I'm continually surprised by some of the interviews I've been listening to on my iPod featuring very popular authors of Children's Fiction. The themes and premises of these books, as the authors discuss them, seem unabashedly mature and sophisticated.
Why The Interest
I was talking with a retired English teacher a while back. I don't think she'd been out of the classroom that many years, but she was definitely out of touch with what teens are reading: books like the Twilight series and all those of similar vision. We started talking about the books targeted to certain ages and how that has changed because of Harry Potter.
I didn't know as much about this since I don't write juvenile fiction except for books I write for the kids in the family. I thought I'd do a little research and find out what age levels publishers are targeting.
Generally, kids read up. They read books where the protagonists are older than they are, and that means they sometimes read more mature subject matter. This interest in books like that trickles down to what publishers are putting out for kids.
More and more, kids are reading the adult books about tragedy and hard times. Thus, publishers are putting out books for kids with these dystopian themes. Apparently, bad times are selling good in the kids' book world right now. So are paranormal premises, just as in the adult fiction market.
For ages 0 to 4. These are around 32 pages in length. The text per page is just one or a few sentences.
Board books, made of thick cardboard, fall in this category. They are made of sturdy material that stands up to infants.
Chapter Books aka Early Readers or Young Middle Grade
For ages 5 to 8. This is actually a division of the Middle Grade books. These are just as the name implies: books for young middle grade kids or those just beginning to read books that have chapters. These books have short chapters designed to engage young readers.
For ages 7 to 10; ages 8 to 12. The younger age range are sometimes called lower middle grade with upper middle grade being the older group. The average length of these books is 100 pages or 20,000 words.
Young Adult or Teens
Traditionally, for ages 13 to 18, but younger kids are keying in to these books. They're much like adult books. In bookstores, you'll find these books close to the regular adult section, not in the children's area.
Each year the American Library Association compiles a Best Books of in various categories. For 2010, you can read what they think are the Best Novels for Young Adults. Interesting enough, you won't find mega bestsellers like the Twilight books by Stephanie Meyer on this list.
Children's fiction has changed in the last decade, and that's probably why so many adults are reading what might previously have been for kids.