Mother-daughter team Betty Borg and Carol Chittenden founded Cape Cod’s Eight Cousins Books, in Falmouth, Massachusetts, in 1986. The general bookstore, which borrows its name from a Louisa May Alcott novel, is widely known for its curation of children’s titles. Chittenden recently sold Eight Cousins—which will celebrate its 30th anniversary this summer—to Mary Fran Buckley, Eileen Miskell, and Sara Hines. Here, we talk with Sara Hines about Cape Cod reads, an after-hours scavenger hunt at a local library, and the mass appeal of Martin McKenna’s Octopuppy.
What is Eight Cousins famous for?
When asking around, the answer was always “stickers.” Our signature gift wrapping is customized for every book. We decorate with stickers that represent the occasion, season, and sometimes provide hints about the book within.
If Eight Cousins were a religion, what would be its icons and tenets?
Windows. We have three fantastic arch windows on the front of the building, and they are my favorite physical feature of the store. One of the staff members decorates for each season. As for our tenet, it would encompass the parallels between books and windows. Windows convey safety and exclusion, depending on which side you are standing. Books contain a similar paradox; they both offer comfort and push us outside of our comfort zones.
Which was your favorite event and why?
One of our best events was co-hosted with the Falmouth Public Library and the local middle school and featured Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library. We invited kids (ages 10-12) to submit an application and then chose 12 winners for an after-hours event at the public library. We had scavenger hunts, research games, and a special visit from the author, Chris Grabenstein. More than a year and a half later, we still have people asking when we’re going to do it again.
What trends are you noticing among young readers?
We’re seeing more and more kids who are in tune with release dates. They know which of their favorite series have new books coming and when they will be available. We’re noticing more middle-grade readers, especially requesting graphic novels. I particularly appreciate kids who are willing to take risks on unknown or unfamiliar authors. We have readers asking to see what’s new and wanting to be on the cutting edge. Recommending books for those kinds of readers is a fun challenge because you have to find something unique to pique their interest.
What are some of your top handsells?
Since we’re located on Cape Cod, we receive a lot of requests for beach reads that aren’t beach reads. People here are looking for something to read on vacation that will engage and challenge them. For adults, we recommend Jojo Moyes’ books, Guide for the Perplexed and The Lace Reader. For teens, we are still highly recommending We Were Liars, Falling into Place, and anything by Patrick Ness. Ungifted, by Gordon Korman, has one of the funniest opening chapters I have ever read. We steer as many people as possible toward The Great Greene Heist by Varian Johnson and Stephan Pastis’ Timmy Failure. Bayou Magic and Listen, Slowly are new favorites, and both received glowing responses from local middle school readers. Octopuppy is a staff favorite and featured prominently in our sea and shore window display over the summer. For board books, I go back and forth between Haiku Baby and A B See.
What is your ideal busman’s holiday?
Reading at the beach on Cape Cod sounds perfect. Looking forward to doing it again someday.
Karen Schechner is the senior Indie Editor.