Jilleen Moore, buyer at Square Books, Jr., has worked at this children’s offshoot of Square Books and Off Square Books in Oxford, Miss. since it opened 10 years ago. She talks about what is selling well this fall, and asks bookseller Paul Fyke to chime in.
First I have to mention our longtime favorites to handsell. The bestselling book of all time for our store is James Dean’s very first Pete the Cat book. Personally, for as long as I can remember, my number one favorite handseller is Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH by Robert O’Brien. I have loved that book since I was in the fourth grade. And the classic books that sell year after year are Ox-Cart Man by Donald Hall and Barbara Cooney, Miss Suzy by Miriam Young and Arnold Lobel, and of course Where the Wild Things Are, Madeline, and Make Way for Ducklings.
Newer picture books we love are Pirates vs. Cowboys by Aaron Reynolds and David Barneda, which has guns, knives, and bad grammar – and kids love it. I’ve read it aloud a number of times and it’s always popular. A book that is really doing well for us is Where Do They Go on Game Day? by Laurie G. Fisher, which is a book of regional interest, since it’s about where the squirrels here in Oxford go on Ole Miss football game days, when everyone tailgates in the grove where they live. The author has the squirrels reading on the balcony at Square Books and visiting other local hot spots. The book came out September 15 and we have already sold 223 copies and are proud to have a local book doing so well. And of course there’s The Day the Crayons Quit by Drew Daywalt and Oliver Jeffers, which parents enjoy reading to kids as much as kids love it themselves. And here at the store we love all of Oliver Jeffers’s books here – he’s the bomb.
For middle grade, The Name of This Book Is Secret by Pseudonymous Bosch continues to sell very well for us. It appeals to almost any kid: boy, girl, serious, or silly. It has a lot of humor and enough mystery to keep kids reading. And Flora & Ulysses is doing well. I really love Kate DiCamillo. I think she’s the E.B. White of today – and I told her that in person. She said she’s not sure that’s true, but I know it is.
One of our new YA favorites is Not a Drop to Drink by Mindy McGinnis, about a girl who thinks in numbers and is constantly counting. We’ve been pushing that one recently and everyone who buys it loves it. I think it’s getting more attention in terms of a serious YA novel than any book since John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars. And we continue to heartedly sell Marcus Zusak’s The Book Thief, one of our favorites. It is so poignant and everyone who reads it comes away with something a little different. I am very moved by the prose – it’s a beautifully written book. And for another YA, I am deferring to Paul, who pretty much grew up in this store and is now 21 and practically runs it!
Fyke: The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness is a very cool book and a great coming-of-age story. It spoke to me a lot when I was that age and everyone I speak to feels that way. It’s set in a world where everyone’s mind is like a radio that can never be turned off – people are barraged by everyone’s thoughts. I most often handsell this to kids who are 14 or 15, and in the past couple of years I’ve been asking them if they like the The Hunger Games – and if so I recommend this. It has a literary quality and a deeper meaning than many coming-of-age books. I like selling it to precocious, intelligent, and mature teens.