Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Celebrating the release of Sara Blaedel (or rather Blædel) series set in Racine with a salute to kringles, Lego, and Hamlet

Last fall at Heartland Fall Forum, I was part of a panel on coming displays, and what I spoke about was coming up with display ideas. This is the time of year when I need to be at my most creative, because a whole bunch of tables free up that are dedicated to gift books, seasonal titles, ornaments, boxed cards, and calendars.

Like most stores, I think about the calendar. We have a Valentine's Day display and an African American History month display (that itself transitioned from an MLK display). We keep our critic's picks up through the winter, as people still want to know what were the best books of 2017. We put together tables of award nominees as they come out, and get back to highlighting deceased author's with memorial tables. I was finally able to put together the long-imagined what-to-read-after-Handmaid's-Tale display. And I keep an eye on the event calendar, to see how we can highlight upcoming authors in nontraditional ways. So for example, Liam Callanan's already got a table highlighting Paris by the Book on our table featuring books about bookstores. As you can imagine, that one's always popular and the only problem is that the titles are overlapping a bit with the what-to-read-after-Ove table, which I'd take down, only it's still selling books.

So I looked at the schedule and remembered that I have periodically done a geographical focus table, most recently featuring books about Italy and Italian-American immigrants when we were hosting Adriana Trigiani last summer. So then I started thinking about Denmark, and realized that everything we needed for a display was already in the store.  To me that's the perfect display, where you pull books out of different sections and put them together in a different way. (At left is the smaller display with the original sign, before we enlarged both it and the sign.)

And because it's Winter Institute time,  I thought it would be fun to dissect this particular display. Here are the components.

a. Hygge. This hot lifestyle trend has been selling books at Boswell for the last year, with The Little Book of Hygge by Meik Wiking making regular appearances on our bestseller lists. The secret to hygge is coziness, comfort, conviviality, and contentment. Sounds good, right? No wonder everybody is into it.

b. Lego. Two of my booksellers looked at my display and said, "Lego is Danish?" and looked it up. That's exactly the reaction I love in a display. Obviously they did not go to high school with Francine, who had a dream to work at Lego in Copenhagen someday. And by the way, she did it! Every bookstore has Lego books. I put Lego: Absolutely Everything You Need to Know on our checklist.

c. Hans Christian Andersen. Do people still watch the old Danny Kaye movie? If so, they would remember to sing "Wonderful Copenhagen" whenever Andersen's name came up, like I do, as I listened to the soundtrack LP (vinyl) a lot when I was young. I guess nowadays they are more likely to know who Andersen is from The Little Mermaid and Frozen, which is adapted from Andersen's "The Snow Queen." We put Best Fairy Tales on the checklist, with other titles filling in as necessary.

d. Hamlet. Another exclamation when I was putting up the display: "That's right, Hamlet is set in Denmark."

e. Sara Blaedel is just one of the great crime writers coming out of Denmark. Other folks you can add to the list are Jussi Adler-Olsen, Lene Kaarberbøl, and Peter Høeg, who was popular before computers, so I never spelled his name with a slash when Smilla's Sense of Snow was a sensation. Adler-Olsen's most recent book in paperback is The Hanging Girl.

f. You won't believe the Dane-o-mania going on in publishing right now. In stock, we already had How to Be Danish, by Patrick Kingsley, The Danish Way of Parenting, by Jessica Joelle Alexander, and the kids book When Mischief Came to Town, by Katrina Nannestead, an Australian writer who nonetheless set this kids novel in Bornholm (which is where The Hanging Girl is set as well!). Add a few travel guides and it's a nice looking table.

Of course for us, the point of the table was to highlight The Undertaker's Daughter, by Sara Blaedel. I could have easily done a table of books set in funeral parlors, and that would include a favorite kids books, Jason Reynolds's The Boy in the Black Suit. If I included nonfiction, I'd have a nice list.

For those of you who want to celebrate Denmark with us, we have two upcoming events with Denmark's Blaedel. First she'll be at the Racine Public Library launch on Tuesday, February 6, 6:30 pm. Light refreshments will be served. And then she'll be at Boswell in conversation with Crimespree's Ruth Jordan on Wednesday, February 7, 7 pm, at Boswell. If I have time to leave the store, I will serve kringle, but I have to go to at least Ryan Rd because I prefer O&H over the other brands available in Milwaukee.

From Deadline, a plan to turn Sara Blaedel's Louise Rick novels into a TV series.

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