Book Tasting Archive
25 Years of the Book Tasting 1993–2017 and Summary 2017–2018
Children's and Youth Literature 2019
In 2019, the number of children’s and young adult books published in Sweden decreased for the second year in a row. On the last day of February the institute had received 2,217 printed children’s and young adult books published in 2019, which is 91 titles (4 percent) less than 2018. Potential factors behind the decrease include changes in publishing strategies made by individual publishing houses, recent years’ debates on the so-called over-publishing of children’s and young adult books, and the increase in digital publishing. The most noticeable change in 2019 is the continued decrease in the number of translated titles published. The overall decrease is a result of the decrease in translations. The predominance of original Swedish works is thereby strengthened, and statistics indicate that out of the total number of children’s books published the share of translations has not been this low since the mid-1900s. This year’s report includes examinations of climate and environmental issues in children’s literature, audiobooks, and fantasy. Other prominent themes in the children’s books of 2019 are depictions of sex and sexual assault, the naked body, collectivism, and horror.
Children's and Youth Literature 2018
During the 2000s the annual number of children’s books published has more than doubled, but in 2018 this number decreased for the first time since 2010. On February 28 2019 the Swedish Institute
for Children’s Books had received 2,308 children’s and young adult books published in 2018. That is
224 titles (nine percent) less than in 2017. However, the decrease is not the result of a general reduction in titles published, but is instead primarily due to changes in publishing strategies made by individual publishers. The statistics also show that the Swedish originals continue to dominate among the children’s books published in Sweden.
In recent years, social issues have been a common theme in Swedish books for children and young adults, and in 2018 this was more prominent than ever. These stories primarily focus on drawing attention to injustice, making visible social and economic differences, and questioning power structures. Children’s role as citizens with rights is underlined, and children are encouraged to actively engage in issues that concern them. Put together, these children’s books raise an important question: is it time to listen to the children – for real?
Picturebooks continues to be the biggest category. The picturebooks of 2018 include a number of titles where the depiction of the body plays a central role. This is especially noticeable in the Swedish originals. The emphasis on body shapes and norms is characteristic of the socially oriented picturebook, which aims to highlight and normalize different types of bodies. For example, this includes the portrayal of skin colour, disabilities, body size, and age.
In this year’s Book Tasting we also take a closer look at horse stories, and in particular themes of violence and cruelty to animals in horse stories, stories that address suicide and the death of a loved one, as well as works that reinterpret or allude to classic fairy tales.
Children's and Youth Literature 2017
In 2017, 2,532 books for children and young adults were published in Sweden, an increase of 118 works (5 percent) compared to 2016. The number of books published has increased steadily over the last years, making 2017 a record year for the eighth year in a row. This year’s increase mainly consists of picturebooks and other picture-based works, with picturebooks increasing by 15 percent. While we see an increase of both Swedish and translated works, the former continues to dominate. Among the books published in 2017, 56 percent were Swedish works.
While it is difficult to give an overview of over 2,000 works, it is striking how many of the books published in 2017 engage with contemporary issues and ideas. Although this is typical of children’s and YA literature in general, the books of 2017 reflect this to a greater extent than usual. They depict and comment on issues such as sexuality and gender, cyberbullying and sexual assault, xenophobia and integration, activism and veganism. The explicit aim is often to challenge majority norms and promote new perspectives.
In this year’s Book Tasting we also examine the forest in children’s and YA books 2017. How is the forest depicted and what are the characters’ attitudes towards it? Moreover, we take a closer look at the debut writers and illustrators of 2017. Who are they and what do they write about? Another topic addressed in this year’s Book Tasting is digital publishing for children and young adults. What is, for example, the difference between digital literature and e-books, or book apps and apps based on literary characters?
Children’s and Youth Literature 2016
In 2016, a total of 2,414 books for children and young adults were published in Sweden, an increase of 325 titles (16 percent) compared to 2015. The number of children’s and YA books published increased for the seventh year in a row, making 2016 yet another record-breaking year. While this is noticeable in all categories it is most evident in the category picturebooks, with an increase of 100 titles compared to 2015. The increase includes both Swedish and translated titles, but the former continues to dominate: 55 percent of the books published in 2016 were Swedish titles.
The latest increase is closely linked to larger publishers, as the ten largest Swedish publishers stand for over half of the total number of books published in 2016. This is an interesting turn of events as earlier yearly overviews made by the Swedish Institute for Children’s Books have revealed the surge in self-publishing and the growing number of smaller publishers to be the main causes of the early 21th century increase. The present increase in children’s books published may instead be linked to the increase in children’s books sales noted by the Swedish Publishers’ Association in recent years. Both the increase in number of books published and in sales could, in turn, be seen as the result of an overall greater interest in children’s reading in society.
In terms of content and themes, the most notable tendency in the children’s and YA books published in 2016 is what could be described as a will to include. The books suggest a wish to challenge prevailing norms by portraying and making visible individuals and groups excluded by these norms. The story is often told from the perspective of a person who is perceived as being outside the norm. For example, several main characters are transgender people telling their own stories, but these books also bring up norms relating to sexual orientation, (dis)abilities or ethnicity, to name a few examples. The present refugee situation has also resulted in a number of stories where non-Western characters relate their experiences of being refugees of war.
Other themes addressed in this year's Book Tasting include religion and mythology, illustrations and graphic design, horror, and diary fiction.
Children's and Youth Literature 2015
Violence and Evil
In 2015, the number of titles published increased by 12 percent compared to 2014. The significant increase may be linked to the increased sales of children's and young adult books in recent years.
In terms of the content of the books, 2015 was in many ways a gloomy year. Prominent themes included violence, evil, and malice. Other common topics included death, murder, and suicide. We also noted an increased interest in depicting social issues and flight from war.
Children's and Youth Literature 2014
Secrets and Tweenies
In 2014, the number of titles published increased by 5.1 percent compared to 2013. An overall trend was that image-based works increased while text-based works decreased.
One of the most prominent themes in the books published in 2014 was secrets. We also noticed that many of the Swedish books aimed at 9-12 readers brought up themes usually reserved for young adult fiction.
Children's and Youth Literature 2013
Loneliness and Exclusion
Loneliness and exclusion are common topics in children's and youth literature, but in 2013 they were more common than ever. These include depictions of parents who are physically present but emotionally distant, and social exclusion caused by bullying.
The number of Swedish originals published increases steadily, at the expense of translated titles.
Children's and Youth Literature 2012
Boundaries and Boundary Crossing
At first glance, the children's and youth literature of 2012 does not look much different from the books of 2011. However, a closer look reveals that something is happening.
In recent years, we have noted a growing interest in exploring boundaries, or trying to eliminate or move boundaries. This is particularly noticeable in the books published in 2012, where we see writers and illustrators exploring boundaries in terms of both themes and narrative structures.
Children's and Youth Literature 2011
The Year of Girls and Women
The Swedish Institute for Children's Books declared 2011 the year of girls and women, in particular when it comes to Swedish young adult novels, but also picturebooks and graphic novels. We noted that a new generation of young, female picturebook artists and graphic novelist appears to have entered the stage, and that they strive to depict the experiences of girls and young women.
Children's and Youth Literature 2010
In this year's Book Tasting, we noted a return to the 1950s aesthetics among the Swedish picturebooks. We also noted that difficult topics and issues we normally only find in young adult novels also were adressed in books for younger readers. A common topic among the non-fiction books was self-fulfilment and strategies to become a better and perhaps happier person.
Children's and Youth Literature 2009
Different Shades of Black
Many of the books published in 2009 addressed darkness, night, and bedtime rituals. Dark and difficult topics were also common in the books of 2019: fatal shootings, rape, assault, human trafficking, bullying, to name a few. In contrast, we also saw many examples of the culture of cuteness, or kawaii - the Japanese word for cute or sweet - that has been a growing trend in recent years, in particular in picturebooks.
Children's and Youth Literature 2008
Family, Moral Dilemmas and Difficult Choices
Common themes among the books published in 2008 included moral dilemmas, peer pressure, difficult choices, and discussions on lies and truth. Environmental issues and climate change played a central role in this year's books, as did space, super heroes, and dinosaurs. We also saw many examples of interactive books with movable parts and sound features.
Children's and Youth Literature 2007
Competent Children and Absent Adults
A common theme in the books published in 2007 was depictions of children who find themselves forced to be competent and independent in order to survive in a world where the adults are unable or unwilling to take care of them. A central motif was dead or dysfunctional mothers. The theme of competent children and absent adults could be seen in all categories, from young adult novels to picturebooks.
Children's and Youth Literature 2006
Money, Crime and Concrete
Many of the books published in 2006 depicted wealthy adolescents. In particular, many translated book series aimed at girls portrayed the everyday life of wealthy American teenagers. We also noted an interest in politics and social issues in many categories, from picturebooks to young adult novels and books for 9-12 readers. Moreover, we noted many children and adolescents solving crimes in the books published in 2006.