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Dedicating to the ones you love November 22, 2008

Many of you booklovers know the value of inscribing a book as a gift to someone. I remember several childhood book gifts in particular that I cherished all the more because of the neatly scripted notes scrawled on one of the first pages of the book. One of my favorites was a now long out of print book called “Ten Stories,” mostly fairy stories with whimsical watercolor illustrations, given to me by an older woman who lived in my neighborhood, who had an unforgettable and wonderful name I’m glad is inscribed forever in ink: Garnet DuLong.

The only thing really better than inscribing a book yourself can be having the author sign it. But for that to happen, all the planets have to be in alignment — it’s probably a new book, you’re in the right bookstore at the right time, and the book you’re having signed really is perfect for its intended recipient. This doesn’t happen very often. I think the only book signings that were worth my time as a consumer were for Amy Tan’s The Hundred Secret Senses, and Georgia story-spinner Bailey White’s Sleeping at the Starlite Motel: and Other Adventures on the Way Back Home. Both were held at a funky, now-defunct Atlanta independent bookstore called Oxford Books. The authors were perfect, and the recipient was perfect: me. Those were very happy occurrences.

But one of my The New Magic Bookshelf: Finding Great Books Your Child Will Treasure Forever customers recenty came up with a terrific “non-signing” idea I’d never thought of, even after publishing two other books. This customer lives in Alabama, and ordered three copies of the book from Amazon to give her three grown children for Christmas. Naturally, I can’t hop over there to sign them, much as I’d like to, but she had it all figured out.

She asked me if I’d sign three holiday cards, inscribing one to each of her children, including a date and my signature. A lifelong professional educator, my customer explained what a serious book-signing fan she’d always been and wanted something personal from the author tucked in the pages of the books. So she’s going to tuck in my cards.

Not only is this an awesome idea, but this is truly a “next best” solution when you can’t have the author actually sign a book. It might not last as long, but I don’t know — I’ve retained cards for more than 20 years. They make great bookmarks.

Speaking of bookmarks, you can dedicate favorite books in much the same way, even when the author can’t be tracked down to sign a card (say, if the author is deceased or there’s no getting past the publisher or there’s no book signing tour or the author is Madonna). You can inscribe your thoughts of what the book means to you directly in the book (going a little farther than the basic “To Violet, Love Rose, Christmas 2008”), or on a card or bookmark. The recipient will gets a precious memento along with the book, and never forget the meaning it held for you, the giver.

Incidentally, anyone who has my book on their Christmas list this year and who wants to copy my smart customer’s idea and have me jot an inscription on a card is welcome to contact me at You can send me your personal cards to sign or I’ll send my own.

I may not be hitting your particular Barnes and Noble but I’m learning that proxy signing works just fine.

posted by Janie McQueen, author of The New Magic Bookshelf: Finding Great Books Your Child Will Treasure Forever

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Beckham doing some book-bending too October 1, 2008

I guess the children’s book industry is a little like the political arena — if you have celebrity and money, apparently it gives you immediate entrée to speak all your views and feel strongly that others have reason to listen to you. Or to pick up your laptop and dash off that little children’s ditty rattling around in your head and feel it immediately print-worthy.

Or to hire a ghost writer, as in the case of soccer superstar David Beckham, whose new line of children’s novels based on his London football (as they say it in Europe) academy are aimed for the store shelves next year. I guess the purists in the juvenile book world can be at least glad there’ll be some kind of writing professional involved.

Well, he’s done the cologne thing and the clothing thing, so why not that kids’ book thing?

Usually I can’t stand a book making it to the store shelves just on the basis of the author’s name. Madonna, Jamie Lee Curtis (who does seem a devoted juvenile writer given her many titles), Fergie (the real Duchess of York, Sarah Ferguson, not that pop singer one), even Jerry Seinfeld have sailed into the stores and dominated the market because of their names, not the quality of the books (which likely would never have see print if the manuscripts had been submitted by unknown authors).

But I haven’t seen this David Beckham series yet, so I can’t speak for the plots or the writing. I do know there’s a place for sports books in children’s literature. I’m all for children reading about what they like. Matt Christopher’s sports series (i.e., Extreme Sports Boxed Set), books by Jerry Spinelli (a wonderful writer who incorporates sports into many titles, such as Newbery medal winner Maniac Magee), Edward Bloor’s Tangerine, Michael Chabon’s Summerland: A Novel: Summerland… all are great sports-themed reads for kids. 

Apparently there’s some “how-to” attached to the shall we say “Beckham-inspired” books, which I also like. The books will reportedly feature tips, a pull-out tactics board and statistics on the game, according to an article in the U.K.’s Telegraph.

Promoting reading through superior soccer playing — we’ll just have to see how this works.

posted by Janie McQueen, author of The New Magic Bookshelf: Finding Great Books Your Child Will Treasure Forever