Saturday, October 30, 2010

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Reveiw: Sweet Treats & Secret Crushes

Sweet Treats & Secret Crushes by Lisa Greenwald, is exactly that.. a sweet treat.  Lisa Greenwald is an author that lives in the mid of your typical 13 year old girl. She even said so herself at our 2009 Kid-Lit Festival.  Her latest book steps up her game even more, taking her into the mind of three very unique 13 year olds, all best friends.

When a blizzard threatens to ruin Valentine’s Day, three seventh-grade friends make and distribute fortune cookies to their lonely neighbors—and confront the secrets they’ve been keeping from one another. Confident Kate doesn’t notice much but the latest gossip, and shy Georgia can’t say out loud what’s always on her mind. They’re joined by observant, careful Olivia, whose epic, single-minded crush on PBJ (real name: Phillip Becker-Jacobs) is starting to frustrate the other two. Using fortune cookies that mysteriously always seem to speak directly to the person who opens them, the three girls try to work together to bring some love to their building, while reminding each other why they’re such good friends to begin with.

When I first started reading this I thought.... oh no Lisa, not a teeny bopper schmaltzy first kiss book.  But she didn't disappoint.  While crushes are core to the story moving along, it really has little to do with the boys.  The three friends find themselves pulling apart now that they each have their own crush, and a few secrets.  Being stranded in their apartment building on Valentine's Day forces them to reveal their secrets, anaylze their crushes, and bond again over a few fortune cookies.  The plot moves through alternating b/w the three girls telling the story and takes place over the course of 30 hours, with a bulk being the day stuck at home.  We get a good glimpse into the psyche of each girl through her storytelling, and her relationships with her family.  The three have distinct personalities, which many young girls will quickly be able to identify with (the quiet thoughtful one, the observer/busy body, and the boy crazy one).  Lisa melds these three together beautifully and makes you want to be a resident in their building as they not only bring themselves together, but the entire neighborhood as well (including some boys!).  This is a book that belongs on every middle school library shelf and in each teacher's collection to loan out to that adolescent girl struggling with her own friend and boy issues. 
~Sam

This review is part of BookingMama's Kid Konnection meme

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Have You Met...

Hatsy?!?
(admit it, there were some of you that thought I was going to say "Ted", didn't you?)

Like Sam, she hates having
her picture taken, here's one from
when Aaron was a baby
Aaron's Grammy, Hatsy (a family nick-name for Harriette), officially joined the Aaron's Books crew this Fall. As with everyone at the store, she's an avid reader (and feels guilty when she just doesn't have the time to have her nose in a book).

Hatsy spent many years working with children. After Sam was happily ensconced in elementary school, she went back to school for her teaching certificate. She's managed several day care facilities in Germany, and served as a family services advocate on several military bases. When Aaron's Grandaddy retired from the Army, she took up teaching full time; first as a kindergarten teacher, then as a 5th grade math, science, and history teacher.

Her reading reflects what she taught, as she LOVES any good historical fiction. She's also a lover of picture books (once a kindergarten teacher, always a kindergarten teacher).  She'll be leading most of our story-time and craft activities with the younger kids.

Come by and say "hi" next time you're in Lititz and want to talk history books!

~Happy Reading

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Please DON'T Ignore Vera Dietz



A.S. King's Please Ignore Vera Dietz debuts today, which at Aaron's Books is a reason to celebrate. Not only is it a bold, moving, beautiful work, the author is a wonderful person who shares her enthusiasm for writing (and independent bookstores) with everyone she meets. (watch her awesome video!)







Vera is a high schoool senior struggling with the death of her best friend Charlie, months after he had betrayed her trust. She has to find a way to reconstruct her life in the aftermath of these two events, finish high school, and find a direction for her life, while trying to block out the ongoing (and very funny) pleas from (dead) Charlie to unearth the truth about how he died.



King's first novel, The Dust of 100 Dogs, was a tremendous surprise; a beautiful, sad, challenging, funny, comletely unexpected work - with pirates! It has the front cover art and back cover blurb that continue to make it one of our store's easiest hand-sellers, almost two years after its publication. Vera is just good, and will have a featured place on the shelves at Aaron's Books for years to come.




Vera and Dogs are completely different in subject and style, but they have many things in common, including:
* great female lead characters
* unexpected shifts in narrator and perspective
* difficult issues, presented with honest emotion


But it's also important to note another similarity: they are both selling without any support from the chain stores. These are wonderful works for upper teens and adults that deserve love from every independent bookstore for their own sake, and also for the fact that they set us apart from the chains. We are the ones who decide what to carry in our stores. We aren't limited by national buyers who apparently have no idea how to evaluate books for teens that don't feature sparkly vampires or pretty girls in pink on the cover.


Let's all find ways to support Vera - and the other works that deserve and need indie love.

Friday, October 8, 2010

NY Times missing the point and why indies do rock picture book selling

Picture Books No Longer a Staple for Children


That was the headline in the New York Times yesterday, and it's causing a hubbub on Twitter amongst the bookish folks (booksellers, authors, and bloggers mostly).  There is much I agree and disagree with in this article... but mostly I thought about how indies really do do it better!

The article promotes the argument that parents are pushing their kids into chapter books and picture book sales are decreasing as a result.  I disagree.  We have a separate room for picture books at Aaron's and that room sees the most action, by kids of all ages.  We purposely designed the book FOR the kids... the used books are in bins sorted by subject. We didn't have a corporate structure that chose our shelving and told us how to put out the books. The younger kids hit the door running to the playroom and  just like being surrounded by all the books, the older ones like pulling out a book on their own and reading it in our rocking chair (sometimes aloud to a sibling or friend).  Kids will read whatever we give them. Aaron still checks out picture books at his school library (as do many of his 2nd grade classmates).   When we get new picture books at the store, it is Aaron who reads them first and gives us the thumbs up.  At the same time he is deep into reading Harry Potter and The Hobbit

The point I can agree with in the article, but is given just a glossing over, is that new picture books coming out in hardcover are too expensive.  The classics and the tried and true author and illustrators can justify an $18 price tag (some do still sit on he shelves unlooked at), but an author with only a few mid-list books behind them is going to get overlooked not only by the customers but also the book buyers at that price.  Personally, I think pricing for lots of children's books is out of hand.  Aaron just read the arc for a book coming out in March...he started at 7:45 last night, and finished before getting on the bus this morning.  The book is being released  as a $15 hardcover - a book that took a 2nd grader less than a day to read.  Compare that with the Katie Kazoos and A to Z mysteries that 2nd graders are also reading, which come out at $4 paperbacks.  Which is a parent more likely to buy in this economy? Yep, the paperback.  The same can be said for the picture books, even though those books will be read numerous times unlike many once and done chapter books.  

When we meet with our sales reps we repeat over and over and over "too expensive in hardcover, we'll buy when it's in paperback" (same for adult books). In a world where we're constantly told that we need to spend less to have a good life (thanks to evil Mal-Wart), are we starting to de-value books?  There are clamours everywhere about how e-books should be cheaper. Is this because a certain online e-tailer (Evil River Empire) has told the world that books should be cheap in any form?  Yet a family has no problem spending $50 for movie tickets and popcorn for 2 hours of "entertainment".  But this is a tangent for another day...

Picture book sales ARE NOT lagging.  Sales of new overpriced hardcover picture books are.  The publishers and many of the retailers live in a land of big cities and higher incomes that don't meet the realities here in small town main street.  Yes we sell picture books, ones that we hand-select based on the interests of our youngest customers and their parents (and it's not always the ones on the best seller lists  *cough*MoWillems*cough*) The chains look at sales reports from stores across the county, and not people or where the books ARE being sold when making stocking decisions. (Um, putting a $16 picture book on the same shelf as a $25 plush toy to help sell the book??? Adding Build-A-Bear into a store???  These are not decisions based on what kids are reading or even that fact that we need to teach kids to value books... oops another tangent.)

Used picture books have always been a bestselling section in our store, and I don't see new or used picture book sales (overall) lagging, even in the recession.... if nothing else books for kids are selling better.(maybe not the $18 hardcover from a new author, but the $13 one from Dr. Seuss is!). Our new picture book sales has tripled over the past year, due to our independent decision to focus on that section. If the chain stores are seeing less sales in that section, perhaps it is because the higher ups sitting in an office have decided to add more toys and take away shelf space dedicated to books.  Funny that supposed bookstores are taking shelf space away from kids books while more and more places that are not booksellers are adding picture books (our local grocer and pharmacy are now carrying Golden Books).  Perhaps if the NY Times wanted to cover what is really happening in children's books sales, they should talk to more indies outside of urban areas.  We (the indies) are the ones that care about books and cater our shelf space and what is on that shelf based not on some distant sales figure, but on what the five year old standing in front of us is buying, talking about, and pointing out to mom.

So no, picture books are NOT "no longer a staple for children" and sales are not dropping significantly; at least as far as we can tell, not at indies that are taking the time to see what the customers want and catering to it.

Put a good picture book into the hands of a child of any age and you'll see a big smile. 

Happy (picture book) Reading!
~Sam