Shelf Awareness for Tuesday, March 15, 2022

Henry Holt & Company: Warrior Girl Unearthed by Angeline Boulley

Henry Holt & Company: Warrior Girl Unearthed by Angeline Boulley

Little, Brown Ink: The Princess and the Grilled Cheese Sandwich (a Graphic Novel) by Deya Muniz

Flatiron Books: Once Upon a Prime: The Wondrous Connections Between Mathematics and Literature by Sarah Hart

Dundurn Press: Chasing the Black Eagle by Bruce Geddes

Amulet Books: Batcat: Volume 1 by Meggie Ramm

Berkley Books: The Comeback Summer by Ali Brady


PRH Creates Banned Books Resources Hub

Penguin Random House, which has been addressing the issue of book bannings in a variety of ways, has gone a step farther by creating a Banned Books Resources Hub that includes tools, materials and information that can help people and organizations fighting book bans. The Hub also has a contact form for reporting new cases of challenges or bans of PRH titles.

In an explanatory letter, Madeline McIntosh, CEO of Penguin Random House U.S., wrote in part, "As publishers, we are grounded by our beliefs in the inherent value of the open exchange of ideas, and in the power of narratives to broaden perspectives and strengthen human empathy. But these beliefs, and the equitable access to books they support, are under serious threat. Book bans are not new, but the dramatic increase in the number of bans and challenges, along with the tactics being used, is unprecedented. At Penguin Random House, we are dedicated to protecting the freedom of expression and carry an obligation to protect writers from censorship."

She noted in particular PRH's support of PEN America, the National Council of Teachers of English (to which it has given a grant to provide a database of rationales for supporting books selected for use in classrooms) and "our vital partner," the National Coalition Against Censorship. "We will remain steadfast in our defense of the freedom to read and to our commitment to combatting censorship. In partnership with teachers and librarians across the country, we will do all we can to bring inclusive literature and books representing everyone to schools and libraries across the country."

On the Banned Books Resources Hub, PRH said it had given $100,000 recently to PEN America "to safeguard free speech and banned books. We will also increase our financial support of these issues over the next five years." (This is separate from the $500,000 minimum that PRH CEO Markus Dohle personally is giving over five years to PEN America to fund the Dohle Book Defense Fund.) PRH added, "At Penguin Random House, we believe in the right to freedom of expression and protecting writers against censorship. Reading is indispensable in having an informed, engaged democracy, and the dramatic rise in efforts to ban books in public schools and libraries--many of them by BIPOC or LGBTQ voices--threatens the advancement of our society and culture."

G.P. Putnam's Sons: The Three of Us by Ore Agbaje-Williams

White River Books Opens in Carbondale, Colo.

White River Books, a 550-square-foot store selling titles for all ages, opened on March 3 in Carbondale, Colo., the Sopris Sun reported.

Owner Izzy Stringham carries a highly curated selection of mostly new titles, with about 10% of the inventory being used books. She also carries non-book items like journals, puzzles, games, greeting cards and art supplies, and there are comfortable chairs around so customers can sit and read.

"People are setting down their Kindles and want paper books," said Stringham, who has worked at other independent bookstores prior to opening White River Books. "They value that their town has a bookstore and need to go there and buy books. I think people are willing to do that now."

Stringham also attended the Denver Publishing Institute and holds a bachelor's degree in literature. Her husband, Lars, built the store's bookcases and installed the floors while their daughters helped unpack books and offered feedback on children's and YA titles.

"I hope to get found; that people come in and browse," Stringham told the Sun. "I want to see kids come in after school and feel comfortable sitting and reading a book. I want to open my doors wide to the community."

Blink: Come Home Safe by Brian G. Buckmire

ABA Snow Days: Mission-Driven Bookstores

On the final evening of the ABA Snow Days conference last week, four booksellers from mission-driven bookstores around the country discussed the opportunities and challenges particular to mission-driven stores. 

Jamie Thomas, director of operations at Women & Children First in Chicago, Ill., moderated, with panelists Errol Anderson, executive director of Charis Circle, the nonprofit arm of Charis Books & More in Decatur, Ga.; Kathy Burnette, owner of Brain Lair Books in South Bend, Ind.; and Veronica Liu, founder and general coordinator of Word Up Community Bookshop/Librería Comunitaria in Washington Heights, N.Y. (Though the panel aired last week, the discussion was recorded on February 9.)

A significant portion of the conversation centered on the curatorial choices facing mission-driven stores. Anderson pointed out that Charis Circle's mission is to "make more people feminists and anti-racists," through community events and access to books, and everything the store and its nonprofit arm do is "held up against this lens." If a proposed event doesn't match that mission, the team says no, and Anderson said that commitment to the mission has also resulted in turning down donations.

Explaining that she opened her store in 2018, Burnette said that she struggled with turning down events when she was still trying to get established. She recalled that she had the option of doing an event that would likely have sold "hundreds of books," but she would never have carried those books in her store and supporting that author would "give the wrong message." She turned it down, and though it was a tough decision, she "felt better" because of it. The store has survived, she added, precisely because she's stuck to her mission, and that has resonated with people.

Liu said that Word Up was in a "funny place" with its mission, as at the time of the recording the collective was reevaluating and reexamining its mission. Historically Word Up has kept its mission and the nature of the space "purposely less defined," though there has always been a focus on books by Black, Latinx, indigenous and queer authors, as well as a prioritization of youth within the collective and in the bookstore's programming. At the same time, there's also been an effort to keep the "door open" for sometimes difficult or controversial conversations.

Thomas said Women & Children First has a "firm curation policy," where the team has to consider whether a given book would harm someone in its community. If the answer is yes, then the store doesn't carry that book, and the same principle is applied to events. That said, the store is meant to be the sort of place where people who disagree with the mission can come in and have a dialogue in a respectful way. Staff are also expected to feel empowered in the space to have "difficult discussions" that might "push people's boundaries."

Expanding on the subject of curation, Burnette brought up IndieCommerce, recalling a time when someone tried to order a book from her website that was anti-mask. Because IndieCommerce by default has access to everything, Burnette had to go in herself and make sure those sorts of books wouldn't show up again on her website. People have asked her how she feels about not having those books available, and she emphasized that what she's doing is curation. She's not banning books or censoring books or anything of that sort--those books are still available virtually everywhere else. All indie bookstores make curatorial decisions about what to carry, and she is simply choosing not to carry books that would harm the same people her store is trying to uplift.

Anderson said Charis generally hasn't blocked many books from its website, as there can be some cases where it is important for people of marginalized identities to have access to books that portray them negatively and to "know what those books say." As an example, they mentioned a hypothetical order for books espousing anti-trans beliefs. Is the person ordering those books a graduate student studying the history of trans-exclusionary ideology, or is that person looking to weaponize those ideas? At other times someone will order a book on a recommendation genuinely not knowing that there are harmful things in it. Whenever possible, Anderson continued, the bookstore tries to have a conversation with that customer to understand exactly what they're looking for.

The panelists were in agreement that the mission-driven model means constantly evolving. Liu said that whenever someone is looking to join the Word Up collective, the current members have to "suss out" how comfortable that new person is with a "work in progress" that requires "constant dialogue and evolution." Anderson added that on the bad days, they try to remind staff that what they're all doing is a "grand experiment." There are very few leadership books or business books that pertain to this kind of work, and when things are difficult, when people are uncomfortable, it means they are "actually in the work." --Alex Mutter

Simon & Schuster/Paula Wiseman Books: Welcome to the World by Julia Donaldson, illustrated by Helen Oxenbury

B&N College to Manage Univ. of Louisiana at Lafayette Bookstore

Barnes & Noble College has begun operating the University of Louisiana at Lafayette bookstore, which had been operated by the school, the Acadiana Advocate reported. The store closed March 4 for spring break and reopened yesterday as a B&N store. In partnership with Fanatics, B&N will also operate outlets for sports fans at the school's athletic complex. In all, B&N will lease about 27,000 square feet of retail and storage space.

Under the 10-year contract, B&N is paying the university a $250,000 one-time signing bonus, and up to $600,000 the first year, with payments tied primarily to sales in following years. Also, B&N will annually provide $10,000 for textbook scholarships that the University may award. Some of the 12-18 current bookstore employees are continuing with B&N, some are taking jobs elsewhere at the school, and some are leaving.

Duane Bailey, director of campus auxiliary services and deputy director of athletics, said that the school will save on efficiencies and reduced cost while offerings to students will be expanded, including most likely more mobile shopping options, curbside pickup, leisure spaces and special events on game nights.

Obituary Note: Rhoda Norman

Rhoda Norman, who had a lifelong passion for learning and reading, and co-founded Maple Street Book Shop in New Orleans in the mid-1960s, died January 31. She was 93. Norman earned master's degrees in European history from Tulane and library science from LSU, and subsequently was head librarian for the Washington Parish library for several years. 

In 1964, Norman and her older sister, Mary Stuart Kellogg, decided to open a bookstore. They rented a shotgun house in uptown New Orleans, hired a carpenter to build bookshelves, bought books from a book wholesaler, and launched Maple Street Book Shop. 

"Having absolutely no experience in owning and running a bookstore, they took it day by day, and certainly had no idea that Maple Street Book Shop would one day become something of an iconic New Orleans institution," Norman's obituary noted. 

Her niece, Rhoda Faust, assumed ownership of the bookstore and ran it for many years. Norman later opened Green Tree Children's Book Shop in Monmouth, Ore., in a space located on the first floor of a yellow Victorian house she rented there. The bookseller served the nearby state college and its school of education. 

Maple Street Book Shop, which closed in 2017 after 53 years in business, paid tribute to Norman in a Facebook post: "A founder of Maple Street Book Shop, Rhoda Norman and her sister changed the face of bookselling in New Orleans. Opening in 1964 Maple Street featured five rooms of paperback books and became the go to spot for the literary community in New Orleans."


Personnel Changes at Abrams; Bloomsbury

At Abrams:

Mary Marolla has been promoted to senior publicist from publicist at Abrams children's books.

Kristen Milford has been promoted to senior marketing manager.

Julian Benayoun has joined the company as sales assistant, trade & international.


Phoebe Dyer has been promoted to assistant social media manager for children's and adult at Bloomsbury. She was previously the children's assistant marketing manager.

Media and Movies

Media Heat: Amy Schumer on the View

Good Morning America: Mandisa, co-author of Out of the Dark: My Journey Through the Shadow's to Find God's Joy (K-LOVE Books, $26.95, 9781954201002).

Tamron Hall: Seth Meyers, author of I'm Not Scared, You're Scared (Flamingo Books, $18.99, 9780593352373).

The View: Amy Schumer, co-editor of Arrival Stories: Women Share Their Experiences of Becoming Mothers (The Dial Press, $28, 9780593230282).

Tonight Show: Christina Tosi, author of Dessert Can Save the World: Stories, Secrets, and Recipes for a Stubbornly Joyful Existence (Harmony, $26, 9780593231944).

TV: The Man Who Fell to Earth

Showtime released a teaser featuring the first five minutes from the new TV series The Man Who Fell to Earth, based on the novel by Walter Tevis and the iconic film starring David Bowie. Deadline reported that the series "will follow a new alien character (Chiwetel Ejiofor) who arrives on Earth at a turning point in human evolution, and must confront his own past to determine our future."

The new series stars Ejiofor and Naomie Harris, along with Jimmi Simpson, Rob Delaney, Sonya Cassidy, Joana Ribeiro, Annelle Olaleye, Kate Mulgrew, Clarke Peters and Bill Nighy. It makes its debut April 24 on Showtime.

Books & Authors

Polari Adding New Prize for Children's & YA Titles

The Polari literary salon, host of the U.K.'s book prizes for emerging and established LGBTQ+ writers, is adding a new award category this year for children's and YA literature, which joins the Polari Prize and Polari First Book Prize. The inaugural Polari Children's and YA Prize will cover any book published in the 24 months up to February 1, 2022. It will be sponsored by the children's books company, Little Box of Books, with a £1,000 (about $1,300) prize awarded to the winner. 

Jodie Lancet-Grant, chair of the Polari Children's and YA Prize, commented: "If we are to create a truly tolerant society, we need to teach our children that anyone can be the hero of the story, whatever their sexuality, gender, or family set up. I started writing books featuring families with same sex parents because I could find so few on the shelves. Thankfully, that's begun to change in recent years, and I'm delighted to be working with Paul [Burston, Polari literary salon and Prize founder] and the Polari team. They've done an amazing job at promoting queer writing for adults, and I believe it's time we do the same for books for children."

In November 2022, to mark the salon's 15th birthday and the 11th anniversary of the Polari Prize, it will move to its new home at the British Library, which will also collaborate with Polari on upcoming events. 

"As Polari enters its 15th year, the salon continues to go from strength to strength, constantly developing new audiences and showcasing emerging and established LGBTQ+ literary talent across the U.K. and beyond," Paul Burston said. "Moving to the British Library will enable us to flourish and grow even further. Adding a new category to the Polari Prize awards reconfirms our position as the U.K.'s leading book awards for LGBTQ+ writing; 2022 promises to be a hugely exciting year."

Book Review

Review: Boys Come First

Boys Come First by Aaron Foley (Belt Publishing, $17.95 paperback, 386p., 9781953368256, May 31, 2022)

With Boys Come First, Aaron Foley (How to Live in Detroit Without Being a Jackass) offers a delightful novel about romantic and career ambitions, friendship and the particular charms of and challenges faced by gay Black millennial men in Detroit. Chapters alternate perspectives among a lovable trio of friends.

Readers first meet Dominick as he departs New York City's Hell's Kitchen in a fluster: the start-up advertising firm he'd taken a chance on has just failed, immediately before he walked in on his boyfriend of eight years with another man. Dom flees home to Detroit to lick his wounds and reconnect with his old friend Troy. Troy teaches sixth grade at a charter school, eschewing his father's considerable wealth in favor of giving back to the community, but he's frustrated in his relationship with a domineering boyfriend, and the school's charter is now under threat. Feeling a little stagnant, Troy has just picked up a mild-to-moderate cocaine habit. Meanwhile, Troy's college friend Remy has styled himself as "Mr. Detroit," a real estate prodigy and local celebrity: outwardly successful, but struggling to find meaningful connection with a partner who wants more than sex. (Remy oozes style, so it suits his character that his chapters are the only ones written in first person.) Remy likes sex, no mistake--each of the friends does, but each is also in search of something more meaningful.

Dom and Remy hit it off, and the boys' club is complete. With group texts and happy hours around town, they support each other through messy hookups via dating app, professional disappointments and workplace microaggressions, heartbreaks and more. That is, until Remy's latest development opportunity conflicts with Troy's local advocacy. In Dom's mind, "when you're Black, gay, and thirtysomething, time always feels like it's running out," and these men feel both in-common and individual pressures to which any reader can relate.

Boys Come First is rich in flavor and detail, benefiting from Remy's comprehensive knowledge of Motor City neighborhoods, Troy's hyperlocal concerns for his school and Dom's perspective as he returns from afar. The changing demographics of contemporary Detroit, by class but most pointedly by race, are front and center. Foley's novel shows range, with its fun, silly and pathos-filled handling of the love-and-sex storylines, serious commentary on social issues and an endearing representation of sincere (if troubled) friendships. Unforgettable characters, madcap fun and mishaps converge in this sweet and, finally, aspirational story. --Julia Kastner, librarian and blogger at pagesofjulia

Shelf Talker: Three gay, Black, millennial men in Detroit face romantic, professional and existential challenges together in this deeply engaging novel about the importance of friendship.

Deeper Understanding

The Future of Bookselling: Stephanie Kitchen, City Lit Books

As a former Chicago bookseller, I have always thought that Chicago's bookstores were some of the best in the country. In the years since I left, there has dawned a new golden age as shops like Volumes, Roscoe Books, Semicolon and Madison Street Books came into being, and Pilsen Community Books and The Dial--now Exile in Bookville--changed hands.

Another Chicago bookstore, City Lit Books in Logan Square, was the site of my very first rep night presentation, in November 2013. After closing during the early days of the pandemic, City Lit reopened this summer under new ownership. I first met Stephanie Kitchen, who purchased the bookstore from original owner Teresa Kirschbraun, when she was a librarian who regularly attended publishing industry events; she's someone who always recognized the kinship between those who sell books and those who lend them, and understood the role that booksellers have in our communities.

Stephanie Kitchen

Can you tell me a little about how you returned to bookselling after a career as a librarian?

It's sort of been a homecoming for me. I first worked in bookstores throughout my college life and while I was in graduate school. I always loved the energy and vibe in independent bookstores. I knew I wanted a book-adjacent career, so I went to graduate school to become a librarian. I've always loved keeping up with what's happening in the publishing world. And while I enjoyed being a librarian, the best part for me, was, of course, working with the books. I always had the dream of having my own store one day and before the pandemic hit, I was starting to research how to make that leap from the library world. I attended the Paz & Associates Bookstore Boot Camp in early 2020. And then the pandemic hit. As we all know, pretty much all aspects of our lives changed, especially our work lives. I decided to put my dream on hold to ride out the pandemic, so to speak. And then in Fall 2020, my local indie shop announced it was closing. On a whim, I reached out to Teresa, the former owner of City Lit, to see if she was interested in selling. It took us a few months to put a deal together and, lo and behold, I took over City Lit in May 2021.

What feels similar to your library work? What's wildly different?

Some things are similar--helping people find good books to read, offering suggestions and "read-a-likes," doing on-the-spot book talks, etc., but some things are very different. I thought I knew a bit about what happens in publishing, but nope. NOPE. Who owns whom, etc., didn't matter so much in the library world. We ordered most of our collections from Ingram. As a librarian, I didn't have to pay attention to publishers as much as I do now. And every publisher has a different way they operate. So that was a bit of a learning curve. And then there is the whole technical side of bookselling. Managing a website, electronic ordering, operating a POS--again my work as a librarian helped, but I still had a lot to learn.

What it's like taking over a shop that closed during the pandemic and giving it new life?

In some ways I got super lucky with the timing of everything. We announced I would be taking over the shop last spring. If you remember, there was a brief period when people were starting to get vaccinated, the mask mandates had been lifted, and the mood was good. Of course, we are dealing with Covid variants now, but when we reopened, it felt like the perfect time. People were starting to get together in public again and the community here was super excited their local bookstore was reopening. And the community support has been awesome! So many people thanking me and my staff for being here and giving this space new life. Teresa worked with me for a few months before the store officially reopened for browsing on June 26, 2021. I had a few bumps in the road, and it's been more work than I could have imagined. I spent many 10-12 hour days in the spring and summer working on getting the store set up again. Even though I took over an existing store, it had closed for browsing in March 2020 so there was a lot of refreshing to do. I painted the shop and moved some sections around (one thing that sticks in my librarian mind is the saying "save the time of the reader"--i.e., make things easier to find). We expanded some sections and condensed others.

What have you learned about your community from selling books there?

​They really understand the importance of shopping locally and from independent retailers. Since the pandemic, online ordering has shot way up. But now the community knows they can order from us, save on shipping, and have their items ready for them to pick up at their convenience. They also appreciate a diverse array of selections and voices. Another reason why independent bookstores are so important!

Who among the Chicago booksellers most inspires you? Who has helped you to make this move into a new aspect of the book world and how?

That's a hard one because I think everyone who has survived working in bookstores over the past 18 months is inspiring! My friend Chelsea Elward, former owner of Booked in Evanston, gave me some good advice as I was starting to explore taking over City Lit. I've met a few other booksellers, like Suzy Takacs from the Book Cellar and Javier Ramirez from Exile in Bookville, who have also offered their time. Booksellers that I haven't met yet that inspire me are Mary from Madison Street Books and Dani from Semicolon--Mary for opening a bookstore a week before the pandemic hit which now is thriving, and Dani for the way she gives back and supports the community. Plus her gallery is awesome!

What do you do when you're not in the store?

Haha. Seriously though--I have a small child, so I try to spend as much time with him and my husband when I'm not working and do things they enjoy. Usually that means playing with Lego and trying to get my son interested in books!  --Jeff Waxman

The Bestsellers

Top-Selling Self-Published Titles

The bestselling self-published books last week as compiled by

1. Wild Irish Renegade by Tricia O'Malley
2. Only One Love by Natasha Madison
3. The Assignment by Penelope Ward
4. Rich Dad, Poor Dad by Robert T. Kiyosaki with Sharon L. Lechter
5. Stone by Sawyer Bennett
6. Lift by Faisal Hoque
7. The Mountain Is You by Brianna Wiest
8. Angels and Entrepreneurs by Bob Schlegel
9. The Goldsmith's Conspiracy by C.J. Archer
10. Taste by Melanie Harlow

[Many thanks to!]

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