From the Mixed Up Calendar of Mrs. Basil-the-Bookseller

Cynthia Compton - September 6, 2017


Memo to 4 Kids Staff re: displays
Hey, kids!
It’s September, which means we need to keep “Back-to-School” picture book rack out (but further back, towards the puzzles), “Apples and Apple Picking” on the front counter, and move “AUTUMN” to the front display right by the entrance. Tape those paper leaves to the coat tree, and just set it right in the middle of the table.  Over in Middle Grade, make sure that “SOCCER” is rotated with the “FOOTBALL & CHEER” display, but that can leach over into the YA department, as long as you don’t take over any of the John Green space. (Some things shall not be disturbed, no matter the sports season, and we need to presell a LOT of TURTLES, you guys. A LOT of TURTLES.) Oh, and since the Cubs are doing pretty well (ahem), just find a place to keep baseball books and Cubbie stuff out, too, OK?
Yes, I know there’s no room. Yes, I know that I want to keep the hurricane and We LOVE Texas books right out on the table. It’s important. Kids are watching the news. Their teachers are signing up to adopt classrooms in Houston and they’re recording readalouds on the Hurricane Harvey Book Club site… they need context. But while you’re straightening those hurricane and storm titles, pull out anything we have on Florida. There’s a lot of snowbird grandparents down there that our kids will be Skyping with this week.

Speaking of the YA section, leave out that book display and flier I made in response to the Netflix series “TO THE BONE.” We have over a half million teens in this country struggling with an eating disorder, and our customer population is some (hopefully small) part of that group. If we can get one book in the right hands…. it’s worth the struggle with space, right? Be sure to borrow some of those books to read during your breaks, and take copies home, OK? You might be in class with someone that needs to talk.
OK, I’m just going to say it. HALLOWEEN. There. It’s said. Yes, we need to put the smaller display right by picture books. Right now. I’m serious, you guys. Two kids yesterday told me what they are dressing up as for trick or treat. And Home Goods looks like a mummy threw up in there. GET THOSE PUMPKIN BOOKS OUT. You can wait on the light-up spider rings and the fangs and DYO fake blood kits… but I want to see some seriously cute ghosts FACE OUT, RIGHT NOW.
No, before you even ask, you may not take down the NEW RELEASES spinner to fit the Rosh Hashanah display stand. It’s September. There are more new releases this month than movies over Thanksgiving weekend. More new releases than…. I have shoes (so you know I’m not kidding around, right?). And I was feeling super optimistic in my summer ordering appointments, so we have ALL THE CARDBOARD DISPLAYS. Now, I won’t see the duct tape holding anything together unless you point it out to me, so just fold and show no fear.
While you’re getting the Halloween titles out of the stock room you might as well pull Thanksgiving and put it on that bottom free shelf in picture books. OK, I know it needs two shelves… see if you can scootch Sesame Street over next to Dr. Seuss. OH, that reminds me! You need to pull all the Sesame Street over by the new Julia dolls to celebrate the new character with autism. That will give you another half shelf…. lots of room for turkeys and stuffing titles. Put the Pilgrim plush in straight rows instead of in a basket. They like the structure, and it takes up less room.
Now, when you get to the board book section, I know we’ve been having some issues. Yes, the Baby Classics are a thing, and I will continue to order every college level and AP Literature tome produced in cardboard pages with cute artsy illustrations. They SELL — did you see last weekend’s restock report? But yes, you need to be ready for the “my first” onslaught of holiday titles for the binky brigade. Just to recap, that will be board books called  MY FIRST FALL, MY FIRST TRIP TO THE APPLE ORCHARD, MY FIRST CARDIGAN, MY FIRST FROST,  MY FIRST MOMMY-GETS-A-PUMPKIN-SPICE-LATTE, MY FIRST HALLOWEEN, MY FIRST THANKSGIVING, MY FIRST SNOWMAN, MY FIRST OVERHEARD SWEARWORD WHEN THE SUV SLIDES ON BLACK ICE, and MY FIRST TOUCH-AND-FEEL VISIT TO SANTA (with tantrum stickers.) And remember, it’s college football season, so we need extra space for Hoosier 101, Little Purdue Boilermaker, and whatever the Irish are calling the little Golden Domers. If you have room for the other Big 10 teams… that’s great, but remember, there are 14 of those now. (Can you even major in math in the Midwest?)
Yes, I got your note about the difficulty finding space for the Banned Books Week display, but it’s not negotiable. Put up another table, move the trains over, and handsell with abandon. If you need to, put a sticker under every book in the middle grade and YA section that has been banned or restricted. Yes, you may hire your friends to do that — order a pizza or two. There are certain weeks in the bookselling year that are more equal than others, you know what I mean?
And as long as I’m listing non-negotiables, we need to be sure to pull Grandparents Day (that should be RIGHT BY THE REGISTER, y’all), the 9-11 grouping, Native American Day (take the whole side of the store for that one, if you can), Oktoberfest,  and we’ve got a Friday the 13th in October — YAY!,  Diwali, Dia de los Muertos, and then as soon as you can, start putting up those posters for Plaid Friday. (Just skip Columbus Day. No one really buys anything.)
I know that all this rearranging and extra tidying up of displays is extra work, but that’s what makes bookselling so interesting, right? And look at all these opportunities the calendar creates to talk about new books.
And remember, friends. I have Christmas wrap on the counter, and I’m not afraid to use it.

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About Cynthia Compton

Cynthia is the owner of 4 Kids Books & Toys in Zionsville, Indiana, a 2600 sq. ft. childrens store founded in 2003. She serves on the board of the American Booksellers Association, is a past president of the Great Lakes Bookseller Association, and is a former member of the American Specialty Toy Retail Association board of directors. 4 Kids was honored with the Pannell Award in 2013 and has received numerous "best of" awards in the Indianapolis area. The opinions expressed in her posts are her own, and sometimes those of her english bulldogs.

2 thoughts on “From the Mixed Up Calendar of Mrs. Basil-the-Bookseller

  1. Leslie Hawkins

    I love this! Just yesterday I was doing that same dance trying to figure out how to keep Back to School out but make room for low-key Halloween books and decorations and even lower-key Thanksgiving… while trying to find to make room in the back for the Christmas books already pouring in and wondering what piece of furniture or re-purposed cardboard dump I can scrounge for a Banned Books display. I could sure use an Undetectable Extension Charm ala Hermione’s beaded purse or the Weasleys’ tent at the quidditch cup.

    1. Cynthia Compton

      Leslie, some days I wonder if I could just sell tickets to our storage unit. Sort of a “backstage pass” kind of thing. Maybe it’s a whole new revenue stream? Yours in clutter and confusion (but celebrating EVERYTHING, darn it), Cynthia


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