Posts Tagged Judy Blume

Indie Spotlight: Hooray for Books! Alexandria VA

screenshot_812Today we’re talking with Ellen Klein, founder-owner  of
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in that town of avid readers, Alexandria, Virginia (www.hooray4books.com).

Sue Cowing for Mixed-up Files: I gather Hooray for Books began where another shop left off and was founded by some of its booksellers, so it’s a long tradition, right?
Ellen:Yes. A Likely Story closed its doors in November 2007, after serving the Alexandria community for more than 20 years. As a full-time bookseller at that store, I knew there were many loyal customers who would sorely miss having an independent, locally owned children’s bookstore in Old Town. That was the impetus for opening Hooray for Books! in June 2008. What really keeps me going, though, is seeing how excited the children are about everything we do in the store, at their schools, and in our community.

MUF:I’m so glad you tell us something about each of your individual booksellers on your website.  Just glancing over the rich variety of their interests and experiences and the titles they list of favorite books, I can just picture a middle-grader coming into your store to browse, asking for a recommendation, and coming out with a book to love for life!

Erin Hunter and Survivors Fans

Erin Hunter and Survivors Fans

Ellen:Yes, we’re all readers here at the bookstore, so we’re always happy to talk about new books with the children. Many of the children are regular customers, so we’ve learned what kinds of books they most enjoy reading and, often, we’ll order books with the thought, “Oh, so-and-so will want to see this book!” I should add that this is true for our adult readers, too!
Being an independent bookstore means that we’re responsible only to our customers – to anticipate their needs and respond quickly to their requests. What we stock on the shelves is, of course, limited by the size of the store, but we work with more than 400 vendors to try to have on hand the books and other merchandise that we believe our customers would like. If, however, we don’t have exactly what they want, we’re usually able to get it for them within a week or two.

MUF: How do you choose the books to carry in your shop?  Are there some favorite titles, fiction or nonfiction, new or old, that you are recommending to middle-graders this summer?
Ellen:We choose  titles based on several factors: gut instinct; reading an advance review copy; advice from our publisher reps; reviews from other independent bookstores; and customer recommendations. As for summer reading recommendations for middle graders, there are many great books, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention books by authors who will be coming in the fall: Peter Nimble and His Fantastic Eyes by Jonathan Auxier; the Accidental Adventure series by Alexander London; and the Dragon Chronicles series by Ellen Oh.

MUF:Apparently Alexandria is a reading community.  Is that part of the secret of your shop’s success? What kinds of outreach do you have to your community?
Ellen:Alexandria is said to be the nation’s leader when it comes to readers of children’s books, which is great! We work very closely with a local literacy organization, Wright to Read, to ensure that new books are donated to economically disadvantaged children throughout the city. With Wright to Read, we also cohost the annual Alexandria Story Festival, which is a free event that gives children a unique opportunity to meet award-winning authors. We work with many other organizations, too, as well as public schools in Alexandria and the surrounding counties, to bring books and authors to a wide variety of events.

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Judy Bloom signs copies at HFB 

MUF:What have been some of your favorite events at the store?  What’s coming up in the next month or so?
Ellen:For our middle grade readers, we offer two book clubs that meet once a month, year-round. The clubs are very popular because the members read and review copies of books not yet published—and we post the young readers’ reviews when the books are published. We also host events at the schools, public libraries, and the store. Just a few of our upcoming events include Aug. 26th at the store with Ty Burson (Let Sleeping Dragons Lie); Aug. 27th at the Bethesda Public Library with five middle grade authors; Sept. 8th at the store with four middle grade authors; Sept. 19th school and store events with Caroline Carlson (The Very Nearly Honorable League of Pirates); and Sept. 28th–the Alexandria Story Festival.

MUF: If families from out of town Hooray for Books, would there be a family-friendly place nearby where they could get a snack or meal after browsing? And if they could stay awhile, are there some places or activities in the neighborhood or the city they shouldn’t miss?
Ellen:We’re fortunate that right at the corner is a coffee shop, The Uptowner, which makes great sandwiches and wraps and is very popular with our customers. As for sightseeing, I’d recommend visiting the George Washington National Masonic Memorial, which is about three blocks west of the bookstore on a hill that Thomas Jefferson argued should be Capitol Hill. I’d also highly recommend the Torpedo Factory Art Center on Union St (at the city marina), where visitors can see more than 100 artists at work.

Waldo went that-a-way!

Waldo went that-a-way!

 MUF: Thanks,Ellen for taking time out to talk with us.  One thing you said in passing really sticks in my and reminds me why we continue to spotlight children’s bookstores here on The Mixed-Up Files: “Being an independent bookstore means that we’re responsible only to our customers.”  That seems to be the underlying difference between children’s bookstores (all of which are independent)  and chains or on-line booksellers and goes far to explain visiting an Indy is so much more fun and rewarding.
Readers, let us know if you’ve visited Hooray for Books! or would like to go.  And if you’re just too far away, tell us about a favorite children’s bookstore nearer to you.

Sue Cowing is the author of the middle-grade puppet-and-boy story You Will Call Me Drog (Carolrhoda Books 2011, Usborne UK, 2012)

 

What Makes a Middle-Grade Novel Timeless?

Some books you read once.  You laugh, cry, maybe even both.  You’ve enjoyed the journey, met some interesting characters and hopefully were able to view the world in an amazing new way…but will you ever pick up that book again? 

I’ve enjoyed sharing books I loved as a child with my daughters, and started reading books by Judy Blume and Beverly Cleary to my girls when they were way younger than the target audience.  The three of us laughed at the silly stunts Fudge pulled and couldn’t wait to see what kind of trouble Ramona caused next.  Growing up with a younger brother, I definitely related to the problems Peter and Beezus had with their energetic and extremely creative siblings.  The characters and worlds these brilliant authors created still feel real and endearing. 

As you can see, From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E.L. Konigsburg stayed in our member’s hearts through the years.  Who can resist reading a book where a spunky young girl and her brother stuff their clothes inside violin and trumpet cases, then hide out in the Metropolitan Museum of Art?  (If you peek at our bios, you’ll see some of the timeless gems that stuck with us the most.)

How can books like these remain popular, when society changes so quickly?  Nobody had cell phones or internet when I was in elementary school.  So how can books written at that time still appeal to today’s kids?  I believe the books that stand the test of time have unique characters readers can relate to, cheer for, and fall in love with, combined with situations that kids still have…like annoying siblings, school issues, fights with friends, and trying to see where you fit in our world.

I’ve asked several amazing authors what they believe makes a book timeless.  Here’s what they had to say:

IMHO, timeless books are ones that say to a reader, ‘Here. Look. This is YOU. And even if it’s not, you can relate, because the author has managed to capture those universal triumphs and struggles all tweens go through. And when you’re done with such a book? You feel empowered and ready to take on the world, girlfriend! As you should! —Lauren Myracle  

I believe the books we read at this age have a certain power. The characters can live on inside us and help us figure out who we want to be, and what we want to do with our lives. I wanted to write for this age to give something back to the next generation of readers the types of books that meant so much to me. Wendy Mass

A timeless book is one that touches the heart. It doesn’t really matter when or where the story is set, if the characters speak to you and draw you into their story. —Lisa Yee

Timeless books focus on emotions that everyone has felt – love, anger, disappointment, happiness, and fear. While some things change, like clothes and hairstyles, certain things never do. —Laurie Friedman

Certain books, like Charlotte’s Web, The Phantom Tollbooth, or A Wrinkle in Time, just hit a nerve with the middle-grade reader and continue to hit that nerve with each new generation of kids. Why? These books have plenty of heart, a sense of wonder, humor in good measure, relatable characters, and a strong voice. By telling a specific story in an emotionally true way, they’ve managed to become universal. —Bruce Hale

There are so many wonderful middle-grade books that I hope will remain timeless.  One that I believe will be around for a long time is Rules, by Cynthia Lord.  It’s the kind of book that stays with you long after you reach the last page.  I’ll never forget when my younger daughter lost her voice, and her big sister created a communication book (inspired by the one Jason uses).

I asked authors to name one or two middle-grade novels that are close to their heart, and if there are any newer books they believe will remain popular over time.

Holes is one of my favorites from the past dozen or so years. And right up there with it are The Lightning Thief and The Wednesday Wars. These are books that may well stand the test of time, in my opinion. Diary of a Wimpy Kid is another upper middle-grade book that I love, but it’s too early to say whether the craze over its semi-graphic novel style will translate into long-range popularity. —Bruce Hale

 

Books like A Secret Garden and the All-of-a-Kind Family series, grabbed a hold of me. I can recall reading them as a child, then rereading them as an adult, and allowing myself the luxury of getting lost within their pages.  Some newer middle grade books that fit this bill include Masterpiece by Elise Broach, Walk Two Moons by Sharon Creech, and Yellow Star by Jennifer Roy. —Lisa Yee 

 
Growing up, I loved anything by Judy Blume.  There are so many great new books.  I really liked Everything on a Waffle by Polly Horvath.   I think kids will be reading it years from now. —Laurie Friedman    

 

Tied with Are You There God, It’s Me Margaret?, my favorite book from the middle-grade years was Allegra Maud Goldman by Edith Konecky. Made me laugh, cry, and want to be a writer. As for newer titles, I hope the Penderwicks books continue to be appreciated for how wonderful and timeless they are. —Wendy Mass

I’d love to know why you think some middle-grade books remain popular for over thirty years, and which current books you believe will become timeless.

**Don’t forget to enter our second summer giveaway — one lucky reader will win three amazing middle-grade books!

Mindy Alyse Weiss writes humorous middle-grade novels and is constantly inspired by her nine and twelve year-old daughters, adventurous sock and underwear munching puppy, and two stinky but adorable ferrets. Visit her blog to read more about her writing life, conference experiences, and writing tips.