I had a wonderful time at the Book Expo in Chicago. I am still digesting all that I saw and learned about, but wanted to share with you a little while it is fresh in my mind.
One super nice thing is that I got to meet Rich Lo and get a signed copy of the book Mountain Chef that he was signing at Charlesbridge with his lovely illustrations. Go Rich!
There was a very nice all-Dana-Sullivan display at Sleeping Bear and I thought I took a picture, but couldn’t find it in my phone. Sorry Dana! But your books looked great.
As some of you may know, I have a coloring book out now, LET’S COLOR TOGETHER, and can I tell you how many coloring books were there? Every single medium-large publishing house had coloring books, from Shambhala to Penguin. And there were some publishing places that have started up specifically to sell coloring books (Like Blue Star and Newbourne Media. Newbourne sells coloring books with “relaxing” music CDs included) (Pretty sure I cannot get Daniel interested in writing “relaxing music.”).
There are some really beautiful ones–The Experiment had tesselated and fractal-related coloring pages with text about the mathematicians who made up the formulas to generate the patterns, and Shambhala had buddhist tangka images that could be colored. Chronicle had lots of pretty coloring things. And some of it (in other places) was not that wonderful–like just random designs and stuff so that they could have a coloring book. As well, there were a lot of inspirational kinds of coloring books, and religious ones w bible quotes. Penguin had a giveaway with a page of a Johanna Basford coloring book, a tiny pack of colored pencils, along with a four CD set of Elizabeth Gilbert’s new book on Creativity. A panel of publishers assured a room of booksellers that this was a trend not a passing fad.
I talked with a lot of librarians and while I thought that librarians would have no use for coloring books, they said, fairly uniformly, that coloring parties in the evening, as well as coloring events for kids after school, are one of the programming things that are really successful at their libraries, so they really like coloring books for that reason. As you all know, libraries are sometimes the free after school babysitting for low income folks (certainly this is true in NYC, and in my neighborhood), and they are often looking for stuff for kids to do. So that’s something to think about. They like books with perforated pages for this reason.
AND, other adult activity books are doing well, like origami things, dot-to-dot stuff. Workman had a color-masterpieces-with-stickers book series.
I attended a panel on the next big thing in children’s books with Dominique Raccah, Marjan Ghara and Ashley Anderson. They said that we as adults are immigrants to the digital realm, where our children are natives. Yet we as adults are creating digital content for them, which is a little strange. They seemed to think that to increase the “stickiness” of children’s books (what makes kids LOVE their books and feel super-connected to them) that digital things need to be attached to them, like Augmented Reality (AR) things. To those who don’t know what that is (I didn’t), check out this week’s New Yorker. You get a free app for your phone, point it at the cover, and the cover becomes 3D and there’s music and movement. They are also very interested in the online places that kids can go to read and write and interact with other kids who are reading and writing: Review sites for kids, and places where kids can, in a group, generate a story, and add to it. I know a kid (13 yrs) who is a part of a group who writes fan fiction about Warrior Cats, and she is quite devoted to the writing and to her group. I think there is a drawing component as well.
They are trying to figure out how to make books be like keepsakes for kids as well, and no one really had any good ideas about that. There’s a lot of new kids books out there that are non fiction in response to the Common Core. I found this to be true as I walked around. One of the nicest things was a book at Abrams about the early life of the artist Louise Bourgois, here w about 6 other lovely and different non fiction picture books:
At a middle grade panel, they said that they are seeing a big upswing in books about kids with rare illnesses. When chatting w librarians later in lines, they reminded me that this has kind of always been the case–and that people have a fascination with that, perhaps esp that age group (Mask, anyone?). So there you have it about MG. I still saw lots of magic, lots of magic with dragons and/or gods and teenagers. I didn’t see anywhere near as many graphic novels for MG (or indeed any age group), which I thought was very interesting.
And talking with people there, I learned that there are book conferences that are regional across the country and that they find these more useful than this big one. Does anyone know what they are talking about in particular? Not SCBWI things, but book selling and buying things. There were a different demographic there–lots of people from indy bookstores in the midwest and lots of people from Canada for some reason.
Finally, I got to meet Richard Russo and got a copy of his new book.
On Saturday, I got to hang out with Rebecca Dudley, and while I didn’t get a picture of her (sadly!), she took this picture of me in front of a cool ink painting by Tai Xiangzhou (2014) at the Chicago Art Institute. Thanks for taking me there, Becca–it was awesome to pass by the long entry line and swan in through the members’ entrance! We saw some beautiful and surprising things in the American Wing, and the visit was MUCH too short!