It’s a strange new world of bookselling,” says Cynthia Compton, the owner of 4 Kids Books and Toys in Carmel, Ind., and a PW blogger, whose store pivoted to curbside and home delivery during the height of the Covid-19 pandemic. “Our business has fundamentally changed, and all of these new and revived sales channels and methods are now permanent parts of our bookstore.”
Similarly, says Maureen Palacios, owner of Once upon a Time in Montrose, Calif., “we still have tons of online orders and are beefing up our online presence to capitalize on that.” She plans to experiment with virtual events. At the same time, she’s reconfiguring the store’s popular summer reading camps for kids so that they can be held in person, with proper safety protocols, for kids and parents who are tired of interacting through screens.
While many bookstores have only recently reopened after being forced to close to walk-in traffic, others, such as the Bookworm in Omaha, Nebr., never stopped serving in-store customers. “Booksellers often felt like a last place of refuge for customers,” says Hannah Amrollahi, children’s and YA department manager. “We organized a puzzle exchange to raise money for a local food pantry, supported incredible community volunteers who organized safe book drives reaching 3,000-plus families, and had enriching and difficult conversations around our Black Lives Matter children’s display. The new normal these days is to act quick and current. It doesn’t make sense to order a carton anymore.”
Amrollahi’s ordering shifted over the spring when special orders climbed, and she anticipates that this trend will continue through the holidays. Like a few other booksellers contacted for this survey, she’s found that her customers are more willing to tackle longer books and that families are turning to the classics for readalouds.
Christy McDanold, owner of Secret Garden Books in Seattle, hasn’t resumed buying upcoming lists and delayed reopening her store. She is taking things day-to-day, with customers requesting books ranging from astrophysicist Ray Jayawardhana and artist Raul Colón’s picture book, Child of the Universe (Make Me a World); Omar Mohamed and Victoria Jamieson’s graphic novel about growing up in a refugee camp, When Stars Are Scattered (Dial); and Lucy Knisley’s graphic novel about being a child at the mercy of parents, Stepping Stones (Random House Graphic). “We are overwhelmed,” she says, “just dealing with a lovely deluge of online orders, the increasingly limited stock at Ingram, and publishers that are shipping, or not, but all more slowly [than they had been pre-Covid].”
What will be #1?
“Overall,” says Brein Lopez, general manager of Children’s Book World in Los Angeles, “it should be a great bookselling fall, with new series books from Rick Riordan, Dav Pilkey, Jeff Kinney, Kelly Yang, and more.” That said, his most anticipated book across all categories is 2020 Newbery Medalist Jerry Craft’s Class Act (Quill Tree, Oct.). “New Kids was a huge hit for us and is a tremendous seller still. Kids have been clamoring for the sequel. It will be a perfect message of friendship to end a troubling year of divisiveness.” Another of his favorites appears on several booksellers’ YA lists: Ibi Zoboi and Yusef Salaam’s Punching the Air (Balzer + Bray, Sept.).
“There are tons of great books coming out,” says Tildy Banker-Johnson, manager of Belmont Books in Belmont, Mass. Even so, if she could pick only one fall favorite, it would be Anika Aldamuy Denise and Leo Espinosa’s picture book A Girl Named Rosita (HarperCollins, Nov.), about Rita Moreno, the only Latinx person to win a Peabody, Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, and Tony Award. “Denise cites Moreno as her inspiration for life, and that really comes through,” Banker-Johnson adds.
Jacqueline Lancaster, a bookseller at Hub City Bookshop in Spartanburg, S.C., also cites a picture book biography of Latina singer Selena, which she’s especially excited about: Silvia López and Paola Escobar’s Queen of Tejano Music: Selena (Little Bee, Aug.).
Compton at 4 Kids Books and Toys anticipates that National Book Award–winner Jacqueline Woodson’s new novel Before the Ever After (Penguin/Paulsen, Sept.) will be the big book of the fall at her store. But she’s also excited about several picture books, including Andrea Beaty and Dow Phumiruk’s One Girl (Abrams, Oct.), inspired by the Girl Rising documentary, and A Is for Activist author Innosanto Nagara’s Oh, the Things We’re For! (Triangle Square, Oct.), which she predicts should sell through the winter. Compton also notes that in YA it’s a big fall for “finales and kick-ass women,” including the conclusion of Sabaa Tahir’s Ember in the Ashes series, A Sky Beyond the Storm (Razorbill, Dec.), and of Natalie C. Parker’s Seafire trilogy, Stormbreak (Razorbill, Nov.).
Other big books
Three favorites from Kate Larson, manager of Bank Square Books in Mystic, Conn., include a goodnight picture book by Karla Oceanak and Allie Ogg, Goodnight Mermaid (Bailiwick, Sept.), which she praises for its diverse illustrations, including boys and selkies, and its message of caring for the earth. “For the middle grade reader who has wished to be strong enough to fight all the bad guys in their life,” Larson recommends Hugo, Nebula, and World Fantasy awards–winner Nnedi Okorafor’s Ikenga (Viking, Aug.). And she predicts that teens will “love” Kalynn Bayron’s Cinderella Is Dead (Bloomsbury, July), a “feminist story about queer Black girls coming together to overthrow the patriarchy.”
Two picture books that Jeffrey Blair, co-owner of EyeSeeMe African American Children’s Bookstore in University City, Mo., a suburb of St. Louis, is particularly excited about are Tami Charles and Bryan Collier’s All Because You Matter (Orchard, Oct.) and Michael W. Waters and Keisha Morris’s For Beautiful Black Boys Who Believe in a Better World (Flyaway, Sept.). He’s eager for the former because there are so few books that celebrate African American boys, he says, adding that it reassures Black boys that they matter. As for the latter, Blair is impressed by the “strong role model of a great father guiding his child.” He adds, “This is an honest, intimate look at one family’s response to racism and gun violence.”
Among Blair’s favorites for older kids are two novels: the paperback reprint of Alicia D. Williams’s middle grade debut, which received a 2020 Newbery Honor and a Coretta Scott King-John Steptoe Award for New Talent, Genesis Begins Again (Atheneum/Dlouhy, Aug.), and Kim Johnson’s YA debut, This Is My America (Random House, July).
“For middle grade, I’m looking forward to lots,” says Lily Tschudi-Campbell, marketing coordinator at Red Balloon Bookshop in St. Paul, Minn. Among her favorites are John Patrick Green’s InvestiGators: Take the Plunge (First Second, Sept.), the second graphic novel starring agents Mango and Brash, and Remy Lai’s illustrated diary-style novel Fly on the Wall (Holt, Sept.). Lai’s first book, Pie in the Sky, was a big hit at her store.
Tschudi-Campbell also cites Sabrina Vourvoulias’s Nuestra América (Running Press Kids, Sept.), a nonfiction look at 30 Latinas and Latinos who have influenced U.S. history. In YA, she’s looking forward to an #OwnVoices Latinx fantasy with a trans character, Cemetery Boys by Aiden Thomas (Swoon Reads, Sept.).
Still going strong
At Seminary Co-op Bookstores in Chicago, marketing director Clancey D’Isa anticipates continued sales well into the fall for several recent releases by local authors, including Mad, Bad, & Dangerous to Know (Soho Teen) by Samira Ahmed, which was a spring 2020 ABA Indies Next Pick, and The Great Chicago Fire: Rising from the Ashes (First Second), a History Comics title by Kate Hannigan and Alex Graudins. D’Isa is also excited about Seminary Co-op champion Liesl Shurtliff’s third installment in the Time Castaways series, The Forbidden Lock (HarperCollins/Tegen, Oct.), as well as books by longtime favorite authors such as Caldecott Medalist Jerry Pinkney’s The Little Mermaid (Little, Brown, Nov.) and a children’s edition of a book that was written in Sanskrit between 400 BCE and 400 CE, Deepa Agarwal’s Mahabharata Stories (HarperCollins), the first book in the From the House of Harper series.
Similarly, Amrollahi at the Bookworm expects sales to continue strong for Colin Meloy and Shawn Harris’s Everyone’s Awake (Chronicle), which is her favorite picture book of the year. She’s also looking forward to the graphic novel edition of Jason Reynolds’s Long Way Down (Atheneum/Dlouhy, Oct.), illustrated by Danica Novgorodoff, and to Nic Stone’s latest YA novel, Dear Justyce (Crown, Sept). For middle grade, she says, “My heart is ready for Three Keys (Scholastic Press, Sept.), the follow-up to Front Desk by Kelly Yang,” as well as Rosanne Parry’s A Whale of the Wild (Greenwillow, Sept.), the standalone companion to A Wolf Called Wander, a staff favorite that keeps on selling.