Shelf Awareness for Monday, May 23, 2016


HarperCollins: On a Magical Do-Nothing Day by Beatrice Alemagna

Johns Hopkins University Ptess: Playboys and Mayfair Men by Angus McLaren / A Year of Writing Dangerously by Keith Gandal

Atlantic Monthly Press: The Prague Sonata by Bradford Morrow

Balzer & Bray/Harperteen: I Love You Like a Pig by Mac Barnett, illustrated by Greg Pizzoli

News

Toadstool Bookshop in Keene, N.H., Moving

The Toadstool Bookshop in Keene, N.H., is moving, likely at the end of July, to new quarters at Main and Emerald Street in the former McCues Building, the store said on Facebook.

The new site offers "more room and our own parking lot with plenty of free and convenient parking spaces." Toadstool also wants to have a café in the space and is looking for someone to run it.

Toadstool has stores in Milford and Peterborough, too. Its Keene store is currently in the Colony Mill Marketplace.


AuthorBuzz: Indie Bookstore Readers


Waterstones to Sell E-books via Kobo

U.K. bookseller Waterstones will stop selling e-books directly on its website and instead sell through Kobo, the Bookseller reported. Waterstones will notify customers of the change starting June 14 and explain how Waterstones digital libraries can be transferred to Kobo's platform.

Waterstones managing director James Daunt said Kobo will provide customers "seamless continuity, and ultimately an excellence of service we ourselves are unable to match." Last year he told the Bookseller that Waterstones had "no presence in e-books" and wouldn't try to acquire an e-book platform, something it had earlier tried in connection with Tesco's Blinkbox, a deal that failed.

Rakuten Kobo CEO Michael Tamblyn said: "We are pleased to be working with Waterstones, where we can help a great print retailer by supporting their customers who also love to read digitally."

Last October, Waterstones also stopped selling Amazon Kindles in most of its stores. Daunt said at the time that sales were "pitiful" and that the display space could be put to better use.


Zondervan: To Wager Her Heart (Belle Meade Plantation) by Tamera Alexander


BISG's Making Information Pay's Indie Accent

The Book Industry Study Group's Making Information Pay summit, to be held this coming Thursday, May 26, in New York City, focuses on "publishers making a profit by making a difference"--how embracing corporate social responsibility can improve operational efficiency, reduce risk exposure, increase innovation, encourage staff loyalty and greatly improve bottom lines.

The first session--Books on the Ground: The Long-Term Benefits of Meeting Readers in Real Life--focuses on a subject close to our hearts, independent bookstores, and aims to remind publishers "why connecting with present and future readers 'on-the-ground' where they work, live, play and shop is vital to the long-term success of both the industry and the communities we serve." Moderated by Shelf Awareness editor-in-chief John Mutter, the panel features three amazing booksellers: Jessica Stockton Bagnulo, co-owner of Greenlight Bookstore, Brooklyn, N.Y.; Margot Sage-EL, owner of Watchung Booksellers, Montclair, N.J.; and Suzy Staubach, longtime general books division manager at the UConn Coop Bookstore, Storrs, Conn.


Obituary Notes: Susan J. Tolchin; Robert W. Gutman

Susan J. Tolchin, a political scientist "who explored the workings of political patronage, women in politics and, most presciently, the electoral power of voter anger in several popular books, most of them written with her husband, Martin Tolchin," died May 18, the New York Times reported. She was 75. Their books include To the Victor...: Political Patronage from the Clubhouse to the White House; Pinstripe Patronage: Political Favoritism from the Clubhouse to the White House... and Beyond; and Glass Houses: Congressional Ethics & the Politics of Venom.

---

Robert W. Gutman, whose influential biographies Richard Wagner: The Man, His Mind & His Music (1968) and Mozart: A Cultural Biography (1999) "helped upend popularly held ideas about both composers' lives," died May 13, the New York Times reported. He was 90.


Paul Currie: Taking Foyles Farther into the Future

Paul Currie

"I see ourselves really as a lifestyle retailer rather than a high street library," Paul Currie, CEO of Foyles, the famous London bookshop with six locations in England, said in a recent interview. "The days of bookshops being libraries on the high street or libraries in a mall are gone. Reading is now a lifestyle statement."

Before being appointed CEO of Foyles in April 2015, Currie was chief operating officer at Hamleys toy store and global v-p of retail sales and operations for cosmetics company Molton Brown.

"It's a very different animal, but it has the same principles," said Currie on the switch from toys and cosmetics to book retailing. "You buy something, you sell something. You make a margin. You invest that margin back into the business."

Foyles' flagship store.

Foyles, once an old-school English bookshop, has made major changes over the past decade under previous CEO Sam Husain, who began modernizing the company and in 2014 led the move of the flagship Charing Cross Road location into a "bookshop of the future."

Under Currie, the company is making more strides--taking the bookshop of the future farther into the future, with initiatives that range from merging online and in-store operations and having staff use digital devices on the floor to managing operations costs and buying more efficiently. There's also a new emphasis on customer service that takes an unusual approach.

"[Customer service] was something we thought we did [well] but really, when you analyzed the situation, we weren't," explained Currie. Booksellers spent too much time behind the till, shelving and ordering--and not talking to customers, he said. "We were reversing into type, which was very task driven retail service--shelving, shelving, shelving. And we thought that was service."

He named Janette Cross, a long-time Foyles employee, head of customer experience, and Cross created a system for training all Foyles employees, booksellers and otherwise, in customer service. The system, called Project Barnum, divides bookstore customers into a few general categories, teaches booksellers how to spot them and what kind of service best suits each type of customer.

"There may be customers who come in and say [through body language] leave me alone until I'm ready," Currie offered as an example of one category of customer. "There will be the other type of customer, who is something like me, who needs help immediately.... And then there's another type of customer, our extremely loyal customer, who would live in this store if they had the chance."

In the past, Currie continued, Foyles booksellers may not have recognized these different sorts of customers and that they needed different types of service. Currie added that Barnum "helps us deliver a greater, more bespoke tailored service to our customers, and therefore engage more customers."

Another of Currie's major, early initiatives was overhauling Foyles' online operations. Before his arrival, Currie said, Foyles was "quite a siloed operation," with the company's Internet and e-commerce business effectively at odds with its core in-store business. The online store discounted deeply, had different price structures than the physical stores and a separate marketing strategy. Currie recalled that customers would ask booksellers why they were selling the same books online for 40% or even 50% less than in stores. "Basically they were saying, are you ripping me off?"

The Internet business was losing a lot of money, and to correct that, Currie "harmonized" in-store and online prices and integrated online and physical marketing as well as online and physical buying. With everything now under one roof, Currie said, in-store teams now feel comfortable referring customers to the Foyles e-commerce site if a specific book is not in store. Looking ahead, Currie said he believes that the future of Foyles is to share its e-commerce platform across all parts of the business.

"We work holistically as one business now, but multi-channel," said Currie. "That has plugged a massive loss in our internet business, brought all of our trading divisions together, and removed the confusion the customers had."

The newest Foyles, in Birmingham.

The newest Foyles opened in Birmingham, England's second-largest city, last September. It is a 4,000-square-foot store, in Birmingham's central train station. This new branch, Currie explained, marks a "new chapter" in the company's business, one that fuses Foyles' physical and digital operations.

"I said, let's use this as a model store," recalled Currie. "Let's distill all of our ideas into one place."

Project Barnum was invented in Birmingham and first employed there for both recruitment and staff training. The store is peppered with video screens, on which customers can watch a plethora of video content developed by publishers to complement the physical books. Also created and implemented at the Birmingham store was the path system, in which every bookseller is equipped with a digital device that can be used to search that store's inventory as well as the entire Foyles database, and carry out transactions.

By July of this year, Foyles will roll out the path system and digital devices into its other stores, and has already begun integrating video screens and Barnum training. Currie intends also to refocus on social media, relaunch the Foyles newsletter as more of a digital magazine and revamp the loyalty program. And later this year Foyles will open another location, in Chelmsford, a city of about 110,000 people some 30 miles northeast of London.

Despite his plans to integrate digital and physical operations and his belief that this is the future of Foyles, Currie is adamant that he has no intention of taking people off the sales floor, of using technology to de-staff.

"It goes across all of our channels: we are investing in people," said Currie. --Alex Mutter


Notes

Image of the Day: Brooklyn Children's Authors

On Saturday, May 21, the Brooklyn Public Library hosted Spring into Stories, a Children's Author & Illustrator Festival, as part of the 75th anniversary celebration for the Central Library. All the participating artists live in Brooklyn. Pictured (l.-r.): Brian Floca, Mike Curato, Misako Rocks!, Nina Crews, Selina Alko, Sean Qualls, Sophie Blackall, Kate Milford, Rita Meade.


Detroit's Pages Bookshop: 'An Oasis'

Pages Bookshop hosted the latest episode of the Detroit Free Press podcast Detours: "The store has been in business for one year this month, and owner Susan Murphy talks about the shop's neighborhood vibe and regular series of author events, many of them spun from Detroit-connected books."

"It is a nice place. This is an oasis for sure," said co-host and arts journalist Rob St. Mary.

"It's been great," Murphy said of her first year in business. "The neighborhoods are very supportive. And it's a very tight-knit community as well. But the sales have been right where I wanted them to be."


Taschen Library Sells at Auction for $2.7 Million

photo: ©Tuff

A "Taschen library," containing 444 Taschen books, including 60 Collector's Editions, sold for for $2.7 million Thursday night at a gala auction in Cap d'Antibes, France, to benefit amfAR, held during the Cannes Film Festival as part of Cinema Against AIDS.

The library is housed in a glass-walled pavilion designed by Jean Prouvé and includes Sebastião Salgado: Genesis, launched in conjunction with the touring exhibition, the SUMO-sized Annie Leibovitz, and an edition of Taschen's long sold-out Helmut Newton SUMO, a gift from Benedikt Taschen's private collection.

The Taschen bid was part of a total of more than $25 million that was raised for amfAR's AIDS research programs, dedicated to advances in HIV prevention, treatment and care.


Michael Martens Leaving Dark Horse

Effective August 30, Michael Martens, v-p, trade sales, at Dark Horse, is leaving the company. He told icv2.com, "Late last year I had one of those 'how did I get here' moments. I've been here 22 years, and I've been working for 34 years in the comics industry. It dawned on me that there were some other things I wanted to do both professionally and personally."

He added: "Professionally I want to continue working with publishers, on a contract or consulting basis. It doesn't have to be in graphic novels. I've fallen in love with the book trade and the people; I like book people because they read and support the First Amendment."

Martens has been instrumental in building the book market for Dark Horse and most recently was deeply involved in the company's move to distribution by Penguin Random House. Before Dark Horse, he worked for 12 years at Capital City Distribution.



Media and Movies

Media Heat: Gov. John Hickenlooper on CBS This Morning

Today:
Today Show: J. Kenji López-Alt, author of The Food Lab: Better Home Cooking Through Science (Norton, $49.95, 9780393081084).

CBS This Morning: Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper, co-author of The Opposite of Woe: My Life in Beer and Politics (Penguin Press, $30, 9781101981672). He was also appear tonight on Late Night with Seth Meyers.

Fresh Air: Susan Silverman, author of Casting Lots: Creating a Family in a Beautiful, Broken World (Da Capo, $24.99, 9780306824616).

Dr. Oz: Joe Wicks, author of Lean in 15: 15-Minute Meals and Workouts to Keep You Lean and Healthy (Morrow, $24.99, 9780062493668).

Tomorrow:
Good Morning America: Andi Dorfman, author of It's Not Okay: Turning Heartbreak into Happily Never After (Gallery, $25, 9781501132469). She will also appear on Entertainment Tonight.

Live with Kelly: Tanya Altmann, author of What to Feed Your Baby: A Pediatrician's Guide to the 11 Essential Foods to Guarantee Veggie-Loving, No-Fuss, Healthy-Eating Kids (HarperOne, $17.99, 9780062404947).

Diane Rehm: Barry Meier, author of Missing Man: The American Spy Who Vanished in Iran (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, $27, 9780374210458).

Meredith Vieira: Jonathan Scott and Drew Scott, authors of Dream Home: The Property Brothers' Ultimate Guide to Finding & Fixing Your Perfect House (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $30, 9780544715677).

Also on Meredith Vieira: Bethenny Frankel, author of I Suck at Relationships So You Don't Have to: 10 Rules for Not Screwing Up Your Happily Ever After (Touchstone, $16, 9781451667424).

NPR's the Takeaway: Basma Abdel Aziz, author of The Queue (Melville House, $15.95, 9781612195162).


Books & Authors

Awards: SCBWI Crystal Kites

The Society of Children's Book Writers & Illustrators announced winners of the 2016 Crystal Kite Member Choice Awards for 15 regional divisions. The prizes are a regional complement to SCBWI's annual Golden Kite Awards. The Crystal Kites are chosen by other children's book writers and illustrators. This year's Crystal Kite regional division winners are:

Atlantic: Ada Byron Lovelace & the Thinking Machine by Laurie Wallmark, illustrated by April Chu
Australia/N.Z.: A is for Australia by Frané Lessac; and Blue Whale Blues by Peter Carnavas
California/Hawaii: Under a Painted Sky by Stacey Lee
Canada: A Brush Full of Colour by Margriet Ruurs
International Other: The Safest Lie by Angela Cerrito
Mid-South: Top Secret Files of History--WWII by Stephanie Bearce
Middle East/India/Asia: The Adventures of Squirky the Alien #3: Who is the Red Commander? by Melanie Lee, illustrated by David Liew
Midwest: Wherever You Go by Pat Zietlow Miller, illustrated by Eliza Wheeler
New England: Fish in a Tree by Lynda Mullaly Hunt
New York: The Truth About Twinkie Pie by Kat Yeh
Southeast: Outer Space Bedtime Race by Rob Sanders, illustrated by Brian Won
Southwest: Audacity by Melanie Crowder
Texas/Oklahoma: Poet: The Remarkable Story of George Moses Horton by Don Tate
U.K./Ireland: Mind Games by Teri Terry
West: If You Ever Want to Bring an Alligator to School, DON'T! by Elise Parsley


Sherman Alexie: The Sacred and the Profane

Sherman Alexie is a poet, short story writer, novelist, filmmaker, performer and winner of the National Book Award for Young People's Literature for The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian (Little, Brown). His debut picture book is Thunder Boy Jr. (Little, Brown, May 10, 2016), illustrated by Yuyi Morales. A Spokane/Coeur d'Alene Indian, Alexie grew up in Wellpinit, Wash., on the Spokane Indian Reservation and now lives in Seattle with his family. Here, he talks with Shelf Awareness about Mork & Mindy, scaring his sister, cultural chameleons and his path to writing young people's literature.

I think it's safe to say at this point that you've chosen to be a storyteller in life. When you were growing up, were you surrounded by people who liked to tell stories?

I was surrounded by a couple types of storytellers. Those in the more traditional tribal mode, like my grandmother, who told a lot of old stories--not just ceremonial stories, but really reached back into the past for mythology and spirituality. And then I was also surrounded by, you know, alcoholic entertainers. My dad was hilarious and would go on and on about all the stuff that happened to him when he was a kid growing up, and as an adult. So I guess I was surrounded by sacred traditional storytellers and profane liars.

I was also coming of age with American stand-up comedy. The golden age was the mid-'70s through the mid-'80s. So, having the TV on meant you learned storytelling comic rhythm. So, all that was combined. I think I'm as much a product of Mork & Mindy as I was of powwow.

Did you always have a way with words?

Uh, yeah... he says as he stutters. But I think it's part of tribal communication, certainly in the Native American world. They are incredibly quick-witted folks. My sisters who were not that academically gifted can just destroy me in arguments. They can just slap me up and down. I grew up in a highly verbal environment. Very funny, very caustic. So you had to become adept with language, spoken language, or just stay home.

Did you have people who encouraged you to write?

My big sister always thought I was going to be a writer. She read a few of my papers when I was in third or fourth grade and said, "Oh! You're going to be a writer." Once I wrote her a story about her trailer house being haunted. And it scared her so much that she never wanted me to write her another one.

Haunted by... ghosts?

By skeletons. Yeah. Trailer-house hallways are narrow, so when the skeletons are walking down towards her room they're brushing the walls and making a squeaking noise, and so I wrote on the page Skweee! Skwee! Skwee! For years afterwards I could scare her by making that noise: Skwee! Skwee! Skwee!

Do your own kids have a tie to their heritage?

Yeah, they have a tie to that, they have a tie to everything we are. What I'd like to hope is that I kept more good stuff than bad from my heritage. And I hope my kids do the same thing. I mean, they're standard Commie leftie Seattleites. You know how that is.

Do they seek out books by Native American authors?

They read what they want. They pick out their own books. Going with the theme of Thunder Boy. I mean, I've done my best and their mom has done her best to let them find their own name. I think all too often family and tribal tradition is just synonymous with wanting your kid to be like you. Trying to control destiny. And I try not to do that. I'm sure if you asked my kids, they'd tell you I fail, I try.

How old are they now?

18 and 15.

Sherman Alexie takes Thunder Boy, Jr. to the Galloway School in Atlanta, Ga., on May 18, at an event arranged by Little Shop of Stories.

I remember you saying to a crowd of teens in Seattle that books saved your life.

Oh yeah. Well, there's no guaranteed pathway out of poverty, out of social oppression. Nobody around you knows how, nobody has gone that way before. And what you have to start doing is imagining yourself in a different place, imagining yourself as a different person. And the way you begin to do that is to read. I couldn't afford to experience the world. I couldn't go places. So, books were the cheapest, easiest way to transport myself into other people's realities, which enabled me to start thinking about changing my own reality.

What's it been like visiting Native American schools?

I think because my career has become so strange and huge and because I'm on Colbert and stuff, Native people are surprised when they meet me, how Native I am. I think they probably expect me to be much more assimilated. Culturally, racially, geographically. So I think one of the delightful things that happens when I visit Indian schools is when I go into my full-on Indian mode and I sound like their uncles. It narrows the distance between us. It opens up their possibilities. To think somebody who grew up pretty much the way they're growing up now has become who I am. Once they realize how much I am like them I think it gives the stories more power. I love it when anybody reads my books. But when kids like me, when some indigenous kid reads my books and identifies, there is something more powerful about that.

What is your "full-on Indian mode?"

The action, the idioms, everything changes. It's subtle. By and large Natives are not so overtly different from white folks in the way we move through the world. Because there are so few of us, we have far more extensive assimilation skills than a lot of other ethnic groups. Because we don't belong anywhere, with any community. White, brown, black, whatever. We don't belong, so we have to constantly be assimilating. I think we're cultural chameleons. We are spies in the house of ethnicity. Everybody tells us their secrets. And everybody loves us.

That's a good position for a storyteller to be in.

From the right wing to the left wing. We're beloved for all sorts of romantic, stereotypical reasons. There's nothing sadder than a non-Native who actually gets to know us and realizes that we're just as awful as everybody else. We're exactly as awful... and only as good.

You said earlier that people were surprised by how unassimilated you are. That surprises me.

Well, that's because I'm talking to you. And we're speaking in the dominant culture's mode. We're speaking Shelf Awareness vocabulary.

Speaking of that mode, as you well know there's a lot of consciousness-raising going on in the children's lit community--and nationally--about issues of diversity. I read in the Horn Book blog that Mary Hoffman and Caroline Binch's bestselling Amazing Grace was reissued for its 25th anniversary without its original 1991 illustration of an African American girl dressing up as Hiawatha.

Oh wow. That strikes me as going too far. I mean, you either publish the book as it is or you don't publish the book. Oh, man. That strikes me as liberal censorship. What would we say if a conservative press pulled something disturbing to them out of a book, a classic? My response is, don't publish that, publish something new, damn it! With the amount of money they're putting into that book they could probably publish five new books! If you want to pull that Hiawatha image, then why not publish five Native American books with no stereotypical images whatsoever? I am disturbed by the removal of an image from an original book. Even though it's my side of the political fence doing it. But that doesn't mean I have to agree with it. I empathize with the political argument, but it's censorship. I have no more patience with liberal censors than I have with conservative censors.

Does anyone ever approach you about making the Absolutely True Diary movie?

Constantly. Whenever Hollywood starts talking to me I feel like they want me to sign a treaty. I feel very 19th century. And it always seems like such a contradiction. I feel like the most liberal business in the world, Hollywood, is also being the most colonial. I haven't worked there in quite a few years. That contradiction drives me away, keeps me away.

You're on tour with Thunder Boy, Jr. these days. How is it talking to very young children vs. your usual crowd?

It's what I do. I'm a DAD! I've been pointing out backhoes for 18 years now. Backhoe! Backhoe! Bulldozer! Crane! --Karin Snelson, children's & YA editor, Shelf Awareness


Book Review

Review: Vinegar Girl

Vinegar Girl by Anne Tyler (Hogarth Shakespeare, $25 hardcover, 9780804141260, June 21, 2016)

Vinegar Girl is the third in Hogarth Shakespeare's line of retold classics by the Bard (The Gap of Time, Shylock Is My Name). Anne Tyler's delightful, clever novelization sets The Taming of the Shrew in present-day Baltimore, Md., holding faithfully to Shakespeare's plot and concept but presenting far more complex characters, with absolutely charming results.

Kate is 29 and lives with her absent-minded microbiologist father, Dr. Battista, and her younger sister, pretty and air-headed Bunny. She serves as housekeeper and chaperone, not that they appreciate her efforts. She also works at a preschool, where the kids adore her but the adults have trouble with her sense of humor. Her real passion is gardening. As Vinegar Girl opens, Dr. Battista faces a problem: his gifted foreign assistant, Pyotr Cherbakov, is in the U.S. on an extraordinary-ability visa that's about to run out. Dr. Battista feels sure he's on the verge of a breakthrough, but he needs Pyotr to be able to stay a little longer. The reader realizes well ahead of Kate that what her father has in mind is an arranged marriage.

The prickly Kate feels she's been taken advantage of long enough; she finds Pyotr pushy, and she isn't looking for a husband, anyway. Kate repeatedly corrects him: she is not a "girl" but a "woman." As she sees more of him, though, it appears that some of his awkward heavy-handedness may be related to his difficulties with the English language. And her father's plan to satisfy the immigration authorities doesn't mean she'd have to be married forever....

Vinegar Girl's modern setting and language enliven a classic tale of controversy and gender politics. The novelistic form illuminates the inner workings of Shakespeare's characters, revealing attractive nuances. Tyler's Kate is more soft-hearted, and a view of her inner workings exposes her insecurities. This Kate is quite sympathetic in both senses of the word: she empathizes with her eccentric father and the homesick Pyotr, and calls upon the reader's sympathies. Pyotr is awkward and lonely, but appealingly smitten by Kate's independent nature. Even Dr. Battista (despite his objectionable motives) and the maddening Bunny are revealed as intricate and ultimately likable characters.

Readers unfamiliar with The Taming of the Shrew will have no problem enjoying this novel, which is funny, fun-loving and uplifting. Those who know the original well will be intrigued by Tyler's riffs: Is the new Kate less shrewish, or simply better characterized, her motives and anxieties better understood? In either case, the surprising ending, which deviates from Shakespeare's in important ways, makes for a heartwarming conclusion to a quirky, timeless tale. --Julia Jenkins, librarian and blogger at pagesofjulia

Shelf Talker: Anne Tyler successfully reinterprets The Taming of the Shrew in a modern, pleasingly nuanced novel.


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