At today’s Children’s Book and Author Breakfast, two bookstores—Anderson’s Bookstore in Naperville, Ill., and Once Upon a Time in Montrose, Calif.—will receive this year’s WNBA Pannell Award. Cosponsored by the Women’s National Book Association and Penguin Young Readers Group, the award recognizes bookstores that enhance their communities by fostering a love of reading with exceptional creativity. Each bookstore receives a check for $1,000 and a piece of art from a children’s book illustrator. Donators of the art for this year’s award are Tom Lichtenheld and Dan Santat.
Anderson’s Bookshop’s is the recipient of the 2015 Pannell Award for a general bookstore. Among its many initiatives to connect kids with books are holding teacher open houses to introduce educators to recent releases, orchestrating author visits to the store and to schools, cosponsoring communitywide reading programs, establishing partnerships with local charities and nonprofit organizations, and hosting an annual Young Adult Literature Conference.
Becky Anderson, a fifth-generation owner of the bookstore (and, since her niece recently joined the bookstore roster, there’s a sixth generation in the mix), doesn’t hold back when asked about her reaction to winning the Pannell. “We are absolutely thrilled!” she says. “We have so much fun when it comes to children’s books, and winning this award makes us feel as though the industry is watching and recognizing what we do. It is so nice to have that affirmation.”
Anderson, who is in the process of opening a third retail store and was recently elected to the Naperville City Council, clearly has no shortage of energy or creativity. “My problem is that I have so many—maybe too many—ideas for things the store can do,” she says. “Luckily, we have so many brilliant booksellers at our stores willing to pitch in to think of ways to get outside of our four walls. As booksellers, we have to get out there and be loud, and scream from the highest mountaintop how very important books are to children.”
Once Upon a Time Bookstore is the 2015 Pannell Award recipient in the children’s specialty bookstore category. Award juror Cheryl Willis Hudson, v-p and editorial director of Just Us Books, was impressed by the store’s “great outreach and partnerships with publishers and schools.” Juror Roger Sutton, editor-in-chief, the Horn Book, commented that Once Upon a Time “maintains a diversity of programming that includes both the starry and homespun.”
Maureen Palacios, who owns the store with her husband, Jorge, is a tireless reading advocate through a variety of channels. The store, which has been in business for 48 years, sponsors or hosts a whirlwind schedule of events. During a single week earlier in May, reports Palacios, she and her staffers ran a three-day book fair at a local school, held an after-hours in-store book talk with 20 retired teachers, arranged for author Pam Muñoz Ryan to visit two schools and then welcomed her to the store for a large event, hosted registration for the region’s branch of the American Youth Soccer Organization, and ran a book talk for parents of toddlers.
The mother of two college-age daughters, Palacios is passionate about giving teens work opportunities at Once Upon a Time. “When you’re a small store—we have just 1,000 square feet—you don’t have a lot of full-time employees, and giving teenagers their first job and giving them a good, solid foundation before they go off into the world is very important to me,” she says. “We have four going off to four different colleges in the fall—and I offer them all small scholarships. This is another way that, as an independent bookseller, I can be a resource for our community.”