Author Archives: Sue Cowing

Indie Spotlight: Second Star to the Right Children’s Books, Denver CO

second-star-ooks-logoHooray! A new and thriving all-children’s bookstore!  This month we’re talking with Dea Lavoie, Co-owner of Second Star to the Right Children’s Books in Denver.

MUF: We’re excited about your new store, a true children’s bookstore that includes both new and used books. What inspired you to set up shop, and how’s it going so far?second-star-front
Dea: Opening the bookstore has been a dream for a long time. I could see myself as the Meg Ryan character in the movie You’ve Got Mail! My husband and I had been teachers for around 12 years, and I knew I wanted to continue working with children. Children’s literature is amazing, and I wanted to share my love of it, and help children discover their love of it as well. It has been such a learning experience and we have been so grateful that people have embraced and encouraged us along the way. We just had our best month ever and keep continuing to grow!second-star-interior

MUF: In a small store like this, you must have room only for good books. How do you choose the titles you carry, both new and used?
Dea: Choosing the books for the shop is truly a joy. We make sure that we have the beloved favorites from way back, along with the most current titles. Fortunately we get to look at samples of new books before each order to help decide which ones we think our customers would love the most. Then you just have to decide which ones tug on your heart strings the most, or envision if you think a specific customer might enjoy the book. It ‘s a little tricky sometimes, but your intuition kicks in a lot.second-star-lilysecond-star-bfg

 MUF: As middle grade authors, we’re curious to know some titles– new and old, fiction and nonfiction– you find yourself recommending to readers ages 8-12 these days?
Dea: When I taught third grade, my students always seemed to love the Roald Dahl books, especially The BFG. The humor in the book really engaged the kids. So I do recommend those. secon-star-raymiesecond-star-wrinkleThe One and Only Ivan by Kathrine Applegate is such a poignant book about animals and friendship my students really enjoyed, and one I recommend.  Also, A Wrinkle in Time is an amazingly imaginative book that kids now appreciate as much as many years ago when it was written. Some of the newer books I recommend are Raymie Nightingale by Kate DiCamillo, whom I adore, Lily and Dunkin by Donna Gephart that tackles transgender and bipolar issues in a beautiful story, and The Girl who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill,second-star-girl-who-drank a magical middle grade fairy tale about a young girl with emerging magical powers that result from drinking moonlight.

MUF: Bug parties, dog adoptions, math tutoring, yoga lessons—tell us about some of the activities going on at Second Star on the Right. Any author visits or other events coming up that would be of special interest to middle-graders?second-star-banned-books
Dea: Our many events and activities keep us on our toes! We have such a creative staff that includes teachers, actors, and artists. Everyone is always thinking of something new to try. We do monthly read to a dog, read with a local police officer, local dentist, storytime in Spanish or French, Baby Storytime, Parent book clubs, and birthday parties! We also have a middle grader advisory group that get to read books before they’re released. They give us opinions on what they like which books they think will sell. (They also get to keep some of the books!) We’re always looking for new members.
We frequently have author appearances. Upcoming October events include a Pete the Cat and the Missing Cupcake Party at 4:00 on the 9th and  Kathleen Pelley and her new book Happy Mamas on October 15th, when we will have a Spanish translator present to translate the book into Spanish. Author Stan Yan who second-star-zombiewrote There’s a Zombie in the Basement is coming on the 16th. We also have a Pumpkin Party on the 21st and Trick or Treat Street on the 29th where Kids trick or treat through the neighborhood! We add new authors and events all the time.ssecond-star-best-bkstore

MUF: If a family from out of town visited your shop, would there be family-friendly places to get a snack or meal afterward? And if they could spend the day or more, are there some unique family activities or sights nearby that they shouldn’t miss?
Dea: We are located on Tennyson street, in northwest Denver, that features many boutiques, restaurants, and shops to explore. We are right next to Cozy Cottage, a tasty breakfast and lunch place, along with Parisi, a yummy Italian restaurant, and across from El Chingon, an authentic Mexican food restaurant. This area has many festivals going on that feature arts, crafts, and local food items, we’re also a hop, skip, and jump from the mountains which are always great for a picnic! Elitch’s is Denver’s big amusement park, and lots of fun, and so are the Aquarium, Denver Zoo, and Botanic Gardens. scond-str-welcome

MUF:  Thanks so much Dea for opening this store and for telling our readers about it.  Readers, next time you’re in Denver, be sure to visit this addition to the world of children’ books.

Sue Cowing is the author of the puppet-and-boy novel You Will Call Me Drog (Carolrhoda Books 2011, Usborne UK 2012)


Indie Spotlight: Vroman’s Bookstore, Pasadena CA

Sue Cowing for Mixed-Up Files: It’s a pleasure to feature this month a bookstore that has served and been part of its community since 1894!  We’re speaking today with the store’s Promotional Director, Jennifer Ramos.
MUF: Vroman’s is a Pasadena landmark that has seen the city and the bookstore business through many ups and downs over the years—120 years and counting– and continues to thrive.  What’s your secret?vroman's front #2
Jennifer: There are so many factors that contribute to our longevity. We have a spectacular mix of book and gift items that is ever changing from the moment we opened; our booksellers are friendly, knowledgeable and very helpful; and a strong event series.

MUF: Describe the “feel” of Vroman’s today?  What do you hope people, especially young people will experience when they visit?
Jennifer: Vroman’s has a great feel to it. Welcoming, comfortable, a place where you may run into someone you know. With our events and mix of books and gift items, you never know what fun item you might find.

MUF: So glad to see you have a book club especially for middle-graders! Vroman's Counting What will The Tribe of Endless Readers be reading and discussing vrioman's 3Xnext?
Jennifer: their August pick is Counting by 7’s by Holly Goldberg Sloan and for September it will be Three Times Lucky by Sheila Turnage.

MUF: Tomorrow is your Harry Potter release party.  What’s planned?  Any other events coming up that would be of special interest to middle-graders?Jennifer: Our Harry Potter party will be taking place at Nucleus Gallery in Alhambra.Vroman's HP
They will have a Harry Potter art show up, we will be hosting a costume contest, crafts, a photo booth and then we will be handing out the new release at midnight! Tickets were available to those who pre-ordered the book from Vroman’s.
This coming August we have a few events that would be fun for middle-graders. On August 9th we are hosting a Krafttime with Kelly, on the 11th we will be having a storytelling event out under the stars, and that following Saturday we will be hosting a Caped Crusaders event. This event is a continuation of our Summer Reading Club.

MUF: One of the best things about independent bookstore collections is that they’re curated by people who know, love, and read books and can carry what they think best.  How do you go about choosing titles for Vroman’s?Vroman's MG shelf
Jennifer: We have book buyers who are in charge of picking the books we carry for our store. They work with our publisher representatives and watch for trends when picking what we are carrying. They also listen to our booksellers and look to our customers choices for additional help.

MUF: As middle grade authors, we’d love to know what titles, new or old, fiction or nonfiction, you find yourselves recommending to ages eight to twelve these days? (This question answered by Children’s Department manager, Ashlee Null).Vroman's CircusVroman's Copernicus
Ashlee: Fiction: Circus Mirandus by Vroman's One & OnlyCassie Beasly, Roller Girl by Victoria Jamieson, Copernicus Legacy by Tony Abbott, Wonder by R J Palacio, The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate, and Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart
Guts & GloryNon Fiction: Guinea Pig Scientists by Mel BoringVrman's Guinea8 and the Guts and Glory series by Ben Thompson (each one a different topic Vikings, World War 2, Civil War, etc)
These are common ones but it usually depends on the kid. Sometimes I pick things I’ve never read but know what its about enough to know they’d probably enjoy it.

MUF: If a family came from out of town to visit Vroman’s, would there be family-friendly places in the neighborhood where they could get a snack or a meal after shopping?  And if they could stay awhile, are there some unique sights or activities nearby they shouldn’t miss?
Jennifer: We have a few really great restaurants surrounding our store that would be good to stop into, including Tender Greens and Blaze Pizza. For unique sights or activities I’d suggest Kidspace and the Pasadena Museum of California Art.

MUF:  Thanks Jennifer and Ashlee, for telling more about your store.  Readers, have you visited Vroman’s?  If so, please comment here.  If not, be sure to stop by the next time you’re in the area!

Sue Cowing is the author of the middle-grade novel You Will Call Me Drog (Carllrhoda 2011, Usborne UK 2012).

Vromans front #1

Indie Spotlight: Malaprop’s Bookstore/Cafe, Asheville NC

malaprop's logo #2Independent bookstores are undoubtedly one of the most hopeful things  going for writers and readers today.  With special pleasure this month we feature Malaprop’s Bookstore/Cafe ( which spoke up and pushed back pushed back in North Carolina this spring.  We are talking today with General Manager Linda-Marie Barrett.malaprop's front #1
During the recent controversy over gender laws in your state, you appealed to authors and businesses not to boycott bookstores as part of their protest. Was the response encouraging? What role do you think bookstores like Malaprops can play in shaping independent and inclusive outlooks, particularly in the young?
Linda-Marie:After our open letters to authors, published in Shelf Awareness, in which we urged authors not to boycott us, we received very encouraging and supportive letters and phone calls from authors, publishers and other booksellers. Independent bookstores like Malaprop’s Malaprop's Thanksare often the only space in communities where controversial ideas are discussed. Independent bookstores are guardians of freedom of expression. We host authors and carry books that nurture inclusivity and awareness of different ways of being in the world.

MUF: Describe the atmosphere you have created in your shop.   What do you want people, especially young people, to experience when they visit? malaprop's interior #2
Linda-Marie: We hope most to be welcoming, inspiring and safe. We want to be a place where people relax when they enter our doors, find their next great read, laugh at some of our silly gift items, and engage with our booksellers and learn something new. We love our young readers and encourage them to find books that open their minds and their hearts and spark imagination.

MUF: What’s a good day at Malaprops?
Linda-Marie: Every day is a good day, but the best day for me is when I have a conversation with a customer malaprop's languagesand learn something from them that I can apply in my own life. I love when matching readers with books that might change their lives, or at the very least, bring a smile and a lightness to their hearts.

MUF: Malaprop’s is a relatively small shop. How do you decide what titles to carry and feature at your store?
Linda-Marie: We are not small for an independent bookstore, but we are very selective about what we bring in. We purchase based on what our customers have loved in the past, what we see being favorably reviewed in media we respect, and according to our tastes, too. We carry all of the favorite books of our staff. We also look for those special books that readers won’t find anywhere else. We like to surprise and delight our customers.Malaprop's Mr. PuffballMalaprop's League of Seven

MUF: As middle -grade authors, we’d love to know what titles, old and new, fiction and nonfiction, you find yourself recommending to ages 8-12 these days? Linda-Marie: I love Mr. Puffball: Stunt Cat to the Stars by Constance Lombardo, and The League of Seven by Alan Gratz. Lombardo and Gratz are local authors whose reads have a lot of heart, humor, and imagination. Lombardo illustrated Mr. Puffball and her drawings are hilarious!

MUF: Does Malaprop’s have any activities or events coming up in July or August that would be of particular interest to middle-graders? Malaprop's Harry potter
Linda-Marie: Our big event will be the Harry Potter midnight release party. Too much fun!

MUF: If a family from out of town came to visit your store, would there be family-friendly places in the neighborhood where they could have lunch or snacks after shopping?
Linda-Marie: We are fortunate to be surrounded by family friendly restaurants. Great places to eat are Early Girl, Laughing Seed, Tupelo Honey, and Loretta’s.Malaprop's interior #1






Thank you for talking with us, Linda-Marie.  Readers, have you been  to Malaprop’s or think you’d like to visit?  Please add your comments.

Sue Cowing is the author of the middle-grade puppet-and-boy novel, You Will Call Me Drog (Carolrhoda 2011, Usborne UK 2012)