6th Birthday Bash

Yellow Dog’s 6th Birthday Bash!

What can we say? It was a blast! We ate snacks, sold books, talked with friends, listened to music, painted faces, and blind dated some books. This photo gallery isn’t touched up and perfectly cropped… it’s straight up how things looked during the morning. It’s so fun looking through the photos from year to year and see how our youngest booksellers have grown.

We’re already dreaming up window ideas for our NEXT birthday!

Yellow Dog Windows (part 1)

I love our bookshop window - it’s big and bright and always seems to grab the attention of people walking by. It was always my intention for our windows to be eye catching, but I never thought I would be so lucky to collaborate with so many amazing people. Erin Potter, Cristy Lillig, Mac McDermott, Mary Margaret Sandbothe & Courtney Swisher are the people I’ve worked with the most… they are all artists in their own right and tend not to say no when I come up with an out there idea. I’m so grateful especially to Aron Fischer, who was involved with our window installations at the very beginning when we first opened (and before I was recording all of the window installations faithfully).

I truly think of our window as a collaborative space where we can make a visual impact on passersby.

Here are a few of our window installations that left a huge impression during our first couple of years!

Left to right top row:

Resistance is Love in Action by Mary Margaret Sandbothe & Courtney Swisher | Fall by Mary & Courtney | Summer Blooms by Kelsey Hammond (with help from Locust St. Elementary School) | Man Who Fell From the Sky by Erin Potter

Left to right bottom row:

Secret of the Old Clock by Cristy Lillig | Off the Trail by Erin Potter | Flower Power by Erin Potter (with help from Locust St. Elementary School) | Myrmidon by Mac McDermott

We’ll be posting more of our favorite windows soon!

-Kelsey, co-owner

Are you an artist who would like to collaborate or install a window at Yellow Dog? Pitch us an idea!

For your valentine

You can’t go wrong with this book for your Valentine.



Why are you recommending Twenty Love Poems & a Song of Despair by Pablo Neruda as the perfect gift for your Valentine?

Joe: Because no one writes love poems like Neruda - he is sensual yet courtly, uses unexpected imagery, and can knock you over with a beautiful phrase. This edition is small, pairs the poems with accompanying art by Pablo Picasso, and also features the original Spanish verses on the facing page.

Kelsey: It’s a small book that packs a lot of punch! I think Neruda is very accessible and so the book is perfect for poetry lovers and the people like me who don’t always “get poetry”.   

When did you first read Neruda?

Joe: I first read Neruda in the summer of 1995, after seeing the lovely movie Il Postino, a fictionalized account of Neruda's stay on the island of Capri in 1952 (based on the novel by Antonio Skarmeta). I tracked down several of his books of poems and also read his fascinating memoirs.

Kelsey: I think I bought my first copy of this book at Kepler’s Books... I was probably in high school.  

3. What do you love about Neruda’s work?

Joe: In addition to my answer for the first question - Neruda is very open in his poetry, honest without being overly earnest. At weddings I have moved mothers to tears with one of his poems from 100 Love Sonnets. He has a deep appreciation for the beauty of nature, for landscape and its ties to the body. Neruda was also not afraid to get political - he was an outspoken critic of authoritarian regimes in his native Chile, leading to his exile on more than one occasion, as well as (probably) his death under the Pinochet government.

Kelsey: His words feel like what love is.  

What is your favorite poem or line in Twenty Love Poems?

Joe: It is hard to pick a favorite from Twenty Love Poems, but I love Poem VII, which features these lines: "The birds of night peck at the first stars / that flash like my soul when I love you."

Kelsey: “Love is so short, forgetting is so long.”


Get your copy of Twenty Love Poems & a Song of Despair by Pablo Neruda at Yellow Dog Bookshop!  


The Synthesis of Story & Illustration

Picture books are meant to be read aloud, with young eyes held captive by illustrations that will maintain a hold in their minds forever, linked to the best parts of childhood.
— Yellow Dog Bookshop

When I was little my favorite picture books were the ones where I could get lost in the words and the pictures. Something magical would happen as I heard the words read aloud to me and I stared at the illustrations trying to figure out a way to live inside them.

Friendship Valley by Wolo was the book my mom read to me even though, as a busy single parent, it was a little too long for her to read every night. But what I really wanted to was to stare at the page that showed the huge tree with the extensive root system that doubled as the characters’ homes. I wanted to see inside each of the animal’s spaces- how they decorated, where they ate their food, who slept in what spot.

Friendship Valley by Wolo

Picture books are meant to be read aloud, with young eyes held captive by illustrations that will maintain a hold in their minds forever, linked to the best parts of childhood. As we get older some of the titles and authors fade from memory, but our favorite images last forever. The synthesis of the story with the illustration is what makes a children’s picture book great.

Here are some more of my favorite children’s illustrators:

Gyo Fujikawa

Favorite books: Night Before Christmas, Oh, What a Busy Day!, and Can You Count?

Robert McCloskey

Favorite books: Blueberries for Sal, Make Way for Ducklings

Maurice Sendak

Favorite books: Where the Wild Things Are, The Night Kitchen, Little Bear

Barbara Cooney

Favorite books: Miss Rumphius, Hattie and the Waves, Island Boy

Hilary Knight

Favorite books: Eloise, Mrs.Piggle-Wiggle, Cinderella

Ezra Jack Keats

Favorite books: The Snowy Day, Whistle for Willie, Over in the Meadow

Jan Brett

Favorite books: The Mitten, The Hat, Goldilocks and the Three Bears

Christian Robinson

Favorite books: Gaston, Last Stop on Market Street, The Smallest Girl in the Smallest Grade

Renata Liwska

Favorite books: Red Wagon, The Quiet Book, The Loud Book

Jon Klassen

Favorite books: I Want My Hat Back, Extra Yarn, Pax

So whether you’re stocking up for your own kiddo's collection or starting someone else’s child off in the right direction, consider some of these titles. Feel free to share some of your favorites with us in the comments, we’d love to know what stories made a big impression on you!

Tolkien Collection

From the archives, written by Joe.

Since taking over the bookshop in August, I’ve often been asked what my favorite book is.  That’s a difficult question to answer – between the years of studying literature and the years of working in bookstores I’ve read a lot!  And my favorite changes as time goes by; some books I loved in college, I’m cool on now.  My favorite book of the last few years is The Night Circus, by Erin Morgenstern; it was beautifully written and utterly captivated me; it’s a world I want to live in.  But the book I come back to most – my desert island look, the one I can read endlessly and never tire of – is J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings.  I generally have one or two volumes by my bed for easy reference.  I used to read it straight through every year or two, and though I haven’t done that in a few years, I still read my favorite passages on a regular basis.  I particularly enjoy the whole first half of The Fellowship of the Ring, the Battle of Helm’s Deep and the hobbits’ meeting with Faramir in The Two Towers, and the whole first half of The Return of the King (not to mention the appendices!).


The Hobbit is one of the first long books I remember reading (not the first – that was probably either The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe or The Haunted Fort, both my brother Jamie’s books).  We had a storybook anthology that contained the first chapter of The Hobbit; I read it over and over again, but wanted more, and I eventually found it in my library.  I finally got my hands on The Lord of the Rings itself in the summer of 1983, when I was ten; I still remember reading a real thunderstorm crashing outside the house as I read about the storm at Helm’s Deep.  These were library books, the late 70s hardcovers with white jackets with the Ring and Sauron’s Eye.  I tore through them, reading each one twice before I turned them back in.  When I started a new school that fall, I was astounded that the library didn’t have them, and immediately told the librarian they needed a set.

The Lord of the Rings is also the first book I began to collect.  There are a handful of other authors or books I collect – Herman Hesse, Lawrence Durrell, Ursula LeGuin, George R.R. Martin – but I’ll write about those in later posts.  But my largest collection by far is Tolkien.  My first copy came at Christmas 1983, the Ballantine boxed set of mass market paperbacks.  I loved the covers, with art by Darrell K. Sweet, and I read them so vigorously that the covers started to fall apart.  I quickly added The Silmarillion (that cover has been held on with Scotch tape since 1985!) and the few other Tolkien books then in print (The Tolkien Reader, Smith of Wootton Major/Farmer Giles of Ham).  Since then I’ve added several more versions, mostly from used bookstores in Illinois and California.  There are the lurid Ballantines from the 1960s (Tolkien hated those covers!), the beautiful 1970s versions with Tolkien’s own paintings as the cover art, hardcovers of the pre-1965 version (the books were revised in 1965 to foil Ace’s pirated paperbacks, which I do not own), the gorgeous single-volume hardcover illustrated by Alan Lee (a birthday present in 1992), the seven-volume boxed set from 1999 (a Christmas present), the recent trade paperback editions with Tolkien's original concept art for the covers (a present from my brother Chad), and even the Harvard Lampoon’s Bored of the Rings, with its parody of the 1960s covers.  Also I have the whole twelve-book series of The History of Middle-Earth, edited by Christopher Tolkien, detailing the vast and intricate writing and drafting of the entire legendarium, from its beginnings in a poem written in the trenches in the Great War to JRRT's last musings on scraps of paper just weeks before his death.  It's a monument to one man's incredible imagination and skill.

All told, I have twelve full copies of The Lord of the Rings (five single-volumes, seven sets) with four unmatched volumes, six copies of The Hobbit, five copies of The Silmarillion, two copies of Unfinished Tales, three copies of Smith/Farmer Giles (plus the annotated Farmer Giles), two copies of The Tolkien Reader, two copies of the Father Christmas Letters, and two collections of Tolkien’s artwork.  Whew!  And several of his scholarly works, including The Monsters and the Critics,Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, and the recently published (and magnificent!) Fall of Arthur.  Besides this, numerous books about Tolkien and his works, of which the prize is a hardcover edition of Humphrey Carter’s biography of the Professor.  Together they fill up an entire four-shelf bookcase.


I don’t have everything there is to have by any means.  Some I don’t want, like the late 1980s mass markets.  Some I doubt I’ll ever find for any reasonable price, like a 1930s Hobbit, or the Middle English text I found at Black Letter Books in Stillwater, Minnesota for only $300 – too much for me!  But I still hope I’ll find some of the few I still really want.  I know I could go online for some of them, but I would rather stumble across them in a little store, or a booksale, or when someone walks in with some books to sell.  That experience of finding something long desired, right in front of you, is one of the things I love about owning a bookshop.

We have several Tolkien books in the store right now, and it’s a goal of mine always to have some on hand.  We won’t often have a complete set, but we may very well have the one you’re missing, and I’m always looking for what I consider the good editions.

I recently finished reading The Hobbit to my daughter Sally, and I hope it was as magical an experience for her as it was for me.  I carefully chose which edition I would read, and settled on the green slipcase hardcover, featuring both the original monochrome illustrations by the author as well as several color prints of his paintings.  I'm excited about passing on our love for books, and my love for these particular books, to our children, and I look forward to one day discussing all the intricacies of the stories with both of them.