Let's say you need a present for your friend's daughter's fifth birthday. The girl's love of cats is well-established, but you know nothing about a 5-year-old's reading habits.

Enter Jordan Standridge.

The 30-year-old bookseller at Powell's Books on Hawthorne is a neighborhood gem whose knack for guiding adults and children to new titles (with the barest of clues as to what the child goes for) warrants wider recognition. "I want something sing-songy to read to my 3-year-old," this reporter once told Standridge, sending him to the shelves where he instantly collected a handful of options, including the rhyming adventures of traveling animals in The Circus Ship. (An instant hit with my discerning threenager.)

Another customer told Standridge she wanted a book for a young niece who adored mermaids but "wasn't girly." Standridge's pick? The Mermaid and the Shoe, a picture book about a daughter of King Neptune who asks lots of questions and finds answers sans prince. Julia Silverman, editor of PDX Parent magazine, says when Standridge steered her son to the graphic novels Giants Beware! and Dragons Beware!, he "managed to get my hyper-consciously macho 7-year-old son super-into a series with a female protagonist."

Standridge lives to give good recommendations, knowing that could help spark a child's desire to read (and draw customers back to the store). "People can go online and buy a book, but people still want to feel a connection," he says. "I love talking to kids and people wanting to buy books for kids."

He's able to rattle off so many solid suggestions in part because he reads what he sells—while he's unpacking books, and while he's shelving books. He commits to reading at least one young adult novel per week on his own time, too, he says, but none of that feels like work. "Kids' books are generally more hopeful," says Standridge.