A Look at Current Children's Book Trends

by Laura Backes, Children's Book Insider

In the constantly-changing world of children’s bookpublishing, it’s often hard to keep up with what’s hot.While strong writing and an author’s passion for the subjectwill always prevail, here are some areas where editors arecurrently buying:

Poetry is more prevalent than in years past, especiallycollections from a single author with a theme or hook. Check outBehind the Wheel: Poems About Driving by Janet Wong (McElderry)and An Old Shell: Poems of the Galapagos by Tony Johnston,illustrated with photos by Tom Pohrt (FSG). The latter also fallsunder the multicultural and nonfiction categories.

While the market appears to be saturated with folktales, storycollections are still popular (such as Grandmothers’ Stories:Wise Woman Tales from Many Cultures by Burleigh Muten and SianBailey, from Barefoot Books) and folktales from less-familiarcultures (Aaron Shepard’s Forty Fortunes: A Tale of Iran,illustrated by Alisher Dianov, from Clarion Books).

Board books and picture books with short texts for childrenunder five years old are booming in both fiction and nonfiction.

Picture books for ages four to eight are still going strong,especially silly, wacky stories. Despite what you’ve heardrecently at writers’ conferences, talking animals seem to beback in style, as long as the characters have very strong,distinct personalities (realistic and humorous stories aboutbears are the most popular).

Stories with dragons, wizards, gnomes and other mythicalcreatures abound (possibly because of the success of the HarryPotter books). I’ve seen several books about fathers andtheir relationship with their children. Also, books that combinefiction and nonfiction are a new way to teach subjects such ashistory, biography or art (as with Neil Waldman’s The StarryNight published by Boyds Mills Press, about a boy who meetsVincent Van Gogh in Central Park).

Historical fiction is still big for middle grade readers,though lengthy series seem to be giving way to single titles andshorter series (three or four books). Biographies, humorouscontemporary stories, and mysteries (especially historical oradventure/mysteries) are always hot. I think fantasy for this agegroup will be the next big trend.

Young adult fiction is stronger than it has been for years,with time-travel, fantasy, adventure, problem novels, andrealistic contemporary fiction topping the list.

Editors have expressed a need for more creative nonfiction forall ages. Board books and young picture books favor subjects fromchildren’s everyday life (pets, backyard nature, how theirbodies work). For all ages, instead of covering a broad subject,focus on an interesting or unexplored aspect of the topic.

Examples of creative nonfiction include Bananas! by JacquelineFarmer, illustrated by Page Eastburn O’Rourke (Charlesbridge,all ages), Lost Treasures of the Inca by Peter Lourie (BoydsMills Press, age 8-up), and One- Room School by Raymond Bial (HoughtonMifflin, ages 8-12).