Tag Archives: children’s books

Book Prizes: more than just a celebration of fantastic literature

I read such a sad, yet inspiring Feature article in the London Evening Standard today. James Ashton told of how he had lost his three-year-old son due to an undetected heart condition a year ago and how he had set up a book prize, entitled Oscar’s First Book Prize, in his son’s memory.

Ashton describes in the article how Oscar had such a unique and vivid imagination and how this inspired him to set up the Book Prize. Ashton states:

Our sim it to find the best pre-school book of the year that celebrates a child’s love for magical stories, something that would have satisfied Oscar’s vivid imagination.

The Prize has been set up by the Evening Standard and Waitrose. The winner shall be the “best first book for children aged five or under published in 2013” and shall be awarded £5,000. It is thought that Oscar’s mother; Viveka Alvestrand; the chief executive of Waitrose, Mark Price; former CEO of Pearson, Marjorie Scardino and the deputy editor for the Evening Standard, Charlotte Ross shall judge the entries with the winner being announced in May 2014.

Evidently, this shows that Book Prizes are not just about celebrating outstanding works of Literature, but people themselves. It can celebrate culture, history, memories, and as Ashton states: imagination. When you look deeply into things, to me it’s almost as if the Prize has been launched to portray the fact that Oscar will live on through the imagination within the winning book. Ashton states in the article how he imagines what Oscar would be like were he alive, therefore portraying that Book Prizes are also incredibly important.

The rise of children’s books


The Bookseller has reported that sales of physical children’s books for 2012 were ‘marginally up’ from 2011 figures, according to Neilsen BookScan.

The children’s book sector was up 0.02% to a value of £318.5 million and up 0.9% in volume sales to 61.3 million. Figures like these show how successful children’s books have been over the past year. Young Adult books such as Collins’ Hunger Games trilogy inevitably boosted sales, with the article stating that had Collins’ books not been included in figures the market overall would have been down by 3.3%.

HarperCollins’ David Walliams books were up 97.6% on 2011 and were worth £6.1 million, a figure which could continue to rise especially after the broadcast of the television version of his book Mr. Stink (pictured above) aired over Christmas.

The table comparing children’s publishers sales are included below:


It shows that Scholastic saw the greatest growth of +85.90% against 2011 sales, possibly down to the success of the Hunger Games. With the release of the second film from the franchise later this year and a third one undoubtedly on the way, the franchise is not over yet which is great news for Scholastic.

It can be said that the figures reflecting a minus growth on 2011, shows that those publishers experienced sales which were ‘nearly half e-book driven’, as said by Pan Macmillan Children’s Belinda Rasmussen.

One of the key messages which the article highlights is that ‘2012 has reinforced the importance of brands’, which Penguin Children’s Francesca Dow saying ‘all top brands have another way of connecting with consumers, beyond the book, taking the property to a wider audience’. This is reflected through the surge of children’s ebook sales throughout Christmas week.

Certainly, the article portrays the importance of children’s books and the fact that sales saw an increase last year is fantastic. Perhaps the Happy Meal McDonald’s book promotion will be one of the factors which will help with the sales of children’s books this year. Or perhaps there will be another book which will take the world by storm.

In addition, with the growth of the digital world, it shall be interesting to see how children’s ebooks will evolve over the year, again increasing sales. I personally am excited to see what 2013 holds for the children’s book industry and whether it can live up to the success of 2012.

The Bookseller‘s article.

Fast-food chain to serve fast-fiction


There has been a lot of criticism on the internet about fast-food giant, McDonald’s, offering a £1 book offer on its Happy Meal boxes. The ‘Happy Readers’ offer will be featured on the children’s Happy Meal boxes and will enable customers to buy selected £1 books at W H Smith until the end of 2014. The National Literacy Trust is said to be backing the promotion and hopes that the promotion will hand out more than 15 million books over the next year.

A four-week trial was held at the beginning of 2012 to assess the response of the offer, with nine out of ten parents stating that they would like McDonald’s to do more promotions like it.

Today I have read a couple of blogs who have criticised the move. Martyn Daniels’ (‘Brave New World’) has blogged about his disapproval of the scheme stating that publishers will have ‘ketchup on their hands’. I think that Daniels made a valid argument on his blog stating that with the focus on junk food and the constant media attention on growing child and adult obesity, the move to promote reading through unhealthy food is ‘cynical’.

Daniels does make a point that all the effort gone into Jamie Oliver’s healthy school dinners campaign, the usual January ‘get fit’ publications, as well as increased attention on obesity in the UK, does all seem pointless when things like this happen.

Despite the negatives towards this campaign, I personally believe that there is a lot of good surrounding the offer. Whilst I’d like to hope that parents don’t regularly feed their children junk food, I think being able to treat their children to McDonald’s once is a blue moon isn’t a bad thing (I remember my parents doing it), and the fact that McDonald’s are promoting such a worthy cause is a great idea, especially when it’s to do with books and reading. With adults having such busy lifestyles these days and perhaps not having much time to read with their children, anything which promotes reading is a good thing.

Overall I can see why there is such an uproar over this as promoting anything bad is never a great move. However, whilst we live in a world where fast-food chains are a large part of every town’s high street, I do believe it is mainly down to parents (and schools) to teach their children about the dangers of fast-food. I think there is definitely enough media attention on junk food to hopefully make adults and children realise that eating a McDonald’s on a regular basis isn’t going to be good, but I do think that the fact that the company are promoting books and reading in young children is a good thing.

Perhaps the book promotion through McDonald’s will be adapted by healthier food companies in the future. Certainly it should give some publishers food for thought…