Blue Willow Digital Marketing Team's blog

Book Bites: Reads For Your Isolation Rotation

We’ve been keeping busy here at the shop, but not in the way we’re used to. Our happy place, usually bustling with life and laughter, has turned eerily silent. Instead, we’re processing web orders, answering phones, and arranging books, puzzles, and games for curbside pickup. You’ve been so generous with your support, and we’ll never forget the gratitude we’ve felt over the last few weeks. We’ll get through this together, and we’re so looking forward to seeing you all on the other side. Until then, books are some of the best company we can keep. While away some time, escape to another world, or try on a different life for a few hours—books are essential, and we’ve got recommendations for readers of all ages. Stay well, friends, and read on.

Gilly Segal & Kimberly Jones on I'M NOT DYING WITH YOU TONIGHT

Friends, the current health situation has upended life here at the shop, and has reminded us that our top priority is always to keep our customers and staff healthy and safe. That's meant a lot of event cancellations and a lot of curbside pickup for the last two weeks. We're carrying on as well as we can, but we're still bummed beyond words that one of our event casualties was this year's TeenBookCon festival. To us, the festival is a joyful, life-giving day each year where we get to see a lot of hard work and planning pay off and connect thousands of young local readers with some of our very favorite authors.

Two of those authors—Gilly Segal and Kimberly Jones—have written an urgent page-turner of a debut that tackles big topics like race, privilege, violence, and coming together. I'm Not Dying With You Tonight is the story of Lena and Campbell, two very different girls from very different backgrounds, who are forced to rely on one another in order to survive a riot. We know it's not the same as attending a TeenBookCon panel, but we were able to ask Gilly and Kimberly a few questions about the book, what it's like to write together, and which books are on their nightstands. Read on!

Book Bites: Stocking Up

Friends, we’ve been so moved by your support over the last week. Our online orders have spiked, the phone’s been ringing off the hook, and so many of you have stopped by to browse or to take advantage of our curbside delivery program. Small businesses across the country are facing closure and uncertainty. We feel immeasurably lucky to belong to such a kind, generous, compassionate community. 

One thing's for sure: We’re going to need a lot of reading material to get through the next few weeks! To that end, here’s an all-ages roundup of some of our favorite new and recent releases. Our inventory is changing rapidly—if we don’t have one of these titles on our shelves by the time you’re ready to buy, we’d be happy to order it in for you or recommend something similar. In the meantime, we’re wishing you all good health and happy reading.

Lisa See on Research, Writing Female Friendships, and THE ISLAND OF SEA WOMEN

Friends, what a month we've had here at the shop, in Houston, and as a country. During times like this, we really do find that there's nothing quite like the comfort of a good book.

On a store programming note, we're devastated not to host so many of our favorite authors in the weeks ahead—we were looking forward to great conversations with authors like Ann Patchett, Angie Thomas, Mac Barnett, and Lisa See. Today, we're here with the next best thing—an exclusive Q&A between Lisa See and Valerie, all about her fabulous book The Island of Sea Women. We've even added a few photos from Lisa's last visit to give the post that Blue-Willow-Bookshop-event feel. It's not the same, we know, but right now it's for the best.

If you already ordered your copy of The Island of Sea Women, or are looking for reading recommendations for the next few weeks, give us a call! We're offering $5 priority shipping right now, and free shipping on orders over $50. You can also take advantage of our curbside delivery program, or just stop in—we're still open as of March 18 and have put additional sanitation measures in place to ensure your safety and the safety of our staff. 

Book Bites: Middle Grade Madness

March madness is here at Blue Willow! Not the one you’re thinking of, though—we’re talking about the explosion of exciting new books that are hitting our shelves. This week, we’re feeling especially giddy about our middle grade shelves, where we have four fantastic recommendations for you to check out. If that’s not quite your lane, fret not! We’re based in Houston, after all—if there’s one thing we have lots of, it’s lanes. So merge on over to a must-read YA collaboration between Jason Reynolds and Dr. Ibram X. Kendi. Or, speed through a few terrific novels. There’s a great rom-com follow-up that we know you’ll love, and a powerful WWII-era book from Jennifer Rosner. To cap it all off, Alice just loved the new book by the legendary Louise Erdrich. Get comfy, folks—there’s some serious reading to be done.

TeenBookCon Author Phil Stamper on Space, Romance, and THE GRAVITY OF US

There's something especially magical about reading a book set in your hometown, right? Now imagine that the book has multiple starred reviews and glowing blurbs from the likes of Becky Albertalli and Adam Silvera. And that we've been counting down the days until its February 4 release for, oh, about ten months.

That's the situation with The Gravity of Us, the debut YA novel from Phil Stamper. It's part space-race adventure, part queer love story, and it's wise, funny, and charming as all heck. We are absolutely beside ourselves with glee that Phil will be joining us for our eleventh annual TeenBookCon festival at Cypress Woods High School on April 4. You can register for the festival here, then check out the full author lineup to see who else is coming to town. In the meantime, check out our exclusive Q&A with Phil!

Book Bites: Alice-Approved

Spring is right around the corner, our events calendar is cookin’, and waves of great new books are hitting our shelves every week. Today, we’ve prepared a seven-course literary feast. First up is a wonderful new picture book that’s full of empowering themes. After that, we move on to a heartwarming middle grade novel by one of our favorite authors. Our dear globe-trotting Alice, whom we miss very much, weighs in from her Vietnam vacation with a whopping four novel recommendations. No matter what you like to read, one of them is sure to catch your eye. Finally, we close things out with a new cookbook devoted to one of our favorite family-and-friends traditions: Sunday dinner. So dig in!

TeenBookCon Author Ngozi Ukazu on Hockey, CHECK, PLEASE!, and What's Next

Friends, have we told y'all about our favorite hockey books? They're part of a graphic novel series called Check, Please! by Ngozi Ukazu, and they're just the best. The story follows Eric Bittle, a gay former figure skater and amateur pâtissier who plays on the hockey team at the fictional Samwell University. It's a funny, charming series—you'll love getting to know Bitty's teammates, watching his vlogs, and cheering for him as he comes into his own. 

The second and final volume, Check, Please!: Sticks and Scones comes out on April 7. If you're not coming to TeenBookCon on April 4, you can pre-order a signed, personalized copy on our website by April 2, and upload your receipt online before April 6—while supplies last, the publisher will send you a poster featuring Bitty's pregame playlist! 

We're so excited to be hosting Ngozi as part of our eleventh annual TeenBookCon festival, where we'll be selling copies of both Check, Please! books for Ngozi to sign. (Attendees, buy your book at the event! You’ll even have a chance to sign up to receive that same exclusive pre-order swag.) You can register for the festival here, then check out the full author lineup to see who else is coming. In the meantime, tide yourselves over with our exclusive Q&A with Ngozi!

Book Bites: Perfectly Perfect Picks

Friends, it’s time to clear some space on your bookshelves. This week, we’ve got a Book Bites classic on our hands—seven great new titles, covering all ages, each one of them beloved by at least one (and usually more!) members of our staff. In the mood for a pitch-perfect picture book? We can show you two. Catch a case of middle grade mania? The wonderful Sara Pennypacker has written just the book for you. Do you stan YA? We’ve got a fabulous Houston-set YA love story that we've been excited about for ten months. And if none of that suits your mood, how about a trio of new novels that mark that start of breezy spring reading season? Whatever you choose, you won’t be disappointed. Read on!

Bookworm Author Sydney Smith on His Beautiful Book, SMALL IN THE CITY

Friends, we'd love to tell you about Small in the City, a wonderful picture book by the talented illustrator (and now author) Sydney Smith. At first glance, the premise seems simple enough: A child navigates a city in winter and offers the reader advice about which streets to walk down and which places to avoid. But pay close attention, and you'll begin to realize that the child is speaking to someone in particular. There's a poignant narrative twist towards the end, and the whole thing is full of gorgeous, expressive art. In short, it's a very special book.

We're thrilled that Sydney is coming to Houston for our annual Bookworm Festival on February 1st, alongside eleven other wonderful authors and illustrators of picture books and books for emerging readers. Oh, and hundreds of eager young readers and their families! It's going to be a great morning celebrating literacy in the greater Houston area. You can pre-register for the festival now, or just show up on the day of. Either way, be sure to check out our exclusive Q&A with Sydney! 

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