A Happy Announcement

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Back in March I was pretty sure that I was pregnant, but a home pregnancy test indicated a negative response. One week later and a different pregnancy test indicated a positive result. Yesterday was my 20 week appointment and after some prodding we discovered that yes indeed we'll be adding another girl to our family.  This November to be precise. Hooray!

My hope is that Little P, as we've taken to calling her, will arrive early and not 10 days late like her sister. But I suppose these things can't really be planned, or can they? My other hope, apart from a healthy baby of course, is that we will be able to transition to a family of four with patience, time and a lot of grace. Meanwhile, to celebrate this happy news, we're going crazy with a week of giveaways over on Instagram. Feel free to follow along and share any tips you may have about how on earth to manage more than one child.

What I Read: April & May

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

As we head into summer I'm looking at my goal for 2017 (to read 60 books) and feeling a little daunted. Can I make it? Does anyone else polarize between having a pile of books you want to read nonstop and then feeling kind of meh about reading in general? Summer can be tricky for reading, especially when downtime (aka child-free moments) are scarce.

Luckily I never stray far from my reading roots. Do you have any tips for getting out of a reading slump? Meanwhile, here is what has been occupying my days (and nights) the last couple months. Feel free to leave any must-read recommendations in the comments.
  1. Paper Wishes - This debut middle-grade novel is set during WWII, where a young girl and her family are sent to a Japanese internment camp during one of the darker periods in American history. In the relocation she is separated from her beloved dog and subsequently copes by developing a sort of selective mutism in the camp. I especially appreciated the moments of hope scattered throughout this book. 
  2. The Song from Somewhere Else - Clearly I'm on a middle-grade kick, and although I don't read every ARC publishers send me, this one felt like a twist on a story that would resonate with pre-adolescent kids. I'll admit that parts of the story confused me and definitely required a willing suspension of disbelief. But overall I liked the friendship Nick and Frank developed and thought maybe more stories should involve non-romantic relationships between a boy and girl. 
  3. Small Great Things - My first Picoult novel and one that engrossed me from the start. Chapters alternate between the three main characters, unraveling a story of race and hate, grief and resolution. Talk about a range of emotions and an awakening to my own privilege. No doubt this would spark a fascinating book club discussion. 
  4. Desert Solitaire - A book that was frequently referenced during my undergraduate days at Utah State University I finally managed to read thanks to a recent girls' trip to Southern Utah. Not only is Abbey one of the great writers of our time, his prose is both accurate and intoxicating in describing the dessert landscape of such a lonely and lovely part of the country.  
  5. The Girl Who Drank the Moon - The acclaimed Newbery winner obviously needs no introduction, still I was surprised by how well the story and characters were woven together. This was certainly a genre outside my comfort zone, but it was so well done I had my husband read it as well. 
  6. The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane - What a delight to return to this chapter book a decade since I purchased it in graduate school. It reminds me of a hero's journey meets The Velveteen Rabbit and is perfect for introducing toddlers and preschoolers to longer books. 
  7. Be Frank With Me - Easily one of my favorite audiobooks to date. Thank you Hoopla for the recommendation. Mimi is a wealthy author, living in somewhat obscurity after her one-hit-wonder, when she takes on Alice Whitley as a live-in assistant, whose primary charge is Mimi's young, eccentric and on the spectrum son, Frank. Heartwarming is certainly an apt description for this enjoyable read. 
  8. A Year Full of Stories: 52 classic stories from all around the world - (Still reading.) We started this book as a family at the beginning of the year and have kept it at our dining room table to read during dinner. It's a gorgeous collection of folktales and legends from around the world, each read on a day that coincides with a certain holiday or festival. Truly, a must for any home library.

Interview with Sally of The Curious Reader

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Last summer we had the great privilege of stopping by The Curious Reader during an unforeseen travel incident. It was perhaps the best decision of our entire trip. When in doubt, go to the bookstore! Immediately I was taken with the vast selection of curated children's books – titles ranging from picture books to young adult novels and everything in-between. Add to that the charm of a motorized train circling the top of the store, weekly storytelling, author visits, and a cozy ambiance, I couldn't help wanting to stay there all day. Clearly, The Curious Reader has earned the rightful reputation of being a unique children's bookstore. One that every neighborhood should be so lucky to have.

Now here's co-owner, Sally, telling us a little more about the day-to-day operations of running The Curious Reader.

Can you tell us a little bit about your background and the process that led you to selling books full time?

When I was a senior in high school, I was diagnosed with depression and anxiety, which made college very difficult for me. I went to Wellesley College for a few semesters before taking a leave of absence (I never ended up going back). While I was at home, my parents insisted that I get a job, which I did, reluctantly. It was at a (now closed) children’s bookstore that I had loved as a kid, and it was unexpectedly life-changing. The first YA book I ever loved – The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart – made me realize that kids’ books could be just as intelligent and layered as books for grown-ups. I was hooked, and read all the literary YA I could get my hands on (I didn't discover the wonders of middle grade until Rebecca Stead's When You Reach Me).

As I grew to love children’s literature, my job became more than just a way to make my parents happy; I became more involved in the store and learned a lot about the business. The owners were very nurturing and seemed to enjoy educating me and I dreamed of running my own store someday. However, in my eighth year working in children’s books, they decided to close the store, and I was panicked. Could I ever find such a perfect job ever again? Luckily, my father had just retired from his CFO job and was a little bored (he was also driving my mother crazy at home). He’d always fantasized about owning a bookstore, and convinced me that together we should give it a go. The spring and summer of 2013 were spent imagining and creating The Curious Reader, and we officially opened our doors in October 2013.

What does a typical day look like for you?

There’s not a lot of consistency to my schedule – the day is usually spent trying to address whatever issues may arise. We’re open six days a week (closed Mondays), and during the week there are a few regular events that can be expected: the store opens at 10 am; UPS shipments arrive around noon (my favorite part of the day!); I try to take a picture for an Instagram post between 3 and 4 pm, and post it soon after; the store closes at 6 pm. In between, it’s a bunch of small tasks like making sure inventory is up to date, helping customers, working on frontlist orders, reading blogs.

How do you decide what books to stock in the store?

I have reps for most of the publishers that I order from, and I do frontlist (new titles) orders about three months ahead of time (right now, my reps are contacting me to do fall orders). First, I go through the catalog (which has been marked up in advance by my rep) and create a first draft of an order, which my rep will then review before we have our appointment. She (most of my reps are women) will then offer suggestions for titles I may have missed, or adult titles that may be of interest to my customers. A good rep is worth her weight in gold – in particular, my Penguin rep really understands my tastes and what sells well in my store and doesn’t push me to order titles I don’t need (there’s usually a lot of books that don’t make sense for us and having a rep who doesn’t push these on me is greatly appreciated). When I’m building the order initially, I choose titles based on a few criteria: authors whose work I’ve liked in the past; subject matter; cover (it really does matter!); the book’s imprint and/or editor; pre-publication buzz; the author’s home; and what the rep recommends.

Blogs are also crucial – School Library Journal’s blogs, in particular, are great – Betsy Bird of A Fuse #8 Production was the first kidlit blogger I ever loved – as well as Jules Danielson’s work at Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast. I also try to keep up with industry reviews, particularly from Kirkus and Publishers Weekly (their tastes seem to match my own).

I always try to look into unfamiliar books recommended by my customers, and sometimes I’ll end up carrying them if they look right for the store.

There are also a few Instagram accounts that showcase reliably wonderful books, and I often find myself saving their posts to use for a future order. My favorites, in no particular order: @averyandaugustine, @picturethisbook, @bookbloom, @spikypenelope, @writesinla, @teeandpenguin, @hereweeread.

What books did you read as a child and what books do you tend to read as an adult?

When I was aged five to eight, we lived in England, and that's where I learned to love reading. Many car trips were spent with my nose in a book, oblivious to anything but the words in front of me. I read all the time - favorites were the great Roald Dahl, Enid Blyton's Famous Five series, horse books, Nancy Drew, The Once and Future King. I was not terribly discerning, which led to me reading things way before I was ready - yes, I could read Margaret Atwood or George Orwell in seventh grade, but I definitely should not have.

As an adult, I read a lot of books about kids books (particular favorites being Wild Things! Acts of Mischief in Children's Literature and A Family of Readers) and kids’ books themselves. I always feel guilty if I read too much that’s not for the store, which has led to the demise of Chris's and my Two Person Book Club. The last grown-up book I read was The Summer Book by Tove Jansson, which was absolutely beautiful.

What does it take to make a small book shop successful?

First and foremost, it's all about location. We're lucky to be in a well-educated, wealthy, and liberal area, where people are readers and the school systems are very strong. Our conscientious and supportive community can afford to shop with us and not at Amazon or other big-box stores (which can offer discounts but not knowledge and passion -- whoops, don't get me started on Amazon!). Being so close to NYC is also important; many publishers and authors are based in the city, making it easy for them to visit. In the store itself, shared vision and good communication is essential. Though there are only three of us at the store full time, miscommunication (or more often, lack of communication) can occur, so we've started meeting at least once a week.

Do you have any parting advice for aspiring bookstore owners?

Find the perfect location and do lots of research. Work at an indie bookstore, if possible.

Thank you so much, Sally, for taking the time to talk with us. If you ever find yourself in New York City, take the quick trip over to The Curious Reader or follow along on Instagram for daily doses of insightful reading recommendations.

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