It’s always thrilling to see one of our books get reviewed. I guess it’s like watching your best friend hit a home run or get a standing ovation or something. It’s especially thrilling when a book gets reviewed years after its release date.Read More
Penny Candy Books is pleased to announce its new book subscription service. Penny Candy Subscriptions is available in two different packages: Friends & Family and Books for Good.
Want to share our books with your loved ones?
Subscribers to our Friends & Family package receive Penny Candy’s thought-provoking picture books four times a year.
Delivered once a quarter, our Friends & Family package contains a mix of four new and backlist titles that your family will love reading and discussing for years to come. Annual Friends & Family subscriptions are $70 per quarter. Price includes shipping.
Want to help us share our books with organizations doing good work?
Subscribers to our Books for Good package make it possible for us to donate significant quantities of our books to non-profits each quarter.
When you become a Penny Candy Books for Good subscriber at one of three levels, you are helping to put books in the hands of kids and adults who need them most. Give the gift of big conversations by becoming a Books for Good subscriber today. Quarterly payments at three different levels:
Patron: $50 a quarter = 3 books donated a quarter
Super Patron: $100 a quarter = 6 books donated a quarter
Fairy Godperson: $200 or more per a quarter = at least 12 books donated a quarter
In the coming weeks we’ll be announcing the non-profit will be supporting first. Sign up for our newsletter and stay tuned for details!
Sign up for Penny Candy’s Friends & Family or Books for Good package—or both!—here.
And thank you for your interest in Penny Candy Books!
April 29 through May 5 was the 100th Anniversary of Children’s Book Week, and Penny Candy Books participated in a big way! Established in 1919 and now administered by Every Child A Reader, a nonprofit dedicated to inspiring a lifelong love of reading in children and teens across America, Children’s Book Week is the longest-running literacy initiative in the U.S.
Penny Candy collaborators were involved in nearly every aspect of the celebrations this year. We nominated Caldecott Award winner Ekua Holmes, who contributed one of the thirteen illustrations to our critically acclaimed picture book Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Black Boy by Tony Medina, for consideration to create a bookmark to celebrate children’s books and reading. Ekua was one of six artists chosen! You can see her bookmark here and below. Please download it, print it, use it!
We also nominated Morgan Clement, illustrator of A Card for My Father by Samantha Thornhill, for consideration to create a comic activity page. Morgan was one of seven illustrators chosen! You can see her comic activity page here. Be sure to print it out and finish the story she started!
Finally we nominated many of our authors to participate in interviews in collaboration with KidLit TV. We are excited to announce that the following authors were chosen: Shira Erlichman, author/illustrator of Be/Hold: A Friendship Book; Samantha Thornhill, author of A Card for My Father; Meera Sriram, author of The Yellow Suitcase; Mariana Llanos, author of Luca’s Bridge/El puente de Luca; Molly Felder, author of Henry the Boy; and Maya Abu-Alhayyat, author of The Blue Pool of Questions! Shira’s video went live on May 5; you can view it here. Below is the schedule for when the remaining videos will go live. Stay tuned for more details!
July 15: Samantha Thornhill
September 9: Meera Sriram
September 30: Mariana Llanos
November 4: Molly Felder
December 2: Maya Abu-Alhayyat
A big thank you goes out to the Children’s Book Council for their support of Every Child A Reader and their work to promote literacy and children’s literature.
Penny Candy Books interviewed Michael and Jose on the eve of Thank You, Crow’s publication.
PCB: What is the origin of Thank You, Crow? What is the inspiration for it? How did the two of you come to collaborate on it?Read More
Last week on our blog we featured part 1 of our interview with Clara Martin. Clara wears many hats: she’s a bookseller and book buyer for Lemuria Books in Jackson, MS; a book reviewer at TwentybyJenny.com; and an author, illustrator, and recent MFA graducate from Vermont College of Fine Arts.
In part 2 of the interview, Clara discusses her own writing, her work as a children's literature reviewer, and how all the facets of her creative and professional life fit together.
PCB: I understand that you are a YA author, too! How has working in a bookstore influenced your own writing?Read More
On the very last day of our month-long road trip, we stopped by Lemuria Books in Jackson, MS. It was one of the most impressive stores we visited--one of those places where you just wished you could spend the night. A huge selection spread across lots of rooms, big and little, with lots of light and good energy.
It was there we met Clara Martin, bookseller, book buyer, book review, and book writer! We were so impressed with all that Clara is doing in the world of books that we asked if she'd be willing to answer some questions for us. She was kind enough to agree, and in part 1 of our interview, Clara discusses the joys and challenges of bookselling, why independent bookstores are important, what she's looking for when considering books for the store, and positive developments in the kidlit world.
Clara Martin is the Children’s Books Buyer and Event Coordinator at Lemuria Books in Jackson, Mississippi. She is the owner of TwentybyJenny.com, where she reviews books for children of all ages. Clara attended Vanderbilt University where she received a B.A. in English Literature and Art History, and she also received a MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from Vermont College of Fine Arts.
PCB: What's your role at Lemuria Books? Describe a typical day at work…Read More
Since our last blog post, we’ve visited twenty more independent bookstores, one public library, and one museum dedicated to picture book illustrations in two Canadian provinces and three more U.S. states. That brings our total to twenty-eight stores in seven states and two provinces. We have approximately twenty stores, six states, and two weeks to go!
In Montréal we stopped for poutine (French fries smothered in brown gravy and cheese curds) at a restaurant near McGill University. A poster in the window made a pun on Putin and poutine. The poutine was merely okay but the pun was delicious. At the restaurant I picked up a copy of the latest Montréal Review of Books and read a fascinating article by Elise Moser about the Quebecois kids’ book author Elise Gravel, whom you might recognize from the Disgusting Critters series (my boys love the one on slugs).
Gravel is a prolific author but it turns out that many of her books haven’t been translated into English or published in America. Why not? “In part because of the limitations of the American book culture,” explains Moser, who notes that “US publishers are…more wary of offending sensibilities.” Gravel herself noted in a recent interview that the US and Quebec/French markets are “vraiment deux planètes” and that the Canadian government’s support of the book industry helps publishers be “more open-minded and creative, and take more risks.” Her latest book, about a gang of kids who live by themselves in the forest, befriending animals and refusing to bathe, failed to find an American publisher (but we bought at copy at La Petite Librairie Drawn & Quarterly). Moser explains that “Gravel was given to understand that it was due to the children’s nudity, described as ‘too French.’”
I’m proud to say that this reminded me of Penny Candy Books. After all, it was a German book about an irate mole determined to learn which animal pooped on his head that partly inspired us to found our press. The first book contract we signed was for the North American rights to La chasse by Margaux Othats, which we published as The Hunt in Feb 2017. I’ve had a retail store in New Mexico tell me they wouldn’t stock the book for fear of angering the gun owners (which I took as a great sign). And when we acquired the world English rights to The Blue Pool of Questions by Palestinian poet Maya Abu Al-hayyat, we did so knowing that we might cause a stir in the U.S., merely because of who Maya was. We want to cause stirs. We like them. We’re okay with them. We think they can be necessary.
These were my thoughts when we visited Brookline Booksmith in Brookline, MA, walking distance from President Kennedy’s childhood home. We’ve been presenting booksellers with a complimentary copy of The Blue Pool of Questions, and co-owner/manager Lisa Gozashti and I struck up a conversation over this title. Lisa told me about their new Transnational Literature Series curated by employee and writer (and fellow Emerson College grad!) Shuchi Saraswat. Shuchi was off for the day, but I subsequently struck up a dialogue with her via email and asked her if I could interview her about the Transnational Literature Series. We’ll likely publish the full interview at a later date but for now here’s some excerpts.
On the origins of the series, Shuchi explained:
“The Transnational Literature Series, which focuses on migration, exile, and displacement and works in translation is both an in-store section and events series. The two parts of the series came to be in different ways.
"In early 2017, after Trump issued his travel ban, after the weekend of airport protests, one of my colleagues created a display in the bookstore window featuring books written by authors from the seven countries listed in the original executive order—Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen. After a few weeks, we moved the display inside and expanded it and I took over stocking it. This became a politically motivated research project for me. Who were the writers from these countries? Whose work had been translated in English and who was writing in English? Who were the publishers publishing these books? Once I started asking these questions, the section grew quickly and organically. I started to pay more attention to translations, which languages were being translated, what kinds of experiences were being translated. The section combined a number of my personal interests—supporting small presses, focusing on international literature and immigration—and so I advocated for keeping it as a regular section which we titled Transnational Literature.
"Later that year, I hosted an event in the store for the anthology “This Is Not a Border: Reportage & Reflection from the Palestine Festival of Literature.” The anthology was a collection of witness writing, by primarily American and British based writers who traveled through the West Bank with the Palestine Festival of Literature. This was a book and an event that meant a lot to me. I had recently traveled to the West Bank with a peace delegation, and as a writer I had really struggled with writing about that experience in a way that didn’t center myself. Many of the essays in the anthology openly embraced the perils of witness writing while also keeping the focus on the Palestinians they met. Even uttering the word Palestine, as you know, can upset people. But I had figured that we were in one of the most progressive, intellectually curious pockets of the country. Boston, for all its shortcomings, is an extraordinarily literary city. And I wanted to challenge that by making us confront one of the more taboo and difficult subjects.
"To promote the event, I did sort of a grassroots marketing effort, reaching out personally to friends and people who I thought might be interested. Because of that, and in large part thanks to extraordinary panelists who participated—Ru Freeman, Teju Cole, Khury Petersen-Smith, and Tom Hallock, who each brought their own audience—we had over 100 people come to the reading. To tell you the truth, I can’t remember how many books we sold, but I can remember the look and feel of the room that night. The audience was quiet and incredibly focused. Reverent. There were many activists in the audience, people of color, students, academics. But also a lot of people, regular customers, who were just curious. For the first time I really understood the privilege of having a community space, and how we could really use it.
"Initially, the idea for the series was that I would create four events similar to the PalFest event— panels with writers talking about places where the American narrative is limited and fixed. I was thinking Vietnam, Cuba. Quickly though, when we focused on both the migration theme and works in translation, we realized how many individual books fit. So instead of panels featuring a region of the world (which, while interesting, didn’t allow us to get deeply into a subject) we stuck with our usual format of featuring a book, but always making sure that the events were in conversation so that the readings were about more than promoting the book.”
On the role Brookline Booksmith has played in the TLS, Shuchi noted:
“Without the Booksmith management, ownership, and our events team, who all have been incredibly supportive of the series, it would not exist. I have to spend more time off the floor, at my desk, than I do on the floor, and I used to shelve a lot of sections. The events team has been enormously helpful with operations and helping me pitch and book events, and our events coordinator has designed the logos and flyers. Co-owner and manager Lisa Gozashti, the biggest advocate for this project from the start, reads books alongside me, talks about the series to friends, customers, regulars, and is constantly answering my questions. So the Booksmith has created the physical and mental space for me to explore what this series can do and they’ve trusted me to be the face of it.”
Kudos to Shuchi, Lisa, and the team at Brookline Booksmith for being a voice of conscience in a world gone mad. Yours is an example of the extraordinary work independent bookstores are doing all over North America to create the "physical and mental space" to get people thinking, and deeply.
Booksellers, we owe you.
Greetings from Toronto, Ontario! We pulled into this incredible place late Friday night after the first week of our epic and slightly insane indie bookstore road trip. We’ve spent the past 5 days visiting unforgettable bookstores in Tennessee, Kentucky, Ohio, and New York—each a welcome oasis from the heat, the highway, the unrelenting beat of bad news, disingenuous leaders, and hard times. But more on these first eight bookstores later.
As we drove over Lake Erie on the Peace Bridge that connects Buffalo, NY, and Fort Erie, Ontario, I was overcome with emotion. I was bringing my two sons for the first time to this country to the north, our best friend and ally over the years, at a time when our relationship has become unnecessarily strained due to the “America First” policies of our President. We made our way to the north and east toward Hamilton, the mass of Lake Ontario looming to our right, separating us from our homeland. I thought about what I would do if, upon coming to a new country with hopes of freedom from persecution and fear, I encountered a new kind of persecution and fear. I wondered what I would do, how I could go on, if I were detained, merely for seeking asylum, and my children were snatched away from me. It’s hard to conceive of at any time, much less a few days removed from Independence Day.
We were in Nashville on the Fourth of July. We walked down Broadway through a street party and crowds of patriots in their American flag shirts, pants, dresses, boots, and hats. There was a man wearing an NRA shirt emblazoned with a flag made of guns.
Earlier that day Alexis had posted on Facebook: “How can you celebrate today? It’s not real. None of it is real.” A friend and fellow publisher had responded with a link to Frederick Douglass’s speech to Congress from July 5, 1852, “What is the Fourth of July to the Negro?” After recounting the colonists’ fight against Great Britain for freedom, Douglass states:
“Your high independence only reveals the immeasurable distance between us. The blessings in which you, this day, rejoice, are not enjoyed in common. The rich inheritance of justice, liberty, prosperity and independence, bequeathed by your fathers, is shared by you, not by me. The sunlight that brought life and healing to you, has brought stripes and death to me.”
That was 166 years ago, yet it seems all-too relevant today. If the “immeasurable distance between us” hasn’t been bridged in the decades since Douglass gave his speech, years that have brought the greatest scientific, technological, medical (just to name a few categories) advances humanity has ever seen, how can we ever bridge it now, when innocent black men, women, and children are shot in the streets by cops, when U.S. officials tear immigrant children from their parents’ arms, when the government backs corporate interests over Native people’s rights and builds a pipeline through sacred ground?
I’m convinced that bookstores can play a small part in bridge building. The stores we visited this week—Novel in Memphis; Parnassus Books in Nashville; Carmichael’s Kids in Louisville; Blue Manatee Books and Joseph-Beth Booksellers in Cincinnati; Gramercy Books in Bexley, outside Columbus; Appletree Books in Cleveland; and Talking Leaves Books in Buffalo—offer visitors a rich selection of complex books to challenge complacency and spur curiosity and independent thought in kids and adults. Independent bookstores like these create an atmosphere that encourages discovery.
So if you find yourself visiting one of these towns or if you live near these stores, be sure to drop by and purchase some books. You’ll meet booksellers there who can help you find the perfect title or maybe you’ll come across something on your own that you never even knew you wanted or needed, something that maybe challenges your preconceived notions instead of something chosen by an algorithm to reinforce them.
Books are bridges that span the gulfs between us. They are the original Peace Bridge. Let’s travel over them together to a place of understanding.
It’s going to be a crazy and awesome July in Penny Candy Land. We’re hitting the road to visit some of our favorite independent bookstores—and to introduce ourselves to some new ones, too—in the Midwest, Northeast, Eastern Seaboard, and Southern US. Booksellers are our heroes, and now more than ever they play a critical role in connecting people and ideas, dreams, hopes, and reality. No algorithm can ever replace them. Booksellers forever!
As we’ve been preparing for the trip, planning stops along the way, we remember what a privilege it is to be able to do this. It wasn’t so long ago that African-Americans wanting to travel by car across the United States had to rely on the Green Book to know which businesses would serve them along the way.
And although the Jim Crow era ended over 50 years ago, it seems that not a week goes by without someone (like the woman in San Diego who called the police on black people for having a barbecue in a park or another woman who called the cops on an 8 year-old girl for selling bottled water without a permit or the President accusing Democrats of wanting immigrants to “infest our country”) reminding us that being a person of color in the US is still dangerous.
It is ignorance that fuels responses like these. And bookstores are an enemy of ignorance. So we like to think that our road trip to visit bookstores, to shine light and love on booksellers, and to showcase our catalog of diverse books that spark big conversations between kids and their adults, may, just may, be a small step toward change.
Starting with Novel in Memphis, TN, and ending with Lorelei Books in Vicksburg, MS, there are at least 45 stores across 20 states we hope to visit. Follow along with us on social media as we document our progress!
[images from H is for Haiku, Blue Pool of Questions, and Somewhere a Bell is Ringing]