I used to work in children's publishing and in the last few years have been in and out of the loop. I love children's books and although I am currently part of a children's reading group, I always feel like I'm not reading enough of the new stuff--which is how I felt when I was an editor! I saw that in a recent post you gave advice that a good editor has to read a lot of children's books and "speak intelligently about the books that are our current competition" and is "good at predicting reader and market response." At work, I'm trying to plan a program around children's books--can you suggest one or two good web-sites that would bring me up to date with the market/awards and help me keep current? And being outside of publishing right now, is there a way to still predict that reader/market response? I guess I'd like to keep myself "fit", if you will, regardless of whether or not I return to the industry.Spending a lot of time in bookstores is a good first step-- not only reading, but thinking about what sections and displays they have, what books are on those displays, what books are not.
Enroll in a mock Newbery and a mock Caldecott (and possibly other mocks) in December/January. Then read the actual winners and honor books in the various ALA awards. Spend some time with the Notables Lists (there's gold in there).
Check out other awards, like the National Book Awards, the Edgars, the ODell, the Horn Book...
Watch the NYT bestseller lists and read those books, and think about what appeals to people about them (whether it appeals to you or not). Read the trends. (I am not so into zombie books, but I've read three or four of the new ones.)
Keep up. Read mostly new books. That way when you browse Booklist, PW, the Horn Book, SLJ, Kirkus, etc, you'll already know something about the books being reviewed, and you'll learn more from the reviews.
Find ways to talk to other people about books. Other perspectives and opinions about books are fascinating, and remind you to think about things in new ways. That's an important skill for editors, and it's a good skill for everyone else.
... And if all of this is sounding like a lot to do, IT IS. (Which is why only the people who really enjoy this work make it far in the industry.) It's also a load of fun. I get to the counter of bookstores with a pile of cool books, and I think with secret glee, "This is my job!"