About This Blog

Don't get me wrong. It's not that I'm not on board with the whole ebook thing. I enjoy books in all their formats. But there is nothing quite like a bookstore with its neatly arranged shelves of books and artfully created displays of new arrivals, best sellers, and suggested reading. I especially enjoy discovering small, independent bookstores and have made it my mission to visit and report back on as many of these gems as I can. That is my focus, but there is really nothing that is off limits as long as it is about books or reading. Hope you enjoy my blog and come back often.

Monday, June 25, 2012

In And Around Our Nation's Capital, Part II

Hooray for Books!
1555 King Street
Alexandria, VA 22314

There is something quite gratifying about walking along old cobblestone streets through historic districts that have known the likes of George Washington and Robert E. Lee. Librarians often seem to have an interest in historical things, perhaps even more so in my case. Although I never had the pleasure of doing so, I am certified to teach history and have a profound fascination for historic places such as Gettysburg and Williamsburg. No less captivating is Old Alexandria, Virginia, a short ride by water taxi from our hotel across the river in Maryland. With D.C. seemingly overrun by Girl Scouts, my husband and I, undaunted by the heat and humidity, decided to spend a Sunday afternoon walking the old streets and seeing the sights of Alexandria. After an engaging tour of the beautiful Lee-Fendall House, we temporarily parted ways. My husband went on to visit the landmark George Washington Masonic Memorial while I, of course, visited a bookstore whose name perfectly captures my sentiments: Hooray for Books!

Maryam and Leah
A small hanging sign ornaments what is otherwise a plain red brick exterior. Inside, the store is anything but plain. Hooray for Books! as the name suggests, is a children's bookstore now occupying what was formerly, well, a children's bookstore. The current owners actually worked at the previous store, and although they were not present at the time of my visit, I was in very good hands with two delightful young staff members, Maryam and Leah, who were more than happy to share information about the shop. Maryam started working at the store shortly after it opened four years ago when she was still in high school, and Leah, a relative newbie, joined the staff this past February. The two have an obvious love of children and books. Both grew up in households with mothers who ran home daycares. Leah spent time as a nanny in Madrid, and Maryam is currently studying developmental psychology.

Business at Hooray for Books! is doing well and steadily increasing due, no doubt, in part to the extensive calendar of activities and special events the store offers. Every Friday and Saturday morning, for example, the stroller set (generally 2 years and under) arrives for Wee Ones Story Time, featuring picture books, rhymes, and singalongs. On Monday evenings, older kids are invited to participate in a unique club opportunity. With beginner, junior, middle, and teen levels, ARC (Advanced Readers Copy) Club members hear readings and offer opinions on new books in advance of their release. This gives young readers a preview of coming attractions while also providing the store with valuable feedback on new titles. Hooray for Books! also frequently sponsors author visits. Of note on the June calendar were Cheryl Shaw Barnes and a puzzle party with Eric Berlin.

Ready for story time
One corner of the store is set aside especially for readings and activities. Stacked chairs and extra folding chairs are at the ready for added seating. And some of the bookshelves are on wheels so that they may be easily moved to provide more space. A recent visit by Erin Hunter (Warriors series) was so crowded, however, that the event spilled over into an adjoining atrium. When it comes to author visits, Maryam told me that they have a friendly, collaborative relationship with Politics and Prose, a D.C. bookstore. The two stores share information about potential author visits. "If we hear of something that is more suitable to their store than ours, we pass that on to them, and they do the same for us," she says. I am extremely jealous of one particular Politics and Prose event that Maryam recently attended--a visit by none other than John Green, one of my favorite YA authors. (More on Politics and Prose later.)

As one might expect of a children's bookstore, Hooray for Books! has a cheery atmosphere and a diverse selection of titles from picture books to YA. Umbrellas, clothing, toys, puzzles, raincoats, and puppets are part of an abundant array of items offered for young readers. As the store has a diverse clientele, there is a section of foreign language books, and Maryam says she has even done foreign language story times in Spanish and French.

One of the Hooray for Books! activities I found especially appealing is the YA Book Club. What's so special about a YA book club you might ask? Well, this one is for adults. That's right. It's an adult club that reads YA titles. I've said it before, and I'll say it again: YA fiction provides some of the best reading available. If you haven't ever tried a YA book, I highly recommend it. You might perhaps give John Green a try. I also highly recommend The Book Thief by Markus Zusak, my all-time favorite book.
(See My Favorites.) Without hesitation I decided to purchase I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith, the current selection for the YA Book Club for Adults. If I lived in the D.C. area, I would definitely belong to this book club.

My time at Hooray for Books! went by in a flash, and it was past closing time before I knew it. Maryam and Leah graciously kept the store open a little longer for me to finish getting some pictures, ask some final questions, and make my purchase. There are many things to love about Alexandria, and Hooray for Books! is definitely one of those things.

Special Note:
I owe a debt of thanks to more than 200,000 Girl Scouts who descended on Washington, D.C., for  their 100th Anniversary celebration. Without them we likely would not have decided to instead spend our Sunday afternoon in Alexandria, and I would have missed this wonderful bookstore. Happy Birthday, Girl Scouts.
Here is a link to their anniversary Facebook page:  Girl Scouts Rock the Mall.

In And Around Our Nation's Capital, Part III coming soon.

No comments: