14 Sep

Modern First Library expands to Dallas!


You may have already heard me go on…

…and on…

…and on…

…and on about Modern First Library, the program that Austin bookseller BookPeople created a few years ago after I suggested an approach to getting more diverse books into the hands and onto the shelves of more families.

So given my track record, how could I not go on (and on) a bit more and celebrate the expansion of the Modern First Library concept to Interabang Books, the brand-new independent bookseller that just had its grand opening in Dallas?

To welcome Interabang’s Modern First Library into the world, the store’s children’s book buyer, Lisa Plummer, offers up this quick list of her favorites from their offerings, and it will give you a great sense of what the program is about.

And I got to play a part in the proceedings, too, with an essay I wrote for the store. Here’s a bit of it:

As I write this three years later, BookPeople’s Modern First Library continues to thrive. Every time I’m in the store, I stop by the display just to admire it.

You can bet I’ll be doing the same at Interabang Books. Knowing that from the very day the store opened, Interabang has had its own Modern First Library – well, that makes me glad all over again that I acted on my quite possibly naive idea, that I shared it, that I didn’t dismiss the notion or keep it to myself.

If you’re in or near Dallas, get yourself to Interabang and show them with your money how glad you are that they — and Modern First Library — have opened their doors.

30 Sep

September 2016 Bartography Express: “If children learn to love and respect the elephant through this book, I will be overjoyed”

To get Bartography Express in your inbox each month — and to have a shot at the October giveaway of Tiny Stitches, written by Gwendolyn Hooks and illustrated by Colin Bootman — you can sign up on my home page.

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20 Sep

Modern First Library: Connecting shoppers with diverse books for two years and counting

Modern First Library

In spring of 2014, I had an idea for something a bookstore might try out — an idea for selling more copies of diverse books by leveraging shoppers’ impulses to buy well-known books as baby gifts.

So I emailed a friend at Austin’s BookPeople and asked, “Would there be an effective way to encourage these adults to buy the classic titles they have in mind and a new picture book that reflects the modern, diverse world that the recipients inhabit?”

Long story short, the result was BookPeople’s Modern First Library program, which launched that summer. The Modern First Library display was positioned front-and-center in the picture book department. You couldn’t miss it.

I would have been happy for this experiment of ours to last only through the December holidays. A bookstore is a business, after all. It has to make money. And if something they try out — Modern First Library, for instance — doesn’t end up selling many books, they have to try something else.

But two years later, BookPeople’s Modern First Library continues to thrive and grow. I’m so glad I expressed that one idea — that I acted on it, and didn’t dismiss the notion or keep it to myself.

This past June, BookPeople’s Meghan Goel and I discussed the program with a roomful of four dozen booksellers from across the country. Maybe one of them — maybe several of them — will create their own Modern First Library displays.

In the meantime, BookPeople is celebrating the second anniversary of Modern First Library with a series of guest blog posts by some folks worthy of your attention. More essays are on the way, but for now, I hope you’ll enjoy — and be inspired by, and share — the first few:

Our Modern First Library Turns Two by Meghan Goel

Ellen Oh on the Modern First Library: The Word Library

Phoebe Yeh on the Modern First Library: I Need a Diverse Book

Angie Manfredi on the Modern First Library: “Everett Anderson was my first.”

Modern First Library: Starting the Conversation with AISD Educators

Modern First Library: Divya Srinivasan on Mama (Amma)

Modern First Library: Duncan Tonatiuh on Fairy Tales for a Modern Library

I’ve also contributed a few thoughts — complete with flowchart and with tongue somewhat in cheek:

So, you’ve heard about Modern First Library, but you’re not sure that new picture books reflecting the diverse society experienced by today’s kids are for you. Let me help you decide.

Thanks to all who have supported Modern First Library in any way. Here’s to the program’s first two years, and to the connections made — and connections still to come — between all sorts of kids and Modern First Library’s marvelous variety of marvelous books.

31 Aug

August 2016 Bartography Express: The smashiest, the crashiest — and the animalsiest

To get Bartography Express in your inbox each month — and to have a shot at the September giveaway of This Is Our Baby, Born Today, written by Varsha Bajaj and illustrated by Eliza Wheeler — you can sign up on my home page.

20160827 Bartography Express

09 Jan

Many thanks to Joe McDermott and Phil Bildner

The recent KidLit TV segment on Modern First Library would not have happened without the enthusiastic support of my friends Phil Bildner and Joe McDermott.

Phil’s role was obvious — he was on-camera with me and BookPeople‘s Meghan Goel. But what part did Joe play?

Well, who do you think was behind the camera?

That’s right. Not only is Joe McDermott a high-spirited singer, songwriter, and children’s performer, he’s also pretty handy with video production.

So help me thank him, why don’t you? If you’re in Central Texas, you could book him for a show.

Or you could buy his new CD and coloring book combo, Coconut Beach:

Coconut Beach

Phil’s been busy, too, which makes me all the more appreciative of his taking the time to support Modern First Library while he was visiting Austin for the Texas Book Festival.

How busy? Well, he did have two new books out in 2015:

A Whole New Ballgame

MarvelousCornelius

And he is pretty occupied with the approximately 75,000 school visits he does each year.

So, as with Joe, you can show your thanks to Phil by buying one of his latest or by booking him for a visit to your school. You’ll be glad you did, and I’d appreciate it, too.

23 Nov

Modern First Library on KidLit TV

Modern First Library — the program that BookPeople and I began last year to encourage the purchase of diverse new titles along with classic picture books — was featured this past Friday on KidLit TV, with children’s buyer Meghan Goel and me interviewed about the program by author, pal, and all-around dynamo Phil Bildner.

I’m super-proud of Modern First Library, and I truly hope that other authors/illustrators and booksellers will get inspired and try this approach in their own communities. If you’d help spread the word about this program, I’d be mighty grateful — thankful, you might say. And could there be a better week for that?

12 Apr

Austin authors’ efforts on behalf of diverse books

My local kidlit community — including not only authors and illustrators, but librarians and booksellers as well — shines quite nicely in this weekend’s article in the Austin American-Statesman:

As librarians across the state are set to gather in Austin next week for the annual Texas Library Association conference, it’s worth noting what a difference a year makes: There’s a national festival devoted to children’s diverse books planned for next year in Washington, D.C., and a writing award with corresponding grant supported by celebrated author Walter Dean Myers’ estate. The Texas Book Festival featured a We Need Diverse Books panel in October, as did the midwinter meeting of the American Library Association earlier this year. Next week’s Texas library conference will include a diversity summit as part of its program as well as a “Colorful Canon” panel exploring how to build diversity in children’s literature.

The Austin-area creators of children’s books mentioned in the article include Cynthia Leitich Smith, Don Tate, Shana Burg, Varian Johnson, Bethany Hegedus, Jo Whittemore, and me, but I assure you that many more are actively involved in this movement in one way or another. Here’s to keeping things going.

18 Sep

The story behind Modern First Library

Modern First Library

I’m guest-blogging over at Cynsations today with a behind-the-scenes account of how the Modern First Library program came about. Here’s a taste of what I’ve got to say:

A widespread urge to Do Something About This led to lots of conversations among authors, editors, librarians, and other champions of children’s literature. It led to the #WeNeedDiverseBooks campaign. And it led me to email Meghan Goel, the children’s-book buyer at my beloved local indie BookPeople, to discuss a new spin on the notion I’d had on that recent walk.

Wait — email Meghan in what capacity? As an author? Yes, but also as a BookPeople customer, and as a dad, and as a member of the community. Of various communities, in fact, large and small. What’s important is not whether I felt especially qualified to lend my voice but rather that I had an idea that I thought might be worth trying, and I decided not to keep it to myself. Sharing an idea was the least I could do.

Thank you, Cynthia Leitich Smith, for inviting me to share that story. And thanks to Meghan and the BookPeople staff for the fact that we have this story to share in the first place.

16 Sep

Here’s to Be a Changemaker!

be-a-changemaker-9781582704647_lg
My friend Laurie Ann Thompson‘s debut, Be a Changemaker: How to Start Something That Matters, comes out today. I’m so enthusiastic about this book that I’ll be giving away a copy and featuring an interview with Laurie in this month’s edition of my Bartography Express newsletter (which you can sign up for here).

I was happy to join other author friends of Laurie’s in showing support for her book in a series of posts last week on the EMU’s Debuts blog. Several of us recounted our own experiences in trying to make the world a little bit better. Have a look, read the rest of the series, and think about who you know that might love a book like this.

18 Jul

Modern First Library: more from Cyn, and from Books on the Nightstand

Modern First Library

Cynthia Leitich Smith has a second guest post for BookPeople’s new Modern First Library program, and it’s about the one negative experience she’s had in the store. Check it out.

And then check out the latest episode of the Books on the Nightstand podcast, in which hosts Michael Kindness and Ann Kingman discuss which picture books they’d include in their own Modern First Library. Thanks for featuring the program, Ann and Michael!

Besides, if you like books (and I’m pretty sure you do), and you like podcasts (I know I do), why wouldn’t you want to listen to a podcast about books? I just this moment subscribed to Books on the Nightstand, and I can’t wait to hear more.