Daily Archives: July 20, 2011

Children’s Lit

I love children’s books.  Some kids skip right from early chapter books, to long tomes, to young adult, to adult fiction.  I have a friend who never read books for kids after age twelve or so.  I have a husband who read The Hobbit in grade two and kept on reading adult fantasy looking for something else as enthralling.

While growing up I was firmly in the age-approved world of Beverly Cleary, Judy Blume, E.L. Kognisburg, Paula Dansinger and even Francine Pascal.  Of course, I did pick up a Danielle Steel novel when I was ten or eleven because of a pressing curiosity to explore what adults and older sisters were reading.  I hadn’t expected to even understand the text – I was astonished that I knew all the words on the first few pages  – somehow I thought such books were written in another inaccessible form of English reserved for card-carrying adults.  While the words were easy, the meaning and the significance was not.  I had hoped for scandal and an exciting new world, but in actuality found it quite boring,  At the time I was surprised that my mother didn’t mind me reading it.  Now I realise that her unconcern was the best diffuser of my guilty urge to go grown-up.

By late high school and university I had graduated to adult books – branching from Orwell and Vonnegut to Kingsolver, Rushdie and even Tolstoy (not to mention those girly classics like Bronte and Austen). But midway through a history degree, I popped into the university library for teaching students. I browsed the shelves of battered kid’s novels, reminiscing about authors and books I loved. I found myself holding the first three Harry Potter books in my hand.  The fourth was making a big splash, and the movies were starting to come out. Reading a book, I reasoned, isn’t like watching tv.  It would be a wholesome diversion that would be quick to pick up and put down and leave me ready to attack my imposing pile of schoolwork.  I cruised home on the bus, satisfied with my decision, and already cracking into the first one.  By the end of the weekend I realized my mistake – three books were read, and the schoolwork was barely touched. It was all I could do to not rush out and buy the fourth.

I know there were other factors in play, but right now my path seems an uncomplicated step this way: Harry Potter –> bookstore work (eventually in the children’s section) –> teaching degree –> head of children’s department at bookstore.  (Previously the plan had looked more like this: history degree –> another history degree –> another history degree –> history professor)

Though there have been breaks (for a year-long teaching trip to England and a few month off to have a child), I’ve worked in the children’s section in a local independent bookstore for five years now. And I quite love it. I’ve worked a Harry Potter day (the last of the Harry Potter days); read and enjoyed Twilight well before it was huge (though I knew it was a dirty pleasure even then); and cheered on Hunger Games as it slowly gained momentum and then exploded.  I think in my time I’ve seen YA literature come into its own as a target for publishers who realized they could sell these books to teens, pre-teens and even adults.  I’ve watched wizards give way to vampires who have given way to dysropias (all with good love triangles).

Now I get to order the new books and decide what we have, and what to display. I get to chat to co-workers and customers about books all day – what’s great, and what sucks. What’s like such and such and what seems breathtakingly original. I can’t say I love it all, and some days I go home feeling discouraged by customers, by slowing sales, or by the state of publishing.  Most nights I stay up far later than I should fretting about books and how to organise and sell them.

So this is a blog about books.  It’s about buying, reading, selling, and generally enjoying children’s books. It’s also about being a new mom, and a wife, and anything else that I am.  And it’s about finally learning how to write down my random thoughts and attempt to be articulate about a subject I love.


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