Kris Vreeland of Once Upon A Time in Los Angeles, California, tells us what's on the shelves.
What trends do you notice in children’s book sales? What are the current hot reads?
Trends in children's books sales vary with the ages. For babies and toddlers, board books are doing well and we've had a lot of interest recently in books with photographs of babies. Classics like Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown and Good Night Gorilla by Peggy Rathman always do well. I love Marla Frazee's Boss Baby in the board book format.
In picture books for young readers, super heroes, transportation and animals do well. The Day the Crayons Came Home by Drew Daywalt, Night Animals by Gianna Marino and Full Moon at the Napping House by Don and Audrey Wood are all doing well. Humor and unexpected endings are always popular. Picture books can also do well for older readers, especially nonfiction that reads like a story, as well as beautiful wordless picture books.
In middle grade fiction, fantasy is still doing well, but not as strongly as a couple of years ago. We are seeing more interest in mysteries, though not as much with long series. Up to about three or four titles in a series works. Humor is popular, especially with the boys and adventure does well. There has been a slight increase in interest in historical fiction. We're also getting more requests for scary books and realistic fiction. One of my favorite fall recommendations in this age bracket is Katherine Applegate's Crenshaw.
YA seems to be a little more in flux. There is still interest in dystopian and fantasy, but it seems to be dropping off a little. John Green's books continue to do well. We're getting in more teens right now looking for recommendations and who are willing to try books/genres with which they aren't as familiar, but it is crucial the books be well-written, and have strong characters and difficult conflicts. Adventure, suspense and horror are also requested. Some of our favorites include All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven, Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir, Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo and The Wrath and the Dawn by Renee Ahdieh. I'm also really looking forward to Julie Berry's newest book The Passion of Dolssa and Tim Federle's The Great American Whatever, both of which are coming out this spring.
How do you choose what books to order? Do you use a publishing rep?
We work primarily with the publishing reps from each house and read as many galleys and f&gs as we can. Occasionally customers or friends make strong recommendations or we find a title from a blog or other resource, though that is rare.
What would you like to see more of from authors/illustrators in terms of community involvement?
We love putting authors and illustrators in schools and with community organizations as well as doing store events and the occasional offsite public event. The more an author or illustrator reaches out, the more awareness there is of their works. For older readers, a strong online presence can also be helpful. Certainly any outreach an author or illustrator does before an event helps because they often reach their audience more directly than we can.
How do you handle author/illustrator visits? Can authors/illustrators contact you directly?
Many of our author/illustrator visits come through the publicist during a tour. This applies to both school and store events. We do work with some authors directly when they have contacted us either about setting up an event or providing books for an event they have arranged. Generally the more lead time we have for an event, the better, although we have pulled off last minute events occasionally. We're a small store with a small staff and we do as many events as we can, but can't always take advantage of every opportunity we're given.
When we are contacted about school events, we send out notices to area schools with which we work that we feel could be a good match. Sometimes there are conflicts with scheduling, such as testing, breaks and other events that prevent us from being able to find a school, though most of the time we can make it work. After we have confirmed schools for events, we send out an order form for books to be sent home with the students. When time permits both with our schedule and the school's schedule, we send someone in advance to booktalk and do a short presentation about the author or illustrator. We always have a staff member present at the school at the time of the event to interface with the school and author/illustrator, handle book sales and deal with anything that might come up unexpectedly. We do fewer store events than school events during the school year. Sometimes the author or illustrator will do a store event after a day of schools and sometimes they will do just schools or the store, depending on their preferences and our schedule. We publicize store events with in-store flyers and displays, and through our email newsletter.
What is your favorite part of being a bookseller/manager/librarian?
When I find the perfect book for the reader. I love when kids (or adults) come back to tell me a book is their new favorite or they want another recommendation that is as much fun. I also love to read.
Personal book recommendation?
One personal book recommendation is really hard. There are so many I love and I'd love to help you find the one that's best for you…come see me 🙂