Sunday, December 13, 2009

Two Kings

Last month, Micawber's sold books at two big Talking Volumes events at the Fitzgerald Theater in St. Paul. On November 11, the guest author was Barbara Kingsolver. And on November 18, it was Audrey Niffenegger and Stephen King. Two Kings = Two Big Events!

I was at the Kingsolver event selling books before, during and after the show. We had arranged ahead of time for Barbara to sign some copies of her new book, THE LACUNA, which is her newest title. When it was time to go get the signed copies, I volunteered. I have long been a fan of hers and wanted the chance to meet her.

Hans and I walked back stage and down into the rather small green room below the Fitzgerald stage. (It smelled like Hot Artichoke Dip, which was not the smell I was expecting.)

There at the table sat Barbara Kingsolver with Kerry Miller going over a few last minute things. We gathered up the signed books as they chatted. We were ready to leave and they were still talking. I didn't want to miss this chance to meet her in person, so I (nicely) interrupted them.

"Hi, I'm Dara. I'm one of the booksellers from Micawber's selling your book tonight," I said.

"Oh. I'm Barbara," she answered, shaking my hand. "Nice to meet you."

The fact that she said, "I'm Barbara," in such a normal, down-to-earth-way made me like her even more. Of course, everyone there knew who she was. But she kindly said, "I'm Barbara," just the same.

We chatted briefly about the state of independent bookstores. She wanted to know how our store was faring.

I told her that I was low person on the totem pole, so the fact that I still had a job was a good sign.

She laughed.

I made Barbara Kindsolver laugh!

So, that really made my night. Her interview went very well. She is smart and articulate. Plus, the voice she did for Frida Kahlo was amazing!

I bought two (signed) copies of THE LACUNA - one for my mom for Christmas and one for me. (Mom, if you're reading this, ignore the last sentence.)

All in all, the Kingsolver event went very well!

The Stephen King event went well too, although differently. It was a bit of a well-organized, mad house. He doesn't "come out of hiding" very often, so a public appearance is a BIG deal. We sold a lot of his books, including all 250 copies of UNDER THE DOME that he agreed to sign ahead of time.

This is a busy time of year - for events and now for holiday shopping. I'm glad I had the chance to meet one of my favorite authors in person. That was a gift.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Best Books for Kids

Recently a customer came in to order a stack of books for his children. He lives far outside the city so isn't able to dash to the store or library whenever he wants a new book for his kids. He wanted to create a home library of excellent books for his two young children. So, he came in with a long list.

Where did he come up with the children's book titles on his list? How did he figure out which were "the best books" for children? He was smart. He consulted someone who knows. He came in carrying a tattered copy of Anita Silvey's excellent reference book, 100 Best Books for Children: A Parent's Guide to Making the Right Choices for Your Young Reader, Toddler to Preteen.

Silvey arranges 100 Best Books for Children by age group. Each book listed comes with a short description. Silvey includes more than 100 good books, but stars her top 100.

Anita Silvey is a former children's publisher, Editor-in-Chief of The Horn Book Magazine, and is an expert on children's and young adult books.

Where her first book leaves off, her second book picks up. 500 Great Books for Teens is arranged thematically, which is perfect for teen readers. With categories ranging from "Adventure and Survival" to "Romance" to "Short Stories," there is something for everyone.

My only caveat is that it's important to use these books as a starting off point from which you build. 100 Best Books for Children was published in 2005 and 500 Great Books for Teens in 2006. Many excellent books for children have been published in the last several years. For the newest "Best Book" titles, you'll have to find additional sources for recommendations, such as a children's librarian or knowledgeable children's book seller.

When our customer came in with his copy of Silvey's book, he asked me to look through it and add my own recommendations. I highlighted the books I thought were wonderful and added some newer titles to the list. So, in the end, the books he bought started a diverse, and excellent, home library for his children.

And like I said before, reading the "Best of the Best" is wonderful. Every child should get that chance. But, don't be afraid to let a few "Less than Best" books in there too. No one was ever harmed by reading Captain Underpants. At least not that I know of:)

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Newbery Prediction

Recently, I was at a conference with several children's authors. While visiting, we compared notes about recent good reads. Kurtis Scaletta, friend and author of MUDVILLE, commented on a book he thought should win this year's Newbery Award. The Newbery Award is the "big kahuna" for children's novelists.

Kurtis was so adamant about this book that I immediately went out and bought a copy (from Micawber's) and read it in two days. The book is WHEN YOU REACH ME by Rebecca Stead.

WHEN YOU REACH ME is a middle grade novel set in 1970's New York City. I would call the genre "realistic fiction with a twist." Stead, who grew up in New York City (and lives there still) knows what she's talking about. It is so real. It's like you are living right there with Miranda, the 6th grade protagonist.

I love puzzles and Stead provides a compelling one in WHEN YOU REACH ME. Through a series of mysterious notes, Miranda must solve a puzzle that may affect the life of more than one person.

If you enjoy intelligent writing that feels "spot on" with its characters and setting, then I encourage you to pick up a copy of WHEN YOU REACH ME by Rebecca Stead.

Will it win the Newbery Award? I don't know. But I think it has a pretty good chance. At least Kurtis Scaletta feels strongly about it.

His best comment of the day was, "WHEN YOU REACH ME should win the Newbery. If I won the Newbery for MUDVILLE, I would almost want to tell them, "No. I can't accept it." I looked at him incredulously. He reiterated, "Almost."

Monday, October 12, 2009

Only A Witch Can Fly (in Fall)

Two days ago - Saturday, October 10 - it snowed! OK, there wasn't much snow, but it still counts as the first snowfall of the season.

On Saturday, we also had a great children's event at the store. Alison McGhee visited us and read several of her books.

Going with a Fall/Halloween theme, Alison read her newest picture book, ONLY A WITCH CAN FLY. The illustrations, done by Taeeun Yoo, are unique and beautiful. Taeeun did wood cuts for each spread and used paint in the colors of black, green and rust. The overall affect feels like Fall at dusk to me.

Alison wrote ONLY A WITCH CAN FLY as a sestina poem. A sestina is a very structured form of poetry consisting of six six-line stanzas and a tercet (three lines). The same six words ends the lines of the six-line stanzas but in different orders. Overall, it's a complicated poem structure to write. But Alison does it very well. In fact, you don't even realize you're reading a structured poem. (I didn't know until Alison told us.) The poem form lends itself well to the feel of the book, which is quiet yet anticipatory.

Alison also read another witchy book she wrote titled A VERY BRAVE WITCH. This fun, little book is great for young witches and warlocks. The witch girl is warned against humans! But she is brave and, in the end, all is well on Halloween night.

At Micawber's we have a display table of Fall/Halloween books. But, I fear this season is rather short in Minnesota. Today, as I write, it's snowing again. And this time there is actual accumulation! I'm sure (I hope) it will melt in the next week or so, but I have to say, I'm just not ready for winter yet. Fall can be such a nice season - in weather and books. Let's keep it going a bit longer.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Rochester Barnes & Noble

As an independent bookseller, I tend to avoid shopping at chain book stores like Barnes & Noble. Sometimes I'll go there to check out a particular section, but I go back to Micawber's - the independent bookstore where I work - to buy or order a book. But, this past weekend I saw the coolest Barnes & Noble in America and I had to share a photo with you.

The Barnes & Noble in Rochester, Minnesota is well worth a visit. It is situated in an old theater. Originally it was a live theater, then a movie theater with high domed ceilings. Then, a few years ago, some genius turned it into a unique, extremely cool B & N. This is not your run-of-the-mill, strip-mall type bookstore. With its high blue-sky ceiling, castle and medieval-like town buildings, and arches, it feels almost magical. The book arrangements and signage is typical B & N, but the overall feel is pretty amazing.

I was walking through the Rochester skyway on a rainy Friday, when BOOM, I entered this magical kingdom. I stopped in my tracks, took out my camera, and snapped some photos. The workers didn't seemed surprised. I bet they get a fair amount of that.

The overall affect was so surprising and delightful that it almost made me want to buy a book. Almost.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

MBA Trade Show

This upcoming weekend is the Midwest Booksellers Association (MBA) Trade Show in St. Paul. I'll be attending as a bookseller with Micawber's. Last year was my first year at MBA as a bookseller. Tom and I walked around together and met the sales reps from many, many publishers. It was a lot of fun because Tom has been in the business for over 30 years and basically knows everyone!

This year, I will also be attending two author meals - The Moveable Feast Lunch on Friday and the Children's Author's Breakfast on Saturday. The Moveable Feast Lunch works like this. You sit at a table and the authors rotate tables every 15 minutes. I won't meet all the authors, but I will receive signed copies of books by the authors that do visit my table.

Some of the Moveable Feast children's authors include Marion Dane Bauer, Janet Graber, Maggie Stiefvater, Patricia C. Wrede, and Kathy-jo Wargin. I'm especially interested in reading SHIVER, the new YA book by Maggie Stiefvater.

Then early Saturday morning, I return to MBA for the Children's breakfast and hear keynote authors M.T. Anderson, Neil Gaiman, Loren Long and Catherine Gilbert Murdock! I seriously can't wait to meet these folks. I absolutely loved THE GRAVEYARD BOOK by Neil Gaiman!

MBA, for me, is all about meeting authors and getting free books! (It's certainly not about the quality of the food, sad to say.) MBA is also about making connections. Since I'm now buying the children's books for Micawber's, I look forward to meeting with the children's sales reps, some of whom I've only met "over the phone."

The only bad thing about MBA is the rule against rolling carts, strollers (without babies inside), and suitcases on the Trade Show floor. Without rolling assistance, how will I possibly lug all my free books home:)?!

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Lynne Jonell at Micawber's

Fall is here and that means the beginning of a new year of Children's Author Events at Micawber's. This Saturday, September 19, 2009 at 1:00 pm is our first event.

Lynne Jonell, author of EMMY AND THE INCREDIBLE SHRINKING RAT and EMMY AND THE HOME FOR TROUBLED GIRLS will be our featured children's author. Lynne will read from her new middle-grade novel, THE SECRET OF ZOOM!

Come to Micawber's to meet Lynne, hear her read from her new book, enjoy some treats, and best of all, it's all free!

I hope to see you there - 1:00 pm this Saturday!

Micawber's Books
2238 Carter Avenue
St. Paul, MN 55108
(651) 646-5506

Monday, September 7, 2009

Art at Rice Creek

This Sunday there is a fun event taking place at Banfill-Locke Center for the Arts in Fridley, Minnesota. It's called ART AT RICE CREEK. This family festival takes place Sunday, September 13 from 10:00 am - 4:00 pm. It will include art workshops, fine art, book readings, Henna painting, a quilt raffle, food, and performances by Chicks on Sticks, Heart of the Beast, Mother Banjo and more.

Plus, I will be there! Between 1:00 - 2:00 pm, Marie Olofsdotter and I will read from our children's books. There will be an ASL interpreter there to interpret our readings. Marie Olofsdotter is a fine artist, illustrator, author and more. Her children's books include SOFIA AND THE HEARTMENDER. I will be reading MURIEL'S RED SWEATER. Muriel, the duck, will also make an appearance. (I wonder how the ASL interpreter does with "duck-speak"?)

This is the 30th year of Banfill-Locke, which is a community arts center offering classes in writing, drawing, painting, and textiles for adults and youth. They also host a Friday Night Reading Series. They are located at:

Banfill-Locke Center for the Arts
6666 East Rive Road
Fridley, MN 55432

Stop by if you have time this Sunday! The event is free and good for the entire family. Say "Hi" if you're there. I'd love to meet you!

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Closing Time

This summer I've been working the closing shift frequently at Micawber's. Typically, I like to work a variety - some days, evenings, weekends. But, because of summer schedules and child care, I've been working a lot of nights.

At first I wasn't happy about this. I like spending the evening with my family. I like being home after dinner. But, working the evening shift is growing on me. I've been able to observe the nightly flow of life in our little neighborhood.

Right around 5:30 pm there is a distinct drop in customer traffic. I call it the dinner drop. That's when I typically eat my own dinner. As the evening progresses, there are always people walking by, and I can usually guess where they are headed and if they will stop in.

The people I don't recognize who are dressed up - usually couples or multi-generational groups - are headed to Muffeletta for dinner. People walking their dog, baby or self will not stop in if there are head phones involved or anyone crying. People who park, hop out alone and hustle down the sidewalk are on a mission. They are taking a quick stop into the Little Wine Shop for some beer or wine. They won't come into the bookstore because they have somewhere to go.

The strolling people are different. They will likely come inside. If they are dressed up and I don't recognize them, they are most likely waiting for their Muffeletta seating time. If they are in casual clothes and I don't recognize them, they have heard about the bookstore or the neighborhood or were just shopping at Bibelot and thought they would stop in.

If it's someone in casual clothes and I do recognize them, they are very likely to come into the store. Most likely, the reason they are walking down the sidewalk is to come to Micawber's.

Evening traffic in the store mainly consists of:

1. People picking up their special order book after we called to tell them it was in,
2. Parents getting a last-minute birthday present for their kid's friend,
3. People buying vacation reading for a vacation that starts tomorrow,
4. People who have never been to Micawber's but have heard it was really nice and wanted to check it out before they have dinner at Muffeletta,
5. Women picking up their book club book that they need to read by next week,
6. College students (or people new to the neighborhood) who would want to hang out (if only we had wireless.)

Of course, there are many exceptions to the above list. We have a wide and wonderful range of customers and friends at Micawber's.

Despite having to work late, take out the trash, and hoping the computer doesn't crash and delay my trip home, I've come to appreciate the nightly ebb and flow of our neighborhood and evening bookselling, in general.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Girl Who Played With Fire (again)

I just finished the book. I have only three things to say:

1. The book ended with a big cliff-hanger. (Not uncommon for middle books of a trilogy.)

2. I simply can not wait a whole year for Book #3: THE GIRL WHO KICKED THE HORNETS' NEST. (I may have to order a copy from England. Or beg the publisher for an Advance Reader copy now!)

3. I am feeling sad that Stieg Larsson died. I would have enjoyed reading a lot more of his work.

That's it. I fear if I say anything else I will have said too much.

Read it.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Everything For A Dog

Last night I met with my Book Club. We are three friends (Jenny, Wendy and me) and have been meeting monthly to discuss books for over 10 years. This month we read EVERYTHING FOR A DOG, the forthcoming middle grade novel by Ann M. Martin. Last year, we read A DOG'S LIFE, also by Martin, and loved it. So, we wanted to read the companion book, which comes out in September 2009 from Feiwel and Friends.

EVERYTHING FOR A DOG follows the journey of Bone, brother of Squirrel, the main character in A DOG'S LIFE. Bone and Squirrel are dogs. They begin life in a garden shed. Then, one day, when their mother does not return, they set off together. Soon, they are separated and do not meet again. Squirrel's tale is told from a first-person(dog) perspective in A DOG'S LIFE. And, boy, does Martin nail Squirrel's perspective!

Jenny, Wendy and I all agree that Ann M. Martin's greatest strength is her ability to think (and write) like a dog. She doesn't place human emotions and sensibilities onto her dog characters. Rather, she excellently channels her "inner-dog" to create a very real, very believable doggie perspective. It's actually quite extraordinary.

I met Ann Martin once at a school reading event. She showed slides of her pets, including her beloved dog. Anyone who meets her (or reads her books) can tell she knows and loves dogs. As a dog-owner and lover myself, I can really relate to her characters - both dog and human.

EVERYTHING FOR A DOG is Bone's story, but is also the story of two boys who love dogs. It's told in three parts - Bone, Charlie, and Henry. Bone tells his part in first-person. Charlie's story is told in 3rd person, present tense. Henry's is 3rd person, past tense. This might seem confusing, but as you read it, it all flows together. In fact, Jenny and Wendy didn't even notice the point of view shifts.

At Book Club, we all enjoyed reading EVERYTHING FOR A DOG. Ann Martin's inclusion of the two central human characters provides an even deeper understanding of the world of dogs and the people who love them. The three different narrative strains come together seamlessly in the end. And the end is very satisfying.

The only negative comment we had at Book Club was that it took awhile to get to the "new" material. The first couple Bone chapters feel too repetitive of the first book, A DOG'S LIFE. We wanted a quicker summary of the first book's events so we could move to Bone's new story more quickly.

Overall, EVERYTHING FOR A DOG is an excellent read for dog lovers of any age. If you are an adult and love dogs, you need to read this book. Just because it's labeled "for kids," don't shy away. Our Book Club agreed EVERYTHING FOR A DOG was a good read for any age.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Girl Who Played With Fire

OK, I'm on a Stieg Larsson kick right now. I just started THE GIRL WHO PLAYED WITH FIRE last night and had to blog right away. It's so good already (and I'm only on page 56). Lisbeth Salander is kicking butt already. And a certain heinous minor character from the last book has reared his ugly head. I hope Salander kicks his butt good this time. But, I'm a little worried. He's digging up information on her.

As in THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO, Larsson does not shy away from the grittier topics. Something really horrible happened to Salander when she was young. You get a glimpse right away in the prologue. But the full extent is not known yet. And I feel a little sick about it. I don't want to know what it is. Yet, I need to know what it is. And the #@&%@!! who did it (whatever it is) will need to suffer greatly by the end of the book. (Or at least by the end of the series.)

By the way, the last book in the trilogy now has a title. It will be called THE GIRL WHO KICKED THE HORNET'S NEST. Seems appropriate. Pub date still to be announced.

A while back in my neighborhood, there was a creepy guy driving around asking girls for directions and then flashing them. Everyone was in an uproar, rightly so. I remember talking to a group of kids one day and saying, "I hope that guy tries something when I'm around." The kids were astonished. I responded, "That guy's worst nightmare would be a pack of moms!"

I was definitely channeling my "Inner-Salander" that day. It surfaces, whenever kids are put in potential danger. I can completely relate to some of her impulses. Others impulses, not so much. She is an awesome character and I can't wait to see what she does next.

I'd better go - gotta read! Oh, and by the way, the creep in the car did get caught. I heard through the grape vine that when he called his wife from jail, all she said was, "Not again." Sometimes real life is as strange as fiction.

Monday, July 20, 2009


While on vacation last week, I had the pleasure of reading an advance copy of FIRE by Kristin Cashore. This Young Adult novel is a companion book to GRACELING, which came out last year. I loved GRACELING so I was very eager to read FIRE. Cashore did not disappoint.

I immensely enjoy the world Cashore has created. It is medieval-like with castles, long bows and horses to ride. Her female characters (in both books) are very unique, yet believable. They both struggle with immense power. They also have weaknesses. In the end, both lead female characters have to come to terms with who they are and how they use their power.

Fire, the main character in FIRE, is called a "Monster" and can control people's minds. Her main struggle is how to use (or not use) her ability. I love the description of Fire and wish I could see her "in real life."

Another hallmark of Cashore's two novels is the romantic tension. The developing relationship between Fire and Prince Brigan is intense and believable. Cashore does not shy away from sex (although it's not explicit), so her books are definitely for the teen (and up) reader.

There is only one character that is in both novels. GRACELING and FIRE are companion books set in the same world, but you don't need to read one before the other. The only thing I will say about the one common character is that I intensely hate him. This, of course, means that Cashore has done an excellent job creating him.

I highly recommend both GRACELING and FIRE for any teen and older reader who enjoys medieval type fantasy with unique characters and strong female leads. Both books are well worth the read!

(FIRE comes out October 5, 2009. GRACELING comes out in paperback September 7, 2009.)

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Girl With The Dragon Tattoo

I have finally come up for air. I finished THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO this afternoon. It is good. Very good!

Larsson has created an intriguing, smart, gritty mystery that is almost impossible to put down. Once I started, I couldn't stop. I had to know what was going to happen. My family and I are on vacation. I think they were starting to wonder if I would ever join them in activities.

I'm in northern Minnesota, almost to Canada. Today is a bit dreary. We are one of very few people on this lake. We are surrounded by woods and water. Basically, the environment around me is about as Swedish as you can get in the continental United States. The perfect setting to read THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO.

I wish Larsson was alive today. I wish I could ask him some questions. (I have many.) The best I can do is dive into the second book, THE GIRL WHO PLAYED WITH FIRE. Which, luckily for me, comes out very soon.

If you enjoy a well-written, intelligent mystery that does not shy away from tough topics, this is the book you must read. For added affect, you might want to go to a Boreal forest and wait for rain. The experience will be very satisfying.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Vacation Reading

I'm headed up north to a cabin for a week. (In Minnesota, this is what you do in summer.) And, of course, I'm bringing a load of books with me to read. Two books are on the top of my pile.

THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO, by Stieg Larsson. The paperback just came out and has been flying off the shelves at Micawber's. Tom read the galley long ago and loved it. He has been talking it up ever since. I started the first few pages to get a feel for it. And I can tell it's going to be good. The only thing that made me stop was the fact that once I really get into it (Tom warns) I won't be able to put it down. So, I'm waiting till I get up north and find a comfy chair.

It's a mystery set in Larsson's native Sweden. But don't let any ideas about stoic northerners worry you. This is a thriller, not a "cozy" as we say. It's definitely on the gritty side and very smart. Larsson died shortly after delivering the trilogy of manuscripts. According to his bio, Larsson was a "leading expert on antidemocratic right-wing extremist and Nazi organizations." It makes me wonder how he really died.

For those of you who have already read Larsson's book and are eager for #2. Your wait will be short-lived. THE GIRL WHO PLAYED WITH FIRE comes out July 28.

The second book on my pile is a YA novel, FIRE, by Kristin Cashore. I mentioned it in my Fall Novel blog but it's worth mentioning again. I loved GRACELING, Cashore's first novel and I recommend it to every 14 + girl who walks through our doors. FIRE is a prequel set in the same universe as GRACELING with one common character. I can only guess who it is. But I'm thinking it might be the "bad guy" from GRACELING.

For those of you who want to check out GRACELING, it comes out in paperback this September. But if you just can't wait, we still have a couple hardcover copies at the store. FIRE will be officially released on October 5, 2009. But I'm going to read it now. Ahhh, the pleasures of working at a bookstore and getting to read the books early!

Whatever is on your stack of Vacation Reading, have fun and don't forget your sunscreen.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

4th of July Fun

Yesterday was one of the rare days that Micawber's is closed. It was the 4th of July and time for the annual parade and festivities in the St. Anthony Park neighborhood.

Every year, the celebration begins with the parade at 11:00 am. Some of the groups taking part in the parade this year included:

• The Boy and Girl Scouts
• The residents of the local nursing home (being pushed in their wheelchairs)
• The Neighbors for Peace
• The Anaphylaxis and Food Allergy Association
• Our local dentists
• The school band and orchestra kids
• The State Fair Gophers
• Some slightly frightening clowns
• Chris Coleman, our mayor
• Senator, Ellen Anderson
• The Library Association
• & some guys in kilts bringing up the rear with bagpipes.

Then everyone heads down to Langford park for picnics, music, readings from the patriotic essay winners, games, pony rides, and more.

This year, I sat with family and friends under the big pine trees in the park. We had a picnic and then broke out the cards and poker chips. We played 5 card draw and commented on our close proximity to the fragrant ponies. When the sky opened up and rain poured down, it was time to go. But, what a fun day!

If you have never been to St. Anthony Park on the 4th of July, I highly recommend you come sometime. It's like a small town celebration in the middle of the city. Apparently it's the only parade in St. Paul. And maybe next year Micawber's will have a float in the parade. I mean hey, if the Seed Art people can be in the parade, so can we. (I'll just have to convince Tom, Hans and Karen that it's a good idea.)

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

New Fall Novels

Even though it's the beginning of summer - not even July yet - we at Micawber's are buying our fall books from publishers. As we prop open the door to welcome visitors, we are thinking about what will sell as the leaves turn color and, later, when snow covers the branches.

It's exciting to see all the children's publishers' fall catalogs. They traditionally pull out some big books for this season, and it's no surprise. Fall leads into the holiday season, which is the biggest selling season for independent book stores like Micawber's.

I have been getting my ARCs in the mail. These Advance Reader Copies are what everyone will see on the shelves come September and October. Right now, I'm particularly excited about these four new novels:

Fire by Kristin Cashore (Dial - Oct. 2009)
This is a prequel (of sorts) to Cashore's earlier, spectacular novel Graceling (which comes out in paperback this fall.) You don't have to read one first because they can stand alone. But, I bet once you read one, you'll want to read the other, and fast!

Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl (Little, Brown - Dec. 2009)
I'll just say it's set in the South, it involves a boy, a new girl, a curse, and some very interesting family members. I read it and I predict it's going to be BIG this fall!

The Maze Runner by James Dashner (Delacorte - Oct. 2009)
When the book rep sold me this book, she said it gave her the same feeling she had when she first read The Book Thief. Not because of similar subject matter, but because of the magnitude and quality of the book. Author, Dashner, has described The Maze Runner as a modern Lord of the Flies. It promises to be a very compelling read!

The Blue Shoe by Roderick Townley (Knopf - Oct. 2009)
I admit, I love this book already just because of the subtitle and artwork. And seriously, what's not to love about Mary GrandPre's art and a subtile that reads "A Tale of Thievery, Villainy, Sorcery, and Shoes." Plus, the first printing will be in BLUE ink! Bring it on!

That's it for now, but look for more news soon on great fall picture books!

Friday, June 19, 2009


It's summertime in Minnesota. Finally. Of course, when summer actually shows up, it arrives full steam ahead. And I mean steam! It's been humid lately. Maybe in comparison to say, the Rain Forest, it's not so bad. But, 80's and humid feels pretty darn hot.

At the store, we have two air conditioners, but I hate window air conditioners. It always feels closed in and stuffy. (I get enough of that all winter.) I want the windows and doors wide open! Let in that air, even if it comes with a little wetness. It reminds us that we are alive. We can sweat! We can feel heat. Our skin contains moisture. No need for hand lotion for at least a couple months. So what if we need 2 showers a day to cool off. This is good! I know there are people who disagree with me, but when you have 7 months of winter, a little heat feels good. Enjoy it people. It won't last long.

My parents live "Up North" in Minnesota, almost in Canada, all year round. My father likes to say, "We have two seasons up here. Winter and Winter's Coming." Laugh all you want, but it's too close for my comfort.

So, what does a Minnesotan do on a long, hot summer day? Find a good spot in the shade, with a beverage of your choice and READ! Right now I'm reading ANIMAL, VEGETABLE, MIRACLE by Barbara Kingsolver. It's a very good read. And inspiring. I feel the urge to shop at the Farmer's Market and raise chickens in my backyard. I kid you not. Ask my poor husband. Every spring, I get a hankerin for some live furry or feathery thing. A couple years ago, it was for chickens. Cute, colorful, pet-like (I hear) and dang!, you get fresh eggs every day! But, still there are no chickens in my backyard. My husband REALLY didn't go for the idea. The main reason - chicken poop. He is such an urbanite. So, I have settled for my own little garden. It's nowhere the size of Barbara's, but it should produce some produce. By the end of the summer, I'll be eating a big, yummy salad from my own garden while reading under a tree. Ahhhh, summer.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Books and Baseball

Last Sunday I had a fun opportunity - I read my book at a Saint Paul Saints baseball game! The Saints have a program called The Reading Tree that happens at Sunday home games. A local children's author reads from his or her book and a ball player talks about the importance of reading. It's an all around good thing.

Sunday was a double header because of a rain out the night before. So the plan was for me to read between the games. We got there half way through the first game. If you haven't been to a Saints game, you really need to go sometime. In addition to a great game (Saints won) we also had fun watching Mudonna the mascot, the Nerd, Press Guy, the Lumberjack and of course, Slumhog Millionaire, the little pig who brings out balls to the umpire between innings. It was a lot of fun, if a little cloudy and cold that day.

When the game was almost over, I was led down to the field. It was fun to hear the announcer tell the crowd that Dara Dokas, a local children's author, was going to be reading her book, Muriel's Sweater. (Somehow "Red" was dropped from the title.) But he pronounced my name correctly!

We walked out onto the field and a small crowd of kids and parents followed. A ball player, Andrew Bennett, joined us. Andrew and I sat on chairs and I read my book. Then Andrew talked about why reading is important. He also said his favorite book growing up was The Lord of the Rings. And he said he has a lot of time to read on the team bus. Muriel, the duck puppet, made an appearance and then Andrew signed baseballs.

I know the kids were really there for the ball player, but hey, it was fun to read my book and see the game (for free). Plus, I got to meet Slumhog Millionaire (aka Freckles) the pig!

Thursday, May 7, 2009

John Coy at Micawbers

This Saturday, May 9 at 1:00 pm, John Coy will be visiting Micawber's Books.  John Coy is the author of many books for children.  His newest book is a Middle Grade novel titled TOP OF THE ORDER.  It's a book about baseball and friendship.  John will be reading from TOP OF THE ORDER on Saturday.

John will also read from one of his picture books, TWO OLD POTATOES AND ME.  This book is now out in paperback and is a great one for the season.  A father and daughter plant some old, seemingly useless, potatoes.  But old potatoes with eyes and sprouts turn into new, delicious potatoes.  John does a great job reading this book with kids.

Come by the store if you can this Saturday.  You can meet John Coy, enjoy some treats and take home a surprise spring-time gift.  I won't tell you what the gift is.  You'll have to come and find out.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

The Birds and the Bees

I was recently reminded that "love" is in the air each spring.   This led me to think about those sometimes awkward conversations with our children about "the birds and the bees."  To help parents discuss sex and where babies come from, there are a couple books I highly recommend.

It's So Amazing!  A Book about Eggs, Sperm, Birth, Babies and Families by Robie Harris is a great, straight-forward book (with touches of humor) about where babies come from.  The pictures are realistic cartoons.  The discussion is very open, but geared for younger kids.  This book is good for ages 7 and up.

It's Perfectly Normal:  Changing Bodies, Growing Up, Sex and Sexual Health by Robie Harris is a good book for the next stage in the parent-child sex discussions.  The books says it's for ages 10 and up, but I recommend it for ages 12 and up.  Every child is different (as is every family) so you may want to check it out first.  Once again the pictures are realistic cartoon drawings.  The topics are important ones for middle school/junior high age kids.  It deals with topics such as sexual orientation, pregnancy, sexually transmitted diseases and sexual abuse.

If having "the talk" gives you cold sweats of fear, or if your child thinks talking with you about this stuff is "sooo embarrassing!" you might want to try getting the book and casually leaving it somewhere like in the bathroom.  That's what I did with It's So Amazing! and I notice that it's getting read.  This, of course, doesn't take the place of "the talk" but it might help initiate a good discussion or two.

On a related topic, as our children grow up they need good information about personal hygiene and their changing bodies.  I highly recommend that every parent get their girl a copy of The Care and Keeping of You by the American Girl Library.  It's a wonderful book that deals with taking care of a girl's body from brushing her teeth to her first bra and getting her period.  It is excellent information for girls ages 9-12.

That's it for my growing-up round-up.   Hopefully, when your child next asks a tricky question, you can confidently reach for one of these books and say, "Well, I'm glad you asked."

Friday, April 24, 2009

Spring Fever

Spring has sprung and I have a bad case of Spring Fever.  That's my excuse for not blogging for the past two weeks.  So, here is a round-up of the goings-ons as of late.  And there has been a lot of goings-ons.

•  On Saturday, April 11, Micawber's hosted children's author Laura Purdie Salas as our April "Second Saturdays" special guest.  Laura read from her new picture book, STAMPEDE! Poems to Celebrate the Wild Side of School.  A small, but enthusiastic group enjoyed her poems as well as the fun animal activities that followed.  Kids measured how long their "wing span" was in comparison to flamingoes and flying foxes.  Kids also measured how far they could leap.  (In case you were wondering, I can jump as far as a squirrel.)

•  On Thursday, April 16 the four Micawber's booksellers held a Book Chat.  Periodically we invite people to come listen to us talk about our most recent favorite books.  The three books I talked about were The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman, Mudville by Kurtis Scaletta and Katie Loves the Kittens, by John Himmelman.  If you haven't read any of these books, RUN to your local bookstore (or library) and give them a look.  The Graveyard Book and Mudville are novels for kids (and adults!) and Katie Loves the Kittens is a very cute and funny picture book about Katie (a dog) and the new kittens in her life.

•  Speaking of dogs, my family now has a second dog.  Apparently I thought we didn't have enough to do!  Lily, a 3 year-old Shih-Tzu, has joined Lucia, our 11 year-old Wheaten Terrier, Cheech, our crazy cat, and Otter, our rabbit as official pets in the Dokas household.  I admit, last week I told Paul (my husband) that we may have crossed the line into ONE PET TOO MANY land. Like I said, I have Spring Fever and that includes little, furry, new babies.  AKA a new dog.

• Last but not least, Laura Pudie Salas and I have been doing book talks together called Animal Antics.  It has been a lot of fun!  It is also a lot of work - we have four Animal Antics this week alone!  One was pretty much a disaster (not because of us) and the others have gone very well. Today we are off to the Saint Anthony Park Library to do story time.  And tomorrow, Saturday April 25 we will be doing Animal Antics at the Como Zoo.  Come by at 12:30 if you want to catch our "show."

That's all for now.  Enjoy the Spring weather.  I know I am!

Thursday, April 2, 2009

The Smell of Books

I have a very keen sense of smell.  I always have.  It can be a blessing and a curse, as you can imagine.  But, in relationship to my work, it has been a delight.  From day one, I have loved the smell of Micawber's.  Is it the old floors?  The ancient shelves? Is it all the books?  Most likely it's some wonderful combination of all these things and more.

Every day, especially first thing in the morning, I love to open the front door and breathe in the smell of the place.  I thought I was the only one who had this special olfactory relationship with the store.  But I was wrong.

Just this week, two people commented on the smell of Micawber's.  A customer entered the store, breathed deep and sighed, "I love to come here.  It smells so good."  And later, my daughter told me she loves how Micawber's smells.  I was amazed.  Perhaps my sniffer isn't so unique after all.  Or perhaps it's the power of all those books.

Have you ever opened up a brand new book, buried your nose in the crease and breathed deep? I bet you have.  It's a great smell.  Now imagine a whole bunch of those new books in a store that knows about books, that's old with books.  That's what makes the smell of Micawber's so appealing.  No Kindle 2 will ever smell as good.

So next time you're in the neighborhood, stop by for a smell.  You'll be glad you did.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Fan Mail

Yippee Skippee!  I got my first ever Fan Mail this week!  Granted, it was clearly an "assignment" given by a teacher.  But, none-the-less, it was still Fan Mail.

Last Sunday I did an author event at The Red Balloon bookstore in St. Paul.  It was a lot of fun. While I was there, I was given a packet of letters from the students of St. Paul Open School.  I used to work at St. Paul Open School many years ago as an English and drama teacher.  The elementary students at Open School recently read my book, MURIEL'S RED SWEATER, and then wrote to me about the book.

Here are a few of my favorite letters:

"Dear Dara,
Thank you for letting us read the book you wrote.  My favorite part was everything.  Love, R."  
(This letter included a big picture of a duck wearing a red sweater.)

"Dear Dara Dokas,
Thank you for the book.  It was funny when she was unraveled.  I can't believe I'm writing to a writer and really going to send it.  Sincerely, your friend, K."

"Dear Dara Dokas,
We read your book.  We was so happy because we like your book.  Best Friend Forever, S."

"Dear Dara,
I love your book and the pictures are so funny.  When I look at the pictures they make me laugh.  Thank you.  P."

"Dear Dara Dokas,
I really like your book: MURIEL'S RED SWEATER! By C."
(The picture at the bottom shows a big, happy sun and two people.  Over one person it says "me" and over the other it says "you.")

I could go on and on.  The letters were so sweet.  I'm writing a note back to the students at Open School to tell them how much I enjoyed their letters.  And I hope in school, they can write and illustrate books of their own!

It's at times like these when I feel so lucky to be a children's writer.  It can't get much better than that.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Mud & Baseball

I just finished, MUDVILLE, a debut young adult novel by local author Kurtis Scaletta.  And it was great!  I have to admit, it took me a little while to pick up the book because I thought - It's about baseball and I don't really care all that much about baseball.  And you know what?  It is about baseball, but it's more importantly about character.

The main character, Roy, and his father live in Moundville, where it has been raining constantly for the last 22 years, ever since Moundville played baseball against rival town Sinister Bend. Now, Roy comes home from baseball camp (in a sunny town) to find a boy about his age sitting on his couch.  It's Sturgis, a lanky boy with scars and a prosthetic ear.  And he's staying!

Will it ever stop raining?  Will they ever play ball again in Moundville?  What happened to the people of Sinister Bend? And who the heck is Sturgis?  I won't say anymore, except read the book to find out what happens.  You won't be disappointed.

And if you'd like to meet the author, Kurtis will be at Micawber's this Saturday, March 14 at 1:00 pm.  Come by to hear him read from MUDVILLE, meet "Chuck" the baseball-loving puppet, and eat some baseball-related treats.  Can you ask for anything more?

P.S.  Kurtis loves cats.  In this photo, one of his many cats is chewing on his manuscript!

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Radiator Blues

March is a goofy month for weather in Minnesota.  Some days feel so warm and sunny that I'm convinced Spring is just around the corner.  Then we get nailed with a huge snow storm.  I have to remind myself that March is still WINTER!  In fact, statistically, March is the snowiest month in Minnesota.  I'm seriously hoping that will not be the case this year.

Today, though,  is beautiful - warm(ish) and sunny.  With lots of windows in the store, it's nice to look out and see the sun.  It's also nice to see people walking by without falling down (which has happened several times this Winter!)  But with the changing weather, comes an internal store conundrum.  The radiators.

I can't say for sure, but I'm convinced that the building owners (who will remain nameless) decided to turn down the heat to save money.  This works fine on those nice March days I was talking about.  But on the cold, snowy days - not so much!

So now I have the Radiator Blues.  Some days at work it's so cold, I have to put my coat back on.  We call the "powers that be" and sometimes the radiators begin to creak back to life.  But other days, they just stand there like frozen behemoths, good for nothing except collecting dust.

The other day a book rep came to sell us books.  He is a good friend and knows our store well. He arrived that chilly day with several layers and never took off his coat.  He said, "I changed into warmer clothes when I remembered I was going to Micawber's today."  Nice.

Even the customers notice from time to time.  Luckily, not very often.  So, what can a cold bookseller do?  Do what my mother always told me.  Dress in layers.  And I mean layers.  At least 3 or 4 to be safe.

So, if you're in the neighborhood, come on in.  We have comfy chairs and lots of great books. Just remember to wear your jacket.

Here are some late-winter children's book recommendations:

Snow! by Cynthia Rylant, illustrated by Lauren Stringer
Snow Day by Komako Sakai
The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats
Hooray for Snow! by Kazuo Iwamura

And for those of you (like me) who can't wait for Spring:

Fletcher and the Springtime Blossoms by Julia Rawlinson and Tiphanie Beeke

Take care and cozy up with a good book!

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Nancy Carlson visits Micawber's

Last Saturday, Nancy Carlson was the featured children's author/illustrator at Micawber's for our "Second Saturdays" series.  Carlson has written and illustrated many books for children and is currently working on her 60th book!  Some of her best known books include, I Like Me! and Look Out Kindergarten, Here I Come!  Nancy's characters are well-loved.  Characters like Henry the mouse, Harriet the dog, and Louanne Pig are beloved by many.  Her characters go through familiar ups and downs of being a child from starting school, being the new kid, and trying out for the team.

Carlson says, "All my characters are based on someone I know."  When asked which character is her favorite, she can't decide.  "But Harriet is most like me," she replies.   Harriet is also the first character she created.

On Saturday, Nancy read two books about Henry the mouse:  Henry and the Valentine Surprise and Henry's Amazing Imagination!  She also read her brand new book, Think Happy!, (which is technically not even out yet, but which we had several copies of anyway.)  Of all her recent books, Carlson says she is most proud of Think Happy! because of the great message and also because of the perseverance it took to get it published.

I would have guessed that almost everything Nancy Carlson writes and illustrates would get published.  But that is not necessarily the case.  Carlson says that she publishes about 20% of what she works on each year.  Luckily for all of us, she is very dedicated to her work so we can continue to enjoy her books for many years to come!

Thursday, February 12, 2009

The Book is Launched

Muriel's Red Sweater is officially launched!  We had the publication party last Saturday at Micawber's and it was a lot of fun.  There were balloons and cake.  I read the book and Muriel, the duck puppet, visited everyone.  Many people came to help celebrate.  Thanks to everyone who could make it.  I really appreciate it.

I have to admit, at 15 minutes to 2:00, there were only my husband, daughter and about two other people there.  I began to worry that no one else would come.  But right at 2:00 pm, the doors opened and people flooded in.   There ended up being about 60 people or so at the event, which was wonderful!

I had so much fun welcoming Muriel into the world, with the help of so many of my friends. What a great day!  By the end of it all, I was pretty tired.  In fact, I went to bed at 8:00 pm that night!

So, now it's been exactly a week since Muriel's release.  At the store we've sold 54 copies at last count.  Do I check each day I work?  You bet!  Also, last night on Amazon, Muriel's Red Sweater was the #44 best selling book!  OK, OK.  I must clarify.  It was #44 in the sub-category of "Ducks and Other Waterfowl" under "Animals" under "Children's Books" under "Books."  It was number 100,000 something overall.  But I was pretty happy!

I just checked again, and it's currently #79 in "Ducks and Other Waterfowl." And 200,000 something overall.  I had better get cracking with my global-marketing campaign!  Amazon updates their ranking every hour.  If I was a little more OCD, I'd be checking every hour.  Since I'm not, I'll only check once (or twice or three times max) each day.

But in all seriousness, I am very happy with how the release and launch of Muriel's Red Sweater has gone.  And what better thing to celebrate during a dreary February then a new, fun children's book in the world?  I can't think of a thing.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Muriel's Red Sweater

Tomorrow is the official release date for Muriel's Red Sweater!  I am very excited about the publication of my second picture book.  It feels like a very long time in coming for my book "baby."  And it has been.

Many years ago, I woke up in the middle of the night with an idea for this book.  I already knew I wanted to write a "circle story" where the main character starts and ends in the same physical place but with some big change. But I didn't know what the story would be.  It was my dream that got me started.  I dreamt about a duck who was so distracted that she didn't notice her sweater unraveling as she ran around town.  That was the beginning.

Now, many years (and many revisions) later, Muriel - that original duck - is finally appearing in the world.  And we are going to help her celebrate!  There will be a publication party at Micawber's this Saturday, February 7 at 2:00 pm to kick off the book's release.

I am pleased to say that Muriel's Red Sweater has already gotten some good attention.  Kirkus Review wrote, "Dokas provides a mystery for the youngest set to unravel . . . (it is) a pleasure for honing observation skills."

If you like a good picture book mystery, check it out!  It's a fun, colorful, detailed book that I believe kids (and adults) will enjoy reading over and over.  Hooray!

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Caldecott Kudos

The big news this week is the announcement by the ALA (American Library Association) of the 2009 Caldecott and Newberry Medal winners.

Drum roll please ......... The winner of the 2009 Caldecott Medal is THE HOUSE IN THE NIGHT by Susan Marie Swanson and illustrated by Beth Krommes.  The Caldecott announcement is always big news, but this year it's especially exciting because Susan Marie Swanson is one of "our own."  Susan Marie lives two blocks from Micawber's and is a frequent customer.  Not only is she Minnesotan, but a neighborhood gal too.  Hooray for Susan Marie Swanson!

Susan Marie's husband stopped into the store yesterday.  He said how happy they were and how the phone was ringing off the hook.  But I don't think he understands yet how dramatically their life is about to change.  For one thing, THE HOUSE IN THE NIGHT is currently (as of this hour) ranked # 37 on Amazon for all books and is in the #1 spot for Picture Books.  This is HUGE!  Do you know how many books are on Amazon?  Well, it's a lot.  And to be ranked in the top 50 is amazing!

So, Susan Marie Swanson from down the street, is about to become a very well-known person in the writing world.  And did I mention that her book is great?  It totally deserves the award. Beth Krommes scratch art is wonderful.  Another book that I love that Beth illustrated is called GRANDMOTHER WINTER by Phyllis Root (also a Minnesotan).  You should buy both of these books.  You will not be disappointed.

And by the way, the 2009 Newberry Medal went to Neil Gaiman for THE GRAVEYARD BOOK. Gaiman is also a "local" author.  He lives just across the border in Wisconsin.  Yea for Neil Gaiman who also totally deserves this medal!

I once heard an editor from New York say, "There must be something in the water up there because there are so many good writers."  I have to agree.  But I don't think it's the water.  I think it's the winter.  But, that's another blog altogether.  Bye for now and happy reading!

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Hello From Florida

I'm writing today from sunny Florida!  My daughter and I are down here for the week taking a break from sub-zero temperatures.  But before you start thinking we are lounging pool side or wading in the Gulf, let me tell you a few things.  It is COLD here in Florida this week.  I know cold is all very relative.  In comparison to Minnesota, it's practically balmy at 50 degrees.  But gimme a break, 50 degrees in Florida!

January is a great month for discounts and fewer tourists, but there's no guarantee the weather will be in the 70's and 80's.  Go in March if you want to be sure.  But, despite the relative coolness, Juliana and I are having a great time.  Monday we went to the Ringling Museum and estate.  We had the uber-tour of the entire Ringling Mansion and it was amazing!  Also, on the veranda we saw a famous person being protected by four, foreign-speaking body guards.  The "person-in-need-of-protecting" was a very tall, beautiful blond woman with her two little blond boys.  I did not catch enough of the conversation to figure out what language they were speaking and when I ventured closer for a better listen, one of the body guards gave me a serious stare-down.  I backed off.   So, we probably saw a princess of some northern European country, but I can't say for sure.  

Yesterday, we went for a freezing tour of the Myakka State Park.  We did not see a single alligator because it was too dang cold.  They were all deep in the water trying to stay warm. We did see many birds including Osprey, Egrets, Great Blue Herons and Black Vultures.  The park's wild pigs and bobcats were also in hiding that day.

We'll be here till Saturday and the weather report is promising.  It should be 70 by Friday.  So, we may get one day by the pool or on the beach.  Only time will tell.  Until next week, Adieu. And stay warm!

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

It's Cold Outside!

It is very, very cold here in Minnesota this week.  Tonight it will be 20 below zero.  And that's not even with wind chill.  All week it's been below zero most of the day. This is bad news for several reasons.  Micawber's, as you know, is an old, wonderful shop.  But, those ancient radiators just aren't up for the job on days like today. In other words, it's COLD in the store. 

Today, a customer brought in four of those instant hand warmer things that you put in your boots while skiing or in your pockets at football games.  Well, I cracked one of those babies open and had it in my pocket all day long.  I think the customer brought them in as a joke, but not really.  You know it's bad when customers not only leave their coats on but their hats and mittens too.

Another negative aspect of this super-cold weather is the fact that my dog, Lucia, refuses to go pee outside.  She doesn't want to put her little tushy down near the cold snow.  So, she holds it and holds it.  Luckily, she does not pee in the house, but I'm sure she's going to develop a bladder infection one of these cold days.  When I finally get her outside, we walk around and around in the freezing cold.  She starts walking on three legs and limping.  It's truly pitiful.  I try to explain to her that the quicker she goes, the quicker she gets back into the nice, warm house. But for some reason, she doesn't seem to get this logic. 

Speaking of Lucia, my dog made a guest appearance at our "Second Saturday" children's book event last Saturday at the store.  Children's author & illustrator, David LaRochelle, was at Micawber's reading his great book, THE BEST PET OF ALL.  The theme of the day was "pets" so Lucia was our representative pet.  She graciously let the children brush her and pet her and give her treats.  (I'm sure the treat-eating part was very difficult for her.)  The event was a success.  David did a wonderful job speaking to the group and he illustrated a "castle story" right on the spot with the kids.  It was a lot of fun!

Next Wednesday, I'll be writing from someplace warm and sunny.  No, not in my imagination. My daughter and I are running away to Florida for a week.  I need to thaw out a bit before I can face the rest of winter.  So, as long as I can find WiFi somewhere, there will be a blog post.

Parting thought - stay warm, people.  It's cold outside!

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

It's a New Year!

Whew!  It's January and I survived my first "holiday season" at the bookstore.  December was quite a rush - of activity and excitement.  I am happy to report that people still bought books as gifts.  The way I figure it, in this economy, people still wanted to give some kind of gift to loved ones.  The book lovers will always buy books.  But perhaps this year some of the former "big-screen TV purchasers" opted for a good book instead.  Whatever the reason, we were kept busy at Micawber's in December and I am happy for it.

Now we are into January and the pace of things has slowed down.  After any rushed, exciting time, it's nice to have a little quiet time to regroup.  So, I too will regroup.  I have been quite lax in my blogging as of late.  For that, I apologize.  With any new year comes New Year's Resolutions.  So here is my online resolution.  In addition to cutting back on caffeine, exercising more, and watching fewer episodes of Law & Order, I resolve to be a consistent blogger.  I will blog every week on Wednesday.  (And if I have a little something extra to say, I'll add it on another day.)  So, let the New Year Begin!

This Saturday at Micawber's is the second installment of our "Second Saturdays" children's book event series that I created for the bookstore.  Each "Second Saturday" has a theme and features a children's author &/or illustrator.  This Saturday, January 10 has a "Pets" theme. David LaRochelle will read from his award-winning book, The Best Pet of All.  He will also lead the group in creating an original "Castle Story."  I have seen him do this activity and it is great!  In addition, we'll have treats and a special guest appearance by my dog, Lucia.  Lucia will be our representative "pet" and will graciously allow all the little kids to brush, pet and hug her. That reminds me that I need to make a grooming appointment for Lucia this week.  (She smells BAD!  We don't want to scare the little children away.)

On the writing front, I have News - News - News!

The publication of my picture book, Muriel's Red Sweater, is fast approaching.  The big day is February 5, 2009!  That's less than a month.  Yikes!  My writing friend, Laura Purdie Salas, and I got together today to work on marketing ideas for our upcoming books.  Laura's picture book, Stampede, comes out April 10, 2009.  In addition to hatching plans for our individual books, we have been brainstorming ways to promote our books together.  Working together on marketing and promotion over the last several months has been a great way to expand our ideas, be creative and have some fun while we're at it.  Look for future announcements on our upcoming book appearances together.

Have a great week and see you next Wednesday!