Portland, Oregon is a haven for book- and bookstore lovers, and Annie Bloom’s (www.anniebloomsbooks.com) in the charming Multnomah Village neighborhood is one of the most popular. Today we’re talking with author/bookseller Rosanne Parry:
Mixed-Up Files: Who is Annie Bloom?
Rosanne: Originally Annie Bloom’s was owned by two women. The store name is a combination of their first and last names.
Molly Bloom is our beloved store cat. She is an all black rescue cat with the perfect disposition for presiding over a bookshop. She spends much of her day in the in-basket by the register in front of the store receiving attention from customers of all ages with patience and good humor. She has a few hiding places throughout the store and her food is kept in the basement office, so if she grows tired of the adoration of our customers she has places to escape. She lives in the store full time and is particularly fond of author readings. She often comes to sit among the guests and sometimes steals the show by parading back and forth in front of the author.
MUF: Please describe the atmosphere at Annie Bloom’s. If a ten- or eleven-year old came in for the first time, what would you want his or her experience to be?
Rosanne: Our middle grade section has its own cozy corner in reach of the younger chapter books for kids who are reading up and not far from YA for those who enjoy the occasional foray into older titles. There’s a shelf for new arrivals, and one dedicated to graphic novels of all kinds. My particular favorite is the spinning rack of unabridged classics because MG is the perfect age to discover The Secret Garden, Treasure Island, Sherlock Holmes, Anne of Green Gables, Tom Sawyer and so many others.
MUF: Best-selling adult and children’s author James Patterson has been giving away money recently to support independent bookstores. Congratulations to Annie Blooms for being one of the ones he has chosen! How have you used your windfall?
Rosanne: We’ve completely updated our computer system. It’s been a huge help. Keeping up with the technology is hard for any small business so the Patterson grant was terrific.
MUF: In a small bookshop, there is only room for good books. How do you decide what titles to carry?
Roseanne: The final decisions about book purchases are made by our buyer, but one of the real assets to the store is our staff of more than 20 avid readers. We are a general bookshop carrying fiction, non-fiction, poetry and prose, literary and genre, NS adult’s and children’s titles. No one person could possibly be on top of all those choices so staff members have a balance of favorite areas and help our buyer stay on top of both the great new books and the classics we should always have on hand.
In order to maximize our offerings we usually only carry 1-3 copies of a book. But we order books for customers all the time. If a book is in print we can almost always get it in 2 or 3 days.
MUF: And how do you help people find books they will love?
Rosanne: Helping a customer find the book is often a group effort, brainstorming a book similar to something the customer already loves, or searching through our data bases for a beloved story when the customer can’t remember the exact title or author’s name. Just yesterday we helped a mom looking for a poetry collection to share with her 12 year old. She had already read most of the good children’s collections and wasn’t quite ready for Mary Oliver or Emily Dickinson. We thought about William Stafford and Billy Collins and Robert Frost who many young readers enjoy but wanted a woman poet and after a bit of searching remembered Poisoned Apples by Christine Hepperman, a collection of poems based on the Grimm’s fairy tales and exploring the toxicity of the beauty culture for young women—perfect for sparking lots of important conversations between a mom and daughter and spot on for middle school.
Perhaps best of all we strive to encourage lengthy browsing with free coffee, comfy chairs and plenty of unsung gems and local interest books mixed in with the latest best sellers.
MUF: As middle grade authors, we have to ask: what titles, new or old, fiction or non-fiction, do you find yourself recommending most often these days to boys and girls from this age group?
Roseanne: One of the pleasures of a neighborhood bookshop is the ability to champion local authors. We put a note in our computer system for local authors and mark their spots on the shelf. I love recommending Absolutely Truly by Heather Vogel Frederick to kids who are moving up from Encyclopedia Brown. It’s been all joy to see Victoria Jamison’s graphic novel Roller Girl take off, not just locally but nationally. Fans of Raina Telgemeier love it. Other middle grade authors who live in the neighborhood include Graham Salisbury, Susan Fletcher, Laini Taylor, Robin Herrera, Lisa Schroeder, Barry Deutsch, and Roland Smith.
Yesterday someone came in looking for the Little House books and considering reading them aloud to her second grader. I suggested she give Birchbark House by Louise Erdrich a try instead. Helping people broaden their horizons to excellent books with a lower profile and more diverse titles is also one of the great joys of working in a bookstore.
I also have to give a shout out to the wonderful school librarians who put together the Oregon Battle of the Books list every year. We have a shelf dedicated to books that are on the list, and especially for those of our booksellers who are not widely read in children’s lit, so they can be confident recommending OBOB books all year long. They are some of our best-loved books in the store and many continue to sell long after their OBOB year.
MUF: If families from across town or out of town make the trip to visit Annie Bloom’s, would there be family-friendly places in the neighborhood for them to get a snack or visit after browsing?
Roseanne: We are a neighborhood shop so many kids who come in are celebrating after their soccer or baseball game in Gabriel Park, or attending a birthday party at the Craft Factory next door. We get a steady parade of frozen yogurt from Necter across the street and home-made fudge from Hatties Candy Shop two doors down. If you’re in the Village for Thinker Toys, then Annie Bloom’s is the spot to get the perfect book go along with the toy. And many a young patient from Zoom Care stops by for a graphic novel to read on their day off of school.
Thank you, Roseanne, for taking us inside your shop. Readers, when you go to Portland, don’t miss this gem!
Sue Cowing is the author of the puppet-and-boy novel You Will Call Me Drog (Carolrhoda 2011, Usborne UK 2012)