Thursday, December 31, 2009

Buying Local

The Decatur Metro blog recently had a discussion based on "My Year of Shopping Locally," a Mother Nature Network article written by Avondale resident Patti Ghettzi.  The author detailed problems regarding availability, customer service, and prices when attempting to purchase goods from local merchants.  (Patti also notes that she patronizes "several fantastic locally owned shops, including a children’s bookstore, a toy store and a gift shop."  Yay, us!)

Downtown Decatur lost a good number of businesses in 2009, and I am deeply saddened by the loss of many.  By Hand South was a wonderful store that closed after 20 years.  Whit's End will soon be locking its doors after three years.  Brenda had a truly great craft gallery; Jeff and Greg had a terrific selection of men's clothing and knew their customer base.  Maybe, just maybe, these two businesses did not survive this recession because not enough people realized that these were excellent shops and that they were important for our community.

Within that context, I want to elaborate on one post within the blog's thread.  The following is from George:
Consumers have an amazing ability to do the calculus of ‘value’ without even (consciously) realizing it. That’s why free markets work so incredibly well.
I’m sure we all agree that local/small businesses have to deliver something more in that equation (whether convenience, customer service, nostalgia, prestige, product selection, whatever) in order to compete. I love that locals stand a fighting chance by focusing on some of these dimensions. But what I resent/regret is the position (admittedly rarely taken, so notable in its occurrence) that consumers will buy local simply because a business is “local”.
As local consumers, we owe you nothing for your proximity or your size. But if you figure out which of these other value dimensions is important to us, there’s ample proof that the community will support you.

I am in total agreement with all of this except the last point; there is ample proof that some good businesses will fail in an economic downturn.  We're smaller.  We're more vulnerable.

Part of the calculus that individuals should consider when making buying decisions is a consideration of the type of community we want to live in.  Local business add to our tax base, increase our property values, and give our city character.  We put money back into our communities by supporting other local businesses and institutions.  Shopping locally can save transportation costs and time.

Keep shopping local.  Explore.  Give all of us a chance to earn your business.

In particular, shop your local bookstores.

[Excuse me, but I'm about to go on at length here, even though I did edit this part down.  Considerably.]

It was a tough year for booksellers, whether local or foreign, big box or independent, big city or small town, old or new, general or specialty, large scale or tiny, for profit or non-profit.

Right here in Decatur, Indie Coffee & Books and Wordsmiths closed in 2009.

Further away, Borders (UK) Limited, a former subsidiary of Borders in the U.S., closed all 45 of its stores in December.  Winnipeg's McNally Robinson, our co-winner in the Neil Gaiman Graveyard Book Halloween Party contest and long considered Canada’s best independent bookseller, filed for bankruptcy protection last week and announced that it will close two of its four stores.

Barnes & Noble is closing all of their remaining B. Dalton stores by the end of January.  Borders is closing most of their Borders Express and Waldenbooks.  Both of the big box chains have been bleeding money.  While I don't feel sorry for these guys, the upshot is that many towns and cities -- perhaps scores of communities -- will now be without a bookstore of any kind.  In two weeks, the residents of Loredo, Texas (a quarter-million of them) will have a 150-mile drive to the nearest bookstore, in San Antonio.

"A town isn't a town without a bookstore. It may call itself a town, but without a bookstore it knows it's not fooling a soul."  Neil Gaiman, from American Gods, which Time Magazine listed as one of its ten best books of the decade.

Other recent casualties include Outward Bound, Indianapolis’ gay bookstore, and Lambda Rising, the only GLBT bookstore in Washington, D.C.  The Toronto Women’s Bookstore, a 27-year-old non-profit, needs to raise a significant amount of cash through donations or close.  Gem’s Gems, a non-profit children’s bookstore in El Paso, closed in December, as did Red Raven, a used bookstore in Sandusky, Ohio.

Lee Booksellers, a Lincoln, Nebraska institution, is closing after 30 years for want of a buyer.  Leo’s Book Shoppe closed following 42 years in downtown Toledo.  Throughout their histories, Lee and Leo's had one pair of owner each.  Hendersonville, North Carolina’s Mountain Lore Books & More, purchased by a new owner just one year ago, locked its doors this week.

Despite losses, Decatur has Little Shop and Books Again (as well as an excellent library).  Eagle Eye and Blue Elephant are nearby, as are Charis, A Cappella, Outwrite, Tall Tales, and Bound To Be Read.  We're all competing against one Borders and soon to be three nearby Barnes and Noble stores.

We at Little Shop feel incredibly fortunate that we are located in the heart of Decatur and that, even in these difficult times, we have been able to grow and thrive.  Thanks for supporting us.  Keep it up.  (Please!)

And a Happy New Year to all!

- Dave

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

He Knows if You've Been Reading...

Twas the Night Before Christmas--Little Shop Edition

Twas the night before the night before Christmas
When all through the bookstore
Decaturites were gathering, shopping for more.

The books were placed on the shelves with care
In hopes the customers would come and shop there.

The children were eager for stories before bed
While visions of Skippy and Olivia danced in their heads.

When up on the roof there arose such a clatter
We threw down our books to see what was the matter.

When what to our wondering eyes should appear
But Dave and Diane, the owners so dear.

Cheering for their hard-working staff in all their fame,
They whistled and shouted and called them by name:

"Now Krista! Now Terra! Now Justin and Cal!
On Sydney! On Marcy! On Matt and on Al!

"This year was awesome and here's the proof--
The Halloween party, Neil Gaiman and a huge tree on our roof!

"Judy Schachner ate cat food, Rick Riordan spoke,
Dogs came to storytime and Jeff Kinney told jokes.

"We haunted the basement, we read stories each week
We helped you find the perfect books that you seek.

"Upstairs we had camps and birthday parties galore
And next year we promise all this and more."

Then Santa appeared and he gave a huge smile,
"Little Shop is the best!" and the whole crowd went wild.

He met every child and tossed books from his sack
And promised everyone he would always come back.

He sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a yell
And away they all flew like a bat out of hell.
But I heard him exclaim as he turned back to look,
"Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good book!"

Come hear Santa read the real story tomorrow (Wednesday) night at 7pm at our Night Before the Night Before Christmas Storytime.

--Krista, Cal, Al and Justin

Diane's Top 5 Christmas Book Countdown, Part 5

I wanted to blog about this book:

McDuff's New Friend
 by Rosemary Wells

But- son of a nutcracker!- it's no longer in print.

So, here's our final book:

The Nutcracker

Here's what both books have in common- they are both illustrated by the super fantastic Susan Jeffers, one of my favorite illustrators that you might not know about.  Susan has done some other non-Christmas related picture books that are Little Shop faves like


I was first introduced to Jeffers work when Nick was a baby (he's now going on 14) when we began reading the awesomely sweet McDuff series by Rosemary Wells, which are the stories of a Westie with attitude who loves to eat vanilla rice pudding with sausages on top.  I never considered myself a small dog person but after seeing how beautifully Jeffers could capture the expressions of this spirited and spunky little fellow, I now know that some day I will have a Westie to call my own.  And I will definitely name him McDuff- or perhaps D-Duff, which is what Nick called him.

Long story short is this:  I am so so sad that the McDuff books are going away.  They were little treasures.

Fortunately for all of us, however, we still have lots more of Jeffers' work to gaze at.  Her rendition of The Nutcracker is the best I've ever seen.  The Nutcracker can be a possibly long and complex story but Jeffers' simple text makes this a perfect selection for a younger child just being introduced to the story, especially prior to seeing the ballet. 

And it is a feast for the eyes, as well!  The soft color palette she works in is so lovely, just like the Sugar Plum Fairy.  Her watercolors are dreamy and romantic, yet in a wonderfully child friendly way.  It is certain to become a Christmas classic.

Hope you've enjoyed reading about my favorite Christmas books.  There are so many more!  Perhaps I can share them with you next year?

Merry Christmas to All!

Monday, December 21, 2009

We're a Decorate Decatur Winner!

Little Shop of Stories, Steinbeck's and U-Joint in Oakhurst, and the shops and restaurants of West Ponce, were businesses named winners of Decorate Decatur!  As noted: "The return of the beloved downtown Decatur Christmas tree is a special gift enthusiastically welcomed by the community."  [See Krista's blog to read about the story of the tree.]  Thanks, judges!

La Noche de las Librerías

If you happened to be in Buenos Aires this past Saturday, you would perhaps have come across one of the great literary events in the world.  It's Bookstore Night!  Several blocks of the Avenida Corrientes are closed to traffic.  Sofas and chairs are set up.  And people read.  They listen to lectures.  (Note the video screens.)  They participate in panel discussions.

How cool is that!
Daren, what do you think?
Could it happen here?
Decatur: There's A Festival For That!

Friday, December 18, 2009

The Gift That Keeps on Giving

Let me just tell you, I love "Of-The-Month Clubs" so much. For Christmas two years ago my mom signed me up for the Wine-of-the-Month Club. Every month for a whole year two bottles of wine from around the world, one white and one red, were delivered to my doorstep. It was a glorious wine-filled year. Last December I reciprocated by giving my mom a membership to the Mother-Daughter-of-the-Month Club, which basically meant that we hung out once a month, trying new restaurants, seeing plays, taking cooking classes, and even weekending in Charleston. Terra's fiance Scott gave Terra's sister a Soap of the Month Club, and her best friend got a Cheese of the Month Club last year. Brilliant. Just brilliant.

The best part about these gifts is that they literally keep on giving. Think about it. It's March and rainy and there's nothing to celebrate, and then wham, a block of smoked Gouda is left on your porch. It's July and you need to bring some wine to your sister's engagement party, and luckily you have a nice Riesling chilling in your fridge. It's October and you're curled up by the fire, wondering what to read, when the postman knocks on your door with a fantastic book, hand picked by your friendly neighborhood Little Shop of Stories employees.

The last example is why I'm writing this blog entry. We have three different Book-of-the-Month Clubs here at Little Shop, and they make the best gifts for the book lovers in your life. Here's the skinny:

Build Your Library
Books we love and think everyone should own--appropriate for ages 0-6
Examples of the kinds of books selected: Library Lion by Michelle Knudsen, A Family of Poems by Caroline Kennedy, and the Frog and Toad Collection by Arnold Lobel
Cost: $165. Cost with shipping: $250.

 Adventure Books
A mixture of new action-packed hard covers and fantastic paper backs for strong readers ages 8-11
Examples of the kinds of books selected: The Reformed Vampire Support Group by Catherine Jinks, The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart, and The Magician's Elephant by Kate DiCamillo.
Cost: $145. Cost with shipping: $200

Books pulled from one (or both) of our grown up book clubs, either the Catch-All Book Group or the book club for Guys Who Read
Examples of the kind of books selected: Revolutionary Road by Richard Yates, Shutter Island by Dennis Lehane, and When You are Engulfed in Flames by David Sedaris
Cost: $165. Cost with shipping: $220

Basically, every month you'll get a fantastic (gift wrapped) book. And I don't need to tell you that we have pretty good taste here at Little Shop of Stories. But if you have already read the book, you can exchange it for something else. And if you live in the city limits of Decatur, we'll deliver it to your door, or we'll call you when it's ready and give you an excuse to come into the shop. So join the club and treat someone (or yourself) to a year of books!

This could be you.


Wednesday, December 16, 2009

The Stinky Cheese Man Assesses 2009

Author Jon Scieszka -- The Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Tales being one of his many great books -- is finishing up his two-year role as the Library of Congress' National Ambassador of Young People's Literature.  He writes of his tenure here, and sums up the past year's literature in this letter published by the L.A. Times.

Jon has long been an advocate for encouraging kids to read, with a special emphasis on reluctant boy readers.  He is pleased with the amazing variety of forms into which children's literature has morphed.  In particular, Jon notes such diverse books as Diary of a Wimpy Kid, The Graveyard Book, The Invention of Hugo Cabret, Skippyjon Jones, Horse Song: The Naadam of Mongolia, as well as the excellent, traditional style of The Magician's Elephant.

We couldn't agree more with Ambassador Scieszka except to note his own recent contributions.  Knucklehead: Tall Tales and Almost True Stories of Growing up Scieszka is a very, very funny autobiographical look at his Michigan childhood.  The Trucktown series for very young readers (illustrated by David Shannon, Loren Long, and David Gordon in an amazing collaboration) has been a huge hit. Though first published several years ago, Jon's edited work Guys Write for Guys Read: Boys' Favorite Authors Write About Being Boys (featuring contributions by Avi, Dan Gutman, Brian Jacques, Stephen King, Walter Dean Myers,  Dav Pilkey, Daniel Pinkwater, Lane Smith, Jerry Spinelli, Chris Van Allsburg, and many others) continues to sell well at our store.

Little Shop of Stories would like to thank His Honor for his years of service to the cause, which included a visit to Little Shop of Stories in 2008 and this year's Decatur Book Festival.  Hopefully he will stop wearing that sash everywhere he goes.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Thank You, Neil

We at Little Shop of Stories would like to express to you our most heartfelt thanks for coming to Decatur and spending time with us yesterday.

For a small, independent bookstore like ours, this was an opportunity to thank our loyal customers in a very special way and to introduce ourselves to a large number of people from all over Atlanta and the entire Southeast.  In what often feels to be a desolate landscape littered with the remains of our comrades, you have helped to keep our light shining.

Your fans are truly remarkable.  People waited as long as six hours to meet with you.  (For those of you in the front rows who were home by 7:30 last night, Neil continued to graciously sign until 1:18 a.m.)  Not only did your readers not complain about the wait, but they invariably showed good humor.  Very late in the evening -- actually, very early in the morning -- one gentleman, immediately after getting his books signed, stood slightly off to the side, opened his copy of Sandman, and for several minutes stared at what you had written with an expression of deep bliss and contentment.  I am certain many hundreds of other people shared those same emotions last night.

Diane, Dave, Krista, Terra, Justin, Al, Cal, Matt, Marcy & Sydney

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Details for the Neil Gaiman Event

On Monday, December 14, 2009

People may begin lining up at 7am.  Not before.  There is no need to line up early.  If you have a ticket, you have a seat.  However, it is first come, first seated.  The weather forecast looks quite nice; let us hope it holds.

Food can be purchased at Alston Coffee from 8am-7pm, Mollie's grill from 9am-midnight, and the dining hall from 7:30am-9am ($6.50), 11:30am-2 pm ($8.50), and 5pm-7pm ($9).

Doors will open at 4:30pm, which is a bit earlier than previously announced.

For those of you who have yet to pick up your tickets, a will call table will be set up outside of Presser Hall.  This should be set up by 3:30pm at the latest, and remain open until 6pm.

Mr. Gaiman will begin speaking promptly at 6pm.  Following his presentation, Neil will sign books.  Remember, he will sign and personalize one book.  If you purchase at least one Neil Gaiman book from Little Shop, he will sign and personalize two books.  We will call people up to get their books signed by rows.  After everyone seated in Gaines Chapel has had their books signed, we will call in people from Maclean Auditorium (the overflow room).

Little Shop of Stories will be selling books at Presser Hall prior to and after the presentation.  (If the weather cooperates, we will sell books outside starting by 3pm.)  The list will include adult titles, chapter books, and picture books.  There will be a limited number of presigned books available for purchase immediately following Mr. Gaiman's presentation.

Ohhhhhh!  Two more days!

Friday, December 11, 2009

Ask Neil a Question

(photo by Kimberly Butler)
Part of Neil Gaiman's presentation will be a Q & A.  Due to the difficulty of taking questions in the hall and the overflow room, we're going to take questions in advance.  Just click on 'Comments' below and write out a question for Neil.  Thanks.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Why Shop Local?

Little Shop of Stories customers shop local because:

Books-A-Million does not co-sponsor Blue Sky Concerts on the Square;
Borders did not bring Greg Mortenson, Jeff Kinney, or Rick Riordan to Decatur this year;
Amazon has never hosted a Bark If You Love Storytime and invited your dog to come; and
Two hundred people did not dress up and go to Barnes & Noble on Valentine's Day for a Fancy Storytime.
Little Shop has sold more copies of local author and illustrator Eric Litwin & James Dean's Pete the Cat: I Love My White Shoes than all those other guys combined.  And none of them have a Christmas Tree on their roof.

Little Shop of Stories and its customers had the most awesome bookstore Halloween Party in the entire United States of America and Neil Gaiman is coming in six days!!!

Local businesses breath life into our community.  We're responsive to our customers.  We live here, send our kids to school here, and participate in all kinds of different ways to help make Decatur the excellent place that it is to live and work.

And we appreciate each and every one of you.

Neil Gaiman Ticket Update V

Sad but true, we are 100% out of Neil Gaiman tickets. 

We have no more for the main room or the over flow room.

Sorry every one!!

For those of you that were lucky enough to get a ticket, we will see you on Monday.

- Sydney

Monday, December 7, 2009

Neil Gaiman Ticket Update IV

As we are getting ready to close the store for the evening so that we can go to Diane's house for holiday cheer, I did want you all to know that there are about 30 tickets remaining for the overflow room.  These will be distributed tomorrow.  If you desire one, either stop by Little Shop or give us a call.


Neil Gaiman Ticket Update III

Only overflow tickets remain.

All of the tickets for Gaines Chapel at Presser Hall are gone.  We have begun distributing tickets for the overflow room, which is also located at Presser Hall.  We had a good crowd when we opened this morning and the phone has been ringing non-stop.

It is so amazing to see so many people so excited about an author!  About books!  About the craft of writing!

There are still a number of tickets available for the overflow room, though I'm suspecting that we'll run out by the end of the day.  The end of our day is at 6:30 p.m. today; we're having our staff holiday party tonight, so we're closing a bit early.  You can pick up overflow room tickets in person (there is no line, just walk in the shop) or over the phone (which has not stopped ringing).  People who get tickets for the overflow room will, just like people at Gaines Chapel, be able to get one book signed and personalized -- two if at least one book is purchased from Little Shop of Stories.  Save those receipts.  Books are available at Little Shop or at Presser Hall at the time of the event.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Diane's Top Five Christmas Book Countdown, Part 4

I've said it before, and I promise you I'll say it again and again.

Oh! To be a pig in Woodcock Pocket!  Especially at Christmas time!

This week's pick:
Toot and Puddle: I'll Be Home for Christmas 
by Holly Hobbie

Our porcine pals have a problem.  World traveling Toot is due home for Christmas but a bout of bad weather slows the little guy down.  Back at home, homebody Puddle busies himself-as only Puddle can do- with holiday planning, while anxiously anticipating the arrival of  his very best friend. 

Will Toot make it in time? A lucky nut and a sleigh ride from someone mysterious and good figures prominently in this story's outcome.  I won't spoil it for you, but I suspect you get the idea of just how Toot and Puddle's Christmas is saved.  Outstanding watercolors by Holly Hobbie make this book an especially tasty treat for your eyes as she so perfectly captures New England at Christmas. 

Which leads me to once again claim- Oh! To be a pig in Woodcock Pocket!

Friday, December 4, 2009

Neil Gaiman Ticket Update II

Additional tickets will be distributed on Monday, December 7th starting at 10 a.m.  We are not yet certain of the number, but it will be at least 100.  Some tickets will be given out in the shop and the remainder will be reserved for phone requests.  Regardless, the limit will continue to be one ticket per person.

For those individuals desiring to place phone reservations, please remember that you must talk to an actual person.  Leaving a voice mail is not sufficient.

When those tickets run out, we do have an alternative available.  We'll then begin passing out tickets, in the same manner, for an overflow room.  A ticket will be need for this as well.

Due to the high demand, we have reserved Maclean Auditorium at Presser Hall where people will be able to view Mr. Gaiman's presentation on a live feed.  It's the next best thing to being there.

For everyone attending, including those in Maclean Auditorium, Neil will sign and personalize one book (two if at least one is purchase from Little Shop of Stories).

Little Shop currently has a selection of Neil Gaiman hardcover books on sale.  Titles include picture and chapter books, as well as adult fiction.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

The Fellowship of the Tree: A Photo Essay

On Thursday night at 7 pm in front of Little Shop of Stories crowds will gather to see the lighting of the Decatur Christmas tree. Carols will be sung. Hot chocolate will be drank. Cookies and candy canes will be eaten. Good cheer will be spread. A 20 foot tree on the roof of a building is a magical thing to see. People stopped us while we were decorating the tree in front of the shop yesterday to ask us how we were going to get it onto our roof. We told them fairy dust. But here's the real story of how the Decatur Christmas tree made it to the square. In case you're into blood and sweat and tears and all that messy behind the scenes stuff....

Welcome to the Noel Christmas Tree Farm! Address: Behind the Cracker Barrel in Cartersville, Georgia. Seriously. That's the address. After discovering that intown trees cost a small fortune, my husband Thad and Marcy (pictured) and I drove an hour away to cut down our own tree.

Here we are, driving into the magical, mysterious, affordable forrest.

I thought I'd found the perfect tree. But Moses (a worker at the farm) told me it wouldn't work because the trunk had split. So we kept looking.

Thad measured every tree for us. Some were up to forty feet tall. We really wanted to bring one of those home, but thoughts of it crashing off the roof brought me back to a 20-foot reality.

Little Marcy on the Prairie

Thad, winning husband of the year, cutting down our tree for us. We thought they'd have a chain saw instead of just a regular saw. We were wrong. Thanks again, Thad!

This is the tree that Thad cut down....

This is the tree that I cut down. Basically the same thing, right?

Now we just have to drive it to Atlanta...

And leave it at my house for a few days until we can get it to the shop to decorate it!

Outside of Little Shop of Stories me, Marcy, and Mark contemplating the logistics behind getting the tree upright. Cal and Mark had to secure it with ropes from the roof so we could put all the lights and ornaments on it.

Mark is ready to light the tree. And if this whole managing a bookstore thing doesn't work out for me, I'm going to become a lumberjack. Check out my awesome plaid.

Cal rock climbs so the twenty foot ladder didn't bother him all that much...

I am so glad this tree isn't any higher.

This is when we realize why people can charge thousands of dollars to professionally decorate your Christmas tree.

Terra taught us about girl plugs and boy plugs while we made sure all the lights were connected.

Jenny's new earrings

Sorry, no fairy dust. But the guys from King Tree Experts were magical to me. They came and installed our tree (and our 700 lb, 10 foot by 10 foot tree stand) on the roof for free.

Here they are! You guys are the best!

Want to see the finished product? Join us tomorrow night (Thursday) at 7pm in front of Little Shop of Stories. You can forget all the behind the scenes stuff and just enjoy the results of all this work. Thanks a million to everyone who helped make this possible. And a Merry Christmas to all!


The Christmas Tree Lighting!

There is a great big Christmas Tree on our roof!

Tomorrow night you should be here!
Tomorrow night there will be Hot Chocolate!
Tomorrow night there will be Song!
Tomorrow night the Tree will be Lit!

This incredibly wonderful Tree is brought to you by the following: Apolinsky & Associates, LLC, Cakes & Ale, Collage, Cook's Warehouse, Decatur First Bank, King's Tree Experts, Little Shop of Stories, Mingei World Arts, Personal Care, The Seen Gallery, Squash Blossom, Starbucks, and Zucca.  And, the Glenwood Chorus!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Neil Gaiman Ticket Update

This week's allotment of tickets for the Neil Gaiman event on December 14th are gone!

There was a line of about 99 people when we opened up Monday morning.  Despite a light rain that lasted nearly all day, Gaiman fans kept coming in steadily.  Tickets were gone not long after 7 p.m.

We had set aside 100 tickets to be given out starting Monday, December 7th to those who come into the store or reserve tickets over the phone.

We're going to have to rethink this a bit.  We went through the first 100 tickets yesterday in about 10 minutes.  This would give people calling in next Monday almost zero chance.  Which doesn't seem fair.

We'll post an update later in the week.

As fast as the tickets went, our supply of Neil Gaiman books went faster.  We're told that we'll have more either late Wednesday or early Thursday.

So here's an idea!

Come to Little Shop of Thursday evening for the lighting of the Decatur Tree right in front of your favorite book store.  It should be a beautiful, but cool, evening.  Drink some hot chocolate.  Eat some goodies.  Sing some carols.  Get some Neil Gaiman books!

Monday, November 30, 2009

Diane's Top Five Christmas Book Countdown, Part 3

No Best of Christmas would be complete without this one-

The Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg.

For those of you who are uninitiated- or for those of you who only saw the movie- consider this:

It's Christmas Eve.  A young boy listens in his bed for the sound of the bells on Santa's sleigh- a sound his friends assert he will never hear.  He falls asleep, only to be awoken later by a different sound.  Upon peering out his bedroom window, he finds a locomotive "wrapped in an apron of steam", and he heads outside in his pjs and bathrobe to investigate.  The conductor of the train invites him aboard, and thus begins this boy's adventure on The Polar Express, the train that transports only a few lucky and select boys and girls to the top of the world, to the North Pole, to meet Santa before he begins his journey around the world.  While on the train, the children feast on hot chocolate that is "as thick and rich as melted chocolate bars" and other magical and out of this world delights that are only surpassed by their excitement and wonder.

The train arrives at the North Pole just as the elves are gathering in the city's center to bid Santa farewell. Before he departs, Santa chooses the young boy from the visiting children to receive the first gift of Christmas.  The boy knows he can choose anything he has ever wanted.  What he chooses is a sleigh bell from one of the reindeer's harnesses, and when he shakes the bell, he is amazed by the beauty of the sound the bell makes- "a magical sound, like nothing" he's ever before heard.  He places the bell in the pocket of his robe, and he returns to the Polar Express for the trip home.

I can't tell you what happens next because- if you don't already know what happens- to experience the full impact and power of this story- and it's heartbreak and redemption-, you must read it while concurrently gazing on Van Allsburg's lush, evocative illustrations.  Trust me, the movie, in its over the top Hollywood style, completely glossed over the true spirit and simplicity of message of this wonderful book's story and artwork.  

The Polar Express is a stirring and graceful portrait of the innocence and magic of childhood.  It is a reminder to us all- both young and old- to keep our hearts open to the wonder around us.  This book is a tear jerker, a life lesson in 32 pages, a book to be shared each and every Christmas.

Sneak peek at Part 4:  Two porcine pals share the true Christmas spirit!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Happy 150th Anniversary!

There are books, and then there are books.  On this date in 1859, Charles Darwin published On the Origin of Species.

Darwin had released one of history's most important texts.  The culmination of nearly 30 years of work -- in addition, Darwin 'stood on the shoulders of other scientists' -- his theories of natural selection were largely immediately embraced and laid the foundation of modern biology.

There are people a lot smarter than I who have written about Darwin during this past year, which also marks the 200th anniversary of his birth.  This includes evolutionary biologist Olivia Judson, who writes the occasional op-ed piece in the New York Times.  Read her article on the importance of Darwin and On the Origin of Species (Darwinmania!) here.

An aside.

Charles Darwin and Abraham Lincoln were both born on February 12, 1809.

On this date in 1859, Lincoln was preparing for a speaking tour through Kansas.  He had recently suffered a defeat to Stephen A. Douglas in his run for the U.S. Senate, but was laying a foundation for a successful presidential campaign.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Details of the Neil Gaiman Event!!!

Neil Gaiman Is Coming To Decatur!

(Bold face type indicates clarifications added since this was initially posted.)

Little Shop of Stories is maniacally thrilled to announce that Neil Gaiman will be speaking at co-host Agnes Scott College on Monday, December 14, 2009, at 6 p.m.

For the unaware, Mr. Gaiman is an author who is active in a variety of forms of storytelling, including adult fiction and non-fiction, children’s books, graphic novels, and film.  His latest work is Odd and the Frost Giants, a children’s chapter book.

As fans of Little Shop know, Neil sent out a challenge to independent bookstores to throw a Halloween Party themed to his Newbery Award-winning The Graveyard Book.  We threw such a frightening scare into everyone who came to Little Shop’s party that we were named a grand prize winner and awarded this visit.  (Congratulations to co-winner McNally Robinson Booksellers in Winnipeg!)  In return, Neil and Harper Collins Publishers have won our everlasting and undead affection.

This will be a ticketed event.  You must have a ticket to get in.  A ticket will guarantee you a seat.  If you arrive at the event without a ticket, you are not guaranteed admittance.  In fact, the probability of getting in without a ticket are virtually nil.  Because we want to accommodate our fantastic customers who played such an integral role in getting this event, but at the same time acknowledge Neil's hard-core fans from outside the Atlanta area (some of whom are willing to travel hundreds of miles), here's the plan:

* On Monday, November 30th, tickets will be available to those who come in person to Little Shop of Stories.  There is a limit of one ticket per person, so if you would like to bring your entire family to see Neil, bring your entire family into Little Shop to get tickets.  As per Neil’s specific request, tickets are absolutely free.

*  On Monday, December 7th, a minimum of 100 tickets will be made available through either telephone reservations during normal store hours starting at 10 a.m. (404-373-6300) and ending at 6:30 p.m. on Monday, 10-8 on Tuesday and Wednesday, 10-9 on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, and 12-8 on Sunday, or by in-person request, and we will continue to take reservations for tickets during the days leading up to the event until all tickets are gone.  When calling, leaving a voice mail message is not sufficient.  You must talk to an actual person who will take your name.  No reservations will be accepted via E-mail or any other form of communication other than specified above.  You can then pick up your ticket at Little Shop during regular store hours on any day between December 7th though 2 p.m. on December 14th.  After that time, you will have yet to get your ticket at the will call table at Presser Hall.

*  Doors will open on Monday, December 14th at 5 p.m. at Agnes Scott College’s Presser Hall.  You must have a ticket.  However, there will be no reserved seating; first come, first seated.  Presser Hall is located on South McDonough Street, just south of East College Avenue, in Decatur.  A parking facility is located on the opposite side of McDonough.

Following his presentation, Neil will stay and sign books.  Due to the large number of people expected, he will sign and personalize only one book per individual.  However, Mr. Gaiman has offered to sign and personalize two books should at least one of them be purchased from Little Shop.  (Save those receipts!  You've got to have them.)

Mr. Gaiman’s books are available for purchase at Little Shop of Stories.  (This includes picture books, children's chapter books, and adult titles.)  Additionally, we will be conducting sales at Presser Hall prior to and following the event.  A limited number of signed books will be for sale at that time.

We look forward to seeing you on December 14th.  It should be a fantastic evening!

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Little Mouse's Big Book of Fears

Every year I buy myself a Christmas gift and a Birthday gift. I always choose books and I've been doing it for a couple of years now. It's always a challenge to pick one book and so today I would like to share with you the book that made the cut for Christmas last year.

Emily Gravett is an author and illustrator who I think is absolutely amazing! The illustrations she creates are always intricate and captivating. Her stories are enjoyable and carry a great sense of humor to them. I chose her book, Little Mouse's Big Book of Fears, as my gift last year.

The book is actually the journal of Little Mouse and everything she's afraid of. At the end of the book she realizes that everyone has fears, and even some things are afraid of her! I'm big on interactive books, and this one doesn't disappoint. There is flaps, fold outs, a map (in the shape of a mouse), jagged pages - anything you could think of except popups. (Emily does make pop-ups though!) The story is great because, at a young age, I had tons of fears and I think it would have been reassuring to have this book. Another intriguing aspect is that who ever is reading the book can turn it into their own journal! Emily left blank spots on each page to allow the reader to reflect, draw, and write about their own fears. On top of that, (as if this book could get better) she even includes the technical names for all of Little Mouse's fears on the top of each page. Do you know what clinophobia means? It's the fear of going to bed. Oh yes, Little Mouse's Big Book of Fears is educational as well!

Little Mouse's Big Book of Fears is in my top ten for 'favorite picture books' list. I'm pretty confident that if you check it out, it'll rank high on your list too.

- Sydney

Friday, November 20, 2009

Little Shop of Stories' Most Awesome Graveyard Book Halloween Party!

How does an independent bookstore get Neil Gaiman to visit? Simple.  Just invite all of your customers -- your really totally cool, wonderfully awesome, fun-loving customers -- to a Graveyard Book Halloween Party!  Here's our video.  Photos are located in a post below.

We are working out the final details concerning Neil's December 14th visit to Decatur.  Information will be posted on this blog.  We're hoping to have it to you sometime on Monday, November 23rd.

Everyone at Little Shop is really, really excited!

In the meantime, here's some information about our video.

The crypt was created in the basement of our really old building. Quite honestly, it was pretty creepy when I was down there setting things up, even with all the lights on.  The Indigo Man was played by Frank, an old friend of the store.  He started out with a lot of his own tattoos, but was supplemented by Breanna, spouse of Matt.  Three glow in the dark skulls sufficed for the Sleer.  They were handled by Raphael, spouse of Marcy.  The voice of the Sleer was recorded by Lance Blair, a professional voice over artist and friend of Little Shop.  Mark, s/o, played the role of Jack.  Man, he was creepy, too.

Live music was provided by the Deadbeats and lead by the extremely talented singer/songwriter Sydney Rhame.  Eleven-years-old and she rocks!

Other things going on: blood punch and other goodies were served, make-up sessions were provided for the undead, people learned their ghoul names, a lesson on how to scream for help in a whole variety of different languages was held, and tombstones were made.

The Danse Macabre was performed at the gazebo on the Square.  An impromptu conga line was formed mid-way through Bobby 'Boris' Pickett's "Monster Mash."  It caught on in a flash.

This was all filmed and edited by another friend of Little Shop.  This is not a skill they taught us in law school; Jeanne must have learned this at night school.

The Decatur Christmas Tree

Decatur is a fantastic town  to live in. We have festivals, parties, concerts and independent shops and restaurants. We have Beach Parties and Book Festivals, live music in the spring and a community bonfire in the winter. But for the past few years there has been no Decatur Christmas tree, no gathering of the masses to sing carols and eat goodies and spread holiday cheer. This year we decided to change that.

With the help of other businesses (listed below), we are bringing the city Christmas Tree back to Decatur! The tree will sit on top of our building, so you'll be able to see it from the square and from Ponce all holiday long. And what would a tree be with out a tree-lighting party? So come out and join us as we kick off the season (and my favorite time of year) on Thursday, December 3 at 7 pm. East Court Square (the parking cul-de-sac in front of our store) will be closed, so there will be lots of room for everyone to hang out and for kiddies to run around. Glenwood Academy's choir will lead us in carol singing and we'll also have some tasty treats for everyone.We are also doing this in conjunction with Terrific Thursdays so shops all over the square will stay open late and offer discounts and specials for all your holiday shopping needs after the lighting is over.

Thanks to all the businesses that helped make this possible! 


Thanks also to Glennwood Academy and Collage Boutique!

We are so grateful to be a part of such a wonderful, supportive community. We're excited about the holiday season and hope you'll come out and celebrate with us.

Merry Christmas!

--Krista Gilliam