Also published on this date: Wednesday, June 7, 2023: Maximum Shelf: Amazing Grace Adams

Shelf Awareness for Wednesday, June 7, 2023

Flatiron Books: The Familiar by Leigh Bardugo

St. Martin's Griffin: One Last Shot by Betty Cayouette

Flatiron Books: Anita de Monte Laughs Last by Xochitl Gonzalez

Page Street YA: The Final Curse of Ophelia Cray by Christine Calella

HarperOne: I Finally Bought Some Jordans: Essays by Michael Arceneaux

Tor Nightfire: Ghost Station by S.A. Barnes

Quotation of the Day

'Children's Booksellers' Work Is More Important Than Ever'

"This is the first book I remember a children's bookseller handselling me when I was a child. And this is my first library card that a children's librarian helped me apply for.

"These objects--well, they're 50 years old now so maybe they're artifacts by now--changed my life. In many ways, they began my journey that led to this podium today. And more importantly, they began my lifelong love of reading--something I consider to be one of the great gifts of my life. A gift inspired by children's booksellers and children's librarians.

Allison Hill holding a copy of The Giant Jam Sandwich.

"Reading has made me more confident, more empathetic, smarter. I have at times been deeply relieved or reassured to see myself in a book, at other times I have been humbled, inspired, or interested to see someone in a book with a completely different experience than my own.

"You all share this gift with children and put them on this path every day. And lately you've been doing it against a headwind of ignorance, bigotry, and fear that ironically could probably be assuaged by reading but instead there are people more interested in taking books out of children's hands. Which means your work putting books into children's hands is more important than ever.

"The next few days are all about you and this gift you give the world and how to ensure that your important work continues."

--Allison Hill, American Booksellers Association CEO, welcoming attendees yesterday at Children's Institute

Peachtree Teen: The Absinthe Underground by Jamie Pacton


Ci2023: Daniel Nayeri: 'A Town Without a Bookstore Is an Oversized Gas Station'

On Tuesday morning, Printz Award-winner Daniel Nayeri (Everything Sad Is Untrue; The Many Assassinations of Samir, the Seller of Dreams, Levine Querido) delivered the first morning keynote of the 11th annual American Booksellers Association's Children's Institute, taking place in Milwaukee, Wis., this week. Nearly 400 booksellers--251 of them first-timers--are attending, representing 238 stores across the United States, including 222 bricks-and-mortar stores, eight pop-ups, five online retailers, and two mobile stores.

Daniel Nayeri

ABA CEO Allison Hill introduced Nayeri, telling attendees about his background: he was born in Iran and spent several years as a refugee before immigrating at age eight to Oklahoma. Hill recounted a series of jobs Nayeri, as a child, had hoped to achieve when he grew up, including skydiving instructor and pastry chef. Nayeri did eventually train as a pastry chef but ultimately moved into the world of publishing, where he has been an editor, publisher, and author. Hill joked that though "there is part of me that wishes Daniel were here in his position as pastry chef," she was thrilled to introduce him as the day's keynote speaker.

Nayeri jumped on stage with immense energy, especially impressive considering he had left a film shoot in Connecticut and arrived in Milwaukee late the evening before. More impressive yet was the fact that Nayeri rewrote his speech after arriving at Children's Institute. He had initially planned to deliver a speech entitled "The Best Questions I've Ever Asked" but, after speaking with ABA leadership, reconsidered his focus. "What," he thought, "might I have to offer that would be useful to you as booksellers and as humans?"

"My whole life I've thought entirely about books," Nayeri said as he displayed pictures of bookstores he has visited across the country. "My life has been measured in bookstore visits in a lot of ways," he noted as he named bookstore after bookstore to applause and hoots from different areas of the hall. Nayeri said that working as a bookseller at the Strand in New York City "changed [him] forever. I was once told to stop smiling and get back to work when I was working, which implies they think smiling slows you down." He also worked at Midtown Comics in New York and came "face to face with the best and the weirdest humanity has to offer." Indie bookstores, he said, "are staffed by the most interesting people in town" and he is "giddy with excitement" that 471 stores have opened since 2021.

"The most pressing concern before us these days," Nayeri stated, "is labor. The big challenge is to keep people. And there, friends, is the topic of my talk: How can a bookstore retain its staff, help them thrive, and ultimately overturn the narrative?" His answer: fostering community. "Relationships are the first thing we deprioritize [when things get tough] even though they are the first things we should work on.

So, then, what does Nayeri think are the parts of community that matter most?

  • Social--"not parasocial"--networks ("This has nothing to do with the Internet")
  • Career mindset
  • Undigitizable experiences
Daniel Nayeri and Allison Hill

The social fabric of the store is imperative, Nayeri said. After visiting a bookstore where several of the employees had met their romantic partners and where previous employees remained customers, he felt the store was clearly doing something right. Not the romantic relationships, necessarily--"the point is that the store is such a part of people's lives that they hung out for after-work events." The new era of management needs to care about staff, Nayeri said. "This is a country dying of isolation. Books have always been the panacea to our loneliness. So can bookstores."

An additional part of management caring about its staff is offering employees careers rather than jobs. Booksellers, Nayeri mentioned, are some of the most "over-educated and under-employed" individuals in the country. "Consider a two-year growth plan for each of your employees," he said. "Give them the insights you wish you had," mentor them, send them to industry conferences. "Give people careers not jobs." Lastly, Nayeri spoke of "undigitizable experiences." "We have to rethink the events model," he said to much applause. Nayeri mentioned events he did at different bookstores where participants made meals--"Food is clearly a good angle here. And clearly what I'm obsessed with"--or skill-shared. Reading and signing books is great, Nayeri noted, but it doesn't necessarily build community. And "we need our bookstores desperately because a town without a bookstore is an oversized gas station."

He finished, "I hope you'll let me come cook for you and celebrate books. I hope you have a brilliant conference--everyone wants you to. And I'll be cheering my head off from the sidelines for all of you." --Siân Gaetano, children's and YA editor, Shelf Awareness

HarperOne: Be a Revolution: How Everyday People Are Fighting Oppression and Changing the World--And How You Can, Too by Ijeoma Oluo

Ci2023: Meet-ups in Milwaukee

The first full day of Children's Institute was packed with programming, presentations, and parties. A sampling:

A morning panel on Book Deserts presented ideas for how indies can support literacy in communities with less or no access to printed books: (l.-r.) Brein Lopez, Children's Book World, Los Angeles, Calif.; moderator Tegan Tigani, Queen Anne Book Company, Seattle, Wash.; Calvin Crosby, The King's English Bookshop, Salt Lake City, Utah; Ashley Valentine, Rooted MKE, Milwaukee, Wis.

At the evening Author Reception: Vanessa Montalban with A Tall Dark Trouble (Aug., Zando Young Readers) and Deya Muniz with The Princess and the Grilled Cheese Sandwich (Little, Brown Ink).

Jarrett and Jerome Pumphrey with prints from their upcoming picture book, There Was a Party for Langston (Oct., Atheneum/Caitlyn Dlouhy Books), written by Jason Reynolds.

Traci Sorell with Mascot (Sept., Charlesbridge), written with Charles Waters, and Mari Lowe with The Dubious Pranks of Shaindy Goodman (Nov., Levine Querido).

Kate Hannigan shows off her recently published Josephine and Her Dishwashing Machine (Calkins Creek/Astra), and Jesús Trejo holding English and Spanish copies of his new Papá's Magical Water-Jug Clock (Minerva/Astra).

Harpervia: Behind You Is the Sea by Susan Muaddi Darraj

Miami's Books & Books Distributes Free Copies of Banned Titles

Yesterday, Books & Books, Coral Gables, Fla., distributed free copies of three titles recently removed from schools in Miami-Dade County. Miami New Times reported that 1,200 copies of The Hill We Climb by inaugural poet Amanda Gorman; Love to Langston by Tony Medina & R. Gregory Christie; and The ABCs of Black History by Rio Cortez & Lauren Semmer were given away as part of a "celebration" at Coral Gables Congregational United Church of Christ. 

Books & Books posted on Facebook: "FREADOM! 'We're not going to let you take our stories away.'--@poetrichardblanco. It's already been such an impactful evening celebrating the books that were recently challenged in our school district. With the help of @amandascgorman and our incredible partners, we've put these books in the hands of so many curious, brilliant young readers."

Books & Books owner Mitch Kaplan told Miami New Times that the event was held in response to an incident last week at the K-8 Bob Graham Education Center in Miami Lakes, where a committee removed five titles from the school library in response to one parent's objections. "There needed to be some way to show the absurdity of what happened," he noted. 

The event featured inaugural poet Richard Blanco reading Gorman's poem; author Edwidge Danicat reading Love to Langston; and Dr. Marvin Dunn, author, historian, and founder of the Miami Center for Racial Justice, reading The ABCs of Black History
Representatives from literary and advocacy organizations, including the ACLU of Florida, the National Coalition Against Censorship, United Teachers of Dade, Florida Freedom to Read, and PEN America, joined students, teachers, and parents in speaking out against the removals. 

Books & Books had earlier posted on Facebook: "Embracing the right to read and think freely, we unite with our partners and literary community to distribute challenged books for free. Together, we are breaking barriers and challenging censorship."

After the event, Books & Books posted: "We are closing the evening grateful to all those in the community who supported us, ensuring everyone has access to literary FREADOM. A special thank you to our partners and respective representatives...."

University of California Press: The Accidental Ecosystem: People and Wildlife in American Cities by Peter S. Alagona

Obituary Note: Ama Ata Aidoo

Ama Ata Aidoo, a Ghanaian playwright, author and activist "who was hailed as one of Africa's leading literary lights as well as one of its most influential feminists," died May 31, the New York Times reported. She was 81. In a career that included writing plays, novels and short stories, stints on multiple university faculties and, briefly, a position as a cabinet minister in Ghana, Aidoo "established herself as a major voice of post-colonial Africa."

Her breakthrough play, The Dilemma of a Ghost (1965), "explored the cultural dislocations experienced by a Ghanaian student who returns home after studying abroad and by those of his Black American wife, who must confront the legacies of colonialism and slavery. It was one of several of Ms. Aidoo's works that became staples in West African schools," the Times wrote.

Aidoo's novel Changes: A Love Story won the 1992 Commonwealth Writers' Prize for best book (Africa). Her landmark debut novel, Our Sister Killjoy, or Reflections from a Black-Eyed Squint (1977), "recounted the experiences of Sissie, a young Ghanaian woman who travels to Europe on a scholarship to better herself, as such a move was traditionally described, with a Western education. In Germany and England, she comes face to face with the dominance of white values, including Western notions of success, among fellow African expatriates," the Times noted.

A Fulbright scholar who spent years as an expatriate, Aidoo experienced feelings of cultural dislocation as well. "I have always felt uncomfortable living abroad: racism, the cold, the weather, the food, the people," she said in a 2003 interview published by the University of Alicante in Spain. "I also felt some kind of patriotic sense of guilt. Something like, Oh, my dear! Look at all the problems we have at home. What am I doing here?"

She accepted an appointment as Ghana's minister of education in 1982, with the goal of making education free for all, but resigned after 18 months when she realized the extent of the many barriers she would have to overcome to achieve that goal. After moving to Zimbabwe in 1983, she developed curriculums for the country's Ministry of Education. She founded the Mbaasem Foundation in 2000 to support African women writers.

Aidoo "was a major Pan-Africanist voice, arguing for unity among African countries and for their continued liberation. She spoke with fury about the centuries of exploitation of the continent's natural resources and people," the Times wrote.


Image of the Day: Cocktails with Ellery Adams at M. Judson Booksellers

Ellery Adams visited M. Judson Booksellers, Greenville, S.C., for a "Books over Drinks" event to celebrate the release of Paper Cuts (Kensington), the latest in her Secret, Book, and Scone Society mystery series. (photo: Alyssa Fikse)

Bookseller Moment: Solid State Books

Night falls on Solid State Books second location, at 1809 14th St. NW, Washington, D.C., after a successful grand opening last Saturday. "Thank you to everyone who came out to shop and welcome us to the neighborhood," noted Solid State Books, which opened its first store at 600 H Street NE in 2018. 

Costco Picks: Lady Tan's Circle of Women

Alex Kanenwisher, book buyer at Costco, has selected Lady Tan's Circle of Women by Lisa See (Scribner, $28, 9781982117085) as the pick for June. In Costco Connection, which goes to many of the warehouse club's members, Kanenwisher writes:

"Until science gives us a time machine, books are the next best option to step into the past. Lisa See's Lady Tan's Circle of Women does just that, transporting readers to 15th century China.

"Tan Yunxian, who is born into an elite family, learns about women's illnesses under the tutelage of her grandmother. But when she is sent into an arranged marriage, she must play the part of a good wife and leave her medical pursuits behind."

Media and Movies

Media Heat: Elliot Page on Fresh Air

Fresh Air: Elliot Page, author of Pageboy: A Memoir (Flatiron, $29.99, 9781250878359).

Today Show: John Searles, author of Her Last Affair: A Novel (Mariner, $18.99, 9780060779672).

Also on Today: Shereen Pavlides, author of Cooking with Shereen--Rockstar Dinners! (Page Street, $23.99, 9781645679905).

TV: Mr. Loverman

Lennie James (Save Me) will star in and exec produce a BBC adaptation of Bernardine Evaristo's 2013 novel Mr. Loverman. Deadline reported that Nathaniel Price (Noughts + Crosses, The Outlaws) is writing the eight-part series, with Hong Khaou (Baptiste) directing for Fable Pictures. Sony Pictures Television is distributing globally. More casting will be announced.

Evaristo said she "loves the idea of stepping beyond the pages of Mr. Loverman into people's living rooms and lives."

BBC drama director Lindsay Salt added: "Mr. Loverman is a must-read novel and in the skilled hands of Nathaniel, Lennie and the Fable team it will soon be must-see television. I can't think of a more perfect team to bring Bernardine's exquisite story to the screen."

Books & Authors

Awards: Crystal Kite Winners

The Society of Children's Book Writers & Illustrators announced winners of the 2023 Crystal Kite Awards, which are peer-selected and voted on by SCBWI members from local regions. The prize recognizes excellence in the field of children's literature in 15 U.S. and international regions. This year's Crystal Kite regional division winners are:

Atlantic: Mushroom Rain by Laura K. Zimmerman, illustrated by Jamie Green
Australia/NZ: Bev and Kev by Katrina Germein, illustrated by Mandy Foot
California/Hawaii: Leo + Lea by Monica Wesolowska, illustrated by Kenard Pak
Canada: One Tiny Bubble by Karen Krossing, illustrated by Dawn Lo
Internationals Other Regions: Baily and Blanket by Emily House
Mid-South: Big and Small and In-Between by Carter Higgins, illustrated by Daniel Miyares
Middle East/India/Asia: Shoham's Bangle by Sarah Sassoon, illustrated by Noa Kelner
Midwest: Bathe the Cat by Alice B. McGinty, illustrated by David Roberts
New England: That Egg Is Mine! by Liz Goulet DuBois
New York: Don't Look Back by Keely Hutton & Achut Deng
Southeast: Moon Tree by Carolyn Bennett Fraiser, illustrated by Simona Mulazzani
Southwest: Dark on Light by Dianne White, illustrated by Felicita Sala
Texas/Oklahoma: Baa, Baa, Tap Sheep by Kenda Henthorn, illustrated by Lauren Gallegos
U.K./Ireland: Call Me Lion by Camilla Chester, illustrated by Irina Avgustinovich
Western: Namaste Is a Greeting by Suma Subramaniam, illustrated by Sandhya Prabhat

Reading with... Chasten Buttigieg

photo: Carina Teoh

Chasten Glezman Buttigieg was born and raised in Traverse City, Mich. A thespian, two-time 4-H blue-ribbon winner, and decorated member of the high school bowling team, he received his Bachelor's degree in theater and global studies from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire and his Master's in education from DePaul University. He is married to former Democratic presidential candidate and current Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg. They live with their twins and two rescue dogs in Northern Michigan. I Have Something to Tell You: For Young Adults (Atheneum, $18.99) is adapted from his adult memoir.

Handsell readers your book in 25 words or less:

A book for anyone (but especially young people) who has ever asked, "Do I belong?" This is my way of saying, "Yes, you do!"

On your nightstand now:

Too many! I have a terrible (good?) habit of reading multiple books at once. I just picked up Imogen, Obviously by Becky Albertalli. I have also been enjoying The Best Strangers in the World by Ari Shapiro. As new parents with limited time, my husband and I have been discussing Four Thousand Weeks by Oliver Burkeman, which has helped us think about how we spend our time together as a family and as professionals. I also received an advance copy of Brandon Wolf's memoir, A Place for Us, which I am excited to dig into.

Book you've faked reading:

A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man by James Joyce. Early in our relationship, when I was trying to impress my now husband (who loves Joyce), I tried to read it but never made it very far.

Book you're an evangelist for:

A Child's Christmas in Wales by Dylan Thomas is a yearly tradition in our house. We listen to the audio recording every Christmas Eve before we go to bed.

Book you're looking forward to:

Congratulations, the Best Is Over! I'm such a fan of R. Eric Thomas. His book, Here for It, was spectacular on audiobook when I was driving across the country. He's a gifted storyteller, and his reading makes the audiobook even better. His writing is both touching and laugh-out-loud funny.

Book you hid from your parents:

Too many! I used to get in trouble for reading past my bedtime. I'd use a flashlight under my covers so my parents wouldn't see the light under my bedroom door. Sometimes they would tell me I'd done enough reading for one day and that I needed to go outside and get my hands dirty.

Book that changed your life:

The play Angels in America by Tony Kushner changed so much for me as a recently out-of-the-closet college student, especially embracing and forging through queer trauma, and the beautiful burdens one endures in love. I even played Louis in our college production of Millennium Approaches.

Favorite line from a book:

Right now, it's "Goodnight stars/ Goodnight air/ Goodnight noises everywhere" from Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown because that means it's finally time for some rest amidst the chaos that is parenting twin toddlers.

Thing you love most about your book:

There's something for everyone. I hope that readers find the story inspiring as well as insightful. It's a great resource for teachers, parents, and anyone who loves or guides any student or young person questioning where they fit in. I hope that my story encourages readers to lean into what makes them unique.

Book Review

YA Review: Stars in Their Eyes

Stars in Their Eyes by Jessica Walton, illus. by Aśka (Graphix/Scholastic, $15.99 paperback, 224p., ages 12-up, 9781338818796, August 1, 2023)

Stars in Their Eyes by Jessica Walton (Introducing Teddy), illustrated by Aśka (This Is Not a Book), is a delightful, sweet graphic novel that sweeps readers up in an intense, whirlwind queer romance set at a fan convention.

Six years ago, 14-year-old Maisie had cancer and a lower-leg amputation. She hated being at the hospital, even if the nurses were nice and her mum let her visit the meerkat exhibit as much as she wanted. Now she spends a lot of her time managing pain flares and "super-inspired" people who are impressed when she does everyday things like swimming. Maisie is about to attend her first fancon with her mum and is pumped to meet Kara Bufano, an actress from her favorite TV show. Like Maisie, Kara had a lower-leg amputation, and seeing an amputee play an amputee on-screen has changed Maisie's life--it's even helped her stop hating herself.

At the convention, Maisie meets 15-year-old Ollie, a cute nonbinary volunteer, who also attends Kara's panel. When it's announced that Kara is sick, a devastated Maisie takes a timeout in one of the convention's "couch corners." Ollie tags along, and the pair quickly become "comfy" with one another. Maisie knows she'll have to leave Ollie soon, but how do you say goodbye to someone you've formed an instant connection with after just a few hours?

This YA graphic novel is suffused with joy and features some incredible characters, including Maisie's mum, Jo, and Ollie's dad, Joe. As embarrassing as Maisie thinks her mum is, she's Maisie's champion, as when she volunteers to make cards to tell nondisabled people to Google "Stella Young and Inspiration Porn" before they open their mouths. Walton adeptly uses their lived experiences as a disabled, bisexual, nonbinary person to explore queerness, disability, and anxiety. Walton shows the issues some disabled people regularly face through Maisie's inaccessible hotel bathroom, phantom limb pain, and "my-body-isn't-my-body"-fueled panic attacks. They also share with readers the joys of seeing oneself in media and finding one's community.

Aśka's artwork expresses Walton's text with accuracy and breadth, while adding to the humor and joy with bright colors and visual insider jokes ("the smuggler" looks an awful lot like Han Solo). Aśka places smaller panels over full-page art, presents spreads from a bird's-eye view, and creates full-page bleeds for pivotal scenes, all matching with the text to depict the exhausting yet exciting day. Winsome art combined with Walton's joyful, charming story creates a celebration of identity, community, and love. --Lana Barnes, freelance reviewer and proofreader

Shelf Talker: Fourteen-year-old disabled, bisexual Maisie meets and falls into intense like with 15-year-old nonbinary Ollie in this joyful, charming graphic novel set at a fan convention.

The Bestsellers Bestsellers in May

The bestselling audiobooks at independent bookstores during May:

1. Happy Place by Emily Henry (Penguin Random House Audio)
2. The Covenant of Water by Abraham Verghese (Recorded Books)
3. Demon Copperhead by Barbara Kingsolver (HarperAudio)
4. Fourth Wing by Rebecca Yarros (Recorded Books)
5. Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow by Gabrielle Zevin (Penguin Random House Audio)
6. Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus (Penguin Random House Audio)
7. Yellowface by R.F. Kuang (HarperAudio)
8. This Is How You Lose the Time War by Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone (Simon & Schuster Audio)
9. Romantic Comedy by Curtis Sittenfeld (Penguin Random House Audio)
10. In the Lives of Puppets by TJ Klune (Macmillan Audio)

1. Quietly Hostile by Samantha Irby (Penguin Random House Audio)
2. The Wager by David Grann (Penguin Random House Audio)
3. I'm Glad My Mom Died by Jennette McCurdy (Simon & Schuster Audio)
4. You Could Make This Place Beautiful by Maggie Smith (Simon & Schuster Audio)
5. Crying in H Mart by Michelle Zauner (Penguin Random House Audio)
6. A Thousand Ways to Pay Attention by Rebecca Schiller (HighBridge)
7. Killers of the Flower Moon by David Grann (Penguin Random House Audio)
8. Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer (Tantor Media)
9. Another Appalachia by Neema Avashia (Tantor Media)
10. Spare by Prince Harry (Penguin Random House Audio)

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