Flicka, Ricka, Dicka Celebrate the Holidays

by Josalyn Moran

On Saturday November 19 we had the opportunity to visit the Swedish American Museum in the Chicago Andersonville neighborhood and to participate in their first Flick, Ricka, Dicka celebration.

The event was keynoted by readings throughout the day from the Flicka, Ricka, Dicka and Snipp, Snapp, and Snurr series by Swedish author Maj Lindman.

Children delighted in having their pictures taken behind or with a life-size cut out of the literary triplets.

Delicious hot drinks were served from a hot chocolate bar complete with a tempting array of toppings.  Swedish holiday cookies were provided by the Swedish Bakery.

The craft room was abuzz with decoration making including felt ice skates and cone shaped Christmas trees.

Attendance at the event was free and open to the public.  Several merchants in the area, including Women and Children First Bookstore, Swedish American Museum Gift Store, The Wooden Spoon, and The Red Balloon Co. generously supported a raffle by donating delightful gifts.

Copies of the newly reissued Flicka, Ricka, and Dicka and The New Skates (complete with paper dolls) sold briskly at the gift shop.

A splendid time was had by all and we look forward to partnering with the museum on future events. A special thanks goes to Jessie Aucoin, education manager for the museum, for all her efforts in making the day so wonderful.

Bookstore Visit: The Book Stall at Chestnut Court

by Kristin in Editorial

Last Friday afternoon, I had the pleasure of visiting the wonderful Book Stall at Chestnut Court in Winnetka, Illinois. Winnetka is a beautiful suburb north of Chicago—and it is particularly gorgeous in the fall, with leafy trees hanging over every street.

Winnetka’s downtown shopping center is very quaint and adorable and welcoming, with independent clothing boutiques and a high-end pet-supply store and restaurants. Nestled right in the middle is the Book Stall at Chestnut Court.

The children’s section at the Book Stall is one of the best kids’ sections in Chicagoland. It’s extremely well-curated by Robert McDonald, who I had the pleasure of meeting during my visit.

The care that goes into stocking the shelves here is evident upon walking inside the children’s section, where you are welcomed by an open space with seating surrounded by picture books, board books, and other titles for very young readers. (While I was there, a couple of little boys sat reading and giggling their heads off.) To the left, the bookshelves holding titles for older readers span out in front of you.

One of the most fabulous things about the Book Stall’s kid section is its gigantic YA section. Many an indie book store carries a somewhat slim margin of YA in comparison. The Book Stall, however, has an entire wall of shelves devoted to the genre. For a YA reader like me, it’s a dream.

The chapter book and middle grade sections are similarly swelling with fabulous titles. The Book Stall even has a section devoted to toys and games. Whether you’re looking for a book or a toy, the Book Stall really is an excellent place to shop for that perfect birthday present.

"Staff Recommendations"

All told, I spent about an hour at the Book Stall and left reluctantly—but not before buying a few books for myself. If there’s any drawback at all about a visit to the Book Stall, it’s that your already-burgeoning list of fabulous children’s books to read will grow exponentially.

Bookstore Visit (and Wendy the Famous Author)

As some of you will know, “Wendy in Editorial” is actually Wendy McClure. She’s a senior editor here at Albert Whitman & Company, but she is also an author…with a book for “big people” out this month entitled The Wilder Life (Riverhead). She’s been touring the Midwest and on Friday evening, several of us went to cheer her on at the Book Stall in Winnetka, IL. The Book Stall is one of the great indies that Chicagoland is so lucky to have. They get tons of authors — so be sure to check out their upcoming schedule.

I arrived early so I could look around the children’s department. Look how many copies of The Buddy Files they had on the shelves!  That, my friends, is “we expect to sell these babies” quantities.

But then on to the main event…

Wendy was wonderful and the crowd was fun.  We made butter!

The Wilder LifeAnd I bought my own copy of the book (and another for a gift)…because friends and family PAY for books. A reminder out there, real friends don’t ask for free copies.

Oh, and The Wilder Life is currently #130 at Amazon!

9th Annual Anderson’s Children’s Literature Breakfast

by Michelle and Wendy

As regular readers will know, we’re pretty big fans of Andersons’ Bookshops around here. One of the best things that Becky and the entire Andersons’ crew does is the annual Children’s Literature Breakfast—usually on Presidents’ Day weekend—with five keynote speakers, dozens of Illinois authors and illustrators, and hundreds of teachers and librarians (and several Albert Whitman people).

Wendy went with three hats—children’s book author, adult book author, and editor—here she is (you can see all the hats, right?):

This year’s keynote speakers were Tim Green (The Big Time: A Football Genius Novel), Kathryn Lasky (Shadow Wolf, Guardians of Ga’Hoole series), Mark Teague (Firehouse!, LaRue Across America), and “Weird” Al Yankovic (When I Grow Up). Also on the roster was Trent Reddy (Words in the Dust), a new author and former soldier who brought us all to tears with his talk about the children he met while on active duty in Afghanistan.

It was a very full morning. Between the keynote speakers, Andersons’ gave us a preview of their favorite books for Spring and the local authors rotated from table to table throughout the morning. All attendees were able to speak directly with at least three local authors. In addition to Wendy, AW authors Janet Nolan (A Father’s Day Thank You), Suzanne Slade (Climbing Lincoln’s Steps), and Glennette Tilley Turner (An Apple for Harriet Tubman) were also there to represent.

And of course, there plenty of shopping opportunities:

"The Book Store"
Monarch Master List Books (including "The Buddy Files"!)

It’s always a great experience to talk to teachers, librarians, and other authors. It reminds you how diverse the Chicago area is, and how many different needs for books are out there—some kids are reluctant readers, others are series addicts, and some are seeking out controversial topics.  And the range of keynote speakers proved that there is no such thing as a typical children’s author.  Talking with Janet Nolan afterwards, she pointed out that everyone who spoke was so uniquely him- or herself, each one entertaining and insightful and funny in his or her own way, not trying to fit some kind of “Important Author” mold.

Wendy with AW author Janet Nolan

Wendy confesses that the second the event ended and the booksigning began, she made a beeline for Weird Al’s table!

Wendy and Mr. Yankovic

See you next year, Andersons’ Breakfast!

Border’s Isn’t Gone, But We Still Have to Say Goodbye

Like everyone else in the book business these past few months, we’d been wondering about the fate of Borders—whether the whole company would go under, completely taking out one of the major bookstore players.  We knew there’d be a big announcement soon, and we’d been waiting for the shoe to drop.

So this week’s news—that Borders has  filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection and is closing about a third of its stores—wasn’t worst we were expecting, but it’s pretty bittersweet. Galleycat and other sites posted lists of the stores slated to close, and this week on Twitter we watched as the lists circulated and the news hit closer to home—lots of homes, all around the country.

Reading over the list of stores from Illinois, my heart sank as one by one, I recognized the locations. Goodbye to the store on Lincoln Avenue that was such a convenient stop on my way home from work; farewell to the Evanston store that my fiance and I loved to browse after seeing a movie at the Century; so long to the store in the gorgeous old terra-cotta building in Uptown. And goodbye and best wishes to all the dedicated booksellers who worked at all these stores that are soon to be shuttered. Hope they find other opportunities in the world of books soon.

Here in the Chicago area it appears that the store in Oakbrook, Border’s oldest Illinois location, will stay open. I have good memories from that store, too: it was the first Borders I ever visited, just after I got out of grad school. After six years of university life I wasn’t looking forward my stint of living with my folks in the suburbs while I searched for jobs, but that Borders was a terrific oasis for me and helped remind me that people who love books are everywhere.

No matter what happens in the book business, that’s still true.

What Is AW Reading?

Despite a small February thaw, most of us are still firmly ensconced in winter hibernation mode.  That means it’s time to check in on Albert Whitman staffers to see what they’re reading “off hours.”

Josalyn: The Wilder Life by Wendy McClure

Val: Little Bee: A Novel by Chris Cleave

Abby: Loving Frank by Nancy Horan and Lincoln at Gettysburg by Garry Wills

Pat: Rotters by Daniel Kraus

Heather: The Out Of Sync Child by Carol Stock Kranowitz

John: Colonel Roosevelt by Edmund Morris

Michelle: The Finkler Question by Howard Jacobson

Wendy: The Old Man and the Swamp by John Sellers (ARC)

Life After NYC Publishing

I’m often asked by my colleagues in New York City, “So, how’s Chicago?” By this they mean, how could anyone leave New York! It’s where the action is, where all the great publishers are, where all the authors are (FYI, every other person on line at a grocery store in Brooklyn is either a published author/illustrator or an editor).

Of course, while NYC is a great place, and it really is where much of the children’s book publishing industry is located, it is not necessary to live there and still be in children’s book publishing. Early on in your career, when you’re likely to change jobs every couple of years in order to gain experience, promotions, and salary increases, it’s a good idea to be in New York. After that, you can really be anywhere. There are wonderful companies all over the country—from right here in Chicago, to San Francisco, Boston and beyond.

So, now that I’m a midwesterner (or as much of one as a Long Island girl can be), “How is Chicago?”

Things that are different:

  • Far fewer social/networking events and none of them are children’s- or even book-specific. I find myself walking into cocktail parties filled with editors of poetry journals and art directors from textbook companies. While I enjoy meeting new people, no new project ideas have resulted from any of these events (yet). I am, however, building some nice relationships with the local children’s book publishers. Exhibit A. We’ve also been having lunch and finding each other at these larger events. The downside: fewer events. The upside: we get to create our own. (FYI: The Chicago publishing community is also continuing its efforts to expand programming and has even created a website devoted to publishing in the area.)
  • Our warehouse is an hour away. I can drive over there if I really need something today. I don’t think anyone outside of sales/marketing/publicity can truly understand how wonderful this is.
  • On a personal note, I can afford to own my own home on a publishing salary. My commute is even shorter than when I rented in Queens!

Things that are the same:

  • I still do most of my networking at trade shows and via email/phone. Even in NYC, you don’t drop everything to run uptown to Random House to discuss sharing an author at a trade show…alright, so we do plan meetings for that, but I still go to those. Although sometimes, I’m on speaker phone along with my counterparts in Boston, San Francisco, Atlanta, etc.
  • Children’s book publishing people work very hard and with what (sometimes) feels like not much reward. Parents, teachers, and librarians get to see the results of our work first hand—we rarely get to see kids jumping up and down, excited about a book. We have to leave our workplaces to do that, and when you’re having a hard day, you can’t just leave in the middle of day to grab a child off the street and read to them—possible criminal repercussions, regardless of good intentions. :)

So is there life after NYC publishing? Yes! and while sometimes it can feel that I’m far away from the action, the truth is that the consumers of children’s books are located all over the country. Most of them don’t really know (or care) where my office is…so long as phones and emails are answered and books are shipped. Because in the end, it’s all about putting books into the hands of children and we can do that from practically anywhere (The moon? Perhaps someday…)