Kira Vermond is the author of the new children's book Trending: How and Why Stuff Gets Popular. Her other books include Half Truths and Brazen Lies and Why Don't Cars Run on Apple Juice?. She lives in Guelph, Ontario.
Q: How did you come up with the idea for Trending, and for the objects and ideas you discuss in the book?
A: I have no recollection of how I came up with the idea. With every other book, I remember.
I think I was sitting in front of the computer and I assumed there would be tons of books on fads and trends—it’s such a kid thing, it’s part of their lives—and there was nothing.
It was an easy sell—nobody’s done this! But it was a hard sell—nobody knows where to put this on the shelf. My books are all weird!
Q: How did you research the book, and what did you learn that especially surprised you?
A: It was four or five years ago now. A lot of research went into it—I read everything I could. One article would lead to another and another.
I almost researched the entire book before I did the proposal. I was so into the topic, I felt it wasn’t finished. I’m a journalist by training, and to take a year and a half was strange for me.
I was looking at what my daughter was into. She was 10 at the time and it’s great to have a kid that age. They were all doing slime—I knew that was definitely going into the book.
There’s the unicorn Frappuccino, done by Starbucks. The lore was that it began in Toronto. My daughter and I went to Toronto and ordered it. It was horrible but so colorful and beautiful.
Q: The book includes some funny trends, like hula hoops, and also some serious topics, like the discussion of malicious propaganda. What did you see as the right balance in the book?
A: I think I always wanted the book to be more than hula hoops. I wanted to dig into the darker side of trends and look at why we follow the herd. We think about fun fads, but when I was doing research into the psychology of why we follow trends, it is dark.
I wanted to go from light and frothy to [serious]. It’s a great way to do the book—at first kids will think it’s a fun book. It’s pulling them gently into tough topics like Nazi Germany and the anti-vaccine movement.
Q: What do you think Clayton Hanmer’s illustrations add to the book?
A: It’s our third book together. He was the very first illustrator I worked with. I love this man! I can give him anything and he can draw it.
There’s a cartoon in the book of “the thing you always wanted since last week”—I never reveal what the fad is. Does it matter? They’re all the same. I wondered how he would illustrate this. When you look at the cartoon, it’s brilliant. He pulls it off.
Q: What do you hope kids take away from the book?
A: I hope they take away a sense of control—that they can look at what’s happening in the world, whether it’s hula hoops or people hoarding toilet paper, and understand what’s going on. That they don’t necessarily have to be pulled into the chaos.
That if a cool kid comes into class with awesome new shoes, they can feel a little jealous, and may want to jump on the trend, but they could step back and say why do I want this so much? To fit in? Or that there are so many other things about me that are worthwhile.
I hope they think, I am lovable. I can make friends without these fancy shoes.
Research says adults follow trends to keep up with the Joneses, to impress other people. Kids do it to fit in.
Q: What are you working on now?
A: Right before the pandemic, I went through cancer treatment. I’m 47, and knock wood everything worked. There’s an article I wrote that talks about that year—I worked on my books while hooked up [for treatment].
In the middle of that, I was still working on Trending, and it was released at the beginning of the pandemic. It’s appropriate—it’s a book about how things go viral.
I’ve written another book since then, which is out next year, a science book for kids. It’s the next one after Why Don’t Cars Run on Apple Juice?. It was good to have a fun book to write at the end of my treatment.
Now I have a stack of ideas. I’m writing picture books, I’m working on a middle grade novel, and I have ideas for nonfiction books.
Q: Anything else we should know?
A: I’m working on creating a podcast based on this book.
--Interview with Deborah Kalb