Jane Knight, children’s book buyer at Bear Pond Books in Montpelier, Vt., sends word of several books that she’s especially pleased to be selling this season. Also helping to take the chill out of the northern New England winter? Her store is gearing up to celebrate its 40th birthday next summer.
A strong seller for us is Monsieur Marceau: Actor Without Words, a picture book biography of Marcel Marceau. The author, Leda Schubert, is a teacher at Vermont College of Fine Arts, which is right here in Montpelier, and she’s a well-known author in our neck of the woods. She’s been at the store two or three times to talk about the book with different audiences, including educators interested in using nonfiction picture books in the classroom. The book is illustrated with really beautiful oil paintings by Gérard DuBois. His art is very old-school, with lush, rich colors, and it is very expressive, which is of course a perfect fit for Marceau. The book is now on the Vermont State Reading List for picture books, and just won the 2013 Orbis Pictus Award from NCTE. It’s been popular with parents, teachers, and librarians.
Another picture book we’re doing well with, this one in the spirit of Valentine’s Day, is I Haiku You by Betsy E. Snyder. It’s a small-size hardcover and is really charming. The author did the illustrations and also wrote the haiku, and it’s a nice, small token of affection for a Valentine’s gift. We’ve got it on display with our Valentine’s books. After Christmas and Halloween, this is our top holiday bookselling time.
One of my new favorite middle-grade novels is One Came Home by Amy Timberlake, which is set in Wisconsin in 1871. I liken it to one of my favorite books in the world, Jacqueline Kelly’s The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate. The girl at the center of the story is one of those girls you wish you’d been when you were growing up. She’s strong-willed, brave, and funny. She goes on a journey by horse – even though she doesn’t ride – to find her sister, who everyone presumes is dead, but she’s convinced otherwise. When I fall in love with the voice of a character, I can’t stop thinking about the book, and that means I can’t stop talking about it, and therefore handselling it. That’s been true with this novel.
Another strong novel for us is in the fantasy-steampunk genre, The Expeditioners and the Treasure of Drowned Man’s Canyon, which is the first book of a series. It’s by Sarah Stewart Taylor, who is also from Vermont, and has most notably written mysteries for adults. This is her first middle-grade novel and it has all the trappings of fun, fast-paced fantasy, with lots of adventure and exciting gadgetry. It also has really well-done, beautiful illustrations by Katherine Roy, who went to the Center for Cartoon Studies in White River Junction, Vt.