Blue Willow Content Team's blog

Bookworm Author Vanessa Brantley-Newton on Girlhood, Read-Alouds, and JUST LIKE ME

It's no secret that we love a good picture book. We dedicate half of our store to kid lit, and the staff almost always has a new favorite making the rounds from bookseller to bookseller. Lately, we haven't been able to stop talking about Just Like Me, written and illustrated by the wonderful Vanessa Brantley-Newton. It's a gorgeous book, with a unique concept: Instead of a traditional narrative, the book consists of a series of poems describing girls of all kinds, each matched to a vibrant illustration. It's uplifting and inclusive, and it will have readers eagerly turning the pages to find themselves—and their friends—within.

We're so excited that Vanessa is coming to Houston for our annual Bookworm Festival on February 1st, where she'll be joined by eleven other terrific authors and illustrators... and hundreds upon hundreds of eager young readers. It's going to be a great morning full of author panels and signing lines. You can pre-register for the festival now—early registration isn't required, but it helps us figure out seating and other logistics. Then, to pass the time leading up to the big day, dive into our exclusive Q&A with Vanessa!

Book Bites: A New Year of Reading

As the holiday season comes to a close and our events calendar starts to fill back up, we’re delighted to welcome you to another year full of books, author signings, and conversation among friends. There’s nothing quite like turning the page on a new year of reading—you know that you’re bound to find a few titles that will rank among your forever-favorites, but you have no idea what they’ll be. That’s where we come in. Below, you’ll find some of our stand-out favorites from the first month of 2020—from tender picture books to wonderful new novels, with a real show-stopper of a memoir thrown in for good measure. Read on!

Kate Murphy on Algorithms, Loneliness, and the Importance of Listening

In her last newsletter of 2019, Blue Willow girlboss Valerie Koehler passed along seasonal wishes for time well-spent with friends, family, food, and laughter. But also with silence. Valerie wrote, "with silence comes a greater appreciation for the people around us." 

It may seem an odd choice for this time of year, but it's something that's been on our minds a lot lately—ever since we finished You're Not Listening, by Houston author Kate Murphy. It's an enlightening read, and it grapples with some of the most serious communication questions we're facing today. Questions like this: How is that, in a world where digital technology makes it easier than ever to "connect," so many people are growing lonelier, less tolerant, and more isolated? We're so excited to be hosting the author here at the shop on January 6 to celebrate the book's release. We hope you'll join us for what we know will be a wonderful evening. In the meantime, check out this exclusive Q&A between Kate and Valerie.

Book Bites: Teen Choice

YA lit is where it’s happening, friends. Have you noticed? Here at the shop, we pride ourselves on our teen section, and on bringing some of the best YA writers in the game to our annual TeenBookCon festival each spring. Of course, we couldn’t do any of it without a community of thoughtful, engaged young readers. We’re so grateful to everyone who has joined our Teen and Young Adult Reviewer Program, where we collect reviews from readers ages thirteen to twenty-four to help us understand which books y’all are excited to read, and which authors we should bring to town. Today, we’re featuring a selection of those reviews, in our first-ever “teen choice” reviews roundup! Read on.

(Pssst. Want in on the reviewing action? Participating in our teen reviewer program is easy. All you have to do is submit reviews of books you love through this form. At the end of every month, we'll draw the name of a random reviewer to win a $20 store gift card. Older than 24? Well, you don’t qualify for this program, but we’d still love to hear from you—stop by and chat books with us!)

The Best Books of 2019

2019 was a great one for new books. (Yes, we say that every year. So what? It's always true.) From fantastic debuts to satisfying series-cappers, there were hundreds upon hundreds of great books for any kind of reader. Here, we've chosen thirty of our absolute favorites from the year. 

Feel free to browse through all thirty titles, from breezy picture books all the way through to a 944-page history of our great state. Alternatively, use the links below to jump straight to the section of your choice. Be sure to read the author Q&As, where applicable—it's such a treat to hear more from the people who create such splendid stories. Finally, we'd love for you to come and visit us in the shop sometime soon—we’re here to help you shop for the holidays, and we're eager to talk about each of the books on our list.

Happy reading, friends.

We’re Thankful for 23 Years

Every now and then at our weekly staff meetings, we marvel over the passage of time. It’s been twenty-three years since we opened our doors, and what they say is true: Time does fly when you’re having fun. (In human terms, our little bookshop is all grown up and starting to wonder how on earth it’s going to use that English degree!) 

We feel so fortunate to have gotten to know you all over the last two-plus decades. Your early acceptance of us into the community and your ongoing support mean the world to us all. You’ve helped us find a small slice of heaven on earth in an unlikely place—the corner of Memorial and Dairy Ashford, where we hope to stay for years to come.

It’s the right time of the year (there’s no wrong time, of course) to give thanks and to think about all that we’re grateful for. So we’ve collected some short reflections on gratitude from members of our staff. Read on, friends.

Book Bites: Sisters, Planets, Stepkids, Book Clubs, Ghosts

Howdy, friends! November is in the air, the holidays are around the corner, and we’re putting a bow on another year of fantastic reading with our final roundup of great new releases for the year. Stay tuned in two weeks for our mega-post featuring our very favorite books of 2019. After that, we’ll have a fun roundup of “teen choice” reviews from our teen and young adult reviewer program. And just like that, it’ll be 2020! You still have time to squeeze a few more great books into your TBR stack before the calendar flips, though, right? Of course you do. Read on!

Book Bites: Heartwarming to Horror

Do we detect some fall in the air? The temperatures are finally heading in the right direction, and all that makes us want to do is curl up in a comfy chair with a stack of cozy reads. You’ll find some recent favorites of ours below—from heartwarming picture books to laugh-out-loud memoirs and weighty novels. And because Halloween is right around the corner, we couldn’t resist throwing in a genuine creep-fest, too. Read on!

Tweens Read Author Rex Ogle on Middle School, Comics, and FREE LUNCH

One more week until Tweens Read 2019! Our annual festival for middle grade readers is coming to Pasadena Memorial High School next Saturday, October 19, and we couldn't be more excited. Twenty-three terrific authors will be in attendance, including folks like Jason Reynolds, Julie Murphy, and Lincoln Peirce. It's one of our favorite days of the year, and we strongly encourage you to join us. Not only will you get to meet some of your favorite authors... but you'll discover a few new favorites, too. Like Rex Ogle! His debut middle-grade book, Free Lunch, is a candid and moving memoir about growing up in poverty. It's raw and honest, but also manages to be sweet and hopeful. In short, it's a wonderful book—a window, a mirror, and an all-around empathy machine.

Don't miss your chance to hang out with Rex and the rest of the Tweens Read authors next weekend. (Seriously, don't miss your chance: Rex used to write and edit comic books, is from Texas, and has a fantastic dog. He's a cool guy.) Fill out your Tweens Read registration, then hurry back and check out our exclusive Q&A with the author.

Book Bites: Big Wonderful Books

We’ve got a full slate of author visits, the Astros are marching through the playoffs, and we keep hearing promises that cooler weather is ahead. It’s officially the middle of October. And you know what that means—it’s reading season. This week, we’re featuring eight wonderful titles spanning every age group and a variety of genres. Even better? Four of the authors highlighted below are visiting Houston in the coming weeks. You’d best get reading! 

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