Although education was the primary focus of last week’s Winter Institute, books and authors were uppermost in many book buyers’ minds. As if to emphasize the point that it is ultimately all about the books, Candlewick supplied a book bag to every one who registered. It featured one of the press’ most commercial YA series to date, L.A. Weatherly’s Angels trilogy, which it will publish starting with Angel Burn this spring.

But the two Candlewick books and authors at the conference that captured most booksellers’ attention were: Tim Wynne-Jones’s novel Blink & Caution, and Maya Soetoro-Ng’s Ladder to the Moon, illustrated by Yuyi Morales, about Maya’s mother, also mother to her half-brother, President Barack Obama. Leslie Reiner, co-owner of Inkwood Books in Tampa, Fl., was one of several booksellers to single out both books as Winter Institute picks. The Wynne-Jones she describes as “fantastic. It will draw in kids, and it’s very timely.” She also recommends Gary Schmidt’s latest, Okay for

Now (Clarion), as well as Dieter Schubert’s wordless picture book, The Umbrella (Lemniscaat).

Perhaps the most buzzed children’s book, also on Reiner’s shortlist, was Veronica Roth’s Divergent (HarperCollins/Tegen), which Reiner dubs “the next Hunger Games.” Susanna Hermans, co-owner of Oblong Books & Music in Millerton and Rhinebeck, N.Y., and co-chair of the New England Children’s Booksellers Association, also regards Roth’s dystopian novel as a a worthy successor to Suzanne Collins’s trilogy. “It’s the closest thing I’ve read to The Hunger Games, without being copycat,” she says and calls it one of two novels that she’s “obsessed” with. The other, Judy Blundell’s Strings Attached (Scholastic), is so well-written, says Hermans, that it could be shelved with adult titles.

Jason Kennedy, buyer at Boswell Book Company in Milwaukee, says that the book he’s heard people talking about, is John Stephens’s The Emerald Atlas (Knopf). It follows the adventures of three unwanted children, who have been shuffled from one orphanage to another for each of the last 10 years. And it’s a book Meghan Dietsche Goel, children’s book buyer at BookPeople in Austin, Tex., plans to promote heavily this spring. She’s also excited about Beth Revis’s Across the Universe (Razorbill). “And,” she says, “Pig Kahuna (Bloomsbury) by Jennifer Sattler is going to be my big summer picture book; it’s insanely adorable.”