Friday, October 8, 2010

A Disturbing Trend?

Today's Shelf Awareness ("daily enlightenment for the book trade") asks the question:

Has the golden age of the picture book for children passed?

Wow.  Not a good time to be writing picture books?  Shelf Awareness goes on to quote a New York Times article  which suggests not only that the economy is at fault, but also that picture books are no longer being purchased by parents who want their kids to read "big-kid" books at increasingly earlier ages.

I see this as a disturbing trend.  Picture books have always been and will always be enjoyed by kids and parents (or grandparents) together.  There should still be several years of picture book enjoyment between the board book and the Early Reader.  Sometimes there's nothing more comforting than snuggling on Mom or Dad's lap while being read to.

Of course, the New York Times article also goes on to say:
 
"...perennials like the Sendaks and Seusses still sell well — but publishers have scaled back the number of titles they have released in the last several years, and booksellers across the country say sales have been suffering." 

I guess I'm lucky to work for a bookstore which still sells oodles of picture books (and not just Seuss and Sendak) to parents, grandparents, teachers, librarians, and others who appreciate them for the stories and the artwork.  Yes, we sell fewer than we did five or ten years ago.  But they still sell.


Case in point:  the new David Wiesner book is called ART & MAX (Clarion Books, Oct 2010).  And it's sheer genius, just like Wiesner's other books.  The Caldecott committee may as well just hand him the medal now!








Will picture books survive?  The article doesn't even mention the looming spectre of the e-book, but it seems to me that picture books are one genre that still need to be produced as physical books you can hold and share with a child.  What do you think?

6 comments:

  1. Picture books better survive!!! I can't imagine snuggling up with my kids to around a Kindle or an iPad-- that's just wrong.

    I spend way more money on picture books than books for me. I like to own picture books so the kids can read them over and over again.

    The things I'd love to see, as a parent, are good quality (written by writers instead of book packagers) easy readers. There are tons of great picture books but there is so little to choose from in the easy reader category.

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  2. Thanks, Natalie. Great to hear from you. I sure hope picture books survive too!

    Book packaging is another disturbing trend (note to self: write a post on book packaging). All those awful Rainbow Magic books are written by a whole slew of anonymous authors under the name "Daisy Meadows." And they're poorly written. But those are what I call chapter books.

    By easy reader, do you mean the level 1,2,3 or 4 books, like Henry and Mudge (which is level 2), or the early chapter books like Mr. Putter and Tabby or Mercy Watson? I think there are actually plenty of good early readers by individual writers available. I guess it depends on your library or bookstore. At the bookstore where I work, we sell tons of Harper I Can Read books and Random House Step Into Reading books. Some of the HarperCollins books are ancient (Frog and Toad, Amelia Bedelia), but still in print. Step Into Reading tends to have newer authors.

    Ask your library or local bookstore to order more of those books. Good luck!

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  3. See, that's my problem. I just needed someone who knows something about easy readers to give me some recommendations. I've looked around all 3 of the bookstores in town and all I can seem to find in the easy reader section are things like "Disney Princess" and "Barbie". I guess I just need to look harder.

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  4. Hi, Joanne. Glad to see your book blog. I thought the NYT article was quite shallow. I am appalled at how the chain bookstores (NOT CCBC!) and publishers are responding to today's market. I wrote about this in my blog at http://booksofwonder.wordpress.com/

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  5. Hi Janice! I just checked out your blog and it's beautifully done. Thanks for finding me.

    Yes, that NYT article WAS shallow. And they took Amanda Gignac's quote out of context. She has an article about this on her blog, The Zen Leaf (http://zenleaf.amandagignac.com/), which everyone should read.

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  6. Natalie, if you're going to big box chain bookstores, their children's departments simply don't have the variety that an indie bookstore would have. But if you don't have an indie nearby, I'd try your library for all those wonderful Easy Readers like Henry and Mudge or Mr Putter and Tabby. Also look for Zelda and Ivy. And Dodsworth. And Grace Lin's new book about the twins, Ling and Ting Not Exactly the Same. There are so many good books! Most of those I've mentioned are what we call Early Chapter books, but they're nearly as easy as Level 2 or 3.

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