With thousands of titles mentioned in Nancy Pearl's popular "Book Lust," and now, "Book Crush," her favorites for children and teens, one...

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With thousands of titles mentioned in Nancy Pearl’s popular “Book Lust,” and now, “Book Crush,” her favorites for children and teens, one imagines a long row of storage cabinets with extensive notes, an organization system rivaling that in “From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler.”

In the Lake Union apartment Pearl shares with her husband, Joe, bookshelves overflow to tidy stacks on the floor. But there aren’t any files, Pearl admits, looking a bit sheepish.

All the lists come straight out of her head.

“Books lead you, one to the other,” she explains.

In the same chatty, wide-ranging style as “Book Lust,” Pearl pulls together more than 1,000 recommendations for infants to teens in “Book Crush” (Sasquatch Books, $16.95). In appealing lists such as “Adventure Ahoy!” and “Kids to the Rescue,” she mixes classics (“Where the Wild Things Are”) with newer releases (“So Sleepy Story”). She highlights nonfiction (“It’s really gotten exciting — certainly not the deadly dull stuff I had as a child”) in an extensive section. Depending on her fancy, some books get a paragraph introduction; others join a list.

Finding Pearl


Seattle Public Library “Book Crush” launch party, 7 p.m. April 30, Central Library, 1000 Fourth Ave., 206-386-4636. Free. Pearl will give a talk, followed by a Q&A, book signing and refreshments. Families welcome.

Seattle Magazine Book Salon, 7 p.m. May 11, W Hotel, 1112 Fourth Ave., Seattle, 206-284-1750 or www.brownpapertickets.com. $10 (includes appetizers). A hosted Q&A and book signing. Event is geared to adults, but children are welcome.

Pearl’s personal Web site is www.nancypearl.com; her Book Lust Wiki, “a community for book lovers,” offers virtual book clubs, reviews and blogs at booklust.wetpaint.com.

She interviews authors on “Book Lust with Nancy Pearl,” airing at 8 p.m. Saturdays on the Seattle Channel www.seattlechannel.org/BookLust.

“Nancy has written a book that works for any book lover: a book that is like your own personal bookseller or librarian,” said René Kirkpatrick, buyer for Seattle’s All for Kids Books & Music. “I have had ‘Book Crush’ next to the bed for a couple of weeks now, and I find that I pick it up every night, just to browse and see what I might have missed reading all those years ago.”

Pearl started her career as a children’s librarian and kept up with the major award-winners over the years. For “Book Crush,” she reread many books — especially old favorites, to make sure the language wasn’t too dated or stuffy for today’s readers — plus hit up librarians and kids for their suggestions. She expected it to be her easiest book, only to find it the most challenging to organize (she ended up with three broad age categories, each divided by its own themes).

Credit Pearl’s librarian action figure for her celebrity status, but it’s her irrepressible love of books — a self-described “addiction” — that cements her reputation as the country’s “rock-star librarian.” Ask her for a list of 10 overlooked books, and she thumbs through “Book Crush,” tossing out 14 titles and sighing sadly at the missed opportunities remaining.

“There are just so many books I want people to read,” she said. “I just want to talk about all the wonderful books you seldom hear about.”

She’s not a snob — Captain Underpants gets a nod — but celebrity tomes and Disney-type adaptations got shut out as unworthy. “There’s no rhyme or reason” why some books become best-sellers while other, better contenders languish, she said. She prefers to highlight “books under the radar that if life were fair, would be read.”

With publishers clamoring for her approval, bunches of books arrive daily, to the point where she jokingly calls the UPS driver one of her best friends. But she still has books on hold at the library.

Reading fun

Nancy Pearl offers these tips to parents:

Read together. Pearl encourages parents to share stories with children even if they know how to read. “After dinner, read a book out loud for half an hour, or everybody read their own book.”

Pay attention to “emotional” age. “When children read a book too early, they don’t get everything they can from it. Then they don’t go back and read them again.”

Don’t insist kids finish a book they don’t like, unless it’s for a school assignment. “If children give a book three chapters and they’re still not interested, that says nothing about them as readers or the value of the book,” she said. “It just says at that moment of a child’s life, it’s not the right book.”

Make a match. “The reason some kids don’t read is because we’re not finding out where they are in their lives and finding books that are applicable to those lives,” she says. “Just because you label a children’s book a classic doesn’t mean everybody is going to like it.”

It’s all good for them. “Every single book a child reads teaches them something,” she said. “Just take off ‘educational.’ To me, that word is a killer.”

“I felt as a librarian, it’s best not to lose the past as we run helter-skelter into the future,” said the doting grandma of two young granddaughters (with a third due next month). “You only hear about books when they’re new, and if you miss that. … It saddens me to think of children growing up without getting to know some of the best characters.”

“Retirement” for Pearl, 62, is busier than her former job — she left her position as executive director of the Seattle Public Library’s Washington Center for the Book in 2004 — as she promotes her books, lectures around the country (she boasts some 100,000 air miles a year), compiles “Pearl’s Picks” for libraries, interviews authors on a cable TV show, offers commentary on NPR and teaches “Book Lust” courses at the University of Washington.

Pearl isn’t a book reviewer; she’s a book champion. That key difference allows her the freedom to read only what she wants and recommend only what she likes.

“I start 12 books for every one I finish,” she said. “I get angry at clunky writing and flat characters. My interest is not the plot specifics, but the feeling you get when you read the book.”

“Book Crush” is aimed at parents, grandparents, teachers and librarians — “anyone who thinks kids are not reading enough or not the right thing.” Working on the book renewed her faith that despite all the technology distractions, “kids are still reading — reading a huge variety of books, from Stephen King to Jane Austen and everything in between.”

She struck up an e-mail pen-pal correspondence with one local eighth-grader over their shared appreciation of voice in a text (“Voice is everything for me,” Pearl says); they exchange recommendations.

10 kid books Nancy Pearl wants you to read

“Millicent Min, Girl Genius,” Lisa Yee (Scholastic, ages 9-12).

“Whales on Stilts,” M. T. Anderson (Harcourt, ages 9-12).

“Blood Red Horse,” K.M. Grant (Walker Books for Young Readers, ages 9-12).

“The Eagle of the Ninth,” Rosemary Sutcliff (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, teens).

“Ellen Tebbits,” Beverly Cleary (HarperTrophy, ages 8-10).

“Duck & Goose,” Tad Hills (Schwartz & Wade, ages 4-8).

“Clementine,” Sara Pennypacker (Hyperion, ages 7-10).

“The Trolls,” Polly Horvath (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, ages 8-12).

“Adèle & Simon,” Barbara McClintock (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, ages 5-9).

“Apples to Oregon,” Deborah Hopkinson and Nancy Carpenter (Atheneum, ages 5-9).

A recent Publishers Weekly article credited Pearl with boosting her small Seattle publisher, Sasquatch Books, onto the national stage. “Definitely for Sasquatch, [“Book Lust”] is the biggest national book they’ve ever had,” said Kim Wylie, executive vice president of sales at Publishers Group West, which sells and distributes Sasquatch’s books. “It certainly changed their platform.”

Wylie attributes Pearl’s success to her wide exposure from the librarian action figure and her NPR commentary. “She has a very appealing voice in her books,” Wylie said. “She’s been a great spokesperson for reading and reading groups.”

Pearl is already excited about her next collection of travel-related favorites, tentatively titled “Wander Lust.” This time, she’s even started a research file. “It’s a big step for me,” she laughs. “The notes say, ‘Don’t forget that book!’ “

Stephanie Dunnewind: sdunnewind@seattletimes.com or 206-464-2091