“Children’s books, new and old, are actually what is keeping publishers in business”

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Amanda Craig writes:

The first book I read to myself was Dr Seuss’s The Cat in the Hat – something I still recommend to learners – and the Cat’s wild anarchic humour has always struck me as the perfect analogy for what happens to a child who discovers books. We think it’s about being good – remember how the kids in the story are made to “sit-sit-sit-sit/ And we did not like it/ Not one little bit”? Reading involves sitting, and getting a child to stay still is one of its most unattractive aspects. But once you master this, everything changes. People who love reading are often called bookworms – but that’s the wrong way around. It’s not you that worms into a book, it’s books that worm into you.

And worm into us they have. Children’s books, new and old, are actually what is keeping publishers in business. They are what parents and grandparents, aunts and uncles, teachers and godparents actually buy, and go on buying. Many children’s authors – not just JK Rowling, but David Walliams, Julia Donaldson, Francesca Simon and Anthony Horowitz – have sales of the kind that would make any author of fiction or non-fiction weep with joy. You are doing well as a literary novelist if you sell 10,000 copies. A chick-lit author can hope for 100,000. A top historian such as Antony Beevor might shift that many too. However, just one book by Walliams, Awful Auntie, earned his publisher, HarperCollins, more than £6m last year. John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars earned Penguin UK more than £4m. According to The Bookseller, in 2014 the Children’s category earned £336.5m, a year-on-year rise of 9.1 per cent, in a books market that declined 1.3 per cent.

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