It’s beginning to feel a lot like Christmas at Water Street Bookstore in Exeter, N.H., where children’s event coordinator Heather Robicheau reports heavy customer traffic and strong holiday sales.

It’s definitely hopping here, with lots of people moving through the store. Exeter holds quite a few community-based Christmas activities, like a parade and a tree-lighting ceremony, which bring crowds into town – and into the store. And with Thanksgiving being so late this year, we’ve been very busy since then.

It’s so hard to whittle down the list of what we’re really excited about handselling for the holidays – there are so many great books. My favorite picture book this year is Oh Dear, Geoffrey! by Gemma O’Neill, about a giraffe who doesn’t fit in – he can’t fly or dig, and is just big and gangly and clumsy. He finally finds his place in the world and feels like he belongs. It’s a sweet storybook about friendship, with adorable illustrations. I handsell this to anyone who will listen!

The other picture book that we love to handsell as a gift book is Peanut Butter and Jellyfish by Jarrett J. Krosoczka, about two sea creatures who deal with a bully. It’s a funny story and the illustrations are great. The author is from Massachusetts, and he’s come to Exeter quite a bit to do community work in our schools, and kids really like his books. We’ve read this one often in story times here. It’s a great read-aloud for both boys and girls.

In chapter books, we’re selling lots of copies of Leroy Ninker Saddles Up by Kate DiCamillo and Chris Van Dusen. It’s the first book in a spinoff series from their Mercy Watson books, which are always huge for us. We find that customers are buying this one for both kids and adults, because it’s by these two favorite collaborators.

We have two middle-grade novels that are very big for us right now. The first is Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library by Chris Grabenstein. It’s been selling well all fall, because our local elementary school selected it for the whole school to read together, and bought copies from us. The kids weren’t allowed to take copies of the book home, because teachers didn’t want them to read ahead. So we have had parents coming in to buy their kids their own copy, because they couldn’t wait to read it in school. I’m not sure what the teachers thought of that, but how can you refuse kids a book they’re really excited about reading?

The other middle-grade novel that’s gotten a huge response from our community is The Luck Uglies by Paul Durham. He’s a local author, and this is his first book, and kids are just eating it up. It’s a wonderful fantasy adventure story that’s a little mysterious, and it’s a great read-aloud. This is definitely one of our biggest books this holiday season.

My favorite YA this season – and perhaps my favorite series of all times – is The Darkest Minds by Alexandra Bracken. With In the Afterlight, the third and final volume, the author brings the series to a beautiful conclusion. It’s dystopian, but you get the feeling that the story actually happened – she makes the characters really come to life. I think this series is better than The Hunger Games and Divergent – it’s truly a hidden gem.

And another YA that I devoured and am handselling for the holidays is Snow Like Ashes by Sara Raasch. It’s a good fantasy with some fairytale aspects as well. I recommend this to people who liked The Demon King and Graceling. It’s got a great plot line and is really well written.

Of course, bestsellers like The Day the Crayons Quit and The Fault in Our Stars and other novels by John Green are huge sellers for us, but we love to handsell books that are a little more unique to our store. We try to make our staff picks books that we love that customers may not know about, to open their eyes to books that may not be so mainstream – but are really wonderful.