Looking for the next “Wimpy Kid”

Here at Children’s Bookstore, we always say that now, yes 2015, is a golden age of juvenile literature.  By a golden age, we mean that there is an embarrassment of high-quality books entering the market every year.

The greatest success story in juvenile literature since digital content changed life as we knew it is Diary of a Wimpy Kid by Jeff Kinney.  Now 9 editions deep, the series has sold millions of copies, been made into movies, have licensed video games and much more.

The entire success of Diary comes down to one simple element:  The books are really, really good.  Kinney’s idea of a anti-hero in a graphic novel was perfect for today’s children.  The stories and illustrations are interesting and topically sound, the humor is spot-on for the demographic and parents are thrilled that kids who usually scoff at books eagerly await the next edition.

Terrible Two FrontFrank EAmulet Books, an imprint of Abrams,  is the lucky publisher who took a chance on Kinney.  It’s been great business for them.  Predictably, Wimpy Kid has been imitated by other authors and publishers–with some success.  But, the question remains:  What is the next BIG series in juvenile literature.

I have a guess or two at what might approach Wimpy Kid.  And you don’t have to go far from the source to find it.

Abrams has just released two new series that merit discussion they are: The Terrible Two by John Jory and Mac Barnett–two solid names in juvenile literature.  Illustrator on the project is Kevin Cornell.

The other is Frank Einstein by Jon Scieszka–another blue chip juvenile author.  Illustrator for Frank Einstein is Brian Biggs.  The second installment in this series will be released in March, 2015.

The books have a familiar look and feel as the Wimpy Kid books.  The hardcover is attractive, with well-executed art elements throughout.  However, that’s where the similarities end.  They are not heavily graphic novels like Diary.  The Terrible Two draws its strength from expertly crafted characters and stories.  The main characters, Miles and Niles, are pranksters who learn to be friends–and foes–as they navigate school together.  Don’t get me wrong, the illustrations are excellent, but supplemental to the story.

Frank Einstein is a story about a boy, a smart robot and a not-so-smart robot.  The premise is a great primer for science and math.  The story is interesting and perfect for the audience.  Brian Biggs simply nailed the illustrations throughout the book.

The world of juvenile literature does not need more “Diary”, it needs a series that breaks new ground in this growing category of the graphic novel.  Abrams and Amulet are ahead of the curve, again, with these two series.  While the big publishing houses are still trying to imitate Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Amulet has introduced us to the next big thing.

I commend the editors at Amulet for bringing these two series forward now–fresh on the heels of their success with Diary.  These series will be successful for the same reason Diary is:  The books are really really good and children will want to read them.