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NAKED! Book Tour (Part 4): Talking to Kindergarten and First-Graders at Porter Square Books in Cambridge, MA (and appreciating the James Patterson indie bookstore grants)

Part 1 (prep) – Part 2 (NYC, meeting Michael Ian Black, B&N) – Part 3 (S&S) – Part 4 (Boston, Porter Square Books) – Part 5 (Northshire Books Saratoga, Division St. Elementary)

When I woke up in Boston, this was the view out my hotel room window:

Wow, how very cool. I had been to Boston many years before, but hadn’t much time to look around. Someday I WILL go back and spend more time in Boston!

Meanwhile, though, I must tell you about a wonderful indie bookstore: Porter Square Books in Cambridge, MA. (25 White St. Cambridge, MA 617-491-2220).

I had enjoyed interviewing bookseller Sarah Rettger the month before. Sarah’s been in bookselling since 2006 (“with a few detours”), and I loved what she said about Porter Square Books:

“We have the best customers here. Many of them are here just about every day (possibly for our cafe’s fantastic pastries as much as for the books). Bear, the large stuffed animal who lives in our kids’ section, has a couple dozen devoted attendants, and it’s fun to see them make a beeline for him whenever they come to the store.”

When I asked Sarah about the importance of picture books, she replied:

“The great thing about picture books is that they’re universal. A really good picture book appeals to adults just as much as it does to kids, even after hundreds of readings. 32 pages can reveal so much!”

As soon as I walked into Porter Square Books, I could tell they have a very active community. The place was packed! And LOOK, they had a copy of NAKED! smack dap on the front table, with info about the upcoming event:

While chatting with the staff at PSB, I discovered that Porter Square Books had been awarded a grant from James Patterson which covered copies of NAKED! for all the kids that came to my presentation (!). This article will give you some background on the James Patterson program, which aims to boost the health of America’s indie bookstores. In a blog post earlier this year, Porter Square Books said they planned to use their allottment to support children’s author visits to schools as well as be able to underwrite the costs of books for children who don’t have the means to buy them.

James Patterson, who started a program to help indie bookstores. Photo: David Levonson/Getty Images.

“One of our missions has always been to play a role in promoting children’s literacy in Cambridge and Somerville. We are now in a very good position to do just that. We are very grateful to Mr. Patterson.”

Sarah also had some of the new Atheneum/Simon & Schuster reissues of the Judy Blume classics with my illustrations. It was the first time I had seen these in the wild, so I was VERY excited:

Also great to spot ICE DOGS on the shelf, a book by my friend Terry Lynn Johnson (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt):

I had so much fun during the two sessions at PSB, first talking to kindergarteners and then first-graders. 

I arrived half an hour early before the first session, but made the mistake of not setting up my laptop and projector IMMEDIATELY (lesson learned for next time :-)). The kindergarteners arrived 20 minutes early and I found it a challenge to adjust the position of the projector and the extension cord amidst the already-sitting children. The kids were VERY adorable, though, and I really enjoyed talking with them.

Some of them, like those at the B&N event, noticed my NAKED!-themed earrings and necklace:

For the adults who have been asking, I bought these custom book earrings from Emma Dreamstar Creations on Etsy. Kids seemed to be disappointed that the pages in the little book were blank. 🙂

I was so impressed by how efficient Porter Square Books uses its space. At least some of the shelves are on wheels, which makes it handy for events since these shelves have to be moved around to make room for an audience each time. 

As soon as the kindergarteners left, Sarah helped me readjust the position of the projector table, and I also made sure to stand near the screen for the next group instead of by the projector. That way, the children wouldn’t be torn between looking at the screen and looking at me as I talked.

As much as I enjoyed the B&N event, I couldn’t help but be drawn to the more intimate/cozier atmosphere of Porter Square Books event. Also very cool to hang out and chat with PSB booksellers Sarah, Robin Sung and Carol Stoltz. Such nice people!

Carol was excited to hear that I was going to Northshire Books Saratoga the next day. She had just been there, she told me, and it was a fantastic bookstore.  

Thanks also to some of my other friends in the area who dropped by, like Gary McGath and Ellen Kranzer. So great to see some familiar faces. 🙂

Afterward, Sarah and I had lunch at Cambridge Common — so fun! Wonderful conversation about books (of course), historical fiction, writing, crosswords, needlepoint (I suck at needlepoint, Sarah enjoys it :-)) and more. Like me, she has had short forays into other jobs before finding her home career. For Sarah, it was software testing and municipal wetlands management.

After lunch and some directions from Sarah (I am directionally challenged), I even had time for a short walk through Harvard Square before the car service came to pick me up.

THANK YOU SO MUCH, SARAH AND PORTER SQUARE BOOKS! I enjoyed my visit tremendously and hope to go back someday.

Places where you can find out more about Sarah and Porter Square Books:

On Twitter, Sarah’s at @SarahRettger and Porter Square is at @PorterSqBooks.

You can find out more info about Porter Square Books at their website including an event calendarbook recommendationsan ebook resource, a blog and children’s section.

But back to the book tour….

I had been dreading the 4-hour car ride from Boston to Saratoga Springs (I get carsick pretty easily), but Mike Boez and the cushy LTI Worldwide Limousine car made the trip much more enjoyable than I expected:

I ended up writing a letter to the service after I got home, telling them so.

I arrived at Saratoga Hilton around dinner time, and felt very spoiled when I saw my room:


I briefly considering going out and walking around to see the area but ended up cocooning in my über-comfy hotel room that evening instead, ordering in room service, then organizing and prepping for the next day.

A school in Saratoga Springs had signed on at the last minute — thanks so much to Rachel Person (Northshire Books Saratoga) and Katy Hershberger (my publicist) for making it possible for me to add this to my itinerary! I had been disappointed that no schools had been able to have me visit, so was excited about this last-minute addition. While Katy changed my flight home to a later departure time, Rachel and I had been exchanging a flurry of emails about our plans.

After adjusting my scribbled notes re: new schedule, I crashed blissfully early.

—– To be continued….

Next up: Northshire Books Saratoga and my visit to Division St. Elementary School!