I am big. It’s the children that got small.
We’ve been doing a fair amount of weeding in the old Children’s Center these days. I’ve taken on the challenge of tackling the fiction. Weeding a fiction collection is rather like weeding a garden. There’s a lot of dead heading involved. Space to fill. Dead matter to discard.
While going through the books of yesteryear I’ve been intrigued by the passing fancy of some authors. While folks like Judy Blume or Laurence Yep have written for decades and remain popular figures on the Summer Reading Lists, certain writers have fallen by the wayside.
The other day Jennifer of the Jean Little Library blog left this comment on my post about movies that usurp their books in the public consciousness: “Re. Doubtfire, Anne Fine used to be majorly popular – take a look at a library shelf that hasn’t been weeded for a while. She’s still a big deal over in the UK, although her popularity over here has waned, at least in my library. She seems to be mostly writing beginning chapter books now – Jamie and Angus anyone? Her older book Flour Babies still checks out frequently, despite the awful cover.”
She’s not wrong. Weeding the Fine books I had to determine which ones would stay and which ones would go (we have reference editions of most books, so this is not quite the dire situation I make it sound).
It gets one to thinking: Who are the popular children’s authors of yesteryear who remain on unweeded children’s library shelves around the country? Who just doesn’t move like they used to? A couple names come to mind right off the bat.
Anne Fine: Already mentioned. In a way, her popularity has been usurped by Jacqueline Wilson.
Paula Danziger: She may be in need of a book jacket revival. In fact, I believe such a revival has already happened overseas in Britain. In her day, Danziger was the go-to funny female writer (shoes that are now filled by Lisa Yee). Some of her titles still go out, in spite of their covers, but for the most part they shelf sit more than I’d like.
Peter Dickinson: We have a heckuva lot of Dickinson on my library’s shelves, but when I bring up books like Eva with my kids all I meet with are blank stares. I think he was always more of a YA writer anyway, so it’s strange that we have so many of his books in the children’s section. Maybe he should have been purchased for the teen collections all along.
Scott O’Dell – Aside from Island of the Blue Dolphins and Zia, his books don’t really go out. Compare his outdoor survival tales to those of Gary Paulsen or Jean Craighead George and you’ll see a definite difference in circulation stats.
Those are just the first four to come to mind, though there are certainly others out there as well. Confess it then, folks. Are there great authors of the past that just sit on your shelves, where once they used to fly? If possible, limit yourself to folks who did particularly well in the 70s and 80s (even early 90s) but don’t write all that much today. We don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings, after all.
Filed under: Uncategorized
About Betsy Bird
Betsy Bird is currently the Collection Development Manager of the Evanston Public Library system and a former Materials Specialist for New York Public Library. She has served on Newbery, written for Horn Book, and has done other lovely little things that she'd love to tell you about but that she's sure you'd find more interesting to hear of in person. Her opinions are her own and do not reflect those of EPL, SLJ, or any of the other acronyms you might be able to name. Follow her on Twitter: @fuseeight.
SLJ Blog Network