Wednesday, May 28, 2014


Yesterday, I walked into the break room to say hello to Tom. We would be running an event together later in the day and I wanted to check in and see how he was doing. When I saw him, I stopped. Tom was wearing a dark blue button up and black pants, notable only because I was wearing the exact same thing. When I pointed this out, Tom argued that we were wearing different shades so it wasn't completely the same, but it didn't matter. It was no longer a Tuesday, it was a Samesies Tuesday.

A few minutes later, Tom paged me with another coincidence. Our manager, Dana, was also wearing a blue button up and black pants. This type of thing happens too often. Is it because we like the same things, is it because we are on the same wavelength, is it because we read the memo? Is it because we see each others' clothing and think, "I want that too and I'm sure I will look excellent wearing it"? The bookstore may never know. 

Monday, May 26, 2014

Summers Are For Bucket Lists

Three exciting books!

1. Dangerous Creatures by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl
The beginning of the Beautiful Creatures spin-off series. This time we get to follow Ridley.

2. I am Cow, Hear me Moo by Jill Esbaum, illustrated by Gus Gordon
I was shrink-wrapping when I found this book. I read segments of it out loud and laughed, loudly. It's clever and delightful and it rhymes.

3.Odin's Ravens by Kelley Armstrong and Melissa Marr
I'm excited to see who else Matt, Fen, and Laurie find, who else they have to stand against, and just how close Ragnarok really is.

As summer approaches we all  (theoretically) have more free-time. Or at least, we all think more about the free time we do have. More things seem possible. Maybe not having ice and snow to trek through or coats and gloves to lug around makes the idea of going on an adventure more desirable. Whatever the reason, the feeling is there.

My work schedule won't change but I've been gearing up to go out and do more things and thinking about all of the things that I want to do. So, here, on this blog, I'm going to come up with my children's book inspired bucket list. These can't all be done this summer but maybe someday.

And off we go!

1. Take an Anna and the French Kiss (Stephanie Perkins) tour of Paris.

2. Go on a spontaneous, heavily budgeted, backpack tour of Europe. (Thirteen Little Blue Envelopes, Maureen Johnson)

3. Find a moose and name it Marcel. (This Moose Belongs to Me, Oliver Jeffers)

4. Find and go to a paper town. (Paper Towns, John Green)

5. Jump on and off of a moving train. (Divergent, Veronica Roth) (Note: Not over a gap in buildings, I would die)

6. Climb a tall tree and sketch the landscape. (Page, Tamora Pierce) (Note: I, like Kel, am afraid of heights)

7. Learn to shoot a bow. (The Hunger Games, Suzanne Collins)

8. Find Glendower (or, at the very least, waken a ley line) (The Raven Boys, Maggie Stiefvater)

9. Draw a picture that makes all of the crayons happy. (The Day the Crayon's Quit, Drew Daywalt)

10. Live in an art museum (for a couple of days). (From the Mixed-up files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, E.L. Konigsburg)

11. Be the baddest witch in the whole world in a Halloween parade. (Ramona the Pest, Beverly Cleary)

12. Put a doll to rest with it's original owner (preferably in a way involving a boat and a bus). (Doll Bones, Holly Black)

13. Press here. (Press Here, Herve Tullet)

14. Find a pet friend brontosaurus. (Lulu and the Brontosaurus, Judith Viorst)

15. Exeunt on a leopard. (The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of her Own Making, Catherine M. Valente)

I think I can knock a couple of these out this summer.

What's on your book inspired bucket list?


Monday, May 19, 2014

Sometimes, I read adult books.

I don't avoid adult books. Really. But the books on my radar, the books I get asked about all the time, the books I get into long conversations about, the ones on most of the blogs I read, the ones I feel the greatest need to keep up-to-date on, are nearly all kids' or YA books. I'm aware of adult titles that customers are constantly asking for, but in my own reading life, I sometimes forget, or run out of time, to discover new adult books.

Enter the Alex Awards. When the Newberys, Caldecotts, and other awards for kids' and YA books are announced, so are ten awards for adult books that are likely to appeal to teens. While I'm making a to-read list out of Printz and Stonewall and Coretta Scott King winners and honors, I add a couple of Alex books. In my case, it's practical as a children's bookseller to know of a few adult books that I can recommend to young adult as well as adult-adult customers. But nefarious ulterior motives or no nefarious ulterior motives, the Alex Awards have helped me discover some great books.
If you've asked me for a light or distracting adult read in the past year or so, I've probably handed you Where'd You Go, Bernadette. It's easy to see why this novel, framed as a preteen's search for her missing mother through emails and other documents, would connect with young readers. But the content of those documents, which reveal a slightly unhinged mother in a Seattle community where everyone is trying to impress everyone else, is hilarious no matter who you are  - quite a few booksellers here have read and loved WYGB. (Disclaimer: I have never been to Seattle and have no opinion as to the accuracy of the book's portrayal.)

Another Alex winner with an obvious connection to young readers is the graphic memoir Relish. Foodie Lucy Knisley tells the story of her life so far through a series of vignettes relating to food at home and around the world. Bring a snack. Trust me on this.

A much darker read, made easier to take and often even funny by its five-year-old narrator, is Room by Emma Donohue. This is what dramatic irony is all about.

If you're a bookstore fan, and I'm guessing you are, don't miss Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore, by Robin Sloan. Bonus: The cover glows in the dark!

And if (like me) you think you're not a big sci-fi person, try The Lives of Tao, by Wesley Chu. It's the kind of sci-fi that's really about its characters, many of whom are hilarious.

...And now back to my regularly scheduled extended childhood.
More on this one soon...

Monday, May 12, 2014

Excerpts Versus Preview Chapters

Three new and super thrilling kids books:

1. The Battle for Wondla by Tony DiTerlizzi
It's HERE! Read it. Be excited. Find Clarissa when you're here and gush about it.

2. Rules of Summer by Shaun Tan
Guys. Shaun Tan. This book is quirky and wonderful and despite being totally outlandish reminds me of being a little kid again.

3. Nancy Drew: The Secret of the Old Clock by Carolyn Keene
Why am I excited by yet another set of Nancy Drew? Because they just rereleased the first four and they're BEAUTIFUL.

Sometimes in the months leading up to the release of a new a book authors and publishers will offer sneak peaks. I am all for misleading, potentially soul destroying snippets of books. I love teaser scenes. I love when they're scenes that make me think I know what's going on and then I read the book and I'm totally blown away by how wrong I was. I love seeing how important context is.

The other day I ripped through the scenes Leigh Bardugo released from Ruin and Rising, the final book in the Grisha trilogy. They were good length scenes and some of them ended on cliffhangers.

What I can never bring myself to do though, is read preview chapters. Sometimes the whole prologue or first couple of chapters are released. I just can't do it. I can't read it. It's too much.

This is fresh in my head because yesterday Stephanie Perkins released the first two chapters of Isla and the Happily Ever After. I cannot tell you how happy I will be when this book is finally in my hands. I might die. Not really, that would be tragic if I died without reading it. I squealed in utter delight when I saw her tweet about the excerpt.

And then I read the blog post and saw the words "first two chapters."  I just couldn't. And I wondered about it, especially so soon after devouring the scenes from Ruin and Rising.

There's something about getting full chapters that's too much. It's just enough to get really into and then have your hopes and dreams dashed because there's no more. It's not teasing it's torturing. I can't do it.

Instead I skimmed the chapters, reading pieces of them at random. And I was delighted, giggling already just from the couple of sentences I had. I finished with a sigh of wonderment. The book is real and it's coming.

I know some people dive into preview chapters. I just can't do it. But give me snippets galore and I will be happy.


Monday, May 5, 2014

#WeNeedDiverseBooks. (We have some. We need more.)

I'm writing this before the #WeNeedDiverseBooks campaign officially begins, and the hashtag is already trending on Twitter. People from all walks of the reading life are posting reasons we need more books for kids and teens that reflect the way our world really looks, and I couldn't be prouder of how it's catching on.

It's a fact of life as a brick-and-mortar store that we exist in one spot, and our demographics reflect that spot. But if you picture Brookline as an area where everyone looks, talks, and thinks alike, I urge you to look and listen to the people around you next time you walk through our doors. This is a place where a recent Chinese immigrant might ask where the bar mitzvah cards are. It's a place where you'll probably hear three or four languages in the course of a day. It's a place where I've seen firsthand that some things, especially some things about kids, are universal: a smile and a "she's so cute!" works across a language barrier, and parents from everywhere know that babies need books safe for chewing. It's also a place where adults use the YA section along with other sections as a resource for LGBT fiction, and where many parents light up when you tell them that a chapter book takes place in "Africa, amazing Africa!" Mommy, Mama, and Me sells here. So does Buenas Noches, Gorila. So does The Snowy Day, to customers of all colors and, for whatever reason, in all seasons. (I'm not complaining.) Where the Mountain Meets the Moon is rocking out. So is Out of My Mind. By and large, our customers recognize that there are people of all kinds in the world and welcome opportunities to share that truth with their kids.

A major goal of the #WeNeedDiverseBooks campaign is to combat the pervasive belief that "the market" won't support books with more diversity. I'm definitely not pretending that we - that I - don't have room to grow in the literature we read and produce and sell, but I hope we can serve as a small example of how #WeNeedDiverseBooks, because somebody bought the last copy on the shelf and it's time to restock.

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Leaving On a Jet Plane

When I was 10 years old, my grandfather decided that he was going to throw away a couple years’ worth of National Geographic Magazines. I was struck by a cool picture on the front of one and asked if I could have them instead. I spent that summer sailing down the Orinoco River, dancing salsa in Old Havana, exploring chimpanzee reserves in Tanzania, and climbing K2 through the pages. I rode camels in the Sahara and horses in Petra. I learned about Cossacks and Roma. I created a list of food I wanted to try with names I couldn’t spell, let alone pronounce. The travel bug hit me hard.
I love traveling – planning a trip is pretty high on my list of favourite pastimes. There are few (if any) places in the world that I don’t want to see. I’ve checked a couple things off the list that 10-year old me made, but for each thing I accomplish, more are added. Riding a camel in the Sahara made me realise that I need to swim with dolphins and try skydiving. Seeing Michelangelo’s Pietà made me yearn to see the world’s largest stone Buddha in China and Machu Picchu. Don’t even get me started on Stonehenge.
But the thing I love most about traveling is the way it pushes me to pay attention to things happening around me. Reading Nietzsche on the beach in Morocco made me stop and think about the lives of women in that culture, who I saw covered from head to toe and laughing hysterically in the water. Finding an English language bookstore in Siena, Italy, and buying a book about leaving it all behind to settle in a new country spawned more than a few daydreams about doing it myself. Sitting for hours in a tiny church in Scotland with people I had known for a couple of weeks, discussing Scottish politics, religion, and favourite comfort foods showed me how close we all are despite the many miles and different cultures.
In less than a week, I’ll be heading out for my most recent trip. It’s a big family trip this time to see where my father’s family originated. I’m ridiculously excited to get on that plane, even knowing what difficulties await. I’ll be the navigator while my mom tries to drive on the “wrong” side of the road and my sister will adamantly refuse to wake up before 10. But some of my favourite stories come from those kinds of challenges – if you’re interested, ask me about sitting in the hooligan section of a soccer stadium. We’ll all leave with a greater understanding and appreciation for my Dad, his family, and, consequently, each other.

So I guess what I’m really saying is – go buy National Geographic. And a travel journal. And prepare yourself for an overwhelming need to dive in, learn about other cultures, and maybe a bit about yourself. If you need me, I’ll be contemplating my existence in the Guinness brewery, because there’s always something to learn from the local “cuisine” as well!

Friday, May 2, 2014

Springtime Fever

I have spent the past six days in a feverish state, slowly wading back and forth between thinking I'm well and acknowledging that I've caught the cold that everyone seems to have, but really, really hard. Yes, I had a fever, yes, I have been blowing my nose on Vicks-scented tissue for the past week, yes, I have been coughing up a lung. All of these things are terrible, but the worst part about this is that I'm too sick to read, electing instead to sit in bed with my eyes closed and moaning every so often to indicate I'm alive.  That's horrible too, but what's even worse is that I am 65% done with The Empathy Exams and it's been eating at me that every time I crack the book open I find myself with a splitting headache, which makes me even more furious because the book is really good and I want to finish it already.

Maybe I should have seen this coming. Friday night, I settled down to bed with a galley of Megan Abbott's The Fever, which I finished with glee. I fell asleep shortly afterwards, and when I woke up the next Saturday, there it was. A fever, 100.3 degrees. Now that I am out of my feverstate, I find it amusing that was the book I read. Did The Fever induce my own? I've asked another bookseller to read it to test out my theory. If Tom is struck down next...

I think I'm getting better. I just picked up a galley of Dear Committee Members by Julie Schumacher. It's an epistolary novel, and I adore epistolary novels, and I also adore the fact that I seem to have enough brainpower to recognize that it is an epistolary novel. I'm on the mend!

Thursday, May 1, 2014

May's Destination of the Month: National Parks

The weather's getting warm; the kids are getting out of school. It's time to be Winnebago Warriors and hit some of the most breathtaking sites in the world, lovingly preserved by your Federal government in what is probably one of the coolest, nerdiest undertakings in our history: the National Park Service.

And you've got your pick, too, because America is as geographically diverse as her citizens are ethnically. Deserts? Check. Oceans? Check. Mountains? Check. Lakes? Check. Lakes that disappear and turn into fields of wildflowers for a few months? Check that too.

So swing by throughout the month of May and scope our guidebooks, photo books, and even grab a narrative or novel or two that occupy some of the coolest spaces in our massive country.