What’s trending in…Books

Looking for your next great book to option in the kids space? Comedy is replacing dystopian futures, and other trends straight from the pages of Scholastic.

Depending whom you ask, books might be more important to film and TV producers than ever before. With the international SVOD pipeline demanding an unprecedented volume of scripted content, tapping into source material that has a proven audience, ready-made storyworlds and in some cases name recognition is becoming an increasingly smart play for content creators looking to exploit inspiring IP.

So Playback magazine went to the source, hitting up four Canadian publishing companies about the trends they’re seeing, hot properties on their roster and what’s falling out of fashion. You read it here first! First up, we chat with Scholastic about key trends and titles that would translate well for the screen. Check back all week for insights (and epic reads) from Wattpad, Harlequin and House of Anansi.

A Year in the Life of a Total Genius picScholastic: Full speed ahead for middle-grade fiction

There are a couple of separate shifts afoot in the children’s publishing industry, according to Scholastic Canada’s rights and contracts manager Maral Maclagan. The first is that, despite the current political climate, the buzz around young-adult dystopian fiction (a la Hunger Games and Divergent) is starting to diminish. The market’s lean away from this type of fiction, which rode a sustained high for almost a decade, is likely due to oversaturation, says Maclagan, with readers looking for more authentic stories that more closely reflect real life.

This trend is particularly prevalent among middle-grade audiences (ages nine to 12). While the popularity of slightly older-targeting authors like John Green (The Fault in Our Stars, Paper Towns) and common themes from novels (like coming of age or finding hope after losing a loved one) have trickled down to the middle-grade, the main attraction at the moment is comedy.

Maclagan points to Scholastic Canada’s recently released study, the first of its kind, on the reading habits of kids. It indicates 46% of children aged six to 17 say they want books that make them laugh. In addition, the study found the young-adult category (12 to 14) also coincides with the age at which children begin spending more time texting, going online and using social media and migrating away from traditional reading. As a result, the eight-to-12 category is now the sweet spot, says Maclagan.

Recommended (unoptioned) pick:
- A Year in the Life of a Total and Complete Genius, by Stacey Matson – the first in the Vancouver-based middle-grade author’s Genius trilogy about a young boy whose bad luck can’t dampen his spirit or his love of writing.

Why it’s worth a read: It’s full of great laughs and lessons for nine-to-12 year olds, says Maclagan, and has proven its international appeal, already selling to publishers in the U.K., U.S., France and Brazil.

- Summer’s End, by Joel A. Sutherland – a horror story for middle-graders about a a group of four friends who are determined to have the best summer ever before they set off for different high schools. Things change when the group find an abandoned house on a remote island in the Muskokas.

Why it’s worth a read: “I’d say it’s like [Netflix series] Stranger Things but in a Canadian Muskoka setting,” says Maclagan. “It’s a really fun read.”

Fox and Squirrel, by author/illustrator Ruth Ohi – a trilogy of books about two very different animals that find common ground and become friends.

Why it’s worth a read: They are simple stories but they convey so much. The illustrations and text are full of energy and kids really connect with its themes of inclusivity, friendship and kindness. “I think it would be a great animation for younger kids,” says Maclagan.

Check back tomorrow for a real-time trend report from digital self-publishing house Wattpad. 

A version of this story originally appeared in the Summer 2017 issue of Playback.