Snubbed at the Indie Bookstore

My preteen son and I ventured into New York during spring break to ride the Staten Island Ferry and visit a couple of favorite bookstores. He loves Kinokuniya, the big, ultra-busy Japanese store across Sixth Avenue from Bryant Park. He chose a cool pen and some art supplies from the many cool pens and art supplies on the lowest level, and later used the pen to impress a seven-year-old girl on the train ride home. "You write cursive!" she exclaimed.

I wanted to visit a small shop I knew of only through social media; the store and I may even have exchanged tweets. Along with many others, I have promoted buying books at independent bookstores, and I'd been curious about this one since it opened. It's a well-lit, appealing spot with what looks like carefully selected inventory.

We were the only customers at the time of our visit. A bookseller behind the counter glanced up from the computer as we entered and we exchanged hellos.

"I follow y'all on Twitter," I said excitedly.

"Oh," said the bookseller.

Silence followed.

After a few seconds, I understood that our conversation was over. 

Feeling vaguely embarrassed, I began to look around.

Someone else was working on a computer in the back of the place. I wondered if the two store folks, separated by 300 feet or so, were emailing each other instead of talking back and forth. Maybe I should have logged into Twitter on my phone to speak to them.

ST: U are friendly on Twitter! Why not here?

Employee#1: I'm not the Twitter person.

Employee#2: Comeoutoftherain,makeyourselfathome,iloveyou. Please retweet.

I bought several books, but left feeling disappointed—and duped. Social media got me there, but I'm not rushing back any time soon. 

10 New Children's Books Recommended by Independent Booksellers

9780547215679 1. The Prince of Mist, by Carlos Ruiz Zafón

2. City Dog, Country Frog, by written by Mo Willems and illustrated by Jon J Muth

3. The Books of Elsewhere, Vol. 1: The Shadows, by Jacqueline West

4. Dark Life, by Kat Falls

5. The Strange Case of Origami Yoda, by Tom Angleberger

6. The Red Umbrella, by Christina Diaz Gonzalez

7. Will Grayson, Will Grayson, by John Green & David Levithan

8. How I, Nicky Flynn, Finally Get a Life (and a Dog), by Art Corriveau

9. Mockingbird, by Kathryn Erskine

10. The Quiet Book, written by Deborah Underwood and illustrated by Renata Liwska

This list for summer 2010 comes from IndieBound, a project of the American Booksellers Association. I picked up a flyer with these recommendations and more at Posman Books, in New York's Grand Central Terminal. The longer roster includes books by writer pals Elisha Cooper (Beaver Is Lost), Chris Barton (Shark vs. Train), and Mitali Perkins (Bamboo People).

I was in Posman to shop for a couple of editions of grown-up books I couldn't find at the local Barnes & Noble, which seems to be selling only classics published by, yep, Barnes and Noble. That means an older translation of Chekhov's stories instead of the acclaimed Pevear and Volokhonsky translation. I know that's so nerdy, but, still, I don't want the B & N versions. Posman had the P & V Chekhov and three different Middlemarches to choose from. That's what I want.


IndieBound lists (and capsule descriptions) of recommended children's books, summer 2010

Posman Books

Bonus track: NPR's Summer Reading 2010 (for grown-ups)

Purple Sells Books

"I'd like to outline what we're seeing in retail. We have two basic things that are selling very well. Anything that's pink, purple, gold and sparkle, and anything that's dark purple and black and has any type of vampire on it. I'm sorry, but that's really what's selling."  

Barnes & Noble's Kim Brown, at an Authors Guild symposium, "What's Hot and What's Not: Current Trends in Children's Book Publishing," July 2009. A transcription of the discussion is included in the Winter 2010 edition of the Authors Guild Bulletin. 

Kids Love Authors Day

Valentine's Day at a bunch of New England bookstores ought to be really fun. The Kids ♥ Authors Day site announces this:

Shower your pint-sized (or teen-sized) valentines with literary love. On Valentine’s Day, Saturday, February 14, 2009, from 10 a.m. to noon, independent booksellers throughout New England will host illustrators and authors of books for kids and teens, kicking off a new tradition of signed literary valentines for families.

In my corner of the Constitution State, the festivities take place at Books on the Common, in Ridgefield. A full list of participating bookstores, authors, and illustrators is at Kids ♥ Authors.

Miss. Books, Music, and Beverages

My friends at Lemuria Books, in Jackson, Miss., have redesigned their blog, and it's looking fine. Right now the spotlight is on two locally produced nature books for children. Drop by and say hey.

Of interest to music fans is another Mississippi-based blog, Highway 61 Radio: The Best in Blues Music and Culture: Past, Present, and Future. Highway 61 even offers a free download of a Mavis Staples song.

Don't forget about the Southern Foodways Alliance, currently touting its upcoming symposium "The Liquid South, from Well Water to Sparkling Muscadine." Not to worry: "Buttermilk will get its due."

Southern Bookstore Blog

Lemuria Books, my favorite bookstore, now has a blog, and I didn't even know about it until recently. Yay—blog roll update time. If you're ever in Jackson, Mississippi, you absolutely must stop by the store. Driving down I-55 from Memphis to New Orleans? It's right on your way. Travelling from Dallas to Atlanta on I-20? It's just a quick little detour north.

Some years ago when Eudora Welty was still alive, I saw her shopping at the store. The blog features an update on her home in Jackson's Belhaven neighborhood, which you can now tour by appointment. (I know I've mentioned that before. I think I keep talking about it to remind myself to schedule a tour for my next visit to Jackson.)

When I was at Lemuria last week, a couple of the booksellers told me about Poor Man's Provence: Finding Myself in Cajun Louisiana, by Rheta Grimsley Johnson (NewSouth Books 2008). Here is how the publisher describes the book:

For over a decade, syndicated columnist Rheta Grimsley Johnson has been spending several months a year in Southwest Louisiana, deep in the heart of Cajun Country. Unlike many other writers who have parachuted into the swampy paradise for a few days or weeks, Rheta fell in love with the place, bought a second home and set in planting doomed azaleas and deep roots. She has found an assortment of beautiful people in a homely little town called Henderson, right on the edge of the Atchafalaya Swamp.

Right now on the blog, Lemuria recommends a children's book, The Fish Who Cried Wolf, by Julia Donaldson. Sarah Dessen's young adult novel Just Listen also gets a shout out.


Here's a fascinating conversation about Amazon, started by Betsy B. at A Fuse # 8 Production; be sure to read the comments in this post, including the ones by Andy Laties. The Horn Book's Roger Sutton weighs in, too. Els at Book Book Book picked up the thread, providing more interesting commentary on the matter. From all of this talk, I realize that I need to read the book The Long Tail, by Chris Anderson, which concerns business and the Internet.

I had some reviews posted at Amazon a while back, but once the news came out that some of the reader-reviewers had actually been paid, I removed my blurbs, thinking it was not the right place for my writing to appear. I did not want to sell books for the company, either, and I was giving away my writing. I do that here on the blog for fun!  I still link to Amazon, Powell's, and occasionally Barnes & Noble, but right now receive no commissions from any of them. In general, I prefer the independents like Powell's and Lemuria, but my friends at the local B&N store couldn't be nicer and more helpful.

So, hmm, dilemmas, dilemmas.

Wednesday Coffee Break, Dec. 13

The Diamond of Drury Lane, a début novel by Julia Golding, has won the Nestlé Children's Book prize. See the Guardian for details. Julia Golding has a blog, too.

Recommended reading: "Dividing Lines: Why the Book Industry Still Sees the World Split by Race," by Jeffrey A. Trachtenberg, at The Wall Street Journal. (Hat tip to La Bloga for the link.)

MotherReader suggests "21 Ways to Give a Book." Awesome list.

Cool broadcasting idea: Favorite holiday books at BookTalk: The Podcast, a venture by Renee of Shen's Blog. (Scroll down when you get to BookTalk.) You can hear one of the voices behind Seven Impossible Things.

Relaxed Homeskool reviews (and recommends) Baby Kong, a new picture book that stars homeschooled children.

Terrier: Beka Cooper # 1, by Tamora Pierce, is 30% off at The Cybils award fantasy/sci-fi nominee is even less expensive (this morning, at least) at Amazon. The blog Wands and Worlds says, "[Terrier] is a prequel to Pierce's Tortall series, but it quite stands on its own and you can enjoy it without having read any of the other books. I highly recommend this book; adults as well as teens will enjoy it."

Happy St. Lucia Day, everyone! As soon as I finish this post, I'm going to try blogger Karen Edmisten's  recipe for braided orange bread. Now, if only I had Melissa Wiley's book to go with it... (Thank you to By Sun and Candlelight for the link.)

Lessons from B & N?

On the heels of the closing of several prominent independent bookstores, Paul Collins asks in the Voice Literary Supplement, "Do bookstores have a future?" I haven't made my way through the entire article, "Chain Reaction,"  yet, but the following caught my eye:

Like milk in a grocery store, the kids' section of a Barnes & Noble is almost always placed far from the entrance. Why?

Simple: B&N children's sections are a customer magnet, and possibly the most child-friendly and parentally designed spaces in the history of retailing. There are low shelves, allowing good sight lines so that you can see your kid. There's carpeting for inevitable toddler face-plants. A train table to play at. Comfy chairs for the parents. A single exit in sight of those chairs, so that your kid can't bolt. Sit in the Barnes & Noble kids' section, and their populist rhetoric makes sense. Some indie bookstores are not just figuratively exclusionary: If you have a stroller or a wheelchair, you literally cannot get inside some of them.

Pinkwater's Choices

Whoo, boy. Customers. They're sometimes too glued to their radios.  Are Daniel Pinkwater's kids lit recommendations on NPR causing trouble for bookstores? Click on Publishers Weekly to find out.

And for a full list of Mr. Pinkwater's choices, go to this NPR page. The book scheduled for tomorrow's spot on Weekend Edition is Jellybeans, written and illustrated by Sylvia van Ommen. (Scroll down and look on the right.) So, now that you know ahead of time, dash over to the bookstore or library.

Have a great weekend, everyone! Happy reading, Harry Potter fans...and everyone else.

Secrest out,