Unlocking young minds

CE looks at some of the new and emerging trends in children’s books
Unlocking young minds

HYDERABAD: In 2024, children’s literature continues to evolve with new trends and themes that reflect the changing interests and needs of young readers. As per Mohan Pattipaka, Assistant Editor, Telugu, National Book Trust, “The last six to seven years have been revolutionary for children’s literature. Over 600 children’s books have been published in Telugu, Kannada, Tamil, Marathi and Bengali. Interestingly, most of them are written by children themselves.”

The themes children choose to write about aren’t limited to their lives at home or school but also deal with serious issues such as parental divorce. Last year, Hyderabad-based, 13-year-old Saira Kashigai discussed such a theme in her book ‘Butterfly’, published by Anvekshiki.

Books that deal with diversity and inclusion are also equally popular, including protagonists from various cultural backgrounds, ethnicities, genders, and abilities. “Books that help generate awareness among children about fundamental rights, children’s rights, gender identities, equality, personal body and sexuality are also becoming increasingly popular,” Mohan Pattipaku added.

Let them fall in love

As storytelling formats change with the entry of the visual medium, books also have to keep up with such trends and enhance the size and expression of the pictures they use in their books. “For preschool and primary school children, picture books have always been a necessity. Since we focus on teaching Telugu with the help of such books, we also have older kids engaging with them,” said K Suresh from Manchi Pustakam. It is not the age, but exposure that matters.

However, for him, these trends come and go. What sustains a continued interest in books is a persistent effort to cultivate a love for reading among children. “We have always believed that children should choose books themselves and they rarely get an opportunity to do so. Our collection of books is very distinct. Storybooks that are funny and full of playful elements, are significant in developing an interest in books among children, rather than moral stories.”

Timeless tales

Children also prefer storybooks that require them to think logically and deploy problem-solving themes. “They don’t need moral stories but something much more meaningful,” said Mohan.

Mentioning some names that are popular among kids, he added, “Dr Siri’s puzzle books Aksharalato Aata, Ramendra Kumar’s Boond and Rabindranath Tagore’s timeless stories such as Gharwapasi and Kabuliwallah have been preferred by children at all times.”

Some of the new and upcoming trends also hint towards the popularity of graphic novels, as Sudeshna Shome Ghosh, Publisher, Talking Cub (the children’s imprint of Speaking Tiger Books), told CE. “Among readers from age eight to older teens, graphic novels are quite popular as are books with lots of line drawings, like Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Big Nate, etc.” She added that in India, comics like Amar Chitra Katha remain bestsellers.

Specifying some works published by Talking Cub, she said, “Our illustrated poetry books series is a big draw and includes poetry by Ruskin Bond, Tagore, and others accompanied by beautiful artwork that also has a contemporary touch. Easy-to-read, non-fiction books like biographies are popular, like in our ‘Incredible Lives’ series where we cover the lives of iconic Indians. Apart from these, books by popular fiction writers like Shabnam Minwalla, Ashok Rajagopalan, Bijal Vachharajani and Menaka Raman continue to sell well.”

At Penguin, Sudha Murthy’s ‘Grandma’s Bag of Stories’ continues to be a best-seller, said Mansi Shetty, a marketing professional at Penguin Select. She told CE, “Besides Japanese Manga, Indian graphic novels like The People of Indus, Maithali and The Minotaur, focusing on immersive world-building, adventure, and detailed artwork have also seen a rise in popularity. To help children get ‘hooked’ on books, we have a series of ‘hook books’ for ages five to seven.

She also mentioned that a few Hyderabad-based authors such as Rohan Chakravarty have recently gained popularity among young adults. His Green Humour has sparked an interest among students.

Human-animal relationships, technology big additions

Hinting at what new trends we might get to see in the time to come, Trisha De Niyogi, COO & Director, Niyogi Books, explained, “According to research, there are more than 31 million pet dogs and 2.44 million pet cats in India and numbers seem to be growing. Thus, we envision more books on human-animal relationships, wildlife and environmental awareness.  Science and science-inspired fiction are perennial sellers and we will see technology being integrated more efficiently in children’s books — both picture books as well as young adults’ literature.”

Regarding important issues like gender diversity and equality, Shetty mentioned that stories depicting diverse identities have always existed. However, despite the integration of neurodiversity in a story five years ago, these subjects often don’t become bestsellers due to limited awareness and booksellers’ preferences for titles that bring in sales.

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The New Indian Express