Many independent children’s bookstores cooperate closely with educators and provide resources for them. Today we’re talking with manager Ann Levine 0f Bank Street Bookstore in New York City(www.bankstreetbooks.com),which has actually been linked with a famous college of education from the beginning.
Sue Cowing for Mixed-Up Files: Describe the atmosphere of your store. What do you hope people will experience when they visit?
Ann: Bank Street Bookstore is located in Morningside Heights, a wonderful New York neighborhood filled with many cultural and educational institutions. The store has two levels: picture books, early readers, puzzles, and games are on the first floor; fiction, science, biography, history, poetry, and chapter books are on the second floor. By New York City standards, the store is quite large, but we still manage to fill every square inch with wonderful books and toys for children. Our front window display changes regularly to reflect seasons, holidays, events, local authors/illustrators, and community events of interest to our customers and neighbors. Upstairs are several window seats for cozy reading, and chairs for small reading groups that can be placed in the open space between shelving units. We always try to look up when customers enter the store so they feel they are being greeted personally. Customers are usually genuinely happy to enter the store, especially after they are greeted by a friendly staff member. Young shoppers are given lots of book ideas and much independence to browse and read for long (or short) stretches.
What is your store’s connection with Bank Street College of Education?
Ann: The bookstore is an affiliate of Bank Street College of Education, as is the Bank Street School for Children for students from pre-k through grade 8. Through the years the mix of merchandise has changed and adapted. We used to carry far more text books, but that part of the business has changed fairly dramatically so we carry fewer books for coursework than in the past. We maintain a wide range of books for educators on theory and practice as well as many parenting books. Some of the teacher resource books are published by Bank Street College. Classroom materials are available, especially in the fall as teachers return to their classrooms.
MUF: How do you choose the books to carry at Bank Street? What are some titles, fiction or nonfiction, that you are particularly recommending to middle-grade readers at the moment?
Ann: The selection is finely curated by manager Andy Laties, whose experience is broad and deep. Andy is assisted by an able staff who know and love children’s books. Our staff members love children and books, and they apply their experience with both each time they read, review, and recommend a title. Not content to stick to the bestsellers, our staff members are constantly reading in an effort to find the perfect books for each customer and every situation. broad and deep. We maintain a solid back list while keeping current with many new titles. Customers are encouraged to attend special events featuring authors and illustrators who have new releases. Some favorites at the moment are “Wonder” by R. J. Palacio, “The Year of Billy Miller” by Kevin Henkes, “Flora and Ulysses” by Kate DiCamillo, “The One and Only Ivan” by Katherine Applegate, “When You Reach Me” by Rebecca Stead, “The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate” by Jacqueline Kelly, “Counting by 7s” by Holly Goldberg Sloan, and “The Real Boy” by Anne Ursu.
MUF: Ann, yours is the first shop we’ve seen that regularly puts on puppet shows. Please tell us something about “Fractured Fables.”
Ann: Andy Laties is also our number one storyteller and puppeteer. “Fractured Fables” are staged every Saturday and Sunday afternoon. They are popular with all ages and have become a welcome activity for families in the neighborhood. Andy and Rebecca Migdal are seasoned pros who use their talents to improvise with well-known tales. They also add musical accompaniment. Children get to pick the stories by pulling a title from a hat, which helps engage their interest and participation. Often special guest authors or illustrators interact with the puppets. Please visit the Fractured Fables Facebook Page for announcements and updates. To see entire shows, go to the Yippee Skippy Puppet Theater Website.
MUF: Any special events for middle-graders coming up?
Ann: Next week on Saturday, April 5 we’ll have “Novels About Girls,” with guest authors Carol Weston and Julie Steinberg. Carol Weston’s novel about sisters, Ava and Pip, is first in a series that is charming and full of humor and word play. Carol has written an advice column for Girls’ Life magazine since 1994. You will have the chance to “meet” the main characters. Like Carrot Juice on a Cupcake is the third in Julie Sternberg’s middle-grade series about a thoroughly modern girl adjusting to change.
MUF: There is so much to see and learn in and about New York! If a family comes to Bank Street Bookstore from out of town, what are some of the books and games you carry that could help them enjoy their visit?
Ann: We always carry interesting books about New York — and many of them are by New York authors and illustrators. Out-of-towners often find just what they need to help them understand the “New York state of mind.” Among the many are A Walk in New York by Salvatore Rubbin; Mannahattan: A Natural History of New York City, by Eric Sanderson and Markley Boyer; Hello, New York: An Illustrated Love Letter to the Five Buroughs,by Julia Rothman; Humans of New York by Brandon Stanton; and New York City Guided Activity Journal, by Mariko Jesse. We also have New York themed toys and games including subway train models, New York City Yahtzee, and New York City Monopoly.
MUF: Are there family-friendly places nearby where visitors could stroll or get a snack or a meal after browsing at Bank Street Books?
Ann: Just outside our door is a wide range of choices for families: from Pinkberry frozen yogurt to the Columbia University campus; from Riverside Church to the Hungarian Pastry Shop; from Morningside Park to the Hudson River.
MUF: Thanks, Ann, for talking with us! Readers who’ve been fortunate to visit this fine bookstore, or those who think they would like to, please leave a comment below.
Sue Cowing is the author of the puppet-and-boy novel, You Will Call Me Drog (Carolrhoda 2011, Usborned UK 2013).