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Thursday, May 9, 2013

Indie Thursday Feature: Mockingbird Books!

Everyone knows Seattle is a literate city - lots of readers, bookstores, and great spots to dig into your favorite book. That's why a blog series celebrating independent booksellers wouldn't be complete without a post about a Seattle bookstore. Today we highlight Mockingbird Books, a fantastic Seattle indie children's store. The staff at Mockingbird is made up of many ex-librarians and educators, and we loved this trick to finding out how to find the right book for any child, ask "What is your favorite movie and what are your two favorite books? From there, you can see what genre and sense of humor appeals to a reader." Please welcome Wendy Ostenson, one of Mockingbird's booksellers.
Welcome, Wendy! Thanks for taking the time to chat with us about your store. Can you start by telling us what makes Mockingbird Books so unique? 
The store is small and cozy and we really want people to feel at home here. Alyson, the store owner, is a huge proponent of our local community. 
As far as the store goes, if you ask the little ones, they’ll tell you we are all about the train table. If you ask caregivers, they’ll tell you we are all about Story Time. If you ask school kids, they’ll say we are all about the graphic novel section and book clubs. We try to make people feel like they belong here. 
Give us a virtual tour—what do we see when we first walk in? Is there a certain section that jumps out at us? Where do we find the children’s section? 
Our store mascot, Geraldine the Giraffe, will greet you as you walk in. She’s an oversized stuffed animal, but she seems to get more hugs than anyone I know. Next you’ll see our LOCAL AUTHOR wall. Here is Seattle, we are blessed with an amazingly rich group of illustrators and authors. We love to give them center billing.
The store is pretty much dedicated to children’s books, but we do offer a small, thoughtfully chosen selection of adult books. Most of these adult titles have either a local tie or is loved by a staff member. 
How do you match a child or a parent with a book? What questions do you ask? 

Sue from the store taught me this trick: What is your favorite movie and what are your two favorite books? From there, you can see what genre and sense of humor appeals to a reader.
Our staff is filled with ex-librarians and early childhood educators so we do a pretty good job of matching books to reading levels. 
What are your favorite titles to hand sell right now? 

For really little ones, I love all Leslie Patricelli’s board books, especially Yummy, Yucky. Her illustrations are silly yet instructional, like “Spaghetti is yummy. Worms are yucky.” Leslie grew up nearby and is a great friend to the bookstore.
Mo Willems seems to get my heart every time he puts out a book. How he manages to cram emotion, laugh-out-loud humor and a real social lesson in to all his books is amazing. He also readers to participate in the books. There is a Bird on Your Head (An Elephant and Piggie Book) and Goldie Locks and the Three Dinosaurs are currently some of my favorite Story Time reads because the kids really get into them.

Middle grade readers have a lot of great authors to choose from right now. There seems to be a trend in creating characters who are super smart and funny. I love Max Earnest from Pseudonymous Bosch’s This is Secret series, along with Reynie, Kate, Sticky, and Constance from Trenton Lee Stewart’s Mysterious Benedict Society books. I think kids have different kinds of intelligence, whether its social smarts or abilities to deal with crisis, that aren’t easily measurable but readers recognize and respond to. Local author Kevin Emerson’s most recent book, The Fellowship for Alien Detection, also shows two quirky and smart-in-different ways characters. I loved that both Hayley and Dodger have very different approaches and skills, but that they can bond over pancakes. 

Does your bookstore coordinate school visits with authors? Or do you work with local teachers and librarians in some other way? 

We sometimes work to set up author visits where Mockingbird pre-sells books. We also offer our store out as a space where school librarians can come together and collaborate. We have a great community approach.

Why are children’s books an integral part of your store? 
Children’s book sales are 90% of our revenue. Our whole platform is dedicated to creating a community of young readers. We have a daily Story Time at 11:00 (all days except Sunday.) We love to read and sell children’s books, which is lucky for us. It’s definitely a golden time in children’s literature. 

Do you sell books on your website? 

We do, but would rather sell to you in person or over the phone. The website sale goes straight through our distributor and we don’t see as much of the money, and more importantly, we can’t recommend a title to you that you might not have heard of before. 

Why are independent bookstores so important to the future of reading? 

Readers want to be transported to another world when they read. Indie Bookstores make sure that those other worlds are worthy and credible places to be transported to. We don’t have a corporate agenda. We just love books.
Find Mockingbird Books: 
Phone: 206.518.5886
Address: 7220 Woodlawn Ave NE, Seattle


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