Children’s and YA booksellers are convening for another edition of BookExpo at the Javits Center in New York City. This year’s conference boasts a slew of can’t-miss galleys by both esteemed and emerging authors, in a variety of genres and formats. We asked a number of booksellers about the titles they’re most eager to grab at publishers’ booths.
Several attendees shared their enthusiasm for a new handbook dedicated to inspiring a lifelong love of books: How to Raise a Reader (Workman) by Pamela Paul and Maria Russo, both editors at the New York Times Book Review. Paul and Russo appeared in conversation on Thursday with journalist Jane Pauley. Janet Geddis, owner of Avid Bookshop in Athens, Ga., who has a master's in education, said, “I have read lots of books about how to get kids interested in reading, and How to Raise a Reader is among the best.”
On the picture book front, Elizabeth Bluemle, owner of The Flying Pig Bookstore in Shelburne, Vt., was raving about A Place to Land by Barry Wittenstein, illustrated by Jerry Pinkney (Holiday House/Porter), about Martin Luther King Jr.’s speech for the 1963 March on Washington. “What I love about it is threefold: Jerry Pinkney’s artwork, the behind-the-scenes look at the collaborative nature of achievement, and the nuanced, bittersweet realities of the struggles necessary to create change.”
Spencer’s New Pet by Jessie Sima (S&S) was a top pick for Sara Grochowski, children’s book buyer at McLean & Eakin in Petoskey, Mich. “It’s a wordless story about a boy and his balloon animal, and is bursting with imagination and joy. I think this one will pop this fall.”Maggie Pouncey, co-owner of Stories Bookshop + Storytelling Lab in Brooklyn, N.Y., touts Alma and the Beast by fellow Brooklynite Esmé Shapiro (Tundra). “I love the wonderful whimsical weirdness of this picture book, featuring a hairy protagonist and a close encounter with what makes us different and what makes us the same. Esme Shapiro is such a talent.”
Sara Hines, co-owner of Eight Cousins Bookstore in Falmouth, Mass., described another Canadian picture book, The Phone Booth in Mr. Hirota’s Garden (Orca), as “a standout.” The book is inspired by a true story of one Japanese village’s resilience after the 2011 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami. Hines said, “There is an organization in our town called Good Grief and it focuses on having healthy conversations about death, loss, and grieving with children. I wept while reading this book, and I am looking forward to sharing it with the founders of Good Grief.”
The middle grade book everyone is buzzing about in the comics category is Guts by superstar Raina Telgemeier (Scholastic/Graphix). Chelsea Edward, owner of Booked in Evanston, Ill., told PW, “Every child is coming in to ask when Guts is coming out. It's going to be huge.” She added, “And, of course, Dav Pilkey’s new Dog Man book [Graphix]. We sell Telgemeier and Pilkey every day.”
Middle grade fiction highlights for booksellers include My Jasper June by Laurel Snyder (HarperCollins/Walden Pond), which Geddis of Avid Bookshop calls “a pitch-perfect story of a girl dealing with loss and relearning to speak up for what she believes in.” Pouncey at Stories can’t wait for The Vanderbeekers to the Rescue by Karina Yan Glaser (HMH). “I’m obsessed with this middle grade series set in Harlem featuring a family of five kids, the vivid and warm community around them, and the challenges they confront."
Clarissa Hadge, manager at Trident Booksellers & Cafe in Boston, has high expectations for Lalani of the Distant Sea by Newbery Medalist Erin Entrada Kelly (Greenwillow). Hadge described the author’s debut fantasy, inspired by Filipino folklore, as “a lyrical journey and a perfect middle grade read.”
Booksellers are also keeping an eye out for YA crossover hits. Children of Virtue and Vengeance (Holt), the sequel to Tomi Adeyemi's #BlackLivesMatter-inspired fantasy Children of Blood and Bone, holds strong appeal for teens and older readers alike, according to Edward at Booked. Ruta Sepetys is back with another historical novel, The Fountains of Silence (Philomel), set in Franco’s Spain. Anne Holman, co-owner of The King’s English in Salt Lake City, anticipates it “will easily translate to an adult audience.”
In terms of new YA voices, Hadge said the science fiction debut I Hope You Get This Message by Farah Naz Rishi (HarperTeen) “hit me right in the feels and will be a great crossover read.” And Rauscher called The Last True Poets of the Sea by Julia Drake (Disney-Hyperion), which addresses mental illness, “the book I wish I had when I was 16. It’s smart and kind and affirming.” Tegan Tigani, children's book buyer at Queen Anne Book Company in Seattle, is a big fan of Frankly in Love by David Yoon. “I was so ready for a book that could make me laugh out loud, mark passages, and think about it and its characters for a long time, and this fit the bill. So many readers will fall in love!”
Nicole Brinkley, a bookseller at Oblong Books in Rhinebeck, N.Y., is excited for Pet by nonbinary author Akwaeke Emezi, first in Christopher Myers’s Make Me a World imprint at Random House. “It’s a brilliant bite-sized novel that fearlessly examines the world around us,” she said.
This article was updated to correct the locations of Avid Bookshop.