Your grandchildren should thank you for many things, but there’s one that’s left quite an impact: instilling a love for magic. I’m referring to Harry Potter.
I can’t remember what we were doing or how the topic came up. I only remember your words, your facial expressions, and the dim light as I read in the corner. I remember After so vividly that Before is hazy. So for the sake of entertainment, allow me to embellish the story, to take some creative liberties.
About thirteen years ago, we were rolling out the crust for one of your delicious Thanksgiving pies when you asked me how school was going. I told you all about my class, my friends, Girl Scouts, and the latest American Girl book I was raving over. I was a reader – not as big as I am now, but definitely read more than my classmates. You smiled and asked if I’d read Harry Potter yet.
I was offended. “Ugh! No! Why would I want to read a book about a boy who goes to a magic school? It’s not even real!”
You stopped rolling out the crust and looked at me square in the eye. I’m still intimidated, even though I tower over you now. It’s that look you get when your grandchildren have crossed the line, and rather than dig a hole to try to get back on your good side, we attempt to stand as still as possible and wait for your calm, disappointed reprimand.
As if your status of Book Nerd wasn’t high enough – what with your endless bookshelves, strange priorities to buy books over groceries, and constant chatter about what this character did in that book – bring your new pet into the fold with a deeply literary or historical name. Pick a perfectly bookish name in honor of your favorite character!
Forget fantasy, drop school fiction, paranormal romance was so yesterday -- dystopian trilogies are the new It Crowd of YA literature.
Ever since The Hunger Games exploded in popularity, promoting a YA novel as “dystopian” seems like an easy ticket to increase sales. Unfortunately, "dystopian" has become confused with action and adventure, post-apocalyptic, and even science fiction stories rather quickly. And with all of the marketing that claims these new YA books are "dystopian," readers are getting confused. What is dystopian? What is not? Factions and fandoms grip their precious genres close to their hearts and hiss at any book that claims to be a "dystopian science fiction" when it is only science fiction.
Shopping in a bookstore is a bit like shopping at a hardware store: if you’re there for something specific, you need to know a thing or two about the item you’re looking for before attempting to find it in the aisles. If you’re there to browse, the world is your oyster.
As a bookseller, I’ve often heard people ask for a book they saw several weeks ago, on that table near the café (you know the one!), that had a blue cover. But lots books go on display every week, on many tables, and some of those books were published two, five, ten years ago! Feeling helpless and apologetic, all I can do is point out general sections of the store where they might find a blue book. So to correct future sadness, arm yourself with bookstore etiquette and prepare to fill your arms with all the books you could ever want!
One of the perks of working in a bookstore is that a new person will ask a new question everyday. Sure, there’s the standard, “Where’s the bathroom?” and “I’m looking for that blue book,” and “Where’s that book by Jane Eyre?”
But my favorite questions are along the lines of recommendations. Those are fun and wonderful – because booksellers love talking about books. Hearing you list your favorite books and genres helps us narrow down your interests, and exposes us to new material!
But with children, it can sometimes be difficult. They’re either extremely picky – “She only likes to read books about ballerinas” -- or they read everything under the sun. They either have a narrow direction, or their habits are so sporadic even the parent doesn’t know which way to go.
I recently had someone ask for middle grade historical fiction. You’d think it’d be easy, but middle grade fiction is almost exclusively fantasy these days. It can sometimes be made more difficult for boys, because there are very fewDear America and American Girl types of books for them.
The next time you’re stuck in a rut for good historical fiction for younger readers, take a good hard look at this list. It just might point you in the right direction.