As I mentioned to you all a year ago, fall is a difficult season for booksellers. The best weather of the year is here, beverage choices are vastly, positively expanded from summer, and like ninety percent of the books we’ve been waiting for since February hit the shelves on a single Tuesday morning, and the whole bookselling community perishes at once, smothered beneath cardboard displays stuffed with our literary hopes and dreams.
Bookseller Alex S and cardboard dump of Alex’s new middle grade fave THE INQUISITOR’S TALE (Adam Gidwitz and Hatem Aly) try to keep it together during this difficult time. ADA TWIST, SCIENTIST (Andrea Beaty and David Roberts) is pictured in large quantities in the cardboard ediface to the rear.
Let me explain to you how fall works in the kids’ section. You take all the summer reading books down of their summer reading display and put up one million books about Halloween as the summer reading is squashed back into your normal overstock. You bring in ten thousand million copies of every book you’ve ever seen in your life, because as soon as they exit the beach, forward-thinking people begin contemplating their holiday shopping.
And then every new, exciting, important book in the world arrives in the store on that one fateful day. Let’s call it this Tuesday. Sometimes, walking through the kids’ section, you (non-bookseller, normal shopper you) may notice cardboard displays like the one pictured above. Sometimes we have up to three of these sitting out in the section! Holding important and beautiful new books!!
In the fall these burst from the ground like the green growing things of a newborn Narnia. First there are two, and then four, and then several counter-top displays for a counter you are not sure if you have, and then there are whole squadrons of these four-foot lumbering beasts wearing flashy hats, full of lively hardcovers that leap out at you like angry seagulls every time you set one up. They are soon lining up against the bookshelves, leaning ominously as you attempt to bolster them with packing tape. You run out of corners where you can stand things. You wonder if this will be the end.
You drink some coffee, get up on your ladder, and push the overstock around until everything fits and you’re relatively balanced again, feelings-wise, and ready to face the vast army of standing displays once again.
Here is the thing, though: you cannot face them. They contain so many books that make your feelings explode like waves against the rocks. They contain YOUR ENTIRE HEART. And instead of standing in front of them with a copy in your hand, weeping gently and calling out to passers-by, “This is it! My favorite book of 2016! It’s an emotional juggernaut! I can’t breathe when I think about it, at all,” you have to pretend you feel whole inside, not at all compromised, and you have to shelve things.
Where, I ask you, is catharsis at a time like this?
KIDSMITH FAVORITES, FALL 2016
This is the catharsis. You’re reading it. Surprise!
Here are a few books that we (Alex, Amy, Clarissa, India) want you not to miss.
Kate Beasley’s middle grade charmer Gertie’s Leap to Greatness won over Clarissa and Alex with her determined heroine, who is trying desperately to regain her absent mother by being the best kid there is. She’s an obvious heir to Ramona Quimby and a great next step for readers of the wonderful Pennypacker/Frazee collaboration Clementine.
Jory John and Lane Smith team up (to our collective delight) for the extremely relatable picture book Penguin Problems, the tale of a penguin who sees the bad in everything until a wise old walrus helps him cool his jets.
Adam Gidwitz and Hatem Aly, in The Inquisitor’s Tale, weave a middle grade story about three miracle-slinging thirteenth-century kids, their recently resurrected dog, and a mission to save the precious Jewish books of France–all told through a roomful of strangers who don’t know the ending. This is a team favorite, and we advise you to pay close attention to how the pictures do (and don’t) agree with the text.
In the last few weeks:
Kim Zarins also takes on The Canterbury Tales, but instead of mimicking the style, she’s gone full contemporary YA retelling, in Sometimes We Tell the Truth–one of India’s favorite recent reads, which you can find on our Staff Picks shelf at the front of the store during the month of October.
Sungju Lee’s memoir Every Falling Star,written with Susan McClelland, is the first work of YA nonfiction published in the U.S. concerning life in North Korea. This is one of Clarissa’s favorites this year, which I’ve heard her talk about more than once as an absolutely stunning book.
David Arnold of Mosquitoland has followed up with new standalone YA novel Kids of Appetite,which is about death, love, The Outsiders, and how you get from one place to another–kind of. Amy loves it. Trust Amy.
The Swan Riders is the sequel to Erin Bow’s The Scorpion Rulesand–listen, I know that true heart books that fit everything you love in a story are personal and rare, but this is mine. Wounded, wise-cracking, world-ruling AIs, power struggles, personalities vying for dominance, dangerous journeys, clever plots, weird allegiances, world-altering decision making, and a willingness to do good or a decision not to care that rides on a knife’s edge. It’s wonderful.
So these are some of the books we’re currently buried under. They’re awesome and good and we would love to talk to you about them. Just dig us out and ask.