Also published on this date: Wednesday, June 9, 2021: Maximum Shelf: Dare to Know

Shelf Awareness for Wednesday, June 9, 2021

Union Square Kids: Julia and the Shark by Kiran Millwood Hargrave, illustrated by Tom de Freston

Tor Teen: Into the Light by Mark Oshiro

Peachtree Teen: Junkyard Dogs by Katherine Higgs-Coulthard

Blackstone Publishing: The Wisdom of Morrie: Living and Aging Creatively and Joyfully by Morrie Schwartz and Rob Schwartz

Neal Porter Books: All the Beating Hearts by Julie Fogliano, illustrated by Cátia Chien


Waterstones: Despite Pandemic, 'Financially Resilient'

In the full fiscal year ended April 25, 2020, sales at Waterstones fell 4.3%, to £376 million (about $532.4 million), and profits after tax fell 8.4%, to £20.8 million ($29.5 million), the Bookseller reported, noting that the information was filed later than normal because of the pandemic. These are the first full fiscal year results filed since Elliott Advisors bought Waterstones.

Waterstones said that it has entered the current fiscal year "in a strong position and well placed for a return to growth in both sales and profits." Stores have been performing "above base forecast" since April reopenings. "Footfall and sales continue to recover but remain depressed, notably in London and other metropolitan city centres."

Waterstones added that demand for books "was strong immediately prior to the enforced closure of the shops" and that after the closures, online business performed strongly. The company "successfully repurposed the distribution centre as an online fulfilment operation" although "margins were lower due to shipping costs and the additional costs associated with social distancing measures within the distribution centre."

A Waterstones spokesperson told the Bookseller that "during the periods of enforced closure, tight control of costs aided by the government support measures and the welcome sharing by most of our landlords of the impacts of closures have ensured the financial resilience of the company."

Managing director James Daunt, who is also CEO of Barnes & Noble, told the Bookseller, that the year ended April 25, 2020, "was a good year and then it began to go a little bit wrong, I think, towards the back end of January [2020]. Initially it took a while to sort of get to grips with it, you've got all the PPE costs, and putting yourself effectively into sort of hibernation. I think we sort of did that, we certainly acted very quickly and that stood us in pretty good stead to take us through the year that then followed which has obviously been pretty frustrating."

Daunt added that "lockdown favoured all the ways in which people mentally occupy themselves, in which books are obviously the primary one and our primary business, but also board games and toys. We literally sold every single puzzle that we could get hold of which is fantastic and we are a major puzzle retailer and always have been....

"The reality is that there's a retail spending boom going on. People are not spending it on hospitality, they're not spending it on foreign travel, there's money in people's pockets and they're spending it in shops and online. It is a really good time for booksellers and for publishers, we just have to hope through decent policies and the vaccination programme we're able to stay open."

Foyles, which has seven bookstores and which Waterstones bought in 2018, reported separately. Its sales rose 0.4%, to £22.7 million ($32.1 million) while its loss after taxes grew to £1.8 million ($2.5 million) from £106,561 ($150,875).

G.P. Putnam's Sons: Loyalty by Lisa Scottoline

NYPL Names Joy Bivins Director of the Schomburg Center

Joy Bivins

The New York Public Library has named Joy Bivins director of the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture in Harlem, effective June 21. She succeeds Kevin Young, who left in January to lead the Smithsonian's National Museum of African American History and Culture. She is the first woman to lead the Schomburg Center since Jean Blackwell Hutson's tenure ended in 1980.

Bivins, who has been associate director of collections and research services at the Schomburg Center since June 2020, "brings to the position nearly two decades of expert leadership, extensive curatorial knowledge, and a unique ability to help audiences make sense of history--something certainly needed now," the NYPL noted. 

Before joining the center, Bivins was chief curator of the International African American Museum in Charleston, S.C. Prior to that, she was the director of curatorial affairs at the Chicago History Museum. She began her career as exhibition developer of Chicago History Museum's Teen Chicago project. Bivins received her master's degree in Africana Studies from Cornell University and received her bachelor's degree in history and Afroamerican and African Studies from the University of Michigan.

"After a year of unprecedented isolation, during which we saw the centrality of the Black Lives Matter movement, we need to come together again and make sense of what we have lived through," said Bivins. "The Schomburg Center, with its robust collections and rich legacy, has a key role to play in this moment, bringing people together, facilitating conversations, and continuing to ensure that the perspectives and histories of the Black community and members of the African Diaspora are preserved and understood. In my career, I have worked to help others make sense of history, to make connections between the past and the present, and to help create a true understanding of where we are now and where we are going. I am extremely humbled and thankful for the opportunity to take those expertise and lead the incredible, expert team at the Schomburg Center through this critical moment. I look forward to every minute.”

William Kelly, the library's Andrew W. Mellon director of the research libraries, commented: "We did an exhaustive search for many months, and it was clear to everyone that Joy brought so much to the table, a unique set of expertise needed at this historic time. This job has so many components. You have to be a librarian. A curator. You need to understand preservation and processing. You need to be a storyteller. You need to understand how to best share stories and present collections. She can do it all. She has been such a caring, inspirational leader over the last extremely challenging year, and I look forward to seeing all that she will accomplish as the director."

GLOW: Tordotcom: The Crane Husband by Kelly Barnhill

Grand Opening Set for Four Pines Bookstore in Bemidji, Minn.

Four Pines Bookstore will host a grand opening celebration on June 12; the new indie is located at 102 3rd Street in downtown Bemidji, Minn. The Pioneer reported that the bookshop, owned by Jason and Gina Grinde, "will supply a range of books, from bestsellers and kid-friendly titles to those by local authors." A soft opening is planned for June 11.

"We want to create a space where books are read and where friends gather; to foster a love of reading in little ones and especially to motivate middle and high schoolers to be lifelong readers," the Grindes noted in an April Facebook post announcing their business venture.

Soho Press: Black Dove by Colin McAdam

Chandlers: An Independent Bookstore Coming to Bakersfield, Calif.

Bakersfield, Calif., resident Alyse Chandler wants to contribute to her downtown community and "fulfill a lifelong dream of opening up a bookshop lounge called Chandlers: An Independent Bookstore," 23ABC News reported. She has set up a fundraising campaign for her business, which would "be centrally located in downtown Bakersfield and be easily accessible so that all feel welcome," according to the Kickstarter page.

"Especially going through this last year, I've just realized how short life really is, and why am I doing something that I'm not 100% passionate about?" Chandler said. "As a kid, I would always go to a local bookstore. That is where I would spend a majority of my time. In my life I always thought, I would always have this bookstore to go to. That bookstore ended up closing down. But I was like, 'We need to have a bookstore for our kids, the next generation.' "

Picturing her dream bookshop lounge, she added: "You're going to walk in and be greeted with a smile. There will be locally made candles, soaps, maybe some art, ceramics. You can order a beer, a wine or a coffee, and just snuggle up in one of our couches or chairs, grab a book and you can just spend all afternoon reading there."

Weiser Books: Mexican Sorcery: A Practical Guide to Brujeria de Rancho by Laura Davila

Obituary Note: Margaret-Olemaun Pokiak-Fenton

Margaret-Olemaun Pokiak-Fenton

Margaret-Olemaun Pokiak-Fenton, an Inuvialiut knowledge keeper, residential school survivor, and co-author of the bestselling book Fatty Legs: A True Story, died June 2. She was 84. In a tribute, her publisher, Annick Press, said: "Young readers all over the world have been introduced to the harsh reality of residential schools through her books.... Margaret-Olemaun met with thousands of school children to share her experiences and to share her message of hope and survival so that future generations would understand the devastating legacy of the schools."

Fatty Legs, its sequel A Stranger at Home, and young reader editions When I Was Eight and Not My Girl, have sold more than a quarter of a million copies and collected over 20 awards and distinctions. Christy Jordan-Fenton, who co-authored Pokiak-Fenton's books and is her daughter-in-law, observed: "I wanted my children to have no bigger hero than their grandmother. Being raised in a traditional way taught [Margaret-Olemaun] to be her own hero."

Although she went by the the name Margaret when her stories were originally published, Pokiak-Fenton "would deepen her connection with her birth name, Olemaun, over the course of her later years," and by the publication of the 10th anniversary edition of Fatty Legs, she began using Olemaun again, Annick Press noted, adding: "Her life's story, published two years before the work of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission began, would prove to be among the first of scores of heart-rending stories from fellow survivors. Margaret-Olemaun's bravery was commemorated in the song 'Say Your Name' by Native American Music Hall of Fame Inductee Keith Secola."

"I would tell stories because I wanted my grandkids to know about life up North," she told Shelagh Rogers on CBC's The Next Chapter in 2020. "When I got to [residential] school, I didn't see [my parents] for two years, and I completely forgot my language, the food, and everything. When I got back, it was hard because my mother couldn't speak English."

Annick co-publisher Rick Wilks said, "Perhaps there is no greater accomplishment in life than to have opened minds and hearts to the human experience. Margaret's stories, rooted in agency and resiliency, have had an impact on countless people. When youth learn about residential schools, it is through Margaret's eyes. She continues to be a hero and an inspiration by fostering awareness through testimony."


S&S to Distribute Rocketship Entertainment

Simon & Schuster will handle worldwide sales and distribution for Rocketship Entertainment, effective July 1.

Founded in 2019 by Tom Akel and Rob Feldman, Rocketship Entertainment focuses on bringing hit webcomics to print. Its 2021 lineup includes the first two volumes of Let's Play by Leeanne M. Krecic, Brothers Bond by Ryan Benjamin and Kevin Grevioux, Assassin Roommate by Monica Gallagher, Adventures of God by Matteo Ferrazzi and Corey Jay, Lars the Awkward Yeti by Nick Seluk, The Croaking by Megan Grey, the hit webcomics #Blessed by M. Victoria Robado, Darbi by Sherard Jackson, Cupid's Arrows by Thom Zaher, Fox Fires by Emila Ojala, Live Forever by Raul Trevino, Urban Animal by Justin Jordan and John Amor, Beneath an Alien Sky by Sid Kotian, and Backchannel by the late Stan Lee, Tom Akel, and Andie Tong.

CEO Tom Akel said that the new agreement will expand "global reach for our creators and partners."

Media and Movies

Media Heat: James Patterson, Bill Clinton on Jimmy Kimmel Live

Jimmy Kimmel Live: James Patterson and Bill Clinton, authors of The President's Daughter: A Thriller (Little, Brown, $30, 9780316540711).

Late Show with Stephen Colbert: Seth Rogen, author of Yearbook (Crown, $28, 9781984825407).

Movies: A Mouthful of Air

Maven Screen Media's A Mouthful of Air, based on Amy Koppelman's novel, will be released in the fall by Sony Pictures, which acquired global rights to the film earlier this year. Two Dollar Radio is re-issuing the novel (originally published by MacAdam Cage in 2003) August 17, with a new afterword by author Adrienne Miller. 

Koppelman wrote and directed the movie, which stars Amanda Seyfried, Finn Wittrock, Paul Giamatti, Amy Irving, Paul Giamatti, Jennifer Carpenter, Britt Robertson, Josh Hamilton, Michael Gaston, Darren Goldstein and Alysia Reiner.

"Amanda and I hope that--in some small way--Julie’s story will help remove the stigma of mental illness from motherhood or at the very least help women talk more openly about how scary it is to be a mom," Koppelman told Deadline in April. "We are so grateful to everyone who helped bring this meaningful story to the screen."

Books & Authors

Awards: Stephen Leacock Humor Winner

Thomas King won the C$15,000 (about US$12,420) Stephen Leacock Medal for Humor, which honors "the best Canadian book of literary humor published in the previous year," for his autobiographical novel Indians on Vacation

The other finalists, who each received C$3,000 (about US$2,485), were Joseph Kertes for Last Impressions and Murray Morgan for Dirty Birds.

Reading with... Carol Anderson

photo: Stephen Nowland

Carol Anderson is a historian and professor at Emory University whose research and writings have focused on African Americans' struggle for human and civil rights. Anderson earned her Ph.D. from the Ohio State University and has been awarded fellowships from the Ford Foundation, the American Council of Learned Societies, the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation and more. Her books include White Rage, which won the National Book Critics Circle Award, and One Person, No Vote, longlisted for the National Book Award and a finalist for the Pen/Galbraith Award in Non-fiction. Her latest book, The Second: Race and Guns in a Fatally Unequal America (Bloomsbury, June 1, 2021), illuminates the history and impact of the Second Amendment.

On your nightstand now:

Students' papers to be graded. Next to them are Natasha Trethewey, Memorial Drive; Rachel Maddow, Bag Man; Eddie Glaude Jr., Begin Again. Right now, I am being such an adult by taking on all the grading first. But a powerful memoir by someone who can bend language to take you into another dimension, a rip-roaring tale of unbridled corruption at the highest levels of government, and penetrating insights into the writings of a brilliant man who could actually see America, not just look at it, are calling me.

Favorite book when you were a child:

World Book Encyclopedia--the entire set. I really was THAT kid. I had (and still have) an insatiable curiosity, a thirst for knowledge. Reading all the volumes repeatedly is probably where I developed the habit of savoring books (and movies) more than once.

Your top five authors:

Jesmyn Ward, David Oshinsky, Stieg Larsson, Adam Hochschild and Kiese Laymon are poetically elegant writers who tell the tale of regular people, trapped in and fighting against horrific systems of injustice, while holding on to their dignity, sense of self, morality and what is right. I love that!

Book you've faked reading:

It was junior high, I was reading Robert Ludlum for fun, as a result, Charles Dickens's Great Expectations for class wasn't holding my teenage brain's attention. Pip. Miss Havisham. Big, musty, dusty house. Something, something, something.

Book you're an evangelist for:

Elizabeth Hinton, From the War on Poverty to the War on Crime is such an insightful and incisive analysis of public policy influenced by wayward social science that it is the exemplar of how to write this type of study engagingly, powerfully and convincingly.

Book you've bought for the cover:

None. I, at least, flip through the first few pages. You really can't judge a book by its cover.

Book you hid from your parents:

Now, if I hid it from my parents, do you think I would tell you? C'mon.

Book that changed your life:

I was going through a turbulent time, a messy break-up, and a good friend sent me Ntozake Shange's For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide / When the Rainbow Is Enuf. That book brought clarity. Clarity brought the calm. The calm brought strength.

Favorite line from a book:

"I can't get to the clothes in my closet
for alla the sorries."
(Please see above.)

Five books you'll never part with:

Isabel Wilkerson, The Warmth of Other Suns; David Levering Lewis, W.E.B. Du Bois: Biography of a Race, 1868-1919; David Oshinsky, Worse Than Slavery; Adam Hochschild, King Leopold's Ghost; John Dower, War Without Mercy. Each painfully reveals the destructive force of racism--domestically and/or globally--and each humanizes those who stood up to fight against that horrific force. These books speak to my soul.

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

Jesmyn Ward's Sing, Unburied, Sing. This book is so textured, layered, haunting, sad that I want to go back and see what I missed.

Book Review

YA Review: The Taking of Jake Livingston

The Taking of Jake Livingston by Ryan Douglass (Putnam, $17.99 hardcover, 256p., ages 12-up, 9781984812537, July 13, 2021)

This YA debut by Ryan Douglass is an exceptional blend of genres--horror, mystery, thriller and contemporary--that brilliantly captures how Jake, a Black gay teen medium, copes with the varying kinds of violence threatening him.

Jake is the only Black 11th-grader at St. Clair Prep: "I hate it here.... It's like there's a giant floating Black kid sign over my head encouraging my teachers to pay me bad attention." His older brother, Benji, fights back against this kind of flak, but Jake stays silent. At home, he is "muted" around his mom, his "only good parent," whom he doesn't want to disappoint. And everywhere he goes, he studiously ignores dead world, a realm visible only to mediums like Jake that is superimposed over reality "like a subaquatic wasteland of lost matter," where ghosts who haven't crossed relive their deaths.

Then a poltergeist acts out of its death loop. Jake recognizes the ghost as Sawyer Doon, the white school shooter who killed six classmates and then himself last year at Heritage High. Now his ghost has murdered one of the survivors--and is stalking Jake. Though unsure what Sawyer wants from him, Jake knows that only he can stop Sawyer's vengeance.

Jake battles with accepting a responsibility he never wanted. He would rather focus on Allister, the new Black boy in school: "When our hands touch, green light blossoms... a breath of ivy creating one aura between us." Dating would be a reprieve from his condescending teacher who commands him like a dog and from the slave jokes made by his bully. But Jake can't get too close to anyone, or Sawyer will hurt them.

Douglass creates a clever and effective parallel between what Jake can't control--racism and how his body is perceived, a toxic father, an irresponsible brother, his mother's expectations--and his fight against Sawyer. The story builds to a rewardingly chilling and sentimental climax, as Jake must look deep within himself for the power to break the cycles of harm entrapping him. Douglass includes entries from Sawyer's diary, revealing how familial and societal failings combined with inner turmoil to push a broken boy to murder. A clear comparison is drawn between Jake and Sawyer, a careful message that while strength does not surface easily, it is mineable. Moments of levity--skipping class for sundaes, a house sneak-in and car getaway--brightly contrast haunting scenes ("a chaos of bugs" squirming in Jake's ears) and serious topics ("white gay boys can be gay because gay is all they are"). The Taking of Jake Livingston is an extraordinarily crafted exploration of agency during Black gay teenhood. --Samantha Zaboski, freelance editor and reviewer

Shelf Talker: A Black gay teen must stop the murderous ghost of a white teen school shooter in this genre-blending YA debut about finding inner strength and one's own powerful voice.

Powered by: Xtenit