Children's column - the trends of 2008

Nicolette Jones
Opinion - Children Friday, 19th December 2008

As this is the last column of 2008, here are a few thoughts on trends that were apparent in children's publishing over the year. We have learnt once again that success in this field, if books really take off, can be stratospheric ( cf Stephenie Meyer), though it doesn t always happen to the best writers. However, the rate at which celebrities have been turning to the genre has been slowing, pace Geri Halliwell's Ugenia Lavender . Being a children's author is more and more about performing as well as writing: I hear of a growing number of authors with intensive schedules of school events, 300 or more in a few cases (take a bow, for instance, Tom Palmer, and the two Steves, Skidmore and Barlow).

Humour in children's books is finally getting the appreciation it deserves: well done the Roald Dahl prize, and Louise Rennison as Queen of Teen. Series still build: cf Malorie Blackman (with a bonus fourth book), Paolini, Higson, Muchamore ... But it has been a good year for the quirky, one-off title: consider the prizes conferred on Patrick Ness, and the adventurous publishing of such critically acclaimed oddities as Jacques Courvillon's Chicken Dance, Jack Gantos's The Love Curse of the Rumbaughs, and Ingrid Law's Savvy.
Michael Rosen has been a phenomenal champion of children's literature as Laureate, his advocacy of classics, comedy, poetry, picturebooks, diversity, libraries and books in schools demonstrating an amazing capacity to inspire everyone from academics to toddlers, and if his wisdom can only be widely acted upon, he offers hope for the future.
Libraries have continued to demonstrate their power to make new readers, with children's books the only area of growth, even if picturebook borrowings have declined (librarians, I suggest, should encourage 10 minutes of reading with children at the end of all those parent-and-child sessions, to promote reading at home beyond the event).
After much talk of the demise of the picturebook, the events of The Big Picture campaign proved that there was still a passion for picturebooks out there. It has been a busy year for illustrators - and not only for the Ten Best chosen this year; and publishers have shown a healthy desire to cultivate new talent, as well as to find new ways to promote established favourites. That is something to build on.