the year of billy miller

Happy Mother's Day to All the Book Mom's Who Helped Raise Me & Those I Wish Had

Happy Mother's Day, Moms of the world! I wanted to write this post, because of 1) Mother's Day, 2) there aren't actually a lot of Mom's featured in Children and Teen Literature, & 3) of the ones that are, they are pretty BAD ASS.

Growing up, I got pretty lucky. Not only did I have a Mom who was constantly giving up her time, energy and kindness to others & myself, BUT I ALSO had many book mothers. These Mom's (like my own-i'm not trying to get in trouble here ;) ) were strong. They fought for their kids. They protected them, cheered for them and were their number one fans. In reading about them, along with my own mother's praise, I think I managed to get a pretty big head. I can hear you all saying, "nooooo". However, humor aside, I learned how to implement all of these women's qualities into my own life. I grew up knowing the kind of person I wanted to be and continue to strive to be like them.

The women I'm  talking about are featured in the following titles:

The Keeping Quilt by Patricia Polacco

Favorite Quote (relating to Moms):

"At night I would trace my fingers around the edges of each animal on the quilt before I went to sleep I told my mother stories about the animals on the quilt. She told me whose sleeve had made the horse, whose apron had made the chicken, whose dress had made the flowers, and whose babushka went around the edge of the quilt." (Patricia Polacco)

This whole story is about family (Patricia's to be exact), and their tradition of keeping a special quilt alive. The reason I picked the quote above, was because it encourages storytelling between a Mother and her child.

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Chrysanthemum by Kevin Henkes

I think by now, you all (as readers of my blog) should know that I have a thing with Kevin Henkes' work. BUT REALLY. He writes families and growing up so beautifully.

Here is my favorite quote:

""Oh, pish," said her mother. "Your name is beautiful."

"And precious and priceless and fascinating and winsom," said her father.

"It's everything you are," said her mother." (Kevin Henkes)

I think the reason I picked this quote is self-explanatory. I love that not only did her mother say that her name was beautiful, but also that it encompassed Chrysanthemum herself.  Heartfelt confidence boosters are always a plus in my book.

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The Year of Billy Miller by Kevin Henkes

I'm sorry you all! I just love Kevin's work! In The Year of Billy Miller, Kevin splits up Billy's life into four parts-His Dad, Mom, sister and teacher.

The quote I love most is at the end of the book, but if you haven't read it, DON'T WORRY! I really don't think that this will give away anything.

"He scanned the crowd for Mama, and he saw her instantly. She was right at the foot of the stage. Their eyes connected, and he knew that she'd been watching him. She'd heard him, even without the microphone on. She was smiling and nodding. " (Kevin Henkes)

I love this, because of how in-tune their connection is with one another. I think it speaks volumes in how Mom's kind of just know what's going on with their children instinctively.

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Ghosts by Raina Telgemeier

This story, while about Cat and Maya, actually features their Mother's heritage a lot. While her daughters learn more about it and Dia de los Muertos, their mother states:

“I was your typical, stubborn American teenager. I wanted to do things the ‘modern’ way. I guess after your Abuela died . . . a lot of old traditions died with her.” (Raina Telgemeier)

I love this intimate look at a Mom and how she explains why her daughters are just discovering more of her.

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Harry Potter & the Sorcerer's Stone by J.K. Rowling

Man, oh man, J.K. Rowling KNOWS how to write Mothers. The two I am sticking with for this post are Lily Potter and Molly Weasley. Below, you will find explanations in the form of quotes or statements of why they are great Moms:

Let's start with Molly-

""No one's denying what he's done!" said Mrs. Weasley, her voice rising, her fists trembling on the arms of her chair. "But he's still-"

"He's not a child!" said Sirius impatiently.

"He's not an adult either!" said Mrs. Weasley, the color rising in her cheeks. "He's not James, Sirius!""(J.K. Rowling)

This is a hard quote, no one is denying that. It's hard because Harry finally has a father figure in his life-a parent that he never got to have...EXCEPT for the fact that Molly has been a mother figure to him, ever since they met. Molly feels the same about Harry as one of her own children. This quote puts on page, that struggle. The struggle of wanting Harry to have someone, but also not wanting to give up her motherly duties towards him.

And then Lily-

I can't find the exact quotes at the moment- but Harry survived so much because of Lily. Her love, gave him protection from the most evil being in his world-more than once. Her love placed a protection over her sister's home, so that Harry would be safe there AND gave him protection in the form of Professor Snape. The main reason why Harry is able to defeat Voldemort SO MANY TIMES, is because of her love. So as readers, we know that it has to be incredibly strong.

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Wonder by R. J. Palacio

Oh Wonder, how you made me cry. Like Henkes' The Year of Billy Miller, R. J. Palacio saves her tear-jerker for the end of her novel, in this quote:

"“You really are a wonder, Auggie. You are a wonder.”" (R. J. Palacio)

Auggie's Mother puts so much of her love and joy into this sentence that it makes your heart swell.

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The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan

I chose the graphic novel version of this title, because there are some really sweet illustrated scenes between Percy and his Mom.

However, here is a quote from the book:

"When she looks at me, it's like she's seeing all the good things about me, none of the bad. I've never heard her raise her voice or say an unkind word to anyone..." (Rick Riordan)

This also radiates love. It's especially cool to see Percy realize the way his mom feels about him. Sally Jackson had to deal with so much, being Percy's Mom, the mom of a Demigod. However, she did it with so much strength, while fighting to make sure Percy was safe and happy.

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Divergent by Veronica Roth

Natalie Prior in Divergent is similar to that of Lily Potter or Sally Jackson. She too gives up her life for her child, and just like Percy, Tris knew exactly what her Mother must have been thinking.

"My mother's death was brave I remember how calm she was, how determined. It isn't just brave that she died for me; it is brave that she did it without announcing it, without hesitation, and without appearing to consider another option." (Veronica Roth)

Tris gets to see her Mother for who she was, while figuring out what bravery REALLY means. 

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The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

This is another I don't have an exact quote for. However, our main character Starr's Mother, Lisa, is a force to be reckoned with. She is a fierce protector like the other Moms I've mentioned, but also knows how to give her daughter freedom. She steps back and lets her daughter make her own choices- whether it's boys or deciding what message she wants to share with the world. She also keeps secrets for her. She knows when to step in and when to step back, and that's something that I really appreciated about her character.

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The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

Frannie Lancaster is the Mom in this book. Though she is actually a bit over protective at times (can you blame her, her child is dying of cancer), she always has Hazel's best interest at heart. When Hazel wants to go to Amsterdam to meet and author, Mrs. Lancaster accompanies her and Gus there!

""What can we do?" Mom asked again.

I shrugged.

But she kept asking, as if there were something she could do, until I just kind of crawled across the couch into her lap and my dad came over and held my legs really tight and I wrapped my arms all the way around my mom's middle and they held on to me for hours while the tide rolled in." (John Green)

I love the quote above because it shows how much a simple hug or the act of holding, can soothe a child. Sometimes that is what they need. I felt like Hazel's Mom was always ready for a hug.

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If I stay by Gayle Forman

Ugh. Similar to the book or two above, this was a rough read. The Mom in it, Kat Hall, although very different from her child, still manages to connect with her. As Mia loves classical music more and more, Kat and Mia's Dad buy her her own cello. Kat praises Mia and roots her on and she is waiting for an acceptance to Juliard. She is her biggest fan and I loved that about her character.

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ALSO, for those of you who can't or do not celebrate Mother's Day, I would recommend the following:

Stella Brings the Family by Miriam B. Schiffer

This is a beautiful story. Stella doesn't have a Mom that she can bring to her class's Mother's Day celebration, so she brings her Dads...and a few other family members. It is sweet, funny and gives another perspective on the Holiday.

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and Circus Mirandus by Cassie Beasley

Circus Mirandus is about a boy who was raised by his Grandfather. Now that his Grandfather is gravely sick, Micah will do whatever it takes to get a mysterious lightbender to give him a miracle. I chose this book to feature because I know there are a lot of kids out there, who are raised by their Grandparents. The relationship between Micah and his Grandfather was endearing and would be a perfect read for some of those kids, as well as others.

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That's it for this post! I hope you have a wonderful Holiday with those you hold dear, whether it be your Mom, Aunt, Grandmother, the opposite (Dad, Uncle or Grandfather), or even a really close friend.

<3 Jen in the Bookstore

Fave Fridays-Kevin Henkes Edition

It’s time for Fave Fridays!

Alright guys, this is it. This is the moment that I tell all about how much Kevin Henkes has impacted my life. I think if most booksellers were honest, they would do the same. In our line of work there is always an author/illustrator that we have spoken to, or that we love, that really made a difference on who we are, or how we sell and recommend books. An author/illustrator that we would do anything for. One that no matter how old a child is, or what event it’s for, we will always try to sell customers their books. For me, this author is Mr. Kevin Henkes.

I was first introduced to Kevin’s work, when I was given, Julius, the Baby of the World, at my mom’s baby shower. Shout out to Ann G., my mom’s friend and my former Sunday School teacher, for starting this madness! My little brother was about to be born, and this was my first sibling book. Instantly, I fell in love with Kevin and his watercolor mice. My mom, being the amazing woman she is, started buying all of his books for me. If you look to the photoset above, you will see an OG picture of my mom reading Lilly’s Purple Plastic Purse to some of my friends and me (I’m in the left hand corner). You will also see a photo of my copy, signed by Kevin! Note: if you look closely, you will also see the Merry Christmas note from my beautiful mom, in 1999. When I met Kevin (more on that later,) he said that he loved seeing books that were worn, ‘cause it proved that they had been loved (at the time, I had been embarrassed that it was so dirty and beat up).

From then on, he was always my favorite author, but I didn’t really have a chance to talk about it much, until I started working at Vroman’s. My coworkers and bosses indulged me by making sure I knew when any ARCs arrived, or if there was any new book news! I set up a “shrine” (jokingly) in the department, featuring all of his books, most of them which had hand drawn shelf talkers by me. I would recommend his stuff constantly as well. New baby? Try “Old Bear”. First time sibling? “Julius, the Baby of the World”, of course. Beginning reader? Try the “Penny” books! First day of School? Try “Wemberly Worried”! It went on and on…

The struggle came, when I found out that he didn’t really travel much and liked being with his family (which I totally understand). It furthered, when I realized that he had no social media, no email, etc. So many authors have Twitter or Facebook now, that having my favorite of all time, not have anything, kinda sucked. Hence, why I wrote him a couple letters. You can see one of them from 4 years ago, HERE.

Then, one day, fate was really good to me. My friend Alyson, told me that Kevin was going to be at ALA (Las Vegas, 2014). I wasn’t a librarian, but she said that that didn’t matter. She helped me buy my tickets for the  Caldecott/Newbery dinner (Kevin Henkes had won an honor for, The Year of Billy Miller), and made sure i had everything I needed to be able to attend. She even let me room with her! Shout out to good friends!

I’m going to be honest here, 2014 was the beginning of a hard year for me. I had just broken up with a long-term boyfriend, and was trying to have all these new experiences to make up for it. One of the things that was on my to do list was ALA and meeting Kevin. The meeting was even better than I had hoped for. The first time I met him was at the Caldecott/Newbery dinner. I spotted his crew from across the room because they were all wearing blue, Year of Billy Miller hats (you can see one that I got from one of Aly’s friends, above). I was sitting next to my new friend Cathy, and she was urging me to go say hi. I remember being so scared and so nervous, but when he suddenly walked near our table, Cathy took me up to him and introduced me as his biggest fan (SO GREAT). He was gracious and kind, even though it was a quick meeting because the presentations were starting.

I met him again at his first signing (the next day?), and was wearing a Kevin Henkes Tshirt that my Grandma had bought for me online (thanks Grandma!). He commented on my shirt, we had the conversation about my Lilly book, and I got some pictures with him. The best part though, was when he signed my, Year of Billy Miller, book. If you look again at the photoset above, you will see that he added, “& it’s always the year of Jen”. This meant ALOT to me. I’m sure he wrote it on multiple people’s books that day, but because of it being a hard year for me, it just made everything perfect. It reinforced that 2014 was going to be okay, and that this author, that I looked up to, without him knowing it, helped pave the way for that.

Since then, I have gotten to meet him again at B.E.A. 2015 (which I won a scholarship to), and at the Charlotte Huck Festival 2016 (where I went to support Emily Arrow). We (Emily and I) even stayed up all night one night, so that she could write a song for Kevin’s, Waiting (more on that in an upcoming post). I could write so much more about why I love Kevin and his work, but I don’t want to sound like TOO much of a stalker. Just, if you have yet to see or buy Kevin’s books, PLEASE check them out. You won’t regret it. Maybe your child will have the same experience that I did. And Kevin, thank you and your mice, for being in my life since 1998, when my little buddy was born. I can’t thank you enough for the past 18 years. That being said, happy birthday to my little brother, who turns 18 on Monday.



I’m getting ready to do a HUGE Kevin Henkes post on Friday...


and to prepare for that, I thought I would share a super embarrassing letter that I wrote 4 years ago, to the man himself. Here it is in all it’s glory:

Dear Mr. Henkes,

I wrote you a couple of years ago telling you how much I admired your work. I am writing again to tell you the same thing along with more of my praises. Working at Vroman’s Bookstore in Pasadena, California has only increased my liking of your books. However, I must say that I am mostly fond of your mouse books, since they were the first ones I was introduced to as a child. Working here I have discovered Penny and have grown to love her dearly. I have made shelf talkers for all of her books and have hand sold them frequently. I also got her to be on our summer reading program this summer. Your illustrations are beautiful and that is the first thing I rave about when telling a customer about your books. The first book of yours I ever received was “Julius the Baby of the World”, for my mother’s baby shower for my little brother. I cannot begin to tell you how much I love that book. When I was in second grade I read it to my class. However, my favorite will always be “Chrysanthemum” (even though my favorite mouse will always be Lilly). Recently, I just found out that it was published September 16th, 1991, which is the day after my birthday! “Chrysanthemum” is just so sweet and beautiful. Actually all of your books are, which is why I choose to recommend them so much. They are and continue to be so true to how children really feel and act. I am currently reading an ARC of “The Year of Billy Miller” and the same can be said about that book as well. The purpose of this letter, although it is in fact a fan letter, is to tell you how much I wish you would tour more. I am 21 years old now, yet if you were to come to Vroman’s to do a meet and greet, it would truly be the best day ever (not just a “Good Day” haha).  If you couldn’t come to Vroman’s it would be really cool if you could tour somewhere in the LA area so that I could meet you.  Furthermore, I understand if you are done with touring but I bet I could get a good crowd going if you were to visit this area. Thank you so much for writing all your wonderful picture books.

I wish you all the best,

Jen Pino

Twitter: @jenapino (You should get one!)



Welp. Now you know why my blog title is what it is. You also have gotten to view baby #JenInTheBookstore <3

Look out for my Kevin Henkes post on Friday, for #FaveFridays!