The New York Times recently published a front page story essentially writing the orbituary for children's picture books...A story much in conflict with the real world according to big house publishers, booksellers, libraries and agents.

Karen Springen, Publishers Weekly, gives the straight story on printed picture books (with considerable associated writing):

Don't Write the Obit For Picture Books Yet

Children's book publishers are still reeling from the New York Times front-page story back in October called "Picture Books No Longer a Staple for Children." Was the venerable newspaper right? Or do publishers consider the article and its alarming title the kid-lit equivalent of "Dewey Defeats Truman"?

The evidence: BookScan figures show that last year, picture books represented 10.8% of the overall children's market—virtually the same as in 2005, when they represented 10.7%. "For us right now, picture books are still vibrant and thriving," said HarperCollins Children's Books president Susan Katz.

Several publishers PW spoke with disagreed with the Times reporter who wrote about the declining importance and popularity of picture books. "I don't really see this phenomenon she's talking about," said Karen Lotz, publisher of Candlewick Press. "I definitely don't think it's so bleak," said Mary Ann Sabia, v-p and associate publisher of Charlesbridge Publishing.

Some reported surprise that the Times placed the story on its front page. "It really felt like filler to me," said Chip Gibson, president and publisher of Random House Children's Books. His division's hardcover picture-book sales have grown and remain among the house's most profitable lines. Sales of jacketed picture books (not even including backlist staple Dr. Seuss) are strong and based on a broad list, "not just three or four superstar things," he said. "It's a very pleasurable business culturally, aesthetically, and economically."

"[The article] made the team here at Harper first sad and then mad, because we don't see it that way," said Katz. The market is hardest for midlist books that sell 10,000 to 15,000 copies, she said, but titles such as Knuffle Bunny Free, My Mommy Hung the Moon, Scaredy-Cat, Splat, Pinkalicious, and Fancy Nancy are selling "like hotcakes. Go to any retail outlet or library, sit in the area where the picture books are, watch the kids come in with their parents and caregivers, and see what you think."

Read and learn more