Tag Archives: Middle Grade

Indie Spotlight: Hooray! Indie Bookshops are Thriving

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For the new year, here’s a retrospective of bookstores we spotlighted in 2015, recalling a special feature or two of each and a couple of their favorite books for middle-graders.
The shops we featured are all over the country (well, okay, two are in Oregon). Some are new and already doing well, and one claims to be the country’s oldest continuously operating shop. Most are in small or mid-size towns or neighborhoods, and many were founded by first-time booksellers simply determined that their community would have a bookstore.   They thrive by knowing their readers, that stubborn and growing tribe who like to hold physical books in their hands and talk about them with real people who know and love books.
The great thing about independent bookstores is that they’re free to create whatever atmosphere they imagine and to choose what books to buy and promote. If you have discovered a shop you love, support them by going there often to hang out, buy and enjoy. Since each bookshop is a unique experience though, you also might want to “collect” those experiences, seeking out shops in your region and wherever you travel, and taking a middle-grader or two along.
How about one of these?

screenshot_51–Bookends, Kailua, Hawaii (through the tunnel from Honolulu)
Interview  with owner /manager Pat Banning in January 2015, who says the secret lies in being “just big enough.”Heap Magyk
Features: general collection of new and used, but strong in children’s. Lots of fantasy and screenshot_49hard to find older books like Raggedy Ann and some early Nancy Drew .
Pat recommends: Magyk by Angie Sage and The Sisters Grimm series by Michael Buckley

writers block logo sign #5–Writer’s Block, Las Vegas (www.writersblock.org)
Interview with  Drew Cohen in February 2015, who says of the store’s writer’s workshops: “middle-graders are often the most fun to work with.”screenshot_52WB Battle Bunny
Features: a new store, with a woodshop and fascinating artificial bird sanctuary and adoption program.
Drew recommends: Battle Bunny by Jon Scieska and Mac Barnett, and Writing Magic by Gail Carson Levine.

Octavia logoOctavia Books, New Orleans (www.octaviabooks.com)
Interview with co-owner Judith Lafitte in March, 2015bookstore waterfall
Features: It’s not every bookstore that has an atrium with a waterfall or served as a “port in the storm” after Hurricane Katrina.Octavia Ms. RapscottOctavia Imaginary
Judith recommends: Ms. Rapscott’s Girls by Elsie Primavera and The Imaginary by A.F. Harold.

square books logoSquare Books, Junior, Oxford MS (www.squarebooks.com/junior)
Interview with Paul Fyke in April 2015
Features: Called ‘an independent among independents,” it strives to be welcoming with couches and play spaces rather than having a commercial look.Square Books How they croakedSquare Books, Name of this Book is Secret
Paul recommends: The Name of this Book is Secret by Pseudonymous Bosch and How They Croaked: the Awful Ends of the Awfully Famous by Georgia Bragg

Annie B's gift cardAnnie Bloom’s, Portland Oregon (www.anniebloomsbooks.com)
Interview with  children’s author and bookseller Rosanne Parry in May, 2015
Features: Part of the charming Multnomah Village neighborhood. Has a spinning rack of unabridged classics. The store cat’s name is. . .Annie Bloom.Annie Bloom's poisoned applesAnnie Bloom's Brchbark House
Rosanne recommends: Birchbark House, Louise Erdrich and Poisoned Apples by Christine Hepperman
Stone Alley logoStone Alley Books & Collectables, Galesburg IL
Interview with  Ben Stomberg, founder/owner/manager in June 2015 .
Features: Ben went into the bookstore business when the town’s only bookstore closed. Strong in fiction, YA, and children’s books Stone Alley. Silversteinand has a growing stone alley blumeselection of comics. Recently merged with the local gaming store to their mutual benefit.
Ben recommends: ” you can’t go wrong with classics” like Where the Sidewalk Ends or anything by Judy Blume.

Crious Iguana logoCurious Iguana, Frederick Maryland (www.curiousiguana.com)
Interview with Marlene England, co-founder and co-owner in July 2015
Features: Just two-and-a-half years old and thriving. Diverse and globally focused books. Curious Iguana WarA screenshot_53percentage of monthly sales goes to global nonprofits.
Marlene recommends: The War That Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker and The Crossover, Kwame Alexander

imagesBeach Books, Seaside Oregon
Rosanne Parry’s interview with owner screenshot_55Karen Emerling in November, 2015
Features: Monthly Lunch in the Loft series with regional authors. Carries many local authors and books related to the coast.

screenshot_05Once Upon a Time, Montrose CA
Interview with Maureen Palacios in December 2015
Features: The oldest continuous children’s bookshop in the country and never had a better year, Noted for their lively window displays. screenshot_28Décor and screenshot_30music have the more sophisticated child in mind.
Maureen recommends: Crenshaw by Catherine Applegate and Gingerbread for Liberty: How a German Baker Helped Win the American Revolution by Mara Rockliff.

Readers, have you visited any of these shops?  Do you have another favorite you think MUF should spotlight?

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

A Second Life for the Hannah West books by Linda Johns (And a Giveaway)

Have you ever searched for a well-loved book, only to find that it was out of print? Several years ago, former librarian and bookseller Nancy Pearl decided to do something about that by giving a few of her favorite books a second life.

The former Executive Director of the Washington Center for the Book, regular commentator on NPR’s “Morning Edition,” and author of Book Lust to Go, Book Crush, and more, created Book Lust Rediscoveries, a series of reprints for adults. Out of that program, grew Book Crush Rediscoveries, specifically for kids.

This month we’re celebrating the rediscovery of books by our own MUF contributor, Linda Johns: Hannah West: Sleuth in Training and Hannah West: Sleuth on the Trail.

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First, here’s a little bit about Nancy Pearl’s Book Crush Rediscoveries:

MUF: Why did you feel there was a need for such a series of reprints?

NP: I’ve always felt that there were so many wonderful books (both for adults and children) that have gone out of print and I wanted new generations of readers to discover them and enjoy them as much as I had.

MUF: How many books have been given a second life through Book Crush Rediscoveries?

NP: There will be eleven books total. The last one, coming out this September, is Bonny Becker’s The Christmas Crocodile, which is wonderfully illustrated by David Small.

MUF: How many books do you do per year?

NP: Unfortunately, the publication of Bonny’s book brings the project to an end. It’s a bigger job than you might think to do reprints of older titles, because first you have to find who owns the copyright and then track them down. It takes the skills of a detective to do this, involving reading everything from obituaries to Facebook posts. One of my former students at the University of Michigan tracked down eleven of the twelve authors for the adult series—he was terrific at it. I ended up doing most of the searching for the children’s series. I remember trying to find the heirs of Carol Ryrie Brink (author of Caddie Woodlawn as well as the three books I wanted to reprint). This involved calling a county museum in Idaho in the hope that they happened to have some contact information for her heirs. And then you have to hope that they’re interested in having the book reprinted—the authors of at least two of the books I wanted to reprint didn’t want to be part of the project for various reasons.

MUF: What made you decide that a book needed to be back in print?

NP: Really, my only criteria for what books to include were how much I loved them—how much I loved reading them to my own daughters and granddaughters (using my own, well-read copies) and, years ago, recommending them to children when I was a children’s librarian.

Thank you so much, Nancy, for dropping by and for your contribution to literature for adults and children.

Click here to find the eleven titles in the Nancy Pearl Book Crush Rediscoveries series.

Now let’s hear from Linda Johns on the rediscovery of Hannah West:

MUF: First, congratulations that your Hannah West books are back in print. How long had they been out of print?

LJ: Thank you! There were four books in the series, first published by Penguin’s Puffin/Sleuth imprint. They’ve been out of print for three to four years. Nancy Pearl’s Book Crush Rediscoveries program (Two Lions Publishing) bundled two titles into one book (there are now two books, rather than four) and gave them new titles and cover art to differentiate them from the originals.

MUF: Your books are about a girl detective. What were your influences when writing them?

LJ: I’m a big mystery lover (my all-time favorite is The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin), and I’m also completely in love with my town (Seattle) and its many distinct neighborhoods. I wanted to find a plot structure that would allow my character, Hannah, to explore new neighborhoods and solve a mystery or two along the way. Combining those two elements led to making Hannah and her mom professional house sitters.

MUF: Was the character of Hannah based on anyone in particular?

LJ: I based the character of Hannah on one of my favorite girls, who happens to have been born in China and adopted by an American family. I didn’t know of any books at that time with a main character who was Chinese-born and adopted as a baby and brought to the US. In fact, there were very few books that represented the people I know and see every day. We have obviously been in need of more diversity in children’s books, and I’m happy to see that the #WeNeedDiverseBooks campaign is bringing that message to a large audience.

MUF: Did you have to make any changes in the novels to reflect modern day technology or anything else?

LJ: We left the novels as they were, with another round of copy editing and proofreading. They were published pre-iPhone era, but Hannah does have a cell phone for emergencies since she’s a latch-key kid, and she moves so often. Lack of technology in a story makes crime solving a bit more difficult for the detective—and a lot more fun for the writer.

MUF: What has Nancy Pearl’s Book Crush Rediscoveries publishing program meant to you as a writer and a librarian?

LJ: This is just one more way—a quite substantial way—that the wonderful Nancy Pearl advocates for readers. It isn’t a gimmick or bestseller status that will connect a reader with a book; it’s getting the right book at the right time. A book needs to be in print and available for that book match to occur.

Thanks so much , Linda, for taking the time out to tell us about your books. Readers can learn more about Linda, her books, and her book recommendations here.

GIVEAWAY!!

Linda is offering one lucky reader, who leaves a comment, a chance to win signed paperbacks of Hannah West: Sleuth in Training and Hannah West: Sleuth on the Trail. Comment before Tuesday, January 26, 2016, at midnight to be eligible for the raffle.

Dorian Cirrone has written several books for children and teens. Her middle-grade novel, The First Last Day, which takes place on the New Jersey Shore, will be published in June 2016 by S&S/Aladdin. You can find her on Facebook and on Twitter as @DorianCirrone. She gives writing tips and does occasional giveaways on her blog at: http://doriancirrone.com/welcome/blog/

 

 

 

Face to Face with an Author or Illustrator: Why School Visits are So Important

Not too long ago, I was speaking to a diverse group of 7th graders.  They were diverse in every way – ethnicity, size, and even their desire to be in the room. Some entered smiling at me, obviously anticipating this day, the day when the author of the book they’d all read together would visit their  school.  Other shuffled in silently, eyes down, way too cool to care.

The body language of one girl caught my attention. She entered laughing and swinging her long hair. She had the attention of those around her. She was pretty, wearing more makeup than most of the other girls, and she looked more like a high school freshman than a 7th grader. She seemed more interested in laughing with the boys at her table than listening to a visiting author.

I’ve done enough author visits in the last seven years to know that middle schoolers can be a tough crowd. I knew I could engage the ones who were excited about my visit and, hopefully, win over those who were indifferent.

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About half way through my presentation, the girl pulled out a blank piece of white notebook paper. I hoped she was so inspired by my talk of writing that she was moved to compose a poem or short story right there on the spot. But as moved around the room, I could see she was writing a note to someone. Probably to one of the boys. I sighed and  thought, “I can’t reach them all, I guess.”

When the presentation was over, she came right up to me and, to my surprise, handed me the note. She smiled, and then hurried to catch up with the boys.

Here’s what it said, in part:

Dear Mrs.House, (close enough for me!)

Thank you making me feel confident about my writing. Hopefully you know how much this writer’s workshop meant to me. When I came to the writer’s workshop I thought it was going to be just like the other workshops I went to. I had so many questions that had no answers. I cherished all your words. I really appreciate you coming to our school. You answered my questions.

I bet you get a lot of letters but I want to tell you that you make me want to be a writer or at least get started. You probably won’t remember this letter in 2 days but you showed me skills that I will continue to use.

We’ve all heard the many reasons author visits are important:  They promote interest in reading, they inspire young writers, they provide firsthand explanation of how publishing works, they encourage students to become better editors of their own work, they’re just plain FUN!

These are all great reasons for authors and schools to connect. But, I can tell you that at every school I’ve visited, at least one student has expressed in some way a profound connection with either me or my work.  It’s often a student who stands out socially, is awkward, or very quiet.  Sometimes, it’s the one I least expect.  Those connections makes every hurdle schools must leap to get that author standing before that student in that particular moment worthwhile. Those face to face connections cannot happen anywhere else.

Earlier this week, author Matt de la Peña won the Newbery Medal for Last Stop on Market Street.  A couple of years ago, he spoke to NPR about connecting with a particular student a school visit and about how reading changes young (and old) lives. It’s a piece worth reading. Click here.

Many authors’ websites and blogs tout the benefits of school visits. But, I thought perhaps I’d leave you with some links from others who have seen the magic happen when a student and author connect face to face.

From a librarian: https://youthserviceslibrarianship.wikispaces.com/Author+Visits

From a teacher:   http://wonderteacher.com/authorvisitsinspireyoungwriters/

And, perhaps best of all, from the students: http://reederama.blogspot.com/2014/10/author-visits-are-important-because-you.html

And, to my friend at the school I visited not too long ago, I sent a personal reply via her librarian. I had to tell her she was wrong. I do remember her letter. More than two days, more than two months after my visit. I will always remember her. And, I hope she does become a writer. At least, anyway, she got started.

Michelle Houts is the author of four books for middle-grade readers. She has just completed renovations on a one-room schoolhouse which she’ll soon use as her writing studio. She loves to visit bigger schools, too. She’s happy because she’s just booked her first school visit in sunny Florida, and this is the view from her window today:

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