Algonquin enters the young readers field
Edward, Feenix, Nasrin and Sahar are among the characters Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill will introduce with its new line of books for young readers. This fall, Algonquin Young Readers will publish five titles geared toward readers ages 7 to 17.
Novels geared for the middle grades are Kate Klise and illustrator M. Sarah Klise’s “The Show Must Go On!,” Amy Herrick’s science fiction-inspired “The Time Fetch,” and Lisa Martin and Valerie Martin’s “Anton and Cecil: Cats at Sea,” about the adventures of (curious) cat brothers Anton and Cecil. The first set of books also has two titles for young adult readers – Sara Farizan’s “If You Could Be Mine,” about a young lesbian figuring out life in modern Iran, and Hollis Seamon’s “Somebody Up There Hates You,” about young people in hospice.
Algonquin is celebrating 30 years of publishing, and has had great success with novels like Sara Gruen’s “Water for Elephants,” Hillary Jordan’s “Mudbound” and Julia Alvarez’s “How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents,” said Elise Howard, publisher of Algonquin Young Readers. The Jordan and Alvarez titles also appealed to younger readers, “so to establish a dedicated young readers line seemed like a good extension of the business,” Howard said.
While books for younger readers have existed for many years, in the late 1960s novels that addressed the interests of adolescents – by writers like S.E. Hinton and Judy Blume – began to emerge. (At various times, this genre has been referred to as “the adolescent novel,” “teen lit” or “young adult novels.” Alonquin stresses that its new line is for young readers, not just adolescents or young adults.)
The appeal of books for younger readers continues to grow. “Over the past 10 to 15 years, we’ve seen some exceptional successes in the business,” Howard said. She mentions the popularity of J.K. Rowling’s “Harry Potter” books, and Stephenie Meyer’s “Twilight” books. Many of those books attracted adult readership, Howard said, and that crossover “has led to all sorts of new books being published, including longer and sophisticated reads that still fit into the young adult category.”
There also is a growing diversity in subject matter, style and format (including graphic novels). Shannon Peterson, president of the Young Adult Library Services Association, a division of the American Library Association, noted several awards that the association gives to authors of young adult literature. The Michael Printz Award is given for excellence in young adult literature, and the William C. Morris YA Debut Award is for first-time releases for young adults. “It’s such a huge, growing field … and it’s exciting to celebrate these new authors,” Peterson said. “There’s such a diversity of young adult literature that adults also are reading it. … I think that diversity is really expanding the audience.”
The mission of the Young Adult Library Services Association is to help libraries increase literacy for youth ages 12 to 19. With the advent of “Harry Potter,” young readers expect libraries to have books that reflect their interests, and in both print and e-book formats, Peterson said.
The Potter series also has changed how these books are marketed. For many years, hardcover books for young readers were distributed through schools libraries, and later book fairs, Howard said. “What we have ‘Harry Potter’ to thank for is proving the viability of hardcover fiction for young readers,” she said. Bookstores also responded by giving the titles more prominent shelf space, she said. Publishers have also kept the hardcover prices for young readers lower than for hardcover adult novels. (Algonquin’s first five young readers’ books, all hardcover, are capped at $16.95.)
As part of the rollout, Algonquin will have author tours, and partner with bookstores, schools and libraries. Algonquin also will have a website with teaching, reading and discussion guides, Howard said.
Algonquin will continue the series, with 10 titles planned for 2014. Howard would like to expand the number “but only if we find books that are right for the Algonquin program.”
Young readers “really demand strong characters and strong stories, and they’re not patient necessarily in the absence of those things … and I think that’s one of the draws for this category for a wider readership.”
Release dates for Algonquin Young Readers series:
Aug. 13: “Time Fetch,” by Amy Herrick (ages 10 and up)
Aug. 20: “If You Cold Be Mine,” by Sara Farizan (ages 14 and up)
Sept. 3: “Somebody Up There Hates You,” by Hollis Seamon (ages 14 and up)
Sept. 10: “The Show Must Go On!” by Kate Klise with illustrations by M. Sarah Klise (ages 7 to 10)
Oct. 8: “Anton and Cecil: Cats at Sea,” by Lisa Martin and Valerie Martin (ages 8-12)
For information, visit www.algonquinyoungreaders.com.