So, I think I’ve been good this year—or at least, no worse than last year! Hence, here are a number of things I want this holiday season from children’s book authors and illustrators:
PICTURE BOOKS: I’m only interested in professional illustrators who can also write, so Santa, if you’re not keeping your portfolio up to date, you may want to skip ahead. But if you’re sharing this letter with any author/illustrators out there, I want to meet the next great children’s book character(s). I’m finding situational or plot-driven picture books are a tough sell, but a great character that can eventually be branded like Olivia, Fancy Nancy, Skippyjon Jones—that’s what’s working best right now. Also, I want high concept books like IT’S A BOOK or THE QUIET BOOK, which seem to be hitting the mark as well.
MIDDLE-GRADE FICTION: Santa, I really, really, REALLY want the next great middle-grade series. There’s a HUGE hole in the market right now for a new adventure series that appeals to both boys and girls, because a lot of established series (PERCY JACKSON, 39 CLUES) have recently ended. I want middle-grade that takes itself seriously—so much of the middle-grade I see takes that jokey, gross-out, paperback tone that doesn’t really match the reading ability of its audience. I want middle-grade that isn’t trapped in the classroom—I see way too many school stories that just don’t have enough hardcover appeal. And finally, I want middle-grade authors that ask “what if” the way Margaret Peterson Haddix did in her brilliant SHADDOW CHILDREN series.
YOUNG ADULT FICTION: I also want YA writers to ask “what if,” though not necessarily in a fantasy or dystopian setting; for example, Libba Bray’s GOING BOVINE blew me away with its inventive riff on DON QUIXOTE. I want something as funny as GOING BOVINE, too—so much of what I see is soooo dark. Lighten up, folks! That said, I want to see clever concepts like THIRTEEN REASONS WHY, even if they do tread serious ground. And finally, Santa, I want to see something genuinely new, and not just another mash-up of established genres.
Santa, is this all too much to ask? I hope not, because next week I’ll send you my adult wish list...