“What worked years ago probably doesn’t work now–trends and tastes change.”- Editor Molly O’Neill
It can be hard to relate to someone who is five, ten, twenty, or even fifty years younger than you. As writers for young readers, it is a challenge that doesn’t just go away. It is not something you have to figure out just once and then you have it. The reality is that though qualities of youth are timeless, context isn’t. As the world changes, the challenges, topics of interest, language, and tastes of children do as well. This is why it is essential to keep up with the current trends in children’s literature.
In a dialogue about writing for middle grade readers, editor Molly O’Neill laments the use of classic children’s literature as models for the current market: “Classic books sell because they are classics, and I would argue that many of them would not find an audience today.” She recognizes that markets change and that, “unless you have a time-travel machine to go back to a different era in publishing to sell your book, it’s today’s market and audience you’re trying to sell it to.”
Children’s and Writer’s & Illustrator’s Market 2015 acknowledges the importance of researching current trends in their section “Quick Tips For Writers & Illustrators.” It emphasizes visiting the Children’s sections of bookstores and seeing what is on the shelves today (or quickly flying off them). It also reminds writers to open those hot books and seeing what makes them work and appeal to your current market.
If getting out the door to the bookstore is too much, a quick google search can bring up the NY Times best seller list. In case you were wondering, R.J. Palacio’s Wonder has secured the top spot for middle grade.
Keep up to date on the trends of what “kids these days” are reading, and then you won’t have to deal with rolling eyes and sassy “that book is so yesterday.”