Thursday, March 24, 2011

Standbys. For when you're flying by the seat of your pants.

When customers ask for book recommendations, I pump them for information. Do they know what the child has read before? Do they know any of his or her interests? Does this child have older siblings, and thus likely already own Goodnight Moon?

But when the answer to some or all of the above is, "I don't really know; it's my boss's nephew/daughter's friend who just moved to town/cousin I haven't seen in two years," suggestions must still be made. And I've realized that for most ages, I have defaults. (Obviously, these aren't the only suggestions I make, but they're my very frequent jumping-off points.)

Baby? Moo Baa Laa Laa Laa. Toddler? Chicka Chicka Boom Boom. Preschooler? Pete the Cat. Brand-new reader? Frog and Toad. Ready for chapter books? Clementine. Teen? My Most Excellent Year.

Notice a gap? Yeah, me too. Somehow, I don't have default suggestions from my favorite section: Intermediate Fiction. Oh, there are many books I love to hand-sell out of that section, but there's no automatic "Oh, (s)he's 8/9/10/11/12? I know just the book!"

I have a few thoughts on why this might be. But I'm very glad in this case that blogging doesn't require conclusions.


  1. Nah. We have her shelved in First Chapter Books, and I tend to recommend her to readers who a) liked Clementine and/or b) are *almost* ready for our intermediate shelf. Parents tend to already be familiar with her, though, so I don't always need to point her out.

  2. Little House books? I was really into them from 3rd to 5th grade. Maybe also The Hobbit, and definitely Roald Dahl.

  3. Oh, I definitely recommend all of those to some kids. I probably wouldn't jump to the Little House or The Hobbit before I knew what else the child liked, though. Roald Dahl is probably the closest thing I have to a default for 7-8ish, but the conversation very often goes like this:

    "Have you read any Roald Dahl?"
    "Oh, yes, we loved Roald Dahl."
    "Oh, okay. If you like that kind of funny fantasy, you might want to try Lemony Snicket, or The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place..."

  4. I like to recommend books that are less well-known. I figure if they'd heard of it, what do they need me for?

  5. @Carter, oh, definitely. (Keesha's House is a current pet project.) But when customers have little familiarity with children's books, with English-language children's books, or with which type of book tends to work with which age/grade level, then I like to be able to point to a tried-and-true example. I usually use their responses to the first suggestion to help guide my second... third... seventh... tenth... suggestion.