Bookstore Visit: Women & Children First, Chicago, IL

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.

Women & Children First has a long history in Chicago. Opened in 1979, it’s one of the largest feminist bookstores in the country and serves a diverse community with books and sidelines for both adults and children. When Wendy in Editorial and I arrived at the store on another lovely summer afternoon in Chicago, the store had shoppers in every department and our talk with co-owner Linda Bubon was interrupted (gladly) numerous times by people looking for just the right book for the children in their lives (including a very enthusiastic uncle looking at lift-the-flap books).

Of course, we checked out the Boxcar Children shelf — and right nearby were The Buddy Files. Linda says she did not prepare the shelves in the children’s department for our arrival, so it was lovely to see so many of our Fall 2010 books on the new arrivals shelves — and face out!

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The store is very well known for its preschool storytime – in existence for 20 years! In addition, they do a “big kids” storytime for 5- to 10-year-olds during the summer. One of this year’s best big kids storytimes (according to Linda) was for The Boxcar Children.  She had to do a little summarizing to finish in 45 minutes, but the kids loved it and some went looking for more titles in the series.

Owners and staff alike are very proud of the store’s feminist agenda, but really want the public to know that they will find all kinds of books on their shelves. In the children’s section, their feminist focus allows them to include any book they believe will appeal to and/or serve children and their caregivers. In addition to a great new books display and very complete fiction and board book sections, they have one of the largest “issues” section I’ve every seen in a bookstore. From adoption to bullying to divorce — there are books on every topic a kid (or parent) could need. I’m proud to say that a large number of those books come from Albert Whitman & Company.

Women & Children First is located in the Andersonville neighboorhood of Chicago and shares the neighborhood with a lot of great stores and restaurants.  Visiting the store and its neighbors is a lovely way to spend an afternoon.

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Bookstore Visit: Women & Children First, Chicago, IL

Bookstore Visit: Anderson’s Bookshop, Naperville, IL

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.

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Bookstore Visit: Anderson’s Bookshop, Naperville, IL

Where’s Whitman: Powell’s Edition

By Rachel, Editorial Intern

The Location: Powell’s City of Books. Portland, Oregon
The Mission: Find as many books published by Albert Whitman as possible.The Training: Six weeks as an intern at Albert Whitman.The Competition: My little brother, Sam. Sixteen years old.His Weaknesses: No experience at Albert Whitman.
His Strength: Speed.
The Reward: Pride
The Result: I lost. Terribly. Embarrassingly.

But I’m getting ahead of myself.

It all started out in good fun. After walking unto this gigantic Bookstore (city of books is an understatement) during a family vacation, I proposed this fun little game to my brother. For me, this friendly competition was a midterm of sorts, to see how well I could remember our titles and navigate such a massive selection. I walked into the children’s section and lead my brother to the Boxcar Children shelf. I advised him to memorize his target — the Albert Whitman logo on the spine of the books.

And we were off.

I thought I had it in the bag. I sauntered off to the picture book section thinking ‘I have shelved every one of these books multiple times. I have gone through all of their reviews. Twice. Sam does not know what he is getting himself into.’

As my confidence slowed me down on my way to the counting section, Sam ran up to me carrying The Super Soybean like a trophy. But I quickly countered with This Tree Counts!. Unfazed, I decided to start scanning the science section. Then, Sam came up with yet another book. On Sam’s tail, I dashed to the board books.  I scanned the spines, thinking that a rookie like him was bound to miss some books. But Sam was unstoppable. He hit me with the one-two punch of You Push, I Ride and Underwear! I admitted defeat and consoled myself in the French literature section.

Good thing I’ve got another month here to prepare for a rematch here in Chicago. I’m off to the library to train!

Rachel and Sam
Where’s Whitman: Powell’s Edition