Shelf Awareness for Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Yen Press: Diary (Berrybrook Middle School #4) by Svetlana Chmakova

Shadow Mountain: Paul, Big, and Small by David Glen Robb

Amulet Books: Village of Scoundrels by Margi Preus

Flatiron Books: American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins

Canongate Books: The Art of Dying by Ambrose Parry and The Way of All Flesh by Ambrose Parry


Notes: Bookstores Bought, Closed, Remodeled

Stoughton Book Shop, Stoughton, Mass., which had been in danger of closing, now has new owners, thanks to a last-minute plot twist. According to Wicked Local, "For more than two years, Seth Mitchell kept the Stoughton Book Shop open 'on a shoestring,' but last week, he decided it was time to move on. Faced with his lease running out, Mitchell either needed to vacate or sell the Washington Street shop by Aug. 1."

Joe and Anna Napolitano of Quincy, Mass., came to the rescue and are the bookstore's new owners.

"I’m really happy to see it continue on," said Mitchell, who will retain space next door to sell textbooks and rare books. "I never made money. That was never my concern. I tend to buy more than I can sell. Now I'm losing a bit more than I make."


Russo's Books, Bakersfield, Calif., will close its downtown bookstore after 12 years in business. The Bakersfield Californian reported that the company will continue to operate Russo's Marketplace and Russo's East Hills Mall.

"The economy is slow and there just wasn't enough business to continue operating all three, especially when two of them were just three and a half miles apart," said owner Michael Russo.

The Californian noted that the closure "was announced just as the company was preparing to kick off a campaign to urge shoppers to buy from local, independent retailers."
As Russo observed, "This is a good example of what can happen when people don't support their local merchants. I don't think anybody wants Bakersfield to turn into a bedroom community with cookie cutter chains.”


Watermark Books & Cafe, Wichita, Kan., is closed this week for remodeling. "We moved in this store in 1996, and we'd never done a major remodel," marketing manager Beth Golay told the Wichita Eagle. "It was just time."

Renovations include new tiling and a new counter in the cafe and new carpeting in the bookstore as well as "a different look" for the walls. "Any time you have books, it's a cozy environment," Golay added. "We just want to have an even more welcoming atmosphere. Nice and warm, but a fresh look."


Alibris has tweaked its website to make it easier for students to buy new and used textbooks, the company said. The changes were made on the marketplace's U.S., U.K. and Borders Marketplace sites (it operates the last one in conjunction with Borders) and include searches of up to 25 ISBNs at a time; best-price bundles; textbook tips; and information about specific schools that include recommended books, shopping tips and answers to educational questions.


Certain words are "the keys to the kingdom of fiction," the Guardian reported, noting that "the Villa Gillet has been asking writers who attend the International Forum on the Novel to select a word which underpins their work. . . . keywords selected by visiting authors have been compiled into a dictionary, the Lexique Nomade, published by Christian Bourgois." Aspiring novelists may want to consider memorizing the list, which includes:

  • Furniture--Jonathan Lethem
  • Hedonism--Adam Thirlwell
  • Identities--Nuruddin Farah
  • Novel/life--James Meek

Harry Potter by the £? The Guardian's book blogger Nicholas Clee wrote that supermaket chain "Asda's decision to sell Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows for the absurd price of £1 may end up doing a great deal more damage to JK Rowling than the unauthorised Harry Potter compendium . . . Discounting of the Harry Potter novels has always been taken to the extreme, but had previously remained within the realms of commercial feasibility. Asda has brought it to the level of the remainder bin."

He cites payback as at least part of this story: "Frustrated at not being able to secure advantageous terms, Asda last year accused Rowling's publisher, Bloomsbury, of 'blatant profiteering.' Bloomsbury reacted by cutting off Asda's supply of the Deathly Hallows hardback, issuing the counter-allegation that the supermarket had not paid its bills. Asda settled. The supermarket's £1 offer might be seen as a two-fingered revenge, although its principal motivation is probably its rivalry with Tesco, which has taken hefty shares of the markets in the past few HP novels. Asda says that it enjoyed 79% of the sales of Deathly Hallows during the week of the offer."


Robert Downey Jr. is apparently more inspired by acting than writing these days. The Associated Press reported that Downey "has postponed plans to write a memoir and has returned his advance to publisher HarperCollins." The book was "originally scheduled to come out this year. HarperCollins had billed it as a 'candid look at the highs and lows of his life and career' when the publisher announced the project two years ago."


Berkley Books: Minor Dramas & Other Catastrophes by Kathleen West

Around the World with Fireside Books

This summer children are enjoying a global odyssey at Fireside Books and Gifts in Forest City, N.C. Three Saturdays per month in June, July, and August the store is hosting "Around the World with Fireside Books." Each event focuses on a different country and includes activities inspired by that particular land: story time, crafts, music, food and appearances by authors and other special guests.

The idea came about when store owner Linda Parks, manager Valerie Jones and media specialist Suzanne Ledford were brainstorming for a summer program centered on a theme. "We wanted something that was fun but also educational," said Jones. "We decided it would be interesting and beneficial to expose children to other cultures and show them things about places they might not ever get to visit."

The ultimate aim of the program is to promote literacy, and at each event a story related to the spotlighted country is read aloud. "We really want to encourage literacy and education and instill in children a love of reading," Jones said.

The program is geared toward children aged four to ten, although attendees have ranged from two to 14 years old. A customized "passport" is made for each participant, with his or her picture, and it's stamped for each country they visit. Those who make it to all nine events will receive a prize. "We've had a pretty good return rate on the same children coming back," noted Jones. "Parents are looking for things to do that aren't expensive and that don't require them to travel far."

The Around the World journey kicked off with a visit to Australia, followed by Peru, Japan and France. Last Saturday the featured country was South Africa--with face painting, a "safari" through the store and samples of biltong (beef jerky and dried fruit carried in pouches by warriors) on the agenda. This weekend attendees will voyage to Russia. A Fireside Books employee who lived in Russia for several years will lead the day's festivities, including painting wooden eggs in Fabergé style. "We have a lot of hands-on activities, a lot of participation," Jones said. "Most of the parents stay around in the store during the event, and they seem to be enjoying it just as much as the kids."

While visiting France, children were taught how to count to ten in French, learned the history of medieval coats of arms and the meanings of the different symbols, sampled French bread dipped in chocolate, a traditional afternoon snack for schoolchildren, and were treated to a reading of Bonjour, L'Enfant!: A Child's Tour of France. At the Japan event, a local martial arts expert gave a demonstration. A highlight of the Peruvian adventure was meeting some special guests: author Helen Moore and her husband, Norman Moore, a music teacher at an area school who taught the kids songs about Peru and llamas. After Moore read her book Trek with Floyd, children got acquainted with the story's inspiration, Floyd, a llama.

Next month, after visits to Egypt and Italy, the program will conclude with Mexico. Jones said, "That will be our finale, and we plan to have a big piñata party."--Shannon McKenna Schmidt


Yen Press: Berrybrook Middle School Box Set by Svetlana Chmakova

Media and Movies

Media Heat: Cubicle Warfare Breaks Out

Tonight on the Charlie Rose Show: former CIA analyst Ken Pollack, author of A Path out of the Desert: A Grand Strategy for America in the Middle East (Random House, $30, 9781400065486/1400065488).


Tomorrow morning on the Early Show: John Austin, author of Cubicle Warfare: 101 Office Traps and Pranks (Collins Living, $14.95, 9780061438868/0061438863).


Tomorrow on KCRW's Bookworm: Rudolph Wurlitzer, author of The Drop Edge of Yonder (Two Dollar Radio, $15, 9780976389552/097638955X). As the show put it: "Where has Rudy Wurlitzer been for the last fifteen years? The mental traveler who gave us Nog and the Two-Lane Blacktop screenplay takes another vision quest, this time into the Old American West. His mapping of mythic and sacred landscapes and his ability to distinguish between different tribal world-views makes this a truly revealing conversation."


Tomorrow on the Diane Rehm Show: Paul Ehrlich, author of The Dominant Animal: Human Evolution and the Environment (Island Press, $35, 9781597260961/1597260967).


Tomorrow on the Tavis Smiley Show: Sidney Poitier, author of Life Beyond Measure: Letters to My Great-Granddaughter (HarperOne, $25.95, 9780061496189/0061496189).


Ramsey Press: Debt-Free Degree: The Step-By-Step Guide to Getting Your Kid Through College Without Student Loans by Anthony ONeal

Movies: Fashion Makeover for Eloise in Paris

Eloise in Paris, a film adaptation of the children's classic by Kay Thompson and illustrator Hilary Knight, will begin principal photography September 8, but it has already made headlines in Variety with the announcement that "Christian Siriano, winner of last season's [reality TV series] Project Runway and self-described 'fierce' designer, will create the couture collection that will be showcased . . . in the culminating scene of the Charles Shyer-helmed film, when Eloise (Jordana Beatty) and Nanny (Uma Thurman) attend Paris Fashion Week."


KidsBuzz for the Week of 10.21.19

Book Review

Book Review: Blue Sky July

Blue Sky July: A Mother's Story of Hope and Healing by Nia Wyn (Dutton Books, $23.95 Hardcover, 9780525950837, August 2008)

The summer of 1998 was a time of peaceful anticipation for Nia Wyn, a Welsh journalist, and her partner, Alex, as they awaited the birth of their first child. But their joy at delivering a boy, Joe, in late August was almost immediately transformed into fear and disbelief when the baby began having seizures and other alarming symptoms. After several fraught months, the diagnosis was devastating: brain damage and severe cerebral palsy. Joe "would never know" his parents, doctors told Wyn. He was blind and would be unable to walk, talk or perform the most basic motor functions. Even as the shock of this pronouncement reverberated, however, Wyn refused to accept it. Like countless mothers before her, Wyn looked into the eyes of her child and found hope, life and intelligence.

Blue Sky July is adapted from Wyn's diary entries over the course of eight summers, ending in 2005 when Joe turned seven. The book's style--a series of impressionistic, poem-like passages--takes some getting used to. Although Wyn's use of language is consistently lovely, her material could use a little more density. Nevertheless, the narrative is immediately compelling and deeply moving as Wyn describes her and Alex's relentless efforts to help Joe and defy the doctors' dire predictions. Most of these efforts involved traditional therapies, but Wyn also tried remedies such as a "light room" and sought the help of healers, most of whom turned out to be charlatans. Unsurprisingly, Wyn got little support from medical professionals who had already made up their minds about Joe's future. She was often accused of being delusional or, worse, endangering her son. The 24-hour-a-day cycle of care and therapy took its toll. Like so many parents of challenged children, their relationship ended and Wyn struggled with depression.
Yet by the time this book was completed, Joe not only "knew" his parents but was talking clearly enough to be understood in his mainstream classroom, seeing well enough to participate in school plays and moving well enough to feed himself and operate his state-of-the-art wheelchair. Beyond his achievements, however, Joe's sunny, loving and indomitable personality shines through these pages. "Inspirational" is an overused word when it comes to describing stories like this one, yet Wyn does inspire; not with emotional manipulation but with her dogged persistence and unyielding faith in her son and in her own instincts. And of course there is love, which ultimately is what this book is all about.--Debra Ginsberg

Shelf Talker: An inspirational story of parents who refused to give up on a child whose future doctors wrote off as bleak, Blue Sky July is a testament to love and hope.

GLOW: Sourcebooks Landmark: The Last Flight by Julie Clark

KidsBuzz: Bloomsbury Children's Books:  Power of a Princess (More Than a Princess) by E.D. Baker
KidsBuzz: Windsong Press: The Shockhoe Slip Gang: A Mystery by Patricia Cecil Hass, illustrated by Laura Corson
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