Inside the Newsroom

News, commentary, insight on local happenings and fun from the staff of The Saline Reporter and Milan News-Leader.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Lost art of Children's Books

I recently purchased The Tales of Beedle the Bard by J.K. Rowling in my local Borders bookstore when I realized children's books are, for the most part, a lost art. My recent Harry Potteresque purchase is an exception, as is the series itself. But how many good, memorable children's books are there these days that didn't once grace the shelf when I was a toddler?

The answer is not enough. My curiousity over this question led me to peruse the children's section at Borders in hopes that new authors and new stories would be in the top picks area. To my surprise, old habits continue to die hard and my very favorite books were still on display, such as Where the Wild Things Are, Shel Silverstein books such as A Light in the Attic, Dr. Seuss books, Roald Dahl books and the like. I even recognized the ones I was too young to know the names of, but I remembered their cover art. On every single shelf I looked at, I recognized nearly every book's cover, name or author.

Now, I'm speaking generally. Of course there are a few solid new children's series. Dora the Explorer is doing just fine, as is Junie B. But I wonder why they are outnumbered by classics. In the rest of the literary world, the classics remain, but do not dominate the scenery. Readers still have plenty of solid things to choose from. I think maybe it's because children's books are an art. It isn't like writing a normal book that will appeal to someone, somewhere. Children's books, in general, have a magical quality that either binds them to the generation indefinitely or appeal to no one.

Am I disappointed that the books I read as a child are still the most popular today? No. Maybe surprised that a new slew of children's book authors haven't had more success in the top reads aisle, but not disappointed. In some ways it's actually encouraging. It tells me that maybe one day I'll be able to read Little House on the Prairie to my daughter and she'll enjoy it. Or that maybe my son won't mind sitting at my side while I reread Matilda and Bears at Night.

Perhaps, then, children's books are less a product of the children themselves then they are of the parents who read them. After all, if I went into a children's section right now, I'd go straight to my old favorites. That's probably what parents do, as well, and that's probably why the old favorites continually spring up in the sections. Reading to your kids is a classic. So too, then, are the books that are read.

Goodnight, sleep tight, don't let the bed bugs bite...


Blogger SueGee said...

Check out Patricia Polacco. She's a Michigan writer. Great stories.

January 21, 2009 at 6:49 AM  

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