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Handselling Books

I know everyone says that you can't judge a book by it's cover-but tell that to teens in the library! I see it everyday-teens will pass up a great book just because the cover doesn't appeal to them. (And it's not just teens-I'm guilty of the same thing-I'll admit it!)
There are some books that I love so much and I want to share with the teens, yet no matter how many times I display it or booktalk it to classrooms, the book doesn't move. So what's a librarian to do? That's when I handsell the books.

One of my favorite books to suggest to teens is Airborn by Kenneth Oppel. It's a great action-adventure story with a bit of romance. There are airships, strange creatures, pirates and it's a bit steampunk. It has a male and female main character and I think it has appeal to guys and girls of all ages. It's also the first in a series which my teens are always looking for. It has everything you would think they would want it a book, yet it sits on my library shelf because of this cover:

Now, I don't think that's a terrible cover, but for some reason the teens find it boring and never want to pick it up.

So when a teen asks for suggestions about a book to read, I always suggest Airborn. I tell the teen about the book (It's like Treasure Island meets Around the World in 80 Days with a bit of Pirates of the Carribbean and airships!)  I gush about how it's all about adventure and there are strange creatures that an old man claims that he saw but now else believes him except his granddaughter who claims to have proof and won't cabinboy Matt help her out? I tell them about how I want to know what they think of it and they should read it and come back and tell me about it-and if they hate it-that's OK too-I just what to know what they think.

After I've talked about the book, the teens are more likely to give it a chance. Most of them take it and give it a try. Some do come back and tell me about it (and guess what? They loved it and want the next book!)

I love booktalking books and when I get a chance to handsell some of my favorites to teens it makes my job even more fun!

There are several other books that I have to handsell to the teens before they pick them up:

 The Cardturner by Louis Sachar "Did you read Holes? This one has that same feel and is by the same author-I know bridge sounds boring, but he gives you permission to skip the boring parts!)

Sleepless by Terri Clark "trust me-it's full of mystery and suspense"

What My Mother Doesn't Know by Sonya Sones-"what would happen if you fell for a quiet not popular kind of outcast boy?"

I know I'm not alone in this-what books do you have to handsell to your teens?


  1. Well, from your description of Airborn, I put it on my to-read list. I've seen it in the library a lot and have passed over it myself. Thanks!

  2. I actually picked up the Airborn playaway from my library recently.
    It was your review on Goodreads that convinced me to try it.
    In fact when I posted my In My Mailbox I quoted your review.
    So far (I'm about 1/2 way through) I love it. It's everything you said it would be.

  3. I've had to hand sell Scott Westerfeld's Levithian series. The covers do nothing for my teens but I love being able to talk up the steampunk aspects of it and the great illustrations.

  4. Anon-YAY! I hope you love it!

    Juju-That just made my day!:) I loved it on audio-it was so good!

    Sarah-Those don't check out at my library either and require a lot of handselling. Maybe it's the steampunk genre that needs the most help?

  5. Feed by M.T. Anderson, The Maze Runner for people coming off The Hunger Games, and Anything by Chris Crutcher for boys...

  6. I actually had to "handsell" Brian Selznick's "Hugo" and "Wonderstruck!" Someone gave me Wonderstruck for my birthday in September, and Brian came to my town to promote it in October. I book talked both before the Hugo movie came out in November. The kids had seen the Hugo trailer, but didn't know about either book. Since then, I can't keep the books on the shelf and I have quite the hold list! They may have discovered them on their own at some point, but it made me feel good that I got to be the one to introduce them :)

  7. I looooved What My Mother Doesn't Know.

    And I'm not a librarian, but I love reading your posts about your job. It's so obvious that you love your work!

  8. I have to handsell my Lois Duncan books and Mary Downing Hahn because they have bad 80s covers. When they read one they come back for all the rest.

  9. Airborn was one of the books read for my library system's Battle of the Books last year and my whole team LOVED it and still talk about it today. The Card Turner is funny to me because though I loved Holes and at this point in my life would love to learn how to play bridge, as a kid I thought bridge seemed so boring - I mean if my parents played it once a month it had to be right? Still need to read that one. AND learn how to play bridge. And form a bridge group like my super cool not-so-boring parents.

  10. I handsell Michele Jaffe's "Bad Kitty" because the cover is..not my favorite, but the book is so funny and cute and amazing and mysterious.

  11. I love Airborn!!! No one has been able to sell The Cardturner to me yet... I just can't get past the fact that the whole thing is about a card game. I had a group of girls at my old school who looooved Sonya Sones. I think it was partially because poetry had suddenly become a very trendy, "mature" thing to scribble all over your notebook, so they loved the idea of whole books written in verse.

  12. I am so guilty of that. Question for you - I keep hearing how teen boys don't actually read. As a librarian, what's you personal experience around that?

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About Me

Hello! My name is Sarah and I am a Youth Services Manager who works with kids, tweens and teens. I love being asked about great books to read! I started my blog in 2008 as a way to keep track of what I've been reading and to use a reference tool for reader's advisory and it's grown into much more than I could have ever anticipated. In addition to book reviews, I also enjoy posting audiobook reviews, booklists and my adventures in being a librarian. 2017 Library Journal Mover and Shaker Committees: 2021 Newbery Committee 2018 Odyssey Committee 2016 Caldecott Award 2013 Michael L. Printz Committee- Fabulous Films Committee I have also served on the Cybils, Missouri State Library Association Readers Selection Lists, and as an Audies judge. Presentations :  I have offered various presentations at local, state and national libraries and conferences. Topics have included:  What's New in Children's & Teen Literature Engaging Teens in Reader's Advisory Gee