Great books for little ones

Kids love facts. this is the truth. I have long known that if you tell me something about animals, however strange it may be, you will usually be right. When my seven-year-old daughter told me that the World Cup final lasted as long as the sperm whale held its breath, I didn’t argue (even though I googled it, and it’s true).

For decades, the children’s non-fiction market has sought to capitalize on this interest with core areas: dinosaurs, space, and animals. British publisher Osborne has long been a dominant player with titles like Osborne’s Book of Prehistoric Facts (1987) by Annabelle W. Craig Solar System (2010) by Emily Boone. Recently, however, non-fiction children’s books have begun to become popular. The past few years have seen increased interest in diverse topics, from mental health to climate change, mirroring a similar trend in nonfiction books for adults, according to Hazel Kenyon, director of book research at Nielsen BookData.

In 2022, the children’s non-fiction market set a record in the UK with revenues of around £60m – up 17 per cent from the last ‘normal’ year in 2019, according to figures from Nielsen Book Data. Just as children’s books expanded beyond biographies, popular science, and history into non-fiction, rationalism and climate change, children’s books followed suit.

2016 International Bestseller Phoebe Gascourt, commissioning editor at Penguin, says Good night stories for rebel girls Written by Elena Favelli and Francesca CavalloAnd A collection of true stories of famous women throughout history, it showed that children wanted to be part of larger conversations that were happening around the world. Much of the growth in children’s nonfiction in recent years has come from the increase in personal development titles, says Emma Dodds, senior commissioning editor at Farshore, an imprint of HarperCollins.

Publishers are always looking for ways to capitalize on their backlists, and have increasingly sought to capitalize on this trend by reallocating well-established or best-selling titles in the adult market to a younger audience. Often, these books are rewritten by the original author rather than a dedicated children’s writer.

We can’t be stoppedLarge illustrated version for children by Yuval Noah Harari Sabines: A Brief History of Humankind (2011) was published simultaneously in the US, Canada and the UK by various branches of Penguin Random House last year. In 2021, Michelle Obama’s memoirs to become It has been adapted for younger readers. Already this year, a teenage version of Elizabeth Day philosophyA book on how to deal with failure and a children’s version of Satnam Sanjira’s best-selling book have been published imperiallanda history of Britain’s often brutal relationship with its former colonies, would appear as Stolen history this summer.

But who benefits most from this trend?

A satirist might think this is another way for publishing houses to extract more value from an existing book, or for authors to hastily repackage a pre-existing work. Name recognition certainly plays a role here: adults who had fun Sabines Well prepared for purchase We can’t be stopped for children in their lives. In fact, the books usually involve a separate deal with the author, and present the author with new challenges.

“I thought it would be really easy to write children’s copy, but writing for children is really difficult,” says Sanghera. “[Stolen History] into a book in itself.”

Fritz and CurtNovel, with illustrations, from The boy who followed his father to Auschwitz Written by Jeremy Dronfield, it also ended up as a book of new material after the author discovered unprecedented snippets of family history while searching for the copy for younger readers–a harrowing but hard-to-put-down story.

Sanjira says he initially resisted the idea of ​​a children’s version of imperialland. “I didn’t want to dilute the reality of empire and violence is a part of it.” But when Penguin suggested including some violence in a sensitive way, he agreed. The result has a conversational tone with a sense of humor that feels perfect with older kids.

This is not always the case. One of the dangers of adapting a text for adults is that the audio may not be well suited to children. We can’t be stoppedHarari’s adaptation Sabines For children aged 10-14 years. But while the book does have some illustrations, it also contains pages of thick writing that can alienate younger readers while seeming too childish for an older audience.

Another danger is that messages may end up being heavy-handed. While children’s books often have a strong sense of morality, the trick is to present this in a way that children can relate to. They can spot a lesson a mile away. My children’s eyes shine when I read to them Greta and the GiantsA novel about Greta Thunberg’s climate battle. But when we read Isabella Tree’s book When we went into the wildernessa picture book based on her experience rebuilding her farm that was recounted in her book for adults Wilding (2018), they asked to be read again—drawn by the images of sad industrial cows Tree says she insisted they be included.

Tree agrees that there is a “fine line” between preaching and educating, but says children can also grapple with reality. “Farming is a messy industrial business: there is a mismatch between the beautiful stories we love to tell children and the harsh reality,” she says.

Some publishers choose to become more involved in the editorial process than they might otherwise be. Dai says so Philosophy for teens She was “more of a collaboration” with her editor than on her previous books, while Sanghera says Puffin edited his book “more than usual”. Others choose to pair an expert with a children’s author, as Hachette did with a self-help book Find your very own Girl Squad Written by Dr. Angharad Rudkin and Ruth Fitzgerald. “It’s really important that anyone writing empathize with the child and see their point of view,” Fitzgerald says.

There is a risk that publishers who turn to well-known adult authors may be too shy to edit them as they should in the children’s market, says Katie Dines, Osborne’s indoor children’s author who has developed several bestsellers: “An original author should have the humility to even Edited properly – so depending on who they are, they might be better off giving their approval to the children’s author.”

It remains to be seen if this will spark the kind of controversy seen in the children’s fiction market, where – some argue – well-known authors such as David Walliams tend to dominate sales at the expense of those for whom writing for children is their main occupation. Summing up the mood after another celebrity book deal was announced last week, children’s author MJ Leonard chirp: “I can promise you that your children will enjoy and learn more from my books than anything Geri Halliwell or Peter Andre has ever written. I have dedicated my life to creating stories for children. It is my calling.”

Anything that makes children’s non-fiction titles more popular and diverse is a good thing, some argue. Children’s literary agent Molly Kerr Hone says the UK children’s non-fiction market is relatively small and underdeveloped compared to the US, where bookstores are still large buyers of fiction and wield more power.

Award-winning author of children’s fiction Pierce Torday says that while celebrities getting fantasy book deals “underestimate the children’s market,” non-fiction is an area where it makes sense to hear from an expert, even if they’re not familiar with it. Familiar with children’s writing. “There’s an element of reheating, so you can never get full marks for originality, but I don’t think there’s anything ironic about it,” he says.

If the result of publishers seeking to capitalize on the trend toward more diverse non-fiction works is new books on topics beyond dinosaurs and astronauts, then kids should be the winners. Just choose your books carefully.

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