The Publishing Post
Celebrity Children’s Authors Revisited
By Mary Karayel and Hayley Cadel
Celebrity authors and celebrity children’s authors are a trend in themselves, so this issue, we have chosen to revisit this idea to discuss key trends prevalent in children’s books. From books that urge children to try new things to those that gently convey a moral, celebrities continue to flock to the children's book market.
An increasing trend within children’s books written by celebrities are books that seek to inspire children to try new things. This can be seen in Joe Wick’s debut children’s book The Burpee Bears, published by HarperCollins in 2022. Children’s books are a little different to the usual books Joe publishes, but with a little help from acclaimed author Vivian French, The Burpee Bears promises to delight child readers whilst promoting a healthy lifestyle. The picture book follows the loveable bears as they explore the “everyday ups and downs of family life” whilst also including warm-ups, cool downs and yummy recipes for the reader to try. Joe Wicks became a national treasure during the pandemic when he uploaded daily workout videos for the whole family to enjoy and keep fit during the first lockdown. His newest book venture will continue to inspire children to make healthier decisions and thus conforms to the altruistic nature of children’s publishing. Similarly, Strictly Come Dancing superstar Oti Mabuse released her debut children’s book with Walker Books last month, titled Dance with Oti: The Bird Jive. The novel has interactive QR codes to let children listen to The Bird Jive song and has step-by-step dance tutorials for readers to follow as they learn a new dance style. The book also importantly tackles the tricky feelings children may have when learning a new skill, from exciting highs to nervous lows before a huge performance. This book is a must-read, especially with the beautiful illustrations by Samara Hardy.
A celebrity catering for a slightly older reader is Marcus Rashford MBE, a phenomenal young footballer who campaigned for free school meals to tackle food poverty within the UK. Many young children, particularly boys, look up to the footballer and he subsequently released a self-help book with Pan Macmillan in 2021, called You Are a Champion: Unlock Your Potential, Find Your Voice and Be the Best You Can Be. Aimed at middle grade and teenagers, Rashford reflects on his own journey to success and how by adopting a positive growth mindset, readers can have similar success in whatever they put their minds to.
Alternatively, at the SYP Scotland conference this year, the trend panel noted how it is not just ‘ideas’ that become trends in children’s books, but due to their illustrations, we also see physical objects and graphics become trends as well. One such example are unicorns, which have long existed as a trend, with celebrities utilising this to bring books to children they will want to read. There’s a Unicorn in Your Book by Tom Fletcher and The Silver Unicorn by Jessica Ennis-Hill are just two examples of the inclusion of unicorns. Moreover, we also see the inclusion of animals and the idea of children going on an adventure with an animal, which ultimately leads them to overcome something difficult in their lives. Examples of this are The Girl with the Lost Smile by Miranda Hart and Today I’m Strong by Nadiya Hussain, who both encourage children to find inner strength. In this way, imagery can be used to instill a love of reading in children from a young age.
There are still some huge celebrity releases due out in 2022, including two new titles from Marcus Rashford – yes, two! In May, Rashford releases the follow-up book to You are a Champion called You Can Do It: How to Find Your Team and Make a Difference. Based on the blurb, this book will teach young readers how to valorise their differences, exercise kindness to others and tackle social issues that they care about to make an impact. In July, his debut fiction title The Breakfast Club Adventures (also published with Pan Macmillan) will be released in collaboration with Alex Falase-Koya, exploring football, friendship and a mystery to solve! In October, the Blue Peter presenter and internet sensation Adam B will release Adam Wins the Internet with Bloomsbury, which is perfect for any young child obsessed with YouTube. There is still plenty more to come from celebrities to inspire children to read.
Ultimately, as children’s books are sold to parents, this trend for celebrity authors is interesting as it suggests that parents like this messaging to come from those who have been a success in their field. Whilst this trend is not without its criticism, it is still a trend which engages with many children and encourages them to read.