Julie Matysik’s 3-year-old daughter can’t read or write yet, but she knows she’s a Pisces. “She goes around and she asks people, ‘So what is your sign?’ ” Matysik said. “They’re like, ‘Excuse me?’ ”
They’re not covering astrology at preschool or on Sesame Street just yet. But with a new spate of astrology books for babies in stores—one of which Matysik wrote for the publisher where she works as editorial director, Running Press—it might not be long before your child, too, is identifying as a little Leo or a tiny Taurus.
It all comes back to millennials’ passion for astrology, as documented in years of trend pieces. Millennials, most commonly defined as people who were born between 1981 and 1996, are now between the ages of 24 and 39, meaning that one thing they’re doing in droves, albeit at lower rates than their parents, is having babies. And now, book publishers are betting that twenty- and thirtysomethings who have spent the past few years downloading astrology apps and double-tapping memes about their sun signs will want to introduce their little ones to the wonders of the zodiac.
This month, Chronicle Books is publishing 12 Little Zodiac books, one for each sign, and Doubleday Books for Young Readers is coming out with the final four of its Baby Astrology series. (The first eight went on sale earlier this year.) These titles will join bookstore shelves already stacked with other astrology-for-tots tomes that have debuted in the past year: Running Press’ aforementioned My First Horoscope, Sterling’s My Stars series, and, from Imprint, Mind Body Baby: Astrology. All are board books (i.e., the books with pages thick enough to endure babies putting them in their mouths) and are aimed at children ages 0–3 or 0–4.
Will infants, who typically struggle to grasp object permanence, be able to grok the concept of astrology? Publishers aren’t worried. “It’s not, obviously, a full deep dive,” said Erin Stein, the publisher of Imprint, a division of Macmillan Children’s Publishing Group. “We simplified it as much as we could, but the basics are in there.”
Authors and editors admitted they don’t expect babies to be able to name all 12 signs or even remember their own—and that’s true even of Aquarius and Scorpio babies (the brains of the zodiac). They understand very well that it’s not babies who actually buy books.
“All children’s books are a little bit of a projection of the adult giving that book to the child,” Stein said.
“Really, with any board book, you’re reading it to such a young kid that it is kind of this balancing act of ‘What is here for the child, and what is here for the parent?’ ” said Daria Harper, the author of the Little Zodiac series and an assistant editor at Chronicle. Harper said that with Chronicle’s books, parents will get to spend time thinking about (a very broad version of) a topic they like, and babies meanwhile will get bright colors, characters, narrative, and rhymes.
Harper said that within her publishing house, enthusiasm for the project has been high from the get-go, a reflection of the current vogue for astrology. She said there was hardly a peep of dissent from the sales department—some eye-rolls here and there, but no real protests that maybe it wasn’t a good idea to teach kids a—ahem—pseudoscience. “If it was 10 years ago, I think it would have been a very different conversation,” she said.
In fact, Imprint’s Mind Body Baby: Astrology is part of a very à la mode four-book series that purports to boil down the New Age for ages 0 and up. Other titles focus on chakras, meditation, and crystals—all, again, for babies. Stein said the timing felt right to try it: In addition to the mainstreamification of astrology and other spiritual practices, she situated the series as part of the recent tongue-in-cheek trend in children’s publishing of baby books that offer extremely abridged versions of classic literature or promise to teach complicated disciplines like quantum physics and rocket science to children who are still in diapers.
Matysik, the editor who worked on My First Horoscope and the mother of the 3-year-old Pisces, said that as kids get older and their attention spans grow, parents can linger on the pages and go into more detail about the information these books offer. She said her 1-year-old son can sit through the book, whereas her daughter has started to really engage with it.
She suspects that for kids her daughter’s age, one appeal of astrology may be that it relates back to something they’re already obsessed with: “My daughter is fascinated, as I think most toddlers are, by birthdays, always wanting to know when her birthday is, how old she’s gonna be, when other people’s birthdays are.”
While the books’ authors and editors were aware that it didn’t really matter if they successfully imparted the finer points of astrology to babies, they still wanted them to pass muster with the zodiac-obsessed adults who might be reading them to those babies. As Matysik put it, “I didn’t want people who are really into astrology to feel like this was totally made up.”
Harper knew she had six spreads, with two rhyming lines each, to capture the essence of each sign. She said she found herself asking questions like: “What’s the scene to show Aquarius doesn’t get ruffled in a crisis? What’s a crisis that kids have?” Eventually, she came up with having the Aquarius baby help another baby whose kite got tangled in a tree.
At the same time, Harper said she wanted the books to feel like they were grounded in real knowledge of the zodiac: “I was also trying to work in as much astrology as I could, like referencing the ruling planets. You know, Taurus being ruled by Venus, so they’re very appreciative of music and art and beauty.”
In the Mind Body Baby: Astrology book, only one trait is listed for each sign. “It was sort of looking at what is commonly suggested for that sign and picking out one that felt relevant to a child or a baby, trying to pick out something positive and loving usually,” Stein said.
“Relevant to a baby’s life,” it seems, is crucial. “Some of the characteristics I chose at first were probably a little too sophisticated,” said Roxy Marj, author and illustrator of the Baby Astrology series. Marj remembered one editor’s note telling her to nix a description of a sign as “romantic” because young kids wouldn’t get it.
Several of the writers spoke about avoiding the negative qualities associated with some of the signs. Matysik said, “I remember as a teenager, often reading my horoscope, as a Scorpio, it was always very much like, ‘You’re going to have a really hard time this week.’ Every time, I’m going to have a hard time every week, really?” She said she was determined to make sure My First Horoscope didn’t give Scorpio babies a bad rap.
Artwise, some signs were also easier than others. “Showing scales [for Libra] and showing a scorpion in the same style of illustration for babies is a little challenging,” Stein said. “How do we show these symbols specifically but still make it look cute, but also not a weird shape? Sometimes when you abstract these things, they start to look weird.”
Lizzy Doyle, illustrator of the My Stars books, ran into the same problem: “I think probably the trickiest one was Scorpio, trying to make him not so scary-looking. Each part of his claws and body had to be chunky and soft, like a toy.”
Doyle also had another worry. “Just to be completely transparent, I’m pretty much an atheist,” she said. She worried about how “metaphysical” the books might get—and if they would be appropriate for kids.
It was an attitude that editors and publishers knew they might encounter with the greater book-buying public. “Of course there’s gonna be people who think it’s silly or stupid or maybe even evil,” Stein said.
As for whether she buys into astrology for kids this young, Matysik said she does see aspects of her kids’ signs coming out in their behavior. “My son is very headstrong,” she said. He’s a Taurus. “He wants to do what he wants to do.” And her daughter, the Pisces, “loves to sing. She is just very musical.”
It’s all still a little beyond the 3-year-old’s comprehension. “At this point, she doesn’t understand the characteristics that go into what you’re supposed to be if you’re born under that sign.” But that doesn’t really seem to matter. “She’s very happy to be a Pisces.”