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‘Dorky’ and ‘Wimpy’ characters captivate young readers

School life stories a hit with pre-teens and young adults at reading festival bookstalls

  • The popular books according to the exhibitors at Sharjah Children’s Reading Festival 2017Image Credit: Ahmed Ramzan/Gulf News
  • Students from Sharjah Secondary Model School.Image Credit: Ahmed Ramzan/Gulf News
Gulf News

Sharjah: Book series portraying ordinary school life or teens in fantasy realms are all the rage with young readers today, major exhibitors at the Sharjah Children’s Reading Festival (SCRF) said on Thursday.

Speaking to Gulf News at SCRF — running till April 29 at the Expo Centre, exhibitors said young readers relate to characters and themes which in many cases are slices from their own lives.

On the other hand, also popular are extraordinary teen characters overcoming immense odds in fantasy worlds.

Popular series among them include the Dork Diaries, Dairy of a Wimpy Kid, Percy Jackson and Geronimo Stilton — although Stilton is an adult, besides being a mouse that can talk. Books by John Green and David Walliams [sic] are also in strong demand.

The series are prominently displayed at bookstalls at SCRF, with prices ranging between Dh30 and Dh60.

Dork Diaries, written and illustrated by Rachel Renee Russell, is the personal diary of middle school student Nikki Maxwell, who faces a new situation in each series, from fitting in to finding friends.

The Dairy of a Wimpy Kid books, written by Jeff Kinney, are the journals of schoolboy Greg Heffley, featuring handwritten notes and sketches, as would be expected in a teen’s personal journal.

“These series are a continuation; you read one book, you want to read the other because you want to know what happens next. These are the main hits in the market today, they’re very popular. Even schools and teachers will recommend them,” said Vinod Kumar, a purchaser at Jashanmal Bookstore, one of UAE’s biggest booksellers.

Joeven Canaria, a member of the sales staff at WHSmith, a major British book retailer, also mentioned the same series when asked about fast-moving children’s books. He added that Pokémon books “are also coming up because of the hit game Pokémon Go”.

Qassim Juma, manager of Barnes Noble Bookstore [sic], Bahrain, said John Green books, which have been made into movies, are doing well. “It helps sales when there’s a movie out and you also see the book in the store,” Juma added. Green’s characters revolve around the themes of coming of age.

Meanwhile, Percy Jackson has also captured the imagination of many young readers, exhibitors said. The series, written by Rick Riordan, is about a pre-teen with learning difficulties who discovers, as he gets older, that he has super powers because of his connection to Greek mythology.

Continuing to intrigue young readers are classics such as Oliver Twist and Tom Sawyer books, Kumar said. “Classics never fade. They have interesting storylines, strong characters and are well-written. Parents and schools also continue to ask children to read them,” he added.

Exhibitors also said that the Harry Potter series, which numbered seven titles over the years, are still seeing healthy sales.

The 11-day SCRF features over 120 exhibitors from around 20 countries. Entry to the event is free and open to all. It also features hundreds of activities, galleries and contests.

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