Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Hicklebees

Hicklebees is an independent children's bookstore in San Jose. I had heard of it from friends, since it's here in the San Francisco Bay Area down in San Jose, but somehow I'd never managed to get there before now.
up by the main counter
So, anyone who was at this year's SCBWI conference and heard illustrator David Small's keynote talk would know about Hicklebees; he talked about his fairly depressing experiences giving talks and signings at the big box bookstores, and then compared it with his happy experience at Hicklebees. He illustrated it with drawings and cartoons that made everyone laugh and applaud, and honestly it made all of us wish we could go to Hicklebees.
tucked away in a corner
I've mentioned before that all of the bookstores in our area have closed. Riley and I especially miss being able to go to our local bookstore and hang out and read. We usually went to Border's since it was friendly enough and we could get a hot chocolate and sit and read easily and the selection of books was decent, even if based mostly on sales status.

At the SCBWI summer conference there was quite a lot of talk about Borders going out of business and why and what that meant for the publishing industry, along with the whole e-book revolution and how we all had to adapt. Some of the publishers and agents who talked were saying that with the loss of the big box bookstores, probably the big stores like WalMart and Target and Costco would step up and start selling more books. The impression I got from them was that they had little concern about what this meant for regular people; they seemed more focused on sales numbers and market shares. Perhaps their jobs are too many steps removed from the end consumers, but it revealed a shocking blind spot on their part.

And I'll be honest here: their apparent unconcern for the people who actually buy their end products (people like me and my family) made my heart sink; it felt like a slap to those of us who aren't in the upper economic brackets who nevertheless love bookstores, books, reading and the whole experience of browsing books. E-books aren't something my family uses; we have no e-readers, no devices to make it easy and we're not likely to spend a chunk of the limited money we have on something like that. My boys are avid readers; they say that those stores like Costco and Target only have the more boring grown up books or baby activity type books and nothing much inbetween, which is sadly true.
There's a huge difference between coming to a place like Hicklebees, shown here, and standing in a noisy crowded Costco aisle looking at a chaotic, disorganized pile of scattered books offered on 2 big flat tables. It doesn't make for a pleasant experience, let me tell you. This crisis for the bricks and mortar bookstores really does affect people, and kids most of all. Our local library has had to cut their hours and what books they can acquire, which really impacts middle and lower income kids. The school libraries are affected even more severely by budget cuts. The lack of an accessible, interesting library and no available bookstores means kids don't get to use, see, feel or read books, unless they have determined parents who can take the time and money to drive long distances to go to cool places like Hicklebees. All of these things make it a whole lot harder for middle and lower income parents to expose their kids to reading, much less help them learn to love reading. Reading is not fun at Costco or Walmart. At Hicklebees it's like heaven for kids. That's what my kids said when we went there.
So the boys and I made a trek down to San Jose. Well, actually 2 treks, since Riley and I went the first time as a one-on-one outing and we loved it, and we ordered some books that are hard to get, so when those books came in we all went back. The second time I took some pictures. :)
There are books everywhere, of course. It's not a huge place by any means and the outside looks like a little hole-in-the-wall store in downtown San Jose, but it's charming both inside and out.
There are a lot of special little nooks and crannies to hang out in and read or play with the toys.
knights and horses
pop-eye dinosaurs to squeeze
over in the crow's nest area
conversation with a dinosaur

There's framed art, letters and other goodies on every spare bit of wall space between bookstacks.
wall of cool things from famous artists and writers
in the back corner with the train table
 And there are autographs and drawings in marker everywhere, especially on the back walls and doorways and bathrooms.
David Diaz- for Debbie!
Jules Feiffer
In a corner in the men's room
 The names you can find tucked away are famous and legendary and amazing and.funny. A sense of humor is everywhere you turn and it makes you wonder why the rest of the world doesn't seem to be this way. Are childrens' book people the keepers of most of the playfulness and humor in the world?
Santa in the men's
look for the mouse...
by the back room exit
Otter!
I'm not sure what the solution is to the changing market for books, and I know we all need to adapt.

 But I know with certainty that we need to keep the rare places like Hicklebees alive.


2 comments:

  1. What a fabulous place, Beckett! Would love to visit this store sometime.

    ReplyDelete