Category Archives: bookstores

First Nations Picture Books–Dipnetting with Dad by Willie Sellars

When I was teaching grade school full time, both on the reservation and off, this is exactly the sort of picture book I wanted–a contemporary slice-of-life story about a First Nations family celebrating something important to their culture. I’m particularly exited because this story comes from the salmon fishing peoples of the Pacific Northwest. Author Willie Sellers spins a lively tale of a boy’s first salmon catch using a playful and breezy tone but still conveying many important cultural details, such as preparing for the salmon fishing trip by praying in the sweat lodge and offering tobacco to the Creator. He captures the boy’s nervousness about the steep trail and swift waters of the river. He demonstrates the many steps in preparing dried salmon, with clarity and good humor. Willie Sellars is a T’exelc–a member of the Williams Lake Indian Band. He is a life long fisherman and perhaps what I love the most about this book is the way he conveys the warmth and humor of this family in his story.

The illustrator Kevin Easthope is also from Williams Lake, BC. His illustrations are fresh and fun and colorful. They do a great job of putting the reader in the thick of the action whether it’s climbing the steep riverbanks, reaching over the water with a dipnet or running way from Grandma.

I would heartily recommend this book to any one working with grade school students or anyone interested in the culture of the Pacific Northwest. There is a teachers guide for this book and a free coloring page from the publisher. If you’d like to hear the author and illustrator talking about the collaboration, here’s a you tube of them with some great footage of actual dipnet fishing. This book’s Canadian publisher is Caitlin Press. It has been endorsed by the Tk’emlúps Chief Shane Gottfriedson and noted author and Xat’sull Chief Bev Sellers.

Ringing in the New Year

What an interesting year to work in a book store! Annie Blooms is in a neighborhood with the largest Jewish community in Oregon and also a sizable immigrant African population. Here’s what I’ve found uplifting in a year full of ugly politics. Time and again, readers came in looking for a book that would help them make sense of their opponent’s point of view.

The conservative who just doesn’t understand what black people are so upset about, was willing to walk out of the shop with Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates. Willing to look into it. Eager, in fact, to understand better.

The talk of several local, and generally liberal, book clubs has been Hillbilly Elegy by S.A. Vance. “How can a bunch of white men feel so discriminated against,” say the bookclub ladies. “Where on earth can all these Trump supporters be coming from?” I don’t know either but these earnest bookclub members are searching for insight and talking about what they find.

Nearly everybody who comes into the shop talking about some crisis or other, the Standing Rock Sioux and the oil pipeline or the tide of refugees fleeing into Europe, has an opinion to start with. But here’s the cool part; they know they need to know more. They know that what is online masquerading as news is often not reliable. They already know what they think, but they want to know what the other guy thinks. They want to know the context, the history, the back story, the supporting science. And very often they want to know how to talk about these issues with their children. And yes, there are books for that! 

Although we need more than a few good books and people reading them to solve the mountain of issues we will need to address in the coming years, I do believe that books are a good beginning. A jumping-off place. An invitation to conversation. I’m grateful to have a shop full of good books to share, and a community open to new ideas.

My hope for the new year is that I will continue to listen and to and learn what I can, not to erase our differences or compromise on values I hold too dear to let go. But that I can see opponants more clearly and understand issues more fully, and rededicate myself to doing as much good in the world as possible–and maybe even a few good things that are impossible.

Diversity in the Bookstore

imagesI  work at my local independent bookstore and it’s been an education in all sorts of ways. I’m astonished by how often people are buying a book for someone they don’t know very well. I’m touched by all the people who come in just to make a face to face connection with one of the booksellers or to pet our store cat, the beautiful and heroically patient Molly Bloom. And I love it when a flock of middle schoolers descends in the middle oUnknownf a hot chocolate date and settles in the picture book section to sip cocoa and read aloud to each other. I think of Annie Blooms as a warm and welcoming place. But I had an experience over the summer that has me rethinking my assumptions.

One day last summer a pair of sisters, one about 12 and the other 4 or 5, came into the shop fresh from the yogurt place across the street. The older settled into the cosy chair in the back with a YA novel and the younger rocked the dragon and sang to herself. This sort of thing happens all the time. About 30 minutes later the mother of these girls came in visibly agitated and asked if her girls had been good. I assured her they had, pointed out other children shopping without their parents, and told her that we love to encourage independent browsing by young readers. It took much more than the usual amount of reassurance to soothe her. IMG_1287I would have just put it down to a mom having a rough day. I’ve had plenty of those myself. But this mother was black. And it made me revisit what I know about the black experience in a retail environment. For many black people their retail interactions are negative, and sometimes overtly threatening. It made me think about whether this bookstore is as welcoming as I want it to be. For one thing, none of our booksellers are black. I know quite a few booksellers in the region and honestly I can’t think of a black bookseller anywhere in town.

This brings up lots of questions for me. Does that lack of black booksellers all by itself make a bookstore a less welcoming place? Does the overall negative retail experience make a black family less likely to bring the family to a bookstore for recreational browsing, even if the bookstore itself is not overtly racist to it’s black patrons? Would a black-owned bookstore make a difference? Why are there so few minority-owned bookstores? And what would make minority ownership of a bookstore more likely?

So often when there is a discussion of diversity in children’s literature the bottom line tends to be “those books just don’t sell very well.” It seems to me that most of the energy in the We Need Diverse Books movement is on the production end of the equation. And yet I don’t see how meaningful change can be made with out as least as much, if not more, attention on the consumer end of the bookstore experience. I wish I had answers. I’m not even certain that I’m seeing this problem as clearly as I might. Please feel free to share your thoughts and experiences in the comments.  I do hope going forward that we have as many conversations about the retail end of diversity in literature as we do about the publishing end.


This past weekend I was at the Pacific Northwest Booksellers Trade Show in Portland. (PNBA) While there I did a workshop on using social media as an author, bookseller or publisher. I had every intention of live tweeting the event and even began with a picture and tweet about Amber Keyser and her new novel The Way Back from Broken.

And then a funny thing happened. I went to some sessions that really expanded my thinking about the book world, including one with a very detailed explanation about exactly how books earn money and why some of them don’t. I sat in on a conversation about how the PNBA book award is chosen. I fell into one interesting conversation after another. I found booksellers and shared ideas for promoting my upcoming novel. I met publishers and talked about the kind of author who is the best fit for an event at Annie Blooms Bookstore. I found books that I wanted to immediately put in the hands of librarians from my school district.

And I completely forgot to tweet. Didn’t post a single thing on Facebook. I know. Missed opportunity.

Here’s what I didn’t miss. The joy of seeing a friend who is passionate about books absolutely in her element and making her dreams of becoming a publisher come true. Dozens of short conversations with publishers about the books they are passionate about. A long leisurely conversation over dinner with a new author friend, and a rather raucous late night conversation with a table full of booksellers. Not a single one of those experiences would have been enhanced by pausing to tweet, post, pin, or snap.

So thank you to the PNBA for an amazing weekend. I’m enriched. I’m exhausted. I’m going to spend every possible minute in the next week reading the amazing books and ARCs I brought home. And thank you to my northwest bookselling community for the mentoring and the inspiration.

Things Amazon will never do

Today is Indy Bookstore Day and neighborhood bookshops nation-wide are doing things to celebrate.Unknown-4 I thought I’d mention, not what Annie Blooms, my neighborhood indy, is doing to celebrate the day, but what Annie Blooms does every day and has done for more than three decades. Things Amazon will never do for you.

Make you a cUnknownup of coffee.

Even Amazon’s much anticipated drone delivery is not going to deliver you a piping hot cup of coffee. Its true that you can buy a latte at the in-store coffee shop at Barnes & Noble. Powells was the industry leader in bringing a coffeeshop into the bookstore. Guess what? The coffee here is free. Always has been. Pour yourself a cup. Settle in. We’ve got all day to spend with you.

Entertain your children while you shop

Our rocking dragon has been keeping toddlers and preschoolers happy for decades. There’s a bin of toys under the board book shelf along with kid sized tables and chairs.  It’s safe, it’s clean, and there’s not a single video screen or electronic gadget to distract your kids from the important business of play.

Provide window art for the neighborhood.

We support a regularly rotating visual feast on your walk to the dog park, a new theme every other week or so.IMG_1423 Here we are celebrating Black History month and  honoring the Charlie Ebdo victims.IMG_1336


This visual feast is brought to you by our very own bookstore artist, the amazing…drum roll please… Kate Stone!

Support local schools and libraries

We are always happy to welcome teachers to our store. Glad to chat with you about that special book for a particular student. Love to give you a heads up on the newest book from your favorite author. And if you are using the book in your classroom, there’s a teacher discount. Though Annie Blooms has not done this in the past, many children’s bookstores will help you host an author visit to your school. Oh yes, and your local bookstore pays taxes to support your local school district and public library. Amazon? Not so much.

Host live author events

We host about a half dozen author events a month. That’s an hour worth of entertainment with some terrific talent both local and distant. We feature authors of fiction and non-fiction, poetry and prose, adults books and children’s, debut authors and veterans of 50 books or more. Do we charge for these events? Nope. We’re happy to celebrate the books and author we love.

Offer meeting space for your book club

Unknown-1Have you always wanted to start a book club but dreaded the work of having a crowd of people over to your house? We love crowds of people! Our cosy loft is ready and waiting for the book club of your dreams. And when you’ve settled on your next title, we’ll gladly order everyone a copy and extend our usual book club discount.

Send presents for you child’s birthday

Hoping to instill the love of reading in the children and grandchildren in your life? Us too. Sign up for our birthday club and we’ll send your children a birthday postcard and gift certificate every year until they turn twelve.

Special Orders

Having trouble finding a book? Can’t quite remember the title or the author? No worries. We’ve got several data bases and a staff full of avid readers who probably know the book you’re thinking of. If it’s in print we can probably get it for you.

 Presents! Oy!

images-1Need some help brainstorming the perfect gift for the quirky child in your life, the persnickety aunt, the edgy nephew, the grandpa who’s read everything? Let’s talk. There’s a just right book for everybody and we’ll help you find it and wrap it up. Dashing to a last minute birthday? Call us and we can have the perfect picture book wrapped and ready for you!

But best of allimages

We are here. In your neighborhood. Every day. Stop in. Chat. Browse. Pet our store cat Molly. Not just on Indy Bookstore Day but every day.