Also published on this date: Wednesday, June 17, 2020: YA Maximum Shelf: Punching the Air

Shelf Awareness for Wednesday, June 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

'All We Wanted Was for These Books to Be Looked at Again!'

"All we wanted was for these books to be looked at again! We've worked very hard to transform the store under these circumstances.... What else?? Well we expect it to be a very interesting summer. Our buying team never stopped, so expect the same level of curation as you would otherwise. Lots of beautiful new books out right now that we want to discuss with you!" 

--City Lights Booksellers & Publishers, San Francisco, Calif., in a Facebook post yesterday

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


Bookstore Sales Fall 65.3% in April

In the second month of data reflecting public health measures taken to fight the Covid-19 pandemic, including the closure of most bookstores, in April sales at bookstores dropped 65.3%, to $219 million, compared to April 2019, according to preliminary Census Bureau estimates. For the year to date, bookstore sales have fallen 23.3%, to $2.1 billion. In March, bookstore sales had dropped 33.2%, to $392 million, compared to March 2019.

Total retail sales in April dropped 19.5%, to $410.1 billion. For the year to date, total retail sales have fallen 3.8%, to $1.85 trillion.

Note: under Census Bureau definitions, the bookstore category consists of "establishments primarily engaged in retailing new books." The Bureau also added this unusual caution: "Due to recent events surrounding COVID-19, many businesses are operating on a limited capacity or have ceased operations completely. The Census Bureau has monitored response and data quality and determined estimates in this release meet publication standards."

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

Author Elin Hilderbrand Resumes In-Store Events

Elin Hilderbrand

Beginning next week, Elin Hilderbrand will hit the road for a four-stop, socially distanced book tour for her new novel 28 Summers (Little, Brown), one of the first in-person author tours in the U.S. since the Covid-19 pandemic began.

She will appear in person at Bethany Beach Books in Bethany Beach, Del., on June 20; Browseabout Books in Rehoboth Beach, Del., on June 21; Books & Greetings in Northvale, N.J., on June 24; and Warwick's in La Jolla, Calif., on June 26. 

The participating stores will be following a set of strict guidelines that include staggered ticket sales to prevent crowds from forming; the presence of at least three staff members to enforce social distancing; mandatory facemasks for all staff and attendees; and hand sanitizer available for everyone. When it comes to personalizing books, a staff member will write the names on a notecard, which they'll hold up for Hilderbrand to see, and she won't be accepting books to sign directly from the customers.

B&N Shuttering Manhattan Store, Seeks Smaller Space

Barnes & Noble has closed its location on Manhattan's Upper East Side. A company spokesperson told Patch that the store, on East 86th Street between Third and Lexington avenues, was "too large, and too expensive" for the company's needs and B&N is searching for a new location in the neighborhood.

"We have truly enjoyed serving our customers from this location for the past 12 years and appreciate their loyalty and support. We thank also the wonderful booksellers of the Upper East Side," a B&N spokesperson said. "It is always sad to close a store but we expect to return to the Upper East Side with a new bookstore before too long, and we are in active pursuit of a new site."

B&N's West 86th and Broadway, Fifth Avenue and 46th Street, Union Square and Tribeca stores are currently open for curbside pickup. The spokesman added that the closure of the East 86th Street store does not represent a round of company-wide closures, as B&N recently opened two new stores, in Illinois and Florida.

April Powers Joins SCBWI as Chief Equity & Inclusion Officer

April Powers

April Powers has joined the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators as the organization's inaugural chief equity & inclusion officer, effective June 3. Powers brings more than 15 years' experience in diversity, equity, inclusion & belonging, training, recruiting, community outreach and leadership to the position. Most recently, she ran own global inclusion consulting and training firm, First Impression Rx, which serves Fortune 50 government and nonprofit organizations. Her previous diversity roles at Nestlé USA and Amgen, "as well as her nonprofit clients bring a depth of knowledge to the role on a global scale, with a nonprofit lens," according to SCBWI.

"We have spent many months in search of the right candidate for this critical position," said SCBWI executive director Lin Oliver. "Hiring April could not have come at a better moment in history as we all struggle to dismantle long-standing racial injustice and implicit and explicit prejudice. Our writers, illustrators and translators must speak for and to all the world's children. April's deep expertise and passion in this area will propel us as an organization and as individuals to reach that goal."

Powers commented: "I am thrilled to be a part of an organization that contributes to so much joy for so many families, including my own. Supporting all writers, translators and illustrators for all children will be an important part of our mission going forward and I'm proud to lead that charge. As a bilingual multihyphenate person: multicultural/religious, mixed race, cisgender straight woman with LGBTQI+ and multi-ethnic family, I grew up never seeing myself nor my family represented in popular culture. At this sad time in history for our human family, we are a part of a community that can bring light, joy, humor, and connection. My goal is to bring even more to SCBWI--more people, more inclusion, more understanding."

Noreen Tomassi, Head of Center for Fiction, Retiring

Noreen Tomassi
(photo: Beowulf Sheehan)

Noreen Tomassi, executive director of the Center for Fiction, is retiring after 16 years. The board of directors of the Center for Fiction expressed "heartfelt gratitude for everything Noreen has done and the time she has devoted, even during this pandemic, to working with us to begin a transition." The board said it will appoint an interim director shortly.

Tomassi led a major transformation of the organization. In 2004, when she began her tenure, the Mercantile Library was a relatively little used membership library with quaint quarters on W. 47th St. in Midtown Manhattan. The Center became a literary organization, and developed a range of programming and outreach, including KidsRead/KidsWrite, as well as fiction reading groups, writing workshops, The Crime Fiction Academy, the Emerging Writers Fellowships, and The Maxwell. E. Perkins and On-Screen awards.

When the renamed organization sold the Manhattan building and moved to Lafayette St. in Brooklyn early last year, it opened an 1,800-sq.-ft. bookstore in the new location. Of course, the bookstore features fiction--as it put it at the opening last year, "not just the latest novels, but deep cuts from the world of fiction, including works in translation, beloved classics, and the best of indie presses, too." The Center for Fiction also includes a writers' studio, reading room, library, classrooms and café/bar.

How Bookstores Are Coping: To Reopen or Not to Reopen

In Manasquan, N.J., BookTowne officially reopened for in-store browsing on Monday. For three months, owner Peter Albertelli was the only one in the store, but this week he began bringing back a few staff members for the summer tourist season. Some of his booksellers, he reported, felt more comfortable waiting until the fall, and another decided to stay home with her children. He added that it was great finally to see one of them in store again on Monday morning, and they both commented that it felt like the first day of school, stomach butterflies included. And despite the difficulties of the past three months, he's hopeful for a strong summer.

In advance of reopening to the public, Albertelli installed a sneeze guard at the register, placed social distancing stickers on the floor and hung "masks required" signs on the doors. There is now a pedestal at the store's main entrance with a bottle of hand sanitizer on it, so customers and staff can all sanitize their hands when they enter.

Given that some customers still won't feel comfortable entering the store, Albertelli and his team will continue to do curbside pick-up and local deliveries, as well as online and phone orders. Online orders went "through the roof" while the store was closed to customers, Albertelli explained, and he hopes to keep that up.

Over the past three months, his community has been overwhelmingly supportive, and Albertelli feels confident that they'll respect the guidelines that he's put in place at the store. On Monday, he pointed out, everyone who came in was patient, wore a mask and sanitized their hands.

Like many bookstores, BookTowne has seen a surge in orders of antiracist titles over the past three weeks. Albertelli said it's great to see so many books on the subject being ordered, especially those meant for children and young people. He hopes many of those titles will come back in stock soon, so he can start fulfilling backorders.


Benjamin Pasley, general manager of Bookery Manchester in Manchester, N.H., reported that his store has not yet reopened to the public, and he and the team are still working on getting the store set up to accommodate the state's reopening guidelines. 

Overall, he said, staff members are faring quite well, and the store has already brought a few back on to help get things ready for reopening. The rest of the staff, meanwhile, will be back on board once the store has the need and funds to do so.

When asked about the store's community, Pasley said they've been very open to guidelines set by the governor, and there hasn't really been any pushback regarding social distancing, wearing masks or handwashing.

Over the past few weeks, Bookery Manchester has taken part in the peaceful protests that occurred in Manchester, which Pasley described as "a huge honor." The store also participated in Blackout Tuesday by not posting anything promotional on social media and instead sharing materials customers can use to learn more about the protests going on across the country.


Oprah's Book Club Pick: Deacon King Kong

Oprah Winfrey has chosen Deacon King Kong by James McBride (Riverhead) as her new book club selection, CBS This Morning reported. Winfrey said: "In a moment when our country roils with righteous anger and grief, Deacon King Kong reminds us that when we come together as a community in compassion and empathy, our love triumphs.... I am hoping readers will find in it what I did: sorrow, joy, resilience, humanity, and an understanding that while we struggle with pain and trauma, we can find shelter in one another."

Upon learning of the selection, McBride said: "In a world that at times seems to be going mad, books are a source of reason and discourse--a pipeline to freedom. It's my job, as a writer, to believe in the good and the right. The belief that we have more in common than we are different has driven my career. I'm grateful to Oprah for the chance to share that view, through my book, with the members of Oprah's Book Club."

Bookshop Video: Reopening Song

British bookseller Bookbugs and Dragon Tales in Norwich reopened this week with a musical flourish. Co-owners Leanne and Dan Fridd "recorded their own version of a Hairspray classic--belting out 'Good Morning Timberhill' as shops reopen," Eastern Daily Press reported, adding that the couple said they wanted to "make people smile after such a miserable time."

"We approach everything with a laugh," said Leanne Fridd. "That's not to say we're laughing at the seriousness of what's happened--far from it--but we wanted to try and do something positive and make people smile after what has been such a miserable time.... It's so weird to have people coming into the shop and not being able to hug them. We've seen their babies grow up and come through our toddler sessions, and we haven't seen them in months.... What you get with us is that we really care. Our customers feel like our friends and we want to help and support them."

Personnel Changes at the Book Industry Study Group

Jonathan Fiedler has joined the Book Industry Study Group as operations manager. He was formerly client relations and sales operations associate at Columbia University Press. During his time at the press, he also served as an assistant acquisitions editor and assistant to the press's director and financial managers.

Media and Movies

Media Heat: Michael Osterholm on Fresh Air

Fresh Air: Michael Osterholm, co-author of Deadliest Enemy: Our War Against Killer Germs (Little, Brown Spark, $, 9780316343756).

Today Show: Diane Trull, co-author of DAWGS: A True Story of Lost Animals and the Kids Who Rescued Them (Citadel/Kensington, $15.95, 9780806540344).

CBS This Morning: Ibram X. Kendi, author of Antiracist Baby Board Book (Kokila, $8.99, 9780593110416).

Late Show with Stephen Colbert: Mike Birbiglia, co-author of The New One: Painfully True Stories from a Reluctant Dad (Grand Central, $28, 9781538701515).

Movies: London; Horrorstör

Ben Stiller will direct London, a Lionsgate film based on a new short story/high-concept thriller by Jo Nesbo, with Oscar-winning screenwriter Eric Roth adapting and Oscar Isaac starring as well as producing with Stiller. Deadline reported that "Isaac was out front of this one, obtaining rights to the story as a producer under his Mad Gene Media banner in competition, and then getting the dream team of Stiller and Roth."


New Republic Pictures has optioned Grady Hendrix's 2013 novel Horrorstör, which they will develop into a film, Deadline reported.

"I wrote Horrorstör to be simultaneously funny and scary, while paying tribute to the retail warriors who staff our big box stores," said Hendrix, who will adapt his book. "Having the opportunity to adapt my novel into a movie is a dream come true. I couldn't be more excited about taking an audience and trapping them overnight with me in the flatpack hell that is Orsk--the ultimate haunted house, full of Infinite aisles, murderous ghosts, and incomprehensible faux-Scandinavian names."

Brett Cohen, president and publisher of Quirk Books, noted: "Horrorstör is such a fun and inventive blend of satire with a contemporary haunted house story that is so uniquely Grady Hendrix. And Quirk is thrilled to partner with New Republic and Aperture Entertainment as Hendrix reimagines and further explores this story for a whole new audience."

Books & Authors

Awards: Wolfson History Winner

David Abulafia won the £40,000 (about $50,125) Wolfson History Prize, which recognizes a work of historical nonfiction that "combines excellence in research and writing, with readability for a general audience," for The Boundless Sea: A Human History of the Oceans. The five shortlisted authors were each awarded £4,000 (about $5,010).

David Cannadine, chair of the judging panel, commented: "The Boundless Sea tackles a world-encompassing subject: humanity's constantly changing relationship with the seas that cover most of our planet and on which our very lives depend. This is a book of deep scholarship, brilliantly written and we extend our warmest congratulations to David Abulafia."

Abulafia said, "Winning the Wolfson History Prize I see as a tribute to all of us who have been trying to communicate history to the public, writing in an accessible way without jargon, and making sure that people see the past as an essential part of our human experience."

Wolfson Foundation CEO Paul Ramsbottom noted that this year's prize ceremony "was virtual for the first time but the essence of what the prize has stood for across nearly five decades remains constant. We celebrate the importance to society of outstanding and accessible history writing. David Abulafia's book is magnificently ambitious, brilliantly examining the changing, extraordinary connections between the vast oceans and humanity. While broad in chronological sweep, this clearly has a strong contemporary resonance--as our relationship with the natural world (including the oceans) is under scrutiny as never before."

Reading with... Liara Tamani

photo: Seneca Shahara Brand

Liara Tamani is the author of the YA novel Calling My Name--a 2018 PEN America Literary Award finalist and a 2018 SCBWI Golden Kite finalist. Her sophomore novel, All the Things We Never Knew, is now available from Greenwillow Books. Tamani holds an MFA in writing from Vermont College and lives in Houston, Texas, with her daughter, boyfriend and a cat named Eazy.

On your nightstand now:

Women Who Run with the Wolves by Clarissa Pinkola Estés. I read it many years ago, but I've kept it on my nightstand as a daily reminder to live guided by the instinctual, wild and free parts of myself. For the past few years, I haven't done a lot of reading in bed. I stash books in bathrooms and on tables around my house and read them throughout the day. Right now, I'm reading The Book of Delights by Ross Gay, On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous by Ocean Vuong and Principles of Uncertainty by Maira Kalman.

Favorite book when you were a child:

Corduroy by Don Freeman felt so relatable. I'd gone to the department store plenty of times with my mother and seen something I wanted to take home. I loved the ordinariness of this story featuring characters who looked like me and my family.

Your top five authors:

Toni Morrison. Maya Angelou. James Baldwin. Zadie Smith. Gwendolyn Brooks. All these authors have shaped me with their words and wisdom.

Book you've faked reading:

Are You There, God? It's Me, Margaret by Judy Blume. Many people told me Calling My Name (my debut novel about a young girl's spiritual journey) reminded them of this book. I eventually read it; but before I did, I smiled, nodded and pretended to know what people were talking about.

Book you're an evangelist for:

Maud Martha by Gwendolyn Brooks. It's such a beautiful book, and people don't talk about it enough. Set in the 1930s and 1940s, the novel is about a young black girl growing into womanhood in Chicago. Written in vignettes, Brooks renders the details and lessons of everyday life in gorgeous, poetic fashion.

Book you've bought for the cover:

If They Come for Us by Fatimah Asghar is a beautiful book of poems. The cover is illustrated by Shyama Golden. I love Golden's artwork--her use of color and patterns, how imaginative and elegant her paintings are. I recently learned that she grew up in Houston, like me, which makes me love her even more.

Book you hid from your parents:

Sadly, I don't have one. I didn't read a lot for pleasure as a pre-teen and teen. I read a lot for school because I was obsessed with my GPA. I didn't make time to read for pleasure until I dropped out of law school (years after I moved out of my parent's house).

Book that changed your life:

White Teeth by Zadie Smith. It was the first novel I read after dropping out of law school. Reading Zadie reignited my love affair with words. Within a year, I started taking writing classes and was on my path toward becoming an author.

Favorite line from a book:

I have so many favorite lines from books. There's no one line I can point to as my favorite. In the book I am reading now, The Book of Delights by Ross Gay, I drew hearts, stars and squiggly lines around the following sentence:

On the other hand, the process of thinking that writing is, made disappearable by the delete button, makes a whole part of the experience of writing, which is the production of a good deal of florid detritus, flotsam and jetsam, all those words that mean what you have written and cannot disappear (the scratch-out its own archive), which is the weird path toward what you have come to know, which is called thinking, which is what writing is.

I love how liberated this sentence is. It captures exactly what he's thinking in the moment. How much freer writing by hand is than writing on the computer. How we have the tendency to quickly delete so many of our thoughts in pursuit of correct sentences. Gay goes on to write that he would've never allowed the run-on sentence to stand if he'd written it on his computer. I'm glad he wrote it by hand and that it lives on in his book. It was a delight to read.  

Five books you'll never part with:

Cane by Jean Toomer, Maud Martha by Gwendolyn Brooks, Sold by Patricia McCormick, The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros and The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison. These are all books I've read again and again and again. They are all so beautiful and special.

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

The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison. It was the first book I connected with as a teenager. The first book that made me fall in love with words and writing. I would love to come to the book anew and reexperience all the ways it speaks to me.

Book Review

YA Review: Cinderella Is Dead

Cinderella Is Dead by Kalynn Bayron (Bloomsbury YA, $18.99 hardcover, 400p., ages 12-up, 9781547603879, July 7, 2020)

A fairy-tale legacy receives a creative dystopian twist in the YA fantasy Cinderella Is Dead, Kalynn Bayron's debut novel.

It has been 200 years since Cinderella attended that fateful ball, and her story can be found in every household in the kingdom. But the result is not fairy-tale charm: instead, the kingdom of Mersailles is a harsh oligarchy that imposes laws restricting women's rights in honor of "dutiful, faithful" Cinderella. The misogyny becomes more ingrained in the kingdom with each successive generation.

Sixteen-year-old Sophia is outspoken and opinionated--dangerous attributes in a place requiring female servility--and seeks to make her own way in the world. And Sophia would "much rather find a princess than a prince." But freedom is elusive in a land where "the founding tenet of our laws is that women, no matter their standing, are at the mercy of the fickle whims of men." At King Manford's mandatory annual ball (where suitors bid on eligible young women for marriage), Sophia escapes into the forest, where she discovers Constance, a trained freedom fighter and a descendant of Cinderella's not-so-evil stepsisters. "All fairy tales have some grain of truth. Picking apart that truth from the lies can be tricky though," cautions Constance, and together they piece together Cinderella's true history. As Sophia's awe of Constance kindles into something stronger, they plot to take down the patriarchy, uncovering sinister secrets and shattering any preconceived notions of Cinderella's supposed happily ever after.

Cinderella Is Dead is a queer dystopian fantasy that questions written history and societal expectations. Through her idealism, Sophia understands the complexity of their situation: "Even if we can find a way to end Manford's reign, men won't suddenly start... allowing women the same rights that they have." Not all of Bayron's inclusive cast of characters have the tenacity of her protagonist; some, fearing for their lives, deny their own identity in the hope of survival. Sophia's fierce belief in herself and in the rights of the subjugated, along with her growing romantic tension with Constance, drive the fast-paced narrative. Overarching themes of acceptance and equality give additional weight to a plot filled with dark magic and revolution as Sophia and Constance strive to write their own story in a world that tells them their very existence is wrong. --Jennifer Oleinik, freelance writer and editor

Shelf Talker: Cinderella's story is turned on its head in this queer dystopian fantasy YA that imagines the life of young women 200 years after the original happily ever after.

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