Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Great Greene Challenge

This blog post ends with 20% off all pre-orders of Varian Johnson's The Great Greene Heist. You can skip to the end for details. . . but we hope you also read the middle part about why

Let's start with reviews of the forthcoming book The Great Greene Heist. The words "fun caper" get tossed around a lot, and it is. Jackson Greene assembles a team of fellow middle school students in an elaborate scheme to steal the school election back from dishonest politicians (13 year old politicians . . . plus some less-than-scrupulous adults). It's funny, fast paced, reminiscent of classic con artist movies (Varian started the book after seeing Oceans 11) and we think Gordon Korman said it best in his quote: "A political heist page-turner set in middle school? Is that even possible? Varian Johnson shows us how it's done, expertly walking the tightrope between true-to-life school experiences and belly laughs." Plus, Varian Johnson is a graduate of the Vermont College of Fine Arts so we're claiming him as a sort-of local author even if he happens to live in Austin.

It's a book worth reading and perfect for summer (ALA and Publisher's Weekly agree, naming it a top pick for Summer 2014). It has also gotten a lot of attention recently as part of a call for greater diversity in children's literature. Why don't the characters in children's fiction reflect the diversity of. . . well, our children? There is no good answer. It makes us here selling books frustrated and disappointed. You can read more about this issue, and particularly the recent #WeNeedDiverseBooks campaign from Publisher's Weekly, Salon, The Guardian, Book Riot (and basically all over the web).

So, the month of May started off with an acknowledged problem, diversity in children's books, and a social media campaign that brought attention to the issue. Author Kate Messner also added this observation: calling for diverse books is important, but so is actually buying them. She recommended starting with The Great Greene Heist. Her blog post kicked off the Great Greene Challenge (which also has a hashtag #GreatGreeneChallenge), challenging independent bookstores to sell this book! Which we're happy to do.

Bear Pond Books will be stocking The Great Greene Heist as soon as it's published (May 27th). In the meantime, you can pre-order the book at a 20% discount. Just go to our website www.bearpondbooks.com to order. We've discounted it automatically by 10% - to get the additional 10% off, enter Coupon Code GreatGreeneChallenge at checkout.

Teachers and school librarians will continue to get 20% off on all books purchased for classroom and library use (not just during the pre-order promotion).

And don't stop at The Great Greene Heist. Jane has put together a list of other middle grade books that introduce compelling and diverse characters. Check them out here in her childrens / YA staff picks.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Dorothy Canfield Fisher Conference

 Bear Pond was happy to be present at this year's DCF conference at the Stoweflake Inn on May 2nd. We got to chat with many friends and make some new ones. The lovely Jo Knowles was the keynote speaker and had many in the audience in tears as she spoke about a particular shy girl who would not have become the person she is today without the guidance and support of her teachers, librarians and one highly influential book called The Chocolate War by Robert Cormier. "He told the truth." said Jo about Cormier to the standing room only audience who also gave her a standing ovation.

One of the wonderful workshops, the "Not DCF list ", was hosted by Steve Madden--Camels Hump middle school librarian-- and two of his students, who book talked the many creative and attention-worthy titles published by international authors last year. Art and identity were two of the major themes that the students described as being central to many of these books, offering some surprising and unique perspectives.

Rushing straight from the Burlington airport to the podium, author Gary Schmidt discussed the ways in which stories support complex thought, and how that complexity allows us to support our children and see the world with compassion. As a writer, Schmidt explores the landscape in which his characters begin "turning towards adulthood", and what propels them to that point. Both Knowles' and Schmidt's novels tend to plumb the depths of our collective compassion and humanity, which is why we booksellers are used to seeing librarians and teachers walking around with Jo's and Gary's books clutched to their chests, exclaiming "I LOVED this book!"

The last emotional moment of the day, in a long string of them, was when the DCF committee stood up and donned their party hats to sing a variation on "Leaving on a Jet Plane" for the irreplaceable Grace Greene, retiring DCF Chairperson, whose wit and passion has fostered the vibrancy that the DCF program has today. Grace, you have touched the lives of many, and have made us laugh louder and harder than is socially acceptable.