Tuesday, July 31, 2012

August Events

Unbelievable!  August is here, I have 2 short weeks left in Boston and 1 week in Buffalo.  Then I head back west to start up yet another school year.  So far the summer has been wonderfully eventful and despite a few ups and downs, I couldn't have asked for a better vacation.

Here are some more events to try and squeak in before summer officially leaves us.

Los Angeles

August 4
* Lindsay Ward presents and signs When Blue Met Egg at Vroman's, 10:30 am.

August 7
* Sarah J. Maas discusses and signs Thrones of Glass, Mrs. Nelson's, 6 pm

August 8
* Sarah J. Maas discusses and signs Throne of Glass, Vroman's, 7 pm

August 11
* Ethan Long, author of Up, Tall, and High, reads and signs books, Mrs. Nelson's, 11 am

August 12
* Suzanne Lazear discusses and signs Innocent Darkness, Vroman's 4 pm

August 16
* Lisa Desrochers, Kendare Blake, and Marta Acosta present and discuss their new YA books at Mrs. Nelson's, 6 pm

August 31
* Josephine Angelini and Anna Carey present and sign Dreamless and Once, Vroman's 7 pm


August 18
* Carin Berger, author and illustrator of Forever Friends, presents and signs her book at The Eric Carle Museum, 2 pm

August 25
* Jef Czekaj, author of Hip and Hop Don't Stop and it's new sequel Yes, Yes Yaul, will present and sign books at the Eric Carle Museum, 2 pm

* All Books of Wonder events here

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Back to the Future

Will we need one of these to visit bookstores?
I've spent the last week working at a summer camp, trying to visit friends while I am on the east coast, and attempting to keep up on my pretty ambitious summer reading/knitting list.  However, I have been a bit distracted by recent articles published about trends in the book business world.  Today I read this article, The End of the Beginning of Future Bookstores, by Peter Turner of Cambridge, MA.  In it, he describes the trend of closing bookshops right in his small city of Cambridge.  He ponders what a lot of folks in the bookstore world wonder...is there really a future for independent bookstores?  I certainly hope the answer is yes but I have to admit, it seems a little daunting.

As I was reading his article, I noticed a link to something called The Kepler 2020 Project.  This project, started by Kepler's Books in Menlo Park, is redefining the future of the indie bookstore.  They cite a statistic that recent years have seen the closing of 75% of indie bookstores in the US.  Add to that the closing of big box stores and things aren't looking too great.  However, the folks at Kepler are joining with many brilliant minds in the bookstore world because they think that there is a future for the small bookstores.  What is that vision?  What does a future bookstore look like?  They aren't sure yet, but they know that there are possibilities.

One argument I have heard over and over again is that a brick and mortar store offers a community space that online retailers can't offer.  You can see your favorite author at a real store, you can talk to a bookseller about good book recommendations, you can take classes, etc.  A good friend of mine actually suggested we start a bookstore/bar and even though I think it was a joke I think he was on to something. (If it works with coffee, why not beer?) I love a good bar where I can enjoy quality drinks and great conversations.  Why not add books to the menu?  In fact, there is a bookstore in the Washington DC area, Kramersbooks & Afterwards that has a full bar.

This model extends to other businesses as well.  Right here in Cambridge, MA there is a year-old craft store called gather here where the owner not only offers craft supplies but a variety of classes as well. These range from skirt making to Etsy 101.  Virginia, the owner, is clearly thinking about how to incorporate community gatherings into her shop.  Not only does she offer classes, there are many free events.  Pints N Purls, an every-other-weekly free gathering for folks to knit and sip on a drink, and Handcrafters Brunch, another every-other-week event inviting knitters, crafters, etc to bring a brunch-y snack and work together, encourage folks to support the store and each other.  Maybe the solution to small business is creating a tight-knit community (ok, sorry, just had to go there!)

Found this Meetup Group from ON.  A perfect match?

If you check the websites for bookstores that are not only still in business, but are also thriving, you will see that they have a wide variety of classes, meetings, events, and usually some type of food service available.  In addition to creating a diverse community space, I think one of the biggest questions on the table is what to do about e-readers, online services, apps, etc.  I know this has all been on my mind as I contemplate a future as a bookseller.

The Kepler 2020 Project mentioned above is hosting a conference today and tomorrow in Menlo Park.  Sadly, I found out about this just about 20 minutes ago so I can't make it.  I am anxious to hear what comes of this conference and I would love to jump in on the conversation.  I always imagined that Alice, Ever After would be a bookstore ready to take on the challenges presented to indies and also help create a new model for what a bookstore could be.  I mean, if Wonderland offered Alice an endless world of possibilities, shouldn't a bookstore named after her do the same?

What are your thoughts?  Would you support a local bookstore instead of an online service if it meant keeping real sellers in business?  Are you ready to abandon the cheap and easy Amazon or is there a compromise between online sellers and indie stores in our future? Is it all about creating community?

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

So You Wanna Be a Book Supa-Star?

One of my purchases today!
Well, it happened.  Mas and I met up today, we sprinkled fairy dust on our brains and many bookish ideas started flying around!  I joined Mas and Oliver (my bad for not getting a picture of him as he interrupted our conversation with giggles and raspberries) in Harvard Square today.  After a lovely lunch at Clover, we headed on over to The Curious George Bookstore which re-opened this past spring.  More bookish ideas were sprinkled with fairy dust and took flight right there in the store, I swear!

I have always wanted to open a children's bookstore, which is what prompted this blog a few years ago.  Every time I walk into a children's bookstore, or the children's lit section of a bookstore,  I feel that pull to do it again.  This summer I have visited two children's book stores in my travels and both are spectacular.  So, I bring you a review of two of these great stores.  How lucky are you?!

Located at 6562 E. Quaker Street
B is for Books

B is for Books is a store located in Orchard Park, NY.  It is about 20 minutes from Buffalo and just a hop-skip-and-jump from my parent's house.  The store is set up in an old house so it is quite spacious.  They have an amazing selection, everything from the soon-to-be classics like I Want My Hat Back, to those silly books that your kids will always want to read...yes, I mean Captain Underpants.   My nephews, my mom and I found ourselves spread out amidst the spacious main room, all oogling over our own particular niche of books. There were a lot of cozy spots to sit down and read, which my nephew Nate did.  A bonus to this place was they had one room dedicated to books on sale which always helps.  They also had a great selection of adult books for those parents who want to look while their children curl up and read. Nate wanted some books based on movies but we compromised with one movie book and one "real" book, as I put it so he chose a Star Wars book and Captain Underpants (told ya!).  Josh walked away with the latest in the Kane Chronicles by Rick Riordan and I grabbed a copy of Peter and the Starcatchers, a sort of prequel to Peter Pan

The Curious George Bookstore
Located right in Harvard Square!

I was a semi-frequent visitor to the old Curious George store when I used to live in Boston. The new store has a smaller space but as Mas pointed out, it looks like the selection was hand-picked.  They have the best of the best of the best.  Beautiful picture books, lots of new releases, YA lit, and all the classics.  There is  a small room that is designed to look like the house Curious George builds in the story Curious George Builds a Home.  There are also a couple of small nook-y areas for kids to curl up with a book.  There were other things here to grab your interest other than the books.  Being a Curious George Store, you can pick up all sorts of CG swag.  T-shirts, stuffed animals, books, etc are available.  They also feature "Out of Print" shirts, a literary clothing line that I have seen in a few of my favorite bookstores.  You can get adult and kids sizes featuring the cover of one of your favorite books.  Previously I had only seen the classics as shirts, but Curious George features many kid's titles too, and again, in sizes for everyone!

One of my favorite parts of this store is that they featured books made by the kids at Conservatory Lab Charter School which is located here in Boston.  I'll admit I do have a slight bias.  I used to work at this school and it is where Mas and I met 5 years ago.  The kids in the school often produce books (and sometimes music videos about crayons and snakes) as culminating projects.  I was so excited to open up a book and see my former students' names listed as authors!  I ended up buying Get Your Blues On!: a book of poems, collages, and blues songs, because those current 4th graders were once my kindergarten students, and Wonder, because it is on my summer reading list.  Mas walked away with EXTRAordinary Pets and a book that is going to be a gift so I won't mention it yet. 

I know those authors!

One student's artwork... "Keeping it real"
So there you have it.  Western New Yorkers and New Englanders, next time you think of buying a kid's book through an online vendor...stop by one of these fantastic spots instead!

Summer Dragons

Meg is back in Boston!  Hurrah!  To celebrate her return and the return of the red hot summer heat, here's two books that feature dragons.  One ("Chloe and the Lion") Meg told me about over the phone after meeting the author in LA, and it was also recommended by my friend Katherine and her daughter Chloe.  The other book I can't wait to find out if Meg's already seen.  It's a good one, and already a hit at bedtime!

Mac Barnett's book "Chloe and the Lion"- is not quite about dragons, although it almost was.  The author and illustrator (Adam Rex) disagree about what is cooler...dragons or lions, and the fight plays out in the book. 

Parents will find this hilarious even if it is a little over small children's heads.  But they'll get it someday and by the time they are in school, it will help them understand the important roles of the author, illustrator, and characters to make a book work.  I especially love how the illustrators set up the book so it looks like the set of an elementary school play.

A new favorite around our house—makes us all giggle—"Dragons Love Tacos" by Adam Rubin, illustrated by Daniel Salmieri.  This book is a must read for anyone thinking about throwing a party for dragons.  It contains important warnings about dragons and hot sauce...you can imagine what might happen here.  The idea of either an accordion or charade themed dragon party always hits my funny spot no matter how many times I read this book.

More summer reading coming soon!

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

The View From Here

I safely arrived in Boston yesterday and I am super excited to meet up with Mas and have lots and lots of bookish adventures. In the meantime...just went for a morning run. Got to the point where I was supposed to go back home and decided to keep walking. Something about downtown Boston always draws me in. I can't wait to see the Make Way for Ducklings statue this afternoon. Maybe I'll head back at the next bridge...maybe.

Friday, July 6, 2012

A Very Merry (Un) Birthday Alice!

My favorite picture of Alice Liddell...looks
like she is ready for an adventure!
In the past week two Alice's I know celebrated a birthday.  The first was my ridiculously adorable niece Alice.  She turned two and is all sorts of wonderful.  The other is the Alice who made her way through Wonderland and eventually found her way to this blog.  Plenty of adventures for that one too!

The latter turned 150 years old this week.  (Read a great article with pictures of the original Alice here.) It was on July 4, 1862 that Lewis Carroll, whose real name was Charles Dodgson, met 10 year old Alice Liddell on a boat ride with friends.  He told Alice and her sisters a story and used Alice as the girl in the story.  Apparently it was a hit and young Alice asked him to write down the story so she could have it. A few years later the book was published and we all joined Alice on her journey through wonderland.

Mary Blair's illustration of Alice
Alice spin-offs are everywhere.  I personally own four copies of the story, including one a friend bought me from a flea market in Germany, and plan on collecting as many as I can.  Recently, Jon Scieszka and Mary Blair did a new version of Walt Disney's Alice in Wonderland.  I haven't had a chance to pick that one up but it is at the top of the list!  For those of you who love pop-up books, there's a version for that as well! I LOVE this subway map of Wonderland, and thanks to BrainPickings.com for being just as obsessed with Alice as I am!

One of my most recent discoveries is The Story Museum in Oxford, UK.  By the looks of it, this place is very similar to what I imagine for my own bookstore, other than the fact that it isn't a bookstore.  Taken from their website, the mission is, "The Story Museum exists to celebrate children's stories and to share 1001 enjoyable ways for young people to learn through stories as they grow." As of right now they are a non-profit running programs for schools, children, and families.  However, they are trying to secure a permanent home by 2014.  They want to be a home for stories and storytelling and persuade adults just how important stories are.  Be still my heart!  From their vision statement, "We believe that stories are essential for children's intellectual and emotional development so we aim to develop a story-rich society in which children can enjoy a wide variety of stories as they grow." Reading through the rest of their mission, the purpose behind why they started, and the plans for their future...well, it seems we both want to jump down the same rabbit hole!  This weekend they will celebrate "Alice's Day" as they do every year.  Hmm, I wonder if I can get a last minute flight to Oxford...

Happy birthday Alice!

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Butterflies in the Sky...Return of Reading Rainbow!

As I have been absorbing the wonderful humidity of the east coast this week, I've had my eye on the reading world.  I recently heard that Reading Rainbow, the beloved show about the best books to read, has now returned via the iPad!  You can download the new app for your iPad and introduce your little ones to new "field trips," lots of great books, and new motivation to read. 

This new app is an effort brought on by Lavar Burton himself.  After the show was cancelled in 2006 after 23 years of book recommendations,  we were left without a connection to the show, except to find old episodes on YouTube to get our fix.  However, Lavar, as he mentions on the Reading Rainbow website, says he worked hard to acquire the Reading Rainbow brand.  I guess he desperately wanted Reading Rainbow back just as much as the rest of us! As he says, his purpose, is to uphold the "tradition while creating a more active, lean-forward reading experience for your kids."

Well, I say WAHHOOOO!  What a great way to create a bridge between technology and children's literature.  While folks are still trying to decide where they stand in terms of handing kids technology instead of/in addition to "real" books with pages, this app will offer a compromise.  I can't wait to try it and would be interested in thoughts from those who already have.  For those who still want to see the classic episodes, I have heard rumors that all episodes from the original show will be made available.  In the meantime, I think this app is great start...but, you don't have to take my word for it! (Check out the trailer for the app below!)