Albert Whitman & Company has been located in the Chicago area for most of its 90-plus years in business. As such, we’ve been blessed – both professionally and personally – with a wonderful assortment of independent bookseller for decades. Happily, this remains true today. In a semi-regular blog series, we will visit “Chicagoland Indies” for your information and enjoyment.
I walked into Anderson’s Bookshop on a sunny, summer Friday afternoon – and the children’s section was hopping! Kids and parents were perusing the shelves, playing together, reading, and having fun.
After checking out the Boxcar shelf (my first stop in every store), I met up with Jan Dundon, Anderson’s Children’s Coordinator.
Jan has been with Anderson’s for many years and has produced some of the best children’s book events in the country. Among her big projects is their Mock Newbery program – schools from all over the area participate. We exchanged thoughts on this year’s crop of contenders – which I can’t share with you, but the list is looking pretty good.
Which brings me to my favorite part of talking to booksellers – the recommendations. The staff read as much as they possibly can before the books hit the shelves, so they can do more than just hand you the latest bestseller (although they’ll do that too). Jan made a point of telling me that ALL of the staff members really just work there to feed their book habits.
That’s when I asked her the tough question: What are you favorite Albert Whitman books to handsell? Jan immediately answered, “MISS FOX! I love her.” She also mentioned The Buddy Files and Zapato Power, our two new early chapter book series.
I rarely (well, really, almost never) leave a bookstore without making a purchase – and this time was no exception. Upon Jan’s recommendation (although she’s a children’s specialist, she does help out with grown-up recommendations too), I purchased The Miracles of Santo Fico by D. L. Smith (a remainder title she’s been handselling a lot). Her other recommendation for adults was The Lonely Polygamist by Brady Udall (which is now on my “to be read” list).
The most common question from customers (other than book recommendations) is “How do you get so many authors!?” I already knew the answer to that one – because they do great events. They know how to organize the logistics and treat the authors – and they do one heck of a job at publicizing. But she pointed out that the relationships they have with the publishers is key too.
So why has Anderson’s survived – and thrived? In addition to doing the hard work mentioned above and being a fifth-generation family-owned business, Anderson’s is located in the heart of downtown Naperville – in the thick of the shopping and dining district. The owners are active in the community and work with the other business owners to keep their downtown active and viable.
They also have an impressively detailed mission statement:
- To share a passion and knowledge of books to create lifelong readers.
- To provide a place where exchanges of ideas and thoughts have a diverse playing field.
- To open the door for journeys of the mind and spirit.
- To be a destination for our community to keep open the dialogue of free speech and free expression.
- To be a part of our greater community in support of education and the greater good.
- To be a place of good company, great reads and engaging conversations for all ages.