Thursday, August 5, 2010

Why I don't really hate 8-by-8 books

Sometimes, I complain about 8-by-8 books.

You know the ones. They're floppy, stapled in the middle, and usually emblazoned with the faces of popular TV or movie characters. We keep them in a spinner, where they don't stay very long. Organizing them is a long and tedious task, and in the interest of full disclosure, I must confess that I sometimes grumble a bit as I pile princesses with princesses and superheroes with superheroes. Why should we booksellers spend so much time on characters kids can see on television when there is Literature to arrange and sell?

But I don't really hate them.

Reason One is the same reason that wins me over to a lot of not-so-critically-acclaimed books: they appeal to kids. Kids rush to the spinner when they see their favorite characters. The books make them want to read.

But these books have something even bigger going for them: affordability. There are plenty of parents out there who can't (or won't) often spend the better part of twenty dollars on a picture book. For these parents, 8-by-8s offer the option to tell their kids, "Yes, when we go to the bookstore for Aunt Mildred's birthday gift, you can get a book, too." For these kids, 8-by-8s are a way to say, "This is my book."

I'll try to remember that next time I'm ankle-deep in cartoon characters.

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