I’m sure all of you can remember your favourite book as a child- the one that you read until the pages were torn; the characters that you imagined leaping out from the page in front of you and joining the real world in a colourful and exciting adventure. These books are often the ones we credit with instilling our love of all things literary – so can it really be true that the children’s book market is declining and children would now rather text on their smartphones and play on their shiny new tablets? Surely not!
Last week was the 2013Bookseller’s Children’s Conference where all of these issues and concerns were discussed. Graphs and statistics were bandied about, showing how many children were reading, what genres they enjoyed and in what new forms. However, what quickly emerged was not the doom- and- gloom reports that we are so often faced with, but a positive resolve that children’s publishing is in one of its most exciting transitions for recent years – and here at Turnaround, we wholeheartedly agree!
2013 is undoubtedly the year of digital in publishing, but whilst new online reading initiatives, literary apps and the explosion of e-books will definitely play a large role in the industry, books and bedtime still remain firm friends from early childhood, as was evident in the huge success of the Cozy Classics series (Simply Read).
Created by brothers Jack and Holman Wang, this collection sees the greatest works of English literature condensed into just 12 child-friendly words. Stunning needle-felted characters accompany on what is a beautiful, educational journey that both parents and young children can enjoy together. The Telegraph’sHelen Brown noted how her 17-month-old daughter ‘gurgles each time Prince Andrei’s cannon goes “boom!” and ‘as a family we cannot get enough of “muddy” Elizabeth Bennet’. Wise words (and gurgles!) there, and luckily there are three more toddler titles to come this Autumn in the hand-stitched form of Jane Eyre (October), Oliver Twist and Emma (both November).
Picture books therefore remain crucial to child development, both in a literary sense, and in providing a family activity for all to enjoy. Play and interaction are what many cite as the reason for needing new digital outlets for children, but when so many children’s book review blogs shout the praises of works that fulfil this need, are the critics being too dismissive? Murilla Gorilla is certainly one of these books that we think proves so. A hilarious, individual and wholly addictive read; this follows a female gorilla detective as she leads a chaotic investigation of a mysterious crime… Brilliant blogger Read It Daddy absolutely loved the tale, with his daughter ‘tracing the footprint trails with her finger, and laughing very loudly at where Murilla’s detective badge ended up’. Thankfully she’s back again in October with Murilla Gorilla and the Lost Parasol, proving once again that nothing beats an engrossing and interactive family read.
Many would argue however that younger children are not the real problem, and it’s actually the teens of today and their fading thirst for literature that remains the biggest worry. Yet, one only has to look at the global book successes that have gone on to spawn blockbuster films to see that this is not the case.
Dystopian and Fantasy are two trends that continue to grow enormously with teens, and this month we see the publication of BETA by Rachel Cohn (Hyperion). Elysia was created in a laboratory, an experimental model of a teenage clone, replicated from another teenage girl who had to die in order for Elysia to exist. Now she must serve the inhabitants of Demesne, an island paradise for the wealthiest people on earth – and nobody must discover her secret origins. The LA Times has praised its ‘terrific premise that is equally well executed’, whilst the New York Times commends Cohn’s ability to ‘the put into words a struggle relevant to young women in our own time and place’. Teenagers not only need fiction for their own escapism, but it can help form their adult character based on what they choose to read and enjoy.
The picture that now emerges is how children’s books remain fundamental to us all – here at Turnaround we remain excited for what the genre has to offer, and with Christmas fast approaching, we will definitely be adding The Nightmare Before Christmas picture book (Disney Press) to our list! The children who devour these titles with abundance now will be the reviewers and literary audiences of the future, whilst the characters that define our childhood will go on to inspire new and exciting equivalents in the coming years. I’m sure the Harry Potter gang are doffing their wizard’s hats to the Secret Sevens of the past right now.
Cozy Classics by Jack and Holman Wang (all £6.99, h/b) Emma 9781927018378, Oliver Twist 9781927018323 and Emma 9781927018378
Murilla Gorilla and the Lost Parasol by Jennifer Lloyd (Simply Read, £6.99, h/b, 9781927018231)
BETA By Rachel Cohn (Hyperion, £7.99, p/b, 9781423157342)
The Nightmare Before Christmas by Tim Burton (Disney, £12.99, h/b, 9781423178699)