savvy literary savants were indeed teachers, and one of them, Cindy Schwind from Rochester, N.Y., was on a very special mission: to gather books from indie bookstores throughout Vermont for a nationwide Twitter raffle for teachers.
“We’re on an indie book crawl,” she said. “We did five stores on Friday, seven stores on Saturday, and six stores today. You’re our final stop on the tour.”
Wow! That’s one more than a complete haiku of bookstores, and includes more stores than even I’ve been to in my own state. I had to know more about her idea for the book crawl.
In the footsteps of my fellow ShelfTalker bloggers this week, I bring you: Bookstore Bingo, the BookPeople Edition! Some stories are my own, others have been collected from other BookPeople colleagues, but they all happened in our store (well, except for the extra credit square).
The most obvious result of my informal survey was that it’s not just Cynthia’s store. The bathroom is really where it’s at.
The Once Upon a Potty Routine:
Has anyone seen the bathroom? Where, oh where’s the bathroom? You must have a bathroom. May I show you to the bathroom? Why, of course we have a bathroom. You have to have a bathroom! Do you have a bathroom?
Why, yes, we do! Continue reading
My ShelfTalker colleagues are having lots of fun with our BINGO theme this week (see Monday’s post and Tuesday’s post), and it’s my turn to cover a few squares —errrrr—- I mean customers who regularly pop up in our little shop. Perhaps, you, too, will be able to use your big dabber pen (or dauber pen, depending on where you play) to cover these?
B Is for Bathroom
The most important room in our store, honestly, is our large, stroller-accessible bathroom. We have two commodes — one at regular height, and one mounted much lower on the wall, to accommodate our small guests. For our new customers, this always usually leads to the following:
“LOOK! They have a little potty! Oh, my gosh, you have the best bathroom! Kids, everyone, go to the bathroom while we’re here! No, Jonathan, just TRY. You had to go a minute ago. Yes, you did. You go right now, I mean it. O.K. fine, but I’m telling you, you should see this bathroom.”
Family stays in the store for the next 20 minutes or so, completes their purchase, waits for gift wrap, finds most of their sippy cups, shoes, and small plastic fast food giveaway toys that the kids were clutching as they arrived, and makes their way to the car. Car then pulls up to the sidewalk in front of our store, one rear door of the minivan slides open, and out pops… Jonathan, who races to the back of the store and straight into the bathroom.
This week’s ShelfTalker theme, kicked off yesterday with Elizabeth’s excellent post, is continued here with some odd, exasperating, and/or funny things I’ve heard at work in my bookstore, with some help from a couple of colleagues and a few visual aids.
A couple of years ago, one of our customers brought us a homemade BINGO board. Instead of numbers, each square was filled with funny things she imagined we might encounter—with customers, co-workers, technology glitches, etc.—during the crazy holiday season. It was an inspired idea, and we did a little adding and tweaking to create the BINGO board we shared here in a 2016 PW ShelfTalker blog post.
Recently, bookseller Bob Lingle (recent new owner of Off the Beaten Path Bookstore in Lakewood, N.Y.) posed a kindred question in a private booksellers’ Facebook group. “I think it would be a fun activity to do a ‘Bookseller Bingo,’ he said, “for phrases you hear or questions you’re asked. Any thoughts on what the spaces could be?”
He named a few of his own, and thus began a conversation that drew in more than 50 booksellers with a couple hundred comments. It was gratifying and hilarious and relieving to know that other colleagues share our experiences of the many odd, funny, and sometimes annoying things people say to booksellers on a regular basis. I thought ShelfTalker readers might enjoy a peek into the back room, as it were, so I asked folks if I might share some of their responses. They said yes (hooray!). Readers, welcome to life behind our sometimes-cluttered counters. Continue reading
Earlier this summer, we lost a longtime bookseller, but in the best possible way: to another indie bookstore! Cindy Kittok had worked at BookPeople for over 11 years, starting as a holiday cashier, transitioning to a full-time bookseller, and eventually heading up our troupe of enthusiastic Puppet Show Players, writing scripts based on books like Martina the Beautiful Cockroach for eager storytime crowds. About 3-4 years ago, she took on her most memorable role of all, joining fellow bookseller (and seasoned local actor) Michael Stewart as half of a live-action Elephant and Piggie storytime duo! As their storytime crowds grew bigger and bigger, they even started taking the show on the road to our bookfairs at local schools.
You can imagine that when Cindy told us she and her family were moving to Minneapolis, we were very sad to see her go. But when I heard she had connected with our friends at Red Balloon Bookshop, I was thrilled that she would be staying in the indie bookstore family. And knowing a little bit about their store (although I’ve never been to Minnesota), I knew she would be joining a great team up there. I reached out recently to see how everything was going. Continue reading