Tuesday, May 10, 2011

On Being Part of a Community

So often when I go to work at The Blue Bunny Bookstore here in Dedham Square, I am reminded of the old "Cheers" theme song, "Sometimes you want to go where everybody knows your name..." and I smile. The familiar faces of our regular customers, delivery men, mail carrier, and fellow merchants all brighten my day.

Trying to keep a small independent business going these days is difficult, and I sometimes feel like the phrase "day late and a dollar short" was coined especially for me. There are daily frustrations of jobs left unfinished, of clogged sinks and leaking ceilings, of sales calls, service calls, piles of junk mail, book orders, mail orders, office supplies, and paying the rent.

But we keep unlocking the door every morning, and turning on the lights and the music, putting our mascot "sheep" outside, and trying to do our best. Because we are committed to our little store, and we are committed to our community: our neighbors in Dedham Square, our customers, our town, our fellow friends in independent bookselling.

One of the best parts of running our business is taking part in community events. Earlier this month, we collaborated with the Dedham Youth Commission, for the 12th time, on our annual "North Star Children's Ramble"--races for kids ages 4-12 held in conjunction with the 10K James Joyce Ramble that happens every spring. We spend months making and distributing flyers and posters, figuring out logistics, and soliciting book donations from our publisher friends. Even lugging tables, tents, and megaphones out much too early on a Sunday morning are all worth it to have more than 300 happy kids and their families celebrate "community" with us, running with joy, and all getting a prize package including a brand-new book.

The list of Blue Bunny events goes on and on... from weekly free storytimes (our favorite!) to author booksignings, workshops and open studios with Peter H. Reynolds, animal visits, easter egg hunts, valentine making workshops, charity hair-cutting days, publication of our own literary magazine for kids... we do it all, as long as we feel like it keeps us celebrating kids, creativity, and helping others along the journey.

This weekend we'll be participating in Dedham's first Open Studios event, on May 15th, from 11-4 p.m. We're excited about transforming The Blue Bunny into a Peter H. Reynolds gallery and workshop for the afternoon, hoping many of our fans and customers will stop by to say hello and watch Peter work and show his art. And we're excited for the other nearly 100 local artists who will be sharing their creative spirits with the rest of us!

I am so proud to be part of our community, and proud of our community organization Dedham Square Circle, for helping to bring so many good people together in one place. Hoping that the Dedham Open Studios event will be a terrific day in the memory of our town--and an inspiration for other ways to keep us all together as we go along. It's nice to be in a place "where everybody knows your name"....

Saturday, January 15, 2011

What's all the hullabaloo about the Newbery and Caldecott slight on
the Today Show?

This past Monday, the American Library Association announced the 2011 winners of the Newbery and Caldecott Awards, the highest honors in children's literature for illustration and writing every year. This year's winners, Clare Vanderpool, for her book Moon over Manifest, and Erin Stead, for her illustration of A Sick Day for Amos McGee, were bounced from the customary post-announcement interview on The Today Show, in favor of an interview with television personality "Snooki" instead.

While children's book lovers have cried foul all week, others have pointed to the sadly growing irrelevance of good literature for kids, in the age of mass marketed mega-bestsellers and pop culture. I wonder what it really means, and what we children's lit lovers can do.

I think we do what we always do, but do it louder and prouder! Read as much as we can, sing the praises of the stories and art we love, and pass it on to as many willing (and unwilling) kids as we can! Good stories will always matter until we stop believing. I challenge all book lovers to read one of this year's award-winning or honor books and tell a friend or a kid or a friend's kid about it! Keep fighting the good fight. Go team go!