One Morning in Maine

If this title reminds you of a children’s book by Robert McCloskey, give yourself a pat on the back for your perception. Summer vacation with a couple of preschoolers sent me scurrying for books to add to their memory of the trip. Having been around the track a few times, I knew a local independent book store would be the place to shop.

For their memory of this trip I needed three books for sure. Naturally, I could not skip One Morning in Maine since sunrise, my favorite time of day, was spectacular from the house we’d rented where the Penobscot River heads toward the ocean. The boys would have to have Miss Rumphius by Barbara Cooney since we saw the lupines of the story every time we took a walk.  And they couldn’t miss their father’s childhood favorite, Blueberries for Sal, also by Robert McCloskey.

So I got out my computer and Googled the location of the nearest small town independent book store.  As often happens with independents, I got more than I bargained for since there was a review of Kent Haruf’s last book written shortly before his death on the site. I had enjoyed his Plainsong and Eventide and knew I wanted to read Our Souls at Night.

The bookstore, right on Bucksport’s main street, was appropriately named “Bookstacks.” (Names of independent bookstores are intriguing in themselves, but that would be a digression.) After enjoying a browsing session in both the adult and children’s sections, I stood off temptation and kept to my plan of buying the three books for two grandsons and one for the grandma. As I checked out at the counter, the owner looked up from his nearby computer to give me a warning, “Have a box of Kleenex ready.”

I thought, “Only in an independent bookstore!” A report on yesterday’s Today Show said sales in independent book stores were up by 20%. There are reasons for that, like the owner who had actually read the book he was selling. Recent coverage on Square Books in Oxford, Mississippi suggests that you get a staff recommendation for your next read because they know books. Each job applicant for their bookstore has to take a literature test! If you have a local independent book store, become friends with the staff, and they are likely to watch for books that fit your tastes. Hand-selling is a big part of their trade.

And before you go on vacation, Google and find one of those bookstores. You will enjoy the browsing, find some books with local color to take home to remember your trip, and perhaps get a warning from the staff if the book you select is going to make you cry.