Shelf Awareness for Tuesday, March 31, 2020

William Morrow & Company: Polostan: Volume One of Bomb Light by Neal Stephenson

Shadow Mountain: The Legend of the Last Library by Frank L Cole

Atlantic Monthly Press: The Elements of Marie Curie: How the Glow of Radium Lit a Path for Women in Science by Dava Sobel

Ace Books: Dungeon Crawler Carl by Matt Dinniman

Little, Brown Books for Young Readers: The Millicent Quibb School of Etiquette for Young Ladies of Mad Science by Kate McKinnon

Annick Press: Bog Myrtle by Sid Sharp

Minotaur Books: Betrayal at Blackthorn Park: A Mystery (Evelyne Redfern #2) by Julia Kelly

Quotation of the Day

'We Hope You Are Doing Well & Staying Safe'

"I think I have said, 'I hope you are well and staying safe' about 800 times in the last week. Not knowing what to do, or what to say, as I try to doubly focus on the safety of my community and the basic sustainability of my business, has left me, like most, exhausted and sad. But there have been lighter moments: chatting with my incredible mail person or video chatting with publishers to show them the absolute stacks of orders we're shipping every day to you all. These moments of human connection coupled with the reality of moving to an online business for the moment led Loyalty to create these new Bundles and Bookseller recs.

"I became a career bookseller because of the deep satisfaction of finding the right book for the right person. I opened a bookstore because I saw communities under-served who were hungry for stories and authentic representation. These truths do not go away during a pandemic, but the very nature of the business must change. We also have to face the reality that getting individual orders in for specific books is taking longer due to the necessary safety slow downs in publisher and shipping warehouses. Plus, our booksellers and I are human. We need to stay safe and stay sane too....

"We're grateful to you for reading this, caring about the store, and above all taking care of yourself and others by practicing social distancing, sheltering at home, and if you are working in an essential profession and quite literally saving the rest of us I thank you. Shoot us an e-mail with your address and we'll send you something special. We hope you are doing well and staying safe (really, what else is there to say?)!"

--Hannah Oliver Depp (+ the Loyalty Team), owner of Loyalty bookstores, Washington, D.C. and Silver Spring, Md., in an e-mail newsletter to customers titled "Shop Loyal. Socially Distance." 

Running Press Kids: Your Magical Life: A Young Witch's Guide to Becoming Happy, Confident, and Powerful by Amanda Lovelace


Indie Bookstores Are Essential Businesses, Some States Agree

In Whitefish, Mont., Bookworks is not considered an essential business.

Independent booksellers nationwide are navigating an ever-shifting sea of local, state and federal regulations regarding the definition of essential and non-essential businesses as the battle against Covid-19 continues. In some cases, however, indies are finding a bit more clarity.

In an e-mail note "for our Rhode Island Friends," Savoy Bookshop & Café in Westerly wrote: "As you likely have seen, Rhode Island Governor, Gina Raimondo, has ordered the closure of non-essential businesses to the public, following suit of Connecticut and other border states. Thankfully, we implemented a 'closed to the public' operating model two weeks ago, meaning nothing has to change about the way we have been conducting business at this time--we are still able to fulfill your online and phone orders!"

Both Bank Square Books, Mystic, Conn., and Savoy Bookshop "will continue operating on limited hours... fulfilling online and phone orders with free media mail shipping, curbside pickup, or local delivery. Both stores remain closed to the public at this time."

Island Books in Middletown noted that "Rhode Island has given us permission to continue with our parking lot pick-up practices and island-wide free delivery!" "What can we do for you and yours?... Be well, be safe and happy reading!"

In New Hampshire, Gibson's Bookstore in Concord announced "Governor Sununu has confirmed that N.H. retailers may continue to do curbside pickup and USPS delivery."

Dan Chartrand, owner of Water Street Bookstore, Exeter, N.H., informed "our diverse and vibrant community of readers" that the bookshop "has been advised that we will be allowed to continue operating using the non-public facing model we have developed since Monday 3/16. Water Street Bookstore was closed to the public on 3/16 and only a minimum of bookstore staff operating in a safe and socially distant manner have been allowed in the bookstore since then. We are very grateful to continue to serve our community of readers at this difficult and trying time. Thank you to our community for all the support you have given to Exeter’s locally owned and independent bookstore!"

Prince Books, Norfolk, Va., noted that "in his March 30 press briefing, Governor Northam continues to say that businesses like Prince Books may remain open to customers as long as we practice social distancing. We are currently processing many online, email and phone orders, and we continue to receive boxes from our wholesaler and publishers. You are welcome to request curbside delivery, or you may come into the store. We spray the counter and the doors throughout the day. Please continue to order from us! Thank you for your business."

G.P. Putnam's Sons: William by Mason Coile

How Bookstores Are Coping: Community Support & Generosity

"You need a Sunday feel-good story? Gather 'round," High Five Books, Florence, Mass., noted. "Two weeks ago, right as schools were being canceled and nonessential businesses were rumored to soon be shut, a Hilltown mom-hero reached out to us. 'We want to give you a boost and do something for the kids in our neighborhood,' she said. 'Can you put together a collection of 50 bags of activities and fun that we can safely distribute?' While used to physical distancing up in the hills, this mama worried how social distancing would exacerbate that isolation (ok, and kid BOREDOM).

"And so, late into the night, I stuffed bags. Activity books, coloring pages, sequined slap bracelets, early readers for the littles, snacks that might make unsuspecting kids smile. My kid and I delivered these Bags of Delight deep into Ashfield, to a farm where wily goats greeted us with bleats and bizarre stares. We arranged the bags into age-defined boxes in the back of a covered pickup truck. There they stayed, quarantined, for four days. And then the mama summoned her neighbors to come.

" 'It’s happening!,' she texted me. 'I am watching from my window sobbing. Thank you, thank you, thank you!!' Thank YOU so heartily, Anna Westley / Open Source Birth, for holding your people close from afar. We started this bookstore in the hopes of creating community around art, literature, and creativity. We sleep better at night knowing that even with our doors closed right now, that connection is still happening."


In a personal note to customers, Susan Murphy, owner of Pages Bookshop, Detroit, Mich., wrote: "Whether you have ordered books online, bought a gift certificate, shared our story or sent kind words of support, I appreciate it all. Each and every one of you has built Pages into the community that it is. It has become just what I imagined five years ago. From the bottom of my heart, thank you.

"I've received many emails asking how Pages Bookshop is doing and if we will survive this. I know other bookstores are raising money through GoFundMe and some have asked if I will too. I'm not pursuing this right now. I've received cash flow help from GRDC, @americanbooksellers and various publishers. I have enough of a cash reserve to hold out for a couple of months, although I have to have enough cash to open back up after this ends. A lot, of course, depends on how long Pages is closed. When I'm at a point where I need help, I'll let you know. I have, however, added a Donate button on the Pages' website if you wish to support Pages with a donation at this time.

"Rest assured, I will do everything I can to keep Pages going during the shutdown and to reopen when this crisis passes.... I miss you; bookselling isn't nearly as much fun without you in the store. My staff and I are working on different ways to stay connected and I'll let you know via email and social media what we come up with...."


In a post titled "GENEROSITY OF SPIRIT," Sandra Deer, co-owner of the Little BOHO Bookshop, Bayonne, N.J., noted that the store "went dark amid COVID19 concerns" a week ago. "To all of you who’ve called, emailed, posted on our social media, sent texts, cards, letters with your well wishes, blew kisses at us through our locked door, ordered online, and offered to help... WE THANK YOU! We are aware that the majority of you who placed orders online this past week, did not do so because you needed another mug, or another book to add to your 'to-be-read' pile, or a gift card that you can use later. You ALL did so out of a generosity of spirit which moved you to want to support us during these truly uncharted times, and your kindness has MOVED us.

"It's hard to predict what the coming days and weeks will bring us, as the situation in and beyond BAYONNE continues to evolve. As we look back on this past week we are humbled by your kindness, buoyed by continued support, but mostly.... we are thankful that you our customers, your families and friends are WELL. Please stay safe everyone!!!"


"Our door has been locked for weeks, but we now need to stop curbside pickup and delivery in order to shelter-in-place," Odd Bird Books, Columbia, S.C., posted last Sunday. "You can still order books through Instagram, Facebook, e-mail, or over the phone, and they will be delivered by USPS. Merchandise is also available to be shipped through our website. Beyond that, I'll say we're doing surprisingly fine for a small bookstore that opened a month before a global pandemic, so please feel free to worry about us less and direct any extra dollars you might have toward the small businesses that are still open--or toward local arts groups, nonprofits, and charities, all of whom need help now too."

International Update: U.K. Book Trade Survey, French Cutbacks

Initial responses to a survey by the Bookseller show that anxiety about health and finances, stress with juggling childcare, uncertainty for the future and job security were frequent concerns among book trade staffers working through the coronavirus crisis, though many of the nearly 150 respondents said remote working had made their teams more focused and creative.

Among the respondents, 62% were from publishing, 19% booksellers, 6% agents, 3.5% authors, 2% distributors and 1% freelancers, plus 6% from other categories including scouts, recruiters, festival organizers and packagers.

One publisher said they were "terrified," with "limited sales to be had, in what was already proving a tough market," while an employee of Taylor & Francis felt "positive," with e-book sales doing well and "revenue protection clearly mapped out" by the company.

Support for booksellers has been mixed, according to the survey. One employee, who works for an independent, said they had been able to stop working before the lockdown "to protect a vulnerable family member" and were put "on full pay for at least two months." Another indie staff member said they were "worried but glad we have adapted to online selling."

A publisher expressed the need for "vocal support" and fundraising for Waterstones and WH Smith staff, noting that "it's shameful there hasn't been more support for our bookseller colleagues, who were working right up until public pressure--not pressure from the trade--pushed Daunt into closing. Many of these booksellers still aren't paid the living wage."

Several respondents suggested the crisis "could also help solve publishing's perennial diversity problem, particularly in terms of geographical diversity and disability. One respondent concluded, 'I'm also hoping there will be broader repercussions across the industry from everyone realizing you can actually work remotely; wouldn't it be nice if one of the silver linings were to make the publishing industry more inclusive,' " the Bookseller wrote.


Major French publishers "are making their staff part-time under new measures announced by the government to help companies survive the lockdown imposed to fight the Covid-19 pandemic," the Bookseller reported. Last Friday, Prime Minister Edouard Philippe announced that the two-week lockdown, which began on March 17, would be extended at least to April 15.

"Most houses have suspended the bulk of their activities," said Pierre Dutilleul, director of the French Publishers Association (Syndicat de l'Edition National, SNE). He added that publishers are maintaining their accounting, human resources and other vital services through teleworking, and most are taking up the government's March 17 offer to cover 84% of net salaries for personnel working part-time. Most, however, have halted book manufacturing, marketing and much of their distribution.

E-books are taking up some of the slack, the Bookseller wrote, noting that the French Eden Books platform, owned by Madrigall--parent company of Gallimard and Flammarion--Media Participations and other publishers "is reporting a 100% increase in sales from the usual level, Dutilleul said. Izneo, the comic book platform, is also flourishing with a series of promotions."

Actes Sud suspended activities for two weeks, effective March 19. CEO Françoise Nyssen said that some staff are teleworking, partly to "respond to our authors. Authors do not qualify for partial unemployment pay, so are particularly penalized."

She added that the determining factor for the company to resume work will be the reopening of bookshops and is in favor of classifying books as an essential item, allowing independent booksellers to resume trading. The Bookseller noted that French finance minister Bruno Lemaire "floated this idea recently. But the French Booksellers Association said indies should stay shut to protect the health of staff and customers, and that publishers should stop delivering to Amazon and supermarket groups."


Noting that many Goans had "already picked up the books on their to-read list from bookstores ahead of the lockdown, in anticipation of the government's move," the Times of India reported the Khalil Ahmad, owner of Broadway Bookstore in St. Inez, said there had been a sudden surge in purchase of books from his stores.

"It looked like people were aware of the lockdown," he recalled. "Three to four days before curfew was announced, there was a sudden spikle in footfalls. People purchased a lot of books, mostly children's books and light reading, mainly fiction. Some foreigners who live in Goa bought books worth Rs 8,000 to 9,000 [about $105-$120] each, which is not something we see on a regular day."


In Australia, Potts Point Bookshop, Sydney, checked in on Facebook with "a few updates on how we're going to be doing things here for the next little while. Our doors are shut (partially) but you can still come and visit us to pick up some books if you know what you're looking for. We're still happy to offer up suggestions if you're unsure but we encourage everyone to be as speedy as possible in their decision making so that there's no congestion at the front door.

"Our website has all of our stock listed, you can browse everything there and place a click and collect order or phone ahead and set aside any books you'd like. We can also take payment online or over the phone. If you're quarantined and can't leave your house we are happy to bring books to you; simply browse our online store and select QUARANTINE at the checkout and we will arrange delivery to you free of charge.... We hope everyone is staying safe and well and we will keep updating you all if and when things change with us."

Readings, which has seven shops in and near Melbourne, has "really only closed its doors on Christmas day (apart from the time when Carlton's sewer burst)"--until yesterday, when it closed to the public at the end of the day, although it continues business online.

Readings has been "inundated with orders," owner Mark Rubbo said in an e-mail to customers, and is trying to fill them in a timely manner. Because the "supply of overseas items has mostly stopped... we can only supply items that are available in our shops or in stock with local publishers."

Saying "we are definitely coming back," Rubbo noted that "apart from our profit distributions to staff and our donations to the Readings Foundation, we have kept most of our profits in the business. This means we are able meet all our leave obligations to our staff, as well as extending an extra two weeks paid leave to them all."

Remembering Tomie dePaola

(photo: Laurent Linn)

Tomie dePaola
(September 15, 1934-March 30, 2020)

The field of children's literature lost one of its great champions. Tomie DePaola died yesterday at the Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center in Lebanon, N.H., due to complications following surgery after a fall last Thursday.

Oh Tomie dePaola, how could you leave us at a time like this? We need your humor, your talent, and your joie de vivre now more than ever.

Remember when you shared the stage with Julie Andrews, who hosted the 2009 Children's Book and Author Breakfast, and you said, "Let's get this out of the way," and began singing, "The hills are alive..."? Someone else might have felt intimidated by the iconic actress, but not Tomie dePaola, no. You went on to talk about how the two of you "spent a night together in our teens." You, a student at Manhattan's prestigious Pratt Institute, sitting in the audience of The Boyfriend, where Julie Andrews was making her Broadway debut. And how did you exit the stage? By serenading her: "So long, farewell, auf Wiedersehen, goodnight..." Maybe you should have been an actor!

But we're so glad you weren't! The first book you illustrated was for Coward McCann in 1965, a science book called Sound. Someone else might have been discouraged by the review: "Good facts, but the illustrations are far too imaginative for a science book." Instead, you were encouraged. You went on to give us Mother Goose rhymes and Christmas songs and a world war seen through a child's eyes on 26 Fairmount Avenue (Putnam, 1999), a Newbery Honor book.

At the urging of Eunice Holzart you wrote down a story about your bedridden great grandmother, which Barbara Lucas at Putnam read and led to Nana Upstairs and Nana Downstairs (Putnam, 1973). Soon after, you began thinking about the age-old Porridge Pot story, which--thanks to your Italian genes--morphed into a Pasta Pot and... along came Strega Nona (S&S, 1975), a Caldecott Honor book. At last count, there were nearly 25 million copies of your books in the world.

You were even named a Living Treasure in 1999 by the governor of New Hampshire, where you lived and worked in your 200-year-old converted barn, complete with ovens for baking your beloved bread.

Tomie dePaola, it is comforting to think of your warmth and faith and love of family, your Nana Upstairs and Nana Downstairs, your strength emanating from 26 Fairmont Avenue, carrying us forward in the days ahead. As always, you get the last word: during your acceptance of the 2011 Children's Literature Legacy Award, you told the audience, "I am extremely humbled and totally grateful. You have given me and my work eternity." So long, farewell, auf Wiedersehen, goodnight. --Jennifer M. Brown


Image of the Day: Books Around the Corner

Books Around the Corner, Gresham, Ore., has redone its window to feature a selection of titles in various categories beyond the usual Fiction and Nonfiction: "Distract Yourself," "Feel-Good Fiction," "Escape to Another World," "It Could Be Worse."

Owner Stephanie Csaszar reported, "We are staying afloat with offering no-contact door pickup, curbside pickup and home delivery within 15 minutes of our shop. We are taking orders by phone and e-mail, and promoting our website to those outside the area. We're kicking off Virtual Book Clubs next month and we have been having Virtual Storytime every Saturday at 7 p.m.

"We ask people to point and pick what they want, and we do a payment over the phone. We've also taken photos of the entire shop and put them on our website. We are now doing virtual tours of different sections every day on Instagram and Facebook, and scheduling virtual tours for customers by appointment. I'm glad I am doing my part and keeping them safe."

Coronavirus-fighting Ideas: Trident's Brunch for Two; Phoenix Mutual Aid

"Let there be brunch! No pants? No problem!"

Although the store and café are closed to the public, Trident Booksellers and Café, Boston, Mass., is offering its full menu of books and food--and has added a brunch for two. Available all day for delivery or curbside pickup, the brunch menu features a variety of specials, including Truckstop for Two and Tofu Scramble. Food is served in "family-style portions for two people. Just transfer them from our delivery containers to your own dishes, and voila! Brunch is served."

Trident adds: "Feeling fancy? Include OJ for two onto your order and then add your own prosecco or champagne at home for bottomless brunch mimosas! (pants optional)."


With a subject line reading "Love in the Time of Corona" (with apologies to Gabriel García Márquez,) Third Street Books, McMinnville, Ore., thanked customers and outlined the store's services, which include curbside pickup and porch delivery. The e-mail read, in part, "Whew! What a week! THANK YOU ALL FOR YOUR AMAZING SUPPORT!

"We so appreciate your patience as we make adjustments to our processes. These last two weeks have been a lesson in learning on the fly, accepting limitations and butt-busting....

"We are also scheming other ways to offer you connections to TSB. What interests you? Do you want access to more puzzles? Crazy socks? Kids workbooks? Video tours of the store? Email us with your wishes. Ideas we are developing: mystery books boxes, Oregon Battle of the Books boxes, Easter packs, Mother's Day card selections, and more!"


As the age of social distancing dawned, Chawa Magaña, founder and co-owner of Palabras Bilingual Bookstore, Phoenix, Ariz., "saw how volunteers in Seattle rallied together in response to the city's large outbreak of COVID-19," the New Times reported, adding that Magaña decided that if it worked there, it could work in her city, too. So she set up a public group on Facebook called COVID-19 Mutual Aid Phoenix Metro.

"I wanted to create a place where people could connect to provide resources for each other during this difficult time," she said.

Parris Wallace, director of operations for the Black Phoenix Organizing Collective, reached out to Magaña because Wallace and two other volunteers had established a similar Facebook page. They decided to combine efforts and adopted the name COVID-19 Mutual Aid Group Phoenix Metro Area. More than 4,100 members joined the group in less than two weeks. The all-volunteer group prioritizes help for those who are sick, disabled, elderly, undocumented, queer, black, indigenous, people of color, and quarantined without pay. They developed and are regularly updating a COVID-19 resource sheet.

"Our goal is to connect people with resources that already exist and also to help the community help each other," Magaña said, stressing that Palabras is just one part of a much wider community effort.

In addition, she is working to keep Palabras alive. "I hope that during this time, we can all find ways to be in solidarity with each other,” she observed. "Whether it's supporting a small local shop or picking up some groceries for a neighbor in need while maintaining a healthy distance and washing and sanitizing our hands. In whatever capacity we can, we need to be there for one another, now more than ever."


Green Apple Books
in San Francisco, Calif., is selling Green Apple hoodies and T-shirts on "Every purchase allows us to keep the books flowing (online, of course) and the lights on (figuratively, of course) during our shelter-in-place forced closure," the store says on the site. "Thank you, as always, for your love and support."

Bookstore Chalkboard: Roebling Point Books & Coffee

A chalkboard artist shout-out was offered up by Roebling Point Books & Coffee, Covington, Ky.: "As spring blooms around us, a shout-out of appreciation to Gloria, our chalkboard artist, who serves up these literary morsels. Whether for reflection or (silent) shouting from an imaginary stage, we're are wiser and refreshed from her artistry."



Media and Movies

Media Heat: Bart D. Ehrman on Fresh Air

Good Morning America: Rachel Platten, author of You Belong (Feiwel & Friends, $17.99, 9781250240163).

Fresh Air: Bart D. Ehrman, author of Heaven and Hell: A History of the Afterlife (Simon & Schuster, $28, 9781501136733).

Movies: French Children Don't Throw Food

Anne Hathaway will star in a film adaptation of Pamela Druckerman's autobiography French Children Don't Throw Food, Deadline reported. The project, which is being co-financed by StudioCanal and Blueprint Pictures, is in development, with the latest version of the screenplay written by Jamie Minoprio and Jonathan Stern. Blueprint's recent credits include the Oscar-winning Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, and Jane Austen's Emma.

Books & Authors

Awards: Anisfield-Wolf Winners

The winners of the 2020 Anisfield-Wolf Book Awards, sponsored by the Cleveland Foundation and honoring "literature that confronts racism and explores diversity," are:

Lifetime Achievement: Eric Foner
Poetry: Ilya Kaminsky, for Deaf Republic
Nonfiction: Charles King, for Gods of the Upper Air
Fiction: Namwali Serpell, for The Old Drift

Book Review

Review: Braised Pork

Braised Pork by An Yu (Grove Press, $25 hardcover, 240p., 9780802148711, April 14, 2020)

In the first scene of An Yu's Braised Pork, Jia Jia opens her bathroom door and discovers that her husband, Chen Hang, has drowned himself in their tub. From that point to the final, dreamlike subaquatic scene of this poignant debut novel, water is both life-giving and a fearful void. Her husband left behind nothing but a crude sketch of a creature with a fish body and a man's head. Weeks earlier, on one of his infrequent calls to her while away on business in Tibet, he told her he had dreamt of a creature that was "barely a man" with the body of a fish. He never mentioned it again, and the sketch holds no clues. The fish-man becomes a touchstone as Jia Jia questions her place in the world.

Chen Hang's suicide upends Jia Jia's place in Beijing's patriarchal society. "He had betrayed her. Abandoned her. Failed to honour the one thing he had promised her." Although she veers between grief, embarrassment and anger, she prides herself on controlling her emotions. Strong feelings, nonetheless, emerge in her subconscious. She experiences dreams where water runs through her bedroom, like "the surface of a deep sea, as if she was sitting on the edge of a ship watching the reflection of the starless sky in the water." Time loses meaning, and she finds herself swimming toward "a tiny fish with a sharp tail, shining like glitter." Weeks later, she dreams a similar event, but this time the water "churned and threatened to sink everything in its path." She sees the same silver fish, although it bears no resemblance to her husband's sketch. This time she dives under the water and swims with the fish until her concentration is broken, and she finds herself leaning against a wall, crying. She's drawn to the water, and then disappointed in its inability to provide answers.

Jia Jia's attempts at empowerment combine with the quest for the meaning of her husband's sketch, and this takes her out of Beijing city to rural Tibet, where Chen Hang had his disturbing dream. Finally, there, the fish-man appears to her in a dream, too. As the story moves toward its resolution, Jia Jia thinks "she had begun a story with the fish-man long ago, before she could remember, something that had pushed her off her axis, something that demanded an ending now."

An Yu was born and raised in Beijing and now splits her time between Paris and Hong Kong. Her first novel is a moving, magical parable about a young woman's journey of self-discovery and empowerment. --Cindy Pauldine, bookseller, the river's end bookstore, Oswego, N.Y.

Shelf Talker: This enchanting debut novel introduces a young widow searching for the meaning of a mysterious fish-man who appeared in her husband's dreams and, now, in hers, too.

Powered by: Xtenit