Weeding the Formerly Famous
I’ve always been very interested in the longevity of children’s books. The other day I had a conversation with someone who told me that word on the street has it that many of the committee members on the Newbery committee that selected Bridge to Terabithia didn’t much like the book at the time. Now this might all be hearsay and conjecture, but it raises the very real point that when a children’s book comes out, you have no idea if its popularity will be fleeting or will stand the test of time and only grow in stature over the years. This question becomes even more important when it comes to book series that are popular with children and NOT with gatekeepers. Kids like what they like. They are just a susceptible to marketing as the rest of us, and sometimes something popular will dig its hooks in deep.
The other day my children’s librarians were weeding their room and they happened to discover that the Eragon books just aren’t circulating the way they used to. Remember when that Paolini series was all that anyone could talk about? I wonder how many kids today would even blink if you mentioned it to them. Would they even like it today?
Picture book series suffer the same fate a lot of the time, but operate under slightly different rules. One book in a picture book series might remain in print long after its fellows have passed. Yet these days, it’s hard to rally any real support for keeping something like Walter the Farting Dog in print. Here’s another example: Carl. Remember Carl? The Carl books by Alexandra Day were once the go-to wordless series for negligent parents. Negligent in the books anyway. I mean, seriously. Who leaves the dog in charge of the baby THAT much? Even Amelia Bedelia would be a better guardian (and that’s saying something). I used to say that these books were made for parents that found Anne Geddes a little too edgy. Now they seem to be aging out of use, and without the power of nostalgia we may have seen the end of them.
How about you, fellow librarians (and booksellers too, when you come right down to it). What series are you hoping ages out as time goes by?
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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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