Shelf Awareness for Friday, April 17, 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

'Heartening to Remember What a Global Industry This Is'

"I had a late Webex meeting last night with members of the European and International Booksellers Federation (EIBF). The group comprised of some people I know, including Meryl Halls, managing director at the Booksellers Association U.K.; Allison Hill, CEO at the American Booksellers Association; and Dan Slevin, CEO at Booksellers NZ. Julie Belgrado, EIBF director, hosted from Brussels, and we heard from associations far and wide (French, German, Swiss...) about the issues affecting our bookseller compatriots....

"It was heartening to remember what a global industry this is, and even though we must ultimately look after ourselves, we are living through a universally human challenge that plays out in our individual lives daily. The English speaking associations agreed to get together to try to formulate an international approach to publishers, and I hope this will lend weight to your needs."

--Robbie Egan, CEO of the Australian Booksellers Association, in a letter to members

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


International Update: German Bookstores to Reopen

Bookstores in Germany are among the first non-essential businesses that will be allowed to reopen, effective on Monday, April 20, Chancellor Angela Merkel and the minister presidents of the country's 16 states announced on Wednesday, Börsenblatt reported. Most of the businesses included in the loosening of pandemic rules must be smaller than 800 square meters (about 8,600 square feet) in size, but bookstores (as well as car and motorcycle dealers) of any size can reopen.

All the businesses must follow strict hygiene rules, including regulating how many people are allowed into stores and avoiding waiting lines. The wearing of masks is strongly recommended but not required. A ban on large events will last until at least August 31.

Alexander Skipis, head of the Börsenverein, the German book industry association, welcomed the move, saying that bookstores, which have been closed for a month, will now be able to make "a full contribution to the country's spiritual health." He thanked the political authorities, especially Culture Minister Monika Grütters, for recognizing "the important role that the book industry has in society." He did add that while the quick reopening can incrementally help the book industry, "the middle- and long-term effects of the crisis can't be solved without financial help from the government." He requested that exisiting emergency help for the industry be increased.

The Börsenverein estimates that when bookstores are closed for a month, the industry has a loss in revenue of about half a billion euros (approximately $543.8 million).


Amazon France has been ordered to close six of its warehouses and stop delivery of non-essential items during the Covid-19 pandemic. The Bookseller reported that the decision was made earlier this week at a court in Nanterre "while the company underwent safety inspections. Deliverable items have been reduced to groceries, medicine and hygiene products."

The court said Amazon had "failed to recognize its obligations regarding the security and health of its workers," and will face a fine of €1million (about $1.1 million) per day if it fails to comply with the restrictions.

In a statement, Amazon said: "We’re puzzled by the court ruling given the hard evidence brought forward regarding security measures put in place to protect our employees." The company said it would appeal the court's decision.


In Argentina, the Productive Development Ministry clarified that "the sale of books online for home delivery purposes is authorized, though it remained forbidden for members of the public to visit bookstores or attend book fairs," the Buenos Aires Times reported. The government said that Administrative Decision 490 expanded the list of commercial activities that are allowed to be in operation during the lockdown, authorizing the "sale of bookstore items and computer supplies, exclusively under the modality of home delivery," while stressing that serving the public in person is not permitted.

In order to make home deliveries, "staff must complete and apply for a 'Certificado Único Habilitante para Circulación-Emergencia Covid-19.' This certificate is personal and non-transferable and must be processed through the 'Trámites a Distancia' platform," the Buenos Aires Times wrote.


British book retailer Blackwell's tweeted a "message to all the readers buying from us, thank you, things are taking longer to pick, dispatch and arrive due to the you know what... but we're working hard to help." In a video, staff member "Alex says a little bit about what is going on in our Oxford shop whilst it is closed to customers."


Canadian bookseller Pulpfiction Books, Vancouver, B.C., "has taken the unusual one-time step of accepting ingredients as payment as an uptick in home baking during the pandemic has made groceries like flour and sugar hot commodities," CityNews 1130 reported.

Owner Christopher Brayshaw learned that Sara Bynoe had a lot of sugar after a friend purchased a large bag at Costco and she shared photos on social media offering sugar to those in need. "My colleague says 'My wife and my little boy are trying to make cookies, but we can't make any cookies because we can't find any sugar to save our lives,' " Brayshaw recalled. "And this lightbulb went off in my head." He reached out to Bynoe and worked out a trade: two kilograms of sugar, for one brand new book that she'd been on the waitlist for.

"I think I came out as a win in this," she said. "I really wanted that book."


"These bookstores in Singapore are still delivering to your home," Tatler reported, noting: "For many of us, the circuit breaker from April 7 till May 5 is an opportunity to appreciate the joys of slow living--practicing mindfulness, whipping up a healthy meal, and disconnecting to tuck into a good book that's been sitting on your shelf. But if you have found yourself out of titles to indulge in week two of the circuit breaker, fret not. There are still plenty of local bookstores that are actively delivering books to your doorstep."

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

SIB-YA After Dark; Bouchercon 2020 Canceled

Next Wednesday, April 22, at 8 p.m. Eastern, YA authors will be on Twitter for SIB-YA After Dark, an hour-long Twitter Ask Me Anything (AMA) in support of #SaveIndieBookstores, the campaign formed by James Patterson, the American Booksellers Association, the Book Industry Charitable Foundation (Binc) and Reese Witherspoon's Book Club.

The event will be emceed by Isaac Fitzgerald; participating authors include Elizabeth Acevedo, Mary H.K. Choi, Maureen Johnson, Alex London, Jason Reynolds, Phil Stamper, and Nicola Yoon. More authors will be confirmed as the event date gets closer.

During the event, fans can interact, tweet and chill with some of YA's biggest names. Participants can follow the AMA using the hashtags #SIBYAAfterDark and #SaveIndieBookstores, and they will be encouraged to text 44321, code: thinkbinc to donate. The first 10 people to donate at the beginning of the event will receive a personalized thank-you gift from a participating author. Donations can be made at any time from now until April 30 directly to #SaveIndieBookstores.


Bouchercon 2020, which was scheduled for October 15-18 in Sacramento, Calif., has been canceled. In a statement, co-chairs Rae James and Michele Drier noted that in the 50 years since the inaugural Bouchercon, the mystery community has "faced many changes and challenges, but never have we faced something like the global coronavirus pandemic, which is causing widespread disruption to every aspect of our lives.... We have no way of knowing what the balance of this year holds for groups of people gathering, nor can we tell what the state of travel will be."

The team is working to develop a different format for some of the Bouchercon events and activities, including the Anthony Awards, the short story anthology and the general membership meeting. Nominations will continue to be open until June 5 for the Anthony Awards.

For anyone who had registered or provided sponsorships, full refunds will be issued, and for those with hotel reservations, Bouchercon organizers will be working with the hotels to cancel all reservations.

"Although the members of the Local Organizing Committee who have worked on this for the last five years are saddened, we know this is the right step to take to keep all safe," the organizers said. "And we know that there will be future Bouchercons where we can gather again to celebrate the world of mystery."

More Indie Crowdfunding Campaigns

At Book Passage in 2016: Elaine and Bill Petrocelli with (front) Isabel Allende, Don George and Anne Lamott.

Yesterday afternoon, writer Anne Lamott launched a GoFundMe campaign in support of Book Passage in Corte Madera and San Francisco, Calif. Lamott is hoping to raise $100,000 in support of the store, and in the campaign's first few hours, donors gave more than $3,700. Wrote Lamott: "Today, without the buzz of customers in their stores or authors on tour, Book Passage is fighting to support its over 50 booksellers and keep the doors open to welcome us back the this crisis. So, can you join me in helping build them up, by coming together as a community during these deeply isolated times?"


On March 21, Uncle Bobbie's Coffee & Books in Philadelphia, Pa., created a GoFundMe campaign, originally looking to raise $25,000, which would go toward supporting staff members, paying the store's vendors and other outstanding debts. To date, Uncle Bobbie's has raised nearly $30,000, and the store has increased the fundraising goal to $50,000. On April 8, campaign organizer Justin Moore reported that the bookstore team was able to give immediate emergency relief to all staff members.


Like many bookstores around the country, Maomi Bookstore in Atlanta, Ga., has had to close its doors due to a state-issued stay-at-home order. Yvonne Hou, Maomi's manager, launched a campaign on March 27 seeking $10,000, and has so far brought in $6,940. In her message to potential donors, she noted that as a Chinese bookstore in Atlanta's Chinatown, her store and the surrounding community have been feeling the negative effects of the pandemic before many others. All received funds, she continued, will go toward keeping the store's lights on as long as possible.


Karen Opper, owner of That Book Store in Wethersfield, Conn., is looking to raise $15,000 to help support her bookstore. So far she's raised just over $3,000 for rent, utility bills and creditors. Opper explained that being unable to host events has severely impacted the store's bottom line, and because she has not taken any loans since opening the store in 2018, many of the grants and loans being offered by the SBA will not apply to her.


On March 31, Black Stone Bookstore & Cultural Center in Ypsilanti, Mich., launched a campaign with a goal of $20,000. So far, the African American indie bookstore has brought in just over $3,400. The Black Stone Bookstore team wrote that any funds received will help support the store in the weeks and months ahead, and their goal "is to weather this setback, and stay in business, and reopen our doors to our lovely customers and community very soon."


Dea Lavoie, owner of Second Star to the Right in Denver, Colo., created a GoFundMe campaign on April 7. In a little over a week, Lavoie and her team have brought in just under $4,000 out of a $60,000 goal. In a breakdown of her costs, Lavoie said keeping her staff paid while on leave will cost $16,000 per month, while occupancy will cost $3,000. As a thank you to donors, Lavoie is sending out advance reader copies and some bookish swag to those who donate.

How Bookstores Are Coping: Adapting to Rule Changes, Reinvention

Saying that "nothing about this pandemic has been easy to cope with, but the news we received today has felt like a bit of a sucker punch," Brilliant Books, Traverse City, Mich., chronicled the latest obstacle in its path to surviving the novel coronavirus crisis.

The bookstore, which has been closed to the public since before Governor Whitmer's first Stay Home, Stay Safe executive order was announced, "eliminated any customer contact and limited staff in-store to three essential people working in separate spaces. It made things tough, but we had systems in place to allow remote work and keep going in a way that was safe, compliant, and effective for our staff and customers."

Regional media outlets even highlighted Brilliant Books as a local business making things work and taking care of customers despite the difficulties, but those stories "may have made it appear that the store was open. This morning, we received a warning from the health department that we would need to 'cease our current activities.' We're confident that our in-store system was operating within both the spirit and letter of the governor's Executive Order, but we know our health department has more important things to do than to debate that with us. These mandates are in place to protect our community, and we take that very seriously, so we will, of course, be complying. As of this afternoon, we no longer have an in-store staff presence."

Brilliant Books is still shipping from its warehouse partners and handling customer service phone calls, e-mails, and social media queries, but from outside the bookstore. The latest development, however, "makes the tightrope we walk that much more unstable, and so we need you beside us more than ever. We are lucky in that we already had systems in place that allow us to accomplish much of our work remotely.... We're going to come through this as long as we stick together, even if only at a distance. We've always been your Long Distance Local Bookstore, and now, when we're needed more than ever, we're going to do whatever we can to make sure that doesn't change."


"I've been basically trying to reinvent a business that I've been working in my entire life," Kelly Estep, co-owner of Carmichael's Bookstore, Louisville, Ky., told the Courier Journal, which reported that since the store closed its locations to foot traffic in March because of the coronavirus pandemic, "the volume of orders and the promise of free delivery to the entire city of Louisville was somewhat of an adjustment for the staff." Before Covid-19, it was rare for Carmichael's to deliver more than a few times a month, but last week it made about 200 deliveries.

In a new event space behind the original store, Estep "sits among stacks of books and sorts orders for delivery with co-owner (and cousin) Miranda Blankenship and Mark Schultz," the Courier Journal wrote. "Schultz, who works at the Frankfort Avenue location, has moved into filling online orders through the week. Online and phone orders have jumped from just a few a day to about 400 per week. Everyone is now wearing multiple hats." Evan Strange is now making the delivery van his full-time office, and Jason Brown, a buyer for Carmichael's, is juggling child care and deliveries full time on the weekend.

"We've had to change everyone's schedule," Estep said, noting that despite the increased online orders, she is unsure about the future. "We've never been in this business to make a lot of money. People who own bookstores know that they are low profit."

The bookstores employ about 30 people, and all full-time employees have been able to keep their benefits, the Courier Journal noted. Some staff have chosen to leave due to childcare needs or underlying health risks. "This is a family business," Estep said. "Our whole staff is really our family. We have people who have worked with us for 10, 15, 20 years. If we have a finite amount of money, we are going to pay our employees and take care of them first. Before we pay a publisher, we're going to pay you."


Tattered Cover Book Store, Denver, Colo., posted a "message of thanks" on Facebook: "We, the Tattered Cover Staff, want to say THANK YOU for the support and love you have shown us through your orders!

"We are working hard and tirelessly to get you your books all while staying healthy and keeping our indie business up and running. With this bare bones (but mighty!) crew, we are processing orders, answering questions online, and making sure our work spaces stay as clean as possible. As such, we are about a week behind on processing orders and answering e-mails but we promise we are doing everything we can to catch up!

"We appreciate your continued patience and understanding during these tough times. Thank you for being there for us and helping us keep our jobs, our store, and our ability to share stories going. We hope you and your families continue to stay healthy, safe, and well-read during this time. THANK YOU!"


Three weeks into the statewide stay-at-home order, Quail Ridge Books, Raleigh, N.C., "is closed for browsing but is still shipping books. Hours may be fewer and farther between but, armed with tape and spaced carefully across the store, employees continue to peddle books by mail," Indy Week reported.

"Right now pretty much pivoted to being an online business," said marketing manager Jason Jefferies. "Fortunately for us, Amazon de-prioritized their book shipping when all this started, so we have picked up a lot of book orders from across the country.... We're all working together--publishers, authors, booksellers, and we are also working with our friends at other bookstores, like Flyleaf and the Regulator. We're all doing what we can to support each other and stay afloat."

He added: "There's definitely been either a perception shift or a magnification of something that was kind of in the background. We definitely feel like our friends in the community are coming through for us."

Candlewick Press and MIT Press Create New Imprints

Candlewick Press and the MIT Press are jointly creating two imprints, MIT Kids Press and MITeen Press, which will cover a wide range of STEAM topics such as planetary science, the Internet and the environment. The two new children's and teen imprints will be "led creatively and brought to market" by Candlewick, and an MIT-based advisory board, comprising members of the MIT Press and faculty, will review and approve the list, suggest acquisitions and check all books for "scientific validity and factual accuracy." Candlewick will handle all manufacturing and commercial aspects of the imprints, with marketing and publicity support from MIT Press.

The imprints' first lists are slated for fall 2021 and will include, among other titles, a picture book by physicist, professor and Einstein's Dreams author Alan Lightman; a guide to learning Chinese through emoji; and a coding guide for middle-grade readers. MIT Kids Press and MITeen Press titles will be available in the U.S., U.K. and Australia.

Karen Lotz, president and publisher of Candlewick Press, called the collaboration "unprecedented," marking "a new frontier in publishing." It's "a dream come true," she added. "First and foremost, we shared an ambition to fill the truly international need for new kinds of nonfiction and fiction on important STEAM topics. We also have a passion for finding new and better ways to connect readers with our books. Through these conversations, it became apparent to us at Candlewick how lucky we would be to secure a broad partnership together with the MIT Press."

Amy Brand, director of the MIT Press, said, "We're truly thrilled to be partnering with Candlewick to take this opportunity to the next level by launching dedicated imprints for young kids and teens under the MIT name." --Siân Gaetano, children's and YA editor, Shelf Awareness


Image of the Day: Virtual Collages

Maria Rivans, whose activity book Extraordinary Things to Cut Out and Collage was just published by Laurence King, hosted a virtual collage party in which participants were invited to make a collage out of whatever they could find in their house. More than 100 people around the world participated; check out their spectacular work via the book's Instagram hashtag, #ExtraordinaryCollage. Instructions for hosting a virtual collage party are available here.

Coronavirus-Fighting Ideas: Blind Date with a Puzzle, Thank You Notes

The Book Stall, Winnetka, Ill., featured a Blind Date with a Puzzle promotion and noted: "Thank you so much for your support! All these puzzles are excited for their blind dates tomorrow. Please be kind; they're new to this arrangement. Hope no one gets too fresh! Puzzles will leave the store around 1:00 pm Thursday. Unfortunately, requests for orders surpassed our supply and we are sold out!!! We are sourcing more puzzles and will update you all as soon as we receive more great options for our blind date with a puzzle program."


Old Town Books, Alexandria, Va., has "new thank you notes for our online orders designed by the team at @basecampprinting. I'm so grateful for the support from other small businesses like Basecamp who designed these for free, for our contractors like @lettershopnyc @stephdeephoto and publishers who have extended our terms on invoices due. There has been so much suffering in the world lately, so much bad news. But there has also so much beauty and generosity. So much goodwill, support, so many neighbors 'voting with their dollars' to keep our little indie bookstore open. Thank you."


Last weekend, Atticus Bookstore Café, New Haven, Conn., joined a handful of restaurants in the city and Frontline Foods "in donating meals to Yale New Haven Hospitals. Frontline Foods is an organization raising money for local restaurants who provide meals for local first-responders and healthcare workers. If you would like to donate to Frontline Foods, head over to to support your local chapter."


Customers can support Stillwater Books and the Pawtucket, R.I., Public Library at the same time. The bookseller posted: "Libraries and bookstores are critical parts of every community, yet both are being threatened during these difficult times. So Stillwater Books and the Pawtucket Public Library have come up with a way that you can help support both to keep them viable in our community: Purchase a new book through Stillwater Books for donation from the Pawtucket Public Library Wish List!"

Window Display: Booktowne

Booktowne, Manasquan, N.J., posted a photo of the store's front window, noting: "We've put up our 'customer typewriter quotes' on words they felt described BookTowne! (And 'essential' was one) Since our customers can't come inside, we thought we'd bring the inside of the store to the front window! Come... literally 'window shop'... and give us a call!"

Media and Movies

Movies: The Shadow King; Influx

Kasi Lemmons (Harriet) will write and direct the film adaptation of Maaza Mengiste's bestselling novel The Shadow King for Atlas Entertainment. The novel is set during Mussolini’s 1935 invasion of Ethiopia, casting light on the Ethiopian women soldiers who were left out of the historical record. The project will be produced by Charles Roven, Richard Suckle and executive produced by Stephanie Haymes-Roven and Curt Kanemoto, who will oversee for Atlas.

"Kasi's films are epic and intimate all at once," said Roven and Suckle. "It makes her the perfect filmmaker to bring to life Maaza's complex characters and compelling world captured in The Shadow King. We are thrilled to be working with her on such a special project."

Lemmons added: "Maaza Mengiste's mesmerizing novel takes my breath away. The imagery is so rich and powerful and the characters so vividly drawn, it naturally lends itself to adaptation. I'm very honored to be a part of bringing this brilliant book to the screen and I'm thrilled to be working with everyone at Atlas."


David S.F. Wilson (Bloodshot) will direct a film version of Daniel Suarez's Prometheus Award-winning novel Influx, which was acquired by Sony Pictures, Deadline reported. Zak Olkewicz is adapting the book, with Escape Artists' Todd Black, Steve Tisch, Jason Blumenthal and Tony Shaw producing.

Books & Authors

Awards: Aspen Words Winner; Reading the West Shortlists

Christy Lefteri has won the $35,000 Aspen Words Literary Prize for her novel The Beekeeper of Aleppo (Ballantine Books), about Syrian refugees in Great Britain. The award was established by the Aspen Institute to honor "a work of fiction that illuminates a vital contemporary issue and demonstrates the transformative power of literature on thought and culture."

Head judge Esmeralda Santiago said of The Beekeeper of Aleppo: "With the first sentence, 'I am afraid of my wife's eyes,' we enter a world too visible for the protagonists who can't, nevertheless, turn away. How do human beings process the horror around them, the senseless violence, the loss of what we hold dearest? Is it possible to ever feel safe, to love, to appreciate beauty? Christy Lefteri asks these questions of her characters, and ultimately, of us."


The shortlists in eight categories for the 30th annual Reading the West Book Awards, sponsored by the Mountains & Plains Independent Booksellers Association, have been selected and can be seen here. Winners will be announced May 20.

Reading with... Annie Finch

photo: Kate Warren

Annie Finch is a feminist poet, nonfiction writer, translator, editor and critic who lives in Washington, D.C. Her books include The Poetry Witch Little Book of Spells, Spells: New and Selected Poems, A Poet's Craft, Calendars (shortlisted for the Foreword Poetry Book of the Year Award) and Among the Goddesses, which received the Sarasvati Award for Poetry. She is the editor of Choice Words: Writers on Abortion, out now from Haymarket Books.

On your nightstand now: 

The Goddess Companion by Patricia Monaghan, which is always near my bed. Collections by two poets I met on a recent trip to India: Scripted in the Streams by Rati Saxena and Love Without a Story by Arundhathi Subramaniam. Two books that are inspiring a memoir I'm writing: Crazy Brave by Joy Harjo and Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal by Jeanette Winterson. 

Favorite book when you were a child:

The Middle Moffat by Eleanor Estes. Much later, I realized that the heroine, Jane, is a future writer. Recently, I realized she's also a future feminist.

Your top five authors:

Audre Lorde. A model of poetic genius, feminist activism and the courage to transform personal experience into a force for the greater good.

Patricia Monaghan. A brilliant poet and author, landscape-altering editor, visionary feminist writer and life-revolutionary.

William Butler Yeats. His expression of a multifaceted yet unified vision through lyrical, narrative and dramatic poetry, theater, editing, literary criticism and political activism inspires me to honor all the parts of my own work.

Langston Hughes. A magnificent poet who embraced the poet's capacity to shape culture, sharing without stint his exuberant gifts as playwright, music collaborator, novelist, short story writer, essayist and librettist.

Emily Dickinson. The poet whose words function for me most reliably as an oracle or koan; they are so purely themselves.

Book you've faked reading:

Moby-Dick, faked twice: first in high school and then when it was on my Ph.D. reading list at Stanford. I've loved other works by Melville, but I literally could not stomach this one; my body forced me to stop reading it. When I was going on the academic job market, it became a household joke that I couldn't accept a professorship where I'd be expected to teach it.

Book you're an evangelist for:

The Untouched Key by Alice Miller. I'm quite sure that if everyone could absorb this magnificent little book, the world's problems would be solved. Runner up: The Serpent and the Goddess by Mary Condren, a herstorical case study of the systematic destruction of a matricultural society--with dismantling of women's reproductive freedom as the central weapon.

Book you've bought for the cover:

A pocket paperback edition of Longfellow's Evangeline printed in the late 1950s, with a luridly bright cover of a hunky Gabriel and passionate Evangeline.

Book you hid from your parents:

I didn't have to hide anything, because my family gifted me with invisibility. But the books that felt so private I would have hidden them if needed were Edward Eager's books about children entering the world of magic and discovering its rules.

Book that changed your life:

When God Was a Woman by Merlin Stone. I was already a feminist--thanks to Anne Wilson Schaef's Women's Reality and Gilbert and Gubar's The Madwoman in the Attic--but this book gave me permission to turn things around exactly the way I needed to do to become happy.

Five books you'll never part with:

Matriarchal Societies by Heide Goettner-Abendroth, Audre Lorde's The Black Unicorn, Edna St. Vincent Millay's Selected Poems (the new Yale University Press edition), The Timeless Way of Building by Christopher Alexander, Wickedary by Mary Daly.

Which character you most relate to:

A composite of layers, added between the ages of nine and 20: Harriet the Spy, Anthea from The Phoenix and the Carpet, Jo from Little Women, Franny from Franny and Zooey--and the speaker of Hart Crane's The Bridge.

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

The Red-Haired Girl from the Bog by Patricia Monaghan. 

Book that inspired you to edit Choice Words: Writers on Abortion:

Good Woman by Lucille Clifton, which contains "the lost baby poem." After I had an abortion in 1999, this poem, along with Gwendolyn Brooks's "the mother," gave me a taste of how vital it was to read great literature about abortion--and inspired a 20-year hunt for more!

Book Review

Review: Sunny Days: The Children's Television Revolution that Changed America

Sunny Days: The Children's Television Revolution That Changed America by David Kamp (Simon & Schuster, $27.50 hardcover, 352p., 9781501137808, May 12, 2020)

The scene was set: in the 1960s, it was recognized that young children of color weren't keeping up academically with their white peers, and new studies were showing that the preschool years were more developmentally critical than educators had previously realized. Meanwhile, with the right enticement, toddlers were proving themselves capable of seemingly effortless learning. As Children's Television Workshop (CTW) cofounder Joan Ganz Cooney puts it in David Kamp's enchanting Sunny Days: The Children's Television Revolution that Changed America, "Every child in America was singing beer commercials. Now, where had they learned beer commercials?"

In galloped Cooney and her team of visionaries to harness the power of television to address the learning gap between inner-city children and their white counterparts. Having secured both corporate and government funding and the services of a brilliant young puppeteer named Jim Henson, the CTW, working out of New York City, created Sesame Street, whose quick cuts and wowie-zowie vibe was filched from the popular sketch-comedy show Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In. Cooney and her collaborators, who saw Sesame Street as experimental, weren't convinced that the show would last more than one season.

Not only was Sesame Street an out-of-the-gate hit that featured television's first truly multicultural cast, but research suggested that kids who watched the show were indeed learning their ABCs and 123s. Other programs, segments and specials seeking to teach children academic basics and self-esteem-building skills followed, on public and commercial television, with the CTW's imprimatur and without it. Kamp covers the better known among these efforts, including The Electric Company, Zoom and Schoolhouse Rock! (He also honors the ground-laying work of Bob "Captain Kangaroo" Keeshan and, of course, Fred Rogers, who, it must be said, was no fan of Sesame Street's pacing and pratfalls.) By the time Free to Be... You and Me aired in 1974, "the Sesame Street model was now the paradigm," writes Kamp, "and the media literacy of small children was a given."

Kamp, author of The United States of Arugula: How We Became a Gourmet Nation, pins the end of the golden age of kids' TV on Ronald Reagan's election in 1980, which led to deregulation and less government money for children's programming. For readers of a certain generation, Sunny Days will have a thrilling flashback effect, like a fizzy nostalgia drink, and the book's archival photos only enhance the time-tripping experience. For millennial readers, Sunny Days will be both a captivating glimpse at a revolutionary time and a blueprint for what's possible with a little seed money, civic-mindedness, feathers and glue. --Nell Beram, author and freelance writer

Shelf Talker: David Kamp's effervescent book is a trip back in time to the birth of the Children's Television Workshop, which launched the golden age of kids' TV.

Deeper Understanding

Robert Gray: A Matter of Emptiness... & Voices

Emptiness defines our world at the moment--empty roads and streets, empty shelves in supermarkets, empty schools, businesses, factories, malls, airplanes. Bookstores, however, are still an exception to the rule for me. I was a bookseller for many years and recall what it felt like to be the only person in the shop sometimes when opening or closing, that precious moment of illusory silence, just me and the books. Did I hear voices? Maybe I did.

Javier Marías once wrote that his apartment's walls "need to be totally covered so that the books can speak to me through their closed mouths, their motley, multicolored, and very silent spines."

I feel that way about my personal library as well, but it also holds true for bookshops, which are never really empty or silent. There are plenty of days when bookselling is cacophony, when books speak the language of inventory turn and payroll, invoices and ROI. Perhaps this is especially so now, with the future of, well, everything in the balance.

But when I was the only person in the bookshop, the books inhabited it, too. Sometimes I thought it would be nice to have the place to myself. An illusion, of course, for more than just financial reasons, though I'm not alone in this fantasy. Reads & Company, Phoenixville, Pa., observed recently: "If you're like us, you probably dreamed of having a bookstore all to yourself, with all the time in the world to browse and shop, alone and undisturbed. If you're like us, you probably thought this would be heavenly. We're here to tell you: it is not. Not at all."

Practically speaking, most indie bookstores are pretty empty right now, and I've become a reluctant collector of haunting photos depicting uninhabited, pristine sales floors, like Main Street Books, Mansfield, Ohio ("Visited the bookstore today--everyone says hello!") and Elliott Bay Book Company, Seattle, Wash. ("just isn't the same without all of you in it!"). Or Greedy Reads, Baltimore, Md.: "Missing lots of things these days--the shops; beautiful tables filled with books; Audie snoozing in her sunpatch in the Remington window; but mostly I miss seeing all of you fill the stores with curiosity and smiles and warmth and joy. I can't wait to see you all again!!"

Canadian bookseller Munro's Books, Victoria, B.C., explored the "bittersweet task of putting new stock onto a sales floor closed to foot traffic for the foreseeable future. Now, as we spend our days filling web and phone orders, we find ourselves unlearning old habits.... We've shifted to a warehouse model: efficiency is key. Even the most eye-catching covers remain spined in as we pack as many books onto the shelves in as rigid an order as possible. No more display boxes to push books forward for better visibility; no more themed assortments or beloved titles spread across the Staff Picks wall. Dissembling these standbys of daily life at Munro's can be painful. But when we look up at the tapestries on the wall, the stained glass windows and intricately painted ceiling that remains unchanged through all the recent tumult, we think to ourselves: 'Aren't we lucky to get to work in the world's most beautiful warehouse?' "

Other booksellers have shared similar visuals, including The Book Tavern, Augusta, Ga., which expressed appreciation for customer response to its Surprise Care Packages: "We have so many in the queue it's a bit hard to keep up but we're hard at work filling the table and clearing it off (rinse and repeat)."

In an update on the recent and inspiring GoFundMe campaign for City Lights, San Francisco, Calif., CEO and publisher Elaine Katzenberger wrote that after paying a visit to legendary poet and co-founder Lawrence Ferlinghetti, she "went over to check on the bookstore. I've been going by the shop every few days, ever since we had to close the doors. When I get there I flip on all the lights and greet the stacks. I walk through the three floors of that sweet space and I speak to it like an old friend. Ostensibly, I'm there to make sure that nothing is amiss--what about that leak in the basement, it's been raining again--but really I just want to drink in as much as I can, to breathe that air and take it home with me."

New Zealand poet Sam Hunt's "Only You" is about a friend, but also seems to speak to the moment we're in now:

When the house is
warm, when there's peace,
the old spirits
while you're sleeping, return.
In the morning
you notice a difference:
it feels like it's a full house.
With only you in it.

Listen to the voices on the shelves. A bookshop is never empty, even when the people are gone for a while. It would be nice, however, to have the people come back inside again.

--Robert Gray, contributing editor

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