Tag Archives: children’s books

The Things You Learn Tidying the Children’s Room

messSo I spent last weekend tidying our children’s book room – something every bookstore owner lives for the opportunity to do. It’s so much fun to rediscover old classics, things you loved as a child. That’s why it takes so long to do a kids room reset; you have to allow twenty minutes of every hour for reading favorite bits.

It was pretty bad. Every Halloween we give out books at the annual afternoon merchant’s trick or treat, and you can imagine what 300 kids traipsing through the place in the space of 3 hours does. And no, it hadn’t been tidied since then. Don’t judge. We’re busy.

There was nothing for it but to start to the left of the door and work my way ’round. (That or a flamethrower, Jack said.) So I separated the Math from the English homeschooling books, Animals Fiction from Animals Non-fiction, and America from All the Other Countries, back into their appropriate shelf bins.

This is where the problems began. One doesn’t want to be part of the problems America is experiencing right now, and I found myself suddenly stymied, standing stock still (heh, get it, stock? Never mind) in the middle of the children’s room, holding a book of Native American folktales in my hand, looking to the right at the All About America shelf, to the left at the Read To Me section……

It was the beginning of the slippery slope. Did The Story of Martin Luther King go in Biography or America? Did Intelligent Design go in Science or Christian Homeschool? Suddenly, I was making political decisions left and right. All I wanted to do was tidy up……

The dangers grew worse. The Natural World was a big book lying in a dusty corner; when I picked it up, one spider sitting astride it was just finishing off another. I guess she’d had enough of his empty promises about watching the egg sac. (I took them outside so she could finish her meal in peace, and then set up housekeeping elsewhere. It’s good to move in the Spring.)

Dead ladybugs from the November invasion (they come every year), a plant that had grown through one of the windows where it hadn’t sealed properly, books wedged behind shelves where they’d fallen–on and on I went, shelf by shelf until by the afternoon Day 2 I had reached Adventure Fiction.

Smack in the middle of the adventure books were two self-published erotic fantasy novels.

Good thing not many kids read adventure these days. I sent the strays back to their home turf with a stern warning not to return, and congratulated myself on avoiding a lawsuit. It’s not like they were illustrated or anything, but can you imagine some kid coming out of the room saying, “Mommy, what does e-j-a-c…” It wasn’t going to end well.

By the end of day two, the books stood upright in their correct locations; I had abandoned the idea that a child’s world could be split into a Christian versus general worldview and had put the All Other Countries Besides America books in Social Studies. This means a board book of Minnie Mouse in Spanish is next to Learning about Others Grade 4, but hey, they look happy together.

The final piece was labeling everything. After some consideration, we created a tag called Parental Guilt for all the “You’re doing it wrong” titles about how to make your kid smarter, stronger, faster, safer than s/he is now. Someday I’m going to snap and divide Parental Guilt into “Need to Know” (Ridlin and ADHD, Autism assistance, etc.) and “Don’t Be Ridiculous” (teach your pre-schooler to get straight A’s etc.)

And so it goes. The room will stay clean for a few weeks, and I have blocked all the places where ladybugs, spiders, and Triffids – ehm, plants – can get in. It smells good, looks good, and is well-organized according to my brain.

Heh heh heh. Yeah. C’mon down. We got the Erotica out.

Advertisements

2 Comments

Filed under Big Stone Gap, bookstore management, home improvements, humor, Life reflections, Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap, Uncategorized

The New Bookshelf

DSCN0255I came home from a trip to Richmond with a new bookshelf. It’s one of the hazards of having a happy, quiet(ish) life. When I head back from a Power Trip, I usually cut over on the Blue Ridge Parkway, one of those glorious yet underused scenic highways that dots America. It diagonals the two worst sections of the Interstate-cum-parking lots I would otherwise have to take, and it’s just good for the soul to slow down and watch layer on layer of blue mountains unfold in front of you. Restores balance and perspective, y’know? Plus, when you get back off the Parkway at Buena Vista, there’s a really cool Habitat for Humanity Resale Store right there by the gas station.

Hey, peace comes in many forms. Don’t judge me.

At the store they had a few bookshelves. There are never very many, and most are flat pack pressed sawdust made into wood, but they had kind of a cool one, cheap stuff, yet made in squares rather than shelves, three cubbies high and four cubbies long.

My mind flew to our under-organized children’s area, and how adorable this 3×4 stack of connected boxes would look filled with board books and Little Golden Books….

Spatial orientation has never been my strong point. I liberated the shelf, then discovered it would have to be taken back to its flat pack state to travel on with me. No problem; those nice guys doing community service took it apart, but broke it in the process.

Instant discount, and I have wood glue: no problem.

Unloading it on the bookstore front porch in 12 pieces: no problem.

Explaining to husband that it was too good a deal to pass up and the fact that we truly no longer have a place in the bookstore to put it was negated by how cheap it was: slight problem. He kinda seemed stuck on that spacing issue. Guys.

All morning from the mystery room I’ve heard hammering and things falling and an electric drill whirring, plus the occasional curse word. Once our staff cats Nike and Hadley raced from that door with looks of pure terror on their faces. The children’s room is off the mystery room, plus there’s a closet in there where I store yarn sometimes. I look forward to seeing where my genius husband puts my brilliant bargain purchase, but I’m not going in there until he comes out without the drill.

Ain’t life grand? :]

6 Comments

Filed under Big Stone Gap, bookstore management, crafting, home improvements, humor, Life reflections, Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap, reading, small town USA, Uncategorized, VA, Wendy Welch

The Monday Book(s): Moomintroll Adventures by Tove Jansson

moomintrollsMoomintroll isn’t the name of a book, but the character created by Jansson. Moomin, as the little white hippo-like troll with the tail is known, lives with Moominmamma and Moominpappa in a valley, but the little guy gets around.

The books are full of gentle illustrations of the trolls and their friends, particularly Snufkin and the Snork Maiden (Moomin’s love interest). Although a cheerful little guy, Moomin can be quite moody and wax philosophical over small events–like discovering seashells.moomin2

I loved these books because the trolls were adorable and nothing threatening ever really was allowed to get out of hand, despite the sometimes rather dark story lines and illustrations. As an adult, I go back and read them when times are tough. You just can’t have angst when you’re catching up with the Moominfamily.

If you want to start at the beginning, it’s Moomintroll and the Great Flood. Young Moomin does a fair bit of growing up throughout the series, so it does kinda make sense to start at the beginning.

The Moomins, despite the baby boy’s growing up, can be counted on for consistency in a world of chaos. That’s why I like the books – well, that and the adorable drawings. Moominpapa says things like, “I only want to live in peace and plant potatoes and dream!”

What’s not to love? Papa also likes his whiskey. Don’t get the idea that these little guys dance through fields of flowers never saying anything meaningful.  Here’s their take on the arts:

“A theatre is the most important sort of house in the world, because that’s where people are shown what they could be if they wanted, and what they’d like to be if they dared to and what they really are.”

They’re really quite advanced in their philosophy.

moominphilosophyCheck out a Moomintroll. Your library will have them in the children’s section.

moomin3

 

1 Comment

Filed under book reviews, humor, Life reflections, out of things to read, YA fiction

Happy to be Here

We pulled into BOOKSELLERS AT LAURELWOOD just after lunch on Friday. It’s a dignified, orderly store of honey-colored wood and pretty displays.

Don’t let the exterior fool you. Like the class clown in a prom dress, this bookshop’s personality can’t help but shine through.

For the full story of what BaL has endured to stay standing, visit their website or google their press coverage from last year, but the nutshell version is “regional chain liquidation from Davis Kidd, nasty games with head financial officers, corporate shenanigans involving rights to use their name, and the hero of the piece–Neil–hiring back the existing staff when they re-opened as BaL.”

Those who work in animal rescue will understand instantly what I’m going to say next, and I hope the rest of you find it a non-derogatory, non-odd comparison. If you’ve ever fostered a dog rescued from a shelter at the last possible moment, or a momma cat and her kittens sprung on euthanize day, you know that animals–even cats!– show gratitude. Those who came closest to complete loss never forget, and express appreciation even as they revel in snow and grass and water and life; they just plain lick your nose or purr more often, and they’ll do anything for you.

Permit me this metaphor among those who have not shared this experience, because every time I walk into Booksellers at Laurelwood, their joy in being there shines through. Liquidation was 3 days away, and they got rescued. Since then, they’ve been rescuing their community every day.

One of the people who’s worked there longest is Nicole. A more cheerful person you will not meet. The petite blond was described to me by another staff member, JoAnne, as “an artery for this store.” If you’ve read my book, Nicole was the person who stood in the children’s department on Dec. 24, 2011 chatting with us as the place filled up around her, turning amiably to say “top shelf at the back, next to the dragon” or “I’m so sorry; I sold the last copy Monday” as customer asked questions. She is a poster child for why bookshops must remain, because her orderly department is brimfull of happy kids whose parents are buying them the books they read as children, and she knows which ones are for what personalities and ages. The woman is a walking encyclopedia of Curious George trivia; she can tell you things about Pippi Longstocking you didn’t know you didn’t know.

As we stood chatting once again last night before our book talk at BaL, a little girl came whizzing past to play at the cars and roads table behind us. Nicole turned and looked at this child in her bright pink and green dress, a bow the size of a magnolia blossom behind her ear, and smiled.

“See?” she said, indicating the oblivious toddler with an unobtrusive shoulder roll. “Even on bad days, how bad can it be? Look what I get to do for the next generation, surrounded by all that energy and cuteness.”

Go, Nicole – and Carley and Chad and JoAnne and Scott (these last two get their own blog post later this week) and the rest. Bring back the joy in bricks-and-mortar bookshops!

 

1 Comment

Filed under Big Stone Gap, folklore and ethnography, humor, publishing, small town USA