Picture Book Trends in 2013

Picture book trends 2013

Those of you who follow this blog know that I go to the big box bookstore every once in awhile to see what's featured on the main wall of the children's section as a quick check on what is trending in picture books (or at least what is being pushed for sale). For the last couple of years, I lamented the fact that an
author or illustrator had to be dead, a national award winner, or the owner of an unstoppable franchise to be featured (October 2011 post). Last summer, picture books were even briefly replaced by middle grade and illustrated Wimpy Kid-style chapter books (Summer 2012 post).

Last week I was delighted to see a wall of picture books with a good handful of new names among the usual suspects of Caldecott winners, large franchises, and celebrity authors. Some observations:

1.  Publishers Are Signing & Stores are Promoting New Authors

I saw at least three debut authors:

The Amazing Hamweenie, by Patty Bowman (Philomel Books, 2012), a very funny story told from the perspective of a cat who wants adventure, is misunderstood, and suffers untold indignities and injustices every day.

Goodnight Goodnight Construction Site, by Sherri Duskey RInker, illustrated by Tom Lichtenheld (Chronicle Books, 2011), a cute and comforting bedtime story about trucks going to sleep at a construction site after a hard day's work.

Baby Penguins Everywhere, by Melissa Guion (Philomel Books, 2012), a sweet story about being alone and being with others, and the need to recharge every once in awhile, involving a multitude of baby penguins.

Do you see any other ones I missed, in the photo above, or below?

2.  Universal & Timeless Themes Sell

The featured theme, friends and family, will always resonate with kids and parents.

3. Picture Books Are Getting Shorter

Editors have been saying for awhile that they are looking for shorter picture books, because parents and kids have little patience to read long books. The newer picture books are indeed getting shorter.

4. The Art is Quirky yet Sophisticated

Very cute characters still abound, but I am also seeing more quirky and interesting art. The Amazing Hamweenie, for example, features a jaded and bored looking cat with a magician's top hat and cape and this very cool spread:

Spread from Patty Bowman's "The Amazing Hamweenie"

Check out author-illustrator Patty Bowman's blog that features more of her excellent art. And check out debut author-illustrator Melissa Guion's website, for really cute penguins.

And the Caldecott Goes To...

Speaking of great art in picture books, I'm so excited that the Caldecott Awards will be announced in a little over a week, on January 28. Each year, the New York Times publishes its list of best illustrated books, and often the Caldecott winners come from this list. I've borrowed almost all of these books and have loved looking at them. Which ones are your favorites?

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  1. My eyes are burning out of my head trying to see my book on that wall. Maybe I need new glasses...... :)

  2. Looks like another trend continues--two of the three you mention are author/illustrators.

  3. Ooh...more debut authors. love it! The idea of minimal text is daunting. Editors demand so much as far as plot is concerned and they want us to do it in the least amount of words possible. I find it difficult to sell a story without pictures. How is it for illustrators? I guess the minimal text leaves room for quirkiness by the illustrator.

    1. Romelle, I think ultimately picture books will be the length they need to be, and if more words are needed to tell the story, that's just fine.

  4. I didn't realize that there was such politics to get featured on the wall. What happened to staff picks for picture books?!

    1. I'm not sure it's politics, but rather what the store thinks will sell (and known names do sell). I also wonder if each branch gets to choose what to feature, or whether there is a storewide "theme" they need to follow.

  5. Sadly,as bookstores dwindle and are fewer and farther between, I don't get to see shelves like these as often as I would like. Therefore I appreciate the photos you posted as well as the info you shared. I do spend a lot of time in the library, but not quite the same. Thanks for sharing your observations, Sylvia.

    1. I'm glad you can vicariously visit bookstores through these posts. I do love browsing in all kinds of bookstores, whether big chain ones or independent.

  6. Is it only near Boston that MAKE WAY FOR DUCKLINGS is *always* on the top shelf?
    And as near and dear as that book is in my heart, I will now admit that it is quite long for repeated readings (all those "Qu's"!)

    - Cathy

  7. I love your thoughts on the bookstore world. I always investigate the children's section as well, and may have been know to leave an occasional book out on the shelf. ;)

  8. I'd never really thought about how or what big box stores chose to market in terms of picture books. I just always loved to go to that section to see all the color, the books I'd read as a child that made me happily nostalgic, and to see what new books were out that I could pick up for my friends' children. Great thoughts on this topic in your post! I especially love the one about how the art is quirky and sophisticated.

  9. This is so interesting! Do you think the animal theme was intentional or are there just a lot of books right now about animals and/or where animals are the protagonists (like Llama Llama, etc.)? I am loving the art from the Amazing Hamweenie and will definitely be looking for that book!

    1. I think animals will always be prominent characters in picture books.


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