Kid’s Books and Other Adventures

June 7, 2011

by Rachel Haisley

Mid Year’s Resolution: Join the 21st century by blogging more.

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,

Pictures | Jon Scieszka

October 17, 2008

Author Update | Jon Scieszka

October 9, 2008

His Excellency the Ambassador for Young People’s Literature Jon Scieszka (like fresca!) was here on Monday — BEST DAY EVER! You’re pretty much guaranteed that, though, when one of the funniest men in books comes to your store.

I’m still trying to figure out how to get the pictures of our “new to us” digital camera, hence the stock photo. But I have great ones! 700+ kids doing the ambassador salaam? Priceless!

If you haven’t already picked up Knucklehead, walk run to your local indie bookstore and grab yourself a copy. The publisher has got it tagged at ages 10 and up — and when they say up, boy do they mean it! Everyone from our kids to our grandparents have loved this hilarious new memoir.

As soon as I get the pictures ready, you’ll have a frame by frame recap of Scieszka Day. Till then, go forth and read!

Laughs for All from BEA

July 23, 2008

I just found out (how did I only just find this out!!!) that you can listen to the hilarious, belly-ache producing Children’s Breakfast from BEA with Jon Scieszka, Eoin Colfer, Sherman Alexie, Neil Gaiman, and Judy Blume online.

Not only can you listen to that (though I highly recommend you do that first, even though it is an hour, because it will be one of the funniest and most author-tastic hours of your life), you can listen to tons of other panels as well. If you don’t get to go to these things, this is your chance to get the inside buzz; if you do go to these things, this is your chance to catch up on all the panels you missed.

Sherman Alexie is My New Best Friend

June 4, 2008

Ok, maybe not really. But having just returned from the BookExpo American conference in Los Angeles, with my head still whirling from all the authors, panels, publishers, celebrities, meetings, parties, and whatnot, I can’t help riding the high and telling you all about it.

Thursday night I was lucky enough to attend a party for George Hamilton, of Dynasty (and tanning!) fame, and his soon-to-debut memoir Don’t Mind If I Do. He is as charming in real life as you would imagine, and even more tan (no seriously, he is, words cannot describe). Also putting in appearances were Diahann Carroll and Loni Anderson, who is quite possibly one of the tiniest people in show biz. Philippa Gregory, who shares her publisher with George, was also there, and was fantastic (specifics in Friday). Aside from the amazingness of seeing these people in person, there was a distinctly yummy signature cocktail on offer — champagne and peach nectar — not to mention the largest strawberries in the world covered in dark chocolate. How I love Hollywood!

Friday morning kicked off with an amazing breakfast panel, intro’d by Jon Scieszka, mc’d by Eoin Colfer, and with Three Icons of Literature Sherman Alexie, Judy Blume, and Neil Gaiman. Yes, folks, they were all there. Talk about being starstruck! If I hadn’t already been sitting down, I would have needed to. All were funny (especially Eoin Colfer), the Icons were thought-provoking on top of it, and I think my brain and sides hurt at the end; the former from thinking, the latter from laughing.

Friday afternoon I discovered the perils of walking two miles from the Convention Center to the Central Library in flip-flops, when you’re late for a luncheon. Blisters are involved in said perils; I don’t recommend it. But they were worth it in the end, because it was in honor of Philippa Gregory, who is charming, gracious, jaw-achingly funny, and one of the hardest working historical fiction writers in the business. Her new book about Mary Queen of Scots, The Other Queen, is at the top of the galleys I brought home from LA and will be diving into in the next few days — I’ll let you know how it is!

Friday night I party-hopped from Random House’s bash for, among others, Salman Rushdie (Dumbstruck! Could not say two words! He is my hero!) to the top-secret Hellfire party, which if I told you about I’d have to kill you, and then watched in desperation as the lucky few departed for Prince’s party. Yes, that’s right, the Artist Formerly (and Currently) Known as Prince had a party at his house in Beverly Hills. If I’d thought there was any chance of getting in, I would’ve tagged along, but attendees not only had to have a security check prior to the party, but there were manned gates involved. And probably Dobermans. Since I have a deep and abiding respect for Dobermans, I decided to just pillory all the lucky ones who got to go and get as many details as I could. The fact that I missed hearing Prince perform Crimson and Clover will be one of the few real regrets of my life. Sigh.

Saturday morning started bright and early with a breakfast for some of Random House’s children’s authors, including Polly Horvath and Marjorie Priceman, who are both lovely and so talented. Marjorie read us How to Make a Cherry Pie and See the U.S.A., the sequel to How to Make an Apple Pie and See the World; if you’ve never started off your day with having a picture book read to you by the author, I highly recommend it.

Saturday afternoon was spent largely running around talking with publishers and authors and other booksellers, until I quite literally could not take any more.

Saturday night was the Little, Brown Young Readers party at the Oviatt Penthouse — an AMAZING piece of LA history and architecture, and how often do you get to attend a party on a roof? If you’re me, never — in honor of Trent Lee Stewart (who was great to see again) and Sherman Alexie, Paul Fleig, Pseudonymous Bosch, Todd Parr and Lisi Harrison. Sherman is too much fun for words, and was very nice to me, mostly because of Sara Zarr I think (thanks, Sara!), and drew me a picture on the back of a coaster that I will be framing and hanging in a place of honor, then pointing out to others until they are sick and tired of being shown it. And then I will sell it on eBay.

No, I won’t — sorry folks, you’ll have to get your own hand-drawn coaster. Maybe when he comes for his next book, Radioactive Love Song (of which I have read the teaser, which was not at all fair because now I have to wait several months to assuage my burning curiosity with an ARC), we will have a big stack of them.

Pseudonymous Bosch and Paul Fleig are also my BFFs — Paul was friendly, sharp, witty, everything you’d expect from the creator of Freaks and Geeks, and also the best dressed man at the party (and possibly the entirety of Los Angeles). Pseudonymous was wearing full cape and mask so that us attendees can’t reveal his identity on our blogs (ahem), but every now and then a hand would emerge to sign a coaster and then you’d get shooed along by a publicist.

Ok, that’s also not true, but I’m really not allowed to say anything much about him other than that I can’t wait for him to visit our store.

After all that, it was back to the Library for a FSG party on behalf of too many authors to name. I couldn’t wait for this one, because the amazing Mary Pearson was there. I’ve been ranting and raving about her book Adoration of Jenna Fox (published! on our shelves! come buy it immediately!) to anyone who will listen and then some that won’t. She is too sweet for words, and just about made me cry talking about her inspiration. I’ve been promised that she’ll stop our way as soon as she can, so cross your fingers that it’s soon!

And that’s all that’s fit to blog — the rest was really meetings, meetings, and more meetings, all of which were great and will probably take me several weeks to mentally digest. Don’t you wish you were a bookseller too?