Beth Wagner, children’s book buyer for Phoenix Books’ two stores, in Essex and Burlington, Vt., shares news of her stores’ strongest sellers this shopping season.
We put out our holiday display a week before Thanksgiving, and that definitely drives sales. But we start getting holiday books in early September, so we have them available well before that in our holiday section, and they do start selling right away. This year, The Christmas Quiet Book by Deborah Underwood and Renata Liwska, a companion to The Quiet Book and The Loud Book!, is one of our hotter Christmas titles. Another new book, Just Right for Christmas by Birdie Black, is also selling well. And of course there are the holiday perennials, old favorites like How the Grinch Stole Christmas and The Polar Express. And our all-time Christmas bestseller is Favor Johnson: A Christmas Story by Willem Lang, a local author. Every year he does a reading of the book on Vermont Public Radio, and the day after that we usually run out of it.
Other picture books that have been selling well are Jon Klassen’s new This Is Not My Hat, as well as his Extra Yarn and House Held Up by Trees. All three are very strong for us. We’ve gotten a lot of feedback from people that This Is Not My Hat is a great read-aloud and their kids are really enjoying it. Another big seller, especially in our Essex store, is Peter Reynolds’s Sky Color. We’ve done a lot of handselling of it, which is key in our stores. Our picture book sales are often driven by the love our booksellers have for individual titles.
In middle grade, it’s the usual suspects that are selling well: the Diary of a Wimpy Kid and Heroes of Olympus series. And Drama, Raina Telgemeier’s graphic novel, is doing really well for us. We couldn’t keep the author’s earlier book, Smile, in stock, and it’s the same with Drama. We’ve had big reorders for it. Another novel that is picking up for us is R.J. Palacio’s Wonder. A local school featured this novel in a book group and it was a big hit there, so there’s been lots of word-of-mouth on it.
In YA, Caragh O’Brien’s Birthmarked trilogy has exploded for us, especially the latest book, Promised. We were lucky enough to have her come to our Burlington store in late October to do a reading, and the staff really got behind the trilogy. It’s selling really well, and it helps that we have a lot of signed stock – that’s a big selling point during the holidays. We see sales of John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars picking up, even though it’s not a new book, because we have signed stock. That’s a big advantage over e-books: you can’t give a signed e-book as a gift.
And some new movies are driving sales this holiday season. We’re seeing strong sales of The Perks of Being a Wallflower, Life of Pi, and The Hobbit movie tie-ins for kids. Both of our stores are lucky enough to be within walking distance of theaters, and I do think that helps with sales.