Shelf Awareness for Wednesday, August 18, 2021

William Morrow & Company: The Midnight Feast by Lucy Foley

Shadow Mountain: The Witch in the Woods: Volume 1 (Grimmworld) by Michaelbrent Collings

Hell's Hundred: Blood Like Mine by Stuart Neville

Delacorte Press: Last One to Die by Cynthia Murphy

Margaret Ferguson Books: Not a Smiley Guy by Polly Horvath, Illustrated by Boris Kulikov

Indiana University Press: The Grim Reader: A Pharmacist's Guide to Putting Your Characters in Peril by Miffie Seideman

St. Martin's Press: Lenny Marks Gets Away with Murder by Kerryn Mayne


Bookstore Sales Up 81.2% in June, Up 30.3% in First Half of 2021

In June, bookstore sales jumped 81.2%, to $703 million, compared to June 2020, according to preliminary Census Bureau estimates. June 2020 was the third full month that reflected severe measures taken in the U.S. to combat the Covid-19 pandemic, which included widespread lockdowns. By comparison to pre-pandemic times, sales this June rose 14.7% in relation to June 2019.

For the year to date--the first half of the year--bookstore sales are up 30.3%, to $3.7 billion.

Total retail sales in June rose 19.1%, to $634.7 billion. So far this year, total retail sales have risen 23%, to $3.5 trillion.

Note: under Census Bureau definitions, the bookstore category consists of "establishments primarily engaged in retailing new books." The Bureau also added this unusual caution concerning the effect of Covid-19: "The Census Bureau continues to monitor response and data quality and has determined that estimates in this release meet publication standards."

Harper: Our Kind of Game by Johanna Copeland

ABA's Dan Cullen to Retire at End of Year

Dan Cullen

Dan Cullen, who may be the longest-serving current staff member of the American Booksellers Association, is retiring at the end of the year, Bookselling This Week reported.

Cullen joined the ABA in 1986 as editor of ABA Newswire, the predecessor of BTW. During his 35-year career at the ABA, he was information department director, senior director of editorial content and content officer, and oversaw, among other things, the old American Bookseller magazine and the Indie Next Lists. For the past seven years, he has been senior strategy officer, responsible for helping direct ABA strategy, the association's advocacy efforts, the annual ABACUS report, and media and press relations.

ABA CEO Allison Hill said, "I feel extraordinarily lucky to have worked with Dan during his final stretch at ABA. His decision to stay to help with the CEO transition as I started in 2020 ended up being more than he probably bargained for when the pandemic hit, but the support he has demonstrated for me, everyone at ABA, and members during the past year and a half proved to be his final extraordinary gift to ABA after his decades of service. We are grateful for his time at ABA and for the long lead time for us to get used to the idea of him not being here every day."

ABA COO Joy Dallanegra-Sanger added, "We've traveled to stores and shows across the country, sharing stories, meals, and drinking lots of coffee. Dan's knowledge of ABA, past and present, has been invaluable to the ABA staff, board, and me. It's hard to imagine an ABA meeting without one of Dan's famous analogies or his fabulous snorting laugh that everyone longs to hear. If we are lucky, he might come visit us at a Winter or Children's Institute. From the beginning, he has been a welcoming partner whose counsel has been so important to me. Indie bookstores have been so lucky to have him on their side."

Cullen himself said that working at the ABA, with independent booksellers, and in the book industry "has been the greatest professional gift anyone could hope for. There hasn't been a day that I haven't met someone, learned something, or been able to work with a colleague that I'm not grateful for. I've been very lucky to have been at ABA through really remarkable volunteer and staff leadership, and I'm leaving with especial gratitude to both Allison and Joy, who have been sustained--and sustaining--profiles of what extraordinary leadership looks like. I can't wait to see what great things lie ahead for indie bookselling."

We at Shelf Awareness tip our hat to Dan, who for so many years has been a friend, fellow journalist and most helpful connection at the ABA. We wish him the best!

Chronicle Books: Life Wants You Dead: A Calm, Rational, and Totally Legit Guide to Scaring Yourself Safe by Evan Waite, Illustrated by Paula Searing

Grand Opening for Rudolph Girls Bookstore in Westminster, Md.

Rudolph Girls Bookstore hosted its grand opening celebration over the weekend at 15 E. Main Street, Suite 112, in Westminster, Md. The Carroll County Times reported that the new bookshop, represents a "shared dream between two sisters," co-owners Nikki Rhodes and Ali King, Carroll County public school teachers "who decided to channel their passion for reading into a business. After years of family dinner conversations fantasizing about opening a bookstore, the sisters decided to finally take the leap in January."

"We really do believe that bookstores can be the hub of a community, and that it helps people who may be introverted and not really know how to start friendships or start conversations with people," Rhodes said. "Everybody loves to talk about the books that they love."

King added: "It's been a huge learning curve, but we've been so incredibly lucky with people answering every single question that we have." Their goal is to create a cozy and inviting space with initiatives for people to connect with fellow community members through reading.

Early in the process, Rhodes and King held story times at the Westminster Farmers Market on Saturdays, maintained an active social media presence and raised funds by selling T-shirts. In addition to virtual meetings with several booksellers, "they bonded particularly well" with Annie Philbrick, owner of Bank Square Books, Mystic, Conn., and the Savoy Bookshop & Cafe, Westerly, R.I., the Carroll County Times wrote. 

"Independent bookstores are vital to the shopping local movement and just bring a wonderful world of discovery and browsing to people," Philbrick said. "Sharing a book is like sharing a part of yourself that you like, and it's just really special."

Rudolph Girls Bookstore is currently one of the five finalists for the Carroll County Biz Challenge, a competition for local entrepreneurs to pitch business ideas, network, get publicity and compete for a $10,000 prize, among other additional prizes and services. If they win, the owners plan to use the cash prize for holiday decorating at their store and restocking inventory.

GLOW: Tundra Books: We Are Definitely Human by X. Fang

Unruly Cactus Books and Coffee Comes to Port Isabel, Tex.

A bookstore and coffee shop called the Unruly Cactus has opened in Port Isabel, Tex., the Valley Morning Star reported.

Located in Port Isabel's historic Lighthouse Square area, the general-interest bookstore carries new books for all ages, though there is a strong emphasis on children's literature. The coffee shop, sells coffee, espresso and tea, and there are gifts for sale made by local artists.

Owner Gayle Curry, whose background is in education, told the VMS that the store had a soft opening on June 17, and the community responded very well: "Seeing and hearing the reactions have been so encouraging. Having folks sit and read, play games, and in some cases, crochet has been just what we'd hoped for."

There is ample room in the store for customers to sit, study, have a drink and even play chess. Curry hopes to host some book clubs in the future as well as children's storytimes, poetry readings and book signings. A ribbon-cutting and official grand opening celebration is in the works, and over the next few weeks Curry will add a limited selection of used books.

"The support from the community and visitors has been incredibly heartwarming and it's been wonderful to see former students excited about books," Curry added.

Harper: Sandwich by Catherine Newman

Book Revue in Huntington, N.Y., Closing Next Month

After 44 years in business, the Book Revue in Huntington, N.Y., will close by the end of September, Newsday reported. The new and used bookstore is being evicted due to unpaid rent, with Book Revue's landlord saying that owner Richard Klein owes more than $420,000.

Klein told News 12 The Bronx that prior to the pandemic, the store was always able to make rent on time, but "we were forced to close, mandated by law to close and even when we were able to open, store traffic was down." He added that he reached out to his landlord repeatedly to try to come up with some sort of payment plan, but was refused.

Emerson Dobs III, principal with the building owner, said the solutions Klein proposed were "non-starters," because they did not involve paying the back rent. He said it was sad for both the bookstore and the town of Huntington that Book Revue will close on these terms.

The building is up for sale, and Book Revue has until September 30 to vacate.

Obituary Note: Jack Covert

Jack Covert

Jack Covert, founder of Porchlight Book Company, died August 13, the company announced. He started the business (previously known as 800-CEO-READ) in Milwaukee's Harry W. Schwartz Bookshops on Wisconsin Avenue in 1984, when David Schwartz hired him to see if he could grow sales in the business and computer book section of the store. He was 77 and had retired in 2014.

"Everything we do as a company today ties back to what Jack did next, and who he was as a person," Porchlight wrote in a tribute. "Jack often talked about the history of how he built the company as a series of inflection points. The first was when he saw a businessperson come in over their lunch break and buy ten copies of Tom Peters's In Search of Excellence off the shelf. It was then he realized that business books could be sold in bulk (in boxes, as he said) if he could find more people like that. So he began to fill the trunk of his car with books and make calls on local businesses and corporate librarians across the state to bring the best new releases to them--meeting them where they were and making personal relationships as well as book recommendations instead of waiting for them to show up in the store. He built upon that model by turning his picks of the best new business books into a successful catalog and mail-order business that became national in scale.

"The second inflection point came when arrived on the scene and the orders coming in through the mail dried up almost overnight, and even corporate libraries began to become a thing of the past. Jack met that challenge--as he always did--by pivoting in the moment to focus on the needs of the people he worked with most. In addition to launching a website of our own, Jack built upon his previous human relationships and experience. One of those experiences was when a business book author came to speak at an event in Milwaukee and told him over dinner how difficult it had been to get books delivered to his other speaking events on the tour. Jack decided then and there that he would buy up every single copy of the book he could find and become the author’s go-to distributor--telling him that whenever and wherever he needed books for the duration of the tour, to just give him a call and he'd make sure the books were where he needed them when he needed them to be there. The author agreed, and Jack brought in hundreds of copies of the book, piling them up in any open space he could find. By the end of the tour, the books were all sold, and our bulk book business was born.  

"Jack's love of books wasn't strictly transactional. He loved biographies, industry narratives, management fables, and was fascinated by leadership stories of all kinds. The lists of new releases in our weekly Books to Watch feature stemmed directly from the lists of new releases he put together for corporate librarians and got printed in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel's business section. His 'Jack Covert Selects' review series, run in business journals throughout the country for years, was the beginning of us writing book reviews on a regular basis. That coverage has changed as the internet changed the media landscape, but it is yet another example of how he set the foundation for nearly everything we do today, and we’re just building upon it and renovating as needed over time. 

"We learned it all from Jack, but even more importantly, we learned from his example to not remain static--to evolve, innovate, and pivot in response to what our customers need from us, to meet them where they are, and not expect them to come to us. (How many times did he remind us to pick up the phone?) We believe in books, but our business is centered around the services we provide to customers--because that is how Jack oriented the company. It was an ethos he extended to the employees of the company, as well. He told us when he retired that the thing he was most proud of was how the company he built provided a foundation for the lives we've all built. If you asked him what numbers he ultimately cared most about, it wasn't the growth in sales or revenue over the years, but the growth of our families, the number of kids born, houses bought, and other ways we've all built and grown in our lives and selves while we've been with the company. He met us where we were, as well, and helped us meet the challenge of his high expectations of us. 

"Jack said in one of our meetings after he retired that if there was one thing he wished would have turned out differently, it was that the company could have reached the level of success it achieved in the years after David Schwartz died in 2004 just a little bit sooner so David could have seen it. The company was doing well at the time, but it really began to spread its wings soon after. Jack wished he could have been able to sit across the table from his best friend one more time, just to be able to say 'It worked. Can you believe it? It worked.' It really did, and maybe now he can finally let his friend know. We love you, Jack, and we'll miss you. It worked, and we’ll continue telling your story--in words, yes, but also because you are present in everything we do."


Happy 35th Birthday, Alkebu-Lan Images!

Congratulations to Alkebu-Lan Images in North Nashville, Tenn., which is celebrating its 35th anniversary. The Tennessean reported that Yusef Harris "opened the store to aid in the psychological growth of the Black community and spent the ensuing decades providing a platform for emerging Black authors. Last year, he said, his store regularly saw record profits due in large part to the Black Lives Matter and Buy Black movements."

Alkebu-Lan Images features children's books, "beautiful pieces of fashion and handmade jewelry, holistic health and beauty items, and an array of novels on vast topics. The shop is filled with scents that make your nose dance," the Tennessean wrote, adding that the shop's mission "is to reflect African American culture, heritage and history to build self-esteem among African Americans and expose other cultures to the beauty found in African American culture.... Alkebu-Lan Images is located on the same street as three historically Black colleges and is viewed as a safe space for Black intellectuals and those hoping to learn more about Black culture."

Harris credits tourism, college students and the greater Nashville community for being able to remain in operation for 35 years. Although he has no plans of slowing down, Harris looks forward to the day he can pass the business down to his son Jordan "in a tradition he hopes will last for many generations."

Media and Movies

Media Heat: Eyal Press on Fresh Air

Fresh Air: Eyal Press, author of Dirty Work: Essential Jobs and the Hidden Toll of Inequality in America (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, $28, 9780374140182).

Today Show: Megan Abbott, author of The Turnout (Putnam, $27, 9780593084908).

Drew Barrymore Show repeat: Clea Shearer and Joanna Teplin, authors of The Home Edit Life: The No-Guilt Guide to Owning What You Want and Organizing Everything (Clarkson Potter, $28.50, 9780593138304).

Late Night with Seth Meyers: Cecily Strong, author of This Will All Be Over Soon: A Memoir (‎Simon & Schuster, $28, ‎9781982168315).

Movies: Animal; Pet Sematary

MGM and Plan B Entertainment have acquired the film rights to Lisa Taddeo's novel Animal, "which she will adapt for the screen, marking her feature writing debut," Deadline reported. Plan B will produce the film as part of its overall deal with MGM.

"We call women crazy when they are angry," Taddeo said. "And we don't have enough art that reflects how basal and vibrant and important female rage can be. I'm thrilled and grateful to bring Animal to life with two iconic film partners."


Samantha Mathis and Henry Thomas have been added to the follow-up adaptation of Stephen King's bestseller Pet Sematary at Paramount Players, Deadline reported. They join a cast that includes Jackson White, Forrest Goodluck, Jack Mulhern, Natalie Alyn Lind, Isabella Star LeBlanc and Pam Grier.

Directed by Lindsey Beer, who wrote a script based on Jeff Buhler's draft, the movie will debut exclusively on Paramount+. Production began last week. Paramount had previously made two editions of Pet Sematary, in 1989 and 2019.

Books & Authors

Awards: Margaret Mahy Illustration Shortlist

A shortlist has been revealed by Hachette Aotearoa NZ and the Margaret Mahy estate for the 2021 Margaret Mahy Illustration Prize. The winner is given the opportunity to publish with Hachette, a A$1,000 (about US$735) cash prize and A$500 (about US$370) worth of Hachette books. 

This year, organizers received more than 250 expressions of interest to illustrate There's a King in the Cupboard, one of Mahy's iconic children's books, for the prize. The finalists are Elizabeth Knowles, Tara Southgate, Sarah Trolle, Jessica Twohill and Minrui Yang.

Reading with... Tracy Swinton Bailey

photo: Jana Wilson

Tracy Swinton Bailey earned a Ph.D. in Education with a specialization in Language and Literacy at the University of South Carolina in 2013. She began her career as a high school English instructor, and went on to found Freedom Readers, an after-school and summer literacy program that supports families in low-income areas and assists children in achieving their academic goals in reading. She is married to writer Issac J. Bailey, and is the mother of two children. Forever Free (Other Press, August 3, 2021) is a call for racial and socioeconomic justice by way of education policy reform.

On your nightstand now:

Mountains Beyond Mountains by Tracy Kidder. Paul Farmer's story convinced me that living a life of purpose is more important than chasing dollars and prestige. Finishing up my second reading now.

Behold the Dreamers by Imbolo Mbue. My librarian recommended this one with so much fire in her eyes that I couldn't pass up the opportunity to check it out. I trust my librarian fully.

Heroes of the Frontier by Dave Eggers. After watching his TED Talk describing the nonprofit he co-founded to help kids get to college, I became a fan. All these years later, I'm just getting a chance to sample his fiction. Can't wait!

Five-Carat Soul by James McBride. I read The Color of Water in the '90s and have kept up with McBride's work ever since. His most recent novel, Deacon King Kong, was checked out so I decided to take a look at this title which was unknown to me at the time.

Caste by Isabel Wilkerson. The Warmth of Other Suns is one of my favorite books of all time. Wilkerson's vivid storytelling casts a strong spell. I've heard many good things about her latest book, so I borrowed it from my husband's stack.

The Girl with the Louding Voice by Abi Daré. A friend I trust and respect recommended this book on Facebook.

Favorite book when you were a child:

The Monster at the End of This Book: Starring Lovable, Furry Old Grover by Jon Stone. My daddy read that book to me at least three times a week at bedtime. The book always made me laugh and I begged him to read it to me multiple times. When he was so tired he couldn't read another word, I'd try to read it myself under the covers next to my Donald Duck night light.

Your top five authors:

Alice Walker
Toni Morrison
James McBride
Jacqueline Woodson
Tressie McMillan Cottom

Book you've faked reading:

Middlemarch by George Eliot. Don't tell my freshman English Lit professor.

Book you're an evangelist for:

My Brother Moochie by Issac J. Bailey.

Book you've bought for the cover:

The cover of Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi jumps off the paper and grabs you by the throat. I have seen those eyes in my dreams.

Book you hid from your parents:

Forever by Judy Blume was a book I read in my room. I didn't really have to hide it since my parents pretty much left me to explore the world of books freely.

Book that changed your life:

Frederick Douglass: Prophet of Freedom by David W. Blight helped me understand how far we've come as a nation and how far we still have to go.

Favorite line from a book:

"She comprehended the perversity of life, that in the struggle lies the joy." -- Maya Angelou, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings

Five books you'll never part with:

Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End by Atul Gawande
The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead
Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption by Bryan Stevenson
Why Didn't We Riot by Issac J. Bailey
The Color Purple by Alice Walker

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

Purple Hibiscus by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. The writing in that novel is flawless. Adichie introduced me to a lush new world of sights, sounds and artistry.

Book Review

Children's Review: It Fell from the Sky

It Fell from the Sky by Terry Fan, Eric Fan (Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, $17.99 hardcover, 56p., ages 4-8, 9781534457621, September 28, 2021)

Siblings Terry and Eric Fan (The Night Gardener) craft a winsome world of bugs and botanicals in this meticulously drawn story of outsize wonder and greed, disproportionate to its diminutive setting.

"It fell from the sky on a Thursday," the narrator says portentously of a gleaming orb that lands among the dandelions and mesmerizes the local bug and small wildlife population. The cat's-eye marble, transparent except for twists of brilliant lemon yellow, kelly green and turquoise through its center, is luminous against the grayscale landscape. The black-and-white inhabitants can't identify it. The speckled Frog puts out his lengthy tongue for a taste test but dislikes the flavor. The Dung Beetle performs a handstand but fails to roll it. The Grasshopper examines it through a magnifying glass and pronounces it "most likely a fallen star." The Luna Moth believes the marble is a chrysalis and attempts to hatch it overnight; the double-page spread uses the inherent contrast of a black-and-white color scheme as a magic trick, making sail-like wings, the surrounding fireflies and the full moon appear illuminated. Meanwhile, the Spider skulks in the margins, spinning. In the morning, he insists he owns the Wonder from the Sky. "After all," he says, "it fell right into my web." The other creatures don't remember the web being there the day before, "but in fairness nobody remembered it not being there either." The huckster Spider raises a fabulous anthill-landscaped exhibit around the marble and charges one leaf per ticket. He grows wealthy until rising prices drive away his audience, and a "five-legged creature" readers will recognize as a child's hand takes the Wonder "back to the sky." Deserted, the Spider repents his selfishness. He uses webs to catch more colorful objects from the sky and builds a free sculpture garden for his awestruck community out of jacks, plastic toys and a pocket watch. On the final page, the reformed arachnid tips his top hat to readers, acknowledging them as witnesses to his folly and growth.

The Fans create a satisfying vintage feel with their playfully formal diction and detailed and graphite and digital illustrations, which mix realism and whimsy, such as Spider's bowtie. Each exquisitely detailed spread invites a longer, closer look, and the restrained palette's grayscale and color contrast recalls the film The Wizard of Oz. Only the items "from the sky" and the leaf currency are in color, suggesting their otherworldly quality and allure. Fans of David Wiesner should especially love this immersive miniature world where marbles are marvels and community spirit triumphs over filthy leaves--er, lucre. --Jaclyn Fulwood, youth experience manager, Dayton Metro Library

Shelf Talker: In this exquisitely drawn picture book, a marble creates humorous, ultimately meaningful upheaval among a charming community of bugs and other creatures.

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