A Look At Current Trends
by Laura Backes,
Write4Kids.com—The Children's Writing SuperSite
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 currently buying:
Poetry is more prevalent than in years past, especially
collections from a single author with a theme or hook. Check out
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
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
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
Jacqueline Farmer, illustrated by Page Eastburn O’Rourke (Charlesbridge, all
Lost Treasures of the Inca by Peter Lourie (Boyds Mills Press, age
One-Room School by Raymond Bial (Houghton Mifflin, ages 8-12).
About the Author:
Laura Backes is the publisher of Children's Book Insider, the Newsletter for
Children's Writers, and co-founder of the
Children's Authors Bootcamp seminars. For more information about writing children's
books, including free articles, market tips, insider secrets and much more,
visit Children's Book Insider's home on the Web at
Copyright 2001, Children's Book