Trends in Juvenile Literature, 2022

Children’s Book Trends 2022

Pandemic or not, the publishing industry carries on. Authors, illustrators, editors and, most importantly, readers keep writing, drawing and reading. At present, there are approximately 7,300 new juvenile titles set to be released in 2022.

Looking at the sheer number of published books in juvenile fiction and nonfiction from 2019 to 2021, there is not a statistically significant change in the number of new books. In any given year, the number of new books published can move 15 to 20%. For 2019 to 2021, this variation held. In fact, 2020 was a fairly big year for new works and 2021 follows along.

Although the number of new works in the market remains consistent, trends have changed more quickly than might considered "normal".

Coming through 2020 and 2021, we are seeing a dominant trend for 2022, and, surprise!  The trend is books about Covid 19. There will be hundreds of new Covid-based titles released before the middle of 2022. The rush to publish Covid-related titles dominated the second half of 2021. Publishing calendars all over the world were simply tossed out and re-made through 2020 and we now see and feel the full impact of an industry making a sharp turn in real time.

Books that have Covid 19 as the principal topic include wistful books about how everyone stayed home, books that discuss the heroism of medical workers and scientists. Books about germ science, virus theories and plagues of the past—interestingly many titles about past plagues. Books about washing your hands, books with illustrations of people wearing face masks, books that mock Covid, etc. etc.

With the tsunami of literature that’s already on a publishing calendar, one can logically ask: After 2022, what areas of the pandemic will be left to write about? Seriously, we haven’t had enough Covid-19 fatigue? Now, we get to be flooded by children’s books on the topic?

Below is a very small sample of new books with Covid as a major theme:

  • A Pandemic is Worldwide by Sarah Thomson: Harper Collins 9780063086265
  • Dr. Fauci: How a Boy from Brooklyn Became America’s Doctor by Kate Messner: Simon and Schuster 9781665902434
  • They’re Heroes Too: A Celebration of Community by Pat Brisson: Tilbury House 9780884489368
  • Germ Theory for Babies by Chris Ferrie: Sourcebooks 9781728234076
  • Real Superheroes: A Celebration of Essential Workers by Julia Seal: DK Publishing 9780744037012
  • The Micro World of Viruses and Bacteria by Melissa Mayer:  Capstone Press 9781666321135
  • Inventing Vaccines by Nathan Sommer: Focus Readers 9781644875261

Although books about Covid 19 dominate the field, there are other—we think—interesting trends that are worth noting and hopefully provide some respite from the Covid-weary reader.

Diversity, NBD (No Big Deal).

Publishing follows society at large and books draw conclusions about what a society values and has normalized to some degree.

Since 2009/10, an enduring trend has been including people of all races and ethnic backgrounds in children’s literature—and to do so overtly. From 2009 to 2013, books that included a range of characters was, many times, a little labored if we’re honest about it.

2022 sees this trend "grow up". We'll see a large range of beautiful stories and books that have characters from all walks of life, this time, however the books are naturally and effortlessly inclusive.

In contrast to the recent past, a title in 2022 about, let’s say, an Asian protagonist, went out of its way to be so. In 2022, stories have a diversity of characters and it’s not a “thing” that they’re not of northern European descent. NBD.

This is a great development. Stories that contain characters having interesting experiences is what makes a book worth reading. This and future generations of children can see themselves and others in great stories that are natural and truly worth reading.

Some examples:

Thirst by Varsha Bajaj Nancy Paulsen Books 9780593354391

A Song Called Home by Sara Zarr: Balzer & Bray/Harperteen 9780063044920

All Four Quarters of the Moon by Shirley Marr Simon and Schuster 9781534488861

With Lots of Love by Jenny Torres Sanchez: Viking Books 9780593205006

Race for the Escape by Christopher Edge 9780593486016

The Kaya Girl by Mamie Wojo Little Borwn 9780316703932

Solimar by Pam Munoz Ryan Disney Hyperion 9781484728352

Sunny G’s Rash of Decisions by Navdeep Singh Dhillon Dial Books 9780593109977

Maizy Chen’s Last Chance by Lisa Yee Random House 9781984830258

Pilar Ramirez and the Escape from Zafa by Julian Randall Heny Holt &Co. 9781250774101

Just Harriet by Elana Arnold Waldon Pond Press 9780063092044

Compassion, Kindness and Mental Health

Tagging along with books about Covid, are books that attempt to help young readers develop compassion and kindness, empathy for others and how to process their own feelings. For 2019 to 2021, the big theme in this area was Mindfulness. That theme is receding as books that address emotions more directly are released.

These books provide teachers and parents new tools to help children process and develop their own emotions. It will be interesting to see which titles in this trend stand the test of time.

  • This Makes Me Scared: Dealing with Feelings by Courtney Carbone Random House 9780593481868
  • Everybody!: You, Me and Us by Elise Gravel: Scholastic 9781338830897
  • I Forgive Alex: A Simple Story about Understanding by Kerascoet: Random House 9780593381502
  • Corey Hates Covid! By Ronnette Smith Powell: 9798708422866

The Good Egg (and friends) go corporate.

Success of a great character nearly always leads to more of that character. Remember when Pete the Cat had a scant 4 books? Now, you can fill a truck with Pete’s adventures with…everything. The Good Egg et al are moving into your life with hundreds of variations for at least the next 20 years.

Prepare for the Egg’s friends; the Bad Seed, the Couch Potato, the Smart Cookie and the Cool Bean to have their own, many, books in 2022 and beyond.

  • The Good Egg and the Talent Show by Jory John HarperCollins 9780063045422
  • The Bad Seed Goes to the Library HarperCollins 9780062954596

A Great Year for Middle Grade and YA

Perhaps publishers held back releasing some books in 2021, making 2022 rich with a very long list of books for middle grade to YA readers.

Below are books for middle grade through YA that we can’t wait to see. There are sure to be many awards in this list by the end of 2022:

  • The Ogress and the Orphans by Kelly Barnhill: Algonquin Young Readers 9781643750743
  • Children of the Quicksands by Efua: Chicken House 9781338781922
  • Moonflower by Kacen Callender: Scholastic 9781338636598
  • A Perfect Mistake by Melanie Conklin: Little Brown Books 9780316668583
  • Repairing the World by Linda Epstein: Aladin Paperbacks 9781534498556
  • Gabe in the After by Shannon Doleski: Amulet Books 9781419754388
  • Dear Student by Elly Swartz: Delacorte Press 9780593374122
  • The Fort by Gordon Korman: Scholastic 9781338629149
  • Life in the Balance by Jen Petro-Roy: Square Fish 9781250820433
  • Flying Over Water by N.H. Senzai and Shannon Hitchcock: Scholastic 9781338617672
  • The Puffin Keeper by Michael Morpurgo: Puffin Books 9780735271807

Other Observations:

  • The number of fantasy novels in juvenile fiction is down, about 25%,  in 2022 over 2021 and 2020. This is a function of fantasy series taking the year off with uncertainty about supply issues.
  • There are more beginning reader/at home book series in the pipeline to be released in 2022 than in the past 4 years. Perhaps reacting to a desire for parents to build lost reading skills at home. Parents are more tuned into the reading proficiency and are buying reading curriculum to use at home.
  • Social Media-focused stories seem to have vanished. Since 2017, there has been a strong number of novels that model social media themes and language. This trend appears to be, at a minimum, on hold.
  • Picture books? At present, there are relatively very few picture books on the horizon. We usually like to discuss trends for the youngest of readers. As of this writing, there are few if any trends salient enough to mention.
  • Prices are going up. Big surprise that prices for har copy books are increasing. So, far, it's been about a 12% price increase across the board. Higher prices for hard copy books will likely lead to greater demand for audio books and e-books.
  • Authors are moving to tech platforms. We're seeing authors use TikTok to market books-seems to be the FOMO thing right now. We're also seeing authors release their material through apps in a serialized fashion--think podcast but written. This trend has not reached juvenile literature at this point. We'll keep an eye on it.

Altogether, we’ll see that the Covid-related books in 2022 as a moment in time. Once the active pandemic recedes, it will be odd to see an illustration of a person wearing a face mask.

We’ll update this article in the middle of 2022 and see how these trends develop and change.