Can you tell us a bit about yourself and how you came to work at the Strand?
I was born a reader. A proud Oakland, Calif., native, I got a job at the local Borders when I was in college. It was a great way for me to familiarize myself with current children’s authors and series that were popular. So when I moved across the country and found a home at the Borders at Columbus Circle. Working in the children’s department there provided comfort while I lived in this unfamiliar city.
Strand was my first stop on my second day in New York. So when Borders closed, it was the first – truthfully the only – place I applied. It was incredibly lucky that I was able to secure a position in the children’s department, which was the largest I’d seen in any bookstore.
How long have you been working there? And what changes have you seen in the department?
Since my first day in August 2011, there’s been amazing store-wide cooperation in developing our department. The largest and most constant change is the growth of our inventory, which is always expanding as a result of both over-the-counter buying and frontlist ordering. This has been the most evident in our Young Adult section, which we’ve expanded to meet demand. We now include a signed, first edition Young Adult selection every month as part of our store-wide subscription club, and will be increasingly inviting Young Adult authors to do events with us.
Similarly, children’s comics, which barely existed when I started, is now its own world, beloved by parents and young readers alike. We’re seeing families open up to the idea of the graphic novel as an acceptable format for earlier readers, which has allowed us to increase our frontlist buying in that genre.
As a buyer at Strand, in what ways would you like to see the children’s department grow?
Carson Moss, our frontlist buyer, has done a terrific job of developing our department and has really put us on the map as a place where people know they can come and find titles ranging from the most recent New York Times Book Review selections to signed copies of a new title by a favorite local author.
Now that children’s buying is its own position, there is an opportunity to look closely at trends and develop sections that are in higher demand. We are lucky to have the best customers and staff in the world, and their input continues to be invaluable in ensuring we can provide the best selection.
I think the biggest area of growth for us this year will be in the development of our children’s events programming. With the help of Emily Simpson, our events coordinator, and Brianne Sperber, our marketing manager, our 2015 calendar is already growing to include a weekly storytime, monthly character visits, and author readings and signings.
What do you look for in kids' books as both a reader and as a buyer?
Strong female protagonists!
As a reader, I am a fan of layered, hand-drawn illustrations in picture books, and magical realism (if not straight-up fantasy) in novels. As a buyer, I will definitely be on the lookout for new Young Adult titles to sate the appetites of John Green and Rainbow Rowell fans. Picture books with new illustration styles, a narrative that respects the intelligence of its readers, and a strong sense of humor will also be something I will look out for.
How did you become interested in kids’ books?
As soon as I could read, being able to curate my own library was incredibly important to me. I read everything I could, from A Hole Is to Dig to Pippi Longstocking, Sherlock Holmes, and Doctor Dolittle. I returned to these books over and over, even as exposure to increasingly age-appropriate books sparked new passions and delights. The comfort in the reliability of favorite characters, the honesty with which children are communicated to by writers, and the genuine humor to be found in many good children’s books keep me excited about finding new material and sharing it with young readers.
Can you name three or four children’s books coming out later this year that you are particularly excited about?
2015 is going to be a massive year for kids and YA. Andrew Smith’s new title, The Alex Crow, is a dystopian thriller that weaves three very different narratives together: a refugee, a schizophrenic bomber, and the diary of an Arctic expedition gone awry. Wringer by Jerry Spinelli was a favorite in elementary school, and Grasshopper Jungle was so weird that I couldn’t help but love it. Although its release date has come and gone, Sharon Draper’s Stella by Starlight is the best thing I’ve read so far this year. Seeker, by newcomer Arwen Elys Dayton, features an incredible, badass heroine. (Arwen also signed copies for our First Editions club subscribers, that’s how much the store believes in her book.) Lumberjanes, a comic by Grace Ellis and Noelle Stevenson, featuring five ladies at a lumberjane summer camp who fight creatures of the supernatural variety, is awesome.