As parents we live in an exciting time for the youth book market – especially if you market books for youth. Ever since Harry Potter became, well Harry Potter, and J.K. Rowling got that giant swimming pool of money everyone has been scrambling to find the next big thing. On one level it’s an amusing circus to watch as every book that comes out is compared to Harry Potter in the hopes that it will catch fire. And then there are books like the Hunger Games that catch fire because of their inherent awesomeness. It’s a happy situation for both authors and parents because publishers are flooding the market.
Well, happy on one level because there are a lot of good books riding that wave but as with any big money-making trend there’s also a lot of slimy seaweed and that foamy brown stuff that washes up on the beach as well. Browsing your local bookstore the choices can be daunting – so much so that you may find yourself breathing a sigh of relief when you wander over to that special shelf at the end of the row where all the classics smile up at you with their time-worn familiarity. While there are always the suprisingly thin paperback versions they usually also come in bulky hardback versions with gilt edges and old-timey illustrations foil stamped on the cover. It’s as if the book is saying, “I’ve been such a beloved story throughout the ages that I am worthy of being enshrined in this marvelous binding. A bargain at $43.99!”
You may balk at the price and your eyes wander back to the contemporary titles. “No, no,” says the classic, “don’t even consider the story of the two boys and a girl who become/battle zombies, vampires, and/or pirates as they unravel the mystery! I’m a classic, I’m good for you! If my gilt edges and fine marbled end papers are too much just get the cheap paperback and be done with it! Remember how much you loved the movie!”
True. But some of those classics are so OLD. People used to talk funny a long time ago and their fairies were not as ethnographically diverse as fairies today. Plus, that guy who’s writing all those Jane Austen zombie books hasn’t gotten around to adding vampires to Mary Poppins yet. Will my kids enjoy Anne of Green Gables if she’s not Anne of the Zombiepocalipse?
Don’t worry. Your kids have a remarkable capacity to tolerate a simpler, less undead infested, time.
After I had gotten my kids interested in superhero comic books my wife was lamenting my corrupting influence. “You mark my words,” I told her, “I’ll have them soaking up Anne of Green Gables in no time.” A quick trip to the library for the ever-reliable audiobooks and before you knew it boy and girl both were talking about their scope of imagination and shedding a tear for Matthew. The superheroes didn’t last but Anne still takes a spin on the iPod on a regular basis.