Sunday, November 9, 2014

Dare to Discover Something New

A few weeks ago I went to Barnes and Noble to buy, "Ernest the Moose Who Doesn't Fit", a picture book I discovered at our local library and fell in love with.  When I got there I was appalled to discover that they did not have the book or any book by that particular author/illustrator, Catherine Rayner (who is fantastic btw).  When I asked the nearest employee if they had the book she said no and then went through the trouble to find me another moose book, but it was vastly inferior to Ernest the Moose so I left the store without purchasing anything.

The more I learn about the children's book industry the more I realize how terribly unfair the market is.  Publishing houses and books stores, like any other business, are mostly concerned with making money so they sell the classics.  When people go to the store to buy picture books they are naturally drawn to the ones that their parents read to them as kids: Goodnight Moon, Curious George, The Very Hungry Caterpillar.  Generation after generation are buying the same books again and again and again, not because they are the best, but because they are familiar.  This needs to stop.  Wonderfully talented new authors and illustrators are producing absolutely stunning picture books, but they are too soon forgotten because they don't fall under the "classics" category on the bookshelves.

Don't get me wrong.  There are a great deal of many wonderful classics and they deserve to be read.  My own picture book collection includes: Ferdinand the Bull, Love You Forever, Strega Nona, and On the Night You Were Born.  These books have become classics for good reason.  Classics are great, but it's a problem that they are the only books selling.  Emerging writers and illustrators deserve some love too.  I think people would be astonished at the wealth of talent out there if they only ventured to open books they never heard of before.

Here is what I suggest.  Spend time in the picture book sections of your nearest local library or used book store where you don't feel bombarded by marketing techniques.  Pick up books that you have never heard of before.  Dare to discover something new.  Allow yourself to become lost in the picture book world.  When you find a book that you really truly love then buy it!  You may have to order them online because book stores tend to sell only what they see as marketable.  I guarantee it will be the kind of purchase you can feel proud of.  There is something wonderful about supporting the creators of a work of art you love.

Keep the forgotten picture book illustrators and authors in mind as you search for Christmas gifts this year.  They've worked hard to produce something beautiful in this world.  They deserve some recognition.

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