A Look at Current Children's Book Trends
by Laura Backes, Children's Book Insider
In the constantly-changing world of children’s book
publishing, it’s often hard to keep up with what’s hot.
While strong writing and an author’s passion for the subject
will always prevail, here are some areas where editors are
Poetry is more prevalent than in years past, especially
collections from a single author with a theme or hook. Check out
Behind 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 falls
under the multicultural and nonfiction categories.
While the market appears to be saturated with folktales, story
collections are still popular (such as Grandmothers’ Stories:
Wise Woman Tales from Many Cultures by Burleigh Muten and Sian
Bailey, from Barefoot Books) and folktales from less-familiar
cultures (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 children
under 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 heard
recently at writers’ conferences, talking animals seem to be
back in style, as long as the characters have very strong,
distinct personalities (realistic and humorous stories about
bears are the most popular).
Stories with dragons, wizards, gnomes and other mythical
creatures abound (possibly because of the success of the Harry
Potter books). I’ve seen several books about fathers and
their relationship with their children. Also, books that combine
fiction and nonfiction are a new way to teach subjects such as
history, biography or art (as with Neil Waldman’s The Starry
Night published by Boyds Mills Press, about a boy who meets
Vincent 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 and
shorter series (three or four books). Biographies, humorous
contemporary stories, and mysteries (especially historical or
adventure/mysteries) are always hot. I think fantasy for this age
group will be the next big trend.
Young adult fiction is stronger than it has been for years,
with time-travel, fantasy, adventure, problem novels, and
realistic contemporary fiction topping the list.
Editors have expressed a need for more creative nonfiction for
all ages. Board books and young picture books favor subjects from
children’s everyday life (pets, backyard nature, how their
bodies 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 Jacqueline
Farmer, illustrated by Page Eastburn O’Rourke (Charlesbridge,
all ages), Lost Treasures of the Inca by Peter Lourie (Boyds
Mills Press, age 8-up), and One- Room School by Raymond Bial (Houghton
Mifflin, ages 8-12).