Laura “Wally” Johnston (whose nickname distinguishes her from store co-owner Laura Delaney) talks about books she is happy to be handselling at Rediscovered Books in Boise, Idaho, where she wears the hats of bookseller, institutional sales manager, and coordinator of Web site design.
One book that stands out is Journey, a wordless picture book by Aaron Becker, which I understand is getting some Caldecott buzz. I’m a huge fan of really well done wordless picture books, since they are accessible to so many readers, from preschool children to teachers who can use them for writing exercises as prompts. The author of this book has created a world so believable and rich – it could be inside anyone’s head. I like to say if Shaun Tan’s The Arrival and Harold and the Purple Crayon had a love child it would be this book! A girl escapes her normal reality by using her red crayon to draw a portal into another world, and any time she needs to she can draw herself out of a situation. I show this to pre-readers, teenagers, and adults – it’s one of those books that reaches beyond the boundaries of age.
A book that I find mind-blowing is Monsters & Legends by Davide Cali, illustrated by Gabriella Giandelli. It’s a large-format, highly illustrated book from Flying Eye Books, a small press, and it retells old legends, but then explains how people in primitive cultures might have come up with these stories. It digs into mythology in an accessible way and connects readers to past times. It’s a good balance of folklore and realistic nonfiction and a great book for kids, parents, and teachers who like mythology and want to learn more facts behind the myths.
And in early chapter books, I love selling Doreen Cronin’s The Trouble with Chickens: A J.J. Tully Mystery. It’s about a retired search-and-rescue dog on a farm who gets pulled into the drama of these chickens. It’s so well done – the author uses the voice of a hardboiled detective and gives each chicken its own personality. It’s a cool animal story with an intense mystery. And Kevin Cornell’s great illustrations really make it.
A middle-grade novel that continues to sell well is Chris Grabenstein’s Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library. I love that there are so many different kids in the book that readers can identify with. It has a Willy Wonka-like whimsy, and the puzzles in the story are great. Kids who may not necessarily like reading so much can identify with the main character, who is a game player, but in the course of the novel comes to appreciate the books in the library more and more. The visual puzzles break up the text, and readers feel like they are following the puzzles along with the characters – they become part of the story. The book is pretty popular with teachers who use it as a read-aloud.
And one of my favorite books of the year is Fangirl, a YA novel by Rainbow Rowell. It actually comes out today, but I’ve been talking about it to customers even before. I think it’s a really, really important book for teens. In her first year of college, a girl is having some separation anxiety from her twin sister and is also dealing with social anxiety and family drama. The author taps into Internet culture, body image, and so many issues that teens face. She really captures the contemporary teen experience and I think the novel will speak to lots of readers. I expect that people who like Maureen Johnson, John Green, and Holly Black are going to be big buyers for this novel. It’s really fantastic.