Friday, May 18, 2007

Of course we're all super excited about the release of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows! The end of the series (supposedly), the release party (you can still come, and get 10% off your copy, if you pre-pay with us) and the thousands of kids eager to read all heighten our anticipation! But we shouldn't let our Harry-craze make us overlook all of the other marvelous books available for young readers. I scanned the shelves in our kid's section, and pulled a few of my longtime favorites, perfect for summer reading.

Miss Hickory, a Newberry Medal winner written in 1946 by Carolyn Sherwin Bailey, is a sweet and simple story. The title character, a doll made of an apple twig and a hickory nut, must fend for herself through the winter after her young owner leaves her in the country. If any of the children you know are fascinated by miniatures and dolls, this book will strike a chord and inspire their imagination.

Along similar lines, Mary Norton's beloved series about the Borrowers has enchanted readers since the 1950s. Personal favorites of my own mother, they were staples of my childhood as well. The ingenious uses to which the Borrowers (no taller than a pencil) put our everyday items such as pins, spools, game pieces and more, are inspiring to anyone who still plays make-believe. The series, a total of four volumes, are perfect reading for lazy summer days. Books include: The Borrowers, The Borrowers Afield, The Borrowers Afloat, and The Borrowers Aloft.

For slightly older audiences, Robin McKinley's The Hero and the Crown, a Newberry Medalist, and its sequel The Blue Sword will thrill and excite. Set in the land of Damar, both stories feature strong young women who deal with the challenges of not fitting in, until they find their unique place in the world.

Goody Hall, by Natalie Babbitt, is one of the strangest and most delightful books that I've read. With a famous outlaw, a missing fortune in jewels, an oddly heavy ottoman, and an aptly named (though he doesn't think so at first)actor/tutor, the book captures and keeps you through twist after twist. One of the few books that I cannot recall the ending of when I re-read it, it delights me anew each time!

Finally, I suggest two books by the marvelous Ellen Raskin. Her Newberry Medal winner The Westing Game is a marvelous introduction to the mystery genre, with full-fleshed lively characters, and plenty of mistaken/assumed identities. It is one mystery that you can gladly read again and again - knowing 'whodunit' won't ruin the book for you! Her book Figgs & Phantoms, a Newberry Honor book, is absurd realism at it's very best. The heroine is the only normal person in her circus-like family aside from her adored uncle. When he passes away, she begins a journey of self-discovery and learns that she may not be all that normal after all - fortunately!

Whatever your reading tastes (even if you don't think you like to read at all) we have something in the store to capture your imagination this summer. And even if you're just counting the days until Harry comes back, we have stories to make the time fly by!

Thursday, May 10, 2007

A morning at the trade counter

Here is a sampling of some of the interesting used books we received at our trade counter today:

Grow Native: Landscaping with Native and Apt Plants of the Rocky Mountains $8.50
Teach Yourself Visually: Yoga $12.00
The Pilgrimage by Paulo Coelho $6.50
Vegetable Gardening for Dummies $8.50
The 100 Most Influential Books Ever Written $7.00 hardcover
Easel Does It: Calligraphy $8.50
Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte $3.50
Dreams from My Father by Barack Obama $7.50
Household Stories by the Brothers Grimm $3.00

Thursday, May 3, 2007

The One Book That Everyone Should Read

Ok, so there isn't just one book that we all should read, but this one is pretty high up on the list! Nickle and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America by Barbara Ehrenreich (ISBN 0805063897, $13.00) is scary, sobering, and hopefully motivating. Ehrenreich, an acclaimed journalist, went 'undercover' for three months, in three different states, to try to live on a low-paying job. Note that she was not trying to live on minimum wage ($5.65 per hour during her 1999 experiment, $7.15 per hour currently) but on low wage jobs that paid slightly more than the federally mandated amount. So did it work? Nope. She worked her fingers to the bones, having discovered that she could not possibly live on just one job; she never could get a decent apartment since she couldn't save up enough for a deposit; she often had long commutes because the only semi-affordable housing was located far away from her workplace; and she was told, without words, that her inability to get by was her own fault.
Let's consider the facts: One full-time minimum wage job in 1999 would gross $11,752 per year. Take out taxes - let's say 15% - and you have $9,989.20. Per month, you would need to live on $832.43. The positions that Ehrenreich took generally paid about $7.00 per hour, upping her monthly after tax wage to $1031.33. With that, she had to pay her rent, usually in excess of $600 per month, her gas (remember those long commutes?) her food, and any potential medical costs (fortunately for her she didn't have any injuries or illnesses during that time). I have a hard time paying for those things myself on my significantly higher salary!
The hardest thing to face, though, wasn't the stories of hardship (families of six living in one motel room; a Wal-Mart employee who couldn't afford to buy a Wal-Mart shirt on clearance) but the fact that so many of her co-workers believed that they were alone in their inability to make ends meet. They bought the myth that their low wage was a living wage, and that it was their own fault for being unable to live on it. Sadder still were the tactics of the employers, designed to keep the masses down: withholding the first week's paycheck as blackmail against leaving immediately, punishing workers for minor infractions by changing shifts without notice, and worst of all, appealing to the sympathy of the workers by claiming to be hard pressed themselves. Corporations making millions, even billions, of dollars annually claim that they are unable to pay their workers higher wages for fear of bankruptcy. How much do they pay them now? Certainly less that 5% of their overall profits!
I grew up with the knowledge of poverty always on the periphery. I gave to the collection plate at church, walked in the CROP Walk, and knew in my head that there were people who couldn't afford to buy dinner, much less a home. But the underlying assumption was that those people didn't have jobs. Not necessarily that they were lazy, but that they were unemployed for one reason or another. Ehrenreich's study uncovers a frighteningly different reality: these people work hard, far harder than I do in fact, at two or more jobs. They cut every corner they can, not splurging on luxuries. They aren't drunks who drink their money, or gamblers who throw it away. They do everything right that they can. And they can't afford to buy dinner, much less a home. Anyone who still believes that welfare moms and high school drop outs can make it if they just work hard needs to read this book.

Next on my reading list? Bait and Switch: The (Futile) Pursuit of the American Dream (ISBN 0805081240, $13), also by Ehrenreich. The question here: are the middle classes doing that much better than the poor? We'll find out!