Thursday, February 16, 2017
Charting book trends or "How are we suddenly flooded with the same type of book from a multitude of different publishers?" A ReadItTorial
One of the things that constantly surprises (and sometimes delights) me is the subject of this week's ReaditTorial. Trends. Those weird mystic patterns of consumer behaviour that apply to just about anything you can spend your hard earned cash on, that feel like they're born of some mystic set of mathematical equations, or some amazingly complex marketing exercises involving truckloads of media exposure across just about everything you cast your eyeballs over.
This applies to children's books too of course, and over the years of writing this blog we've been quite often overloaded with a certain type of book which leads us to muse how interconnected the children's publishing industry and the network of commissioning editors, agents and publishers really are.
At the moment (hence the header image of "Harriet the Spy") it's all about the kid detective, the snoop, the curious child who just can't help sticking their nose into a mystery. We've seen many, many titles arriving this year all in a cluster, across both picture and chapter books and it certainly seems to be a white-hot topic for middle grade titles in particular.
There's actually nothing wrong with this, the majority of the books we've seen have been absolutely scintillating stuff - showing that at least the authors and illustrators behind the books aren't just stamping out a set of variables from a well-established mould. Each brings their own nuances to the kid detective / mystery genre, but we're definitely seeing a lot of commonality - for example (and again, I must point out that these are NOT bad things to see in kid books):
1) A huge huge upsurge in female lead characters as opposed to male. Picking a selection of books I'd guess there are around 80% that feature a plucky young girl as the main hero in the story
2) Again a huge rise in the number of historical detective tales, predominantly England / Scotland in the Victorian era / turn of the 20th Century being 'the place and time to be'
3) Most of the mysteries are beautifully intricate tales that keep you guessing. Very few are dry moral tales (hooray!)
4) There is a rise (but a woefully small one) in the number of young detective / mystery books featuring characters of colour rather than the usual staid boring white middle class cliches.
5) There is also a very small rise in the number of central characters in young detective / mystery books NOT being well-to-do. Working class or poor characters are featuring in greater numbers and this is hugely important for a lot of reasons - not least of all that children's books in general could seriously do with a class overhaul to avoid becoming too 'elitist' (but that's a subject for another ReadItTorial!)
These books are a huge hit with Charlotte mostly because girls and Victorian England feature in them (despite all our efforts to ensure that genre isn't an issue and to encourage her interest in other periods of history) but also because they are books that keep their cards pretty close to their chest until the very end in most cases - and this is great because it keeps her reading them until she's finished, something that's pretty difficult when you've got the distractions of new books arriving almost daily.
As we've 'grown up' with the blog, and passed through all the other trends (remember when you couldn't move for pirate books? Princess books? Books about kids and friendships?) we're always waiting on tenterhooks to find out what the next big blossoming trend will be. For the moment though we're happy that the world's obsession with Sherlock Holmes and Agatha Christie is subconsciously leeching into the world of children's books in a truly positive way.