Also published on this date: Wednesday, June 14, 2017: Kids' Maximum Shelf: Imagine

Shelf Awareness for Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Minotaur Books: The Grey Wolf by Louise Penny

Minotaur Books: The Grey Wolf by Louise Penny

Minotaur Books: The Grey Wolf by Louise Penny

Minotaur Books: The Grey Wolf by Louise Penny


Tracy K. Smith Named U.S. Poet Laureate

Photo: Rachel Eliza Griffiths

Tracy K. Smith has been named the 22nd U.S. poet laureate by Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden, who said, "One of the things I have been stressing thematically across the library is that we want to be accessible and relatable to people all across the country. The fact that Tracy wants to go into rural areas and talk about poetry is such a great idea and something that really excited me because I think that's the kind of thing we should be doing as an institution." The Washington Post reported that Smith, who succeeds Juan Felipe Herrera, will begin her year-long term with a public reading of her work at the library in September.

Smith has published three collections: The Body's Question, Duende and Life on Mars, which won the 2012 Pulitzer Prize in poetry. Her memoir, Ordinary Light, was a finalist for the 2015 National Book Award in nonfiction. A new collection, Wade in the Water, will be published in April 2018 by Graywolf Press (Read the title poem here.).

The position, which comes with an office in the library, a travel budget and a modest stipend, "has few official duties and no political entanglements--no required sonnets on the occasion of Donald Trump's birthday, etc.," the Post noted. "Smith, who plans to continue living in New Jersey, will be free to define her role however she'd like."

"It's what every artist is hoping for: time and space and support for the freedom to create," Smith said. "I get to immerse myself in the conversation that poetry generates. When we're talking about the feelings that poems alert us to and affirm, we're speaking as our realest selves. To imagine bringing the tone of that conversation into different parts of the country and having conversations with people I can't come into contact with every day, that feels like a really wonderful opportunity."

Noting that she is troubled by the approach to poetry she sees in too many high schools and middle schools, Smith said students "are beginning to feel anxious about what they're being asked to do with a poem--as though the poem is out to trick them. I love being able to say, 'Let's just take the poem at face value and see what the poem is saying.' Getting back to regular conversational ideas about what words say and what they make us think--that's a great first step."

She also observed that poetry "can help us make sense of the contemporary moment. I'm excited by the fact that what poets are writing speaks to a particular moment and it speaks to the ages. Any political moment is uncertain, and a voice that lets us think about that will last. Let's think about how empathy can drive our perspective of one another. Let's think about how we can get past what's binary and simplest to what's complicated."

Minotaur Books: The Grey Wolf by Louise Penny

Chicago's Seminary Co-op Sees First Sales Growth Since 2000

The Seminary Co-op Bookstore in Chicago, Ill., has seen its first year of sales growth since 2000: an increase of 5% for the 2015-2016 fiscal year and, since the beginning of this year, sales have been up an additional 10%, reported Jeff Deutsch, director of Seminary Co-op Bookstores, which operates both Seminary Co-op and 57th Street Books, in a letter to Seminary Co-op shareholders earlier this month.

Deutsch traced the boost in sales to a request he made in a shareholder letter sent at the end of May 2016, asking that shareholders and members help ensure the Co-op's survival by buying one more book than they otherwise would and convincing family, friends, or colleagues to do the same. The response, Deutsch wrote, was "overwhelming"--in addition to the almost immediate jump in sales (June 2016 was up 28% over June 2015), he "received direct replies from hundreds of [shareholders] throughout the world, voices from four continents and from nearly half our states." In response to that feedback, the organization now accepts direct financial contributions and has compiled a list of advocacy ideas for those looking for ways to further support the store, and in this year's letter Deutsch once again called for community members to buy additional books and support the store's mission.

Over the past year, the Co-op has also significantly overhauled its website; redesigned its blog; created a book-discovery feature called Reading Is Critical; started a program to support educators through discounts and other services; and vastly expanded its offsite event offerings. Later this month, the Seminary Co-op will debut Open Stacks, a podcast series featuring recordings of in-store events, and, according to Deutsch, the Co-op has furthered its partnerships with institutions such as the Chicago Humanities Festival, the Poetry Foundation, the DuSable Museum of African American History, the Family Action Network and others.

"We are a bookstore, after all, and if we are to persist, it will be as a bookstore," wrote Deutsch. "While we continue to struggle with our bottom line, and to lose money overall, we are on the right track, as we are losing significantly less than we have in prior years. We are resolute in growing, not cutting, our way out of the deficit."

Minotaur Books: The Grey Wolf by Louise Penny

Berkeley's Dark Carnival Bookstore to Close

Dark Carnival, a sci-fi bookstore in Berkeley, Calif., will close after 41 years in business, Berkeleyside reported, adding that sister store the Escapist, located nearby, "may also shutter if sales don't pick up."

Describing himself as heartbroken with the developments, owner Jack Rems expressed his gratitude to the shop's longtime customers. He is currently holding a "progressive sale" and isn't certain yet when the final closing day will be. "I need to pay bills, so as long as by selling off stock we are generating more than it costs [we will stay open]," he said.

One of his loyal customers, author Michael Chabon, who attended the opening of the Escapist in 2011, recalled: "On my first morning in the neighborhood, back in April 1997, Dark Carnival was my first stop--then as now, I considered it, along with Star Grocery, to be one of the chief glories of the Elmwood District.... I bought a paperback copy of one of Gordon R. Dickson's Dorsai novels and struck up a conversation with the remarkable Jack Rems that has lasted ever since. For 20 years, Dark Carnival's stock-in-trade has fed my work and my imagination, and its twisty warren of bookshelves and generous staff have held a place in the hearts and lives of all the Waldman-Chabons (eldest child Sophie worked at Escapist from 2011-13). I'm just devastated by the news."

Chris Juricich, former manager at the Escapist, said, "I'm sad for the loss of the store to the community and no one could ever blame Jack for not having applied his intelligence and passion to its continued survival, but, much like the business of comic book retail, selling reading matter is an uphill climb."

Rowling Back Among Forbes 100 Highest Paid Celebrities

J.K. Rowling has returned to Forbes magazine's World Celebrity 100 list after a three-year hiatus with $95 million in earnings "from her bestselling Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, an estimated cut of profits from 2016's top-grossing Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them and payouts from the Wizarding World of Harry Potter." She earned the #3 spot, just behind musicians Sean Combs and Beyoncé Knowles.

As usual, the list was dominated by entertainment and sports stars, with James Patterson being the only other author to crack the top 100 at #9 ($87 million).

Although most of the Forbes' Celebrity 100 have had books written about them and a few have even written their own, the "personalities" category also includes some who regularly make bestseller lists as writers, including Dr. Phil McGraw (#15, $79 million), Bill O'Reilly (#71, $37 million) and Sean Hannity (#77, $36 million).

International Book Fair Scholarship: The Turin Experience

Last month, Camilla Orr, assistant manager at Changing Hands Bookstore in Phoenix, Ariz., attended the International Book Fair in Turin, Italy, one of three winners of an International Book Fair Scholarship from Europa Editions the Other Press. Here she shares her impressions of that experience.

Camilla Orr

I got the call in early March, days after sending in my essay about the importance of international literature. When a coworker at Changing Hands Bookstore told me Michael Reynolds, editor-in-chief of Europa Editions, was on the phone, I thought he was joking. He had to repeat it several times before I'd pick up the phone: yes, Michael Reynolds, from Europa. Yes, he's asking for you!

On the phone, I kept as silent as I could while Michael explained that I was one of three winners of the 2017 International Book Fair Scholarship from Europa and Other Press, and that I'd be attending the International Book Fair in Turin, Italy (il Salone Internazionale del Libro di Torino). Books and travel, my two great loves, mashed together! It seemed too good to be true.

And it almost was. In only its second year, the International Book Fair Scholarship, or IBS, was such an incredible experience that it should, as fellow scholarship winner Jenn Witte of Skylight Books, Los Angeles, Calif., exclaimed while tasting a dessert after an elaborate multi-course meal on our first night in Turin, "be illegal." It's not even the basics of the program: the free flight to Europe and the rooms in a very nice hotel (a big deal when living off a bookseller salary); being wined and dined with publishers from Europe, authors and important figures in the world of European publishing; speaking on panels about bookselling; and being interviewed by Italian newspapers and blogs. The big takeaways for me were the less tangible aspects, like seeing the book world from a completely different viewpoint and still feeling connected.

While at the book fair I was asked several times if the experience was what I had expected. I honestly had no expectations coming in and if I had, how could I have ever imagined Turin? The hugeness of the book fair alone, which takes place in the old Fiat factory, defied expectations. On our first day, while Jenn and I explored the multiple rooms packed with booths, I remarked that it was like being in that episode of the Twilight Zone where a man discovers he's the last human on Earth and is happy because all he wants to do is read. And then his glasses break. So many books! And almost all in Italian, a language I don't speak.

Each day of the fair we arrived before the doors opened to the public to get situated at the pop-up American Indie Bookstore created by Europa and Other Press. We'd spend the day checking out the rest of the fair, talking to patrons in our pop-up bookstore, speaking on panels or attending talks, and meeting with authors at twice daily "coffee breaks" that took place in our booth. American Indie was stocked with titles we had suggested and we expertly handsold our favorites to the public, and to each other.

After elaborate and delicious dinners that ended at midnight, at which publishers from Italian, German, French, and American presses seemed genuinely interested in our opinions about American publishing and bookselling, we'd be whisked away to parties put on for the fair. One night we attended a Twin Peaks-themed party with Italian booksellers at the Holden School of Storytelling and Performing Arts, which was so well done (there was a room full of coffee, cherry pie and donuts, as well as Laura Palmer shrines scattered about) that I didn't want to leave at 2 a.m., despite my exhaustion.

From the moment I got off the plane and was picked up by driver Francesco for the ride to the superb Hotel Roma, I was treated like an important guest. Francesco practiced his English while we discussed European history, philosophy and, of course, politics. I knew the current state of American politics was going to come up a lot in Europe. I feared the image of Americans had fallen even lower than before in the eyes of the rest of the world. Starting with Francesco, however, I was drawn into conversations about Trump respectfully, and with real interest. All the Italians were, perhaps unsurprisingly, sanguine about the whole situation.

"Don't worry," Francesco told me, "You have Trump for four years and then it gets better. Just relax. We had 20 years of this in Italy. You'll survive."

While this made me feel better about the current reception of Americans in Europe, I wondered what damage could, and would, be done to my country, and the world, in four short years.

Jenn Witte from Skylight Books in Los Angeles; Camilla Orr of Changing Hands in Phoenix, Ariz.; and David Sandberg of Porter Square Books, Cambridge, Mass.

Which is really what was at the heart of the IBS experience: the importance today of indie bookstores, publishing and international literature. As journalists are censored, silenced, physically assaulted, and their work labeled "fake news," the ordinary citizen's access to alternative viewpoints is severally limited. Without a free press, bookstores become an alternative venue where people can go to find different ideas, the next line of defense.

Each of the 2017 IBS winners was aware that politics would come up, given our roles as ambassadors for American bookselling, because La Repubblica, one of the largest daily newspapers in Italy, sent us interview questions before the fair. The first question was about our bookstore's involvement in resisting Trump. I was a bit taken aback when I received the questions, since I had not specifically discussed politics in my scholarship essay. It was funny to me then to read (or attempt to decipher, rather) the final article, which states in the first few lines that I was "among the most militant of the booksellers" interviewed. Europa staff member Sophia Franchi laughed at the look on my face upon first seeing that sentence and assured me that "in Italy, being militant is a good thing!”

And where does international literature come into all this? International literature is the best way to understand a different country or culture without living there. We can travel, but without speaking another language or getting off the beaten road, we'll never really understand foreign places and people. Now more than ever it's important for Americans to read about other lands, to understand that it's not "us" vs. "them," but that we're all the same. It was appropriate then that the motto of Turin's book fair this year was "Oltre il Confine"--"Beyond the Border."

The last "coffee break" was an International Bookseller Mixer featuring the three scholarship winners, where we had a lovely conversation with an Italian patron. She seemed surprised that the three of us worked in different stores all over the U.S. Is there no competition, she asked? Do you share all your secrets?

Other indies, other bookstores, are not our competition, we all replied in different words. We're in this together: one indie succeeding is success for us all.

While I did find the urge to compare myself to the other scholarship winners overwhelming at times (Why didn't I think to bring shelf talkers? Why do I not know this book/publisher/author?), we were all on this crazy new International Book Fair adventure together. In the end it was a learning experience for everyone: Europa and Other Press have even bigger ideas for future IBS programming, and I have a new list of books to read, publishers to seek out, contacts and friends. Plus, now I can say I won a scholarship to Italy to speak at a huge conference, and that my words were translated across the language barrier. That's not too shabby for a bookseller in Arizona.

Obituary Note: Edith Shiffert

American poet Edith Shiffert, "whose work was profoundly influenced by the half-century she spent in Japan," died March 1 in Kyoto, the New York Times reported. She was 101. Author of nearly two dozen volumes of poetry, Shiffert was published in the New Yorker "and--at midcentury, when newspapers routinely printed poems--in the New York Times and elsewhere. She was also known as a writer on, and translator of, Japanese poetry," the Times noted.

With Yuki Sawa, she compiled and translated the volumes Anthology of Modern Japanese Poetry (1972) and Haiku Master Buson (1978). Her other books include The Kyoto Years (1971), Forest House With Cat (1991) and The Light Comes Slowly (1997).

From her poem "The Bouquet, Finished":

We cannot call it important,
a scattering of petals onto a table
after a week in my room.

Yet it seems a beginning to all sadnesses,
frailty, and going away.



Laurel Bookstore Celebrating NBA Champs

Posted yesterday on Facebook by the Laurel Bookstore, Oakland, Calif., a day after the Golden State Warriors won the National Basketball Association Championship: "The store is on the parade route for Thursday's celebration of our World Champion Warriors! We'll be open at 9 a.m. that day and once again will offer our nice clean bathrooms for a donation to charity. Plus we'll have treats while they last. We are at the first aqua arrow on the left in case you don't know. After they pass by you can walk straight over to the rally--or hang out here with the books!"

Cool Idea of the Day: Albuquerque Buses Offer Kids' Books

Public buses in Albuquerque, N.Mex., include a cubby full of children's books, "part of the city's Discover a Book program that was started more than a decade ago in an effort to help improve reading skills," the Journal reported. The initiative is tied to the city's larger Read To Me book donation program. Children can read the books while on the bus or take them home. The books are restocked about once a week.

Nick Manole, marketing specialist for the city's ABQ Ride department and president of the Read to Me program committee, said a book drive is held every winter and the books distributed to the ABQ Ride department as well as to local nonprofits, schools with large numbers of low-income students and homeless shelters. This year they collected approximately 60,000 books, with about 8,000 going to the bus reading program.

"The thought was that we know there are lower income families riding the bus," said Manole. "The benefit is they [the books] are at your fingertips. It's an easy way to access reading and learning." He also noted that other cities have inquired about the concept: "We've had other bus agencies call us and ask how we do it. They want to do it too."

Media and Movies

Media Heat: Chris Fussell on CBS This Morning

CBS This Morning: Chris Fussell, co-author of One Mission: How Leaders Build a Team of Teams (Portfolio, $27, 9780735211353).

Late Night with Seth Meyers: Rakesh Satyal, author of No One Can Pronounce My Name: A Novel (Picador, $26, 9781250112118).

TV: Will

TNT has released a new trailer for Will, "its period drama series that tells the wild story of young William Shakespeare," Deadline reported. Laurie Davidson leads a cast that includes Olivia DeJonge, Ewen Bremner, Colm Meaney, Mattias Inwood, Jamie Campbell Bower, William Houston, Lukas Rolfe, Max Bennett and Jasmin Savoy Brown.

Created by Craig Pearce, "the series is described as a drama told in a bold, contemporary style and played to a modern soundtrack that exposes all of Shakespeare's recklessness, lustful temptations and tortured brilliance," Deadline wrote. Will premieres July 10 across TNT's U.S. platforms

Books & Authors

Awards: Lambda Literary; Leacock for Humor

The winners of the 29th annual Lambda Literary Awards, which "celebrate achievement in lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer writing for books published in 2016," were announced this week. Jacqueline Woodson and Jeanette Winterson were honored for their lifetime achievements. See the winners in 24 categories on Lambda Literary's website.

"In a year of great political turmoil, the Lammys were a reminder that our LGBTQ writing community remains at the forefront of resistance to attacks on our communities," said Tony Valenzuela, Lambda Literary executive director. "Congratulations to all the winners and honorees. You inspire us."


Gary Barwin won the CA$15,000 (about US$11,330) Stephen Leacock Memorial Medal for Humor, for his Scotiabank Giller–shortlisted novel, Yiddish For Pirates, Quillblog reported. 

Reading with... Sarah Dessen

photo: KPO

Sarah Dessen is the recipient of the 2017 Margaret A. Edwards Award from the American Library Association for outstanding contribution to young adult literature for her previous 12 novels, which include Saint Anything, The Moon & More, What Happened to Goodbye, Along for the Ride, Lock & Key, Just Listen, The Truth About Forever and This Lullaby. Her first two books, That Summer and Someone Like You, were made into the movie How to Deal. Dessen's books are frequently chosen for the Teens' Top Ten list and the Best Fiction for Young Adults list, and have been translated into 25 languages.

Dessen graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill with highest honors in creative writing. She lives in Chapel Hill with her husband, Jay, and their daughter, Sasha Clementine. Her 13th YA novel, Once and for All, was just published by Viking.

On your nightstand now:

A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman, which came highly recommended and I am loving. Saints for All Occasions, the latest from J. Courtney Sullivan. And Entertainment Weekly, because pop culture is my life.

Favorite book when you were a child:

I was obsessed with the Little House on the Prairie books. I wanted to live like that!

Your top five authors:

Anne Tyler, John Irving, Judy Blume, David Sedaris, Lee Smith.

Book you've faked reading:

Anything by Ayn Rand. Although I guess the secret's out now.

Book you're an evangelist for:

Lately, A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara.

Book you've bought for the cover:

Tina Fey's Bossypants. (I listened to it on audio, had to have it on my shelf after.)

Book you hid from your parents:

Hollywood Wives by Jackie Collins. My mom sighed when she did find it, then said, "Well, hopefully you'll come back to the classics." I did.

Book that changed your life:

Coming Attractions by Fannie Flagg. Funny, poignant and by a Southern woman. It made me think I could maybe do it, too.

Favorite line from a book:

"So much for endings. Beginnings are much more fun. True connoisseurs, however, are known to favor the stretch in between, since it's the hardest to do anything with." --from Margaret Atwood's short story "Happy Endings" 

Five books you'll never part with:

Fair and Tender Ladies by Lee Smith, The Accidental Tourist by Anne Tyler, A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving, Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott and my daughter's worn copy of Goodnight Moon.

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

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. I read it so young, in school, that I don't think I appreciated how truly amazing it is.

Book Review

Children's Review: The Song from Somewhere Else

The Song from Somewhere Else by A.F. Harrold, illus. by Levi Pinfold (Bloomsbury, $16.99 hardcover, 240p., ages 8-12, 9781681194011, July 4, 2017)

The summer holidays can be a lonely time--Frank Patel's best friend is traveling, her brother is too young to be any fun, and her pet cat is missing. To entertain herself, Frank bikes around town, hangs in the park, and posts "Missing Cat" posters for Quintilius Minimus.

Unfortunately for Frank, not all of the kids are gone for the holidays. She doesn't know what she did or why Neil Noble chose her, but her every day outside the house is ruled by her fear of hearing that horrible voice mockingly lisp "Fwancethca!" Neil and his cronies don't just tease Frank--they viciously taunt and sometimes even physically assault her. On Monday, the beginning of a very odd week for Francesca, Neil bullies her almost to the point of tears, throwing her bag into a large patch of stinging nettles and walking away.

That's when Nicholas Underbridge shows up. Nicholas was in her class but is not her friend--he "smelled weird. He was big, not fat, just big, broad, tall. Bigger than anyone else her age.... No one liked him." Nick wades into the stinging nettles to get the bag for her, rescuing it and turning back just in time to see Neil return.

For Frank, Nicholas is such an outsider that being seen with him by Neil is enough to get her tortured forever. The two run to Nick's house where they have to be let in by Nick's father. Mortified to be associated with Nick, Frank nonetheless takes the offered sanctuary and comfort, and uses the bathroom before Nick's dad drives her home. While in the bathroom, she hears a "music of a sort she'd never heard before. She was suddenly filled with shoals of fish... hundreds and hundreds of silver fish all moving as if they shared one brain." The music is so affecting, even her very vocal stomach tells her to "Shut up and listen," eventually scolding, "Shhh... You're thinking too loud."

This music is a game changer for Frank--she must hear it again. The next time she visits, she follows the sound down into the basement to the source: beautiful, terrifying, strange, impressive beyond anything she could possibly imagine. What Frank finds in that basement alters the course of her summer--and could possibly alter the path of the world. Disembodied shadows begin creeping around, Quintilius Minimus reappears to share a message, workers from mysterious branches of government show up and, perhaps most surprisingly, Frank and Nick become friends.

A.F. Harrold's work is masterfully paced and stunningly crafted; the story unwinds at a deliberate clip, the characters moving through a world that is at first dark, then mesmerizing, then coolly terrifying, in the way of feeling a shadow cross the sun on a hot, sunny day. Levi Pinfold's striking black-and-white illustrations add mood and fill out setting, creating a reading experience similar to Patrick Ness's A Monster Calls with the chills and growing terror of Neil Gaiman's Coraline. Simply beautiful. --Siân Gaetano, children's and YA editor, Shelf Awareness

Shelf Talker: Francesca Patel beats her bullies, conquers monsters and befriends an outcast in A.F. Harrold and Levi Pinfold's glorious and spine-chilling tale for middle grade readers.

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