If you have a child with a Vancouver library card, there’s a good chance you have taken home a “Wimpy Kid” book in the past couple of years.
Data from the Vancouver Public Library reveals that the nine-book series by Jeff Kinney dominates the lists of most checked-out children’s titles, with “Wimpy Kid” books taking the top two spots for each of the past three years.
At The Vancouver Sun’s request, the VPL provided data on the most popular adult, young adult and children’s books for 2012, 2013 and 2014.
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According to the data, adult books typically remain popular for only a short time.
For example, “Death Comes to Pemberley” by P.D. James, the most popular adult book in 2012 with 1,893 total checkouts, didn’t even make the Top 20 in 2013. Similarly, “The Casual Vacancy” by J.K. Rowling — 2013’s top book with 1,558 checkouts — is nowhere to be found on this year’s Top 20, which is instead topped by Khaled Hosseini’s “And The Mountains Echoed” (1,356 checkouts to date).
In contrast, the data reveals that kids and teens have far more consistent tastes, going back to the same trilogies and book series again and again.
Four of the Top 10 most checked-out children’s books in 2014 were “Wimpy Kid” titles, led by “Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Hard Luck” which was checked out a total of 1,995 times.
And while the exact title has changed from year to year, “Wimpy Kid” books have been the most checked-out kids book, and the second most checked-out, for each of the past three years. And in 2012, the top three books were all “Wimpy Kid” titles.
Julia McKnight, a children’s librarian at VPL, said the “Wimpy Kid” series — written in the style of a middle-school kid’s hand-written diary — seems to really resonate with younger readers.
“I think kids can really put themselves into the story,” she said.
While not nearly as popular as “Wimpy”, Rick Riordan’s “Heroes of Olympus” series and Lincoln Peirce’s “Big Nate” series have also been consistently popular among young library goers, taking several spots among the Top 20 each year.
McKnight said younger readers, more so than adults, seem to gravitate to the familiar when making their reading choices, which helps explain the popularity of book series.
“They develop a familiarity with the setting and they bond with the characters,” she said. “Even when kids get attached to a stand-alone title, they tend to come back to the library saying, ‘Can you give me more like this?’”
Like their younger siblings, teens’ taste in books has also been pretty consistent in recent years, the data shows.
The three books in Suzanne Collins’ “Hunger Games” trilogy — “The Hunger Games”, “Catching Fire” and “Mockingjay” — were the three most checked-out young adult books in both 2012 and 2013.
However, Collins has some competition this year from Veronica Roth, whose book “Allegiant” — the third title in her “Divergent” trilogy — took the top spot with 1,171 total checkouts. The other two titles in Roth’s trilogy, “Divergent” and “Insurgent”, were also in the top five this year.
The data suggests teens’ reading habits are heavily influenced by what is in movie theatres.
The popularity of the Collins’ books roughly coincides with the release of the “Hunger Games” movies beginning in 2012. And the only “Hunger Games” book to remain in the Top 5 this year — “Mockingjay” — is the subject of this year’s movie.
Similarly, Roth’s surging popularity is likely due to the release of the first “Divergent” movie in March.
Aside from Roth and Collins, the data shows that Cassandra Clare’s “Mortal Instruments” series of fantasy novels and Pittacus Lore’s “Lorien Legacies” series of science fiction books have also been consistently popular among teen readers over the past three years.
VPL said it does its best to keep up with demand for popular titles, typically ordering one copy for every six people on the waiting list for a book.
It also keeps a close eye on the condition of its books, as they tend to deteriorate the more times they are checked out.
“The Diary of a Wimpy Kids books get destroyed pretty fast,” said McKnight. “We are constantly having to check those titles for condition and get new copies of them.”