bea-logoBy Audrey DeSimone, children’s book reviewer.

I was fortunate to once again attend the publishing industry’s annual trade show and convention, Book Expo America (BEA) on May 31st. BEA is the biggest publishing event in North America and in a world with a 140-character attention span, it’s nice to see excitement over the simple joy of reading.

My day started with the annual Children’s Author Breakfast, hosted this year by Academy Award-winning actress and now author, Octavia Spencer. Speakers included Magic Treehouse creator Mary Pope Osborne, Percy Jackson series author, Rick Riordan, and Veronica Roth, a rising star in the Young Adult category with her Divergent series. Each speaker has new books coming out in 2013. While they each have different personalities and writing styles, they shared a love of writing and reading. Each of these writers were avid readers as children and it was the journeys they experienced through reading that inspired them to set pen to paper. In Ms. Spencer’s opening remarks, she noted, “Something about the books you read as a kid stay with you forever.” So true!

A couple of trends in children’s publishing were clear. The explosion of chapter book series for children aged 8 to 11 and teens continues. New installments are on the way in 2013 for favorites such as The Magic Treehouse (Random House), Heidi Heckelbeck (Simon & Schuster), Diary of a Wimpy Kid (Abrams) and Heroes of Olympus (Disney/Hyperion), to name a few.

And, celebrities continue to try their hand at writing. Octavia Spencer’s Randi Rhodes Ninja Detective (Simon & Schuster) made its debut earlier this year, and the lid will be off of the Recipe for Adventure (Penguin) series from cooking goddess Giada De Laurentiis this fall. Julianne Moore also has a new picture book coming out this fall called My Mom is a Foreigner But Not to Me (Chronicle Books).

There are always some new children’s book publishers on the scene. While I tend to bypass those that try to launch a book as a “property” (book, app, web site and merchandise line, in one shot), I did meet some newer publishers whose works clearly have some integrity behind their prose and illustration. One smaller publisher who I’m very excited to get to know better is Blue Apple Books. Their illustrations pulled me into their booth. Probably best known for activity pads such as Doodles at Lunch and other themes, Blue Apple has quite a portfolio of stunning picture books. BEA first-timer Turn the Page Publishing had an impressive variety of picture book themes including children with Celiac disease, the challenges of the parent-child relationship when a parent must travels a lot for work, among others.

That’s just a taste of what the exhibitors had BEA had to share. It’s wonderful to work in an industry that transports you back to being a child, if even for the few moments it takes to read a picture book.

Please look for reviews of many of the above-mentioned titles in the coming months on TimeToPlayMag.com.

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