Children's Booksellers Find Much to Celebrate at BEA

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The business of children's bookselling, award-winning authors and booksellers, and the best of publishers' children's lists were all part of Thursday's and Friday's program at this year's BookExpo America.

On Thursday, June 2, programming for children's booksellers began with the Association of Booksellers for Children's (ABC) annual meeting, which was followed by a 20th anniversary celebration luncheon. ABC's annual meeting provided members an opportunity to meet the organization's board of directors and officers, including President Ellen Davis of Dragonwings Bookstore in Waupaca, Wisconsin; Vice President Becky Anderson of Anderson's Bookshops in Naperville, Illinois; Secretary Carol Moyer of Quail Ridge Books of Raleigh, North Carolina; and Treasurer Beth Puffer of Bank Street Bookstore in New York.

Children's booksellers convene at BEA.

After taking care of business, ABC members convened for an anniversary lunch celebration featuring an appearance by Alexandra Day and Carl, the Rottweiler, who were also marking the 20th anniversary of the author/illustrator's popular Good Dog Carl series (FSG). Carl confined his remarks to a few very well chosen barks on command.

Anne Irish, executive director of ABC, told BTW, "I thought the whole convention was the best ever for ABC. It was a grand celebration of our 20th anniversary. The meeting went well -- and Alexandra Day and Carl were a perfect addition. I heard great things about the rest of the afternoon from everyone."

The afternoon of programming for children's booksellers following the luncheon was sponsored by the Children's Booksellers and Publishers Committee -- a cooperative committee of ABA, ABC, and the Children's Book Council (CBC). The programming was also part of ABA's Day of Education and was open to all BEA attendees.

Carol Chittenden of Eight Cousins in Falmouth, Massachusetts, and Steve Geck, executive editor of Greenwillow Books, both members of the Children's Booksellers and Publishers Committee, introduced featured speakers author Julie Ann Peters and Little, Brown vice president and editor Megan Tingley (Megan Tingley Books, Little, Brown). Peters, a 2005 National Book Award finalist for Luna and author of Far From Xanadu (both from Megan Tingley Books) and Tingley engaged in a lively dialogue about the author/editor relationship.

Much enthusiasm was generated by the subsequent Children's Book Buzz Workshop, where editors and marketing staff from a variety of publishing houses presented new titles in small roundtable discussions with booksellers. Participating publishers included Atheneum; Bloomsbury; Candlewick; Charlesbridge; Clarion; Dial; DK; Dutton; Eerdmans; Farrar, Straus & Giroux; Greenwillow Books; Gingerbread House; Harcourt; HarperCollins; Henry Holt; Hyperion; Innovative Kids; Little, Brown and Company; Margaret K. McElderry; National Geographic; Patria Press; Puffin; Putnam; Random House; Raven Tree Press; Roaring Brook; Scholastic; Shadow Mountain; Viking; Walker & Company; and Paula Wiseman Books/Simon & Schuster.

Books presented ranged from the subdued, such as The Song of Francis and the Animals by Pat Mora, illustrated with woodcuts by David Frampton (Eerdman's Books for Young Readers) to the anticipated blockbuster from Bloomsbury by Rick Yancey, The Extraordinary Adventures of Alfred Kropp. Described by the publisher as part Da Vinci Code, part Monty Python and the Holy Grail, part Holes, and part Indiana Jones, the latter impressed booksellers Kathleen Millard and Pamela Nesbett from Elm Street Books in New Canaan, Connecticut, as a possible 'big' book for their store. Tyndall Otto of Hillside Pharmacy in Manhattan Beach, California, took note of The Song of Francis and the Animals' unusual illustrations and the book's lightly handled religious message.

Booksellers were also interested in the first of what is now an open-ended series from Greenwillow Books, The Last Apprentice: Revenge of the Witch, by Joseph Delaney. From Henry Holt comes the new book, Rosa, about Rosa Parks by Nikki Giovanni, with striking cut-paper images by Bryan Collier. The book will be released in the fall to mark December's 50th anniversary of the beginning of the Alabama bus boycott.

Christopher Paolini's second installment of the Inheritance Trilogy, Eldest (Knopf), already has a huge fan base eagerly waiting for the follow-up to Eragon. On August 23, one million copies of the book will be released. The marketing of the book will include extensive online communication with official and unofficial fan sites, possible midnight bookstore events, and consumer contests. Booksellers can look forward to a contest offering a book signing with the author, and a merchandising kit available six weeks prior to the release date.

ABC's dinner and silent auction at the Copacabana, the legendary nightclub minutes from the Javits Center, capped a busy day for children's booksellers. According to Irish, "The evening went so well I almost couldn't believe it. The auction raised a record amount, then the dinner was festive and went off without a hitch."

At the dinner, ABC's second annual E.B. White Read Aloud Award was presented to Wild About Books, written by Judy Sierra and illustrated by Marc Brown (Random House). The 2004 winner, Skippyjon Jones by Judy Schachner (Dutton), was also recognized at the dinner. The speakers were independent bookseller favorites author Kate DiCamillo and author/illustrator Kevin Henkes.

Friday's Children's Book & Author Breakfast

On Friday morning, the 27th annual Children's Book & Author Breakfast, presented in cooperation with the Children's Booksellers and Publishers Committee and featuring award-winning booksellers and authors, filled the Special Events Hall of the Javits Convention Center.

The Lucile Micheels Pannell Awards were presented by the Women's National Book Association's(WNBA) Eileen Hanning and Jill Tardiff to BookPeople of Austin, Texas, for best general bookstore, and to Reading Reptile of Kansas City, Missouri, for best children's bookstore. Honorable mention was given to Wonderland Books and Toys of Rockford Illinois.

Accepting the award on behalf of BookPeople was Jill Bailey, who managed the store's large children's department, which she described as "a store within a store." Bailey told the audience about the accommodations and improvements BookPeople's staff had made to make the children's area welcoming to young readers of all ages: An array of story times were created for children with different needs -- in Spanish, French, and sign language, and one even incorporated yoga. Since teenagers didn't want to walk through the younger kids' area, they were furnished with a separate entrance, and the store's use of an online Yahoo group has been "fantastic for teens," Bailey said. "It's a secure group and it offers instant communication. Kids can report on their reading as soon as they shut the book. Best of all, it's absolutely free."

Also of great interest to many booksellers was her description of the department's "Post-It" staff solution. Store staff is encouraged to read as many prospective advance reader's copies and galleys as possible and to leave their comments on Post-It notes in a folder. That way, Bailey said, staff feedback is factored in when the buyer meets with reps.

Accepting the Pannell Award to Reading Reptile: Books & Tapes for Young Mammals were Pete Cowdin and his spouse and co-owner, Debbie Pettid, who carried their fifth child on her back. During his speech, Cowdin criticized celebrity authors, chain bookstores, and the "over production" and marketing of certain books to children. "Publishers have an obligation to nurture the minds of young readers. At our store, it's all about the kids," he said. The owners received loud applause when they presented future winners of the Pannell Award their unique "Stanley Cup," renamed the "Flat Stanley Cup." Booksellers laughed with recognition at the large plaque based on the image from the classic series by Jeff Brown, originally published in 1964.

Jim Dale, stage actor and voice of the Harry Potter audio series and the new Listening Library version of Around the World in 80 Days, introduced the guest speakers, Daniel Handler and Pam Munoz Ryan. Scheduled speaker Alice Provensen (Klondike Gold, S&S Books for Young Children), was unable to attend due a recent accident.

The mysterious Handler, legal, literary, and social representative of Lemony Snicket, author of A Series of Unfortunate Events (HarperCollins Children's Books), entertained the group with mock accusations of malfeasance by fellow speaker Pam Munoz Ryan; a sharp response to "a certain television personality who has a 'Factor'" -- referring to Bill O'Reilly, who had apparently recently termed those with a preference for the literary arts over pop culture as 'elitists'; followed by the reading of a fascinating, if hard-to-believe, letter from Wilhelm Grimm, explaining that dark fairy tales help children accept reality because real life contains much evil.

Pam Munoz Ryan (Nacho and Lolita, Scholastic Press) used real world examples of letters from her readers to describe why she writes children's books, and why most of the attendees sell children's books, instead of "doing things that would make more money," as one of her young correspondents expressed it.

Commenting to BTW in the week after BEA, ABC's Irish said, "The Children's Breakfast [was] a perfect kickoff to the convention. It is always one of my favorite events. The different authors always make you laugh and make your eyes fill up with tears." --Nomi Schwartz