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1. Five reasons to get your holiday gifts from a bookstore

Holidays at Brookline Booksmith. Used by permission.

Holidays at Brookline Booksmith. Used by permission.

In our January/February 2016 issue, Abby McGanney Nolan tackles a topic dear to my former-bookselling (and aspiring children’s-book-creating) heart. Her article “Shelf Lives: From Bookseller to Bestseller” features interviews with a slew of children’s book creators who got their start working in bookstores. Plenty of current and former Horn Bookers have also spent time as booksellers, and all of us feel at home among alphabetized shelves.

This time of year in particular makes visions of book displays dance in my head, and I’ve ducked into dear old Brookline Booksmith several times to pick up holiday essentials — and always ended up with things I hadn’t realized were essential until I saw them.

In case you’ve been missing out on the perfect place for gift-shopping, here are five reasons to stop missing out:

1. In a bookstore, you can sit down and test books out in real time. You can even take them home right away, and you don’t have to pay shipping.

2. You’re surrounded by people who are really, really excited about books, whose job it is to give you recommendations if you want them (and leave you alone if you don’t). These people inhale advance reader copies and discuss them fervently on their breaks. If your giftee liked one book, booksellers know of several good readalikes — and they’ll tell you how the books are alike and how they’re different.

3. Websites *ahem* can give you age or grade recommendations in the form of numbers. Booksellers can tell you what those numbers mean. Is the book violent? Does it tackle difficult issues? Does it have complicated vocabulary and sentence structure? Not all readers of the same age have the same needs. You know more than a number about the recipient; a bookseller knows more than a number about the book.

4. When you support a bookstore, you’re supporting a lot of good things. Like books, and jobs for people who are obsessed with books. Like author events. I met Ann M. Martin at a bookstore in 1994, you guys. No, you don’t understand, I met the creator of the Baby-Sitters Club series. Basically, I met the Queen of 1994. Because of a bookstore. Because people shopped there. And I know that other bookstores gave other lucky kids the same opportunity, because there’s photographic evidence in Nolan’s article.

Sorry, got sidetracked a bit there. (Have I mentioned that people who work or have worked in bookstores are often really, really excited about books?) What I meant to say was…

5. Bookstores often do good things for their communities, including but not limited to, creating magical meet-the-author memories. They do food drives. They serve as hosts for World Book Night. They engage in friendly competition to sell diverse books. When you buy your gifts there, you give another gift — you help this sort of thing continue.

Yes, if you go to a bookstore (like any store) right about now, it will probably be a little crowded. But you’ll encounter booksellers with lots of sugar-fueled energy. You’ll find stocking stuffers at the register while you stand in line. You may even find kids around the age you’re looking for who can give you a general sense of what books they like. (I’ve seen this happen. It’s adorable.)

And hey, if you prefer a quieter shopping environment, bookstores are still there, and a little less frenzied, the rest of the year.

The post Five reasons to get your holiday gifts from a bookstore appeared first on The Horn Book.

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2. JetBlue’s Soar with Reading program

soar with readingYou’re in a bustling airport in a new city, weighted down with souvenirs and the dozen books you had to bring. (Or is that just me?) Amid the sea of strangers’ faces, two familiar travelers greet you from a display at your gate.

It’s Jack and Annie.

I saw plenty of the stars of Mary Pope Osborne’s super-popular Magic Tree House series (Random House) in my years as a children’s bookseller, and they frequently come through the Horn Book office. But when I spotted them in a JetBlue terminal, I was intrigued enough to take one of the Soar with Reading passports and investigate.

The passport acts like a regular passport, but without the jet lag; readers can color in the places they “visit” with Jack and Annie as they read the Magic Tree House books and their nonfiction Fact Tracker companions. But they also come equipped with that travel necessity: something to do. There’s a shark personality quiz, a shark word search, and other activities related to Jack and Annie’s adventures in the latest Magic Tree House book (#53, but who’s counting?), Shadow of the Shark. Even more enticingly, the Soar with Reading program runs events throughout the summer to encourage kids to keep reading when school’s out.

But what really warmed my children’s lit–loving heart was this: Soar with Reading has installed three  vending machines full of children’s books around Washington, DC. The books are totally free and children are encouraged to take as many as they’d like. According to the Soar with Reading website, $1,250,000 worth of books has been donated to children in need over the program’s five years. Most recently, a contest ran through the end of August to pick the city where another 100,000 books will be donated next summer; see the results here! (In July, author and educator Zetta Elliott wrote “An Open Letter to JetBlue,” praising the program but suggesting that the books offered should include more diverse authors and characters. Here’s hoping next year’s list takes her advice into account.)

If I was excited to see the Magic Tree House travelers in the airport, just think how exciting it must be for new readers. And for kids whose families can’t easily buy books, much less plane tickets, a free Magic Tree House book — or any good book — in their hands might mean even more.

The post JetBlue’s Soar with Reading program appeared first on The Horn Book.

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3. Happy Dance Friday #1

Have you heard?

Our own Tanita Davis is a nominee for a NAACP Image Award, for her wonderful novel, MARE'S WAR. How shout-it-from-the-rooftop is that happy news?

What good news would you like to share?

Go for it.

7 Comments on Happy Dance Friday #1, last added: 1/10/2010
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4. Happy Dance Friday #2

There's some great news in the blogosphere...

Today is Becky Levine's book launch day for The Writing & Critique Group Survival Guide! If you're a writer, you're going to need this!

Beth Kephart reveals her gorgeous new book cover for DANGEROUS NEIGHBORS. It is absolutely stunning. I can't wait!

R.L. LaFevers has fantastic news about her NATHANIEL FLUDD: BEASTOLOGIST series. Yay! This will make Ninja Girl so happy.

Farida Dowler's short story, The Scullery Boy Remembers, is published in Enchanted Conversation. Very nice twist to a classic fairy tale. Wonderful story.

Robin Brande sold a new book, PARALLELOGRAM. Congrats!

I made progress on PB and perfected my plot organizer. Whee!

Do you have any good news you'd like to share? Comment away!

10 Comments on Happy Dance Friday #2, last added: 1/17/2010
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5. Friendship through fiction

Tomo Friendship through fictionFollowing the Great East Japan Earthquake, editor Holly Thompson, a YA author (Orchards, a 2012 YALSA Best Fiction for Young Adults book) and a longtime resident of Japan, became especially concerned about teen survivors of the quake and tsunami. She decided to collect YA short fiction from writers and translators connected to Japan either by heritage or experience, offering stories that would allow readers worldwide to “visit” Japan.

The thirty-six stories of Tomo: Friendship Through Fiction—An Anthology of Japan Teen Stories (Stone Bridge Press, March) cover a wide range of genres (prose, verse, graphic narratives) and feature nine stories translated from the Japanese. With the exception of Graham Salisbury and Alan Gratz, most of the authors, many of whom write for adults, will be new to American teens. The book was published in March to mark the one-year anniversary of the disaster, and proceeds will go to Hope for Tomorrow, which provides educational expenses, mentoring, tutoring, and foreign language support to high school students in the hard-hit area of Tohoku.

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