If you want to write picture books, she said, then you need to read 1,000 picture books. She lowered the number for novels (I believe it was to 500) but her point was loud and clear: How can you successfully write it if you don't understand the format in your bones?
And it's true for illustrators as well - you'll become a better illustrator if you've studied 1,000 illustrated books!
Yet with all the Children's and Teen books (including self- and vanity- and print-on-demand) coming out every year, how do we decide what we're going to read?
There are three main ways: Best sellers. Awards. And word of mouth.
Publishers Marketplace recently published a list of the 15 top selling print books as tracked by Nielsen BookScan in the outlets they cover for juvenile titles.
2011's Top 15: Juvenile BooksAnd of course, the NY Times, USA Today, and many other publications have their own best-seller lists to consult.
1 THE HUNGER GAMES*, Suzanne Collins (Scholastic; trade paperback; 9780439023528) 1,578,000
2 DIARY OF A WIMPY KID 6: CABIN FEVER, Jeff Kinney (Amulet; hardcover; 9781419702235) 1,563,000
3 CATCHING FIRE*, Suzanne Collins (Scholastic; hardcover; 9780439023498) 985,000
4 INHERITANCE, Christopher Paolini (Knopf Children's; hardcover; 9780375856112) 900,000
5 MOCKINGJAY*, Suzanne Collins (Scholastic; hardcover; 9780439023511) 853,000
6 THE SON OF NEPTUNE, Rick Riordan (Hyperion; hardcover; 9781423140597) 699,000
7 THE THRONE OF FIRE, Rick Riordan (Hyperion; hardcover; 9781423140566) 535,000
8 DIARY OF A WIMPY KID: THE UGLY TRUTH*, Jeff Kinney (Amulet; hardcover; 9780810984912) 524,000
9 ELF ON THE SHELF*, Carol Aebersold (CCA&B; hardcover; 9780976990703) 500,000
10 THE WIMPY KID DO-IT-YOURSELF BOOK*, Jeff Kinney (Amulet; 9780810989955; hardcover) 488,000
11 DIARY OF A WIMPY KID 2: RODRICK RULES*, Jeff Kinney (Amulet; hardcover; 9780810994737) 338,000
12 GOODNIGHT MOON*, Margaret Wise Brown (Harper Festival; 9780694003617) 329,000
13 DIARY OF A WIMPY KID*, Jeff Kinney (Amulet; hardcover; 9780810993136) 309,000
14 THE LOST HERO*, Rick Riordan (Hyperion; hardcover; 9781423113393) 294,000
15 DIARY OF A WIMPY KID 3: THE LAST STRAW*, Jeff Kinney (Amulet; hardcover; 9780810970687) 289,000
*These editions were first published prior to 2010
You can also look at the Award winners, which tend to come out the following year (so in 2012 we'll find out which books won for 2011.)
Just yesterday the ALA announced the top 2012 awards in children’s and young adult literature as the finale of their ALA Midwinter Meeting!
There are LOTS of authors and illustrators you'll recognize and cheer on - and some of them you can even congratulate in person at #NY12SCBWI!
Like John Rocco, whose "Blackout" was named a Caldecott Honor Book! And Peter Brown, whose book "Children Make Terrible Pets" was made into the Andrew Carnegie Medal-winning best children's video!
Little, Brown, HarperCollins, Henry Holt, Delacorte Press/Random House, Scholastic, Penguin, Simon & Schuster, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Lee and Low and Macmillian are all well-represented among this year's winners... and among our #NY12SCBWI faculty!
The Cybils nominations for 2011 are out as well (these are the book blogger awards.) And here are some past award lists to explore:
SCBWI's 2011 Golden Kite Awards
SCBWI's 2011 Crystal Kite Winners
The 2011 Newbery Winner and Honors Books
The Other 2011 Association for Library Service to Children Award Winners
And there are also diversity-focused lists and awards, like the 2011 Rainbow Books (for GLBTQ kid lit), the Coretta Scott King Book Award Recipients (awards given to African American authors and illustrators for outstanding contributions to literature for children and young adults) and the Sydney Taylor Book Award (books for children and teens that portray the Jewish experience.)
Word Of Mouth.
Talk to others and get their recommendations. Booksellers. Librarians. Friends. Read kid lit blogs and book reviews.
For those of us creating content for children, it can also be fascinating to focus on a single editor's output by looking at the lists of published books that accompany their conference bios, and also the "edited by" document at scbwi.org. (Here's how to find it: sign in at scbwi.org, go to the resource library, just getting started, SCBWI publication guide online, getting started: preparing and submitting your work, click on "Edited By: A House-by-House Listing of Editorial Credits" and it will download as a pdf. file to your computer. An excellent resource!)
So this year, let's heed Linda Sue Park's advice - and read broadly and deeply in our genre and age category!
Illustrate and Write On,