#MCRPop: The Little Bookstore That Could

Humble beginnings. 💚

I didn’t have much money. What I had was the burning desire to fill a big void in my community: the need for multicultural children’s books, including bilingual books. The desire to put the books I love into the hands of the readers looking for them. The desire to support diversity-focused small presses and independent authors of excellent books, but whom I know to have no or little marketing budget. These books are not yet reviewed by big, well-known newspapers, and not carried by big chain bookstores.

I figured I’d start with 10 copies of 10 different titles, and replace sold-out titles by new ones, to keep the customers looking for new items. As you will read below, reality quickly outgrew my vision.

I sold some personal items and emptied my saving account to purchase a business license, a seller’s permit, and to place the required ad in my local newspaper, announcing that I was open for business.

MultiCulturalism Rocks! Pop-Up, my tiny bookstore, was officially born.

First pop-up banner.❣️

I then used my credit card to purchase the first books. I simply contacted the publishers and the independent authors on the list I had made, with the help of Robert C. Liu-Trujillo, a writer/illustrator friend, and I pitched them my idea. I can’t thank enough the first people who jumped onboard. Not only did they enthusiastically welcome the initiative, but they also supported it by accepting to work with me: Robert C. Liu-Trujillo, award-winning author Zetta Elliot, Tiffany Golden, Maya Gonzalez, Justine Villanueva, and publishers Heyday Books, and Just Us Books.

I opened shop at the Davis International Festival on October 1st, 2017. I had clients already lined up while I was still setting up. A friend came to help me, and we were so busy selling that we didn’t have time to pause and be interviewed when asked.

Though I initially only spent a few days every month attending events and selling books, I systematically sold out of at least one title every time. To keep up with the pace of the sales, I increased my inventory, not just by ordering more than 10 books per titles when I saw fit, but also by adding more titles to meet my customers’ demands.

I quickly received more invitations to attend school events and cultural festivals not just outside of my county, but outside of my state as well (hopefully I will be able to honor these one day.). The African Market Place, in Sacramento, CA, whose community gave me a warm welcome, also quickly became a home where customers know to find me twice a month.

The challenge I’m meeting is that I need to increase my inventory again. I don’t do consignments. I pay for the books that I sell, and I believe that this is an essential way of supporting the authors I work with, especially the indie ones. I know my customers. I know what they want, and I know that all the books I carry will sell. So far, they all have. I used to be a bookseller specializing in children’s books, and I was good at it. This isn’t my first rodeo. I know to order just the right amount of items, taking into account the space I have, and the events I have lined up. I’m at a point where I need to rent a small space where I will store my inventory, because it is about to increase. And it will be an even sweeter deal if I could sell books from that location too, while still traveling places to meet the customers — educators, parents and kids, who are most looking for these stories and can’t come either to me or to the closest culturally diverse brick and mortar bookshop. I have a location in mind, in a vibrant community and with a rent within my range. I’ve been doing this, the traveling and transporting the table, banner, chair and books, using my green 2000, slightly beaten up Volkswagen Jetta. It would be amazing to one day have a vehicle with more space, to transport more of these amazing stories.

w/ spoken word artist and fellow pop-up bookstore owner, danté péläyō. 💛

I keep tab of all the fun that happens every time I’m out — which books sell the fastest, anecdotes, pictures, etc. I’ve been asked to share these snippets by several people, and will try to regularly do so in the future. During this literary, nomadic journey, I’ve also had the pleasure to meet other mobile bookstore owners (all heroes to my eyes and, I’m sure, to the eyes of their customers). I would like to give them a big shoutout, and I’m planning on spotlighting them on this blog in the near future. Please help make this a recurring event by adding more names to that list.

Last but not least, one of the ways I look to timely meet the readers’ demands for more titles, before the end of this year, is by applying to small business grants. This month I’m applying to the NAV grant, as well as the Amber Grant, and as such a part of this blog post will also be shared in my applications.

Thank you for reading this far, and thank you for your support. Is there a book you would recommend? Any bookmobile you would like to give a shoutout to? What about your own work: What have you been up to? 🙂

PS: About the play on the colors in the captions: green for hope, red for passion, yellow for friendship. Those three colors are also an ode to my African origins.

First #MCRPop customers! 💜
A dad who told me he was buying these books for his “princess.” 😊👑
On the road again… 🚘
Library in the making for a toddler, global citizen! 🎁 (I need to brush up on my Spanish!)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Edited 08/16/18 at 3:54pm to add link to my NAV application.

PB Review: Let The Faithful Come, written by Zetta Elliott, illustrated by Charity Russell

Favorite Quote
“And as they travel from near or far,
Let fear and anger empty from their hearts.”
Let The Faithful Come, written by Zetta Elliott, illustrated by Charity Russell.

Okay, picking just one quote was a difficult task, and I had to restrain myself to not give out too much of this unique nativity story. I purchased Let The Faithful Come two weeks ago, right before embarking on a long, long travel.

Let The Faithful Come, Zetta ElliottThere is something about reading this book on a plane – implying I was on my own “sacred journey”, in the dark, with as only source of light the illustrations jumping off a screen. How could I describe the experience? First the words hit you, your mind proceeds to process the depth of their meaning – “let them stand together in patient expectation” (side note: expectation! What a great word for kids to learn); and the illustrations give the final punch. Then you turn the page and it’s happening all over again.

There is something about reading this story in the midst of an escalation of terrorism acts on a global scale, including in places not covered by mainstream media, including in the very place where I am right now. Something about going somewhere, to celebrate the birth of a child and every child through him. Indeed whether you believe in God or not, whether Jesus-Christ means something to you or not, if you have children in your life chances are you will celebrate the end of the year by celebrating them, by offering the children who matter to you a gift.

There is indeed something about reading of a sign of hope to follow, questions regarding what is left of compassion in our world, and the reminder of how precious every child is.

Let The Faithful Come, Boat scene, illustration courtesy of Zetta Elliot & Charity Russell.
Let The Faithful Come, Boat scene, courtesy of Zetta Elliot & Charity Russell.

Refugees. That is the first word that came to mind when I ventured through the first pages. I sat up straight, and read the story again, and again. I used to be a Sunday school teacher (over the span of 25 years); as a bookseller I read quite an amount of Nativity stories during that short period of my professional time. Though I haven’t read all the Nativity books for children under the sun, this one is the first that struck me by its relevance in regard to current events, from the text to the modern-day illustrations. Let The faithful Come offers a unique opportunity to engage in dialog with young and old regarding the true meaning of Christmas, regardless of one’s religious background.

A note regarding the illustrations: Except for the last one, all the scenes are set in the nighttime. With the challenge that a night setting can present, I applaud Charity Russell for offering the reader such bright, vibrant and colorful depictions of journeys made in the darkest of times. I especially enjoyed the purple hue throughout the pages. In some cultures purple represents a royal color. With that in mind the illustrations could indeed infer that each person on these pages, despite his or her difference in clothing style, and skin tone, and body shape and gender, is royalty and therefore that the well-off person on top of the social ladder matters as much as the one below.
In addition, and here I’m being totally biased, it gave me such joy to see a child of color celebrated by a crowd. Thanks to the author and illustrator for such a positive image. A detail like that in a book can alter a kid’s outlook on his future.

Zetta ElliottAbout the author
Zetta Elliott, PhD, is an award winning children’s book author, a playwright, an educator and an activist. At the time of this post she has over seventeen books published under her imprint Rosetta Stone as well as traditionally. For additional information regarding her books and to get in touch with her, please visit

o Zetta Elliot’s website
o Blog
o Facebook
o Twitter
o Don’t Stop Believing: Guest post by Zetta Elliott on The Brown Bookshelf.

Charity russell & booksAbout the illustrator
Charity Russell makes a statement about her commitment to and passion about diversity in children’s literature from the moment you land on her website. Based in the UK, she has “a First Class Masters Degree in ‘Illustration and Design’ from The University of Sunderland, U.K.” For additional information regarding her work and to get in touch with her, please visit:

o Charity Russell’s website
o Blog
o Facebook

Updated on December 2, 2015 to correct minor typos.