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Go, indies, go!

It’s a bicoastal book-to-book battle, but it’s an everybody-wins sort of thing.

ncibaBeginning in the fall and running through the end of 2015, the Northern California Independent Booksellers Association Children’s Alliance (NCIBA) and the New England Children’s Booksellers Advisory Council (NECBA) were competing to see which coast’s booksellers can sell the most copies of certain titles with diverse characters.

NCIBA was touting One Word from Sophia (Atheneum, June 2015) by Jim Averbeck, illustrated by Yasmeen Ismail; and The Misadventures of the Family Fletcher (Delacorte, September 2014) by Dana necbaAlison Levy. NECBA was promoting Last Stop on Market Street (Putnam, January 2015) by Matt de la Peña, illustrated by Christian Robinson — which just yesterday received the Newbery Medal, a Caldecott Honor, and a CSK Illustrator Award Honor.

The idea was to “provide hard evidence to publishers that diverse books sell,” according to a statement from NCIBA’s new Diversity Committee.

Brookline Booksmith participated in a similar campaign while I worked in the children’s section there. The Great Greene Challenge of 2014 was a competition to see which bookstore could sell the most copies of Varian Johnson’s The Great Greene Heist (Scholastic/Levine), a funny caper with a diverse cast pictured clearly on the cover. The most challenging part of handselling this book was its lack of wildly popular comp titles. The easiest way to sell a book from Intermediate Fiction was to say, “If you liked Percy Jackson/Harry Potter/Diary of a Wimpy Kid…” Recommendations for a middle-school caper novel often sounded a little out-of-the-blue. The solution? Honesty. When I explained to customers that we were competing to sell this title to prove to publishers that a book with kids of color on the cover could sell, it often piqued their interest. “That needs proving?” one customer asked. Some did walk away with copies of The Great Greene Heist. Others picked different books, but in at least a few cases, they picked different diverse books. The exchange almost always led to some discussion about the need for more diversity in children’s literature.

Let’s hope the same happened with this initiative! We’re looking forward to seeing the results announced. (And far be it from this New England bookselling alum to say which reason is the best region, but may the best region win!)

Shoshana Flax About Shoshana Flax

Shoshana Flax, assistant editor for The Horn Book, Inc., is a former bookseller and holds an MFA in Writing for Children from Simmons College. She is a member of the Sydney Taylor Book Award committee.



  1. Anonymous says:

    For goodness sake, please report on how it turned out! What were the sales figures for October to December 25th, when the Christmas selling season was over. How did the diverse titles sell compared to other titles? Numbers, please! They must have them at this point.

  2. Well, booksellers? Any results you’re able to share?

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