Also published on this date: Tuesday, April 6, 2021: Maximum Shelf: Falling

Shelf Awareness for Tuesday, April 6, 2021

Margaret K. McElderry Books: Tender Beasts by Liselle Sambury

Scholastic Press: Heroes: A Novel of Pearl Harbor by Alan Gratz

Flatiron Books: Anita de Monte Laughs Last by Xochitl Gonzalez

Peachtree Publishers: King & Kayla and the Case of the Downstairs Ghost (King & Kayla) by Dori Hillestad Butler, illustrated by Nancy Meyers

Doubleday Books: The Husbands by Holly Gramazio


Ownership, Location Changes for Sheridan Stationery Books & Gallery in Wyoming

After more than 28 years in business, Robby and John Smith, owners of Sheridan Stationery Books and Gallery in Sheridan, Wyo., will close their store on April 10, the Sheridan Press reported, adding that the Smiths "are currently in the midst of two sales: one for the building at 206 N. Main Street, and one for the Sheridan Stationery business."

John Smith said the building will be occupied by a "well-established Sheridan business," while the bookstore will move to a new location under new ownership, with further details to be announced later. The Smiths are the store's fifth--and second-longest--owners. They purchased the business in 1993 after John Smith ended his career as a coal miner.

"There will be some downtime between when we close and when they reopen in the new location," said Robby Smith, who is retiring. "But we are excited for Sheridan Stationery to continue on.... I'll miss the social part of it--the customers and the employees--more than anything. People have been so supportive over the years. It's just been wonderful."

Dixie Johnson, CEO of the Sheridan County Chamber of Commerce, said the Smiths had contributed to the Chamber in numerous ways over the years: "It can be hard when these transitions happen, and there is a sense of grief when you're losing that staple, which has been part of the community for so long. What Robby has built at Sheridan Stationery is so much a part of downtown. But we're so excited for them and this new chapter in Robby's life, especially."

On Facebook, Robby Smith posted: "It has been such an honor to be able to help provide wonderful reading material to so many over the years. We are grateful to all who have supported our local independent business. I hope you will continue to patronize all of the wonderful indie stores in Sheridan." 

Holiday House: The Five Impossible Tasks of Eden Smith by Tom Llewellyn; The Selkie's Daughter by Linda Crotta Brennan

Co-owner Miles Bellamy Leaves Brooklyn's Spoonbill & Sugartown

Miles Bellamy

Miles Bellamy has left his position as co-owner, with Jonas Kyle, of Spoonbill & Sugartown, Booksellers, Brooklyn, N.Y. In a post on the store's Facebook page, Bellamy wrote: "Friends, colleagues, patrons and patronesses of Spoonbill all these years: It's with a complex brew of sweet and bitter nectars that I'll walk today back out through the hallowed doors of my favorite bookshop, for the last time as its co-owner. I conceived of it some time in late 1998, Jonas came on board, and we opened just before the turn of the millennium with the shelves lightly filled, barely a thousand books, and a warm feeling that we were in the right place.

"All these years later, through 9/11 and recession and the coming of the chains, the transformation of Williamsburg from an enclave of artists to--well you fill in the word here--through sky-high rent and a pandemic to boot, the old book-hearts are still beating. How do I feel after 21 years? Chiefly: humility, gratitude and wonder. You made the shop what it is with your questions, suggestions, needs and wants. We acted as a vessel for your knowledge, as it were. 

"But all things must pass and I myself will be leaving this bookshop and this city and starting anew 'somewhere in the mountains.' (This is not the place to sound my trumpet about that, much as I itch to, but I'll keep you posted.) In the meantime, please keep coming in and buying books, the shop needs you. The shop can't continue without you. Long live Jonas, long live Spoonbill & Sugartown!"

Amistad Press: The Survivors of the Clotilda: The Lost Stories of the Last Captives of the American Slave Trade by Hannah Durkin

N.C.'s Adventure Bound Books to Relocate, Expand

Angela Shores

Adventure Bound Books, Morganton, N.C., which opened in June 2018, is moving to 117 W. Union St. this summer, the News-Herald reported, adding that this is the third relocation in as many years as the bookseller continues to expand.

"We are going to begin the moving process August 1," said owner Angela Shores. "The hope is to be completely moved and mostly settled by August 21 when we do our Bookstore Romance Day celebration."

At about 3,000 square feet, the new location is roughly double the store's current space, and substantially larger than Adventure Bound's initial location, which was 550 square feet. 

Describing the move as "incredible" and "hopeful," Shores said, "It is extremely meaningful (to be able to grow). From the very beginning, the intention and vision for the bookstore has been to not only provide access to stories through selling books, but to also support the community through those stories, finding their own stories and telling their own stories. That's one of the reasons we're doing poetry nights and writing contests and we have story hour for kids and storybook camp.

"Getting into a bigger space is going to provide an opportunity for us to continue doing that programming and community outreach activities that I'm so passionate about. I'm really excited about being able to launch an after-school program for young readers and writers around the idea of storytelling."

The bookstore also recently launched the Adventure Bound Scholarship "to encourage the pursuit of the recipient's dreams through a direct, one-time investment in the post-secondary educational path of their choice," the News-Herald noted, adding that Shores "believes in a people's ability to positively change the world in which they live and strives to support dreamers and world-changers in many ways, including starting the bookstore and the scholarship."

How Bookstores Are Coping: Altered Acquisitions; 3,000% Online Increase; Walk-Ins Allowed

At Dial Bookshop in Chicago, Ill., things are relatively normal outside the use of masks, hand sanitizer and a plastic window at the checkout counter, owners Heidi Zhang and Peter Hopkins reported. The store is located in Chicago's Fine Arts Building, which Hopkins said gives them a "steady volume of foot traffic." Large groups, however, are still rare, and there aren't really any rush periods, so limited capacity has not been an issue.

Perhaps the biggest operational change, he continued, is the way that the store now acquires inventory. Dial Bookshop sells predominantly used books, and he and Zhang used to buy from large, annual used book sales in and around Chicago. All of those were canceled last year, so they've had to rely heavily on remainder wholesalers and special-ordering new titles instead.

The bookstore was closed between April and July, and since Dial Bookshop didn't have an online store, sales were extremely low during that time. Sales picked up after the store reopened, but overall sales in 2020 were far below the numbers from 2019.

Dial started a book-of-the-month subscription service while the store was closed, and Zhang and Hopkins were surprised by how many subscribers they got within the first month. It's grown pretty steadily since then, and they have books picked out through September 2021.

Looking ahead, they have no plans to resume events any time soon, and Hopkins expects that their primary concern this year will be finding more sources for good used books. Foot traffic has been increasing, he noted, but none of the used book sales have yet announced whether they'll return in 2021.


In Providence, R.I., Books on the Square continues to offer free local delivery two days per week and contactless pick-up, in addition to limited browsing, manager Jennifer Kandarian reported. They've been able to increase their in-store capacity, which has made a big difference now that families feel comfortable being together in public again. 

Asked how the store fared last year, Kandarian answered that all-in-all things went "pretty well." Online business increased by 3,000% and the store introduced a lot of customers to the idea that they could order online from their local bookstore. Sidelines and sales of cards and stationery were "almost nonexistent" in 2020, Kandarian noted, but increased book sales made up for that.

The need to create social-distancing space in the store allowed Kandarian and the team to make some changes they hadn't thought of before. They moved and consolidated sections, removed a lot of the floor displays that were not contributing much and made a "method of flow" within sections. They've gotten a lot of positive feedback about the new layout, she added.

On the subject of her outlook for 2021, Kandarian said she's "absolutely optimistic but cautious." Sales have been strong, even though the beginning of the year tends to be a slow time, and people have really missed being able to browse. She is cautious, however, because of how horrible it was last year to return stacks of hot titles such as The Book of Lost Friends and the movie tie-in edition of The Woman in the Window. That experience, she remarked, will "haunt me for years."

She and the team have no plans in mind for things like resuming events or further expanding operations. She feels it's important to hold on until the store's staff and customers feel comfortable again, although it sometimes feels like it's been a lifetime since the store had crowds of kids for a storytime session.


Jill Stefanovich, owner of bbgb Books in Richmond, Va., reported that the store finally opened to walk-in customers on March 1. She and her team are still allowing customers to book appointments, which they've been doing since late September last year. The store is very small, so only one or two family groups are being allowed in at a time. Stefanovich said she knows her cautiousness has lost the store some customers, but "we aren't taking any chances. We don't expect this way of doing business to change anytime soon."

In 2020, store sales were down about 35%, but there were some surprising bright spots amid all of the difficulty, Stefanovich noted. Switching to online events allowed the store to expand its reach, and customers have joined from as far as California. The store's book fair business has also gone virtual, and it's now been able to partner with some new schools.

Increased phone calls and e-mails, meanwhile, have allowed the team to connect with more customers than normal. There was even a handwritten thank-you note from one customer saying he couldn't have survived Covid without the store. Stefanovich commented: "What more could you ask for?" --Alex Mutter

Obituary Note: Laban Hill

Laban Hill

Laban Hill, the children's book author, storyteller, poet and teacher, died on February 15. He was 60.

After working in publishing at several houses, including Scholastic, Hill moved to Vermont and wrote many of the books in the Choose Your Own Adventure series and created his own series, the Extreme Sports Mysteries, in which his daughters, Natalie and Ella, were characters. His more than 30 books included the National Book Award finalist Harlem Stomp!, the Caldecott Honor awardee Dave the Potter, America Dreaming and When the Beat Was Born.

Hill was also a teacher, receiving invitations from Columbia University, Saint Michael's College, the University of Vermont, and at MFA writing programs at Pine Manor and Vermont College of Fine Arts. For the last several years, he taught English at Essex High School in Essex Junction, Vt.

His family remembered: "Whether for friends, family or strangers, Laban carried with him a profound sense of empathy for others who struggled or lacked agency. When mentally ill citizens were being threatened and killed by local police, Laban was an advocate for better police training. His books on the Harlem Renaissance, the 1960s and Dave the Potter were outpourings of his ever-present commitment to social and racial justice. He carried that commitment across the world when he became a Fulbright Scholar. In Ghana, he worked with writer Martin Egblewogbe to found the Ghana Poetry Project (now the Writers Project of Ghana) to promote Ghanaian literature through workshops, readings, publishing and establishing a small press. Upon invitation, he traveled to Sri Lanka, Indonesia and the Philippines to deepen understandings abroad of U.S. culture and history."

Donations in his memory can be made to Pathways Vermont.


Today Show's Jenna Bush Hager on How Indies Are Faring

On the Today Show yesterday, Jenna Bush Hager reported on how independent bookstores have fared during the pandemic, with communities rallying to make sure their favorite stores survive difficult times. Hager visited McNally Jackson in New York City whose owner, Sarah McNally, recounted how its fourth store opened in February 2020, just 10 days before it had to close because of Covid-19, "and all the bills for the new store were due, and the store bank accounts were dry from the building, and it was terrifying." But customers--and authors--rallied to support her and other indies. McNally said that, for example, Patti Smith came in and signed many hundreds of books "until her hands could sign no more."

Likewise Jon Kraukauer has been visiting his local indie, Boulder Bookstore, Boulder, Colo., every few weeks to sign and personalize copies of his books. Kraukauer told Hager, "In all the places I've lived, especially now in Boulder, the independent bookstore is the cultural heart and ground zero of the community."

Hager mentioned, too, the Last Book Store, Los Angeles, Calif., which started subscription boxes of surprise curated books, and the Curious Reader, Glen Rock, N.J., which included doodles from children's authors "to make purchases extra special."

Media and Movies

Media Heat: Hanif Abdurraqib on Fresh Air

Fresh Air: Hanif Abdurraqib, author of A Little Devil in America: Notes in Praise of Black Performance (Random House, $27, 9781984801197).

Live with Kelly and Ryan: Dr. Jennifer Ashton, author of The New Normal: A Roadmap to Resilience in the Pandemic Era (Morrow, $26.99, 9780063083233).

Watch What Happens Live: Margaret Josephs, author of Caviar Dreams, Tuna Fish Budget: How to Survive in Business and Life (Gallery, $28, 9781982172411).

A Little Late with Lilly Singh: Amber Ruffin, co-author of You'll Never Believe What Happened to Lacey: Crazy Stories about Racism (Grand Central, $28, 9781538719367).

Late Show with Stephen Colbert: Michio Kaku, author of The God Equation: The Quest for a Theory of Everything (Doubleday, $22, 9780385542746).

HBO Celebrates Game of Thrones' 10th Anniversary

To mark the 10th anniversary of the premiere of Game of Thrones, based on George R.R. Martin‘s A Song of Ice and Fire book series, HBO has launched "The Iron Anniversary," a month-long celebration to commemorate the hit series, "engage passionate fans, and ignite audiences' excitement for the next iteration of the franchise, with House of the Dragon slated to begin production this year."

HBO Max is featuring a Game of Thrones Spotlight Page, an in-app experience with curations for every level of fandom. Beginning April 10, HBO will launch the Game of Thrones MaraThrone, with all episodes of season one airing on HBO2, "challenging fans to continue to binge watch all 73 episodes of the series on HBO Max while raising money for select global charities," HBO noted. For two weeks, GOT cast members will rally the fandom to contribute to one of 10 causes: Women for Women International, World Central Kitchen, Conservation International, International Rescue Committee, UNICEF, FilmAid International, SameYou, Royal Mencap Society, National Urban League and the Trevor Project.

Later in the month, HBO will surprise three couples who were married in Westeros-themed ceremonies with special anniversary gifts: GOT-branded barrels of wine, custom chalices and elaborate cakes designed in partnership with local bakeries to represent the GOT houses of Targaryen, Stark and Lannister. In addition, Warner Bros. Consumer Products and its licensing partners have teamed up to create a variety of special-edition products kicking off the Iron Anniversary. 

Books & Authors

Awards: BMO Winterset Winner

Eva Crocker's debut novel All I Ask won the CA$12,500 (about US$9,950) BMO Winterset Award, which is presented for excellence in writing by a Newfoundland and Labrador author, Quill & Quire reported. Crocker was named a finalist alongside Bridget Canning for Some People's Children and Andrea Procter for A Long Journey: Residential Schools in Labrador and Newfoundland, each of whom receives CA$3,000 (about US$2,390).

Book Review

Review: Hot Stew

Hot Stew by Fiona Mozley (Algonquin Books, $26.95 hardcover, 320p., 9781643751559, April 20, 2021)

On a nondescript block in London's Soho district stands a 17th-century building with a decades-old French restaurant on the ground floor. The specialty of the house is snails in garlic butter. On the rooftop, two women bicker and smoke. In the cellar, an encampment of squatters scrapes out a home. On the middle floors, sex workers entertain clients in apartments where some of them also live. Myriad and motley, these characters and their sordid and sympathetic lives form Hot Stew, a compelling, compassionate novel by Fiona Mozley (Elmet).

Precious is an immigrant mother and grandmother. "Everyone assumes 'Precious' is the name she adopted on entering the trade," but it's her real name. She shares her apartment with her maid and life partner, Tabitha, retired from the trade. One of the brothel's customers, Robert, an older man retired from a life of crime, drinks at a nearby pub with his friend Lorenzo, a young actor. The pub is also frequented by two of the cellar squatters: a man who does magic tricks and a woman with a heroin problem and a mysterious past. A young man of wealth and privilege reconsiders old connections as he explores the Soho building that ties them all together. Looming dangerously over all their lives is the formidable Agatha Howard, born of a Russian teenager and a fabulously wealthy crime boss septuagenarian. Agatha owns the building where these lives intersect, and she wants to gut it for renovations to increase her profits. But Precious and Tabitha are disinclined to leave, and once the thread of gentrification is tugged, it becomes clear how complex is the weave of an unassuming building in Soho.

Hot Stew is concerned with class, history, legacies, how each person ends up where they do and the degree to which they hold agency over their futures. Mozley's character sketches are delightful and engaging: detailed, complicated, flawed and beautiful. As the stakes rise for each and as their apparently disparate stories come together, a sense of menace threatens the interconnected human stew. "The men behind the masks aren't men. They are a natural disaster: a hurricane, a flood." Just a few of these variously disreputable but lovable characters feel the tremors that have begun to tease at Soho's underbelly, until it seems that the fates of the building, its inhabitants and all of Soho are one fate. This is a novel of empathy, shared histories and hope in the most unlikely of places. --Julia Kastner, librarian and blogger at pagesofjulia

Shelf Talker: Within a London apartment building in some disrepair, diverse lives intertwine in an absorbing story of connections and change.

The Bestsellers

Top-Selling Self-Published Titles

The bestselling self-published books last week as compiled by

1. Rich Dad, Poor Dad by Robert T. Kiyosaki with Sharon L. Lechter
2. Flipping Keys by Cesar Piña
3. Billions at Play by N.J. Ayuk
4. One More Time by Aurora Rose Reynolds
5. Saint's Passage by Elizabeth Hunter
6. From Blood and Ash by Jennifer L. Armentrout
7. A Place to Belong by Various
8. Reborn (Shadow Beast Shifters Book 3) by Jaymin Eve
9. The Experts Cure by Rob Kosberg
10. Temptation by Ivy Smoak

[Many thanks to!]

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