I started by looking through the list, which is in alphabetical order by publisher, for themes. This was a daunting task as it’s more than a hundred pages long, and I gave up after 30 pages. My completely scientific list of the children’s book themes I found:
Animals (toy & talking)
Classics & Fairy Tales
Diversity [as a topic]
Emotions [as a topic]
Family & Personal Problems
Fathers & Mothers
Food inc. Cooking
Friendship & Sharing
Geography & Places
How Things Work
|Illnesses & Inborn Conditions|
Immigration & Moving House
Love & Romance
Numbers & Counting
Poetry & Rhymes
Science Fiction & Space
Television & Film Tie-Ins
Words & Writing
World War II
As you can see, many of these categories overlap, but I was surprised how almost every book could be classified into one of them. It was also surprising to me, as an expat, how few books were “international” or talked about other countries. As usual, the historical books tended to be about the same few eras: World War II remains fascinating to children; the experience of racism is also a major topic of historical books, both fiction and non-fiction.
|The Sleepy ABC was first published in 1953; a new edition is coming out this year from HarperCollins|
Here, animal friends both real and imaginary were the biggest draw, especially bears, mice, ducks, pigs and elephants–surprisingly few cats or dogs. Dinosaurs are popular, as are princesses–but fewer princesses than I expected, and they tend to be rule-breakers. Fathers make more appearances than mothers, often being silly. Books about machines, counting books, and activity books are also aimed at this age group.
Early chapter books for beginning readers ages five to eight are still often about animals, but the range of topics broadens. Fantasies show up: there are lots of monsters, witches, and pirates for this age, as well as stories about school (usually funny ones), and for the first time, biographies. Another theme is dealing with powerful emotions in a more grown-up way: there are books on feeling grumpy, being shy at school, friendship and sharing, but also more serious books on getting used to a new home or the loss of a grandparent or even a parent.
|In Life Without Nico, coming out in April 2016, Maia has to deal with her friend's moving far away|
|World War II, Nazis, spies, boarding school, children in a haunted Scottish castle: classic themes are still around|
|Beetle Boy by M.G. Leonard, will come out in February 2016|
|Teens are reading more books that deal with gender and identity|
Julie Sullivan still remembers her childhood library card number.