Monday, April 11, 2011

Fabulous books, fabulous people

We all fret about the future of small, independent retail establishments these days, while lamenting the proliferation of the big, impersonal chain stores.  Well, in the past few days, I've had heart-warming experiences at both:

I'm lucky enough to have the world's best children's bookstore just a few blocks from my house. Hicklebee's is, quite simply, a treasure.  Do you remember the charming children's bookstore in the movie, "You've Got Mail"?  Hicklebee's is just that wonderful.  The owners, Valerie Lewis and her sister Monica Holmes, are quite well-known in the world of children's books.  On the walls throughout the shop, one finds amazing items which make up the Hicklebee's "Museum": artifacts and original illustrations given to the shop by the most well-known authors and illustrators.  (I've met people like Tomie dePaola and J.K. Rowling at Hicklebee's events.)  This magical shop was a big part of my kids' childhoods, so when I buy children's books, I head over there.

I've just recently become aware of the amazing books by Diane Hutts Aston and illustrated by the incredible Sylvia Long.When I bought A Seed is Sleepy at Hicklebee's last week, I ordered a copy of  An Egg is Quiet, and stopped by today to pick it up. I got to chatting with the woman who was helping me, telling her I liked to draw things from nature and that I was madly in love with Sylvia Long's illustrations in these books. She smiled and ducked into the back room and brought out this beautiful poster from the publisher featuring the author's next book, A Butterfly is Patient, and said "You can keep this." Isn't it gorgeous? So unbelievably nice.

Now, before last Saturday, I would have confidently crowed, "I know that would never happen at the big chain stores!" But, here's heart-warming experience number two:

You all know how much I love "The Fabulous Beekman Boys".  (If you need a reminder, click here and here.)  On Saturday, Josh Kilmer-Purcell and Brent Ridge were speaking about heirloom vegetable gardening and signing Josh's book The Bucolic Plague at Williams-Sonoma in San Francisco, and there was no way that I was going to miss it.  I wasn't disappointed: Josh and Brent were absolutely charming, and unbelievably gracious.  They chatted and answered questions of all sorts, and it felt like an afternoon spent with old friends.  Then, it came time for the book signing.  I had brought prints of my Beekman soap drawings to give to the guys, but, I warned my husband, "Those Williams-Sonoma people will probably herd us in like cattle and whisk us through in an assembly line."  I couldn't have been more wrong.

Aaron, one of the culinary experts at W-S, wove through the line and served us delicious shortbread cookies (a Beekman recipe) that he had baked himself.  As we got to the front, the W-S staff set up each person's book to be personally signed (some authors have stopped personalizing at these things and only sign their names), and  genially introduced each groupie guest to Josh and Brent.  The guys weren't stationed behind a table, but preferred to sign while standing the entire time because it was easier to hug people and pose for pictures that way.  Yes, another W-S sales associate happily took each person's camera (usually a cell phone) and patiently took pictures... of everybody. Josh and Brent chatted with each and every obsessed fan person as if they were old friends, even little ol' me with my soap drawing prints.  They remembered my blog post, which made my day...well, my year. (My daughter says that I look like a proud little kid on show-and-tell day at school...I think she's right.)

As I'd expected, those Fabulous Beekman Boys really are fabulous, but so is, surprisingly, Williams-Sonoma.

My favorite page spread from An Egg Is Quiet


  1. Sarah,
    I really enjoyed reading this post. Great photo, btw. :) Too bad there are not many of the small bookshops left. Hicklebee's (LOVE the name)sounds like a gem. Also glad to read that your experience at W-S was so positive. Your art IS very memorable, so I'm not surprised that they remembered! So cool!

  2. Super post, Sarah! Wow, what a treat to read this and view the book and spread, as well as that great photo. It's wonderful that there still are places like Hicklebee's and people who are genuinely as nice as the Beekman Boys seem to be. Glad Williams-Sonoma was so great too! I can see why you love the book - those illustrations are gorgeous, just like yours!

  3. Thanks, Elizabeth and Shirley! I don't often post without a drawing, but I decided to skip Illustration Friday for one week and work on some other things (and get ready for Easter, etc.) Without the IF connection, I wasn't sure if anyone would be out there, so I'm very glad you stopped by!

  4. Wow, two magical experiences! Sounds like serendipity if you ask me ;)

    I remember the first time I didn't do anything for IF. I hadn't missed a post in over a year. I thought I'd become unglued, but actually I felt pretty darn free! Now I allow myself to miss them if I don't find them inspiring or if I'm just too busy. But I do like to push myself when I can, especially if it allows me to think outside the box.

    I'll bet you'll have some wonderful Easter drawings to show soon!

  5. Sarah,
    This is a wonderful description of your memorable experiences. The photos help us understand why you are so taken with these special people at Hicklebee's and Williams-Sonoma.
    Looking at the photo of you with the Beekman Boys makes me smile. I love the fact that Larry is with you sharing the experience. He's a pretty special "boy" himself!

  6. Hello:
    One of our greatest concerns is the demise of independent booksellers which seem to be closing the length and breadth of England. So often, it is these specialist retailers who support the publication of less well known writers and their work. How charming and beautifully illustrated 'An Egg is Quiet' looks to be. Let us hope that we shall be able to continue to enjoy the publication of such works in future.

    We have discovered you by chance and are now amongst your Followers.

  7. What a fabulous experience. I heard of the gentlemen farmers last year. Sounds bucolic indeed.

    I have always loved Williams Sonoma and as a matter of fact I kept telling my friends that someday I would like to work there, except I am afraid I will be paying them instead of them paying me come payday because I will be purchasing every kitchen gadget they sell.

    In the 1980's when Chuck Williams was still the face of Williams Sonoma and he graced the catalogs, he thanked me with a personal letter after I wrote to the his company when I was treated like a queen one day at their store near the Houston Galleria. I had to return a broken wooden ladle and the staff was most helpful, polite and gracious. I think, 80% of my kitchen supplies were purchased from Williams Sonoma. I even bought my garlic supply from them. They were harvested in Gillroy. I am thankful that the current management still preserves Mr. William's legacy.

  8. Lovely post Sarah, I love the poster that you got as a gift :) I think your illustrations are very professional and you can illustrate your own book. I really need to see those book that you're talking about! I'm sure they are full of joy!


    Have a wonderful weekend dear friend!