What are some trends you noticed in children’s books and elsewhere in 2014?
My inbox has been bursting with contemporary realistic, which I love. I hope to find the next Huntley Fitzpatrick or Rainbow Rowell. But many submissions I’m seeing have taken a darker turn—suicides and dead siblings—and a more violent direction. The last time I saw things go this way, it went right into paranormal—the creature type (vampires and werewolves). I think this time it could go in a more ghostly/psychological horror direction. TV is supporting darker themes, with shows like American Horror Story, Gotham, and Supernatural. When they work, grim themes can make for interesting reads, like We Were Liars by E. Lockhart or Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea by April Tucholke.
Picture books are having a gorgeous renaissance right now. It feels like an artistic sea change. Stories are getting simpler, and art is getting more interesting. It’s nice to see publishers taking risks on beauty. Maybe that’s why there were six Caldecott honors this year.
What are you anticipating for 2015?
Anticipation and hope aren’t the same thing, are they? I’m anticipating some risky YA novels, “weirder” themes and stories, and headier, more literary influences leading the pack. A.S. King, John Corey Whaley, and Andrew Smith are doing wonderful work pushing the boundaries of “realistic” and redefining fantasy or speculative fiction. I see them as major influences on what’s around the corner.
What book/genre/topic would you like to see cross your transom?
Of course I’m looking for diversity, and I’d really like to see it in the form of people with disabilities. Or people living with chronic illness: HIV or AIDS or Crohn’s or diabetes. Have we had many YA protagonists in wheelchairs?
I have a soft spot for criminals and love a really smart, literary novel featuring a heist or crime (done for the greater good, of course). A serious prankster team in this vein would be good, too. Something along the lines of The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau Banks.
What topic don’t you ever want to see again?
Every time I see a picture book lecturing kids on childhood obesity and the importance of nutrition, I want to throw things. Hard. Really, I’ll pass on anything with an overt message. Monsters under the bed or in the closet are common and, weirdly, dragons just showing up in the backyard.
What is unique about your corner of the industry?
Pippin focuses on publishing only the very best books. I don’t know if that makes us unique, but in a world centered on profit, I’m happy to be in a place that is dedicated to quality.
Heather Alexander spent six years on the editorial side of publishing before switching to Team Agent. She now represents authors and illustrators for all ages of kids’ books, including graphic novels. Her favorite books are the ones that become memories that are hard to distinguish from reality. Some favorites include TheScorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater, I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson, and When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead. She believes in binge reading and chocolate after lunch.