This is my favorite time of year to be a bookseller. The hours are long, the store is crowded and it can be frustrating when everyone wants the same book because they heard about it on NPR. However, those minor complaints are outweighed by the fact that the store is packed with people that want books. Men, women and children that value the experience of reading and that are open to recommendations and book conversations.
My favorite moment of Black Friday came towards the end of the day. A middle age woman from Chicago came into the store with her two college-age daughters. The woman was dressed nicely in an expensive knee-length black coat and silver earrings and she was all business. She approached the counter and asked me where she could find a book featured in the window.
"Which book do you want?" I asked.
"I don't know the title. It's in your window with the Christmas books. It's about an old bear."
Instantly, I knew she was referring to Olivier Dunrea's Old Bear and His Cub. Dunrea's picture book came out just two weeks ago and already is a classic. His simple but finely drawn pictures and elegant story of a loving old bear keeping his cub safe and secure resonates in a way that brand new books rarely do. It's as if you've known this tale and illustrations since your own childhood.
I led the woman back to the children's room and pulled the book out of the dump and placed it in her hands. "It's a wonderful book," I said.
"We'll see," she said holding the book and gazing at its delightful cover. "If it makes me tear up by the end, I'll know it's worth buying."
I left her and her daughters with the book without much hope that we'd get the sale. She did not look like a woman who would ever cry in public. I returned to the front counter trolling for another customer. A few minutes later I was putting a book on hold when I passed my Chicago customer still standing where I left her.
"Well, did the Old Bear and His Cub do the trick?"
She looked up at me and her steely eyes were filled with water and her face was blushed red. Her daughters stood behind her and rolled their dry eyes. She dabbed a tissue to her eyes and simply said, "I'm going to buy the book."