In which Annie (high school teacher, mother of two young girls and a younger 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.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Reading and memory

Dear Annie,

I haven't yet seen Frozen -- I've been tempted on a few occasions -- but I am very aware of the marketing phenomenon.  About 90% of what I know about the Frozen plot I learned in a phone conversation with your daughters last fall.  I remember a particularly breathless description by Isabel.

But I confess to contributing to the avalanche of books.  We refer to this prominently-displayed shelf in my book section --
-- as The Frozen Shrine.  It's hard to keep it stocked, although I think the demand has peaked now.  I used to come to the store on Mondays and the shelf would be completely empty.  Now we still have a few of each title left, and I can re-order before we see bare wood.

The vast majority of these books has been written or commissioned by marketing departments: why hire a Seuss or Minarek successor when a book with clunky, non-phonetic writing will be produced and sell quicker and cost less to produce?

The thing that's hard to believe, when your child is in the grip of Frozen obsession, is that in five or ten years she will have no memory of this stage.  When you are still regretting that you ever let the book in the door, she'll be happily reading something so different that she'll deny she ever dropped everything to look at a Frozen reader. 

I had a lovely conversation with a young reader at the store today.  I was on my way out to lunch, which sometimes takes a bit of time when I need to disengage from book selling.  I'd finally made it to the door, with my hand on the handle, when a voice said, "Excuse me?"  It was a girl I didn't know: she looked about ten years old.  "You sold Lincoln's Grave Robbers to my mom last week," she said.  It's a wonderful and weird piece of non-fiction: one of my favorites.  "I'm halfway through it," she said, "and I think it's one of the best books I've ever read."  So we talked about it for a while, and I told her it stays very strange and different all the way to the ending.  Moments like that are the best of my job.

After watching my own daughters' taste in books evolve, and talking with a lot of customers, I'll predict that when she's 15, that girl will still have a special spot in her heart for the book she's reading right now.  And when both of your daughters hit that age, they'll have lists as long as their arms of books that are special to them.  And not to worry: Frozen won't be there.



No comments:

Post a Comment