Posted by: Kristi Tuck Austin | February 23, 2011

Bookstore bridges generations of bibliophiles: bbgb store profile, part II with giveaway

Monday I posted about meeting Jenesse Evertson and Jill Stefanovich, the owners of bbgb tales for kids. I couldn’t fit all their information and verve into one post, so I let it spill over to today. Part one looked at how Jill and Jenesse came to own the store, their backgrounds, booksellers Diane Black and Julianna Reid, the store’s name and mission, and a bbgb foundation to give a book for every one sold. Part two focuses on bbgb’s community involvement, how new books offer a look at childhood around the world, and where bbgb is going in the future. There is also a giveaway at the end.


“Just because they are reading on their own doesn’t mean you should stop reading to them or with them.”

Reading together is the perfect description of how bbgb reaches out to the Richmond community. Shortly after transitioning to bbgb, the store participated in a book drive for the Greater Richmond Arc. Jill expressed her appreciation for the Arc, which has changed the lives of children she loves. “In support, we were a collection place, but we also gave a discount to people who bought the book for the Arc,” Jill said. The bookstore also donated books and money.

For Dr. Suess’s birthday on March 2, bbgb will participate in the National Education Association’s Read Across America and serve as a drop-off point for books donated to the downtown Children’s Book Bank.

The staff also wants to share knowledge with teachers and parents in the community. Last week, Jenesse shared her expertise at a local PTA meeting targeting third graders. “I was sharing the importance of reading books…with pictures or having children explore picture books from third grade up.” Many parents feel their early elementary children should read only long chapter books filled with words, but bbgb reminded parents that picture books have a place beside Harry Potter. Picture books keep children and parents flexible when reading and inform how children write.

“[There are] so many amazing picture books that are meant for that audience that are being overlooked,” Jill said. “Just because they are reading on their own doesn’t mean you should stop reading to them or with them.”

The bbgb staff hopes to build more connections with schools. “We hope to leverage the expertise in the shop more than we have in the past,” Jill said. This week, Jenesse and Diane will speak to teachers at Collegiate in preparation for Collegiate’s book fair. The booksellers will share books suited for the teachers’ audiences. bbgb continues Narnia’s long book fair tradition and hopes to include more presentations with upcoming fairs.

New international titles at bbgb

“[International books] bring in a whole perspective on childhood…”

International books are a new niche for bbgb. “This has been so much fun for us,” Jill said. “Fortunately, Jenesse spent two years in Holland and she’s been in England for two years, so the past four years have really allowed her to get exposed to some great international illustrators and authors and presses.

International children’s books bring something different to the shelves. “You really can see the illustrations, in some cases, are darker,” Jenesse said as she handed me a book with exquisite illustrations of children and caring robbers.

The books, and not just their content, become a learning experience for children. “They bring in a whole perspective on childhood,” Jenesse said. “When you read these books, you really start thinking about other kids reading these books, and they are really reflective of childhoods in those countries. For instance, in France their artwork is more highly stylized and so their kids get used to having that different sense with their eyes. [Children] also understand that this is what other kids are looking at. It is a picture into childhood in another country.”

“Some of the books are simple but made more complex by their illustrations,” Jenesse said. “We tend to be word heavy in the States and message heavy, so you get a different perspective.”

There are also many more picture books without words than in the States.  “They are a little bit harder for people to grasp onto because we are used to reading a book by reading the words, but the stories can be told so much more beautifully when you’re putting your own words to them. They become your own, and the child can tell the story without having to read,” Jill said.

“You find many of those internationally,” Jenesse said. “They are also the ones that get printed here [in the United States] because they don’t have to worry about the translation. We can pick up on that and give that window into another country through those kinds of books.”

“You will see collections that are targeted at adults.” 

Owner Jill reading

bbgb might be a store with tales for kids, but it is also a store for all generations.

The store carries many of the exceptional series available for young adults. Jenesse is now reading through several series to narrow down those of the highest quality. The store will also carry more translations of series, but do not worry; your favorites won’t be removed. “We are keeping with all the wonderful books that we already know,” Jennesse said.

In the future, there will be more focus on adult book buyers. “I have always, as an adult, bought children’s books for myself, well before I had children,” Jill said. “We’ve got some new customers who are buying for themselves. We know what they like, and we are able to pull out books that are almost more appreciated by adults. You will see collections targeted to adults. Not just adults that have kids, or adults that are designers and interested in the illustrations. There are so many that are soulful, that you just clutch to your chest because the message is so beautiful.”

bbgb is also exposing companies and corporate professionals to children’s books. The booksellers recently pulled 18 books for company executives to use for inspiration as they developed new business strategies refocusing around luxury. The bbgb had stacks of books depicting luxury, but they pulled 18 great choices the company said aided their discussion. Jill and Jenesse hope to cultivate more of these business connections in the future.

bbgb booksellers Diane Black, Jill Stefanovich, Jenesse Evertson, and Julianna Reid with some of their favorite books

“I think the independent booksellers–especially a children’s bookshop–we’ve got a very special niche and amazing audience that continues to grow.”

Plans for bbgb’s future keep Jenesse and Jill optimistic. The day we spoke the book industry was reeling from news of Border’s bankruptcy, but those woes didn’t daunt bbgb. “I think the independent booksellers–especially a children’s bookshop–we’ve got a very special niche and amazing audience that continues to grow,” Jill said. “We don’t compete against the big box stores, because they can’t offer what we offer, and we don’t offer what they offer. We fill two different gaps.”

Creativity and adapting to a changing city and industry will characterize bbgb’s coming months. “We are a bit off the beaten path here,” Jill said about their current location, but they’re working hard to bring in readers. Events, such as a renaming ceremony and reading by Herman Parish, author of the Amelia Bedelia series, brought people into the store. This Friday, February 25, is bbgb’s book-to-big-screen event. The store will show two short UK films based on the children’s books The Gruffalo and Lost and Found. Teens and tweets will get a sneak peek at the book touted as the next Harry Potter. “We have the galleys here for the kids to go through. We’ve got some things we’ll be showing that highlight the characters in the books,” Jill said. Local animator Saxton Moore will help readers create their own book-to-movie characters. Learn about this event and upcoming monthly events on bbgb’s Facebook page.

Books for the book-to-big-screen event Friday, February 25

Also in the works are new types of programming, including children’s writing camps and birthday parties.

The store’s current location is darling, but these workshops and events could use more space. This dilemma might cause bbgb to return to its roots. “We are exploring a move back into Carytown,” Jill said. Narnia began in Carytown and didn’t move to the current Kensington Avenue location until 2002.

bbgb is also making the move to the web with, which will provide content for children and adults. Among my favorite features is a section of book reviews by children who shop in the store. “Kids will be able to click and read what other kids say,” Jenesse said. The reviewed books will be on a children’s recommendation shelf in the store.

Jill and Jenesse will also introduce a blog targeting adults, a space for staff to post views on timely topics, industry trends, and authors they love. As the only independent children’s bookshop in the city, Jill and Jenesse feel a responsibility to share as much as possible with the people of Richmond.

The website will also introduce an e-commerce option.

Diane, Jenesse, Jill, and Julianna create a community in their store. While we talked, several customers exchanged personal words and hugs with the booksellers.

Here are ways you can connect with the bbgb community:

Visit the store and say hello.

Take the time to ask for booksellers’ favorites.

Follow bbgb on Facebook and Twitter.

Look for their website coming soon.

Get your school, child’s school, or your work involved with bbgb through PTA visits, speaking engagements, or inspirational selections.

Ask Jill and Jenesse how you can participate in their community outreach.

Attend an event and look for upcoming workshops.

The giveaway

bbgb generously gave four bookmark notepads for one River City Fiction reader. These handy-dandy notepads are the size of bookmarks, so if you want to leave yourself a note without writing in the book, tear a sheet out, jot your note, and mark your spot. I think it is ingenious, and I’m jealous one of you gets four of these.

To enter, leave a comment saying why you love bbgb, what you love about children’s books, or a pingback to this profile by Friday at 8pm. I’ll post the winner on Friday night. Being new to the blogging thing, I’ve never done a contest before. I probably didn’t give enough time for comments, so I’m extending the time until 8pm on Saturday. If this is a horrendous breach of etiquette, please leave a comment telling me so. It will count toward the contest.

More photos

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  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Kristi Tuck Austin and Ellen F. Brown, Kristi Tuck Austin. Kristi Tuck Austin said: Bookstore bridges generations of bibliophiles: bbgb store profile, part II with giveaway […]

  2. I know it is too late for the contest, but I have to leave a comment anyway! I love all the new events bbgb is providing to the community. And — I agree — I purchased more children books before I even had kids!

  3. You truly captured the true feeling of bbgb and the owners. Thank you for such a well written article.

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