While there are always plenty of big books and authors from major publishers at BEA, and this year is no different, in talking to frontline booksellers and librarians, we found a lot of interest in books from smaller houses as well. Here we present a sampling of the books that especially caught the eyes of conventiongoers.
YA is perhaps the hottest category in children’s books right now, and there is plenty of anticipation for many forthcoming teen novels. Emily Hall, owner of Main Street Books in St. Charles, Mo., has high expectations for Marissa Meyer’s new YA novel, Heartless (Feiwel and Friends, Nov.) “It’s going to be a huge hit with my customers,” she said. “They’re in love with the Lunar Chronicles, so anything she writes is automatically golden.”
Hall is also excited for two new novels by proven YA favorites: A Torch Against the Night by Sabaa Tahir and Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo. “An Ember in the Ashes and Six of Crows were two of my favorite YAs from last year, and I’m practically salivating for the next installments.”
Caraval by Stephanie Garber (Flatiron, Jan. 2017) “sounds movie-ready,” said Amy Duffy, youth content curator for the Chicago Public Library, “which I guess is why the movie rights have already been snatched up.” She said the book has “elements of the Hunger Games, fantasy—basically the author did a mashup of things she liked.”
Amy Brabenec, backlist buyer at Brookline Booksmith in Brookline, Mass., is most excited about Gemina by Jay Kristoff and Amie Kaufman (Knopf, Oct.), “because I’ve never read anything like Illuminae—its page design, everything.”
The Forgetting by Sharon Cameron (Scholastic Press, Sept.) is another fall favorite for Hall at Main Street Books. “I adored Rook, and I’m eager to see what she does with the concept of a whole society forgetting everything about themselves every 12 years. Plus, I journal a lot, so having a ‘book’ to make sure you remember your life is especially appealing.”
A book due out just after the show, Places No One Knows by Brenna Yovanoff (Delacorte, May), was talked up by Kristen Gilligan Vlahos, the new co-owner of Denver’s Tattered Cover Books. In the book, “two high schoolers who really only know ‘of’ each other, meet in their dreams at night and create a complicated and heartbreaking relationship,” she said. “The writing is incredible and unique. It touches far-reaching levels of intellect that should be impossible to incorporate into simple sentences, yet it’s so accessible.”
Kenny Brechner, owner of DDG Booksellers in Farmington, Me., is intrigued by The Edge of Everything (Bloomsbury, Jan. 2017), a paranormal novel from Jeff Giles, a former editor at Entertainment Weekly, about bounty hunters from hell. “He came out of pulp journalism and he’s gone good, in a funny way,” Brechner said.
Women & Children First store manager Jamie Thomas’s top pick for forthcoming YA is The Sun Is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon (Delacorte, Nov.), saying, “The epic romance between Daniel and Natasha is swoon-worthy and effortlessly diverse, while exploring the immigrant experience in a beautifully poignant way.”
One new YA book to Duffy at CPL was Rani Patel in Full Effect by Sonia Patel (Cinco Puntos, Sept.). “I hadn’t heard about it before, but now I’m really excited about it,” she said. “We’re always looking for diverse titles and I trust Cinco Puntos and whatever they publish.”
For Cynthia Compton, owner, 4Kids Books and Toys in suburban Indianapolis, a stand-out title is Ghosts by Raina Telgemeier (Scholastic/Graphix, Sept.). “The market for graphics for girls has been big for us,” she said. “This one’s darker and it’s going to appeal to sophisticated girl readers.”
Brechner at DDG called Lucy by Randy Cecil (Candlewick, Aug.) genre-bending. “It’s a merging of a picture book and a chapter book,” he said. “It lifts the picture book out of the 32-page slot and tells a larger story. I’m hungry for strong books in the graphic novel area.”
Booksellers were also buzzing about another Candlewick book, We Found a Hat by Jon Klassen, due out in October, concluding his “hat” picture book trilogy. “I can’t wait to get my hands on this one,” said Thomas at Women & Children First. “Parents love the morbid humor and kids love the broad cast of characters.”
Ellen Mager, owner of Booktenders Secret Garden in Doylestown, Pa., raved about a new middle grade series called Squirrel Girl (Marvel Press, Feb. 2017) from Shannon Hale, co-written with her husband, Dean Hale. “I love that she can do so many age levels and do them so well,” Mager said. She was also glad to hear about two sequels: David Shannon’s Duck on a Tractor (Scholastic/Blue Sky, Sept.), a follow-up to his 2002 Duck on a Bike (“his visual humor is so wonderful”); and Ashes by Laurie Halse Anderson (S&S/Atheneum/Dlouhy), completing her Seeds of America trilogy (“I’m so thrilled that it’s out—it’s been a long time coming”).
Duffy’s colleague, Liv Hanson, also a youth content curator for the Chicago Public Library, described a trend she had spotted on the exhibit floor: “I’m continuing to see more cool STEM titles in picture books, like Candace Fleming and Eric Rohmann’s Giant Squid (Roaring Brook/Porter, Sept.).” Both Duffy and Hanson are also eager for Kate Beaton’s King Baby (Scholastic/Levine, Sept.). “That's my life right now,” said Duffy. Hanson added, “I’ve been reading [Beaton’s web comic] Hark! a Vagrant since it started!”
Though Amy Brabenec, backlist buyer at Brookline Booksmith in Brookline, Mass., was looking forward to Carson Ellis’s Du Iz Tak (Candlewick, Oct.) before the fair, the promotion for the picture book at the booth made her even more eager for it. “I don’t like bugs but she makes them look delicate and almost Victorian. There’s a real dash of whimsy, which is a nice breath of fresh air in the middle of the fair.”
Note: An incomplete version of this story was originally published and has since been updated.