Friday, April 4, 2008

I'll take picture books for $500, Alex

I'm a bookseller at an independent toy store. Or, perhaps I'm a permanent contestant on a game show called "Name That Children's Book!" It's hard to tell.

When I worked at a large independent bookstore, I frequently relied on the computer when someone asked me a question. I looked up authors and titles. I did subject searches. I checked if we had the book in stock. I found out what section it was shelved in.

The store I currently work at doesn't have a computerized inventory for books (because the computer program is set up to handle toys, not books). And, even if it did, I would rarely use it. I work primarily in the back of the store (where the books are) and the computer (which doubles as the cash register) is in the front of the store and is hard to access when it's busy (which is all the time).

As the book person, I constantly get asked questions from both customers and colleagues. Some are ones that you can't use a computer for: "what books would you recommend for a 3rd grade boy?" or "what's that book with the blue cover?" But, there are still plenty of straight children's literature trivia questions. Here's a few that I was asked yesterday.
  • "Who wrote Clementine?" Easy one. Sara Pennypacker. Orange and white cover, it's face-out in early chapter books. The sequel just came out in paperback.
  • "There's this book written in the early 1900's about two brothers... and one is always outsmarting the other." The Great Brain series by John Fitzgerald. Actually, the first book was written in the1960's but it's set at the turn of the 19th century. Look in juvenile fiction under F.
  • "Do you know the Jesse Bear book?" Yes. It's called Jesse Bear, What Will You Wear? by Nancy Carlstrom. It's in the paperback picture book section. I just reordered it. We should have it.
  • "The author of Amelia Bedelia wrote another series. What's it called?" Peggy Parish. Clues in the Woods. Mystery section.
  • "Where is Diary of a Worm?" Hardcover picture books, under C for Doreen Cronin. "Does it come in paperback?" Nope.
  • "Who's the author of Lentil?" Robert McCloskey. Red book. Paperback picture books. We have 3 copies.
  • "Do you have any books about pirates?" Sure. We even have a whole pirate section. They're right next to the dinosaur books.
I'm always surprised at what I remember. I don't always realize I know the answer until someone asks a question. And, it's wonderful when you can find the book that someone is looking for.

Now I have a question of my own. Is there a bonus round?

Oh, and don't forget to vote in the new poll.


  1. Clues in the Woods, holy cow! I think my 2nd grade teacher read us that book. I had no idea they were still in print. Looks like I'll be ordering some paperbacks... :-)

  2. Who was the author of Lentil? I never would of got that? Hopefully someone will come in looking for that in next few days so I can look smart. Its always feels good when I can help a kid find a book that they can only semi remember. The child gets very exicted, and the parents are happy they don't have to go to another bookstore. I am more inclined to listen to a kid with a partial title than an adult. Adults are more prone to get titles confused whereas kids have seen the book someone, plus I think they worry adults won't listen to them, so they do there best to remember as much as they can.