In which Annie (high school teacher, mother of two young girls and a younger boy) and her aunt Deborah (children's bookseller, mother of two young women in their 20s) discuss children's books and come up with annotated lists.

Friday, December 7, 2012

December: notes from the front lines

Dear Annie,

Oh my, you've posted so many things recently that I want to respond to thoughtfully.  I have other books by George MacDonald, and the wonderful combination of L. Frank Baum and Charles Santore sitting by the computer waiting for scanning and blogging.  I need to comb through my shelves for some good books with Latino characters.  And I'll get there too -- just not tonight.

I was in the store 11 hours today, working flat-out the whole time.  Hanukkah starts tomorrow, so the holiday rush has heated up more quickly than in some other years.  (Heaven knows what'll happen to shopping madness next year when the first night of Hanukkah is the evening before Thanksgiving.)  Some of the many things that happened to me today:

-- In YA: at closing time, we had only one copy each of Every Day, The Fault in Our Stars, and Where Things Come Back: I suspect they'll all sell out before noon tomorrow (more coming on Monday).  We seem to be selling more YA books than in the past.  There's a great crop of new ones this year, but I also suspect that more families that have been shopping in my book section since their kids were tiny now have teenagers -- and they keep coming back!

-- After giving a very enthusiastic description of the Anna Hibiscus books to one customer, I reached for the first in the series, only to find it completely gone.  I know that we had 20 copies a little more than a week ago.  A thorough search unearthed our last four copies in the back of an overstock shelf, but I ran to the computer to place an urgent order for another few dozen to get us through the next weeks.

-- An African-American grandmother asked if we had an early chapter book series starring a black girl.  As I pulled books to show her -- we had five series in stock -- another woman (white) came over to listen because that was one of her interests.  There was only one copy of a few of the titles I was showing; I worried about that, but left them amicably perusing all the books.

-- A discussion of the depressingly bad grammar in the Junie B. Jones early chapter series veered into talking about Latin -- the customer teaches it at the college level -- and its strict grammar.  I really liked the woman, and before long we were talking about college texts of the Mesopotamian Gilgamesh epic.  I could have gone on in that conversation for a while, but too many others called.

-- Someone walked past me carrying volumes 2, 3, 4 and 5 of the Wrinkle in Time books, leading me to worry that we were out of #1.  No, she smiled, her daughter had read the first and wanted to read all the rest of them.  That quick interaction meant I didn't have to stare at the gap on the shelf trying to remember what had been there.

-- The man who ordered the gorgeously illustrated three-volume hardcover boxed set of The Lord of the Rings ($100) came to pick it up.  But I have yet to sell one of our four-volume paperback boxed sets of the complete Calvin and Hobbes comics (also $100).

-- I had to explain that although, no, we don't have a book with animal characters that would explain sex to a three year-old, we do carry some good ones with people.  I don't know what the outcome was on that.

These conversations are all part of daily life in the job of a bookseller, but the volume and variety increase at this time of year.  It's what makes things interesting.



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