I stumbled across this article recently… discussing the problems publishers are having in the picture book industry and it made some very compelling points. Something I’ve noticed more and more of recently is the flourishing population of clever, popular, concept books. Books that have very little text but that are either neat to look at or innovative in design (think the hip: This Is Not My Hat or engaging Mix It Up! ) I love books like these myself and enjoy throwing them in our read-alouds often. But I almost never buy them. These are not the food with which I feed the souls of my children. These don’t offer the narrative weaving and pacing a good, healthy tale does like Many Moons or Princess Furball.
Stories need to be developed and while the fun, sparsely worded books are enjoyable to look at and giggle with… they aren’t something that I put as high of a value on… both psychologically and monetarily.
Publishers are noticing that some of the old standby classics are still selling well; people STILL want to invest money in things like Mike Mulligan and Little Toot even though there is nothing contemporary or short about them. We want a satisfying, soul feeding experience of sharing a tale with our children… we aren’t interested in just amusing ourselves or being fascinated by innovation. To get this feeling, an investment of time, talent and treasure needs to be made by all parties: author, illustrator and publisher. This is what parents are chasing when they keep spending money on old stuff… it’s not that we are just hopelessly nostalgic suckers— excellent books can still be found newly published today after all— it’s that we want that beautiful development of story that is increasingly shunned by publishers today in deference to some desperate grasp of innovation, coolness or humor. This is why we hunt down out-of-print titles with a feverish hope… we are trying to escape the bilge of awful books on publishers’ shelves today and reach into our memories for something meaningful and authentic.