Meet the Staff

Blue Willow Bookshop is run by a team of opinionated, well-read women. Our staff meetings are full of laughter, our back room is full of snacks, and we absolutely love putting the right book into our readers’ hands. May we hold your baby while you browse?

We appreciate a sense of humor. When we goof up, we joke that “one day we’ll be great.”

We’ve got recommendations. We’ve got pizzazz. And we look forward to welcoming you to our happy place. Now it’s time to meet the team.


Valerie, The Owner

Valerie Koehler is the owner of Blue Willow Bookshop, a special corner of Houston that has always been a bookstore. She purchased the shop in 1996 from Musabelle Naut, the owner of Musabelle’s Books, which served Houston faithfully from 1973.

What’s your bookseller superpower? Delegating! And reading.
Tell us your bookseller nickname? Girlboss.
What's one of your all-time favorite books to recommend? The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell
Who's your fictional literary crush? Harriet The Spy
Which author would you most like to take to dinner? Maya Angelou 
Do you have a favorite genre you like to read in? Fiction and I love to listen to Nonfiction. I am an audiobook person every day!
What's the first book you ever loved? From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E.L. Konigsburg

Read on to enjoy this opinionated staff of mine—all of whom I cherish.

 

Aerie, Ready with Recommendations

What’s your bookseller superpower? I read fast and I read widely — and I can give you all the recs you need for those persnickety young kids that need something to really grab their attention and get them excited to read!
What's one of your all-time favorite books to recommend? The Terrible Two by Mac Barnett — the BEST boy friendship series.
Who's your fictional literary crush? Jamie Fraser from “The Outlander” series - a Scotsman in a kilt plus time travel and historical fiction and romance? Yes and thank you.
Which author would you most like to take to dinner?  Brene Brown — I am a huge fan!
Do you have a favorite genre you like to read in? Fiction
What's the first book you ever loved? Anne of Green Gables — we are definitely kindred spirits.

 

Alice, Pretty Much the Manager of the Universe

I've worked at BWB since Christmas of 1999, when Valerie asked me to come in to help for the holidays. 

What’s your bookseller superpower? Superpower?  I wish....
What's one of your all-time favorite books to recommend? Usually, it's the latest (and past) Booker Award winner.
Who's your fictional literary crush? Sherlock Holmes
Which author would you most like to take to dinner? No one; I'd much rather have a long one-on-one correspondence with several, e.g. John Boyne, David Grossman
Do you have a favorite genre you like to read in? Nonfiction and literary fiction and Irish authors
What's the first book you ever loved? The only book I remember as a very young child is Silver Pennies, a book of poems, originally published in the 1920s.

 

Ayah, Can Do or Find Anything

What’s your bookseller superpower? Finding “missing” books in the store that the other staff members can’t seem to find.
Tell us your bookseller nickname? Young eyes.
What's one of your all-time favorite books to recommend? The Maid by Nita Prose
Which author would you most like to take to dinner? Emily Henry
Do you have a favorite genre you like to read in? Mystery and Romance
What's the first book you ever loved? As a child, one of the first books I ever loved was The Land of Stories: The Wishing Spell by Chris Colfer, but as I grew older it became We Were Liars by E. Lockhart.

 

Barb, Sidelines Savant, Princess of Plush

I've been at BWB almost 8 years and am lucky to help buy some of our sidelines.

What’s your bookseller superpower? Matching the perfect plush to children's picture books.
Tell us your bookseller nickname? Princess of Plush.
What's one of your all-time favorite books to recommend? City of Thieves by David Benioff
Who's your fictional literary crush? Count Alexander Rostov
Which author would you most like to take to dinner? Amor Towles 
Do you have a favorite genre you like to read in? Fiction
What's the first book you ever loved? Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh

 

Caroline, The Tech Wrangler

I'm an artist: I use old photographic processes and I make books.

What’s your bookseller superpower? Figuring out the website and zoom software and making them do what we want
Tell us your bookseller nickname? The Tech Wrangler
What's one of your all-time favorite books to recommend? Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell
Who's your fictional literary crush? Hermione Granger - who knew a swot with ridiculous hair could save the world?
Which author would you most like to take to dinner? Holly Black AND Tracy Deonn
Do you have a favorite genre you like to read in? Fantasy
What's the first book you ever loved? Dark is Rising by Susan Cooper

 

Cathy, Events Coordinator, Kids Specialist, and Hand-flailing Romance Evangelist

I'm a Congressional staffer turned school librarian turned bookseller for more than 15+  years. It's a great thing when your avocation is your vocation as well. ❤️

What’s your bookseller superpower? Wrangling a signing line
Tell us your bookseller nickname? Romance evangelist
What's one of your all-time favorite books to recommend? For grownups, anything by Jasmine Guillory, or Boyfriend Material by Alexis Hall. For kids, Skunk and Badger by Amy Timberlake.
Who's your fictional literary crush? Wes from The Truth About Forever by Sarah Dessen
Which author would you most like to take to dinner? It would have been lovely to have shared a meal with Beverly Cleary.
Do you have a favorite genre you like to read in? Romance / Women’s Fiction
What's the first book you ever loved? The Seamstress of Salzburg by Anita Lobel. Those illustrations!

 

Christina, Reads Like the Wind

I started at BWB the summer of 2021, and I was an elementary teacher "in the 1900s," as my kids tell the story.

What’s your bookseller superpower? Selling books and winning over customers with niceness.
Tell us your bookseller nickname? Offsite Maven.
What's one of your all-time favorite books to recommend? For kids, Hatchet by Gary Paulson. For adults, Once Upon a Wardrobe by Patti Callahan or Dragonfly by Leila Meacham. For Romance, Abby Jimenez.
Who's your fictional literary crush? Jason from The Happy Ever After Playlist by Abby Jimenez
Do you have a favorite genre you like to read in? Historical Fiction or Romance
What's the first book you ever loved? My mom read to us every night, and I remember the magic of The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis.

 

Jean, Ready with Your Zombie Apocalypse Survival Plan

I'm an Enneagram 6. Need a recommendation from the personal growth section of the store, or a survival plan for a zombie apocalypse? I'm your girl.

What's one of your all-time favorite books to recommend? Miss Benson's Beetle by Rachel Joyce
Who's your fictional literary crush? Jon Snow (it was a book first!!)
Which author would you most like to take to dinner? Jonathan Stroud
Do you have a favorite genre you like to read in? Fiction - all ages. And a little fantasy never hurt anyone...
What's the first book you ever loved? Misty of Chincoteague by Marguerite Henry. The first of many horse books...

 

Jennifer G., Middle Grade Expert, Trouble Maker

Fun Fact to Know and Tell: I accidentally spat on Julia the very first day I worked the shop — we are friends forever!

What’s your bookseller superpower? Matching books to kids and stealing babies to hold.
Tell us your bookseller nickname? Bossy Boots
What's one of your all-time favorite books to recommend? The Doll People by Ann M. Martin and — wait for it — A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles
Who's your fictional literary crush? Count Alexander Ilyich Rostov, recipient of the Order of Saint Andrew, member of the Jockey Club, Master of the Hunt
Which author would you most like to take to dinner? Did John Wayne write a book??
Do you have a favorite genre you like to read in? Middle Grade, Gentle Murders in the English and French Countrysides, and "PBS on Paper"
What's the first book you ever loved? One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich by Alexander Solzhenitsyn

 

Jennifer K., The book was blue? She can find that.

I have lived in many different countries around the world. Books always feel like home.

What’s your bookseller superpower? My secret superpower is finding 4-leaf clovers (Yes, they exist! I find them all the time!). This helps in the shop when someone comes in wanting a book that they can't remember the title or author, but know it has a boat on the cover or a blue spine. I can find that!
What's one of your all-time favorite books to recommend? For new readers, Hi, Jack! by Mac Barnett, illustrated by Greg Pizzoli, or The Princess in Black by Shannon Hale and Dean Hale, illustrated by LeUyen Pham
Who's your fictional literary crush? Arthur Less from Andrew Sean Greer's Less. I'm definitely not his type, but he's adorable and I love him.
Which author would you most like to take to dinner? Ack! Just one?! TJ Klune as a thank you for those two wonderfully dear books.
Do you have a favorite genre you like to read in? Historical fiction usually, but literary fiction lately.
What's the first book you ever loved? The Monster at the End of This Book by Jon Stone, starring Loveable, Furry Old Grover 

 

Kat, The Book Dragon

What’s your bookseller superpower? Remembering what color a book is.
Tell us your bookseller nickname? Book Dragon Kat
What's one of your all-time favorite books to recommend? A Court of Thorn and Roses series by Sarah J. Maas
Who's your fictional literary crush? Rhysand from the Court of Thorns and Roses series
Which author would you most like to take to dinner? J.R. Ward. She wrote The Black Dagger Brotherhood series among other paranormal romance books and series.
Do you have a favorite genre you like to read in? Romance
What's the first book you ever loved? Fancy Nancy. I’ve loved that book since I was 5 years old. I actually got the first and second book signed at Blue Willow.

 

Kimberly, The Book Gardener

I’ve worked at Blue Willow for 3.5 years. I love working in the bookshop, because books are a continuing education of one’s choosing. We are here to foster the enjoyment of learning while building community. It’s like we’re gardening books!

What's one of your all-time favorite books to recommend? The Ogress and The Orphans by Kelly Barnhill. Quote from the book which says so well what I believe: “I will share whatever I can. After all, the more you give, the more you have. It is the only true thing I know.” — the Ogress
Which author would you most like to take to dinner? If I could have an author to dinner, it would be legendary cookbook author, Jacques Pépin, and it would be a bonus if we could cook dinner together!
Do you have a favorite genre you like to read in? I enjoy reading many genres and feel particularly rewarded when reading non-fiction, because I can learn more about something that interests me, which often is related to our natural environment.
An important influence in my life: My grandfather had a very large organic garden. He taught me about the importance of organic gardening before it was talked about. We would gather food from the garden and cook together. It was magical. He also gave a lot of his garden’s vegetables and fruits and pecans from his trees to his neighbors and community. He had goats and cows and there were horses that lived across the street from him. We fished in his creek. All made me very curious about our natural world.

 

Liz, The Voracious Reader

I've been seen selling books at BWB for over 2 years... and been selling kids "the love of reading" for over 35 years.

What’s your bookseller superpower? Time Travel. When entering the shop, I travel back to when I was a kid, OR to when I was a middle school teacher, OR to when my kids were little, OR to when hanging with friends at book club, AND use these experiences to connect customers with the perfect books.
Tell us your bookseller nickname? 'Tis Liz
What's one of your all-time favorite books to recommend? We Begin at the End by Chris Whitaker, or How to Be a Pirate by Isaac Fitzgerald and illustrated by Brigette Barrager, or anything by Alan Gratz... Honestly, I can't choose just one!
Who's your fictional literary crush? Winnie-the-Pooh
Which author would you most like to take to dinner? Jason Reynolds
Do you have a favorite genre you like to read in? Nope, I like variety.
What's the first book you ever loved? James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl. My 1st grade teacher read it aloud and it makes me warm and fuzzy every time I think of it.

 

Sandra, Bookkeeper Extraordinaire

I've been at BWB three years, and a book nerd all my life. I love languages, travel, and man, I do love to solve a puzzle; thus the numbers thing.

What’s your bookseller superpower? Math — not sure if that’s a bookseller power?!?
Tell us your bookseller nickname? The Sheriff (à la Julia)
What's one of your all-time favorite books to recommend? A Woman of Independent Means by Elizabeth Forsythe Hailey
Who's your fictional literary crush? Mr. Darcy, of course
Which author would you most like to take to dinner? At the risk of sounding trite, Jane Austen.
Do you have a favorite genre you like to read in? Historical fiction and mysteries (love a good murder, but not too gruesome or bloody — you know, a good Sherlock Holmes one… actually, he could be my fictional crush…)
What's the first book you ever loved? Henry and Ribsy by Beverly Cleary early on, then later Pride and Prejudice.