Dec 13, 2007

Bookstore Visits

The Children’s Hour
Salt Lake City, UT
Waaaay back in October, an uncertain weather forecast “grounded” us in Salt Lake City for an expected day-and-a-half. So of course we headed for The Children’s Hour, a terrific store owned by Bobbie’s friend Diane Etherington. Bobbie and Diane first met
through the Association of Booksellers for Children some 20 years ago, and this was Bobbie’s third visit to the store – Laurina’s first.

We didn’t expect to see Diane working on a Saturday, but were happy to find her there. Introductions were made and we had a short conversation before she was called
away to help a customer, so we began browsing the shop.

What began as “just” a great children’s bookstore years ago has evolved into an eclectic mix of books, gifts and women’s/children’s clothes and shoes. There’s definitely a “boutique” feel to it, with books and other items intermingled throughout the smallish space.

We were struck by the depth of inventory…selected titles, both new and backlist, were represented by multiple copies and Diane confirmed that they do lots of handselling. On this Saturday morning the store was full of customers, both adults and chidren.

Both the title mix and the focus on handselling make it clear that books are central here. We were happy to see that such an unusual mix is so successful!

The NeverEnding Story
Las Vegas, NV
We couldn’t imagine there really was a children’s bookstore in Las Vegas (are there any children living in Vegas??!!) but Bobbie thought she remembered meeting the owners a few years back at BEA. Sure enough, we found the address for The NeverEnding Story and couldn’t wait to drop in. Our luck held and both owners were there – Kimberly Diehm and Jennifer Graves, who opened this lovely store in 2006. The “special events” board out front gave us a preview of some of the special events the two put together: story hours, birthday parties, book clubs…

Clean design, wood floors, just the right sidelines and a small play area made the store seem so welcoming! And Kimberly and Jennifer were just so friendly and interesting – they met while both were librarians for the Las Vegas – Clark County Library District.

Probably our favorite thing in the whole store were the children’s book quotes painted on the walls, from favorites like Goodnight Moon and Where the Wild Things Are.

Changing Hands Bookstore
Tempe, AZ
We loved this store before we even went in, because it is connected to a great restaurant called the Wildflower Bread Company – we had been to one in Sedona, AZ and just loved it! So, after you finish your fabulous breakfast or lunch, you can stroll right through the connecting arch and spend the next three hours exploring the bookstore, like we did.

Changing Hands was the Publisher Weekly Bookseller of the Year 2007, and they deserve it. Truly one of the fabulous independent stores that we bookpeople can’t resist, with lots of Booksense signage and handouts. They had a “help wanted” sign up and we briefly considering it, just for the chance to hang around in this amazing atmosphere.

We have NEVER been in a bookstore with this many amazing sidelines and yes, we did make a few purchases.

The kid’s section was just as fabulous as the rest, with deep, deep backlist, many face-out titles and these 2 wonderful signs: “New Essentials” and “Forever Favorites.” You’ve got to love a store that sells the Hornbook in the magazine section, too.

Saw a new Tolkien book, which with the news that Peter Jackson is going to make The Hobbit, has me fired up to read them all again, and watch them all again. I still remember the THRILL of reading The Hobbit for the first time, in 7th grade.

Dec 3, 2007

Some Book Reviews

Superheroes, written and illustrated by Maxwell Eaton III, Knopf/Random House,early reader
The adventures of Max (a boy) and Pinky (a pig) continue in this second episode. They decide to play superheroes, first practicing the right moves and dressing the part, and then becoming Mighty Max and his sidekick. “Wait, ‘stubby sidekick’?” Pinky gets mad over his second rate status and quits, but when he discovers Max in trouble, he’s able to prove just what a first rate superhero he is. The text is laugh-out-loud funny with much of the humor taking place via speech balloons. My favorite is while they’re trying on superhero outfits and Max asks “How come you get the good hat?” (Well, you have to see the illustration!)The bold, brightly colored art and black outlined figures add to the fun. Kids will relate easily to the ups and downs of these “best buds”.

Samsara Dog, written by Helen Manos and illustrated by Julie Vivas, Kane/Miller Book Publishers, picture book
Few picture books combine sadness, suffering, love and joy like this one. Based on the Buddhist concepts of Samsara and Nirvana, the many lives of Dog are presented as a natural process that children can easily grasp and understand. When we first meet Dog he’s living on the streets, loving and trusting no one. In later lives his circumstances vary – he’s with a motorcycle gang, a mountain rescue team, a juggler, four lively, young girls – and the relationship he has with each owner shifts a bit. Lastly, Dog learns the most important lesson of all as he lives a full and happy life with a boy who loves him and depends on him throughout the boy’s adulthood. Julie Vivas’ soft watercolors capture the emotionality of each of Dog’s lives, significantly adding to the story.
It was hard to read this without an “adult” head or without some anthropomorphizing on my part -- I’m such a dog person. Each reading brought tears because there’s no denying this is a sad book but there’s hope too, and I felt such comfort and joy knowing that Dog knew compassion.

Front Porch Tales and North Country Whoppers, written and illustrated by Tomie dePaola, Putnam/Penguin USA, picture story book
DePaola celebrates his love of northern New England in this modern tall-tales collection of stories and jokes. The humorous tales are arranged by season and each section ends with a cartoon-strip depicting a tourist’s interaction with the locals. DePaola’s familiar illustrations appear throughout, focusing on the beautiful landscape and the taciturn, practical people. His use of regional dialect like “fahmah” and “hewse” adds to the down home flavor of the tales. You don’t have to be a New Englander to enjoy this collection!