Saturday, May 17 marked the launch of Indies First Storytime Day. The date was selected to coincide with the 95th annual Children’s Book Week and to offer an opportunity to celebrate independent bookstores six months after the inaugural Indies First Day, the brainchild of Sherman Alexie, which was designed to bring authors into indies on the Saturday after Thanksgiving.
More than 125 independent bookstores from Maine to California held storytimes with hundreds of children’s authors. The hook was that children’s authors were encouraged to share the works of other writers. Event spokesperson Kate DiCamillo, the National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature and author of the 2014 Newbery-winning Flora & Ulysses, read one of Mo Willems’s Pigeon books at Chapter2Books in Hudson, Wis. “We were thrilled,” said store owner Sue Roegge, for whom the day’s crowd made a big difference. It helped new and old customers find her store after it was forced to move with just 30 days’ notice from its longtime location at the beginning of March.
The Berenstain Bears didn’t exactly read, but they did make an appearance at Book People of Moscow, Idaho, and hold up some of their favorite books, like Nine Words Max by Dan Bar-el, illustrated by David Huyck. Laryngitis forced Marissa Meyer, author of the Lunar Chronicles, to have her husband read for her at Teaching Toys and Books in Tacoma, Wash. He said that he wasn’t used to being in the limelight, but went on to read Sparky! by Jenny Offill, illustrated by Chris Appelhans, and a few other stories. “It was our first-ever author event,” said owner Melissa Tennille, adding, “we learned a lot from it.” She plans to do more now that the store’s inventory has changed from primarily toys to half books and toys.
Book Beat, just outside Detroit in Oak Park, Mich., tried to adopt as many of DiCamillo’s ideas for Indies First Storytime Day as possible. “In her letter she suggested that someone read the first chapter of The Watsons Go to Birmingham – 1963 by Christopher Paul Curtis,” the store posted on its blog. “And so, we invited him to read from that and he did!” To keep the Newbery Medalist company, Book Beat invited another 14 authors to spend the day at the store.
Although some stores didn’t see the attendance that they had anticipated, it was a good day at Diesel, A Bookstore, in Larkspur, Calif. “It was successful for us,” said co-owner John Evans, adding that sales were up in the store even more than he had projected. Book People of Moscow, Idaho, began its celebration earlier in the week with Ben Hatke’s Zita the Spacegirl book release party, which really paid off. “We had lots of kids dressed up as Zita and other characters from the series, and Ben was able to join us for a Skype [visit],” said manager Jesica DeHart. “We then had our regular Thursday and Friday story times– but with a ton more people since the Berenstain Bears were there. We had a family that drove an hour and a half each way to bring their child to meet the bears. Saturday was great, too. We love doing things like this and sales were great.”
Below: a sampling of photos from Indies First Storytime Day.