There is a consensus among two dozen booksellers across the country recently contacted by PW that 2022 is going to end for them with a big bang created by their cash registers ringing up purchases. Sales between Thanksgiving and Christmas promise to be exceptional, and not only because of the November 15 release of Michelle Obama’s memoir, The Light We Carry, the follow-up to her blockbuster 2018 memoir, Becoming. According to booksellers, a broad selection of new releases for all ages and in all genres is certain to appeal to readers—particularly in the children’s category, with many of the most anticipated new releases by BIPOC and LGBTQ authors, and/or with BIPOC or LGBTQ characters.

“Children’s books have always been historically a great category for us in our stores,” said Ramunda Lark Young, co-owner of MahoganyBooks in Washington, D.C., and National Harbor, Md. “It’s because of the breadth of books we have with Black kids on the covers that are the main characters. We stack them out everywhere for the holidays. We stack them out in the windows, because a lot of times people can’t get those books back home.”

While Amy Brabenec, children’s buyer and assistant operations manager at Brookline Booksmith in Brookline, Mass., noted that “anything with images is going to be really difficult to get and keep in stock” this holiday season due to supply chain disruptions, she added that there is an upside: it provides booksellers with the opportunity to handsell titles “that aren’t getting as much attention on their own and deserve the love.”

“I see a lot of books with great potential,” said David Enyeart, manager of Next Chapter Booksellers in St. Paul, Minn. “I’m not at all worried that we won’t have great books for our customers this holiday season.” Enyeart is especially excited about a bilingual edition of The Book of Questions by Pablo Neruda, translated by Sara Lissa Paulson, and illustrated by Paloma Valdivia (Enchanted Lion), describing it as “both gorgeous and poetic.” He also recommends The Christmas Book Flood by Emily Kilgore, illustrated by Kitty Moss (FSG, Nov.), a picture book inspired by the Icelandic tradition of giving books to one another on Christmas Eve. “We absolutely need to make Jolabokaflod a thing in this country,” Enyeart declared.

“I’m a sucker for board books,” said Derrick Young, co-owner of MahoganyBooks. He singled out a series by Ruth Forman, illustrated by Geneva Bowers, which launched in 2020 with Curls and continued in 2021 with Glows; the third book, Ours (Little Simon), is illustrated by Talia Skyles. “It’s a great gift item for grandparents, aunts, and uncles,” he said.

Brabenec at Brookline Booksmith said that the picture book she is most excited about is Oliver Jeffers’s Meanwhile Back on Earth (Philomel, Oct.). “He has such a way of distilling big concepts into their base components and I think that appeals to kids and adults,” she said. “With everything going on, I think a book that talks about and plays with our place in time and the universe without being too didactic is going to be huge.” Brabenec is also high on The Three Billy Goats Gruff by Mac Barnett, illustrated by Jon Klassen (Orchard, Oct.), saying, “They are such an unstoppable pair. Their books have these delightful and silly little twists that appeal to both outer and inner children, so I think the chance to see how they play with a story people are already familiar with will be such a draw.”

After hosting two very successful appearances this spring and summer featuring Chris Van Dusen, Ellen Richmond, owner of the Book Cellar in Waterville, Me., is confident that his latest picture book, Big Truck Little Island (Candlewick, May), will sell well through the holidays. “I had an event with him on May 13 and I sold about 120 books. It was just gangbuster,” she said. At a second event in July, in conjunction with the library in Skowhegan, she sold 40 copies of Big Truck Little Island and another 90 copies of assorted backlist Van Dusen titles.

Picture books with local connections are a big draw for many booksellers PW spoke with. Justin Souther, senior buyer and bookstore manager at Malaprop’s Bookstore/Cafe in Asheville, N.C., is excited about Good Night, Little Bookstore by Malaprop’s former children’s buyer, Amy Cherrix, illustrated by E.B. Goodale (Candlewick, Sept.). And Andrea Griffith, owner of Browsers Bookshop in Olympia, Wash., predicts that Patchwork by Matt de la Peña, illustrated by Olympia-based author-illustrator Corinna Luyken (Putnam, Sept.) is going to be a big hit with customers who have witnessed Luyken building her career.

Amy Lamb, co-owner of Wonderland Bookshop in Greensboro, N.C., is looking forward to a celebrity picture book, Reese Witherspoon’s Busy Betty, illustrated by Xindi Yan (Flamingo, Oct.). Lamb said, “The book is about finding friends, cooperation, all those nice things—we know it will be a draw, and parents will ask for it by her name.” Lamb is also buzzing about Green Is for Christmas (Philomel, Oct.), the latest installment in the Crayon series written by Drew Daywalt and illustrated by Oliver Jeffers. She described it as “an easy book for grandparents, aunts, and uncles who are looking for a gift.”

Middle Grade Reads and Graphic Novels

Middle grade books are also hot at Wonderland. “Middle graders love their series, so they’ll be excited about Spy School: Project X by Stuart Gibbs (S&S, Sept.),” Lamb said, “and The Last Kids on Earth and the Forbidden Fortress, the eighth book by by Max Brallier, illustrated by Douglas Holgate (Viking, Sept.). There’s also a new InvestiGators title: Heist and Seek by John Patrick Green (First Second, Sept.).”

Series are likewise popular at Pittsburgh’s White Whale Bookstore, where co-owner Jill Yeomans said she is “obsessed” with The Greatest in the World (S&S, Sept.), the first volume in Ben Clanton’s new graphic novel series, Tater Tales. She also “fell in love with the art and humor” in S’More Magic by Sophie Escabasse (Random House Graphic, Sept.), third in the author’s Witches of Brooklyn graphic novel series.

Griffith at Browsers said that her preteen daughters are most excited about Shannon Messenger’s Keeper of the Lost Cities: Stellarlune (Aladdin, Nov.), while Carrie Koepke, manager of Skylark Bookshop in Columbia, Mo., can’t get enough of the Myrtle Hardcastle series by Elizabeth C. Bunce, describing it as “the best thing to happen to youth mysteries since Trixie Belden.” In Myrtle Peril, the fourth volume, will be released by Algonquin Young Readers in October.

At Seattle’s Secret Garden Books, bookseller Andrew King recommends for middle grade readers Always, Clementine by Carlie Sorosiak (Walker Books US, Sept.). “It is going to be my pick for grandparents’ shopping,” he said. “They love their classics but can’t keep only buying them. This book is about a genius mouse who escapes from a science lab and lives with a sweet old man and his clumsy grandson; it’s a blend of the Rats of NIMH trilogy and Charlotte’s Web. If they want something new with a classic style, this is the thing to get.”

Middle grade reads with historical backdrops are also catching the eyes of booksellers. Brookline Booksmith’s Brabenec is blown away by Kwame Alexander’s The Door of No Return (Little, Brown , Sept.) describing the author as having a “really brilliant way of writing that connects with kids.” She said the novel is “not a book about slavery but rather a coming-of-age story that also addresses that history; this is going to be one of those books that adults pick up for kids but kids fall in love with.”

As for Shirley Mullin, owner of Kids Ink in Indianapolis, she is intrigued by Michael Leali’s “fascinating” dive into LGBTQ history in The Civil War of Amos Abernathy (HarperCollins,).

“He’s a charming author and it’s a fascinating subject,” Mullin noted. “Where are people who identify as LGBTQ in our history?”

Diverse YA Fiction, Nonfiction Is Hot

Many booksellers queried anticipate that YA fiction by BIPOC authors will fly off of bookstore shelves, especially Bloodmarked (S&S, Nov.) Tracy Deonn’s second volume in her Legendborn Cycle; a number of booksellers described themselves as “very excited,” even “super excited” to get their hands on it, with MahoganyBooks’s Derrick Young emphasizing that Bloodmarked is one that he and his staff “definitely want to handsell.”

Other YA reads cited by booksellers are Chloe Gong’s first volume in her new duology, Foul Lady Fortune (McElderry, Sept.); Malinda Lo’s A Scatter of Light (Dutton, Oct.), a companion to her 2021 National Book Award winner, Last Night at the Telegraph Club; Sabaa Tahir’s first contemporary novel, All My Rage (Razorbill); and Whiteout, the second YA novel co-written by Dhonielle Clayton, Tiffany D. Jackson, Nic Stone, Angie Thomas, Ashley Woodfolk, and Nicola Yoon (Quill Tree, Nov.). “Every time we put out a book by this group, our customers get excited about it,” Ramunda Lark Young said.

King at Secret Garden said that his favorite YA novel this fall is a debut set in a small Southern town that addresses race and racism and features a romance between two teen girls: We Deserve Monuments by Jas Hammonds (Roaring Brook, Dec.). “We were all reading it, and none of us could believe it was a debut,” he said. “It absolutely delivered and is so well thought out and perfectly interwoven.” King also recommends Self-Made Boys: A Great Gatsby Remix by Anna-Marie McLemore (Feiwel and Friends, Sept.), “a teen Great Gatsby retelling that blew me away. I loved this gay and trans retelling so much. McLemore added not only a thriller but also a suspenseful mystery element, and it’s got some racial equality and white passing—a whole lot of intersectionality with this book.”

Brookline Booksmith’s Brabenec is also excited about YA fiction with LGBTQ themes, such as The Sunbearer Trials (Feiwel and Friends, Sept.), the first volume in a duology by Aiden Thomas, saying, “It has a lot of what’s big right now going for it: epic scope, queer romance, competition. There’s so much space for high-stakes drama in a story like this and customers come in looking for these kinds of stories. Having this to put in their hands is going to be excellent.”

As for YA nonfiction, bookseller recommendations speak to the importance of books far beyond the holiday season. Ramunda Lark Young at MahoganyBooks is an evangelist for Olympic gold medalist Tommie Smith’s memoir, Victory. Stand!: Raising My Fist for Justice, co-authored by Derrick Barnes and illustrated by Dawud Anyabwile (Norton Young Readers, Sept.). “I’m excited for young people to be acclimated to his stance back in 1968, with all the things that are happening right now when young people are speaking up about injustices,” she said. “It’s a beautiful bridge to history and also current events.”

Jessica Hahl, event coordinator at the Country Bookshelf in Bozeman, Mont., is passionate about Braiding Sweetgrass for Young Adults by Robin Wall Kimmerer, adapted by Monique Gray Smith (Zest, Nov.). “I am striving to get it into as many hands as possible,” she said. “I think it can save the world. I’m so excited to be able to share its thoughtful and hopeful message with the great changemakers of tomorrow.”