Friday, November 13, 2009

Book Fair: Market Research

I volunteered at the book fair at the boys' school this week. This is a fun job and also good research for my children's writing.

Here is what my research found:

Preschoolers--especially preschool girls--chose books based on their favorite T.V. show. I already knew this because J.J. threw a temper fit when I told him to choose a book for his book fair that wasn't on T.V. Then I realized the concept meant nothing to him. J.J. isn't a big T.V. viewer, especially now that Johnny and Richie have given up cartoons for ESPN (much to Justin's delight). So I could tell he was wondering, "When is this stuff on T.V.? All I ever see is sports." Finally I let him choose one T.V. book and one non-T.V. book.

My problem with T.V. books is not that they're terrible. There are a few good T.V. related books out there. (The Monster at the End of This Book is a great one.) And it's not that I don't understand the appeal of a familiar face. Growing up, one of my favorite books was a Walt Disney storybook that basically summarized my favorite movies.

Don't get me wrong. There are some terrible T.V. books out there.

I was reading a book to a three year old at the book fair. She was so excited about it because it was based on her favorite T.V. show. Obviously I wasn't going to kill the joy of buying a book--any book. But I was thinking, "Sweetheart, you don't have to buy this book. You could write it."

My problem with T.V. books is that there are so many great kids' picture books out there. (The boys' and my favorites right now are Scaredy Squirrel by Melanie Watt, and Spoon and Little Pea, both by Amy Krouse Rosenthal.) So it seems a shame to buy a story you've already seen on T.V.

There were some great picture books at the book fair. Watching the kids choose a T.V. book instead was like seeing them choose McDonald's orange drink over an actual orange. Or an adult pick up T.V. Guide instead of National Geographic. You feel like saying, "Are you kidding me? There's a Neanderthal on the cover. Have you no interest as to whether or not that's your grandfather?" And then I would go over to the rack and pick up People: Style Watch. (I've already read the Neanderthal issue.)

Oh, well. I guess a little orange drink never hurt anyone, as long as we get our Vitamin C, too.

I let my kids read whatever they can get their hands on. Because I don't want them to associate "reading" with "bossy mother." But then I "make them" listen to the great picture books out there. And they end up loving those more. I'm sure the kids at the book fair read good books at home and school, too.

Still, it touched my heart to see some of the preschoolers buy non-T.V. books...Where the Wild Things Are, one about Fire Engines... Well done, younguns. Congrats on not selling out to the man.

At the book fair, kids in second and third grade were past the T.V. book phase, for the most part. Now they're reading Diary of a Wimpy Kid. I love these books. Some moms told their kids they weren't allowed to buy them because they're inappropriate. They're also laugh-out-loud funny. Perhaps the two go hand-in-hand. It always makes me laugh when people say, "inappropriate humor." Isn't that a little reduntant?

Not that you have to be inappropriate to be funny, but it definitely helps. (I personally think Diary of a Wimpy Kid is pretty innocent, but if I did think they were inappropriate, I would still let my kids read them.) I'll admit, I'm pretty lenient when it comes to my kids and humor. I'll sacrifice wholesomeness for a good laugh any day. It's the best medicine, so it's really a matter of good family health.

Let's see...what else.

Sports, science, and monster books were big with the elementary boys. As a nonfiction writer, this was good news to me.

Ghost stories, fantasy, and pets/baby animals were popular with elementary girls.

Chick lit was popular with junior high girls.

Pokers were popular with junior high boys.

Pokers are sticks with little hands on the end, which allow children to poke each other from a distance. Very, very popular among junior high boys.

That concluded my market research. It was a small study group and I didn't exactly take copious notes, but career wise, I learned a lot. I learned that I should write a book based on a T.V. show that is based on a doll, or a book about pokers. "Poker: The Armpit Saga" would be a hot seller...if it came with a free poker, that is.



Blogger Tim Higgins said...


I applaud your care in helping to guide the literary excursions of your children. I applaud as well, the fact that you have inspired in them a love of books of any kind.

I fear however, that this will be a never-ending battle. If it is not the "TV books" at this age, it will be the "movie books" as they grow older.

Take heart that they are interested in books, and pray that they fall in love with the written word as they grow older. While the technology may be a little dated in this electronic age, the richness of the material is impossible to duplicate on a screen of any size.

8:45 AM  

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