Vying for Attention
In addition to the “Harry Potter” series, several Scholastic books that have experienced strong sales include: “The Invention of Hugo Cabret” by Brian Selznick, “Henry’s Freedom Box,” illustrated by Kadir Nelson, “Elijah of Buxton” by Christopher Paul Curtis and “Allie Finkle’s Rules for Girls,” the first middle-grade series by Meg Cabot. Another picture book that is doing well for Scholastic is “Zen Ties” by Jon J. Muth, which has been on The New York Times Best Sellers list since its publication in February.
Though publishers are reporting a lot of positive growth, Norris paints a different picture. “I can tell you right now that since 2008 is not a ‘Harry Potter’ year and 2007 was, [sales are] going to be down [for the children’s books category],” he says. “Even if you take ‘Potter’ out of the equation—like Barnes & Noble did when they reported their earnings—it’s not a pretty picture, and at best it’s a misleading picture. The blockbuster books bring in traffic to a bookstore, and plenty of consumers pick up another book at the same time.”
Even still, with the obstacles that publishers face to reach this generation of young consumers, some agree that books have staying power, regardless of closing bookstores, ever-evolving technology and difficult financial times. “In spite of a challenging economy, parents still seem interested in providing their children with good books,” says Berger. “As a children’s-only publisher, we will continue to publish good, quality, engaging books that kids want to read.”
Missy Smith is an associate editor at North American Publishing Co. in Philadelphia. She also freelances for Montgomery Newspapers and is the editorial coordinator for Little Blue World, a nonprofit Tori Amos fanzine.