Category Archives: Indie Spotlight

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: Edmonds Bookshop, Edmonds, WA

This month’s Indie Spotlight is Edmonds Bookshop, located in the heart of the city of Edmonds, Washington, on the beautiful Puget Sound just North of Seattle. As their website says, they’ve been “Finding Good Homes for Books since 1972.”

EdmondsBookshop_holiday

If there’s a book you’ve been wanting, Edmonds Bookshop can help you. If there’s a book you’d recommend to others, they’ll lend a listening ear as well. Their children’s collection is tucked into a cozy nook that’s welcoming for browsing.

EdmondsBookshop_interior_upstairs     EdmondsBookshop_interior_front

Owner Mary Kay Sneeringer graciously shared with us about her shop.

MUF: Can you tell us what being an independent bookseller means to you? What does it allow you to do for your clients?

Mary Kay: Being an independent bookseller means I can bring any book into the store that I think will delight, intrigue, provoke or enlighten my customers. I learn so much from the readers who buy books from us. Remembering the stories they tell me, the books they have recommended in the past and their responses both to what they are reading and what is happening in the world informs many of the decisions I make about which books to carry.

MUF: What would you like people to experience when they walk through the doors of your shop?

Mary Kay: People who love books feel safe and comfortable in the right kind of bookstore. I hope people walk in and feel at home. I want them to be intrigued and to see books that they want to read on every shelf. The walls are lined with great stories just waiting for a reader to find them. Ideally, a browser will pick up a book and slip into its world losing all sense of time, falling under the spell of the author.

MUF: You stock a great selection of reads for young people, and we think it’s really cool that you offer a wide range of used books as well. Can you share with us some other ways your bookshop focuses on kids, in particular your middle grade readers?

Mary Kay: Middle grade readers often discover a certain author or genre and are extremely loyal. They can be reluctant to try something new. It is great when we can describe a book they haven’t tried yet in a way that makes them willing to take a chance on the unknown. When we get it right they come back, ready to trust us on another recommendation. We have a great resource in one of our staff members who is a children’s librarian and stays abreast of all that is happening for young readers.

MUF: What are some favorite middle grade reads, old or new, fiction or nonfiction, that you would recommend to our readers?

Mary Kay recommends: 

Wonder by R. J. Palacio,                                Three Times Lucky by Sheila Turnage

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Walk Two Moons by Sharon Creech              Johnny Tremain by Esther Forbes

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Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle            The Apothecary by Maile Meloy

18131                                                                       10481268

All the Harry Potter books

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And, she says, The Worst Case Scenario Ultimate Adventure series is great for learning survival skills in a choose your own adventure format.

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MUF: Any upcoming events you’d like us to pass on?

Mary Kay: Small business Saturday is November 29th, it’s a great day to show support for local, independent businesses. Tree lighting is that evening at 4:30.

We have expanded hours during the holidays. We are open Monday -Friday 10-8, Saturday 9-8 and Sunday 10-5. Saturday afternoons in downtown Edmonds will be very festive with a free decorated trolley, roving elves, a selfie-Santa, singers and lots of light and cheer. We wrap your purchases for free. Take it easy, make Edmonds downtown your holiday tradition.

MUF: Thanks very much, Mary Kay, for sharing about books with us. We had a good time visiting with you today! We hope your shop if full to bursting on Small Business Saturday.

Valerie Stein is author and publisher at Homesostasis Press. She’s currently at work on a middle grade historical mystery.

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)