If timing is everything, then this year’s Pacific Northwest Booksellers Association annual trade show, held at the Red Lion Hotel at Jantzen Beach in Portland, Ore., from October 6–8, couldn’t have been better positioned to underscore the importance of children’s authors and illustrators in the region, and beyond. It took place just following news that Guts (Scholastic/Graphix) by Raina Telgemeier, one of the featured speakers at a sold-out opening night event “Dinner at the Kids’ Table,” was the number one book in the country.

At the beginning of her talk, Telgemeier excitedly announced that Guts had beat out adult bestsellers by Margaret Atwood (The Testaments), Malcolm Gladwell (Talking to Strangers), and Stephen King (The Institute). Similarly, two other dinner speakers, author Julie Fogliano and illustrator Christian Robinson of Just in Case You Want to Fly (Holiday House/Porter), bested big-name adult authors to earn the title of BuzzBook of the show. The honor is based on 200 ballots cast by booksellers and librarians on the trade show floor. Fogliano and Robinson’s book will also be prominently displayed throughout the region as a featured title in PNBA’s Give Books-themed holiday catalog.

Author, Author

Other children’s book creators at the dinner included Olympia, Wash., author and artist Nikki McClure, who spoke about the creative process behind her latest picture book, What Will These Hands Make? (Abrams, Feb.). Audience members were awed when she held up a piece of cut paper that was used to create the distinctive artwork in the book, which takes place over the course of a day and points to the importance of community.

Rebecca Stead (The List of Things That Will Not Change, Random House/Lamb, Apr.) spoke about the inspiration for her book about a family in transition, her own childhood in which she spent exactly half her time with each of her parents. “It was kind of like living in stereo,” she said. “The challenge with this book was to get out of the way and let a 10-year-old girl be front and center.”

The daughter of baseball legend and activist Jackie Robinson, Sharon Robinson (Child of the Dream, Scholastic Press), chose the year that she turned 13, 1963, for her book which weaves her story together with a life-changing event that took place in May of that year: the Children’s Brigade in Birmingham, Ala. Police used dogs and fire hoses to attack a civil rights demonstration by 1000 schoolchildren before arresting them. Robinson described her family’s efforts to help the civil rights movement. “My parents taught me to have hope,” she said.

Guts was one of several books that Robert Sindelar, managing partner at Third Place Books with three stores in and around Seattle, predicted would sell briskly throughout the year. He anticipated that it will contribute to a strong holiday season and a good year overall for his stores.

Fortunately for booksellers and librarians, children’s authors weren’t relegated to the Kids’ Table; talks and signings were sprinkled at events throughout the show. Emily Lloyd-Jones (The Bone Houses, Little, Brown), Kelly Jones (Sauerkraut, Knopf), and Renée Watson (Some Places More Than Others, Bloomsbury) were among the authors who participated in the following night’s “Signature Dish” dinner. Ruta Sepetys (The Fountains of Silence, Philomel) spoke at the closing breakfast, “Authors Over Easy.” And Jody J. Little (Worse Than Weird, HarperCollins, Mar.), whose new book is an Indies Introduce title and a spring Kids Next Pick, along with Abigail Hing Wen (Loveboat, Taipei, HarperTeen, Jan.), and Erin Yun (Pippa Park Raises Her Game, Fabled Films, Feb.) closed out PNBA at the “7 Coming-Up Author Showcase.”

Show Floor Hum

But children’s books and authors weren’t the only reason for the show’s energy. Strong sales in the months leading up to PNBA and predictions for a strong holiday season also contributed to the upbeat mood. “We had a very strong summer,” said Jenna DaTrapanni at Eagle Harbor Book Co. on Bainbridge Island, Wash. “We’ve been up double digits for four months now.” Paul Hanson, co-owner of Village Books in Bellingham and Fairhaven, Wash., said that his store is on course to better 2018, which was the store’s best year ever.

Todd Summers told PW that he was at the show to learn more about opening a small store. He’s looking for a 400 sq. ft. space that will be filled 50/50 with adult and kids’ titles in the Glisan neighborhood of Portland. He said that he was heartened to meet Megan Waterman, who opened a 300 sq. ft. used bookstore, the Book Nook in Canby, Ore., in December 2017, and has since seen it grow significantly. At her customers’ request she added new books, and when a long-time gift store closed, sidelines. With a second expansion in April, the Book Nook is now quintuple its original size.

Adding to the festive mood was an increase in attendance. PNBA executive director Brian Juenemann said that more stores attended than last year and that overall attendance was up a little as well. According to PNBA staffer Larry West, 84 stores brought 251 booksellers, and the show featured 96 authors from 77 publishers. Altogether 570 people attended the show.

In addition to attending author events, booksellers took advantage of opportunities to meet face-to-face with publishers at rep picks sessions, or “The Big Pitch,” as well as on the trade show floor. First-time attendee Randy Lotowycz, director of marketing and sales at Algonquin, described the show floor as “very busy.” PGW’s Cindy Heidemann, the 2018 PW Rep of the Year, said that “there’s been a lot of foot traffic and a lot of interest in the fall and winter books.” Some booksellers came with the intention of placing orders, although not all of them were written until the end. David Godine of his eponymous publishing house said that he received a large order 10 minutes before the show closed.

Publishers donated 34 boxes of books with a retail value of $15,000 to PNBA’s Rural Library Program, according to Colin Rea, director of the Fern Ridge Library District in Veneta, Ore., who coordinates the program. This year writer and musician Willy Vlautin recommended the recipient and helped deliver books to Scappoose Public Library in Scappoose, Ore.

In 2020, the PNBA trade show will return to the Hotel Murano in Tacoma, Wash., from September 30–October 2.

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