Also published on this date: Wednesday February 21, 2024: Maximum Shelf: Provincials

Shelf Awareness for Wednesday, February 21, 2024

William Morrow & Company: Death of the Author by Nnedi Okorafor

St. Martin's Press: Disney High: The Untold Story of the Rise and Fall of Disney Channel's Tween Empire

Running Press Adult: Scam Goddess: Lessons from a Life of Cons, Grifts, and Schemes by Laci Mosley

Graphix: 39 Clues: One False Note (39 Clues Graphic Novel #2) by Gordon Korman, Illustrated by Hannah Templer

Running Press: Enter For a Chance to Win a Moonlit Explorer Pack!

Quill Tree Books: The Firelight Apprentice by Bree Paulsen


Three Stabbed in 2nd & Charles Store in Greenville, S.C.

A man stabbed three people yesterday morning in a 2nd & Charles bookstore in Greenville, S.C., according to multiple news reports. The three were taken to hospitals and their conditions have not yet been made public.

The man was apprehended by police and charged with three counts of attempted murder and resisting arrest with a deadly weapon.

The store, part of Books-A-Million, was closed after the incident.

Zest Books: The Gender Binary Is a Big Lie: Infinite Identities around the World by Lee Wind

Brilliant Books, Traverse City, Mich., Appeals to Community for Support

Brilliant Books, Traverse City, Mich., has issued an appeal for help from the community and launched a GoFundMe campaign in an effort to find "a clear path forward if only we can make it over this last hurdle." In five days, the GoFundMe campaign has already raised $12,000 towards it $35,000 goal.

In a recent blog post headlined "One Final Plot Twist," the bookstore noted: "The past four-ish years have been a rollercoaster for all of us. You've come along with us through all of it and we couldn't have asked for better, more enthusiastic company on this ride, which is what makes this so difficult: We have to ask for your help again."

Last Friday, owner Peter Makin met with staff members "to talk about our situation and see if there was any other way out of it. We know we've asked before and, honestly, we feel kind of sick asking again. But we are so, so close to being on track again. We won't pretend it will be smooth sailing, but there is a clear path forward if only we can make it over this last hurdle."

Brilliant Books "needs to raise as much as we can by the end of the month to pay off one of our biggest suppliers. If we can pull that off, we're going to be in a much better place moving forward, but if we can't, we're going to lose a lot of hard won ground paying down the debts we incurred during the pandemic and, frankly, we're not sure we have the strength to claw our way back up out of that hole again."

The bookseller stressed that the shop's "existing obligations are our priority" and the current challenge "is not the end for us. Our doors won't close on March 1st if we can't get clear with this supplier, but we're not sure what our next steps would be at that point, because it will depend on the exact situation. We'll have to cross that bridge if we come to it, but, with your help, we won't."

Brilliant Books outlined several ways customers can help alleviate the current challenge, including:

  • Preorder books
  • Donate to our GoFundMe
  • Become a member
  • Subscribe to Brilliant Books Monthly
  • Book an event
  • Share your ideas

"If we can't get the books customers want, we lose sales," Brilliant Books wrote of the current challenge. "If we lose sales, we fall further behind with our debts and suppliers. Eventually, it becomes untenable, so our best option is to prevent being put on hold or, barring that, make sure it is as brief as possible. Things will be tight, but we've come this far, and, with your help, we can keep going."

GLOW: Flatiron Books: Private Rites by Julia Armfield

WI2024: Banned Book Preparedness

At Winter Institute 2024 last week in Cincinnati, Ohio, booksellers convened to discuss instances of book banning that have occurred in their areas, how they've resisted, and what other booksellers can do. 

Panelists were Leah Johnson, author of You Should See Me in a Crown and owner of Loudmouth Books in Indianapolis, Ind.; Cathy Berner, children's and young adult specialist at Blue Willow Bookshop in Houston, Tex.; and Angela Cooper, communications director for the ACLU of Kentucky. Philomena Polefrone, advocacy associate manager for the American Booksellers Association, moderated the discussion.

Last year, Johnson recalled, a library system and its board in Indiana decided to move YA novels with content considered "objectionable" out of the YA section of the library and into adult fiction. The issue, Johnson continued, was "close to my own heart." She has seen her own books, which feature Black and queer characters, deemed objectionable and "moved out of YA." Last fall, she opened a bookstore dedicated to banned books, both as a way to distribute those books and to guarantee that no matter what else happens, stories with Black and queer characters would always be available.

Johnson emphasized that while book bans are obviously bad for business, they are also part of a battle that has "real implications on real lives," with books bans being the first step to "further disenfranchising" groups already on the margins. She also stressed the importance of booksellers highlighting diverse stories, noting that when she published her first book, which was a "queer Black girl romcom," there were hardly any traditionally published YA novels featuring a queer Black girl as a main character. In the years since, "dozens and dozens" have been published, but the wave of book banning threatens to undo all of that progress--if booksellers stop selling them, if publishers start viewing them as risky, the industry will stop producing them.

Remarking that the First Amendment is her "Hippocratic oath," Berner discussed Blue Willow's resistance to HB 900, Texas's "book rating law." Blue Willow became a part of a coalition led by BookPeople in Austin, Tex., whose manager, Charley Resjek, and book buyer, Meghan Goel, were "at the capitol every single day." Regardless, the bill passed, and Berner recalled attending Children's Institute last summer feeling like Texas booksellers had been "left out to dry" and that they did not have the support they needed from the ABA. Three weeks later, ABA CEO Allison Hill called the owners of Blue Willow asking if they'd be willing to be party to a lawsuit against the state of Texas. (In July, a group that included Blue Willow, BookPeople, and the ABA filed suit against the law, charging it violated the First and Fourteenth Amendments. A district court's preliminary injunction against the law has been upheld by the Court of Appeals.)

Berner recalled that when lobbying against HB 900, if they framed it as a First Amendment issue, they "were deemed snowflakes." Discussing the law's impact on business proved a much more effective tactic, and Berner suggested proactively making inroads with politicians and elected representatives. "Make sure they know you exist," she said, before you go lobbying. She is concerned for 2025, when the Texas legislature will meet again, and she plans to spend this year organizing with other booksellers and small business owners in preparation. She also underlined the importance of being kind with oneself, saying, "you might not win. Regardless, you have done good work and it is very important to remember that. You will be ready next time."

Cooper, meanwhile, reported that last year, the focus was on anti-trans laws, including one case that has yet to be settled and is before the Supreme Court. Along with that, there were a lot of bills passed that were "essentially book bans," which "ignited" Moms for Liberty groups in Kentucky. While they are responsible for most of the challenges that public and school libraries have seen, there are some exceptions, such as in Kentucky's Paris-Bourbon county, where a single family has submitted 64 challenges to "one little library." What Cooper and her colleagues have done in response is "start a little army" of librarians across the state to fight book bans, educate the public, and explain the true impact of these bans.

She advised booksellers to remember that there is an ACLU chapter in every state, and "they will help you" with everything from testifying in committees to contacting legislators. And when it comes to contacting legislators, Cooper reminded attendees that "it doesn't matter what the party is, legislators have to pay attention to business owners." And as business owners, they are "the people who they claim to want to protect," uplift, and make happy. Cooper added that when faced with book bans or any legislation that is discriminatory, the best thing a business owner can do is "testify in committee hearings." It is "so important," and it "makes such a difference." --Alex Mutter

Alex Baker: Exceptional Design And Creative Services For The Publishing Industry

Roger Priddy Retiring from Macmillan Imprint Priddy Books

Roger Priddy will retire from his role as publisher of Priddy Books, an imprint of Macmillan Children's Publishing Group, effective June 30. He will continue to work with the imprint as an author and consultant. Founded in 2000, Priddy Books publishes early learning books for babies, toddlers, and young children designed to spark children's creativity and encourage their development. The imprint's titles have sold about 20 million copies in more than 40 countries around the world. 

"For the past four decades Roger has been at the forefront of children's publishing. Since founding Priddy Books, his unique brilliance, creativity, and genuine passion for early childhood learning has fundamentally changed how books are published for young children around the world," said Macmillan CEO Jon Yaged. "I consider myself fortunate to have worked with Roger the past 13 years and wish him joy and happiness always. I know my colleagues across Macmillan feel the same."

Priddy commented: "After 40 years of making children's books, it's time for me to try something new. Maybe I'll re-train as a Patisserie Chef, or become an acrobat--who knows? One thing for sure is that I'll be sitting down with the grandkids and reading some books. It's time for the next talented team to take over at Priddy Books, which has always been a creative hub of people and ideas. I for one will be looking forward to seeing what they come up with next. I'd also like to thank my friends at Macmillan Children's Publishing Group for letting me have such a blast being a publisher for so long, I couldn't have chosen a better group to have gone on this journey with."

A number of promotions have also been announced for Priddy Books and Neon Squid. Both imprints will be led by Sally Poulson as managing director and Sam Priddy as publisher. Priddy will report to Poulson, and Poulson will report to Allison Verost, senior v-p & publisher at MCPG. Joanne Clark will move into the role of creative director, reporting to Sam Priddy. Fiona Macdonald will take on the role of publishing director, Neon Squid, reporting jointly to Poulson and Sam Priddy.

Verost commented: "Roger Priddy has left an indelible impact on the world of children's publishing with Priddy Books. I am thrilled to continue working with Sally and Sam and their entire team to build upon Roger's legacy of creating groundbreaking, innovative, and incredible books that bring the joy of learning to countless more young minds." 

Obituary Note: Alvin Moscow

Alvin Moscow

Alvin Moscow, who wrote a bestselling account of the sinking of the ocean liner Andrea Doria in 1956, then collaborated on the memoirs of several public figures, including Richard M. Nixon soon after he lost the 1960 presidential election, died February 6, the New York Times reported. He was 98.

Moscow was a reporter for the Associated Press when he covered court hearings focused on determining the cause of the tragic collision between the Andrea Doria and the Stockholm, in dense fog about 45 miles south of Nantucket Island, on July 25, 1956. Moscow's book, Collision Course: The Andrea Doria and the Stockholm (1959), was a New York Times bestseller for 15 weeks. Walter Lord (A Night to Remember), praised it as a "magnificent analysis of the accident and sinking" in a Times review.

Moscow left the Associated Press after the book's publication, and within two years was working with Nixon, who was running an ultimately unsuccessful campaign for governor of California in 1962.

This experience resulted in the book Six Crises (1962), in which Nixon recalled challenges he had faced during his political career. Nixon did not credit Moscow as his co-writer (he thanked him in the book for "directing research and organizing material"), but Kenneth McCormick, the book's editor, told the Times in 1979 that Moscow wrote all but the last chapter.

After Six Crises, Moscow moved between collaborations and books written under his own name, including Merchants of Heroin (1968), about an international narcotics operation; The Rockefeller Inheritance (1977), an examination of the wealth bequeathed to the five grandsons of John D. Rockefeller; and As It Happened (1979), which he ghostwrote for William S. Paley, the influential builder of the CBS broadcast empire.

Sally Bedell Smith, who wrote the Paley biography In All His Glory (1990), told the Times that Moscow's book "provided the scaffolding for my book--it had lots of dates and places--but it was very much sanitized.... There was a lot in As It Happened that was only partly as it happened."

Moscow also wrote Every Secret Thing (1981) with the newspaper heiress Patty Hearst, who had been abducted in 1974 by the Symbionese Liberation Army. His other books include Managing (1984), a collaboration with Harold Geneen, longtime CEO of  International Telephone and Telegraph; and Twice in a Lifetime: From Soap to Skyscrapers (1988), co-written with Charles Luckman, the architect who was also the president of Lever Brothers.


Mural-in-Progress: Purple Couch Bookshop

The Purple Couch Bookshop, North Andover, Mass., shared photos of the store's mural-in-progress on Facebook, noting: "Something is happening at The Purple Couch Bookshop! Our Story Timers got a preview of @katedelaney's outstanding vision and hard work today. Swing by and get your own preview. We keep looking at in awe and wonder (exactly the feel we want this bookshop to create in all of you). We can't wait for you to see the finished product! Thank you Kate Delaney for bringing this vision... to life. It is even better than we imagined!"

Bookseller Moment: Odyssey Bookstore

Odyssey Bookstore, Ithaca, N.Y., shared some "cozy bookstore vibes" on Facebook, noting: "I think one of life's great pleasures is being read aloud to. I'm sharing a few of my all time favorites--and not just for kids. If you're looking for a cozy spot to pause or a kids book from board book to graphic novel or classic favorite--come check out our kids section."

Personnel Changes at Crown

Setareh Saidi has been promoted to senior analyst, consumer insights, at Crown.

Media and Movies

Media Heat: Dulcé Sloan on Tamron Hall

Live with Kelly and Mark: Kat Ashmore, author of Big Bites: Wholesome, Comforting Recipes That Are Big on Flavor, Nourishment, and Fun (Rodale, $35, 9780593580158).

Tamron Hall: Dulcé Sloan, author of Hello, Friends!: Stories of Dating, Destiny, and Day Jobs (Andscape Books, $27.99, 9781368095501).

On Stage: Jo--The Little Women Musical

JoAnn M. Hunter, who choreographed Broadway's Bad Cinderella, School of Rock, Disaster!, and the 2011 revival of On a Clear Day You Can See Forever, has been named the director of the Broadway-aimed Jo--The Little Women Musical, Playbill reported.

Willette and Manny Klausner (WMK Productions) are producing the new musical, which features music by Dan Redfeld, lyrics by Christina Harding and John Gabriel Koladziej, and a book by Koladziej and Harding. Ken Davenport serves as producing consultant.

"The creative team has written a piece about an iconic character in literature with a lovely freshness to it," said Hunter. "Jo speaks to me because of the will and commitment of this family, even when it means, maybe not giving up on yourself and the selflessness of love. Whatever that love is for you."

The production has also released a new single from the musical, "When Nighttime Falls," on all streaming platforms. It features members of the Hollywood Studio Symphony and vocals by Jenna Lea Rosen (Jo) and Chris Mann (Professor Bhaer).

Books & Authors

Awards: Edna Staebler for Creative Nonfiction

Hilary Peach won this year's Edna Staebler Award for Creative Nonfiction for her book, Thick Skin: Field Notes from a Sister in the Brotherhood. Administered by Wilfrid Laurier University, the C$10,000 (about US$7,395) prize recognizes Canadian writers for a first or second work of creative nonfiction that includes a Canadian locale or significance. A ceremony and reception honoring Peach will be held March 27 on Laurier's Waterloo campus.

"I love a book that surprises me, and in this case, I was very surprised by how engrossed I became in the life of an itinerant boilermaker," said Bruce Gillespie, one of the jurors. "That the book is so engaging is a testament to Peach's skill as an author. She gives us unrestricted access to dangerous, high-stress workplaces that we would otherwise never see for ourselves and shows us the challenges that women face there to be taken seriously and treated as equals."

"At its heart, Thick Skin is a story of resilience that I think will resonate with a lot of readers," said Gavin Brockett, vice-dean of the Faculty of Arts. "Most of us will never be called upon to repair power plants or cargo ships, but through Peach's writing we can appreciate the strength and determination required to chart your own path and persist in the face of resistance."

Reading with... Sherri Winston

Sherri Winston is the author of National Book Award longlisted Lotus Bloom and the Afro Revolution and Shark Teeth (now available from Bloomsbury Children's Books). Before Winston was an author, she was a longtime newspaper writer and columnist. She grew up in Michigan and now splits her time between Orlando, Fla., and Charlotte, N.C., where she lives with her daughter, Kenya, two cats, and a geriatric dog who talks to ghosts.

Handsell readers your book in 25 words or less:

Middle-school girl weighted with holding her family together crumbles under the pressure then struggles to learn how to be a kid.

On your nightstand now:

Richard Osman, The Last Devil to Die; John Sandford, Dark Angel; Jesse Q. Sutanto, Vera Wong's Unsolicited Advice for Murderers. My "nightstand" is largely audiobooks. I read a lot on my iPad, too. Does that make me a bad person? I buy children's books for myself, but almost all my adult "reading" is on audio. I love the performances. I love the feeling of having the narrator read to me. It's very comforting, like having a story read by Mom or Dad or just listening to stories in my home. I come from a family of storytellers.

Favorite book when you were a child:

The Nancy Drew Mystery stories; Don Freeman, Corduroy; Ezra Jack Keats, A Snowy Day. Corduroy was the first book to show me ME and set my soul ablaze with possibilities for the future. I'm still trying to write a better book and coming up wanting. And I just discovered there's an audio version with Viola Davis as narrator--Rnnng! You just made a sale! As for Nancy Drew, I've been obsessed with mysteries ever since. I want so badly to write an amazing mystery series featuring a spunky Black protagonist, but when I sit down, something else comes out. I'm just going with it... for now!

Your top five authors:

Judy Blume, Jon Scieszka, Janet Evanovich, John Sandford, Elizabeth Acevedo, and graphic novel author/illustrator Johnnie Christmas. I started out with Judy. She's an OG and I'm sure she's on every middle-grade author's list. Jon is a fellow Michigander with a wicked sense of bent humor. I used to travel to schools and read to children long before I became an author, back when I was a reporter in South Florida. It was part of our speaker's bureau. And Jon's book The True Story of the Three Little Pigs was my go-to. It's a classic retelling that not only was a hoot to read and perform, but it always brought my own imagination to life and encouraged me to be bolder and read more.

Book you've faked reading:

The Crossover by Kwame Alexander. I had it for a long time before I finished it, which was crazy because it wasn't hard to finish. I bought it and had him sign it when we were signing at the same event. Then somehow it wound up on my TBR stack. Then I wanted to try my hand at a snappy verse novel and realized I needed to read it. It's wonderful and of course he did a great job. Kwame is the king!

Book you're an evangelist for:

I haven't preached it in a long time, but Rebecca Stead's When You Reach Me is the cleverest book I've ever read; also, the one adult book I'll never forget is Wally Lamb's I Know This Much Is True, which changed my life and informs my writing till this day.

Book you've bought for the cover:

Oooh, lots! The latest is Promise Boys by Nick Brooks. That cover is a grabber!

Book you hid from your parents:

Kathleen Woodiwiss, A Rose in Winter. It's your classic bodice ripper with steamy forbidden sex. Yummy! I stole it from my mom's stash and read it under the cover of semi-darkness.

Book that changed your life:

Wally Lamb, I Know This Much Is True; Jacquelyn Mitchard, The Deep End of the Ocean. My brother died of cancer when I was seven and he was five. He was my best friend at the time. I don't think I really grieved that loss until I read Deep End in my 30s. I remember lying face down on the carpet in my preternaturally peach Fort Lauderdale apartment and sobbing as if he'd just passed away. When I was little, I hadn't been allowed to grieve. All the grief belonged to my parents, to my mom. I can still remember the weight of those feelings, but since reading the book and processing the loss, finally, as an adult, I don't carry the same suffering. It was a powerful thing. Same with Lamb's book. His treatment of the effects of mental illness on a family member hit me like a punch and helped me better accept some hard truths about life in my family.

Favorite line from a book:

"Either the town is shrinking, or are my breasts getting bigger? God, how Even Wished she were anywhere else." First lines from Acting: A Novel by Sherri Winston. I wrote that 20 years ago, and it's the only line from a book written by me or anyone else that I truly remember. At least, I think I've remembered it correctly!

Five books you'll never part with:

Wow, this was both hard and automatic. Hard because when you love books, it's hard to whittle down to just five; automatic because some of the books are ones I return to so often, how could I ever part with them? Of course, being a middle-grade author, several of my choices are from that grouping.

1. Utterly Me, Clarice Bean by Lauren Child. It is an absolutely brilliant portrayal of the inner-thoughts of a brutally observant nine-year-old. Whenever I need to understand how to connect with my young character, I reach for Clarice.

2. The Bad Beginning by Lemony Snicket. Come on! It's a villainous masterpiece.

3. Make a Scene: Crafting a Powerful Story One Scene at a Time by Jordan Rosenfeld. A wonderful tool for editing your novels and making me think about the impact of my words.

4. John Sandford's Prey series. I won't part with any of them--we're at 33 and counting. They are propulsive, dynamic, gritty crime novels that I live for.

5. The Stephanie Plum series by Janet Evanovich. Another long-running series, at 30 and counting. Evanovich delivers a master class in character development, breathing life into not only the main character but the supporting cast and the environment, as well.

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

Don't laugh, but it might be Diary of a Wimpy Kid by Jeff Kinney. Reading it the first time reminding me how much I always wanted to create my own graphic novel--before I even knew what a graphic novel was. I still have that desire and hope to one day make it a reality.

Book Review

Children's Review: Piper Chen Sings

Piper Chen Sings by Phillipa Soo, Maris Pasquale Doran, illus. by Qin Leng (Random House Studio, $19.99 hardcover, 40p., ages 4-8, 9780593564691, April 2, 2024)

Debut authors Phillipa Soo and Maris Pasquale Doran--who are also sisters-in-law--create an empowering picture book in Piper Chen Sings, gloriously enhanced by the wondrous illustrations of Qin Leng (Over the Shop; The Better Tree Fort).

Young Piper is a musical force, "always singing out a tune," from greeting the "peeking sun" until saying goodnight to the "cresting moon." In her favorite class at school, Mr. Harris recognizes her talented enthusiasm and offers her a solo in the upcoming Spring Sing. Her initially excited "Yes!" doesn't last long, however, because suddenly, "she can only sing in a worried whisper."

By the time she returns home, Piper's twirling, bouncing, hopping melodies are gone. "I felt like butterflies were having a dance party in my belly," Piper explains to her grandmother. "Húdié," Năi Nai interprets, the Chinese word for butterfly. These butterflies, she gently offers, are actually encouraging visitors who announce "something exciting [is] ahead." Năi Nai shares stories of her own performances (she is a talented piano player), and the many other nervous-but-celebratory events of her life, including immigration, graduation, motherhood, and becoming a U.S. citizen. On the night of the show, Piper channels all Năi Nai's reassuring wisdom, welcomes the butterflies... and sings.

Soo, the award-winning performer who originated the role of Eliza in the musical Hamilton, reveals in her author's bio that this story is inspired by her own journey dealing with stage fright as a young child. The sisters-in-law fill their pages with an infectious buoyancy that's reflected in a narrative peppered with dynamic descriptions like "bopping... to the beat," "voices vibrating," "butterflies flapping their wings and flying side to side," and "fluttering up and out in the world."

Artist Leng's whimsical ink, watercolor, and oil pastel drawings are rife with details and delights. Her endpapers open and close the book with a spectacular kaleidoscope of húdié; in between, Piper, with her bangs always slightly askew, is virtually unstoppable--as long as she's singing. Even with Piper's poignant transformation when she's dampened by nerves, Leng surrounds Piper with her pup's devoted, hopeful support. Leng's settings are especially marvelous: her classroom is filled with diverse, eager students; backstage is cluttered with unused props and equipment behind the children getting ready to take the spotlight. Soo, Doran, and Leng ensure Piper soars. --Terry Hong

Shelf Talker: Debut authors Phillipa Soo and Maris Pasquale Doran, buoyed by Qin Leng's delightful illustrations, offer empowering, entertaining encouragement in Piper Chen Sings.

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