Picture Book Trends: Mid-2012 Report

Photo of main display in children's book area
Center display in kids section... no picture books
Photo of main display of children's section of book store
More of the center display...the illustrated chapter book seems to be popular.

Every half year or so, I go to the big name bookstore in town (rhymes with Yarns and Global) to see what picture books they feature in the middle wall of the kids' section. This is my totally unscientific way to assess current picture book trends, or at least find out what picture books are considered the biggest commercial sellers.

Last week I went in and found . . . no picture books at all in that section. Instead, middle grade books were being featured, with a whole section devoted to the graphic novel/illustrated chapter books that were popularized by the Wimpy Kid series. 

I can only conclude that picture books no longer warrant the prime real estate they had previously occupied for years. This is consistent with the New York Times report from a couple of years ago that parents are moving away from buying picture books in an effort to encourage independent reading (despite the fact that picture books have been shown to be excellent for teaching kids to decode and interpret, as they often contain more complex thoughts and language than early readers). (Publishers and booksellers, however, refuted that premise and argued that picture books were alive and well). 

The store still has several open walls that display picture books. Here's one of their shelves:

Interesting how seven of these books date to my childhood or earlier (Richard Scarry, Shel Silverstein, Dr. Seuss) and three are Caldecott winners. Commercial booksellers rely heavily on the classics and otherwise acclaimed books, probably because those are the books that continue to sell well. 

All of this, however, is a bit depressing to those of us who wish to break into the picture book market. What do you think? What do you see are the trends in picture books?

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