Tag Archives: Lisa Yee

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)

On the Eve of Escape

Here at The Mixed-Up Files of Middle-Grade Authors, we have scheduling fairies who put names on a magical calendar so that we all know who is posting and when. And, weeks ago, when I saw the date I would next post, I immediately thought, “Oh! That’s the day before I escape to…”

maine beach web small

Every year, this land-locked Ohio farm girl spends a week in a cottage on the  Maine shore with nine writing friends. It is often the most inspiring and productive week of my writing year. I can smell the ocean air already!

I began to wonder how other middle-grade authors escape the daily grind. Where do they go to think more clearly? Breathe more deeply?

And, so, I just asked.

Some of you might follow author Cynthia Lord on Facebook. If you don’t, you probably should click on her name and do that now, because she posts thoughtfully and with her heart, and you’ll love following her. And if you already do, you know that she has this great little escape in her own backyard.

cynthia lord's writing shed

Cynthia told me that she got her writing shed (aptly dubbed “Walden Backyard”) after RULES won a Newbery Honor and she and her husband were a bit cramped sharing an office in their house. Cynthia’s escape is close to home, and she loves writing in her multi-season shed. (We would say all-season, but she does live in Maine, and I’ve seen pictures in which the snow was piled nearly as high as the shed!)

lisa yee   Author of WARP SPEED and THE KIDNEY HYPOTHETICAL, Lisa Yee was caught in mid-escape when I contacted her. She wrote back:

“Ha! As I reply to your question, I am sitting in a hotel room where I’ve escaped to get writing done.”

Enough said, Lisa! Now, get back to work and don’t let me get in the way of progress!

I was surprised how many authors escape to water.  Kirby kirby LARSONLarson, author of HATTIE BIG SKY and the new DASH and DUKE, escapes ocean-side to be with the eagles and hummingbirds. It’s interesting that negative ocean ions can positively affect one’s blood pressure!  Thanks, Kirby!

tricia springstubbMixed-Up Files Author Tricia Springstubb echoed the water theme as well. Her newest middle-grade novel MOONPENNY ISLAND is set on a fictitious island. It’s no small coincidence that Moonpenny Island mirrors Kelley’s Island and Tricia’s favorite rocky and remote get-away.  Tricia finds water so motivating, she often swims to clear her head and has solved more than one plot dilemma after coming out of the pool!

Some writers, though they enjoy a good vacation, have found a more accessible escape. Margaret Peterson Haddix (the MISSING series and the SHADOW CHILDREN series) and Marlane Kennedy (THE DOG DAYS OF CHARLOTTE HAYES and the DISASTER STRIKES series) both agreed that when they are caught up in a good writing moment, their best escape is the story itself. Marlane shares, “When I am deep within  a story, I am not even aware of my surroundings. I am transported to wherever and whatever is happening in my story, and my writing escape is more within my mind than anywhere else.”  (Margaret’s escape mode, however, is not entirely waterless. Like Tricia,  she’s another swimmer/thinker!)

Peterson and KennedyMargaret Peterson Haddix and Marlane Kennedy

Lots more  Mixed-Up Files Authors weighted in as well! You can see their pictures and read about their books here But first, take a moment to read about their escapes:

Jacqueline Jaeger HoutmanCoffee shop. Earbuds. Vivaldi.

Michele Weber HurwitzI’m a big walker. Nothing like a long walk to clear my head and work through trouble spots in a WIP.

Greg R. Fishbone – Long train rides are great for writing.

Amie Borst – When my office won’t suffice, I love to sit on my back deck or by the lake. (There’s that water thing again!)

Valerie Stein – On the sailboat! Calm, quiet motion at the dock, free of distractions. (And again!)

Rosanne Parry – Love writing in my treehouse in the summer. Fresh air, lots of birds & squirrels for company and no distractions. Bliss!

Okay, I admit it. I just couldn’t leave Rosanne’s comment without hoping on over to her website to see if, just maybe, she had a picture of said treehouse. And, bingo! Here it is.

rosanne tree house

So, we would love to hear about your writing escape. Comment below and let us know where you go! I’ll try to respond, but remember, in less than 24 hours, I’ll be escaping to…

maine porch web small

Michelle Houts is the author of four books for middle-grade readers. She loves mail (the real, slow, stamped-envelope kind) so she created the 52 Letters in a Year Challenge to encourage writers young and not very young to help revive the art of letter-writing. Visit Michelle at www.michellehouts.com. On Twitter @mhoutswrites and on Facebook as Michelle Houts.

You’ve got a friend in Grandma

Gennari grandparentMy Italian grandmother lived to be 104, and you could always count on her to tell you what you needed to hear. No sugar coating. No blaming either. Just move on and make the best of life.

Every kid needs a caring adult, especially after age 10 when parents start to become uncool. That’s when grandparents can step in. Once preteens stop confiding in their parents, it’s important to have someone who listens.

YeecovercreechcoverThat’s the case in Millicent Min, Girl Genius by Lisa Yee. Millie is super smart but too often misreads how to behave with her peers. Millie’s grandmother Maddie is the one who provides the reasoned voice when Millie won’t listen to anyone else. She provides the crucial guidance, advising Millie to patch up her friendship with Emily: “Sometimes it’s better to be liked than it is to be right.” And my all time favorite grandparents are Gramps and Gram in Walk Two Moons by Sharon Creech.

manzanocoverSometimes the grandmother isn’t always wise. In Sonia Manzano’s The Revolution of Evelyn Serrano, a Pura Belpré honor book, the arrival of Abuela shakes things up. Set in El Barrio in New York in 1969, Evelyn is pulling away from the family life she’s always known. Abuela dresses flamboyantly and always gets involved in causes, which both thrills and embarrasses Evelyn. The occupation of the church by the Young Lords Puerto Ricans teaches Evelyn to embrace her heritage. But she also understands her grandmother for the first time:

“I turned to see what Mami was doing. She was staring at her mother. I was looking at my mother and she was looking at her mother. Mami was looking at Abuela the way you look at a puzzle and can’t quite figure it out. How many times had I looked at Mami the same way?” It is then Evelyn understands the hurt her grandmother has caused her own mother, “like she missed her even though she was looking right at her.”

urbancoverRuby’s grandmother has died in Linda Urban’s newest book, The Center of the Universe. Ruby struggles with her grief and regret that she didn’t listen, just a little longer. For Ruby, her big moment in the Bunning Day parade in her small town gives her the chance to pay homage to her beloved grandmother Gigi. As Meg Wolitzer writes in her New York Times review, “The Center of Everything uses the premise of a grandparent’s death in a surprising way, exploring not only grief but also its occasional companions, anxiety and guilt.”

I love it when books acknowledge the role grandparents play in young kids’ lives. What other grandparent books do you love?