Choosing the best children’s books for our subscription boxes

Published on Wednesday, January 16, 2019

The Jewelled Jaguar book and activity pack

One of the questions we are asked most often is ‘how do you choose the books you send to subscribers?' We are always pleased to be able to reassure customers that we have read (and re-read) every single book we send, plus many more in our efforts to shortlist the most appropriate for our boxes. More often than not we’ve also road-tested them on our own children (and we would never send a book that we wouldn’t share with them). Here are the things that we look for when we’re shortlisting titles:

Something a bit different

Our subscriptions are a great way of discovering new books, authors and series. There are so many amazing children’s books and the choice can be overwhelming, which is one reason why we think kids and parents very often end up going back to the same favourite authors and series. We know it can be difficult to find something new or to encourage your kids to break out of a reading rut. And that’s where we can help. We work hard to keep ourselves fully up-to-date with the whole of the children’s publishing landscape and to choose titles that we don’t think you will have easily discovered for yourselves. After all, there’s no point us sending you the latest David Walliams or Jacqueline Wilson, or an old favourite by Roald Dahl, when you can easily find those books for yourselves – and probably already have them on your bookshelves! So that means no bestsellers, no classics, no celebrity authors.

We look for books that are flying under the radar for whatever reason. We work directly with a whole range of publishers, including lots of independent publishers, who are publishing great books but don’t get the same shelf space in Waterstones and don’t have the same marketing budgets as the big hitters (author and blogger Dawn Finch recently wrote a great piece on how this impacts our reading habits). We also look for new and emerging authors, authors you might not yet have heard of but who we think are doing great work and have a big future.

Books for boys AND girls

Let kids be kids and let books be books! We don’t believe in books for boys and books for girls, but we do believe in books for all. Everyone in each of our reading categories gets the same book each month – it’s a book club, after all. Therefore, it’s important that all our title selections are gender neutral, so when we are researching books for our subscription boxes we deliberately avoid titles that are pitched and packaged specifically for one particular gender or the other. We make sure that our book selections represent a balance of male and female characters, so that over the course of a subscription you will meet a whole range of heroes and heroines. We also work hard to find titles that represent BAME characters – something that is still sadly lacking in children’s literature. Diversity in children’s publishing is a topic of much discussion in the industry at the moment and there are lots of great initiatives aimed at redressing the balance (with a special mention for the fantastic work being done by the founders of #ReadTheOnePercent). Making sure our title choices represent ALL readers is always at the front of our minds.

Kurt Gets Truckloads book and activity pack

Great books to inspire great book chat

It goes without saying that we are looking for the best books in children’s fiction, the cream of the crop, and that the quality of the books we send is as high as it can be. Actually, there is a much bigger debate to be had about good books vs. bad books (is there such a thing?) – and for the record we firmly believe that any book that gets a kid reading for pleasure is a good thing. But it’s important to us that the books we send are of the highest quality in terms of their content and presentation, and that the stories within them have enough narrative and thematic depth to inspire a meaningful discussion. The activity packs we create to send along with our books each month always include a set of book club-style questions, designed to encourage our subscribers to think a bit more deeply about what they are reading and relate it to their own experiences. We also include a range of activities with each book, from arts and crafts to word games, facts, recipes and more – all inspired by that month’s book. Our title selections therefore represent a whole range of themes and genres.

We’ve had some fantastic feedback from our subscribers and their parents on the books they’ve received, which makes all the hard work that goes into choosing them worthwhile. If you have any questions about our book club and how it works, please don’t hesitate to get in touch or check out our FAQs.

Happy reading!