Friday, May 23, 2008

Decatur Arts Festival

The Decatur Arts Festival is this weekend, and we're very excited to be involved in so many ways.

Saturday, you can go to our table at the Decatur Children's Arts Festival to make a fun craft. And tonight, while you're on the Decatur Arts Walk, stop by the store for the First Annual Children's Book Illustrator's Show Opening Reception. Whew! Long name, but the list of artists is even longer:

Rick Anderson
Mark Braught
Ami Blackford
Sarah Campbell
Liz Conrad
Elizabeth O. Dulemba
Laura Knorr
Daniel Powers
Rick Spears
Karen Stormer Brooks

Pretty cool, huh? If you've been by our new location and wondered what we're doing with the upstairs space, come by and see how amazing this "Little Shop gallery space" is!

This whole event and all the wonderful arrangements wouldn't be possible without the tireless work of Elizabeth Dulemba, a familiar name around these parts, but here appearing in her official capacity as the Illustrator Coordinator for the Southern Breeze organization (the southern arm of the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators, or SCBWI).

For more information, please visit the artwalk opening's website. See you all tonight!

Saturday, May 17, 2008

author deluge continues!

Our big pre-Children's Book Week culminated in an enormous Wednesday, the kind that is legendary.

First, we had a big crowd (including a couple of third grade classes from Winona Park Elementary school) come in the morning to see and hear Doreen Rappaport (author of, among other books, Martin's Big Words, a biography of Martin Luther King Jr., and John's Secret Dreams, a biography of John Lennon) and Matt Tavares (illustrator of adaptations of fairy tales, including Jack and the Beanstalk and Iron Hans, as well as the writer and illustrator of a whole slew of baseball books, including Oliver's Game and Mudball) discuss their new picture book Lady Liberty: A Biography, a history of the statue of liberty.

The kids loved hearing about all the people who worked to make the statue of liberty a reality, and were delighted by Matt Tavares' drawing demonstration.

Then, in the afternoon, we had a double whammy: imagine 350 customers crowded into the store to see two of their favorite authors--Rick Riordan and Jerry Spinelli! This was a trial by fire of our new space. We were able to have two events going on simultaneously. Rick Riordan discussed the newest book in his wildly popular Percy Jackson and the Olympians series, The Battle of the Labrynth. Even though he had injured his hand the day before, Rick signed books like a champ, and we sold out of the hundreds of copies of the new book that we had in stock!

Meanwhile, in our new balcony space, Jerry Spinelli entertained a crowd of kids and adults with tales about all his wonderful books from over the years. He talked a little about his new book Smiles to Go, and answered questions about writing, his childhood, sequals (which he never does, until he wrote Love, Stargirl , which many around here feel is even better than the wonderful Stargirl), and what inspired him to write our favorite of his books--Wringer, Maniac Magee, Crash-- well, the list goes on and on.

IRA week with Ashley Bryan

Before I go on about our tremendous week of authors that we had, I should let you know why we had so many writers and illustrators visit us. The annual conference of the International Reading Association was in town last week, and authors from all over came to talk books with educators, librarians, media specialists, and readers.

Last Tuesday, we had a guest for our morning story time. Ashley Bryan, author and illustrator, was phenomenal. Everyone who was there is still talking about him. He charmed us all with his tremendous charisma.

Dave says, "Ashley Bryan was just a tremendously dynamic speaker. He started with the big question: where do you get your ideas?

'I get a lot of my ideas from poetry,' and then recited five or six Langston Hughes poems from memory, getting the kids to echo back lines (some of which could probably be heard inside Starbucks).

Mr. Bryan then read from his own books with the same enthusiasm. He was fantastic."

Friday, May 16, 2008

Whatever happened to Children's Book Week?

This week was supposed to be the big one, right? Children's Book Week--when all the world looks to their favorite kidslit bookstores to shine a big fat light on what's great about kids books.

And here we sat, silent the whole week. feh, you say. FEH!

But hold on, we were just plum tired--beat down by the exhausting schedule we had a week ago. That's right, we celebrated Children's Book Week early, with a whole slew of author visits and events.

Who was here? Well here's the first half of what's kept us so busy:

We kicked off the week with a storytime from one of our favorite local illustrators and biggest boosters, Elizabeth Dulemba. She was here celebrating the release of Paco and the Giant Chile Plant, her new picture book. I've written about the book before, so I won't bore you with that now, but the story time was fantastic. Elizabeth is a great reader, and she entertained us all with snacks and an impromptu drawing as well!

That was Sunday, on Monday we shifted into high gear with a visit from one of the nicest, funniest writers to come to the store--Michael Buckley, author of the Sisters Grimm series. He was hysterical, talking about his long and winding journey from growing up in Akron, Ohio wanting to be a stand-up comic, through his work in television (he interned with Letterman! He wrote for Spongebob Squarepants!) and finally settling into writing books.

He talked all about his inspirations for the books, and what he hopes to do in the future. It's always great to find out that the writer of the books you love is just as fun and charming as you had hoped. Michael Buckley was that and more.

We ended Monday night with a visit from two great YA authors: Sonya Sones (One of Those Hideous Books Where the Mother Dies, What My Girlfriend Doesn't Know) and Ashley Rhodes-Courter (Three Little Words). They were here for a roundtable discussion with readers about their books, writing YA, and life in general. What an awesome event this was, with its intimate atmosphere, intense and avid audience, and two wonderful writers, women who opened themselves up to us and their readers.

Whew! Do you see now? What a great list of events we had, and that was only through Monday!

Next: more writers, more illustrators, more more more!

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Mother's Day!

Wow, we've been gone awhile because we've been so busy, what with opening and all. In fact, we've had a pantheon of authors visit us--but that's a story for next week!

Instead, let's talk Little Shop of Stories and two of the awesome mothers that make our wonderful bookstore possible.

First and foremost, of course, is the momma of the store--Diane. Diane knows her books inside and out. She's got an encyclopedic knowledge of kidslit, and when I first became aware of how incredibly broad and deep her knowledge is, I asked her if she had taught, or if she had worked in a bookstore. She said no.

I must have had a dopey, puzzled look on my face, because she just shrugged her shoulders matter-of-factly and said, "I'm a mom."

Above, I've sprinkled some of the books I've heard Diane cheer for: Kitten's First Full Moon by Keven Henkes, The Penderwicks by Jeanne Birdsall, and Twilight by Stephanie Meyer.


Our other mother is Lynne, who moved to Decatur to be closer to her new granddaughter, Tessa. Lynne is most well known for her great storytimes. She runs the Tuesday morning (11am) storytime, which is very popular with the under-two crowd.

What's great about a Lynne storytime is how much enthusiasm she can put into a book. I can always bring my son (who's not quite two) because I know Lynne's readings will keep his attention.

I can think of two titles in particular that are great Lynne reads. First, she's the best reader ever for What Will Fat Cat Sit On? by Jan Thomas. When Lynne reads it, everybody terrified that the fat cat will sit on their favorite animal.

During poetry month, she liked to read Sandra Boynton's Barnyard Dance, and she got all the kids to stand up (or crawl around, depending) and dance to the words of the book. Sometimes upwards of ten or twelve little diapered hips were just shaking and jumping to the funny words and pictures of Sandra Boynton.

But that's Lynne for you. Her joy and fun are infectious; she makes you want to get up and dance!

So here's to these and other great Little Shop moms--We love you all and we wouldn't be anywhere without you! Have a wonderful mother's day!