Wednesday, September 29, 2010
And now the best for last! Knuffle Bunny Free
Trixie has once again misplaced Knuffle Bunny -- this time on an international flight. But can Knuffle Bunny really last forever? Maybe it is time to say goodbye to such a child's toy. But, the relationship between a child and that one very loved stuffed animal is more than precious, it is essential! Knuffle Bunny is Trixie's best friend and they did everything together. Nothing can compare to this blue eared fluff of a bunny.
Some prefer not to believe that there comes a day when you outgrow your plush childhood best friend (and the others ones that come along too). Is there one good reason to give up such a friend? And, if so, how? Why?
Mo Willems gives a great persepective on this quandary of an issue.
Tuesday, September 28, 2010
Woman: "...with his cat, Sir Paul McCartney."
Man: "Oh my god, ew."
Woman: "She swears she got it from drinking too much soda."
Man: "Wow, I've heard that can happen."
"Mommy, what are these eyeballs for?"
Man on phone: "I'm sorry, but we're going with another candidate. It's not personal."
Woman on phone: "Well, honey, I can't keep track of your boys anymore. I'm not even going to try. Do you want to talk to your father?"
Woman browsing remainders: "Oh my god!!! They have "Fool" in remainder!! I hated this book."
And then there's the common sight of a screaming child being led out the door: "I want a book!! I want a book!!! I don't wanna go!! I want a book!!" Which is sad for the kid but also kind of cool.
Have a great day!
Saturday, September 25, 2010
Friday, September 24, 2010
Ric's wiry words crunched my crowns
and Unrequited bought my breath,
for the length of the poem I was me of evening rehearsals half asleep classes and timing my passage between so that we could be face to face, just for seven steps. I don't remember where her locker was but I remember her profile, chin up brow down, unnecessary tiptoes as she reached for the top.
Emily's spelling bee socks and her bold-on-the-inside girl with a master plan that makes no sense but will probably work if we can only get the rest of the story, you gotta give us the rest of the story, you know I won the school spelling bee two years running. Can't spell arugala.
Kate kills can you tell when you want to laugh, or is that your throat closing up, which is it, don't let on. The silence that is born out of each poem is correct, neighbors not knowing if something is expected of them. Don't let them off the hook, just say the words with your laughter and rage tongueing the air that delivers them.
Eric took the big names and whipped them around the room so we all could take a swipe from our seats, and they swirled for a moment before coming to rest in a three part harmony of kisses first last and promised.
Shoshanna took us up and set out to reframe and turn around, and her day will taste of Smarties while it waits for chocolate, and no question is really quite answered, even when you ask it twice, right? And friends with bad breath are still friends.
Evan's dream was ghostly and lyric, memories flowing mercurial through phone lines and "waist high libraries", wonderful idea, I imagined snow and sadness while he measured his breath a stately pace, planting each word footfall by footfall.
I don't want to sit here and write, but that is what I'll do. This is the juice that should be flowing in the studio, with paper and scissors and a big tray of paint on the floor before a sheet of wood leaning against the wall, where I'll remember my friends tonight, and what it takes for each of them to get up and open up their mouths so the deep down can be heard.
I hope I feel this good when I get home tonight, so I can pour a cup of this juice, mix it up with what I've got and make a cocktail that burns, so I can sing in fire and color.
Wednesday, September 22, 2010
Leaves are just beginning to turn yellow. I can hear the wind is passing through. Even the thermometer agrees that it is time for apartments to stop feeling like ovens and welcome in the seasonal tastes of autumn. Not to mention that fall is the best time for baking because there are so many delicious vegetables ripening just above the ground. But, I'm not here to comment on baking -- though I do a lot of it (while listening to audio books usually...) -- maybe some other time.
What if you didn't know about fall? Would you think your favorite tree was sick and not getting better? Would you be so brave as to tie the leaves back on to the tree and stop other woodland creatures from taking its precious leaves away?
Meet Fletcher, who is the fox I speak of. The best autumn book out there, no doubt, is Fletcher and the Falling Leaves written by Julia Rawlinson and vibrantly illustrated by Tiphanie Beeke. This year, it turns four. Every time I pick it up I feel the curious essence of fall and the surprises awaiting, especially when winter comes (Look on the last page spread. You are in for a lovely sight!).
If you already familiar with this book, be prepared. Booksmith is getting a new Fletcher title: Fletcher and the Snowflake Christmas. This fun-Christmas book is nearing the top of my list for best holiday books of the year. But more on that later when we get closer to the holidays.
Tuesday, September 21, 2010
The store is truly bustling. A Wednesday afternoon feels like a Saturday afternoon with phones ringing off the hook, customers lining up and lots of questions in the aisles. Part of the reason for this is our amazing fall event lineup that just got going: Gary Shteyngart and Per Petterson last week, William Gibson tomorrow night, and Michele Norris of NPR on Thursday. People are really excited about these authors and tickets are flying out the door. (So call and reserve yours today for our other exciting fall events. Amy Sedaris in November!!)
Obviously, the start of school is also responsible for some of the increase in phone calls and foot traffic. But I've also heard the words "Christmas shopping" uttered in a few of my transactions at the register. You guys are already starting! And I don't blame you. Kerri has brought in a ton of awesome jewelry and bags and fall-oriented home items into the Card and Gift Room. Not to mention cute and goulish Halloween stuff. Yup, it's already that time, too. Yikes. (Seriously? Halloween? Wasn't it just July??)
And don't even get me started on all the new, truly excellent books coming out. Okay, maybe you should get me started since that's the whole point of our store. I'm currently in the midst of Moby Dick, Skippy Dies and The Cookbook Collector and every week I get inspired to read something else that just arrived. There are some seriously good reads on our shelves and we are doing our best to keep those shelves full.
Fall (which officially arrives tomorrow) at Booksmith is exciting and crazy. Come on in and join the fun!
Saturday, September 18, 2010
Thursday, September 16, 2010
My father told me that Out Stealing Horses was less like an exceptional reading experience, and more like being introduced to a new quality of light. He told me that as he read it he was brought back to his boyhood in Maine, to the barn, and to the shafts of light falling through the air, catching the motes of hay dust. I Curse the River of Time, and To Siberia, and, I will hazard a guess, In the Wake, all share that same quality; perhaps none are quite so crystalline as the former, but what Petterson does (and this I am lifting from my father's words, too) is to leave the light alone in the center of everything he writes. Weightless, illuminating light. So unlike all of the things of this world about which we tell stories. About which he tells his stories.
Letting light be the center, his words are quick, his sentences piercing. Petterson doesn't need to buttress a cathedral in his books, he needs to balance needles in the sunlight.
I don't have the faintest idea of what it means to write like that, but to whoever it was that asked him tonight what lessons he hoped his readers would get from his books, that is why I think he had no answer for you. Asked about how he creates his characters, he said that you have to imagine them, and then place your self above them, and then sink your self right down into them, until you can see out of their eyes. The best novels, the best paintings, the best songs, the best people...they leave that space in the middle of themselves, for you.
Per Petterson knows how to write a story in such a way that you find yourself in all the things he doesn't say. His books are cradles built for light, and air, and people.
Wednesday, September 15, 2010
Kate DiCamillo and Alison McGhee's book, it's really here!
The moment I saw Bink trying to put on her new "outrageously bright" striped socks, I fell in love. Of course, I will admit that I have a great sock obsession, even though I wear my Chacos 300 days out of the year in just my bare feet... But, cool socks are cool socks (provided they're not made from cotton), and so are their owners. Socks...socks...socks! :)
Oh, what is this book I like, no, absolutely LOVE? It is written by Newbery Medalist Kate DiCamillo (author of Because of Winn Dixie, Tale of Despereaux, and numerous other awesome stories) and by New York Times best-selling writer Alison McGhee (author of the wonderful Julia Gillian series as well as several picturebooks). This book would not be complete without Tony Fucile's illlustrations. Oh, sorry, the title...is Bink and Gollie -- two girls who have completely different personalities but in the end manage to stay the best of friends.
Bink and Gollie, comprised of three adventures, is a cross between a picture book and early chapter book. In the first adventure, after Bink buys the socks that Gollie finds brightfully painful, they must strike a compromise or else be very lonely (without eating the pancakes). In the second, Gollie decides to climb a mountain in the Andes. She leaves a note on her door: "'To whom it may concern I am on a journey. Thus I am unable to answer the door.'" Bink is baffled, "'Am I whom?' Knock, knock, knock!". For the third I will only tell you that it involves a fish, roller skates, and a bit of jealousy. Each story will leave you laughing out loud -- guaranteed!
Ooh, and Bink's socks show up in each story in very humorous (but practical) ways.
If you can't get a hold of a copy right away, check out this website to read more about the book, authors, and raving reviews while you wait! (P.S. I've heard that Kate DiCamillo bears a resemblance to Bink, and Alison McGhee to Gollie.)
Wednesday, September 8, 2010
I have been a bookseller for about four years now, and one year ago today I began working at the Booksmith. When I worked at Hearthside Books in Alaska, I could never really answer what I wanted to do after I completed my Masters in Children's Writing at Simmons College. What did I want to do at the time besides write children's books? Stay in the bookstore. But is that what some one with a Master's degree should do? NO, people would say. You should do something more worthwhile with your talents. But the minute I stepped back into the book store life here, after one year in the publishing industry, it was like coming home. Unlike many other jobs out there, I literally use my degree every day. And, it's so amazing to hear customers telling others, "She gives great recommendations for kids' books. Ask her."
Book selling is not a lazy job nor is it standing behind a cash register all day. My brain is constantly working with shelving books into a giant Tetris puzzle (more commonly known as the shelves that have a specific order to them), speaking with customers and unraveling the mystery about which book they saw on display two months ago about animals... (it was the Chicken Thief), what book would be good for a reluctant reader who is trapped in the world of television, what book would be challenging for a ten year old who can read a 200 page book in one sitting, and much more. Of course there are days when I'd rather hide in a box in the back and read, especially when overly demanding persons come in, when it's so loud in the kids' section I want to go ask for ear plugs, or when my allergies invade my insides, but alas.... Though, I am well stocked in books -- new and old -- for when I am not on the clock.
Over this past year, I've also been exploring the world of book buying. Learning from our fabulous book buyers and publisher reps has been an amazing experience. It's always an interesting puzzle to be constantly thinking: would our customers enjoy this? A few books don't make it and are returned to the publisher to seek out a home elsewhere. Others turn into favorites and it's a marathon just to keep them on the shelves.
Do I love my job? Absolutely! The best part? Introducing new books to readers, kids telling me about their favorite books, and customers asking for me because I gave a friend of a friend the perfect recommendation -- it's the appreciation there and presenting something that is highly worthwhile.
Tuesday, September 7, 2010
I can't really change it anyway, without making what might appear to be intrusive efforts.
I've had some success in wrestling my mind into a postition from which it seems to be just a new facet of human nature; perhaps the technological evolution has fostered, and is finally revealing, a hitherto hidden part of our special human makeup.
Because I don't think it's likely that very many of our ancestors would walk into a quiet hall, or cave, and chatter away to an absent person at full volume, for more than ten or fifteen minutes, oblivious to the dozen other occupants who are holding their silence all the while.
Besides the obvious problem with it, it just wouldn't have been safe.
So somewhere humans are getting the idea that we can turn off our perceptions and move about freely in the world, in the full expectation that things will fall into place for us just before we get there. I don't agree, but here I am at the register, and there you are standing ten feet away, telling your phone that you shouldn't be talking in the store anyway, and you're about to get in line, so we need to finish this up. But you really need to talk about next week's lunch date, and you need to give a half-hearted pep talk about that promotion. And before you know it you aren't waiting to get in line, you are on your way out of the store, and if someone out there gently but firmly removed your phone from your ear at that moment and put a few questions to you about your super-recent past, I have serious doubts as to whether you would remember me at all, or the ill-fitting grey suit that I might very well have been wearing, or the fact that I was trying out my impression of Rowan Atkinson as Mr. Bean during the entire transaction, or the fact that I had put twelve cloves of garlic in your bag along with the book, dropping them in one at a time with dramatic flourishes, counting them off like I were Mr. Bean silently imitating The Count on Sesame Street.
Because you didn't laugh, in fact you hardly even looked at me, and I worried that maybe I wasn't being funny. But then I thought, no, no, I'm actually really very funny.
Sunday, September 5, 2010
Saturday, September 4, 2010
Friday, September 3, 2010
She said that having a teenager live rent-free in our apartment with us, in exchange for taking care of our children while we are off at our full-time jobs, is a luxury, and that we should be paying for child care like everyone else does, so if we can't afford to do that now then she should just go out there and get, you know, another job.
The person who takes care of my two beautiful children is in danger of being pushed out of our lives, the pawn in some pathetic little condo association flare-up. Our landlords are backing us up 100%, and we will now,
oh it feels sweet (and awful) to be saying this,
be staying there out of spite.
You know, for the kids.
For the kids. If you are a thinking person in America today, you probably have either a lot of ideas, or else absolutely none, about what is right for the kids. No lie, kids are in a tough spot. Our expectations for our children are at the same time astronomical and in the gutter. Directives concerning the emotional, mental, and physical health of children are ricocheting pinballs, and parents are stranded out there under the observation glass waiting, and by now needing, to get whacked with it over and over by the Parental Panic Industry whose various hands are tapping out a diabolical rhythm with the paddles.
With all of that on my mind, there's one more problem with which I'm wrestling today, and it's right here in this store. Nobody has bought a copy of a certain young Irishman's novel. Skippy Dies by Paul Murray is an honest, compassionate look at the world kids find themselves in today, and how they make sense of it. So there's a lot of unnecessary medication, prescription drug abuse, an ocean of pornography, startlingly casual sex acts, eating disorders, bullying, and celebrity fetishes. Behind that there's parents trying to buy off or coerce their kids into growing up into what they consider to be the right sort of person, the sort who will make them feel like they themselves haven't turned out to be the wrong sort of person. There's the fear - and actuality - of sex abuse by the teachers (the setting is an Irish Catholic boys' school), and the blind greed of the administration, willing to risk the education of a generation of young minds for the cause of maintaining the brand image of the institution. There are disturbing World War I historical revelations, and deep thought about the topography of the universe, and illicit schoolboy science experiments that attempt to reach parallel universes and beyond the grave, and for much of the book you're bouncing around inside the head of: a sociopath, a sex symbol, a geek, a cynic, a sweet naive boy, a tortured genius, and a young teacher whose stunted maturation and inability to take risks have brought him back to the site of his own troubled schoolboy years, and will introduce him to worlds of hurt. They will all have opportunity to change everything, but only some will find the way.
The narrator is supremely confident in his rendering of these characters, and the questions he puts to them via the unfolding of his plot are the questions that we are all asking all the time.
How can children comprehend the world and themselves when we are relentlessly surrounding them with ways to wall themselves off from everything? And now that we're worried that they're each capable of going off at any second and shooting the place up, how can, or should, teachers really connect with them? And is love, which floats in the margins of every page in this book, a force that can puncture the bubble of unreality we each construct around ourselves?
Or is it, as one kid puts it:
"...love, if it exists at all, does so primarily as an 'organizing myth', of a similar nature to God. Or: love is analogous to gravity, as postulated in recent theories, that is to say, what we experience faintly, sporadically, as love is in actuality the distant emanation of another world, the faraway glow of a love-universe that by the time it gets to us has almost no warmth left."
It's a marvelously good book to read. It will make the final cut if I can only take five books with me to a desert isle,
or to a new home.
I want to stay reading this book forever.
by Paul Murray
Wednesday, September 1, 2010
- Often, people really enjoy "schlepping" or "lugging" (as with the peachy old gent) their books in hugely enormous suitcases. Like really huge. Like ones you could use to smuggle a fully grown malamute across the border. Like, so huge, you'd think they'd been evicted from their dorm and are moving in. People really enjoy "hauling" around trunks filled with books.
- When a customer says "I've got some really great titles here for you! You're gonna jump out of your socks when you see these! Get ready!" Its usually a really bad selection of books. I mean, really, really bad. 1996 LSAT-stash bad. Bonfire-worthy bad.
- When a customer says "Man, I've got some real stinkers here. Whatever you don't take, and I imagine you won't want any of this, I'm going to schlep them to the edge of town in my hugely enormous suitcase!" Its usually really incredible stuff. Best-sellers and tip-in art books and pristine New Direction poetry books. Always happens. Always.
- The most frequently asked question I'm asked is "How are the books arranged." The second is "Where's you're toilet?" And just for kicks, the third is "Where are the movies?"
- Only once have I ever made a customer remove his shoes before stepping on our new rug. Its OK. I knew the guy. It was a gag. We laughed. Everything is cool now.
- On the surface, it would appear that the cooking section is not in any discernible order. This is false. They are arranged by smell.
- I totally bought the 3-D monster film book. It was in the B-mail. You had your chance.
- Oftentimes people will say "Shouldn't it be the Used Book Seller" and I say "Yes, you're correct. In fact, there's another floor below. There's an Olympic size pool down there. It's nice."
- The dollar books are the books that have been on the shelf a long time and are pulled to make room for the new arrivals. The dots on the bottom on the books allow us to determine how long a book has been on the shelf. When a dollar book doesn't sell, we secretly switch it with the staff's fine coffee and see if anyone can tell the difference.
- The staff can never tell the difference.
- The store credit is good for anything in the store, except the furniture and most of the staff.
- One time a customer said "The credit doesn't expire? Then I suppose this credit will out-live me!" to which I replied "That's a bit morbid, eh!" ... That was three years ago. Haven't seen the dude since.
- Prices are generally set at half the list price plus $0.50. That is unless our chakra charts dictate otherwise.
- The fourth most frequent question is "What's with all the chairs?" and almost always, when I reply "Ghostwriter convention" nobody laughs.
So, when you read a collection of stories with one uniting theme, you'll basically end up reading the same story over and over again, right?
All ten fictional short stories in First Crossing: Stories About Teen Immigrants revolve around the act of emigrating out of one country -- such as Cambodia, Haiti, Kazakhstan, Mexico, South Korea, Venezuela -- and immigrating into America. I was expecting the stories to overlap content, but as I kept on going, I was surprised as to how different each teenager's story was. How some girls longed for their home country and other boys followed their parents' dream of a new life right along side them. How each family immigrated for different reasons and in some very different ways -- one involved a boy wedged beneath the hood of a car next to an running engine, yet others were as simple as a very lengthy airplane trip. Some families moved due to better jobs on American soil. Some were moved by companies or opposition to the political powers that be. Others for reasons unknown -- except to the girl's birth mother, whoever she was...
Anyways, even though the fictional stories in First Crossing are united by the immigration process and the human desire to be understood, they all stand out boldly as their own complete narratives. Each award winning author writes in his or her own powerful way that does not work to ban immigration or to promote it. The focus of each story is on the teenager's life and their unique experiences that reveal the ugly truths and the humorous turns that life can give in an unfamiliar culture.
I wasn't expecting to want to read First Crossing from cover to cover. Rather, I was foreseeing myself to get through two or three chapters and then move on to something else in my towering-to-read-stacks. Boy, was I wrong! I couldn't put it down. Even when my body was screaming at me to go to bed or go make dinner, I had to finish each chapter and stop myself from starting the next.
Brookline High students, you have one week left to read this novel. Don't wait to the wee hours of the morning the night before school starts. You might just enjoy the multiple stories this book has to offer!