Indie Spotlight: Stone Alley Books, Galesburg IL

We’re talking today with Ben Stomberg, founder-owner- manager of Stone Alley Books & Collectables (www.facebook.com/stonealley)  one of  a growing number  of small town independent bookstores created  by people who simply believe their town should have a bookstore you can visit in person.  I’m especially grateful for this one because it’s in the town where I grew up, which always had at least one bookstore that served Galesburg and surrounding smaller towns until a certain chain came in, outcompeted the locals, then failed and closed.  You know, that story.

Stone Alley logoMixed-up Files: Everybody who opens an independent bookstore has a bookstore dream, and that’s what makes each one unique. What was/ is yours?
Ben
: When I moved back to Galesburg in 2007 I thought, “It’ll be OK. There’s a bookstore and a Starbucks. I’ll Be Fine.” Then the bookstore closed and the Starbucks followed. Finding a better coffee shop wasn’t difficult, but living in a town of thirty-some thousand with no bookstore was more than I could handle.

MUF: Stone Alley is the only full bookstore in the area. How does knowing that shape what you do?
Ben:
When we first opened, I wanted Stone Alley to be a universal bookstore with a little bit of something for any kind of reader. But being a small brick and mortar shop in a small town, it’s difficult to have a deep enough selection in every genre. I began to specialize more in fiction and Young Adult and Kids Stone Alley, too many booksbooks. We lean on special orders and a loyal customer base that prefer to order through us instead of on line.

MUF: Congratulations on your move to a bigger store on Main Street this year. What have you added and changed in the process?
Ben:
When we moved to Main Street, Stone Alley merged with the local gaming store, For The Win. So we have added a wide selection of board games and card games such as Magic: The Gathering and YuGiOh. These things compliment our selection of comics that has grown steadily over the past 5 years. We’re a One Stop Geek Shop now.Stone Alley new front?

MUF: How do you help connect readers with books they will enjoy? Ben: I rely heavily on suggestions from my other customers. Nothing has ever interfered with my personal reading time like owning a bookstore has! So, even though I try to follow reviews and sales trends, my best tool is my customers. Being in such a small town, all of my regulars tend to “review” their last purchase when they come back in. That’s what I lean on the most when customers ask about titles or authors that I haven’t read.

MUF: Since we’re middle-grade authors, we have to ask: what titles, old or new, fiction or nonfiction, Stone alley drogdo you find yourself recommencing to readers aged eight to thirteen these days ?Stone Alley Magic Treehousestone alley blume
Ben:
Besides You Will Call Me Drog?
Honestly, the kids around here know exactly what they want before they walk in, or they’ve given their
grandparent/parent/aunt/uncle a specific list of titles lite Wimpy Kid, Captain Underpants, Magic Treehouse or Junie B Jones.Stone Alley.  SilversteinWhenever someone needs more direction than that, I lean toward the classics. I don’t have children of my own and my only real experience is with what I grew up reading. But, parents love to find the books they loved to share with their kids. It’s hard to go wrong with Judy Blume, Shell Silverstein, Dr Seuss or Charlotte’s Web.Stone Alley new interior

MUF: If a family from out of town visited Stone Alley Books, would there be family-friendly places nearby to get a snack or meal? And if they could stay awhile are their some unique places and activities in Galesburg that they shouldn’t miss?
Ben:
The Landmark Cafe and Creperie and Q’s Cafe are both within a block of the shop. There is also the Discover Depot Children’s Museum and the Galesburg Railroad Museum. We host the Railroad Days festival on the 4th weekend in June and the National Stearman Fly-In every September.

Thanks, Ben , for telling us  about your store.  Best wishes for your continuing success.  Readers, do visit Stone Alley Stone Alley logo #2if you’re in that neck of the woods, especially if you have a geek in tow!

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

Winner

Our winner of “The Mothman’s Curse” is

Laura Shovan

Prepare to get creeped out, Laura! And many thanks to all who left comments.

The timeless intrigue of Greek myths

athena the brain have a hot time hades hound of hades new olympians chronus chronicles

Bigger than life characters, epic battles, good versus evil, outlandish monsters and over-the-top family strife are just a few reasons Greek myths are now — just as they have been for generations — absolutely irresistible for middle grade readers. And while no kid wants to hear this now, getting a grounding in Greek tales will serve these young readers well the rest of their lives. So many references in literature (Shakespeare, for one) and pop culture have roots in these myths, and they’ll also provide fodder for kids’ own stories and interpretations.

If Percy Jackson and the Olympians first reeled your reader to Poseidon, Zeus, and Athena, you may be wondering what books to grab next. Or maybe your reader likes the idea of Greek myths, but isn’t really sold on the whole Percy Jackson thing. Either way, here are some ideas for what to read next:

Joan Holub and Suzanne Williams’ Goddess Girls series is pure delight. Readers can start with any in the series (and then devour all others); one of my favorites is Athena the Brain, which is also first in the series. Athena, 12, is ordered to go to Mount Olympus Academy (where Zeus is principal) where she juggles academics, her social life, and proving her intellect by ending the Trojan War.

Have a Hot Time, Hades! is a one of the many greats in Kate McMullan’s Myth-o-mania series. In this story with a modern twist, Hades tells his own version of how he became King of the Underworld and Zeus became King of the Gods.

Speaking of Hades, new this year in Lucy Coates’ Beasts of Olympus series is Hound of Hades. Having proven himself capable of caring for the mythical creatures that dwell on Olympus, eleven-year-old Demon is summoned by the great god Hades to the Underworld to tend to Cerberus, the three-headed dog Guardian of the Underworld, which has been beaten by Demon’s nemesis, Heracles.

In The New Olympians (Pegasus series) by Kate O’Hearn, Pegasus and Emily investigate a series of incidents back on Earth, and discover that the CRU has been cloning Olympians. Science (STEM) and myths!

One more don’t miss series is The Chronus Chronicles by Anne Ursu (where one of the doors to the Underworld is located under the Mall of America). The Shadow Thieves is first in the series: After her cousin Zee arrives from England, 13-year-old Charlotte and he must set out to save humankind from denizens of the underworld, Nightmares, Death, Pain, and a really nasty guy named Phil.

greek mythsThere are many nonfiction guides, but the gold standard is still D’Aulaires’ Book of Greek Myths. It was published in 1962 — not quite as old as the myths themselves, but another one that stands the tests of time and interfering Greek gods and goddesses. And if you can get your hands on this spectacular audio book version, it’s read by Sidney Poitier, Kathleen Turner, Paul Newman, and Matthew Broderick. Best yet, use your local library card to get the downloadable version via OverDrive. Listen to a sample here.