Won’t Somebody PLEASE Think of the Pixels?
The other day I asked my husband, “Am I a Millennial?” “No,” he said. “You’re right between the Millennials and the Generation Xers. You don’t really belong to either.” That’s about right. Millennials always feel too young to me (I can’t discuss Boy Meets World with them at all) and Generation Xers are great but tend to enjoy The West Wing more than I ever could (how’s THAT for generalizing?). So if I identify as anything it’s that sterling, if slightly off-putting, moniker “Child of the 80s”. I can talk Punky Brewster, Thundercats, Popples, you name it. That’s my generation. And now, with my generation have kids, I’m seeing it catered to in children’s literature. And it’s weird.
My first indication that things were getting a little out of the ordinary was with the publication of the Puffin Pixels series. If you haven’t seen them yet, these are children’s book classics in the public domain that contain covers and some interior art (though mostly just a map in the front) akin to video games like Legend of Zelda and the like. For those of us who still dream Lode Runner dreams at night (to say nothing of Pitfall) these books feel oddly familiar and strange all at the same time. My favorite so far is Swiss Family Robinson, if only because it looks like a version of Below the Root (based on the children’s book by Zilpha Keatley Snyder!).
But pixels aren’t relegating themselves solely to Puffin. Robot SMASH! by Stephen W. Martin, illustrated by Juan Carlos Solon is actually a Canadian creation (coming, as it is, from Owl Kids) and there’s something comforting in its blocky look. Comforting and, yet, odd. It’s clearly a love story like no other.
Insofar as I can tell, the justification for all these pixels may lie in the popularity of Minecraft. Since Minecraft is pixeled without shame, publishers are able to simultaneously tap into children’s love of the game and their parents’ nostalgia. I’ll be interested in watching to see if pixels proliferate in the future as well.
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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.
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