Subscribe to SLJ
Follow This Blog: RSS feed
A Fuse #8 Production
Inside A Fuse #8 Production

Weeding the Formerly Famous

WalterFartingDogIs it wrong to wait patiently, patiently, patiently, for a popular series you loathe to die?

I’ve always been very interested in the longevity of children’s books. The other day I had a conversation with someone who told me that word on the street has it that many of the committee members on the Newbery committee that selected Bridge to Terabithia didn’t much like the book at the time. Now this might all be hearsay and conjecture, but it raises the very real point that when a children’s book comes out, you have no idea if its popularity will be fleeting or will stand the test of time and only grow in stature over the years. This question becomes even more important when it comes to book series that are popular with children and NOT with gatekeepers. Kids like what they like. They are just a susceptible to marketing as the rest of us, and sometimes something popular will dig its hooks in deep.

EragonThe other day my children’s librarians were weeding their room and they happened to discover that the Eragon books just aren’t circulating the way they used to. Remember when that Paolini series was all that anyone could talk about? I wonder how many kids today would even blink if you mentioned it to them. Would they even like it today?

Picture book series suffer the same fate a lot of the time, but operate under slightly different rules. One book in a picture book series might remain in print long after its fellows have passed. Yet these days, it’s hard to rally any real support for keeping something like Walter the Farting Dog in print. Here’s another example: Carl. Remember Carl? The Carl books by Alexandra Day were once the go-to wordless series for negligent parents. Negligent in the books anyway. I mean, seriously. Who leaves the dog in charge of the baby THAT much? Even Amelia Bedelia would be a better guardian (and that’s saying something). I used to say that these books were made for parents that found Anne Geddes a little too edgy. Now they seem to be aging out of use, and without the power of nostalgia we may have seen the end of them.

How about you, fellow librarians (and booksellers too, when you come right down to it). What series are you hoping ages out as time goes by?

Carl

Share
About Elizabeth Bird

Elizabeth Bird is currently the Collection Development Manager of the Evanston Public Library system and a former Materials Specialist for New York Public Library. She has served on Newbery, written for Horn Book, and has done other lovely little things that she'd love to tell you about but that she's sure you'd find more interesting to hear of in person. Her opinions are her own and do not reflect those of EPL, SLJ, or any of the other acronyms you might be able to name. Follow her on Twitter: @fuseeight.

Comments

  1. Every time I get rid of such books in my classroom library a kid shows up the following year for whom one of them would have been perfect. This year I have a kid who just finished the Eragon series (which I got rid of a while ago). So go figure.

  2. Aw, c’mon, Betsy, I love Carl! So do the children at my school. I don’t think you need to take the Carl books literally–Carl’s a comedy and a fantasy, not a prescription for child rearing He’s a grandson to Barrie’s Nana, and absolutely infallible: everybody’s safe, and that’s the joke. . Be honest, Betsy: if you had a dog as trustworthy and sagacious as Carl, wouldn’t you leave your babies alone with him?

    To switch from dogs to cats, I could do without the Twilight books. I don’t mean the Vampire–the great thing about the Twilight Vampire series is that there aren’t that many of them-(though they’re fat and consume a lot of shelf space) -but the many Evan Hunter series-es about the wild cats. I keep getting the different series mixed up, and of course my children want them ALL, and every time I try one of these books to see what they’re reading with such gusto, I can’t get through more than a few pages. Which brings up two more questions: There are books that children read with joy and adults CAN’T read (I think Hans Brinker is one of them; loved it as a child, find it impenetrable as an adult) and what are they? And second question, perhaps more important–why do some publishers make it so difficult to find out the sequence of books in a series? Some series have dandy little numbers on the spine–others send the hapless librarian to google copyright dates. If you ask me, not listing a series in order on the back of the title page is malpractice, and publishers ought to have their knuckles rapped for it.

    • Elizabeth Bird says:

      Yeah. My first boss was utterly baffled by my dislike of Carl. And I take back what I said about Amelia Bedelia as a babysitter. That woman is a menace. Even Carl would be a better guardian, at least in the short run.

      Your follow up questions ring true. Let us rap us some knuckles thoroughly!

  3. Oh, yes, those awful Warriors books! And yes re the various series spin-offs that are impossible to keep straight. I just rely on the kids to do so – and they usually do. They are always happy to correct me.

  4. And the Warriors books take up so much shelf space! They are fairly long and there are so many of them.

  5. Most series I do okay finding the order. But I am dreading the fallout from the re-numbering of the Magic Tree House series. Why would they do that to us?

  6. The Boxcar Children. I loved the first 20 as a kid. I read the next 20 because it was a series I loved. Now that it’s up to 175(ish?) and 20 Super Specials, it takes up way too much space and nobody reads them all! (Although some try.) The new five volume update (which was cute) is lost among the 200-odd other titles.

    And what is everyone doing about the renumbered Magic TreeHouse?

  7. Hooray for Carl defenders. Betsy, am I right in remembering you are not a dog lover? Perhaps that has something to do with your reaction to the Carl books. I LOVE Carl and his adventures with the baby. Pure fantasy, I know, but what child hasn’t had moments of wishing his dog or cat could be his parent for awhile? What parent hasn’t had moments of wishing the family dog really could take over the parenting needs for awhile? Rottweilers have such an undeserved reputation . . . right up there with Pit Bulls. Bad people make bad dogs. I like to think that Carl is an ambassador for the breed’s true loving and kind personality ( or is it “dogality”) ?

    Monica’s comments are thought-provoking, for sure. Perhaps instead of just concentrating on the obvious fact of low circulation to determine which books to keep or discard, we might want to be sure the kids have an opportunity to know these stories. But newer ones compete for attention. So many books and so little time. Think of all the requests people have to find outdated favorites from their childhood to share with their own kids. Thank goodness for used bookstores!

    P.S. I’m with you on the subject of farting dogs!

  8. Ariel Zeitlin says:

    My least favorite book in the world is Rainbow Fish. The message is so, so terrible: give up what’s special about yourself, give away everything you have, just so people will like you. The writing is lame, it’s all about the sparkly scales. It is unworthy of the love lavished on it by so many wonderful children. I’m also sick of the Wimpy Kid series, though I put them in a different category. The first ones were kind of brilliant. The cleverness of the unreliable narrator still makes them wonderful teaching tools for children, because they get to read between the lines and exercise critical thinking skills. And the integration of graphics with words provides great scaffolding for uncertain readers. The problem is that they’re repetitive and apparently Jeff Kinney will never stop milking this particular cash cow. Not that I blame him, but if I never saw another one it would not be too soon.

  9. Every once in a while our entire shelf of Eragon books goes into circulation. Super weird. It’s like, cosmic. I weeded Good Dog, Carl (condition) and then, to my chagrin, had to replace it upon the request of a coworker. And I’ve been grateful to say goodbye to all the Rainbow Fish books but the first.

  10. I relabeled all our Magic Tree House books this fall and now I find out they’re being renumbered? That is just not fair.

  11. This may get me kicked out of the children’s librarian club, but I really dislike Curious George…I know I will never be able to get rid of the series, but I am always excited when one is going because of condition…

    • Elizabeth Bird says:

      Aw. Kate and I were going to talk about George on our podcast, but then the computer ate the entire recording. You’ve given me hope that maybe some day we can do it again.

    • Suzanne Davis says:

      I, too, detest Curious George… SO boring… and long. I also detest Dr. Seuss’s books. If I have to pick one to tolerate for an event, I’ll choose “Great Day for Up” or “Thidwick,” but frankly, I’d rather be let off the hook.

    • Bethany Thompson says:

      Erin, I have always disliked Curious George. From the time my son was s baby and people wanted to give him Curious George books. That is one bad monkey who never gets in trouble for his mischief. I think he sets a bad example and why, because he’s cute, not to me!

  12. Our Eragon books stay checked out all the time. Same thing for Boxcar Children and Wimpy Kid. Now if I could get them as excited for the Brixton Brothers…(PS–my nephew, when he was very, very young had a hard understanding how the dog had the same name as his Uncle Carl)

  13. One word: Pinkalicious.
    And I love Carl. 😉

  14. Berenstain Bears. So didactic. So predictable. But my biggest objection is that the gender roles are so outdated. Downright sexist. Bumbling, incompetent dad. The mom is the only “adult” parent. I haven’t read them in years. (truth-be-told, DECADES)

    Have they gotten better?

  15. When I was a kid there was always room in the library for things like Treasure Island and The Railway Children. With so many great books published every year, do you find the proportion of new books to old books on the shelves has changed? Any guess what the average age of book in a well-weeded library would be?

  16. Captain Underpants. (Thank god Mr. Pilkey has moved on to Dog Man….)

    Carl: I liked the illustrations and thought the conceit of a dog babysitter was appealing. But NOW that my two little grandsons have been living with the world’s nicest, calmest, gentlest Rottweiler for the past 7 years (who serves as an excellent pillow when they lie on the floor and read), I LOVE the Carl series!

    Paolini is becoming popular again at our library.

    Wimpy Kid books are steady circulators in our library, though kids no longer get excited about new titles in the series. I have fond feelings about Jeff Kinney anyway, because he is putting a lot of his money into a big beautiful bookstore in his Massachusetts hometown.

    • The Wimpy Kid books have done wonders for inspiring kids to read. But I judge how well I am doing as a teacher by how much space exists in the Wimpy Kid section of my classroom library. When I am sharing and recommending good titles, the Kinney section is full. But when I become neglectful, the Wimpy Kid books are gone. They have become a go-to series when kids don’t know what to read next. I am very grateful for Jeff Kinney and his books, and also his amazing bookstore just a few minutes from my home. He’s a hero. My goal, however, is to convince my students there’s so much more to read and enjoy. Kinney’s bookstore suggests it’s his goal, too.

  17. I HATE The Giving Tree for the same reason people complain about Rainbow Fish! But at least it is easier on the eyes. Really, what good does it do to keep giving until you’re dead? Shouldn’t we be teaching our kids that a healthy relationship is one where both give some and take some (gratefully, another problem I have with Giving Tree!) rather than one person always giving and one always taking which is the classic definition of a dysfunctional relationship?

  18. Susan Steinman says:

    Where’s Waldo can stay lost on a beach somewhere!

  19. Lori Lieberman says:

    I have always imagined that the mother in the Carl books spends her afternoons hooking up with the Man in the Yellow Hat — two of the most negligent caregivers ever!

Speak Your Mind

*