Books, Beans & Brews: ‘The Lost Library’ and a suitable pairing

A spotlight on middle grade reading and a cozy beverage pairing for any age

By Samantha JacquestKENOSHA.COM

Samantha Jacquest is the owner of Blue House Books, Kenosha's full-service independent bookstore in Downtown Kenosha. Sam loves sharing her love of books with the community and bringing in popular and local authors for events. When not at her shop, Sam enjoys traveling and spending time Downtown with her friends, family, and rescue dog Flash.

Hello, readers! I hope you have all been diving into some fantastic books lately! I’m currently listening to A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness and reading The Waters by Bonnie Jo Campbell! Both women authors for Women’s History Month, of course!

I have been recently taking a look at book sale trends over the last couple years, both at Blue House Books and the industry as a whole, and I made some interesting discoveries that I have always suspected but now can say with actual proof. Adult fiction books remain the top seller at Blue House Books every year, and one of our slowest sections every year is books for middle grade readers. Children’s picture books and books for teens see strong sales every year, and with popular series like Dog Man, elementary-aged books consistently do well, but it’s the middle grade kids that aren’t moving as much.

One observation from the publishing industry is that some popular graphic novel series aimed at elementary-aged children keep kids reading, but also keep them reading long after they should advance to the next level. These series like Dog Man, Cat Kid, and others are so entertaining for kids, that even though they are completing required reading in school at a more elevated level, they still gravitate toward these younger books at the bookstore and library. Or they may grow out of these books as a strong, independent reader, but then “read up,” looking for stories in the young adult market. On the opposite side of the spectrum, this may be the age, about 11 to 14 years, that kids lose interest in reading in pursuit of other activities, interests, and increasing social opportunities.

One of these other interests is the book’s main competitor: technology. Screen time often dominates childrens’ attention, leaving little time for reading. While screen time is also a challenge in fighting for teenagers’ attention, books have had a renaissance due to social media, especially Instagram and TikTok, and so we actually see it driving more teens to read than we have seen in the last few years. 

Another difference between young adult and middle grade books, is that young adult books have a wide range of readers: tweens who want more mature storylines, teens who see themselves represented, and adults who enjoy the escapism of a YA novel. We don’t get as many adults reading middle grade novels when they are looking for something fun, but we are starting to see more young children who want to read up at a younger age looking at our middle grade section, so that’s encouraging!

So what can we do about it? A lot of the solutions involve encouragement in the home and at school. Limiting screen time is easier said than done, I know, but by leading by example and making reading a social instead of solitary activity, I believe that would encourage kids to read more. And perhaps by integrating our competitor–technology–instead of trying to beat it, we will be more successful in getting kids to read. An online book club to take up some screen time or creating book clubs after school the same as other sporting and gaming clubs would be a great start!

Here at Blue House Books, we are working to encourage these pre-teens to read by reading the books ourselves so that we are prepared with great recommendations! We also are going to start experimenting with in-store displays of children’s books, especially middle grade, to show that these books deserve the time on display, and they deserve the space in your home!

And to prove that I practice what I preach, my book recommendation is the middle grade novel The Lost Library by Rebecca Stead and Wendy Mass. This fantastic mystery book is about 11-year-old Evan and his fascination with a new Little Free Library in town and the books he pulls from it, leading him to investigate a decades-old town mystery that may hit closer to home than he would have ever imagined. Along the way we also meet a cat on guard and a couple ghosts in town who also become invested in the mystery. I was genuinely shocked by the plot twist toward the end! Shame on anyone who says children’s literature can’t pack the same punch as adult novels!

I listened to The Lost Library on, our audiobook partner that gives a percentage of all sales back to your local independent bookstore! You can sign up online today for the same price as other audiobook streaming services, and you’ll even get an extra credit for free right away! Check out more details and sign up here as another way to support Blue House Books!

Any good, cozy mystery deserves a warm and cozy drink, so be sure to pick up a hot chocolate (for the kids) or a mocha (for the adults) from woman-owned Anna’s on the Lake!