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Publisher at Penguin Random House Children’s Ruth Knowles lets us in on what children have been reading, and children’s authors have been writing, over the past few months.
In recent months, as parents and carers have had to become all things in their children’s lives, we’ve seen them reaching for safe content for their children to consume. They want books that their child can learn from as well as be entertained by. This is the case with non-fiction titles on subjects that support their academic learning and also with fiction titles that have strong messages or themes, such as Wonder. We’ve also seen that parents are going to modern classics, maybe titles and authors that they grew up with, as a safe choice, so titles like Tom’s Midnight Garden, for instance, and Roald Dahl. Tried and trusted brands and authors, and practical content, have emerged strongly. There’s been a significant sales increase in preschool titles – again because parents have had to take on new roles with schools, nurseries and playgroups being closed for such long periods of time. And again we’re seeing trusted brands over-index here such as Spot, Ladybird and Peppa Pig.
The murder of George Floyd and the global Black Lives Matter movement have also meant that parents want and need to have better conversations with their children, as well as educating themselves, about race and racism, and so they are looking for titles that have greater representation, diversity and inclusion, and own-voices titles in both fiction and non-fiction.
We’re seeing polarisation in the way writers across age groups are responding to the pandemic: they’re either writing purposefully away from it; so we’re seeing teen rom-coms or epic new fantasy adventures come through as forms of escapism, for example, or we’re seeing writers leaning into the global crisis – love-in-lockdown teen stories and non-fiction about viruses are things that are coming through in our submissions boxes.