Tag Archives: children’s bookstores

Indie Spotlight: The Twig Book Shop, San Antonio TX

Twig books frontIt’s always a pleasure to feature an independent shop that has thrived for decades! We’re talking today with Claudia Maceo, manager of  The Twig Book Shop of San Antonio.  Twig front sign

MUF: How did your shop get its unique name?
Claudia: The legend behind the name of the store is that the previous owner had purchased it from a man who had named the store after himself. Wanting to have a fresh start, at a cocktail party the new owner was discussing the options for a new name for the store. As is not unusual at a party where there might be alcohol, the literate attendees tossed around a few quotes including the one from which The Twig Book Shop sprang. Alexander Pope – “’Tis education forms the common mind; just as the twig is bent the tree’s inclined”

MUF: Great Story! One reviewer recounting a visit to your shop spoke of its “innocent charm.” What sort of atmosphere have you tried to create for your customers? twig interior #2
Claudia: Given the limited space, we want people to be drawn in by the warm colors of the wood and wall color. There are winding ways through the children’s section and nooks and crannies along each wall. Our cash wrap is in the center of the store and has a huge old Italian-made chandelier from a previous Twig owner that has been placed in our care. We have two entrances- the front-front door and the back-front door. We do have some quaint hand-lettered price signs and computer-generated section signs that I would hope seem “innocent” or quaint.

MUF: A small independent shop has to/gets to be very selective about the titles it carries. How do you decide what books to carry?
Claudia: We have several publisher reps who have known us over the years who advise us wisely. They, after all want us to do well, too. That, and our buyer has been at this job a long time; Susanna was the manager before I was. Our “floor” staff also are great listeners tuned into what customers are asking for.Twig LondonTwig Sarah PennypackerTwig DiCamillo

MUF: How do you help browsers find “the” book. As middle-grade authors, we’re curious to know—what books old or new, fiction or nonfiction do your booksellers find themselves recommending to middle-grade readers these days?
Claudia: When a customer comes to us asking for a book, we usually look it up in the system first, but then we go to the shelf with the customer. That is where the magic occurs – wonderful conversations about reading likes and dislikes, favorite books read, or in the case of a gift, what the reader knows about the intended recipient. We sell a lot of the award winners, classics and the popular authors like Pennypacker, DiCamilo, Henkes, Barnett, London… there are so many.

MUF: The Twig is known for its strong collection of Texana and Texas history. Any especially fine books appealing to ages eight through twelve?Twig Mysterious TrunkTwig, Boy in the Alamo, Margaret Cousins
Claudia: We have sold over 100 copies of Goodnight San Antonio which includes local sites and bits of history. There is the age-old classic The Alamo by Margaret Cousins, an Alamo A to Z that includes a bit more text than a typical alphabet book, and the Mr. Barrington’s Mysterious Trunk series that fictionalizes a variety of events in Texas history.

MUF: Most long-successful book shops like the Twig have a strong connection to their communities. Give us an idea what you and San Antonio do for each other.
Claudia: We are very involved with many organizations like church groups and schools, libraries, and literary organizations, non-profits and charities. We provide books for bookfairs, conferences, and author visits that sometimes includes making donations of the proceeds to the non-profits.Twig logo

MUF: If a family from out of town came to visit The Twig, would there be family-friendly places nearby where they could get a snack or meal after ward? And if they could stay a little longer, are there some unique sights and activities nearby that a family shouldn’t miss?
Claudia:
We are located at the Historic Pearl Brewery where all the shops and restaurants are locally owned and operated for a distinctive shopping and dining experience. This summer and fall, several new building projects will be completed like an artistic water feature for kids, informal dining, and a shaded plaza.
We are also on the Museum Reach of the Riverwalk which is the turnaround basin for the river taxis. Along this branch, or reach, a bat colony lives under the Camden St. bridge, water fowl make their homes here, and locks make the river navigable from downtown to Pearl. Within a mile or two of Pearl are the San Antonio Museum of Art, the new children’s Do-seum, and the Witte Museum.

screenshot_2228Thank you , Claudia, for telling us more about the Twig. It sounds like a treasure for those who live in  San Antonio and a great place to visit.  Readers, put this one on your map!
And remember, tomorrow is Independent Bookstore Day, so buy a book or two or more to support the stores that you want to thrive.  Independents are the future!

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

 

 

Indie Spotlight: Learned Owl Book Shop, Hudson OH

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Ah, the smell of books!  You certainly can’t get that online.  It’s a pleasure to feature yet another successful small bookshop this month, The Learned Owl Book Shop (www.learnedowl.com,) and to interview its owner/manager Kate Schlademan.
MUF: Learned Owl has recently made an apparently seamless transition to new ownership. What do you feel is special about your shop and what keeps you going?
Kate: Over the years The Learned Owl has become a hub for the community.  Being almost 50 years old, many people have grown up coming to the store and now bring their children here.  We are a meeting place and information place.  We are very fortunate to have tremendous support from our community.screenshot_2205

MUF: Describe the atmosphere of Learned Owl. What to you hope people will experience when they come in?
Kate: The store is housed in a building built in 1867.  It has been a number of different things over the years including a carpentry shop, shoe repair, and art gallery.  We have an upstairs and lower level with lots of nooks and crannies to explore. We always hope people will feel welcome and at home when they enter the store.  Many people comment one two things: they love the smell of books when the walk in and it reminds them of the store in the movie You’ve Got Mail.

MUF: A small store has to be selective in its collection. How do you decide what books to carry, and how do you help a customer find his or her next book?13-Story Treehouse Andy Griffiths
Kate: Deciding what inventory to carry is always difficult, especially when you consider the massive amount of books that are published every year.  It is very important that I understand my market and customers.  I try very hard to have a broad selection of titles for customers to choose from.  When helping people select books, I always ask them what they like to read or what they have read recently that they enjoyed.  This really helps me narrow down where to start.screenshot_2201

screenshot_2200MUF: As middle-grade authors, we have to ask: what are some screenshot_2199 13-Story Treehouse Andy Griffiths Warriors Erin Huntertitles– old or new, fiction or poached Stuart Gibsnonfiction– that you find yourselves recommending to middle grade readers these days?
Kate: Some of my current favorites as well as old stand-bys in no particular order are: The Apothecary series by Maile Meloy, School of Good and Evil series by Soman Chaining, The Thing About Jellyfish by Ali Benjamin, Counting By 7’s by Holly Goldberg Sloan, Three Times Lucky series by Sheila Turnage, Snicker of Magic by Natalie Lloyd, Poached series, by Stuart Gibb, 13 Story Treehouse series by Andy Griffiths and the Warriors original series by Erin Hunter.

MUF: Do you have any activities or events coming up that would be of special interest to readers ages eight to twelve?flamecaster
Kate: We are having a launch party for Cinda Williams Chima’s new book Flamecaster on 4/5.  She is local to the area and we are big fans.

MUF: How do you plan to celebrate Independent Bookstore Day next month?screenshot_2207
Kate: We will have a number of specialty items for sale that day as well as hourly give aways.  We are partnering with some other stores in the area to create a passport of independent bookstores to show how many are around and in hopes of getting people to visit as many as possible.

MUF: If a family from out of town came to visit the Learned Owl, are there family-friendly places in the neighborhood where they could get a meal or a snack afterward? And if they could spend more time, are there unique activities or places of interest nearby that a family would enjoy?
Kate: We have a number of family friendly restaurants within walking distance.  We also have a few game and novelty shops which are fun to visit.  The Cuyahoga National Park is about 15 minutes away and one of the most visited National Parks in the U.S.  There are tons of trails to explore.  We are only about 30-40 minutes south of Cleveland where we have a wonderful Art Museum, Natural History Museum, and you can’t forget the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.  About 20 minutes south of us is Akron which also boasts a beautiful art museum and a minor league ball park which is always a fun option for affordable family fun.

MUF:  Thank you, Kate.  Readers,  don’t you love the idea of a passport for visiting independent bookstores?   If you’re in Ohio or planning to go, you might want to include Learned Owl Book Shop in your itinerary.

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

Indie Spotlight: Blue Bunny Books & Toys, Dedham MA

Today we’re talking with Janet Reynolds who was General Manager of The Blue Bunny (www.bluebunnybooks.com) from its opening in 2003 until 2015 and is currently the Events and Publicity Coordinator for the store.

Blue Bunny logo #2MUF: A number of successful children’s authors seem to be opening bookstores, often in their hometowns.  Please tell us the story of why and how Peter H. Reynolds started Blue Bunny Books and Toys (including where the name comes from).
Janet: Our hometown of Dedham, MA was without a bookstore when Peter and his twin brother (my husband, Paul) noticed an empty storefront in the center of town, back in 2003. This was just at the time of publication of his book The Dot, which has gone on to be a bestseller with a huge following among both kids and adults.  With a big vision for that little space, but no retail experience, they signed a lease and we proceeded to stumble our way through figuring out how to open a business, renovate the space, stock it with inventory and fill the bookstore void in our town.  screenshot_6Blue unny frontThe name is a nod to the historic Dedham pottery which was made in our town in the 19th and early 20th centuries.  It is well-known for the cobalt blue rabbit pattern on a signature crackle-glazed base.

MUF:What kind of atmosphere do you try to create in your shop?  What do you want visitors to experience? 
Janet: We say we’re the little shop with a big mission — to inspire creativity in kids and grown-up kids.  We want our customers to feel a friendly, positive vibe when they come in.  Our current location (we moved one block in 2007) is an old-fashioned space with original tin ceilings, hardwood floors and bead board walls.  We want kids and grown-up kids to be inspired to read, write and create.  We also host a free storytime for preschoolers every Monday and Tuesday morning at 10:30 (except for December), and we want families to feel comfortable Blue Bunny familyand welcomed  in our store.

MUF: Peter H. Reynolds emphasizes the creative process and likes to help others be creative.  How is that reflected in your shop?  Please tell us a bit about your children’s magazine, Hutch.
Janet; Besides the books in our shop, we always make sure to have art supplies and other creative materials on hand.  One of our best selling items (and what Peter always tells kids is his “favorite book,” is the “blank book” — a hardbound blank journal with white covers.  We started HUTCH magazine at the store (now with the additional help of the family nonprofit — The Reynolds Center for Teaching, Learning and Creativity), soon after we moved into our new space in 2007.  The idea came to us from one of our customers, Nancy Marsh, who still serves as our editor. screenshot_6Blue Bunny HutchWe publish twice a year and accept submissions from elementary and middle-school aged kids: art, Blue Bunny Hutch #2stories, poetry, interviews, book reviews, comics, photography and other creative pieces.  Our publication parties are some of our favorite nights of the year, when we get to boost the confidence of our young contributors, celebrate their creativity, and encourage them to keep making their mark!
MUF: Naturally all of Peter’s books are available at the Blue Bunny.  How do select the other books to carry in your shop? 
Janet: One of the benefits of having a small shop is that we get to be selective in what we carry.

Peter signs Stink and the Attack of the Slime Mold for fans

Peter signs Stink and the Attack of the Slime Mold for fans

Yes, we proudly sell all of Peter’s books, and they are certainly our bestsellers, along with his prints and posters.  But we also keep a broad range of books in stock.  Each bookseller at the store is deeply entrenched in the children’s book world, and is encouraged to suggest titles for purchase.  We try to keep a mix of classic titles, current bestsellers and personal favorites in all age categories: board books, early readers, middle-grade and YA.  Fiction and non-fiction — we have a little bit of everything.  Although we carry primarily children’s books, we do also have a growing selection of books for adults, especially since we merged with our local coffee shop, Mocha Java, last fall, and now have more adult customers coming in each day.

MUF: As middle-grade authors, we’re curious to know what titles, new or old, fiction or nonfiction, you find yourself recommending to readers eight to twelve these days?
Janet: We spend a lot of time trying to match kids with the right books for them, so there’s no specific mix of titles that we recommend.  We find some kids are loving non-fiction (the “Who Was?” series is very popular) and others are huge fans of many of the other popular contemporary fiction or fantasy series right now.  Blue Bunny Grace LinBlue Bunny Holly Goldberg SloanI personally love middle-grade books — so it’s very hard to narrow down my favorites. I do always Bleu Bunny Gary Schmidtrecommend the works of Roald Dahl, Kate DiCamillo, Jacqueline Woodson, Rick Riordan, Lemony Snicket, and Grace Lin. Some recent books I’ve loved have been by Sheila Turnage, Rebecca Stead, Holly Goldberg Sloan, Gregory Maguire, and Gary Schmidt.

Blue Bunny poptropicaMUF: Do your have any author visits or activities coming up that would be of special interest to middle-graders?
Janet: Our event schedule at The Blue Bunny keeps getting busier and busier, and we have several that will appeal to middle graders. We have a lot going on!!Friday, March 11th: 4:30 p.m. Meet Kory Merritt, illustrator of the new graphic novel Poptropica series by Jack ChabertSaturday May 7th, at 2 p.m.

Lisa Yee celebrates Wonder Woman at Super Hero High

Blue Bunny Nick & Tesla

Nick & Tesla; Special Effects Spectacular

Lisa Yee will be visiting to celebrate the debut of Wonder Woman at Super Hero High, the first book in her new series with DC Comics.
Saturday, May 21st, 2:30 p.m. Bob Pflugfelder will be with us to share the newest book in his popular Nick and Tesla science series for kids, and he will be doing a science demonstration as part of the program.
Saturday, June 4th, we have a great middle-grade author panel scheduled with MarcyKate Connolly, Jen Malone, Claire Legrand and Dana Allison Levy.

And we’re still finalizing dates for events with Anna Staniszewski, Ammi-Joan Paquette and some others. We’re already planning for the midnight party we are going to have on July 30th this summer for the release of the new Harry Potter book too!

MUF: Please describe the neighborhood of your shop and nearby places of interest for out of town visitors.  Are there family-friendly places nearby where they could get a snack or meal after shopping? 
Janet: We love our little town of Dedham! The Blue Bunny is located in Dedham Square, the central commercial district in town. Blue Bunny car It’s a typical New England town with lots of historic interest. Right across the street from our store is the Dedham Community Theatre, one of the last independent cinemas around. We have lots of good places to eat within walking distance, including Ron’s Ice Cream (from March through October) — chosen third-best ice cream parlor in the world in National Geographic’s “Ten Best of Everything” back in 2007.  We’ve got the Dedham Square Artists Guild for art lovers, a farmer’s market every Wednesday from June through October, and The Dedham Historical Society Museum is just up the street.  And we’ve now got a coffee shop right inside The Blue Bunny!

Readers, have you been to Blue Bunny Books? Dedham Square is only a short hop from Boston, so treat yourself to a visit to this unique store next time you’re in town!

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