Sunday, February 6, 2011

A MONSTER STALKS YOUR CHILDREN

Went to the Salt Lake City Library on Saturday. First time there. Great Building. The fact that there are five stories of books (kids are on a lower level), makes the building a breathing, thinking entity. Very cool.

What made the trek most productive was I GOT OUT OF MY OFFICE.
What floored me was the monster in the basement.

Yes, there was a monster. In the children's section. On the lower level.
And I'm not talking about some wild new toy for kids to climb on or crawl through. Not talking about the lion at the door of the story-time room. Or the treehouse room, or the computer room that looked like the control room in a submarine. That was all very cool.

But the monster of which I speak lurked between the bookshelves, always just an isle away while I hunted. Did I know I was hunting a monster? No. I thought I was hunting for some trend in middle grade books, something I could try and get ahead of in the marketplace. I wanted to know what was overdone and what was up and coming.

You know what I found?

Nothing.

THAT was the monster.

It looks like Middle Grade is being avoided by writers, ignored even. There was a plethora of picture books with bright chubby illustrations, some with weak colors and pale lines from years of little fingers brushing over them. Plenty of books for baby, etc. But what did they have for middle grades? Jungle gyms.

It was if librarians, writers and parents had all gathered for a meeting and decided that kids aren't going to want to read much at that age, so let's just make the library a fun place to be. Perhaps when they're a little older, they'll still think it's a cool place and we'll have a lot of great YA books ready for them. But for now, we'll leave a row of Nancy Drew, Hardy Boys, Captain Underpants, and King Harry Potter. Potter will get them through, just has he has for years.

Are there books out there for young boys? Yes. Thanks to Lemony Snicket, Fable Haven and others, there are at least......a few month's worth of reading. A year's worth, you say? Maybe.

The age group is 8-12. Four years. If there's a year's worth of reading for the kid who enjoys reading, we are telling him, "I'm sorry. This is option A, there is no option B. Read slowly. Make it last. When that's gone, you can fill your time with...gaming. When you finally mature enough, through the magic of gaming, you'll have new options."

No wonder kids are in a hurry to grow up.

Well, I'm going to do something about it. My boys are grown now, but I remember when they got excited about Aragon and Harry Potter. And I remember when the supply ran out.

I know it's a grand undertaking. I can't do it alone. A few books from me won't fill the need, won't chase that monster away--the one who whispers, "There's nothing here for you, little boy. Play somewhere else. You didn't really want to read, did you?"

Don't you want to subdue that monster with me, pull his teeth, superglue his tongue to the roof of his mouth so all he can do is growl and roar, like any self-respecting monster would do? Come on! Give it a try. There is plenty of room on the shelf, once we blast his hairy ass out of there. PLENTY of room.

It all starts with a little boy's name.
My little hero is named Fletcher...

2 comments:

Mary Martinez said...

Man, that's what my History Mysteries is, Middle grade. But I wonder if you weren't looking in the right place? When I take my boys to B&N they always find something, and they are 'middle grade'. I often wonder if I know what middle grade actually is. Something to ponder...

Lesli Muir Lytle said...

Yes, the book stores are better. But ask the sellers. They'll jump on anything new to recommend. Supply is definitely NOT keeping up with demand.

So come on, go with me now...