Sue Cowing for Mixed-Up Files: We’re talking today with Francine Lucidon of The Voracious Reader (www.thevoraciousreader.com). Don’t you love the subtitle: “for young people with an appetite for books”?
MUF: You opened your shop ten years ago in 2007, generally considered a precarious time for bookstores, yet you’ve thrived. Guess you knew something the doom-predictors didn’t! How do you account for your success?
Francine: While it may not have been the “right time” for a new indie, it was absolutely the perfect time for me and my family to embark on this adventure. I can be a little headstrong that way. As for our success (which in the world of bookstores often means simply scraping together the rent and salaries each month) again, I credit that hard headed determination. Plus a wonderful supportive staff and community!
MUF: For those who haven’t visited (yet), please describe the atmosphere of your store. When a middle-grade girl or boy comes to your store, what would you like him or her to experience? How to you connect them with the next best book?
Francine: The store is super friendly – on Fridays you can meet our dog. Navigating the store is fun, with many themed displays, lots of great face-outs and of course, our treats and tea shop attached.
MUF: How do you decide what titles to carry in your store?
Francine: I do a lot of reading myself but also rely on feedback from our Uncommon Corps group. I look for both authors that consistently do well here as well as exciting debut authors. Often I find out about debut authors from regional conferences. I also make sure to read reviews from Kirkus, Publisher’s Weekly and School Library Journal.
MUF: Tell us more about your book club for ages 8-11, Uncommon Corps of Ravenous Readers (love that title—so true for this age group) and what they do.
Francine: this is an ARCS club, a group of book and pizza loving 8 to 11 year olds. Each person reads and reviews/discusses a unique book not yet published (cool factor J). On the first Friday evening of the month middle graders gather at our meetup to talk books and eat pizza , and at the end of the evening everyone gets another free Advance Review Copy to talk about at our next meeting.
MUF: When the members turn 12, they can move on to the YA Alliance, right?
Francine: Yes, that’s our teen club which is run similarly with YA books.
MUF: As middle-grade authors, we’d love to know what titles, old or new, fiction or nonfiction, you find yourself recommending most often to middle-graders these days.
Francine: Recommendations depend so much on the reader. I like to know what they’ve read recently, what they tend to enjoy most, then, by showing them maybe 3 titles or so, I feel confident to choose the recommendation that makes their eyes light up. To be honest I usually find 2 or 3 titles a season that I absolutely love and foist them on everyone! A couple of favorites not too long ago have been Kathy Appelt’s Maybe a Fox and The Thing About Jellyfish by Ali Benjamin, both soon to release in paperback. Middle grade readers often prefer books that appeal to their strong emotions. Then there are books that are just plain, silly fun like The Terrible Two from Mac Barnett and Jory John.
MUF: Any author visits or events coming up that would be of special interest to middle-graders?
Francine: We’ll be launching book 2 of the Pixie Piper duology by Annabelle Fisher , Pixie Piper and the Matter of the Batter, probably at the end of May. People who’d like to attend our events can sign up for our newsletter (www.thevoraciousreader.com) or follow us on our Facebook Page.
MUF: If a family came to Larchmont to visit your shop, would there be family-friendly places in the neighborhood where they could get a snack or a meal afterward? Any unique sights or activities nearby that they shouldn’t miss?
Francine:They could certainly get snacks in our attached teashop, A Proper Cup, including all natural ice cream from Jane’s of the Hudson Valley. We’ve got lemonade, a huge variety of loose leaf teas and Stumptown cold brew coffee. We’ve also got cupcakes, cake pops. Scones and more. There’s a great Chinese restaurant right next door, wonderful restuarants of all kinds throughout town and a beautiful beachfront park called Manor Park. The town is strollable and filled with families which makes an afternoon here a great family destination.
MUF: How will The Voracious Reader be celebrating National Independent Bookstore Day on Saturday, April 30th?
Francine: This year over 400 bookstores nationwide (including OURS!) are joining up to let you know that, with your support,your independent bookstore (that’s US!) can serve as an important hub of ideas, fun and community building! Publishers and authors have created special items to be sold ONLY by participating stores and ONLY on our day of celebration! Stop in for special items from such luminaries as Kate DiCamillo, Neil Gaiman, Tad Hills and more! We’ll also have giveaways, story times, crafts for the kids and some special treats available in our tea shop!
MUF: Thanks, Francine for taking time to help us get to know your shop. How many of our voracious readers reading this column have visited Francine’s shop, or would like to? Comments welcome.
Sue Cowing is author of the puppet-and-boy novel You Will Call Me Drog (CarolRhoda 2011, Usborne UK 2012)