• From the Mixed-Up Files... > Indie Spotlight > Indie Spotlight: Velveteen Rabbit Book Shop & Guesthouse
  • OhMG! News


    April 11, 2014:
    Fall 2014 Children's Sneak Peek
    A peek at forthcoming middle grade books (as well as picture books and YA books) in a round-up from Publisher's Weekly. First printed in the February 22 issue, but now available online. Time to add to your to-read list. Read more ...

    April 9, 2014:
    How many Newbery winners have you read?
    You could make a traditional list of all the Newbery Medal Award-winning Children's Books you've read, but there's something so satisfying when you check them off and get a final tally on this BuzzFeed quiz. Read more ...

    March 28, 2014:
    Middle Grade fiction is hot at 2014 Bologna Children's Book Fair

    For the second year in a row, publishers are clamoring for middle-grade, reporters Publishers Weekly. "I’ve been coming [to Bologna] for 12 to 15 years, and I’ve never had as many European publishers asking for middle-grade," said Steven Chudney of the Chudney Agency. Read more ...

    February 14, 2014:
    Cybils Awards announced
    Ultra by David Carroll (Scholastic Canada) wins the Cybil for middle grade fiction; Lockwood & Co: The Screaming Staircase by Jonathan Stroud (Disney Hyperion) wins for Speculative Fiction. Read more.

    January 27, 2014: And the Newbery Medal goes to ...
    Kate DiCamillo won the Newbery Medal for "Flora & Ulysses"; Rita Williams-Garcia won the Coretta Scott King Author award for "P.S. Be Eleven." Newbery Honor awards to authors Vince Vawter, Amy Timberlake, Kevin Henkes and Holly Black. For all the exciting ALA Youth Media Award News ... READ MORE

    November 12, 2013:
    Vote in the GoodReads semifinal round

    Readers' votes have narrowed the middle-grade semifinals down to 20 titles. Log in to your GoodReads account and vote for your favorite middle-grade (and in other categories, of course). Read more ...

    November 9, 2013:
    Publishers Weekly Top Children's Books of 2013

    Middle-grade and young adult titles selected by the editors of Publishers Weekly as their top picks of the year. Let the season of "top ten books" begin! Read more ...

    October 14, 2013:
    Middle Shelf: Cool Reads for Kids debuts January 2014

    Shelf Media Group, publisher of Shelf Unbound indie book review magazine, will launch a new free digital-only publication for middle-grade readers. The debut issue features interviews with such notable authors as Margaret Peterson Haddix and Chris Grabenstein as well as reviews, excerpts, and more. Middle Shelf will be published bi-monthly beginning in January 2014.
    Read more ...

    September 19, 2013: Writer-in-Residence program at Thurber House

    Dream of time and space to focus on your own writing project? Applications now being accepted (11/1/2013 deadline) for The Thurber House Residency in Children's Literature, a month-long retreat in the furnished third-floor apartment of Thurber House in Columbus, Ohio. Read more ...

    September 18, 2013: Vermont College of Fine Arts Scholarship opportunity

    Barry Goldblatt Literary launches The Angela Johnson Scholarship, a talent-based grant for writers of color attending the MFA in Writing for Children & Young Adults program at VCFA. Up to two $5,000 grants will be awarded each year. Read more ....

    September 16, 2013:
    National Book Awards longlist for youth literature

    For the first time, the NBA is presenting lists of 10 books/authors on the longlist in each category. The 2013 young adult literature list includes five middle grade novels and five YA. Read more ...

    Sept. 13, 2013: Spring preview
    Check out Publishers Weekly roundup of upcoming children's books to be published in spring 2014. Read more...

    August 21, 2013:
    Want to be a Cybils Award Judge?

    Middle grade categories are fiction, speculative fiction, nonfiction. Applications due August 31! Read more ...

    August 19, 2013:
    S&S and BN reach a deal
    Readers will soon be able to find books from Simon & Schuster at Barnes & Noble. The bookstore chain was locked in a disagreement with the publisher over how much it was willing to pay for books. Read more ...

    August 6, 2013:
    NPR's 100 Must-Reads for Kids
    NPR's Backseat Book Club asked listeners to nominate their favorite books for readers ages 9 to 14. More than 2,000 people nominated titles, and a panel of Newbery authors brought the list to 100. Most are middle grade books. Read more ...

    July 2, 2013:
    Penguin & Random House Merger

    The new company, Penguin Random House, will control more than 25 percent of the trade book market in the United States. On Monday, the newly formed company began to take shape, only hours after a middle-of-the-night announcement that the long-planned merger had been completed. Read more ...

    March 28, 2013: Big at Bologna

     This year at the Bologna Children's Book Fair, the focus has shifted to middle-grade.  “A lot of foreign publishers are cutting back on YA and are looking for middle-grade,” said agent Laura Langlie, according to Publisher's Weekly.  Lighly illustrated or stand-alone contemporary middle-grade fiction is getting the most attention.  Read more...


    March 10, 2013: Marching to New Titles

    Check out these titles releasing in March...


    March 5, 2013: Catch the BEA Buzz

    Titles for BEA's Editor Buzz panels have been announced.  The middle-grade titles selected are:

    A Very Nearly Honorable League of Pirates #1: Magic Marks the Spot by Caroline Carlson

    Counting By 7s by Holly Goldberg Sloan

    The Fantastic Family Whipple by Matthew Ward

    Nick and Tesla's High-Voltages Danger Lab by Bob Pflugfelder and Steve Hockensmith

    The Tie Fetch by Amy Herrick

    For more Buzz books in other categories,


    February 20, 2013: Lunching at the MG Roundtable 

    Earlier this month, MG authors Jeanne Birdsall, Rebecca Stead, and N.D. Wilson shared insight about writing for the middle grades at an informal luncheon with librarians held in conjunction with the New York Public Library's Children's Literary Salon "Middle Grade: Surviving the Onslaught."

    Read about their thoughts...


    February 10, 2013: New Books to Love

    Check out these new titles releasing in February...


    January 28, 2013: Ivan Tops List of Winners

    The American Library Association today honored the best of the best from 2012, announcing the winners of the Newbery, Caldecott, and Printz awards, along with a host of other prestigious youth media awards, at their annual winter meeting in Seattle.

    The Newbery Medal for the most outstanding contribution to children’s literature went to The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate. Honor books were: Splendors and Glooms by Laura Amy Schlitz; Bomb: The Race to Build--and Steal--the World’s Most Dangerous Weapon by Steve Sheinkin; and Three Times Lucky by Sheila Turnage.

    The Coretta Scott King Book Award went to Hand in Hand: Ten Black Men Who Changed America written by Andrea Davis Pinkney and illustrated by Brian Pinkney.

    The Laura Ingalls Wilder Award,which honors an author for his or her long-standing contributions to children’s literature, was presented to Katherine Paterson.

    The Pura Belpre Author Award, which honors a Latino author, went to Benjamin Alire Saenz for his novel Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe, which was also named a Printz Honor book and won the Stonewall Book Award for its portrayal of the GLBT experience.

    For a complete list of winners…


    January 22, 2013: Biography Wins Sydney Taylor

    Louise Borden's His Name Was Raoul Wallenberg, a verse biography of the Swedish humanitarian, has won the Sydney Taylor Award in the middle-grade category. The award is given annually to books of the highest literary merit that highlight the Jewish experience. Aimee Lurie, chair of the awards committee, writes, "Louise Borden's well-researched biography will, without a doubt, inspire children to perform acts of kindness and speak out against oppression."

    For more...


    January 17, 2013: Erdrich Wins Second O'Dell

    Louise Erdrich is recipient of the 2013 Scott O'Dell Award for her historical novel Chickadee, the fourth book in herBirchbark House series. Roger Sutton,Horn Book editor and chair of the awards committee, says of Chickadee,"The book has humor and suspense (and disarmingly simple pencil illustrations by the author), providing a picture of 1860s Anishinabe life that is never didactic or exotic and is briskly detailed with the kind of information young readers enjoy." Erdrich also won the O'Dell Award in 2006 for The Game of Silence, the second book in theBirchbark series. 

    For more...


    January 15, 2013: After the Call

    Past Newbery winners Jack Gantos, Clare Vanderpool, Neil Gaiman, Rebecca Stead, and Laura Amy Schlitz talk about how winning the Newbery changed (or didn't change) their lives in this piece from Publishers Weekly...


    January 2, 2013: On the Big Screen

    One of our Mixed-up Files members may be headed to the movies! Jennifer Nielsen's fantasy adventure novel The False Prince is being adapted for Paramount Pictures by Bryan Cogman, story editor for HBO's Game of Thrones. For more...


  • Subscribe!

    Get email updates:

    Enter your email address:

    Delivered by FeedBurner

Indie Spotlight: Velveteen Rabbit Book Shop & Guesthouse

Indie Spotlight

Imagine a children’s book store where you could stay overnight, curl up, and read.  There is such a place!  With us today is Marie Nelson, owner of The Velveteen Rabbit Book Shop and Guest House  in Fort Atkinson, Wisconsin, to talk about her shop and tell stories of her amazingly loyal and determined customers.

SC for  Mixed-Up Files: What a dream, to have a bookshop with a guesthouse!  How did this combination come about?

Marie: My husband, Jim, and I opened the bookshop in 1994. He is the accountant for the bookshop and all around repair person. He also has a daytime career as a CFO. I was a teacher and have always had books as a huge part of my life. We opened with the help of family and friends.
For the first 10 years or so we lived above the bookshop. The shop is in a terra-cotta Victorian home just off the Main Street in Fort Atkinson, Wisconsin. The town is about 12,000 residents with a university town nearby and several other small communities. We decided that we might like a little extra room. Clare was born in 1996 and Ben in 2000. The upstairs is now a quaint flat with charm and comfort. Guests are able to enjoy privacy and the amenities of being close to our downtown.
It is fun to meet people from near and far. We have had visitors from Tennessee, Illinois, New York, California, Australia, Iceland and from many parts of Wisconsin. We feel very fortunate to have an opportunity to meet and visit with people from near and far.

MUF: Many towns, even big towns, don’t have a bookstore, period, much less a children’s bookstore.  But yours is thriving.  How have you made it a success?
Marie: We are a general bookshop with an emphasis in children’s literature. I have a passion for books and have many favorites from my childhood that are fun to stock and be able to share with current generations…. picture books, middle readers and young adult novels. I also have staff who are readers. They have many recommendations in the store and in our newsletter that keep recent releases also in front of our customers. Finding the right book for the customer is what it is all about.

We like to listen to our customers. We are very fortunate to have customers who have stayed with us through the years. Just yesterday I had a customer who would come in with her children and is now purchasing for her grandchildren. Her daughter was also in and purchasing for a young family member. This same customer was also the first to book our guest house when it opened in 2007 for a wedding couple. We have so many delightful stories of customers who are just fabulous. I will always remember when the road in front of the store was under construction for months. At one point you could not get to us unless you really made an effort. We had one longtime customer who actually crawled over a fence one day to get to us because it was just blocked every other way that day. She was in her eighties at the time. It just brought a huge smile to my face.

MUF: I can imagine!  As middle-grade authors, we have to ask: say a ten- or eleven-year old comes in to your shop and asks for a good book to read.  What favorites, fiction and nonfiction, might you be likely recommend to him or her?
Marie: We really enjoy getting the right book for the right person. I often use the staff recommendations in the store, our Indie Next flyers, the ABC catalog and the staff to assist with finding the right book. We do quite a bit of ordering, also. As an example of an eleven-year-old, I can use my son’s recent reading. He likes fiction and non-fiction. He just finished Holes, read The Outcasts (Brotherband Chronicles #1) and The Invaders (Brotherband Chronicles #2). A book he recommended for the store is Rock of Ivanore. As a nonfiction selection, he has read titles from the Eyewitnessseries.

Author signing and tea party with Laura Schaefer

MUF: What makes your day as a children’s bookseller?
Marie:  I like the daily interactions with kids of all ages and grown-ups. I have a local dentist who gives out gift certificates to kids for good check-ups. She just ordered some more gift certificates. I have the opportunity to chat with people of all interests and learn a great deal. People pick up books or browse and we both enjoy learning something. It is also very rewarding when people say how comfortable they are in the bookshop and how they like to bring in family or friends who are visiting. I remember once my 85-year-old grandmother saying when she was visiting the bookshop that I was a good host. This was quite a compliment  and I have taken her words to heart. I want people to enjoy visiting and look forward to each visit.

MUF:  If readers and their adults from out of town came to visit your shop, are there some favorite family-friendly places in the neighborhood where they could get a bite to eat after browsing?
Marie: We are right next to a wonderful Irish Pub called Paddy Coughlin’s. We often enjoy dinner at the pub. I actually have many visitors to the bookshop who enjoy lunch and browsing. The customer who just left was planning to dine at the pub. We also have a shopping and dining guide for Fort that the chamber publishes. I often give this out with recommendations. The Carpe is another great place as is Beauty and the Bean. You can walk to many good establishments in the area.

You could be here in the guest flat with your favorite book.

MUF: And if they are lucky enough to stay in the guest house overnight or for the weekend,  can you recommend some unique sights and activities they shouldn’t miss while they’re in Fort Atkinson?
Marie: In the bookshop and the guest house I have a Discover Guide which highlights many places to visit as well as a calendar of events. I also have the Jefferson County Guide for people to have. Both guides offer great activities in the area. I would certainly recommend visiting The Fireside Dinner Theatre. They have delicious Friday Fish and offer a fabulous dinner and theater experience on other afternoons and evenings. The shows are excellent and fun for the whole family. Café Carpe often has a musical offering. You can enjoy dinner and a performance. Fort also offers an outstanding museum. The Hoard Historical Museum and National Dairy Shrine Museum offers educational and fun entertainment.

Surprise carolers at the annual holiday celebration

MUF: Any special events coming up in October? How does the The Velveteen Rabbit celebrate Halloween?
Marie:  The second Saturday of every month at 10:30 we share stories. The theme for October is Goblins, Ghosts and Ghouls Oh My! Usually Mrs. Smith reads stories and simply shares good books and engages kids in an activity. A special we have is “with the purchase of a Halloween children’s book get 18% off a Holiday children’s book this December.” This is in honor of our 18th year.

The big Holiday Anniversary Celebration is set for Saturday, December 1. We celebrate with author signings and many in-store festivities.

MUF: Thanks, Marie, for sharing your delightful shop with us. Readers, if you’ve visited The Velveteen Rabbit, or if reading about it makes you think you’d like to, comment to let us and Marie know.  Browse the shop’s website at: www.velveteenrabbitbookshop.com.

Sue Cowing is the author of You Will Call Me Drog (Carolrhoda, 2011, Usborne UK, 2012)



  1. Cathy Ogren  •  Sep 27, 2012 @10:31 am

    Fabulous book store! If you’re anywhere close to it, it’s a must see.

  2. Yolanda Ridge  •  Sep 27, 2012 @12:03 pm

    Amazing! Wish I lived closer… would love to have a book store like yours in our community.

    Sue Cowing Reply:

    @Yolanda Ridge,
    Where do you live? Is there a children’s bookstore anywhere nearby? Each one is a unique experience, unlike Barnes & Noble. Could be a delightful day-trip!

  3. Dianna Winget  •  Sep 27, 2012 @12:45 pm

    Congratulations on your 18th year! Sounds like a wonderful place.

  4. Michele Weber Hurwitz  •  Sep 27, 2012 @6:50 pm

    Sounds like an amazing place. I will have to make a trip there!

  5. Linda Andersen  •  Sep 30, 2012 @4:07 pm

    Thanks for sharing about such a wonderful bookstore and guest house. I don’t live nearby but I loved learning of it anyway.