Spring is already in the air as booksellers visit with reps, peruse online and print catalogues, and place orders for the season’s new children’s titles. When PW polled retailers about which books they’re most excited to introduce to their customers in the coming months, they mentioned an array of picture books and fiction, by both established and lesser-known authors. Here’s what they had to say.
Carol Chittenden, owner of Eight Cousins Books in Falmouth, Mass.
A picture book that I really like is When Mermaids Sleep by Ann Bonwill, illustrated by Steve Johnson and Lou Fancher (Random House, May). It’s a goodnight book, and that trope has been done so many times it’s really nice to find something with a new angle. This moves through a wide range of imaginative landscapes and the art is quite wonderful. I also look forward to The Green Bath by Margaret Mahy, illustrated by Stephen Kellogg (Scholastic/Levine, July). Mahy was such an imaginative writer and Kellogg’s art is exuberant—he builds in all kinds of visual delights.
Booksellers and librarians will enjoy Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library by Chris Grabenstein (Random House, June) for all of its references to well-known works of children’s literature, including, I was happy to see, Eight Cousins! Kids will enjoy it too. It’s filled with terrific puzzles, somewhat like The Westing Game. Sixth graders are locked in a library and have to work out a whole string of puzzles to escape. It’s a realistic adventure, though highly imaginative.
Stephan Pastis’s Timmy Failure: Mistakes Were Made (Candlewick, Feb.) is a lot of fun. It’s filled with ironic humor and is very charming. And it has a very kid-friendly format, with not too many words on the page. I think that’s one reason Wimpy Kid is so successful, and Timmy Failure has similar, open-page layouts. This is one thing I constantly look for.
We are in a beach community, and I know we’ll sell a ton of James Dean’s Pete the Cat: Pete at the Beach (HarperCollins, May) this summer. Another one that will sell well is The Moon and More by Sarah Dessen (Viking, June). She always sells well for us, and this is a summer beach romance—what more can we ask for? Maybe a visit from Sarah, who vacations in this area!
Robert McDonald, children’s book buyer at the Book Stall at Chestnut Court in Winnetka, Ill.
I’m excited about the new Mo Willems, That Is NOT a Good Idea! (HarperCollins/Balzer + Bray, Apr.), which has a silent movie motif and is a bit of a departure for him. One of the secrets of a good picture book is finding that fine line to keep adults entertained as well as kids, and this certainly does. The Matchbox Diary by Paul Fleischman, illustrated by Bagram Ibatoulline (Candlewick, Mar.), is about a girl whose Italian-born great-grandfather put remembrances in matchboxes as a kind of diary when he was a child. It’s a book about the power of storytelling, memory, and history, and the illustrations are gorgeous.
In middle-grade fiction, I’m very excited about Blue Balliett’s Hold Fast (Scholastic Press, Mar.), about a family that must go into the Chicago shelter system after their apartment is trashed. The author evokes all the details—the smells and sounds—of shelters, and this is really a powerful book. Stephan Pastis’s Timmy Failure: Mistakes Were Made is delightful. It’s about a clueless kid who thinks he’s the greatest thing on earth, and you root for him even though he keeps messing up. And for this age I also like Twerp by Mark Goldblatt (Random House, May), which will appeal to fans of R.J. Palacio’s Wonder and Because of Mr. Terupt by Rob Buyea. It’s told through the journal of a bully who is coming to some awareness of what he’s done, and his voice is realistic and believable.
In YA, On Little Wings is a wonderful debut novel by Regina Sirois (Viking, May). It’s about a girl who tries to discover why her mother hasn’t spoken to her own sister in years. It is brilliant, mostly on the power of the writing. There’s a bit of first love, which is handled so tastefully that I can recommend it to parents for their kids. Severed Heads, Broken Hearts by Robyn Schneider (HarperCollins/Tegen, June) is written from the point of view of a boy who has everything going for him until he’s hit by a car. His cool friends fall away, and he falls in with a nerdy crowd and discovers that he’s better and smarter than he ever thought. I couldn’t help but think of John Green’s novels—I think his fans will eat this up. And Openly Straight by Bill Konigsberg (Scholastic/Levine, June) centers on a teen who’s been a poster child for gay rights. He goes to a boarding school so he can go back into the closet and be a regular kid, but discovers that’s not the answer to life’s problems. It is very well written, funny, and believable.
Dave Shallenberger and Diane Capriola, co-owners of Little Shop of Stories in Decatur, Ga.
Shallenberger: One absolutely, positively, unbelievably good YA title is Far Far Away by Tom McNeal (Knopf, June). It’s a Grimm fairy tale set in a small town in the modern-day northern plains, and it is phenomenally well written. The narrative takes its time but the quality of the writing is so engaging that you’re willing to ride with it until the story starts taking off. It’s a perfect book for readers who liked Adam Gidwitz’s In a Glass Grimmly, and I can see it having a strong crossover into adult.
Capriola: One book that I could not put down is Criminal by Terra Elan McVoy (Simon Pulse, May), who is actually one of our booksellers. It’s her best book yet. It’s about a teenage girl who is in a bad relationship with a guy and is blinded to some of the things that are going on. It’s all about realizing the mistakes she’s made and the consequences of choices she made. Terra is great at capturing the teenage voice, and this moves at a really quick pace. I’ll sell it to teens looking for realistic fiction, which more and more teens are asking for. I’m also looking forward to selling Polly Shulman’s The Wells Bequest (Penguin/Paulsen, June), which continues the story of The Grimm Legacy and has a really cool time-travel aspect. This is a good novel for higher middle-grade girls as well as boys, since it has a really strong boy protagonist.
Connie Griffin, children’s book specialist at Bookworks in Albuquerque, N.Mex.
A picture book I’m looking forward to is Bluebird by Bob Staake (Random/Schwartz & Wade, Apr.). A bluebird follows a boy through the city and, when kids attack them, risks his life to save the boy and apparently dies. It’s a story about death, but also a story about friendship and bullying. I will definitely recommend this to teachers and counselors. The art starts out with just a couple of colors and then breaks into full color as the bird ascends into the sky. It’s a powerful and stunning book.
A wonderful wordless book is The Boy and the Airplane by Mark Pett (S&S, Apr.), about a boy whose toy airplane becomes stuck on the roof. He can’t figure out how to get it down, so he plants a tree and waits for it to grow. As an old man, he climbs the tree and retrieves the plane and mails it to a child as a gift. I’ll handsell this to families to use as a bedtime story, and to grandparents. I also like the new Lemony Snicket, The Dark, illustrated by Jon Klassen (Little, Brown, Apr.), about a boy who’s afraid of the dark. This is a book that is good for families, teachers, and counselors.
For middle grade readers, I like Sugar by Jewell Parker Rhodes (Little, Brown, May), which tells of a girl on a Louisiana plantation during Reconstruction who becomes friends with Chinese people who are brought in to work in the fields. It’s a great book about this period in history and about people of different cultures living together. I know teens will love Dark Triumph (Houghton Mifflin, Apr.), part two of Robin LaFevers’s His Fair Assassin trilogy, which is very entertaining, with adventure, history, and a bit of romance. And another strong YA is Siege & Storm by Leigh Bardugo (Holt, June), the second book in the Grisha Trilogy. It’s a fantasy with romance, friendship, and a lot of girl power. Teens loved the first book and I know they’ll love this one too.
Sally Oddi, owner of Cover to Cover Book Store in Columbus, Ohio
I’m expecting I Spy on the Farm by Edward Gibbs (Candlewick/Templar, Feb.) to do well. It has die-cut pages that give clues to creatures’ identities before revealing them. We’ve had a great response to his earlier books from parents and preschool teachers, and this one is really great fun. The Day the Crayons Quit by Drew Daywalt, illustrated by Oliver Jeffers (Philomel, June), about crayons who write letters to their owner explaining that they’re overworked, is a great homage to creativity, since in the end the child decides to use his colors in a different way. I think the accusatory voices of the crayons will appeal to kids, and the illustrations are very playful.
I’m looking forward to Octopus Alone by Divya Srinivasan (Viking, May), a picture book about an octopus who temporarily leaves her reef after deciding she’s surrounded by too many creatures. This is a lovely sea adventure, and we did well with the author’s Little Owl’s Night. Lemony Snicket’s The Dark gives a really fresh spin to the I’m-afraid-of-the-dark theme that so many preschoolers and parents deal with—and Jon Klassen’s Caldecott won’t hurt. And we won’t have to handsell Mo Willems’s That’s NOT a Good Idea!—his books sell themselves.
P.S. Be Eleven by Rita Williams-Garcia (HarperCollins/Amistad, May) is a middle-grade novel with an amazing narrative voice. It’s a sequel to One Crazy Summer, which we sold a lot of. Loki’s Wolves by K.L. Armstrong and M.A. Marr (Little, Brown, May), which draws on Norse myths and is a really good fantasy adventure, is being promoted as a title that Percy Jackson fans will love, and I look forward to putting it in the hands of those readers looking for something new. The Laura Line by Crystal Allen (HarperCollins/Balzer + Bray, Apr.) is the story of a girl whose family lives on a former plantation that still has slave shacks on it. When her class visits on a field trip, the girl finds a newfound pride in her family tree. It’s a well-written contemporary novel.
In YA, I like You Look Different in Real Life by Jennifer Castle (HarperTeen, June), about kids who have been part of a reality TV show since kindergarten. It’s a really interesting story about friendship and change. The Vortex by S.J. Kinkaid (HarperCollins/Tegen, Jul.), the second book in the Insignia trilogy, feels a bit like Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card and raises interesting questions about what the characters are doing and why.
Larry Yoder, bookseller at The Bookies in Denver, Colo.
Based on our order numbers, the picture book we’re most enthusiastic about is The Day the Crayons Quit. We love the illustrations, and know that kids will relate to them and to the story, too. Everyone wants to be treated for who they are and not just as part of the pack. And of course we just love selling anything Mo Willems writes, so That Is NOT a Good Idea! will have a huge following here. We find that as many parents and grandparents as children want to buy his books. We are also excited about The Museum by Susan Verde (illus. by Peter H.Reynolds, Abrams, Mar.). It’s a great story about the power of art, and the rhythm and rhyme makes it a great readaloud.
A book for teens we’re looking forward to is Boy Nobody by Allen Zadoff (Little, Brown, June), which is the perfect boy book. It’s quick and has short chapters, which helps attract reluctant readers, and involves totally improbable espionage—you can’t beat that combination. And a YA that will be big for girls is Etiquette & Espionage (Little, Brown, Feb.), the first book in Gail Carriger’s Finishing School series. Her writing always has a lot of humor, and with that and the novel’s steampunky atmosphere, I’m sure we’ll do well with it.
Maureen Palacios, owner, and Kris Vreeland, children’s book buyer and events coordinator, at Once Upon a Time in Montrose, Calif.
Palacios: A great new nonfiction picture book is War Dogs: Churchill and Rufus by Kathryn Selbert (Charlesbridge, Feb.). It’s about Winston Churchill and his dog during World War II and it really humanizes Churchill. Everyone thought he was a bulldog, but he actually owned a little poodle! We’re selling this to a lot of our librarians and teachers, and I think kids will really like it, too. A YA book that I could not put down is Sharon Draper’s Panic (Atheneum, Mar.), and I think teens will feel the same way. One of the dancers at a dance academy goes missing, and the other members of the troupe don’t know who the kidnapper is, but readers do. The author addresses a number of issues, including self-esteem and abuse, and does so very well. The novel is suspenseful and taut, and the characters are beautifully drawn.
Vreeland: A Tangle of Knots by Lisa Graff (Philomel, Feb.) is a charming middle-grade book about characters who have bizarre little talents—one can talk to someone for five minutes and know what’s the perfect cake to bake for them, one has a talent for getting lost—whose stories finally all come together. It’s a lovely book and a fun read—and it even includes cake recipes! And a great new YA novel is Out of Nowhere by Maria Padian (Knopf, Feb.), which is based on a true story about a large influx of refugees from Somalia who moved to a Maine town. It’s told from the perspective of kids on the high school soccer team and it’s beautifully written. The story involves some racism, but mostly it’s about friendship and mutual respect between young adults from different cultures. It’s a book that I really want to share with high school readers.