Shelf Awareness for Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Aladdin Paperbacks: The Islanders by Mary Alice Monroe and Angela May

Tordotcom: The Chosen and the Beautiful by Nghi Vo

Little, Brown Books for Young Readers: Just Pretend by Tori Sharp

Mandala Publishing: Big Panda and Tiny Dragon by James Norbury and Insight Editions

Simon & Schuster Fall Preview: Join us for a virtual panel featuring your favorite authors and their editors!

Tor Books: When the Sparrow Falls by Neil Sharpson

Liveright Publishing Corporation: Mrs. March by Virginia Feito

Zest Books: When Dogs Heal: Powerful Stories of People Living with HIV and the Dogs That Saved Them by Jesse Freidin, Robert Garofalo, Zach Stafford, and Christina Garofalo

Editors' Note

Happy Thanksgiving!

For the rest of the week, we're taking a break to give thanks for many things so this is our last issue until Monday, November 26. Enjoy the holidays, and may all booksellers have an excellent Black Friday, Small Business Saturday and Indies First celebrations! (Feel free on Sunday to send reports about Indies First, with pictures if possible, to

Harper: The Taking of Jemima Boone: The True Story of the Kidnap and Rescue That Shaped America by Matthew Pearl


B&N Plans to Open 10-15 Stores in 2019

Barnes & Noble plans to open 10-15 new stores in 2019, about three-quarters of which will replace larger stores whose leases have ended, while one-quarter will be in new locations, the company said yesterday in a conference call with analysts (transcript courtesy of Seeking Alpha) following the release of second-quarter results.

The company also expects improving sales trends to continue during the holiday season to the point where sales at stores open at least a year will have positive gains. CFO Allen Lindstrom attributed the anticipated gains to "benefits from favorable year-over-year comparisons for the balance of the quarter, our national ad campaign [which is currently airing in cinemas and on cable TV that highlights B&N as a place for discovery and celebrates its 23,000 booksellers], a strong publishing season, incremental investments we've made to capture toys and games sales and improved gift assortment and better in-stock inventory positions."

As for stores, in recent months the company opened three new prototype stores--in Columbia, Md., Vernon Hills, Ill., and Hackensack, N.J.--and this week opened another at the Staten Island Mall in New York City. Carl Hauch, v-p, stores, noted that although recent new stores have been between 17,000 and 20,000-square-feet in size, the company is aiming in the future for 14,000-square-foot stores.

The prototypes, he continued, "feature a smaller footprint and a clean contemporary new design where books take the center stage. Each store has a slightly different approach to the new format, providing us opportunities to evolve based on what we learn. These stores were developed with a modern design aesthetic that provides a warm and welcoming atmosphere. They include a large book theater located at the heart of the store and lower-profile bookshelves that provide an improved browsing and discovery experience. They also include plenty of comfortable community seating areas where customers can spend time relaxing, meeting with each other and gathering to talk about books." The stores also have self-service kiosks, and B&N staff have tablets to help customers anywhere in the stores.

Among other information revealed during the call:

While overall sales at stores open at least a year fell 1.4% in the second quarter--the company's best such results in more than two years--book sales fell 3%. In books, there was "continued strength in hardcovers and the reestablishment of our bargain assortment," Lindstrom said. "We also saw improvements in our trade paper, kids, and young adult categories." At the same time, non-book sales rose 1.9%, led by gains in toys, games, café and gifts.

Asked about its toy business in light of the collapse of Toys R Us, Lindstrom said toy sales had a comp-store sales gain in "the double-digit range" and called toys "a significant opportunity for the holiday."

Chairman Len Riggio added: "The toy business is important for us, because the children's business is so important. It's not uncommon to have the kids bringing their parents to the stores. So it's considered a strategic category for us at this point."

Despite lower sales overall in the second quarter, B&N was able to cut its loss in part because of "lower store markdowns and decreased online promotions." Expenses were reduced primarily through "lower store payroll and to a lesser extent Nook rationalization and indirect procurement," according to Lindstrom.

At the same time, the company is "reinvesting in our business to drive top line growth." For this, Lindstrom pointed to "the recent launch of our new ad campaign, remerchandising unproductive space to growing categories and recalibrating our labor model. In addition, we continue to make improvements to our website and recently announced a new Nook tablet."

Capital expenditures were $38 million in the quarter, up from $29 million in the same period a year earlier, mainly because of investments in new stores and holiday merchandising initiatives. During the quarter, B&N distributed $11 million in dividends to shareholders.

Bronzeville Books: Rising and Other Stories by Gale Massey

For Sale: White Square Fine Books & Art

White Square Fine Books & Art, Easthampton, Mass., has been put up for sale, the Daily Hampshire Gazette reported, adding that the decision is a bittersweet one for owner Eileen Corbeil "as the eighth anniversary approaches for the bookstore that has become her passion of love. She is hoping to find the right match to take over the reins of the bookstore in the near future, a decision she did not arrive at lightly."

"There is literally blood, sweat and tears going into picking every book because every book has to earn its place," she said. "It can always use improvement and fine tuning. It took a long time to get to where I'm happy with what's here.... I'm looking for someone or some group that can bring something new. This store deserves to have energy, enthusiasm and some imagination. If I'm not doing it justice, then it's time for me to do something different and move on. It's going to be hard."

Describing White Square as a "sanctuary," Andrew Hebert, the building's current owner, said he would "love to have this stay a bookstore" and wanted to let potential future proprietors know he is committed to keeping the rent reasonable to allow the bookstore to remain.

"Easthampton is a pretty happening spot right now but it just seems like Easthampton without a bookstore is like a missing tooth--it leaves a big gap--and it would be really nice to keep it here,” he said. "The culture that's in place here now can certainly support that and, I think, one contributes to the other."

Hebert plans to actively pursue the idea of setting up a co-operative ownership of the bookstore to help continue White Square's legacy. "It wouldn't take a lot of people or a lot of money for that to happen,” Hebert said. “Enough people with commitment and vision for that to happen, the whole business could be rethought and expanded upon."

KidsBuzz for the Week of 04.19.21

Half Price Books Opens in Wichita, Kan.

Half Price Books, which sells new and used books in 125 stores in 17 states, has opened a new store in Wichita, Kan., its first store in the area and third in the state.

The 9,800-square-foot store held its official opening on Wednesday. "We know there are many great booklovers in the Wichita area, so we were thrilled to find a great spot for our new store in Eastgate Plaza," Kathy Doyle Thomas, executive v-p and chief strategy officer of Half Price Books, said. "Half Price Books looks forward to being a part of the Wichita community for years to come."

Besides books, Half Price Books buys and sells magazines, comics, records, cassettes, videos, CDs, DVDs and collectible items.

G.P. Putnam's Sons: The Turnout by Megan Abbott

Canadian Lit Prize Suspended over Amazon Sponsorship

The Prix litteraire des collegiens, a prestigious Quebec literary prize, "has been suspended amid public outcry over the announcement of online giant Amazon as the main sponsor," the Montreal Gazette reported. Five finalists for the 2019 edition of the award had published a joint letter in Le Devoir last week expressing concern over Amazon's detrimental effect on small booksellers. In response, prize organizers said they will meet with members of the literary community and are ready to relaunch the contest if they receive enough support.

"Our great unease comes from the dangerous competition this giant has with Quebec bookstores," authors Karoline Georges, Kevin Lambert, Jean-Christophe Rehel, Lula Carballo and Dominique Fortier wrote. "Need we remind you of the precariousness of the book trade and literary publishing? Need we mention the inhumane methods of this online giant, which constitute a danger for small traders and culture at large?"

Noting that they had not been made aware of the partnership before they were announced as finalists, the authors said the "painful shock" of the discovery made some of them consider withdrawing from the prize. Because this would affect both their publishing houses and the students, they decided instead "to air their discomfort in the hope of finding another solution," the Guardian reported.

"Could the [award] do without the money from Amazon? Find sponsors more in line with the values ​​it stands for?" they asked. "Unfortunately, we believe that by uniting with Amazon, the prize is failing in its principal mission, which is to 'promote Québécois literature today'.... We believe that the defense of Québécois literature and the promotion of a multinational that harms bookstores... cannot go together."

In a statement, Prix litteraire des collegiens co-founder Claude Bourgie Bovet said the decision to suspend was the "direct result of the distressing reaction of many parties in the Quebec book trade following the recent announcement of major support."

University of Minnesota Press: Yang Warriors by Kao Kalia Yang, illustrated by Billy Thao

First Part of MPIBA E-Holiday Catalog Delivered

On Monday, the first part of the e-newsletter edition of the 2018 Mountains & Plains Independent Booksellers Association holiday catalog was sent to 105,731 bookstore customers in the region. The second of the four parts of the catalog will be sent this coming Monday, November 26.

The e-newsletter, powered by Shelf Awareness, features holiday titles from the MPIBA, is branded with each participating store's logo, and has "buy now" buttons that lead directly to the purchase page for the title on the sending store's website.

For a sample of the newsletter, see this one from BookPeople, Austin, Tex.

G.P. Putnam's Sons: Blush by Jamie Brenner

Obituary Note: Zhores Medvedev

Zhores A. Medvedev, the Soviet biologist, writer and dissident "who was declared insane, confined to a mental institution and stripped of his citizenship in the 1970s after attacking a Stalinist pseudoscience," died November 15, the New York Times reported. He was 93. With his twin brother, historian Roy Medvedev, as well as physicist Andrei Sakharov, author Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn and others, Zhores Medvedev "was a central figure in the seething intellectual dissidence that exposed, largely through underground literature known as samizdat, the repression of ideas, science and human rights in the Soviet Union."

An authority on biochemistry, gerontology and molecular evolution, he played a large role in discrediting the doctrines of Stalin's director of biology, Trofim D. Lysenko, who was behind a pseudoscience known as Lysenkoism. In 1969, Medvedev's book, The Rise and Fall of T. D. Lysenko, "was published by the Columbia University Press to wide acclaim and international attention," the Times noted, adding that by then he had acquired a growing reputation abroad, but was denied permission to travel for conferences in Europe and the U.S.

In 1970, he was arrested at his home in Obninsk and taken by doctors to a mental hospital, where he was pronounced acutely ill with "incipient schizophrenia" and "paranoid delusions of reforming society." After a storm of protest, including a letter to the Ministry of Health signed by, among others, Roy Medvedev, Dr. Sakharov and two Nobel laureates in physics, Pyotr Kapitsa and Igor Y. Tamm; as well as a passionate attack on the detention by Solzhenitsyn, he was released after 19 days in the asylum.

A Question of Madness, a book chronicling his ordeal and the state of Soviet citizens being held in mental asylums for political reasons, was written by the Medvedev brothers and smuggled out of the country. It was published in London and New York in 1971.

Medvedev was finally permitted to go to London in 1973, but soon after arriving he was told his Soviet citizenship had been revoked and his passport was seized. He remained in London, doing research and writing books. His works include The Legacy of Chernobyl; Ten Years After 'One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich; Soviet Agriculture; Andropov; Gorbachev; and, with Roy Medvedev, Khrushchev: The Years in Power; and The Unknown Stalin.

In 1990, a year before the Soviet Union collapsed, President Gorbachev reinstated Medvedev's Soviet citizenship. He accepted, but chose to remain an expatriate in London, the Times wrote.


Image of the Day: Fire and Blood in Jersey City

On Monday, WORD Bookstores hosted George R.R. Martin for the only appearance worldwide supporting his new book, Fire and Blood (Bantam). The event took place at the historic Loews Jersey City Theater in New Jersey to a sold-out crowd of 1,400 and featured Martin, a native of nearby Bayonne who was thrilled to be back in the theater of his youth, in conversation with John Hodgman. Pictured with WORD booksellers (from l.): Eliza Thompson; Martin; Will Olsen; Tiffany Ruiz; and WORD owner Christine Onorati.

Thanksgiving Wish: Devaney Doak & Garrett Booksellers


Kenny Brechner

Devaney Doak & Garrett Booksellers, Farmington, Maine, echoed the holiday sentiments of indie booksellers nationwide with a Facebook post yesterday featuring owner and ABA board member Kenny Brechner: "We are so thankful to be located in a place which supports DDG's mission to enrich our community with a shared love of reading and literacy outreach! Thank you all so much for your business."

Media and Movies

Media Heat: A.J. Jacobs on CBS Sunday Morning

CBS Sunday Morning: A.J. Jacobs, author of Thanks a Thousand: A Gratitude Journey (Simon & Schuster/TED, $16.99, 9781501119927).

TV: The Liberator; The Progeny

Netflix has given a green light to The Liberator, a four-part animated World War II drama series based on Alex Kershaw's book The Liberator: One World War II Soldier's 500-Day Odyssey and written by Jeb Stuart (Die Hard, The Fugitive). Deadline reported that this "will be the first project produced in Trioscope, a new enhanced hybrid animation technology that combines state-of-the-art CGI with live-action performance. It allows creators to tell a visually compelling story with rich detail in a way that conveys the human emotion and drama of the serious subject matter."

Grzegorz Jonkajtys (Sin City, Pan's Labyrinth, The Revenant), who developed the Trioscope technology with School of Humans' L.C. Crowley, will direct all four episodes. The series, originally developed for A+E Studios' sibling History, is being produced for Netflix by A+E Studios and Unique Features in partnership with animation studio School of Humans.


The CW network has put in development The Progeny, based on Tosca Lee's bestselling book, from writer Chris Roberts (Orphan Black), Edward Burns's Marlboro Road Gang Productions, Radar Pictures and CBS TV Studios, Deadline reported.

Books & Authors

Awards: Baillie Gifford Nonfiction Winner

Serhii Plokhy won the £30,000 (about $38,500) Baillie Gifford Prize for Nonfiction for Chernobyl: History of a Tragedy. Chair of the judges Fiammetta Rocco said the winning book "is an unprecedented retelling of a familiar disaster. It is a horror story--of political cynicism and scientific ignorance--in which the world was saved only by heroism and luck. This extraordinary account leaves you wondering: could the narrowly missed nuclear Armageddon of Chernobyl happen again, with even worse consequences?"

Mark Urquhart, partner at Baillie Gifford, commented: "We are delighted that Chernobyl has won the 2018 prize. This cautionary tale feels extremely relevant to a world grappling with global energy issues and deserves to be widely read. The quality of the short list must have made this an extremely hard decision for the judging panel with many fine works of nonfiction proving again the strength of the genre."

Attainment: New Titles Out Next Week

Selected new titles appearing next Tuesday, November 27:

Robert B. Parker's Blood Feud by Mike Lupica (Putnam, $27, 9780525535362) is the seventh mystery with private investigator Sunny Randall.

Tom Clancy Oath of Office by Marc Cameron (Putnam, $29.95, 9780735215955) continues Clancy's Jack Ryan thriller series.

Insane Mode: How Elon Musk's Tesla Sparked an Electric Revolution to End the Age of Oil by Hamish McKenzie (Dutton, $30, 9781101985953) chronicles the take-off of electric car company Tesla.

The Adults: A Novel by Caroline Hulse (Random House, $26, 9780525511748) follows separated parents, their new partners and their daughter at a holiday theme park.

The Whispered Word by Ellery Adams (Kensington, $26, 9781496712400) is the second Secret, Book & Scone Society mystery.

Amber & Dusk by Lyra Selene (Scholastic Press, $18.99, 9781338210033) is a fantasy YA debut set in a Parisian-inspired world.

Don't Mess with the Carter Boys: The Carter Boys 3 by Desirée (Urban Books, $14.95, 9781945855559).

If Beale Street Could Talk, based on the novel by James Baldwin, opens November 30. KiKi Layne stars as Tish Rivers, a pregnant woman in Harlem whose fiancé is falsely imprisoned for a terrible crime. Barry Jenkins (Moonlight) directs. A movie tie-in edition (Vintage, $14.95, 9780525566120) is available.

Reading with... Matthew Cordell

Matthew Cordell is the Caldecott Award-winning author of Wolf in the Snow, Trouble Gum, Another Brother, hello! hello! and Wish. He has illustrated the books of Philip Stead (Special Delivery), Rachel Vail (the Justin Case series) and Gail Carson Levine (Forgive Me, I Meant to Do It). He lives near Chicago with his wife, the novelist Julie Halpern, and their two children. King Alice (now available from Feiwel & Friends) is his first book since Wolf in the Snow.

On your nightstand now:

I'm currently finishing American Wolf: A True Story of Survival and Obsession in the West by Nate Blakeslee. I was signing books recently at the Book Stall in Winnetka, Ill., and my bookseller friend Robert McDonald tipped me off about this one. It's an in-depth look at the wolf reintroduction that happened in Yellowstone National Park, starting in the mid-'90s. It's fascinating, inspiring and heartbreaking.

Favorite book when you were a child:

Growing up, I was really into comic strips like Peanuts, action-driven superhero comics like Spider-man and fun/silly reality-based comics like Archie. I also remember being deeply affected by Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls. My favorite picture book was Green Eggs and Ham--I remember my Mom reading this to me at a very early age and it really made me love the experience of reading and being read to.

Your top five authors:

Ack! This is hard. I think I'll cop out a bit and name "top five authors whose work I've recently read."

Derrick Barnes. Occasionally, I read a picture book that gives me the chills--something so good and so fresh. For me, Crown was one of those books.

Candace Fleming. I recently read The Family Romanov and found it absorbing.

Philip C. Stead. I just finished Vernon Is on His Way and I love his timeless and true-hearted stories and characters.

Arnold Lobel. I never go too long without reading the Frog and Toad books. I wish I could spin a yarn like that.

Julie Halpern (my wonderfully talented YA author wife!). I'm not currently reading a new book of Julie's (though she is co-writing a novel with Len Vlahos), but her work and sharp wit and voice are never far from my thoughts. She's a constant inspiration in words and in life.

Book you've faked reading:

Pretty sure I pretended to finish Jane Eyre in the ninth or 10th grade. And my subsequent test score was likely reflective of that.

Book you're an evangelist for:

Leaves by David Ezra Stein. Some picture books, when you finish reading them, you feel... full. Completely satisfied by what you've just experienced. This is one of those books.

Book you've bought for the cover:

Pax by Sara Pennypacker. I bought this book at an airport bookstore because I liked the Jon Klassen illustrated cover.

Book you hid from your parents:

I had to think on this.... For some reason, my parents had this multi-volume collection of books called Man, Myth and Magic. Lots of creepy encyclopedic knowledge about life's dark oddities. They were clearly not for kids, but for adults who liked spooky stuff. So, of course, my brother and I sneaked some peeks at these books. Nightmares ensued, I'm sure.

Book that changed your life:

Sylvester and the Magic Pebble by William Steig. Before I knew I wanted to write and illustrate for children, I remembered and knew very little about the art and business of children's books. William Steig was one of a bunch of creators that my wife introduced or re-introduced me to. Sylvester's art and tight-as-a-drum story kicked me in the pants to run out and chase down a career in this beautiful business.

Favorite line from a book:

"And it was still hot." (from Where the Wild Things Are)

Five books you'll never part with:

Hmm... I'm going to assume you mean in addition to the books I mention elsewhere here!

Clown by Quentin Blake. Quentin Blake is an all-time personal favorite.

Sidewalk Flowers by JonArno Lawson and Sydney Smith. The story is beautifully told and beautifully illustrated.

Mr. Gumpy's Outing by John Burningham. I've been a big fan of John Burningham's singular, fearless art and wry sense of humor from way back.

Finding Winnie by Lindsay Mattick and Sophie Blackall. It's such a great idea for a picture book story to tell--the inspiration behind Winnie-the-Pooh.

Trombone Shorty by Troy "Trombone Shorty" Andrews and Bryan Collier. I've long been inspired by the city of New Orleans, with its rich and diverse cultural and musical history and its many times of rising up and overcoming horrible tragedy and obstacles.

Book you most want to read again for the first time:

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak. This one slayed me. It was such a visceral experience reading it.

Book Review

Children's Review: Max and the Midknights

Max and the Midknights by Lincoln Peirce (Crown, $13.99 hardcover, 288p., ages 8-12, 9781101931080, January 8, 2019)

Fans of Lincoln Peirce's much-loved Big Nate series (Big Nate: In a Class by Himself; Big Nate on a Roll; etc.) will be pleased to see Nate himself introducing Peirce's rowdy and hilarious comic book novel Max and the Midknights--and getting in trouble with Mrs. Godfrey in the process.

Max is a kid in the Middle Ages, apprenticed to Uncle Budrick, a decidedly mediocre troubadour. Unfortunately, Max has zero interest in becoming a singer of songs and teller of tales, and instead is dying to become a knight. When a dastardly villain robs the pair, they are set on an accidental knightly quest, which, it turns out, is actually Max's destiny, written in the Byjovian Book of Prophesies long ago.

Recruiting Mumblin, a bumbling retired sorcerer, Kevyn, a "whiz kid" wannabe writer and a couple of child "vagrants," Max forms a merry band of "not ACTUAL knights" but "definitely more than MAKE-BELIEVE knights... sort of in the middle... Middle!... Knights!... MIDKNIGHTS!" The motley crew encounters dragons, sword fights, menacing false royalty, a few kind peasants and setbacks galore on their adventure, all of which is enough to make Max and the Midknights a sure bet for bookworms and non-bookworms alike. The book's design contributes to its appeal: comic-book-style panels alternate with blocks of text, keeping readers moving swiftly through the narrative.

What really sets Peirce's books apart is the nonstop comedic action; Max is no different. Readers of a certain age might snort their chocolate milk out their noses during slapstick scenes (Farting! Silly disguises!), and there's plenty of silliness for older readers, too, who will appreciate the intentional anachronisms and self-referential asides strewn throughout. As the Midknights creep toward a spooky, bewitched cottage, for example, Uncle Budrick, now incognito as an enchanted goose but as eager to perform as ever, says, "Hey, gang! How 'bout we pass the time with a SONG? Here's a little tune I call 'Uptown Funk'!" In another scene, Mumblin explains why he hadn't eaten breakfast that morning at Shady Acres Home for Aged Sorcerers: "Gruntwick the Greedy was ahead of me in the buffet line." And then there's Max describing life in the Middle Ages: "Yup, we're talking the fourteenth century. That means a lot of important stuff hasn't been invented yet. Like paved roads, the toothbrush, and a little convenience known as indoor plumbing."

The plot moves along rapidly, not breaking pace even when the Midknights seem to land in impossible situations: "Why don't we avail ourselves of the horse that, in a highly unlikely plot twist, is coming this way?" says Kevyn, as the gang begins to panic over the imminent return of an evil sorceress. Sure enough, here comes Dusty, the horse that bolted a couple hundred pages earlier.

Fun, fun and more fun, Max and the Midknights will keep kids reading and chortling until the last page. And then they'll probably start over again. --Emilie Coulter, freelance writer and editor

Shelf Talker: In this droll illustrated novel, the creator of the Big Nate series introduces a Middle Ages hero who befriends dragons, rescues cursed kings and makes readers laugh out loud on every page.

KidsBuzz: FSG BYR: The Adventure Is Now by Jess Redman
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