In which Annie (high school teacher, mother of two small girls and a baby boy) and her aunt Deborah (children's bookseller, mother of two young women in their 20s) discuss children's books and come up with annotated lists.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Unhappy return

Dear Annie,

Well, it was fun to get an unsolicited author response -- Nick Bruel on our Bad Kitty post. He's both a former bookseller, and the father of an Isabel, so he fits right in here.

Speaking of bookselling, someone came into the store today to return a book she bought several months ago.  The reason she returned it was that she was shocked at what a bad book she found it to be.  The nine year-old for whom she bought it didn't like it, and it had cruelty to animals in it, she said.

The book was one I had recommended: The 13 Clocks by James Thurber, which Neil Gaiman called "probably the best book in the world," and whose praises I sang here.  I'd been thinking of it this week in the context of the lovely discussion going on in the comments about your post on Charlotte's Web, another book whose writing leaves many in awe.

So this customer didn't agree about Thurber's fable-like 20th century fairy tale, which is her right, completely.  There are many readers in the world, each with their own opinions.  I re-read The 13 Clocks today, looking for cruelty to animals: I found 11 princes run through by the evil duke's sword, reference to "slaying the thorny Boar of Borythorn," (who turns out to be fictitious), a description of the castle looking "as if the gaunt Duke stalked from room to room, stabbing bats and spiders, killing mice" -- and  the murder of time by the clock-destroying duke.

Neil Gaiman, in his introduction to the book,  elaborates on his superlative: "And if it's not the best book, then it's still very much like nothing anyone has ever seen before, and, to the best of my knowledge, no one's ever really seen anything like it since."  Which also serves as an explanation of why a child might be put off by it, especially if reading it alone: too different, too weird, too wordy. 

I remain stunned by people who feel they can return a book they've read some or all of because it didn't please them.  The store has a fairly liberal return policy, which we see as part of maintaining good relations with our customers.  The book came back in good condition, but it still feels wrong to me.  If one buys a book, one is taking the risk of not liking it.  One doesn't demand money back from a bad movie -- is the situation with a book different? 

Love,

Deborah

1 comment:

  1. Deborah, it must be difficult to keep customers satisfied (I'm having a Simon & Garfunkle moment) and maintain store policies that are fair to you. I think returning a book because you didn't like it is very presumptuous. And rude! Especially after several months.

    Maybe you could have a depreciating value policy. A dollar a week? This can't happen often, does it? Maybe it does. My hairdresser says that she has a client that forgets to pay her about every fourth visit. I asked her why she didn't remind her to pay, and she said she couldn't risk losing a regular client. I guess that's the way it is when you depend on returning customers.

    Again, I love your blog!

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