It's unanimous: children's fantasy literature is a booming business. Unanimous, certainly, among the editors PW spoke with who have strong track records in acquiring and editing books in this genre. They also concurred that one exceedingly popular young wizard from Hogwarts School has transformed the children's book business in several ways: more authors (especially in Britain) are taking a stab at writing fantasy tales, more houses are taking a chance at publishing books in this genre and more kids and their parents are taking these tomes home from bookstores.
"It is difficult today to find a publishing house without a fantasy title on its list," says Sharyn November, senior editor of Puffin Books and Viking Children's Books, who is also at the editorial helm of the Firebird imprint (which specializes in fantasy and science fiction). "I now see more and more publishers buying trilogies from American authors as well as from the U.K. and Australia," she adds. "It's obvious that Harry Potter and the recent renewed focus on Lord of the Rings have done a lot to widen the awareness of fantasy in general, as well as of trilogies and series."
Mallory Loehr, v-p and editor-in-chief of the Random House/Golden Books for Young Readers Group, credits Harry Potter for giving the fantasy genre both a boost and a revival. "Some wonderful new fantasy has been published as a result of these books and some old fantasy has been rediscovered," she observes. "I think Rowling's series has brought on a golden age of fantasy for middle grade and young adult readers. It seems that many booksellers have used the Harry Potter phenomenon to bring fantasy titles to the front of their stores and make fantasy less ghettoized. This is a return to the past in certain respects, given that a number of children's classics—like Alice in Wonderland and The Wizard of Oz—were technically fantasies. The works of Tolkien, Lloyd Alexander and Susan Cooper have for many years been an important part of children's literature, yet fantasy seemed to get lost in the hubbub of paperback series publishing in the 1980s, so it's nice to have it in the forefront again."
Though clearly aware of the magic Rowling works in her fiction, Arthur Levine, v-p and editorial director of Scholastic's Arthur A. Levine Books, publisher of the Harry Potter novels in this country, demurs on the question of the strength of Harry's spell. "Of course it's tempting to say that Harry Potter raised the awareness of children's fantasy to a new level and I think that is true," he remarks. "I do believe that publishers were encouraged to try publishing fantasy who had not done so before. And I do think that more British authors are trying their hands at writing fantasy. I think this is attributable to Harry Potter, but also to Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials trilogy and Brian Jacques's Redwall series and other successful fantasies of recent years. Fantasy is a well-established genre in children's literature and always has been. It's not exactly a trend of the moment. A lot of fantasy has recently become available, but what I believe is happening now is that publishers are bringing out great novels that happen to be fantasy. Editors are looking for books that they are passionate about, books that are good literature. This is why they publish fantasy novels. It is not because the fantasy genre is 'hot.' "
Loehr mentions a move toward more realistic fantasy. "Since there is so much fantasy out there, what I look for is fantasy that feels very real," she says. "Perhaps because more authors who have written contemporary novels are now writing fantasies, I am seeing more fantasy in which the characters are real—they have realistic emotional reactions and motivations that make sense and that kids can relate to. What I try to avoid are the novels that in the first chapter introduce 12 different made-up animals with strange names. What I look for are writers who create more subtle, wonderful worlds that a reader can slip into easily."
November's taste also leans toward the realistic; she appreciates "fantasy set in the real world, with a sense of possibility, where you don't have to go anywhere exotic to have it happen."
Though November observes that some publishers have recently gravitated toward fantasy written for a younger audience than the Harry Potter series (citing as an example the successful launch of The Spiderwick Chronicles by Holly Black and Tony DiTerlizzi, S&S), her own acquisitions are generally aimed at an older, more sophisticated audience. To help ensure that her acquisitions are appropriately targeted, she has assembled two editorial advisory boards: one made up of authors, booksellers and reviewers well acquainted with the fantasy genre and the other consisting of 100 teenage fantasy fans from around the world with whom she communicates daily on-line and occasionally in person. Demographics are working in favor of fantasies, November asserts. "Many of the baby boomers' kids are now in their teen years, boosting the number of readers in this age group," she says. "And I know from my constant contact with teenagers that fantasy is a genre that they really enjoy. In these novels, discoveries happen and possibilities open up. This is very pertinent to teens, since they are coming into their own worlds. And fantasy allows authors to write about the conflict between good and evil without sounding didactic."
All editors queried remark upon the growing crossover appeal of fantasy novels, noting that this genre easily bridges the YA and adult markets. And in some—obviously rarer—cases, the middle-grade and adult markets. "The Harry Potter books are young in some ways, but they clearly crossed over and attracted many adult readers, as did Eoin Colfer's Artemis Fowl books," states Loehr, who noted that when deliberating about acquiring a book in this genre she often weighs its crossover potential. In hopes of tapping into the adult market, Random House will in August 2004 release four backlist fantasies by Tamora Pierce in trade paperback with more sophisticated cover art (previously, the author's novels have been released first in hardcover and then in mass market and have been shelved primarily in children's sections). Arthur Levine says that what is most important to him when acquiring a title is genuine excitement for the book; after that comes, in his words, "the question—and then the challenge—of reaching the greatest number of readers of all ages for the author. Fantasy is one of the most flexible genres. It is one of the few genres in which the same book can be read by an adult and a 12-year-old—comfortably and without any explanation."
And will the fantasy fanfare continue? All answers are a bit equivocal, given the chronic onshore and offshore movement of publishing waves. But fantasy fans, by all reports, are passionate—and loyal. Says November, "The middle-grade years are a fertile time for fantasy. When you lock a reader into the genre at the age of 12 or 13, you have a fantasy reader for life. And that's a very good thing." Which begs the question: can readers of all ages hope that Harry Potter will still be wielding his wand at the age of 40?
A Look at the Books
The hefty number of forthcoming children's fantasy releases bears testament to the healthy state of the genre. Scholastic sends news of a dozen titles due out between late spring of this year and spring of next year. Garth Nix's seven-part Keys to the Kingdom series kicks off in July with Mister Monday, which introduces a boy who must unravel the secret of the unusual key that has come into his possession. His quest continues in Grim Tuesday, due out in January 2004. The Capture, a June title, is the first of six novels that make up Guardians of Ga'Hoole by Kathy Lasky, a series centering on a barn owl that must defeat the great evil that threatens to destroy the owl kingdom. The series flies on with The Journey, a September release. That same month, Orchard will issue Charlie Bone and the Time Twister, book two in Jenny Nimmo's five-part Midnight for Charlie Bone series. The next installment of this saga about a boy who inherits the mysterious magical powers of the Red King is Charlie Bone and the Invisible Boy, due in spring 2004.
September will also bring Scholastic's Gregor the Overlander, the first of five books by Suzanne Collins featuring a boy who finds himself in the dark Underland, where humans coexist with giant spiders, rats and bats until their fragile peace is destroyed. A family of werewolves face prejudice and persecution in Patrick Jennings's The Wolving Time, an October title. Fall releases from the publisher's Chicken House imprint include Quadehar the Sorcerer by Erik L'homme, the debut title in the Book of the Stars Trilogy, set in a land ruled by magic and knights; and Cornelia Funke's Inkheart, which tells of a book restorer forced to reveal his secret: when he reads a book aloud, the characters come to life. Cold Tom by Sally Prue, whose title character is part elfin and part demon, rolls off press this month. And scheduled for publication next March by Arthur A. Levine Books is The Singer of All Songs by Kate Constable, launching Chanters of Tremaris, a trilogy imported from Australia. Singer introduces the sisters of Antaris, who live behind a high ice wall and practice a form of magic worked through music.
HarperCollins will publish 10 fantasies for children in the upcoming months. Due in August is The Wolves in the Walls, a graphic novel by Neil Gaiman, the tale of a girl who battles wolves that emerge from the walls. September releases include a trio of books by Diana Wynne Jones: Aunt Maria, in which Mig's brother is turned into a wolf by their evil aunt; Power of Three, introducing three children who must use their psychic gifts to save the moor from a deadly curse; and Wild Robert, the story of a girl who awakens a mischievous witch from the 1630s. Terry Pratchett's trilogy about the adventures of diminutive "nomes" will be released in October in a single volume, The Bromeliad Trilogy: Truckers, Diggers, and Wings. Due that same month is Nirvana's Children by Ranulfo, a debut YA novel presenting a story of self-discovery on the streets and on the edge of sanity. Also scheduled for October release is Erin Hunter's Forest of Secrets, the third installment in the Warriors series featuring fierce warrior cats; and Rowan and the Ice Creepers, Emily Rodda's finale to her series starring this young hero. Moving cities are at the center of Mortal Engines by Philip Reeve, due in November. And in March The Oracle Betrayed by Catherine Fisher launches a trilogy of intrigue, sacrifice and redemption.
Hyperion's forthcoming fantasy offerings include a novel by an author familiar to young fans of the genre. Eoin Colfer, creator of the Artemis Fowl books, has penned The Wish List, an October release in which the demonic and the divine race to win a girl's soul. Due that same month from Hyperion/Miramax Books is The Amulet of Samarkand, the first book in Jonathan Stroud's the Bartimaeus Trilogy, about a young magician and the djinni he summons. Publishers in more than 20 countries will release their editions of this novel simultaneously. Miramax has optioned movie rights to the trilogy, whose launch Hyperion will support with a seven-city author tour. And scheduled for publication in fall 2004 is The Ratastrophe Catastrophe, the first installment of the three-part The Illmoor Chronicles by David Lee Stone, a 25-year-old British writer who began creating the fantasy world portrayed in the series at the age of 10.
A book by another author whose creativity emerged at a young age is among the fantasies due from the various imprints of Random House Children's Books. Slated for August release by Knopf is Eragon, the debut novel in The Inheritance Trilogy by Christopher Paolini. A Montana native home-schooled by his parents, he began writing the novel when he graduated from high school at the age of 15 and self-published an edition of the book in February 2002. New fantasies from Random House Books for Young Readers include a May title, Jeanne DuPrau's The City of Ember, a first novel introducing two young protagonists who live in a perpetually dark city that is the last refuge for the human race; and Trickster's Choice, due in September, which is the first of two novels by Tamora Pierce centering on Alianne, the daughter of Alanna from the author's Song of the Lioness quartet.
Among next year's fantasy releases for RHCB are The Various by Steve Augarde, a January release from David Fickling Books that recounts a girl's adventures with a band of fairies; and Colman by the late Monica Furlong, the final installment of the trilogy that began with Wise Child and Juniper. Hardcover reissues of these earlier novels will be published to coincide with Colman's February release and all three books will feature new cover art by Leo and Diane Dillon.
Another Random House imprint, Del Rey, recently launched its Image program, established to reissue and repackage classic science fiction and fantasy novels from the Del Rey backlist. The line's inaugural releases are the three volumes in Terry Brooks's The Sword of Shannara trilogy. These will be followed in August by Have Space Suit—Will Travel, Robert A. Heinlein's tale of a young man who wins a space suit in a contest. Due in November is another Heinlein novel, Tunnel in the Sky, which reveals the plight of high school students stranded on a faraway planet. Rounding out this year's Image offerings is Alan Dean Foster's Orphan Star, an early entry in the author's Pip & Flinx series about a boy and his miniature dragon. Among the six titles Image will release in 2004 are novels by Anne McCaffrey, Christopher Stasheff and David Eddings.
The imprints that fall under the umbrella of Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers have a variety of fantasy ventures underway. S&S in February released Kenneth Oppel's Firewing, a companion novel to Silverwing and Sunwing, chronicling the adventures of Shade's son, Griffin, in the Underworld. Appearing in May under this same imprint were The Field Guide and The Seeing Stone, the first two installments of The Spiderwick Chronicles, a five-part serial created by Holly Black and Tony DiTerlizzi that focuses on three siblings who move into an old house inhabited by mischievous faeries, goblins and other creatures. The story continues in October with Lucinda's Secret and wraps up with installments due out next April and July. This month S&S is issuing Among the Betrayed, the latest book in The Shadow Children series by Margaret Peterson Haddix, to be followed by Among the Brave in 2004. Launching S&S's The Book of Sorahb by Hilari Hell in October is Flame, a tale of danger, honor and magic in which an enemy approaches the homeland of three young protagonists. In May Atheneum published Ann Downer's Hatching Magic, the tale of a girl in contemporary Massachusetts who encounters some lost travelers from 13th-century England.
Recent and upcoming Aladdin paperback fantasy releases include additions to two series: The Pendragon Quartet by D.J. MacHale gains The Lost City of Faar (January), The Never War (May) and The Reality Bug (September); and Kathleen Dewey's The Unicorn Secret welcomes True Heart (April), Castle Avamir (August) and The Journey Home (December). October will bring Aladdin's A Wizard Named Nell, the inaugural volume in The Keepers series by Jackie French Koller, set in a magical world where witches and wizards live alongside humans. This will be followed by The Wizard's Apprentice in December and a third installment in February 2004. And Aladdin will publish digest-size reissues of Anne McCaffrey's The Harper Hall Trilogy (Dragonsong, Dragonsinger and Dragondrums) in June, when Simon Pulse will release rack-size editions of these titles.
Penguin Young Readers Group also offers a spectrum of fantasy tales from its various imprints. Dutton this month publishes The Claidi Collection, which compiles the three first books in Tanith Lee's Claidi series (Wolf Tower, Wolf Star and Wolf Queen). This imprint in November will issue The Boy Who Spoke Dog by Clay Morgan, the tale of a boy who washes up on a mysterious island and discovers he can communicate with the wild dogs there. Due in September from Viking is A Stir of Bones by Nina Kiriki Hoffman, which tells of a group of youngsters who sneak into an abandoned house and find that the dwelling is a living, supernatural thing. This same month, Philomel will publish Brian Jacques's Loamhedge, in which Redwall warriors search for an ancient abbey. Also scheduled for September publication is the Firebird imprint's first hardcover, Firebirds, an anthology of fantasy and science fiction writing by such authors as Lloyd Alexander, Nancy Farmer, Garth Nix and Nancy Springer. Firebird in the fall will release new paperback editions of Pamela Dean's The Secret Country Trilogy, out of print for more than a decade: The Secret Country, The Hidden Land and The Whim of the Dragon. And debuting from Dial in December is Lionboy by Zizou Corder, the first novel in a trilogy centering on a boy who acquired the ability to speak Cat when he was scratched by a leopard as a baby.
From Farrar, Straus & Giroux comes an October fantasy release, Dia Calhoun's White Midnight. A companion to Firegold, which tells of a teenager who is given the chance to free her family from servitude—but at a price. The publisher also reissued paperback editions of Calhoun's Firegold and Aria of the Sea this spring.
Woe and worry continues to plague the hapless young hero of Philip Ardagh's Eddie Dickens Trilogy, which comes to an end with Terrible Times, which Holt will publish in September. (This same month, Scholastic will issue the first of its paperback reprints of the series' installments, A House Called Awful End.) Ardagh's fans can look forward to more tongue-in-cheek misery with Holt's launch of the author's latest series, Unlikely Exploits, in spring 2004. In the inaugural volume, The Fall of Fergal, set in a country that is suffering from an outbreak of very large holes, the title character plummets to his death on the very first page.
One of the debut titles from Tor's new Tor Teen line of fiction is First Meetings in the Enderverse by Orson Scott Card, an August hardcover that collects four novellas in the author's Ender's Saga. A September addition to the imprint is New Skies, an anthology of science fiction by such authors as Jack Vance, Philip K. Dick and Neil Gaiman, edited by Patrick Nielson Hayden. A companion volume, New Magics, will follow in January 2004. Upcoming Tor Teen paperback reprints in the fantasy genre include Emma Bull's Finder, three volumes in Jane Yolen's Book of Lights series (Sister Light, Sister Dark;White Jenna; and The One-Armed Queen), Briar Rose by Yolen, Wildside by Steven Gould; and Ben Bova's City of Darkness.
Among the fantasy releases from Tor's Starscape imprint are three paperback novels by Robert Jordan, due in January: The Hunt Begins and New Thread in the Pattern, parts one and two of The Great Hunt Breakup; and a prequel to Wheel of Time. December will bring a trade paperback edition of J.M. Barrie's Peter Pan, with new illustrations by Charles Vess. And new or forthcoming Starscape reprints include Red Unicorn by Tanith Lee, In the Land of the Lawn Weenies and Other Misadventures by David Lubar, The Eye of the Heron by Ursula K. Le Guin, Timothy Zahn's Dragon and Thief: A Dragonback Adventure and Beyond the Hanging Wall by Sara Douglass.
Client Distribution Services will in July release Song of the Universe, the first volume in a six-part series from Red Sky Entertainment, Avalon—Quest for Magic by Rachel Roberts. CDS this same month will reissue the six books in Roberts's earlier series, Avalon—Web of Magic, originally published by Scholastic.
And Wizards of the Coast this month launches its Young Adult Readers Program with a pair of books, Rumor of Dragons and Night of the Dragons by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman. These two tales together comprised the first installment of the trilogy, The Dragonlance Chronicles, when it was published almost 20 years ago. Four additional volumes in the series will follow. And next year this publisher will release the debut title in a series of novels based on the fantasy world inspired by the Dungeons & Dragons game.