Author Archives: Sue Cowing

Indie Spotlight: BookEnds, Kailua, Hawaii

Today we’re talking with Pat Banning, owner and manager  of BookEnds , the only independent general interest bookstore on Honolulu’s island of Oahu.  Kailua, a short trip through a mountain tunnel from Honolulu, is noted for its great BookEnds front #2beaches, but also for its charming local shops, of which BookEnds (www.facebook.com/pages/BookEnds) is one.Bookends is  crammed full of new and used books—a playful place for all ages, with a special interest in children’s books.

MUF: Pat, please describe the unique atmosphere you have created at BookEnds.
Pat: We really like the shop to be a welcoming, casual, non-frightening place; to keep kids ever-alert for new things and creatures who might have joined the store- even before you can read, a space with interesting things inside.BookEnds Desk critterBookEnds drawing

MUF: Years ago when Borders opened a branch in nearby Kaneohe, many people said oh dear, what’s going to become of BookEnds? But now Border’s is nowhere to be found. And then there’s the whole electronic book thing.   What’s your survival secret?
Pat: I think the secret MAY be in staying just-big-enough to have a reasonable inventory, small enough to be quick on our feet, to make changes that we see meets the demands of our VERY discerning customers in Kailua….our biggest strength is our very very loyal customer-base.

Hanging out at BookEnds

Hanging out at BookEnds

Pat & Friends

Pat and friends

MUF: On an urban island with a population of just under a million yours is THE independent general interest bookstore. Ever consider cloning yourself? Expanding?
Pat: We’d love to expand; we never have enough space to keep our books reined in! And we’ve got some fun ideas for a BIGGER kid’s section, but….. even thought about another branch, but the thinner you spread your flavor, the less taste there is! So, no cloning, but we’re happy to give helpful hints to others…..

MUF: It’s obvious you folks love children’s books. How do you chose what to carry in your store?BookEnds Books
Pat: We try to carry stuff we love, we try to read as much early material as we can get, and we take the really good advice of the sales reps who sell us publisher’s lists. A well-written children’s book should be just as entertaining for a grown-up as for a child, so if we like it, chances are a lot of kids will like it too.

MUF: As middle-grade authors (and readers) we have to ask: what favorite titles, new and old, fiction and nonfiction, are you recommending to middle graders these days?Pegasus Origins
Pat: We love the Percy Jackson series, the Pegasus series, the Copper Dark is RisingSeptimus Heap series, the Susan Cooper books, the Sisters Grimm, the Series of Unfortunate events…there are really so so many great things coming out right now, that it’s hard to keep up…..Harry Potter started a huge demand for Sisters Grimm Mirrorsfantasy, but there is still a lot of reality-based fiction that is excellent……I have to admit that I don’t get a lot of NON-fiction coming Heap Magykthrough the door these days , for middle-readers, anyway.

MUF: Since you carry used books along with new, chances of finding an old favorite in your shop are pretty good. Can you think of some rare children’s titles or editions you have in stock that we might have trouble finding anywhere else?
Pat: We’ve got a really nice cache of Raggedy Anns that you don’t see often, some of the old Ant and Bee books, a few early Nancy Drews, a very old Little Black Sambo.BookEnds Raggedy Ann & Andy

MUF: Tell us a little about your Kailua neighborhood. If a family made a day trip to BookEnds, would there be family-friendly places nearby to get a snack or meal after browsing? What other family activities and attractions would be available nearby?
Pat: Well,  there’s the park, and the beach really close, Book Ends Beachthe community pool and tennis courts, lots of shopping, and Kailua has the gamut of restaurants, from Macdonalds and Subway, pizza of all types, to Indian and Mexican foods and lots of healthy salads. And of course, coffee for mom and dad….and we’re all waiting to see what Target, opening soon! is going to mean for us here.

Readers, have any of you been to this shop?   If not, and if you’re planning a visit to Honolulu, do include that trip over the Pali to Kailua for a book-lover’s holiday.  If you live on Oahu  already, why not un-chain yourself and drive to the windward side to experience a real bookstore!

 

Sue Cowing is the author of the middle-grade puppet-and-boy novel, You Will Call Me Drog (Carolrhoda 2011, Usborne UK 2012, HarperCollinsUK, 2013).

 

 

 

 

 

BookEnds drawing

 

Indie Spotlight: Some Bookstore Myths and Magic, 2014

Bear Pond #6Quail Ridge logo #2avid logo|
Thinking back on the bookstores we’ve interviewed here on Mixed-up Files in 2014, I realize more than ever that independent bookstores are a  children’s-book lover’s priceless treasure, and that the more we value them the more they will prosper. More is more. The things we give our energy and attention to increase.CBW logo
Fortunately there’s good news out there at the moment, so in case anyone’s worried about the future of your favorite shop, I’d like to mention a few persistent myths about the business, then talk about what bookstores offer readers today, using this year’s interviewees as examples.Fountainhead logo

First, the myths:
Myth: #1 Thanks to Amazon and e-books, independent brick-and-mortar bookstores, like physical books, are becoming a thing of the past. Nope. According to the American Booksellers Association, indie bookstore numbers hit a low of 1,651 in 2009. screenshot_1233But since 2009, the number of stores has grown 19.3 percent to 1,971 and indie store sales have grown about 8 per cent each year since 2011.
That’s only partly due to the collapse of Borders. So what’s happening? Birchbark InteriorIndies are taking advantage of the growing buy-local movement, getting to know their communities and their customers Bear Pond #4and offering them a welcoming atmosphere for browsing and events. They’re hiring staff who read, know, and love books, and are eager to make personal recommendations and connections A number of the newer stores were founded by people with little or no bookstore experience who simply believed every town ought to have a bookstore, and theirs didn’t. (Hugely successful MG author Jeff Kinney is currently planning to open one in Plainville MA where he lives).Bankstreet Bookstore

Myth #2 Independent bookstores are too small. I can find a bigger selection at the chain store. Maybe, if you’re mainly interested in the newest books and best-sellers. The chains, in order to stay competitive with Amazon, have adopted a business model that emphasizes more and more sales of fewer titles. Once you get past the headliners, you may be surprised how many good books are “out of stock.’ The indies are doing just the opposite: stocking fewer copies of a greater variety of books.  And of  course some indies aren’t small.  Think Powell’s.birchbark logo

Myth #3 It’s a lot cheaper and more convenient to order books on line. That’s true. If you know what you want, you can order a book at deep discount cross that off your to-do list, and have the book delivered to your door or a giftee’s without ever having to change out of your pajamas. Of course you don’t meet very many interesting people that way.

Now for the magic: why shop at an independent bookstore?

birchbark booth

“Forgiveness Booth” at Birchbark Books

Magic #1: unique atmosphere
People open independent bookstore owners for the love of it and do their best to realize their dream of what a bookstore could be. These stores are what Janet Geddi of Avid Bookshop calls “third places.” Joy and laughter are not uncommon. When we asked Jane Knight back in July what she hoped people would experience when they browsed at Bear Pond Books, she replied, simply “Nirvana!” Elizabeth Bluemle of Flying Pig Bookstore says, “We often hear from people that they like to come in when they’ve had a hard day.” Independent bookstores are created places as much as they are businesses.Birchbark crafts

Fountainhead camp

Treasure Island Camp at Fountainhead Books

Yippee Skippee

Puppet Theatre at Bank Street

Avid frank #1

Frank, the Fabulous Fiction Fan

The free hand of independents can lead to some wonderful bookstore features like the native American art and the Forgiveness Booth (a converted confessional booth with forgiveness guaranteed) at Birchbark Books, the books camps for kids at Fountainhead Books, the weekend performances of the Fractured Fables puppet theatre at Bank Street Bookstore in New York, or Frank the Fabulous Fiction Fan, who was created by a local 11-year-old boy and is Avid Bookshop’s answer to Waldo.

Magic #2: making memories
More and more we understand that what children will remember from their childhood are not the things their loved ones gave them so much as the experiences they shared. Spending hours together at a real bookstore and coming back with personally chosen books is a long-remembered experience.  Avid books front #1

Magic #3: quality, diversity, & surprise
Independent bookshop owners are curators, free to indulge their own good taste. Valerie Welbourne of Fountainhead Books says: “The main thing we look for is good writing.” Unlike chain managers, independents can buy, promote, and display books any way they want. Of course they need to sell books and are aware of what’s current, but they have other considerations too. Flying Pig paintingAs Elizabeth Bluemle of Flying Pig books says “I can stock some quirky title that no one’s ever heard of and keep it on the shelf forever if I want to.” What that means for us is that in any independent store you will find some titles that are available almost nowhere else. (That is certainly true of the Dakota, Ojibwe, and Lakota language books at Birchbark Books).

Magic #4: finding your people (and your book)
Indie booksellers aren’t trying to sell you reading devices or a company line. They’re passionate about books and their favorite thing is to talk with you about books you might enjoy and help you find the one that’s yours. They care about their community, and when you buy your books there, the profits stay home.
Most indies have a soft-spot for children’s books and their readers, especially for middle-graders. When we asked this year’s shops for their recommendations of middle-grade books, of course they mentioned the well-known and the award winners, but also some lesser known new and old favorites of theirs and their visitors. I’ll list some of these again, in hopes you may find among them something new to you, but you:

From Avid Bookshop, Athens GA (www.avidbookshop.com): Stephan Pastis’ Timmy Failure books, Frostborn by Lou Anders, and anything by Avid Timmy FailureJennifer Holm. (The Fourteenth Goldfish is now widely reviewed and praised, but I first learned about it from screenshot_1351Bank St. Carrot JuiceAvid Bookshop.)Avid Frostborn

From Bank Street Books New York NY (www.bankstreetbooks.com): The Real Boy by Anne Ursu, Flora and Ulysses by Kate DiCamillo, The Year of Billy Miller by Kevin Henkes, Carol Weston’s Ava and Pip , and Julie Sternberg’s Like Carrot Juice on a Cupcake.

From Bear Pond Books, Montpelier VT (www.bearpondbooks.com): The Meaning of Maggie by Bear Pond Meaning of MaggieBear Pond  Return of ZitaMegan Jean Sovern, The Great Greene Heist by Varian Johnson, The Return of Zita the Spacegirl by Ben Hatke, and anything by Steve Jenkins or Linda Urban.

From Birchbark Books, Minneapolis MN (www.birchbarkbooks.com): How I became a Ghost, by Tim Tingle, Wolf Shadows by Mary Cassanova, Summer of the Wolves by Polly Carlson-Voiles, and Black Elk’s Vision, a Lakota Story, by S.D. Nelson.Birchbark How I Became a Ghost

From Children’s Book World, West Los Angeles CA (www.childrensbookworld.com): The Neddiad by Daniel CBW Neddiadcbw how they croakedPinkwater, Home of the Brave by Katherine Applegate, How They Croaked:

Home of theBrave

Home of theBrave

The Awful Ends of the Awfully Famous by Lesley M. M. Blume, Temple Grandin, by Sy Montgomeery and Temple Grandin, and Left for Dead: A Young Man’s Search for Justice for the USS Indianapolis by Pete Nelson.

From Edmonds Bookshop, Edmonds WA (www.edmondsbookshop.com) some old favorites10481268Walk Two Moons by Sharon Creech , Johnny Tremain by Esther Forbes and Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle, plus Maile Meloy’s The Apothecary.

From Flying Pig Bookstore, Shelburne VT (www.flyingpigs.com):
Understood Betsy by Dorothy Canfield Fisher, Swallows and Amazons by Arthur Ransome, Neil Gaiman’s Fortunately the Milk and The Dolphins of Shark Bay by Pamela S. Turner.Dolphins of Shark BayFountainhead: Inventor's secretfountainhead snicker of magicFortunately the milk

 

 

From Fountainhead Bookstore, Hendersonville NC (www.fountainheadbookstore.com): Chaos Walking trilogy by Patrick Ness, Snicker of Magic by Natalie Lloyd, The Inventor’s Secret by Andrea Cremer, The Shakespeare Mysteries by Deron R. Hicks, and anything Quail Ridge Revolutionby Donna Gephart.Quail Ridge Gooseberry Park

From Quail Ridge Books & Music, Raleigh NC
(www.quailridgebooks.com): Charlie Joe Jackson’s Guide to Making Money by Tommy Greenwald, Revolution by Deborah Wiles, and Gooseberry Park by Cynthia Rylant.

Readers, It’s almost January. Do you know where your nearest independent bookstore is? Go for the joy of it in 2015!   And please, tell the rest of us where it is.

Sue Cowing is  author of the middle-grade puppet-and-boy novel You Will Call Me Drog (Carolrhoda 2011, Usborne UK 2012, HarperCollins UK 2014).

 

 

Indie Spotlight: Quail Ridge Books & Music, Raleigh NC

Quail Ridge logoQuail Ridge Books & Music of Raleigh, North Carolina, now in its 30th year, has received, among other awards, the Publishers’ Weekly Bookseller of the Year Award and the Pannell Award for Excellence in Children’s Bookselling. We’re speaking today with Carol Moyer, Children’s Department Manager at Quail Ridge(www.quailridgebooks.com)Quail Ridge front

MUF: Please spell out for our readers what being an independent shop allows you to do at Quail Ridge Books?
Carol: Being independent means that we hand-select the inventory in the store, an inventory of the best books that is broad and diverse. We can decide what to display, how and where to display it. We decide which titles to promote in newsletters and other advertising. We decide which authors to invite for a program.

MUF: Customer reviews praise Quail Ridge Books as a place where booksellers lead you to the perfect books and can make you a book-source hero in a child’s eyes.   How do you do that?
Carol: The children’s staff stays up to date with children’s books and can recommend titles for all ages. We get to know our customers and their interests, and we help them find books for each occasion. Knowing books and knowing customers is the key.

Quail Ridge Book CakeMUF: I notice your shop extends this to personal shopping service online. How do you choose the books you carry in your shop?
Carol: We order inventory after reviewing pre-publication copies and other materials from publishers. We read reviews all the time and look for more books by our favorite authors.

MUF: Many independent bookstores combine books with or cards and gifts, but not so many with music. Tell us how combination of books and music works with your community of customers.
Carol: Our former owner added a classical music CD department to enhance the bookstore. Great music and great books make a winning combination.

Quail Ridge Jacqueline Woodson

Jacqueline Woodson

MUF: So many events every month at your store, some with signing line tickets!   What’s coming up that might especially interest middle-graders?Quail Ridge Brown Girl DreamingQuail Ridge Revolution
Carol: This month we’ve had Tommy Greenwald who writes the Charlie Joe Jackson series and Jacqueline Woodson with her brilliant new memoir Brown Girl Dreaming. Coming up Nov 5 is Deborah Wiles with her fascinating novel of the 60’s, Revolution.

MUF: You have some fun-sounding book clubs for our age group— First in Series and Middle School Girls Book Club. What have they been reading?
Quail Ridge Charly Joe JacksonCarol: First in the Series Book Club have been reading Tommy Greenwald’s book Charlie Joe Jackson’s Guide to Making Money Deborah Wiles’s first book of the 60’s series, Countdown. The club meets before the author event and then stays to meet the author and hear the program.Quail Ridge Countdown
Middle School Girls Book Club read Brown Girl Dreaming and stayed for the program.

MUF: As middle-grade authors, we have to ask: what are some titles new and old, fiction and non-fiction, that you are especially recommending to middle-grade readers at the moment?  Also tell us about Wake County’s Battle of the Books.
Carol: North Carolina School Library Media Association selects titles for the Battle of the Books list each year. Quail Ridge crowdThis is a middle school reading incentive program that has been very successful over the years. The list includes are range of reading levels and interests, but all of the books have been well reviewed and are on recommended lists.   We are certainly recommending books by authors coming to the store, and then we all have personal favorites.

Quail Ridge-SkinkQuail Ridge BrotherbandQuail Ridge Gooseberry ParkWe like Skink No Surrender by Carl Hiaasen, Gooseberry Park by Cynthia Rylant, Wonder by R. J. Palacio, Paperboy by Vince Vawter, World According to Humphrey by Betty G. Birney, Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart, Brotherband Chronicles by Flanagan, Three Times Lucky by Sheila Turnage, and the list goes on and on and on!Quail Ridge World according to Humphrey

MUF: And our readers’ to-read lists just got a little longer!
Carol, if a family visited Quail Ridge Books from out of town, would there be some place nearby where they could get a family-friendly snack or meal after shopping? And if they could stay awhile, are there other special family activities or sites in the area they might enjoy?
Carol: We are located in a shopping center with Whole Foods and a local restaurant, Tripps. Families are welcome at both places. We are between the North Carolina Museum of Art and downtown Raleigh where there are plenty of places to visit.Quail Ridge logo #2

MUF: Thanks so much, Carol, for telling us about Quail Ridge and recommending some good middle-grade titles. Readers, doesn’t this sound like a great shop to visit?

Sue Cowing is the author of the puppet-and-boy novel You Will Call Me Drog (Carolrhoda Books 2011, Usborne UK 2012, HarperCollins UK 2014)