Alissa Hugel, assistant manager and children’s book buyer at Folio Books in San Francisco, shares her enthusiasm for a handful of titles that are hitting a sweet spot any bookseller can appreciate: books, she says, “that I’m really enjoying handselling – and that are doing very well.”
A picture book that I really love and that we’re selling very well is The Princess and the Pony by Kate Beaton. The author is a successful cartoonist, but this is her first picture book, and it is both hilarious and absolutely adorable. A princess whose parents are warriors asks for a battle horse, and instead gets a silly, round, very happy pony, whom all the warriors, instead of fighting, want to hang out with. This is a really fun story that I’ve read at story times, and kids always love it. The book has great messages: don’t be afraid to be yourself – and you can have more than one side to yourself.
Another favorite picture book is This Is Sadie by Sara O’Leary, which has wonderful illustrations by Julie Morstad. The story follows a day in the life of a girl who pretends to be all sorts of things – a mermaid, a boy raised by wolves, Alice in Wonderland – all without leaving her room. It’s a great, poetic story about the power of imagination. I started handselling this book after reading it at story time, when I fell in love with it. We put a stack on display and people immediately started buying it. This is a truly beautiful book.
In middle grade, I am excited about handselling Roller Girl – and was even before it was named a Newbery Honor Book. It’s such a great graphic novel about being yourself, even when things are difficult, and accepting your friends as they are. I recommend this to readers who have loved Smile and Sisters and El Deafo – and so far everyone I’ve recommended it to has really liked it.
Another favorite middle grade is S.E. Grove’s The Golden Specific, the second book in the Mapmaker Trilogy. Both this and the first novel in the trilogy, The Glass Sentence, are really wonderful fantasy adventures with an amazing female protagonist and lots of great side characters, including fantastic villains. There are deeper levels to the stories, which are really intriguing, and I can’t wait to sell the next book, The Crimson Skew, when it comes out next summer.
I’m also excited to handsell The Jumbies by Tracey Baptiste, which is set in Haiti, where fantastical creatures, who are a bit more malevolent than average tricksters, decide they are going to take their country back from the humans. They begin to control the mind of a girl’s father, and she has to save both him and the island. It’s a fantastic and engaging story, a bit scary – but not too scary!
In YA, I’m really looking forward to selling Tony Cliff’s Delilah Dirk and the King’s Shilling, which comes out in March. This is the sequel to Delilah Dirk and the Turkish Lieutenant, and both of these graphic novels are fantastic. Delilah is such a terrific heroine, and her adventures are really fun for readers. I think graphic novels are an amazing way to get kids excited about reading. They can have the same morals and messages as traditional novels, and definitely grab some kids more easily, with their visual punch. When parents seem wary about this genre, I tell them that if their kids are reading graphic novels, at least they are reading. I’m finding that, for the most part, parents do understand that.