Saturday, October 13, 2007

Onward, Children's Soldiers

Children's books have multiple audiences to please -- not only the kids reading them, but the adults selecting/buying/promoting them. Is it tougher to market a book that kids love but adults groan about, for whatever reason? (potty humor, sexual edginess, etc.)
Of course. The children's book market is absolutely lousy with books that are not for children at all (The Gift of Nothing) but that adults will buy for children anyway. Are they easier to sell than Grossology and Everyone Poops, even though those are truly books for how children are, what they're interested in and amused by? The answer is: Duh.

Here again is one of the inescapable contradictions of children's books—the people with the money to buy children's books often have an extremely limited recollection of childhood. I'm not saying for a second that this excuses "children's" publishers for publishing books for the childhood adults think they remember. But it is a fact of the market. It's also something worth fighting, so feel free to grab your banner and follow me.

7 comments:

ae said...

I, and I imagine many of your readers follow your philosophy, but alas your anonymity makes it rather cybereseque. SMILE

I believe and hope, that everything I muster up and develop reaches the inner five-year-old I am. And has meaning without head thumps.

Natalie said...

"...the people with the money to buy children's books often have an extremely limited recollection of childhood."

And then there are teachers and school librarians. We have limited budgets, so we tend to choose books that come highly recommended by colleagues and children. We try to strike a balance by ordering books that teach as well as entertain.

With some books (such as the Captain Underpants series, for example), the "lesson" they teach is that reading can be fun, and we give those to the kids who would rather stuff Brussels sprouts up their nose than read a book.

When I choose novels to read aloud to my 4th grade class, I always look at the entertainment/kid-appeal factor. Trying to keep 28 nine-year-olds captivated for 20 minutes with a boring (albeit beautifully-written) book is impossible--stuffing Brussels sprouts up your nose would be easier.

Thanks for the post, EA. I've grabbed my banner, and I'm right behind you.

Anonymous said...

Relevant quote from Pat Scales, chairwoman of the 2003 Caldecott award committee: "Like dog food and coffins, children's books are usually picked out by someone other than the ultimate recipient."

literaticat said...

anonymous 3:09 - lol. but like bad dog food, a bad children's book will be rejected by its recipient if it is deemed unpalatable.

um - coffins, not so much.





(hopefully)

Anonymous said...

There's a lot of truth to what you say. But I sometimes think we underestimate the true diversity of children. They don't all swoon over Captain Underpants. I, for one, used to love to take a peek into the so-called adult world sequestered in my parents' bookcase (New Yorker cartoons, child psychology, Jane Eyre, etc.).

I read all kinds of things that I wasn't "supposed" to be interested in. Also, why CAN'T a picture book be for adults too? I'm a reasonably successful pb author, and I'll admit that some of my books are/were most defintely for adults. Even so, I've had fan letters from children. The book business would be better served if all these categories were relaxed.

Deirdre Mundy said...

I think EA is mostly railing against the sappy annoying books that appeal to sentimental adults (more like long hallmark cards than actual stories) and the
"issue" picture books that make kids groan but school counselers swoon....

Or maybe I'm just projecting...

This is why I REALLY need to start an Amazon "wish-list" in my kids' names....

(hint: extra copies of old favorites always welcome! We seem to go through one "Good Night Moon" and "Very Hungry Catapillar" per child...... For new books, ask me first.. and if it catches your eye at Dollar General or in the checkout lane of the grocery, it's probably very lame....)

Not that I have a (large, shiny, sharp) axe to grind or anything. =)

Kidlitjunkie said...

Even more frustrating (or maybe just the same frustrating) are the absolutely fabulous books that you're dying to get into kids' hands, but could never get a parent to buy.

Like Christine Walde's The Candy Darlings. Brilliant book, I want to give it to all smart teens, but when the parents are doing the buying, it would never get past the censors.