8:00 P.M. I had just completed a week long quest to shred the junk mail and go through the umpteen magazines piling up. I don’t remember subscribing or asking for half of these. I didn’t have any use for articles like Bikini Wax Marvels and Making Spandex Work. I did stop long enough to read some nice stories about many hard working teachers and what they do to keep things going in the classroom. Another one on Olympic athletes from this area was inspirational.
I was ready to jump into my next fiction read. All the birthday and Christmas treasures had long ago found their pages turned. It was time to find a new book and do it within an hour. I specifically was looking for something in the middle grade genre and if possible a first person narrative like AWESOME SAUCE. How easy would it be to find a title like this close to home? Are middle level books relegated to online sources and garage sales? Our library branch closed at 8 so I took off on my mission focusing on the only three booksellers within five miles of home, the closest first.
8:14 P.M. First stop is one of those stores with “Super” in the title. I hope that isn’t short for “Superior” because their book selection was in the back of the store. I had to dodge two kids fighting with celery stalks, escape three carts blocking the aisle with an uncomfortable detour through ladies lingerie, stopped briefly for a free sample of Green Cream Yogurt before finally seeing the book aisle. Middle grade… not so good with only five shelves, eight books wide. All of the popular series were in view but not one book there I had not read or become familiar with in the past ten years. Bookstore Grade= D+
8:23 P.M. Local supermarket chain just blocks away. I found the two aisles of books near the front of the store sandwiched between diapers and paper goods. What? Is the same person setting these displays up? Again, five shelves, eight books across. Not a bad name for a fiction title (FIVE SHELVES, EIGHT BOOKS ACROSS is the tale of a Vietnam vet who tries to understand the meaning of a set of books left to him by his father…okay maybe not). Anyway, my journey so far had left me with nothing to read. Bookstore Grade= C-
8:39 P.M. Finally, an actual bookstore and a ‘noble’ one at that. I would have started here but it was the farthest in distance and I never get in and out of this place very fast. As one can tell the middle grade selections are impressive. Two aisles of titles alphabetized by author’s name. Yes, I left as the store was closing with three titles in hand. Not recent releases but one classic I had read years ago (SUPERFUDGE by Judy Blume) and two other titles I had somehow missed when they were released in 2005 and 2006 respectfully (FLUSH by Carl Hiaasen & RULES by Synthia Lord). Bookstore Grade= B+
10:00 P.M. Home again
A few things learned from my quick tour:
- Book covers are the attraction as the shelves are arranged to display each title in all its splashy glory. Catch a kid’s eye and a sale might be next.
- There was no real hook for reluctant readers. Shelves were set up for the informed and always reading kid. I’d love to see headphones where you could hear various first pages read or contests to entice readers.
- Lists of book recommendations according to topics or interests. I ran into more than a few parents and grandparents shopping and looking overwhelmed by the selections.
When I have a future free Saturday I will travel to spots more indie in style but a bit farther in the 6-15 miles away category. I’ll report back along with recommendations for the perfect middle school bookstore.