Tag Archives: middle-grade fiction

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

Book Heaven

Capstone Booth 2015

Capstone Booth 2015

I recently returned from Book Expo America (BEA), one of the nation’s largest book conventions held at the end of May. Booksellers, librarians, book bloggers, and booklovers gather at the Javits Center in New York City to visit booths where publishers showcase forthcoming books. The publishers give out free books or ARCs (advance reader copies), and they talk up their books, hoping that many people will buy these titles when they come out. Attendees stand in long lines to get free, autographed copies from the authors and illustrators.

Authors and editors give talks and promote their books. I enjoyed attending the Middle-Grade Book Buzz, where editors shared the top middle-grade books coming out in September. It’s so exciting getting to read copies of these books before they get to bookstores and libraries. I’m going to give you a sneak peek so you’ll know what books to watch for at the end of the summer. If you want to know what these books are about, watch Mixed-Up Files for September 2015 New Releases.
doldrums FIB jellyfishRebels

 

 

 

Whenever I attend BEA, I always promise myself I’ll limit the books I take home, but before I know it, I have bags full of books. For three days in a row, it’s books, books, and more books. Then I have to drag those heavy bags up and down the subway stairs. Sore legs and arms are worth it, though, for all the book treasures I bring back.

It probably wouldn’t be so bad if I lived in New York, but then I have to travel home. After three days of collecting books, I usually have so many that I can barely cram them all into my suitcase. Last year I had so many books, I had no room for anything else, so I had to mail my clothes home.

Judy BlumeI have one other reason I love being in New York for BEA week. The night before the conference starts, there’s a huge auction of art from picture book and middle-grade illustrators. It’s a chance to see one-of-a-kind illustrations as well as to meet the artists. This year was special because Judy Blume was there to receive an award. I’ve always been a big fan of her books, so it was thrilling to actually see her in person. My favorites of her books are the humorous ones:

frecklefudge-a-maniashiela4 grade

 

 

 

 

What’s your favorite Judy Blume book? And if you had a chance to go to BEA, what kind of books would you fill your bags or suitcase with?

About the Author

LaurieEdwards_ScuppernongFor the past two years, copies of Laurie J. Edwards’s new books were given out at BEA. She dressed up like a cowgirl to sign ARCs of Grace and the Guiltless in 2014. The second book in that Wild West series, Her Cold Revenge, is coming out in August 2015. She is writing two more books in this series under the pen name of Erin Johnson. Even though she thinks signing her books is lots of fun, she believes the best part of BEA is filling her suitcase with copies of exciting new books. Read more about Laurie and her books on her blog, her website, Facebook, and Twitter (@LaurieJEdwards).

Indie Spotlight: Annie Bloom’s Books, Portland OR

Annie Bloom's extended logo

Portland, Oregon  is a haven for book- and  bookstore lovers, and Annie Bloom’s (www.anniebloomsbooks.com) in the charming Multnomah Village neighborhood is one of the most popular.  Today we’re talking with author/bookseller Rosanne Parry:

Annie B's interiprMixed-Up Files: Who is Annie Bloom?
Rosanne: Originally Annie Bloom’s was owned by two women. The store name is a combination of their first and last names.
Molly Bloom is our beloved store cat. She is an all black rescue cat with the perfect disposition for presiding over a bookshop. She spends much of her day in the in-basket by the register in front of the store receiving attention from customers of all ages with patience and good humor. Annie B. the cat #1She has a few hiding places throughout the store and her food is kept in the basement office, so if she grows tired of the adoration of our customers she has places to escape. She lives in the store full time and is particularly fond of author readings. She often comes to sit among the guests and sometimes steals the show by parading back and forth in front of the author.

MUF: Please describe the atmosphere at Annie Bloom’s. If a ten- or eleven-year old came in for the first time, what would you want his or her experience to be?
Rosanne: Our middle grade section has its own cozy corner in reach of the younger chapter books for kids who are reading up and not far from YA for those who enjoy the occasional foray into older titles. There’s a shelf for new arrivals, and one dedicated to graphic novels of all kinds. My particular favorite is the spinning rack of unabridged classics because MG is the perfect age to discover The Secret Garden, Treasure Island, Sherlock Holmes, annie bloom's sherlockAnne of Green Gables,screenshot_212Annie Bloom's Anne of Gree Tom Sawyer and so many others.annie B's treasure island

MUF: Best-selling adult and children’s author James Patterson has been giving away money recently to support independent bookstores. Congratulations to Annie Blooms for being one of the ones he has chosen! How have you used your windfall?
Rosanne: We’ve completely updated our computer system. It’s been a huge help. Keeping up with the technology is hard for any small business so the Patterson grant was terrific.

MUF: In a small bookshop, there is only room for good books. How do you decide what titles to carry?
Roseanne: The final decisions about book purchases are made by our buyer, but one of the real assets to the store is our staff of more than 20 avid readers. We are a general bookshop carrying fiction, non-fiction, poetry and prose, literary and genre, NS adult’s and children’s titles. No one person could possibly be on top of all those choices so staff members have a balance of favorite areas and help our buyer stay on top of both the great new books and the classics we should always have on hand.
In order to maximize our offerings we usually only carry 1-3 copies of a book. But we order books for customers all the time. If a book is in print we can almost always get it in 2 or 3 days.Annie B's I don't remember the cover

MUF: And how do you help people find books they will love?
Rosanne: Helping a customer find the book is often a group effort, brainstorming a book similar to something the customer already loves, or searching through our data bases for a beloved story when the customer can’t remember the exact title or author’s name. Just yesterday we helped a mom looking for a poetry collection to share with her 12 year old. She had already read most of the good children’s collections and wasn’t quite ready for Mary Oliver or Emily Dickinson. We thought about William Stafford and Billy Collins and Annie Bloom's poisoned applesRobert Frost who many young readers enjoy but wanted a woman poet and after a bit of searching remembered Poisoned Apples by Christine Hepperman, a collection of poems based on the Grimm’s fairy tales and exploring the toxicity of the beauty culture for young women—perfect for sparking lots of important conversations between a mom and daughter and spot on for middle school.
Perhaps best of all we strive to encourage lengthy browsingMolly B the Cat relaxing Annie B's cozy loftwith free coffee, comfy chairs and plenty of unsung gems and local interest books mixed in with the latest best sellers.

MUF: As middle grade authors, we have to ask: what titles, new or old, fiction or non-fiction, do you find yourself recommending most often these days to boys and girls from this age group?
Roseanne
: One of the pleasures of a neighborhood bookshop is the ability to champion local authors. We put a note in our computer system for local authors and mark their spots on the shelf. I love recommending Absolutely Truly Annie Bloom's Absolutely Trulyby Heather Vogel Frederick to kids who are moving up from Encyclopedia Brown. It’s been all joy to see Victoria Jamison’s graphic novel Roller Girl Annie Bloonm's Roller Girltake off, not just locally but nationally. Fans of Raina Telgemeier love it. Other middle grade authors who live in the neighborhood include Graham Salisbury, Susan Fletcher, Laini Taylor, Robin Herrera, Lisa Schroeder, Barry Deutsch, and Roland Smith.
Yesterday someone came in looking for the Little House books and considering reading them aloud to her second grader. I suggested she give Birchbark House by Louise Erdrich a try instead. Annie Bloom's Brchbark HouseHelping people broaden their horizons to excellent books with a lower profile and more diverse titles is also one of the great joys of working in a bookstore.
I also have to give a shout out to the wonderful school librarians who put together the Oregon Battle of the Books list every year. We have a shelf dedicated to books that are on the list, and especially for those of our booksellers who are not widely read in children’s lit, so they can be confident recommending OBOB books all year long. They are some of our best-loved books in the store and many continue to sell long after their OBOB year.

These 8th-graders have dropped in to read to each other from old picture-book favorites

These 8th-graders have dropped in to read to each other from old picture-book favorites

MUF: If families from across town or out of town make the trip to visit Annie Bloom’s, would there be family-friendly places in the neighborhood for them to get a snack or visit after browsing?
Roseanne:
We are a neighborhood shop so many kids who come in are celebrating after their soccer or baseball game in Gabriel Park, or attending a birthday party at the Craft Factory next door. We get a steady parade of frozen yogurt from Necter across the street and home-made fudge from Hatties Candy Shop two doors down. If you’re in the Village for Thinker Toys, then Annie Bloom’s is the spot to get the perfect book go along with the toy. And many a young patient from Zoom Care stops by for a graphic novel to read on their day off of school.Annie B's gift card

Thank you, Roseanne, for taking us inside your shop.  Readers, when you go to Portland, don’t miss this gem!

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