by Rachel Haisley
Instigated by a half dozen or so customers walking into the store and explaining they needed a book for their nine year-old and a trusted bookseller wasn’t there. Many requests were made for lists of recommendations.
After a good long thinking session, several trips to Caputo’s for pastrami sandwiches (a good pastrami is a rare find) I came up with many thoughts. Many were even relevant.
Relevant thoughts to my predicament:
- Many people trust me with their children’s reading. Wow. (Insert inflated self-importance and a little Charlie Brown dance here). This doesn’t reflect anyone at the bookstore’s competence level; it just is a reminder that many customers have preferred booksellers they ask for. Take for example, Margaret’s following of first graders. Or the ladies who come in begging for Sally.
- I have read enough books to make substantial lists for most age groups, but once the lists are made, I’ve totally blown all the reading I did the whole year and therefore may appear kind of silly when these elementary age superreaders come back for more ideas.
The solution? Blog posts. It might be easy to overlook the bookstore’s blog, but in a technological world; full of e-readers and Internet shopping, I’d like it to be a place people visit and use as a resource.
Here we go. My goal: to somewhat regularly post thoughts on children’s and YA books for readers, parents and booksellers to give advice, thoughts and recommendations (sometimes unsolicited) when I’m not in the store, to connect with readers on the Internet and keep loyal friends/customers (actually, you’re really all friends by now) coming back for more.
Let me introduce myself formally. My name is Rachel Haisley (or Rachel 2.0. There are two of us and sometimes it’s confusing) I’m a Judge graduate at the U who spends way too much time reading books aimed at eight year-old boys. I have a deep fondness for Captain Underpants and John Scieszka. Speaking of, the new Super Diaper Baby is coming out this month, featuring an anthropomorphic puddle of urine, a superhero baby (and his superhero dog) and some very good jokes about various normal bodily functions. This series is great for boys of all ages; but sometimes not so great for parents who have really had enough of fart jokes.
But I digress. Working in the Children’s Room has shown me how interesting instilling the value of reading can be. I watch an eighth grade girl who hates reading become a reader after a few paranormal romance novels. (Shiver, Nightshade, Wings, to name a couple off the top of my head). After months of trying to get a twelve year old boy, full of energy and adventure, to read kids’ fiction, (to absolutely no avail, a very frustrating part of bookselling) it suddenly struck me how boring all these middle reader books must seem to someone like him. I handed him The Wave, an adult nonfiction book about rogue waves, surfing, and climate change. Suddenly, he was absorbed; interested in a way I’d never seen him. I remembered what Margaret told me when I first started working at TKE two years ago; that boys do really well with nonfiction, they get bored with storylines and characters. Give them something real, something interesting, gross, different, and they love it.
For the most part, I don’t care what kids read, as long as they’re reading. I figure they’ll discover the classics once they’ve outgrown potty jokes or vampires. One memorable exception to this rule was a seventh grader who read Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly, an epic, beautifully crafted take on the French Revolution (12 and up. I was enthralled by it.) She came in asking for another, edgier book of the Donnelly’s, A Northern Light, a fascinating mystery taking place in the Adirondack Mountains during the beginning of the 20th century. However, this book has some graphic violence and sex. The girl in question had no idea what the book was even about, she’d just enjoyed Revolution and wanted to read the author’s other works. With a heavy sigh, I took her to the “Edgy” section of the store, where we keep young adult books that aren’t appropriate for the Children’s Room. Books are mostly relegated there for sex, violence, and language. Edgy lives by Speculative Fiction and Graphic Novels, in the corner of the Fiction Room. I like to think of it as a steppingstone for teens as they transition into reading more adult fiction.
Handing the girl the book, I explained she could look at it, but it was kind of scary and had a lot of very grown-up weird stuff. I told her she could look at it all she wanted, but I wouldn’t sell it to her.
I left her to peruse the book. She discovered that she really didn’t want the book, and bought something more age appropriate. Her mother stopped by the next day with cupcakes, thanking me profusely for doing something “no one at Barnes and Noble would ever do.”
Sometimes I do smart things. Other times, not so much.
I’m out. In the meantime I’m reading True Grit for my teen book club, which I shamelessly endorse. It’s 12 and up. I try to do a mix of teen and adult books to put kids out of their reading comfort zone and show them new things. We hang out in the mystery room and talk about literary themes, a novel’s relevance to real life, and sometimes school gossip. Parents are always welcome. See the website, or email me for more details. I also shamelessly endorse my summer reading group for young adults, where we do much of the same thing; only parents don’t get to join. Sorry guys.
Until next time,