We like books.
We're interested in ways to help more people (especially kids) like books.
You can read more about our company at www.capstonepub.com.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Educators at NY Comic Con

At the Comic Con convention recently held in New York City, I noticed a surprising change. During the preview hours, before the general public is allowed in and when people with professional tickets wander the floor, the folks crowding the aisles weren’t only collectors and artists trying to hunt down some exclusive, Comic Con-only action figure or hoping to corner one of their idols for an autograph (the likes of Stan Lee, Joe Kubert, and Neil Gaiman were in attendance). Rather, their numbers had been infiltrated by librarians and teachers. They were hoping to either build or add to a graphic novel collection. They were also searching for the latest trends in comics.

Along with the big names like Dark Horse, Marvel, and DC Comics, many independent publishers were represented at the convention. And it was at the booths of these smaller publishers, such as Stone Arch Books with our ever-popular “safe graphic novels” message, that the true treasures were found. People were especially thrilled about our Graphic Flash books, which are a hybrid of sequential art and traditional paragraphing, and also have curriculum appeal with their historical fiction stories.

Of course, once the preview hours were over, the aisles of the convention floor filled with Manga characters, Strom Troopers, and an assortment of superheroes, along with aspiring artists willing to show their portfolios to just about anyone involved in the publishing business. That’s typical fare for a large convention. But I was pleasantly surprised to see the professional crowd include those who matter most to us, the people who help kids reads: teachers and librarians. It’s a sure sign that the literary merits of graphic novels are being embraced as their popularity grows.

If you feel like you missed out by not making it to the New York Comic Con, don’t worry; there are several other large comic conventions yet to be held this year. The largest international convention is the San Diego Comic Con, July 24th – 27th. Stone Arch Books will be there—we’ll give you more details as we get closer, but we hope we’ll see you—and other teachers and librarians—there!

--Blake Hoena
Production Manager, Stone Arch Books

Friday, April 25, 2008

Fun from TLA

Check out our website to see pictures of the librarians who waited in line for a picture with the Librarian of Doom at TLA! (Just click on the box on the right side of the page that says TLA 2008 Pictures.) Enjoy!

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

TLA: Flying Off the Shelves

We kept hearing throughout the Texas Library Association conference that our books fly off of library shelves, but we’d never seen it in action. Until, that is, the last day of the conference. It was the wildest, most fun day. That’s when – at the stroke of 11:00 AM – the Stone Arch Books booth began to give away books. No, not sell them at a discount, like most of the other publishers at the conference. Ours were free! But only if a person could get at them in time. The madness began several hours before 11, when librarians walked through our booth, checking out titles, examining the art and the back matter, and spotting the best books to fill their collections. Then, as soon as the clock struck 11, the booth looked like a Lord & Taylor white sale. Librarians everywhere. Books flying off the shelves. And the coolest part of this amazing bibliophilic chaos is that the librarians are not doing this for themselves. These books are for their kids. That’s one of the reasons I love this business. The adults I work with all have the same focus, the same passion, the same goal – we want kids to read and have fun reading! We know it will only enhance their lives. So the more books we can get in their hands, the better.

--Michael Dahl
Editorial Director, Stone Arch Books

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Crunch Time

Readers of this blog might think that all we do here at Stone Arch Books is travel around the country, visit librarians and teachers, and talk about our books. But most of the time, the SAB staff is in the Minneapolis offices, working on the awesome books you’ve come to expect from us.

Right now, we’re in what we lovingly call “crunch time.” Our books for the Fall ‘08 season are due to the printer at the end of the month! Many caffeinated and energy drinks are being consumed by the editorial and design staff. Lunches are being eaten at desks. Red folders (the way we pass manuscripts from person to person for approval) cover our desks. Twice a year, we enter this crazy, high-stress, high-pressure time. We probably single-handedly boost the stock at various local coffee shops just in the two months a year that we’re in crunch time!

So far, we’ve sent about eight books to the printer (of a total of 58). All 58 of the books need to be at the printer by the end of April in order to be printed, bound, and in our warehouse by July 15. It’s going to be crazy around here for the rest of April! So if our blog is a little quieter than normal, don’t think we’re just out having fun and ignoring you—we’re hard at work here, pumping out more of the books you know and love.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Stone Arch Visits the Lone Star State

This week, we’re off to Dallas for TLA. If you’re in town for the conference, please stop by our booth (#2414) and say hello! Joan Berge, Maryellen Gregoire, Michael Dahl, and Heather Kindseth will be at the conference representing Stone Arch Books.

As always, we’ve got special events planned! Come have your picture taken with the mysterious Librarian of Doom, star of our bestselling series, in the Stone Arch Books booth on Thursday from 9-2. Those photos will be on display in the booth on Friday. At various other times on Thursday and Friday, author Michael Dahl will sign Library of Doom posters and books—stop by the booth and see if he’s there! Even if he’s not, take home a poster featuring our incredibly popular Impact Books sports series by Jake Maddox.

There’s more! If you attend a Capstone Interactive Library presentation at the Technology Showcase area in the exhibit hall from 9:00-9:50 a.m., Thursday, April 17, OR stop by the Capstone Publishers Interactive demo area (located between booths 2409 and 2415), you’ll receive a coupon for a free interactive CD of your choice.

See you in Texas!

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Bringing books to life!

Reader’s Theater continues to be a huge buzz. The session on the subject was packed at PLA, and as more and more teachers and librarians become familiar with this great way to improve kids’ fluency, it’s only getting more popular.

Educators know that the leveled play scripts from Stone Arch Books’ Reader’s Theater help build oral fluency for individual readers. The scripts also support confidence as kids learn public speaking. They promote listening skills, build student cooperation, and most importantly, add another way to make reading fun! Stone Arch has always made Reader’s Theater easy for educators by leveling our scripts so that assigning roles by reading level is simple.

Now we’re making it even easier by selling Reader’s Theater kits on our website. Each kit contains a teacher’s version of the script (complete with leveling information), enough scripts for each character in the play, six copies of the paperback book, and a handy storage bag. It’s never been so simple to help your students bring books to life!

For more information on Reader’s Theater, check out the Educator Resources tab on our website.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Staff Spotlight: Joan Berge

Joan Berge with her daughters, Claire and Annie, and her husband, Jeff

Joan Berge

Occupation/role at Stone Arch Books:
President. I am responsible for providing strategic leadership for the company by working with other management and staff to establish long-range goals, strategies, plans, and policies.

Years at Stone Arch:
Since the beginning! Stone Arch Books was just a gleam in my eye for most of 2005. Back then, we had a staff of 5 creating 34 titles, a catalog and other marketing materials, and everything else that goes into launching a new imprint.

BA, Business and finance, The College of St. Catherine, St. Paul, MN

What's your favorite SAB book?
I have really enjoyed being involved in the Jake Maddox sports titles. I particularly like Free Throw and Full Court Dreams. Both of my daughters played basketball from age 5 through high school (and my college girl is still playing, although she spends most of her time on the bench) and I recognize the themes in both these stories. Hopes and dreams, competition within the team and with other teams, and self-imposed expectations are all part of my girls’ experience with this game. These books brought back so many memories!

What was your favorite book when you were a kid?
It was From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, by E. L. Konigsburg. I received the book as a gift from my much older brother who was away at college. I suppose this is one of the reasons is still resonates with me—he thought of me! In addition, the whole idea of a child in the big city, in such beautiful surroundings . . . my imagination went wild!

What were you like as an elementary/middle-school student?
I guess my siblings would say that I was that weird combination of studiousness and trouble-seeking. As the seventh child, I had two things to live up to: the grades and intelligence of the older kids, and the clever antics that they had all pulled. I think I pulled it off. Good thing my parents had seen it all by the time I came around; nothing rattled them!

What's your favorite thing to do in your free time?
Traveling, shopping, spending time with my adult daughters and my husband, and of course reading! I recently finished Pillars of the Earth (900 pages) and World Without End (1100 pages) by Ken Follett. These, combined with my daughter’s interests, have got me going on reading more about the Middle Ages, especially the lives of the Saints.

Tell us a memorable Stone Arch Books moment from the past year.
Every week something memorable happens. It was truly a memorable experience for me two weeks ago, when PLA was in Minneapolis. Because it was here, I was able to send the whole staff to experience a tradeshow and interact with book lovers and librarians. I was pleased and encouraged to watch my team soak up this opportunity. It was evident to me, and I hope to our public library customers, that everyone at Stone Arch Books, from the designers, to the editors, to the marketing department, takes our mission seriously and wants to know how to better deliver to our readers and to these gate-keepers. The commitment and excitement in their work thrills me! I am so lucky to have such a motivated staff!

What’s the best part of your job?

The staff, the customer, the product, the thrill of success . . . it’s hard to identify just one part that is the best part.

What’s the hardest part of your job?
I refuse to answer this question on the grounds that it may incriminate me!

This is the third post in a multi-part series that spotlights the members of the Stone Arch Books staff.

Thursday, April 3, 2008


Jon Scieszka has created a monster—a joyful, galumphing juggernaut called Guys Read. Ever since he launched his website, Scieszka has inspired teachers and librarians across the country to start their own Guys Read programs. On March 25th I was able to attend an all-day workshop on Scieszka’s brainchild, hosted by the Hennepin County Libraries and Stone Arch Books as part of the PLA preconference. The workshop couldn’t have been better organized. After Scieszka gave the opening remarks, we heard from public policy makers, politicians, lawyers, public librarians, mentors, fund-raisers, and parents of Guys Read programs from around the US. Their message was clear, focused, and overwhelming: Guys Read is a success. Boys want to read and will read if given the right material.

Scieszka warned us that we need to learn the language of boys. Boys think differently than the majority of librarians (whom he characterized as predominantly female and mostly middle-aged). One female librarian echoed Scieszka from her own experience, saying she had learned what not to say to a boys’ reading club. “Never ask them how they felt about the story,” she cautioned. “A lot of young boys don’t know how they feel about anything. Instead, ask them what they would have done if they had been in the story.” Boys prefer the hands-on, feet-on, jump-on approach. One librarian said his boys’ group created rituals to start and end each meeting. They have a march and a chant, and carry a flag created by one of the boys’ moms. Another club leader said he sometimes spends half the time playing football with his readers. The point is to make a Guys Read group fun, to teach boys to associate books and reading with pleasure and excitement. “This is not school,” says Scieszka. “There are no quizzes, no questions, no grades.” We also heard the responses from parents and grandparents, how reading had changed the lives of their boys.

During one of the breaks from the workshop, I wandered over to the chaotic PLA exhibit hall where the booths were being assembled, including ours. I visited with Heather Kindseth, Stone Arch Books’s creative director. As we talked, Jon Scieszka walked down our aisle. I stopped him and told him how much I enjoyed his books. Just an hour earlier he had mentioned that when thinking about books for boys, he paid attention to two things: the spine couldn’t be too thick, and the cover had to be eye-grabbing. He said he could tell, just by looking at the Stone Arch books, that we were on to something. “This is exactly what boys will want to pick up and read,” he said. Then he asked for one of our catalogs.

Scieszka has been made the first National Ambassador of Young People’s Literature by the Library of Congress. Spend a minute with him and you’ll know why. He’s approachable, he’s smart, he’s funny, and he’s passionate about getting kids to read. And Guys Read is an idea that anyone with an interest in boys and books can get behind. You can’t stop it. As Dr. Frankenstein said about another literary monster: “It’s alive!”

--Michael Dahl
Editorial Director, Stone Arch Books

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

PLA Recap

PLA was a huge success for us. We started things off with a bang on Tuesday, at the Guys Read preconference with the National Ambassador of Young People’s Literature, Jon Sczieska. We sponsored the refreshments at this event and gave away our popular Stone Arch Books bags, filled with Capstone Publishers books and catalogs. Michael and Maryellen were able to attend. They learned a lot (more about Guys Read here!) and even talked to Jon about our books and the Guys Read mission.

On Wednesday, the show and exhibits opened. Special guest Jake Maddox, in his football uniform, was at our booth, signing posters and taking pictures with librarians.

Jake Maddox takes a break with a good book on opening night of PLA.

SAB Editorial Director Michael Dahl gets in on the fun on PLA's opening night.

Thursday was another busy day in the booth. We kicked it off with author signings. Michael Dahl signed copies of the Library of Doom books, and Donnie Lemke signed copies of Gulliver’s Travels (a Junior Library Guild pick). We talked to a ton of great librarians.
By that evening, everyone was pretty tired, but we kept it going with a Capstone Publishers open house at our Bloomington offices.

Maryellen Coughlan Gregoire, SAB Director of Product Planning and Public Relations, sets up the snacks at the Capstone Publishers open house.

A magic show, cooking demonstration, another author signing, and more—about 80 attendees enjoyed food and merriment. Stone Arch set up a display giving the attendees a peek at how graphic novels were made. The display was a big hit. Our offices never looked so good, or so clean! It was great fun to give librarians a behind-the-scenes look at the offices of a book publisher.

SAB senior editor and author of Gulliver’s Travels Donnie Lemke, with librarian fans, at the Capstone Publishers open house.

Finally, on Friday Blake Hoena signed copies of Eek and Ack: The Puzzling Pluto Plot. We talked with more librarians from Hawaii to Alaska to Long Island. Later, when we announced that we’d be giving away all the books in our booth at 3 p.m., craziness ensued! The shelves were empty in minutes. We also gave away tons of our Jake Maddox and Library of Doom posters. We tore down the booth and spent the weekend recovering!

The staff at the SAB booth on opening night.
From left to right: Carla, Michaela, Donnie, Michael,
Maryellen, Jake Maddox, Heather, and Joan.

If you were in Minneapolis for PLA, how was your conference?

Next, we’re on to Texas for TLA!