Points of Sale is an occasional column that shares bookselling tips and ideas from booksellers for booksellers.
Patrick McDonnell, Shel Silverstein, Shaun Tan, and Tasha Tudor are among the many children’s book authors whose work is shelved in the picture book section for adults at the Junkudo Bookstore Kobe Sannomiya in Kobe, Japan.
On a recent trip to Japan, PW children’s book reviewer Antonia Saxon, who lived in Japan for four years in the late ’80s and early ’90s, took a busman’s holiday and visited the 45,000 sq. ft. bookstore. What struck her when she rode the escalator up to the children’s area was the fact that the store gave “chilly books with fantastic illustrators” their own space specifically for adult readers. “I would translate the signage [for the section] as something like ‘adult-oriented picture books’ or ‘picture books meant for grownups,’” she said.
Saxon realized that the selected titles “had a graphic novel sensibility,” she added. “[The authors] are interested in visual storytelling, but the books aren’t necessarily told from the point of view of little children.” The books displayed include traditional picture books as well as some not necessarily regarded as picture books in the U.S. They range from Maurice Sendak’s My Brother’s Book to Patrick McDonnell’s The Gift of Nothing and Michio Mado’s The Magic Pocket: Selected Poems.
The Japanese superstore, which scaled back from five floors to four last year as part of a renovation that included wider aisles to accommodate strollers and the addition of child-sized tables and chairs, carries a wide array of products such as stationery and office furniture, as well as picture books meant to appeal to adults. Finding ways to highlight books and products for specific demographics is something that Saxon had observed on previous visits to Japan. “The Japanese are very good at drawing a bead on a particular age group, a particular sensibility,” she said.
As for Junkudo’s decision to create an adult picture book section, it certainly captured Saxon’s attention. As one bookseller told her, the impetus came about organically, “These are picture books we thought adults might be interested in.” To make sure that adults find the section, the store placed it between the regular children’s picture book section and beginning chapter books. Like other children’s books, picture books for adults are organized by age and alphabetically by author within each age group. Older, slower-moving titles are shelved by publisher.