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Four Observations on the Best-Selling Children’s Books of 2012

Cash Four Observations on the Best Selling Childrens Books of 2012

I just read the Publishers Weekly article The Bestselling Children’s Books of 2012. A few thoughts…

1. The rise of the Dork
How about the Dork Diaries series taking two of the top six hardcover frontlist spots? When that series first appeared I didn’t think it would make that sort of a splash. But Dork Diaries have been on fire this year in my school libraries, so I could sense they were reaching critical mass. Given all that student interest, seeing them on the list isn’t a complete shock.

2. Seuss 4EVA
After the Hunger Games craziness at the top, the hardcover backlist bestsellers are dominated by Seuss. Five out of ten. Good to see the Geisel obsession continue.

3. The Giver keeps on giving
After The Hunger Games, what is the bestselling backlist paperback? Our 1994 Newbery winner The Giver. I was surprised until I remembered that the final book in that series, Son, came out in 2012, which likely boosted sales.

4. Disappearing Potter
The article mentions it, but it’s worth repeating – Harry Potter is almost entirely absent this year. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone is the lone representative, coming in at #53 on the paperback backlist chart. Color me shocked!

Anything you notice?

(Top Image: ‘Change Please‘ Found on

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About Travis Jonker

Travis Jonker is an elementary school librarian in Michigan. He writes reviews (and the occasional article or two) for School Library Journal and is a member of the 2014 Caldecott committee. You can email Travis at, or follow him on Twitter: @100scopenotes.


  1. I’m totally with you on #4! I wouldn’t have guessed that at all.

    Two other things I noticed: 1) Back when I actually worked a desk, I didn’t think of those James Patterson books as being all that popular, so I was surprised to see a whole slew of them on the list. And 2) It’s interesting how little crossover there is between bestseller lists and the books we spend time on in awards discussions. We reviewed 62 frontlist titles last year for Newbery-ness, and exactly two of them show up on the hardcover frontlist bestsellers: WONDER (#29), and LIAR & SPY (a barely-sneaking-in #93).

    • Travis Jonker says:

      Thanks for adding your thoughts, Sam!

    • Steffaney Smith says:

      Sam, it’s a librarian’s dilemma — dividing purchases into commercial and literary categories. The really interesting lists are the bookstore bestseller lists and the library top circulating lists. There is actually more well-reviewed material checked out from libraries. “Fluff” is good, but they need to be getting to the “meat” of the books with literary merit, too. I can’t tell you how frustrating it is to try to hand out “One and Only Ivan” and get no takers; even after I show them the book trailer. And then they’ll leave with Babymouse…

  2. I’m not at all surprised by the lack of Harry Potter. No new movies or books after all. That said, if a new HP book comes out, I’m sure it will shoot right up to the top of the best seller list.

  3. Claire Scott says:

    I’m taking a minute to be thrilled that two of the top six spots are held by an African-American woman writing an immensely popular just-for-fun series! I field requests for Dork Diaries every day from a huge range of kids who are choosing them independently, rather than having them assigned or suggested by adults. (Not dissing adult recs to kids, and obvs it would be amazing if Jacqueline Woodson or the McKissacks or other, more “literary,” authors of color had that kind of fan following, and it’s true that the books themselves aren’t my cup of tea as an adult reader… but I love that Rachel Renee Russell is in the mix. Especially when my urban kids are doing reports on African-American authors and I get to say, well, here’s Walter Myers and here’s Nikki Grimes and here’s DORK DIARIES and then their heads explode.)

  4. Claire Scott says:

    To clarify: it’s not unalloyed happiness. I’d hoped that Ruby & The Booker Boys (Derrick Barnes) or Dyamonde Daniel (Nikki Grimes) would take off like this too, and it’s entirely likely that part of the Dork Diaries success is due to the cultural/systemic racism in publishing, America, etc — since Nikki, on every cover, is pretty clearly white. Maybe having Zoey on the cover would have changed the book’s reception or pushed it into an imagined “niche”. So, you know, it’s not ALL I want.

    But I’m still happy about this step, even though we’ve still got a long way to go.

  5. Jan Staley says:

    I’m not amazed by the drop in Harry Potter sales. Everyone in the literate world already owns at least one copy of each title!

  6. Tom Angleberger says:

    The list is a little misleading… Thrid Wheel, for example didn’t come out until November, giving it just two months to rack up sales, while other books had much more time.

    However, the power of The Dork Diaries is indeed amazing. Witness her rank on the readkiddoread voting. She has something like 59% of the vote. All the rest of us together couldn’t topple her!

    Also, the DD ladies are so wonderfully nice! So who can begrudge them their runaway success? Not me!

  7. Urban says:

    I’ve got to hold my hand up for #4 here as well. It seems like it was over a decade ago this all began. But the winning formula continues to win as that generation grew up and the next is still enjoying it. In fact the constant chart topping of Seuss says a lot for that series as well. Imagine what he would have kept on making if he stuck around all these years? The world may be different,

  8. Rachael says:

    Man, The Poky Little Puppy has some serious staying power! It’s like the unsung hero of children’s lit history. I have a shirt bearing its image, and it engenders an amazing amount of “SQUEEE! I LOVE THAT BOOK!” from strangers.

  9. Tara Lazar says:

    My daughter just turned 10 and is just getting into Harry Potter. She has classmates who began the series in 2nd grade. It seems to be popular among her friends, so I am surprised to hear that it’s not at the top anymore. Then again, they’re such a diverse range of books these days to match every taste–a lot for kids to choose from. They’re lucky ducks.

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