When the first edition of Chicken Soup for the Teenage Soul published in 1997, today’s teenagers weren’t yet born and the book included, among other passages, a poem that referred to “Dear Abby” and Billy Graham as sources of advice in 20¢ newspapers. The updates made for the August release of the book’s 25th anniversary edition point to some of the considerations children’s publishers take into account when revamping older titles to better appeal to modern readers.
August also brings a 20th-anniversary edition of Chicken Soup for the Preteen Soul. Sales of that book doubled in 2020 compared with 2019, says Amy Newmark, publisher and editor-in-chief of Chicken Soup for the Soul, as parents sought titles for their kids to read while home during the pandemic. Teenage Soul’s sales also enjoyed a bump, and Newmark saw the interest as auguring well for revised editions. Each book received a new cover and updated interior design, with some of the more dated stories swapped out for new ones: 20 for the preteen book and 25 for the teen title.
Other publishers treating older children’s books to makeovers include Random House, which in March will release a 25th-anniversary edition of Christopher Paul Curtis’s The Watsons Go to Birmingham—1963 (ages eight to 12) under its Yearling imprint. The reissue includes a new cover, a new foreword and afterword by the author, a map of the Watsons’ journey, and essays on the book’s legacy by 10 authors, including Jason Reynolds and Elizabeth Acevedo, plus five librarians. Melanie Nolan, v-p and publisher at Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers, says the Black Lives Matter protests of 2020 gave the novel, set at a pivotal point in the civil rights movement, new relevance, and takes the issue of racial justice “out of the headlines and makes it accessible to children and parents.”
In June, Knopf is publishing a new illustrated edition of The Golden Compass, which in 1996 launched Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials series. Nolan says the HBO adaptation has boosted the books’ popularity among adult readers, and the new edition, with more than 100 illustrations by Chris Wormell, is a way to reach the younger readers who were its original audience.
Candlewick is marking anniversaries of two popular series this year: the Stink middle grade books by Megan McDonald are celebrating 15 years, and for younger kids, the Maisy books by Lucy Cousins are turning 30. Though both series are getting new looks, Karen Walsh, executive director of publicity, points out that anniversaries are more attractive to retailers “when they’re supported by a marketing campaign with a consumer-facing component” vs. simply a revamped cover.
To that end, says Karen Lotz, group managing director, president, and publisher, the press will focus on summer reading for Stink, with McDonald creating videos highlighting the books’ STEM themes. For Maisy, the publisher is offering Maisy playhouse displays for bookstores, and giveaway items that include a growth chart and temporary tattoos.