Friday, February 16, 2007

Tough Sells

Michele at Scholar's Blog has a review of Philip Pullman's funny and imaginative book, I was a Rat! I read this book when it I added it to my library a few years ago and loved the story. A rat turned into a boy/footman by Cinderella's fairy godmother is playing and sliding down banisters at the palace when the stroke of midnight falls. When he does not make it back to the "coach" in time, he is left behind in his guise as a boy. Left to fend for himself, all he really knows is "I was a rat."

Surprisingly, this book is a tough sell with kids. I think the Kevin Hawkes pen and ink illustrations fit the story perfectly. Despite my awesome ability as a booktalker (she adds modestly) and my enthusiasm for it, I have had limited success selling this story. I guess I never found the right reader.

Avi's The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle is another title that is such an exciting and terrific girl power book but confounds me when I sense that subtle push-back and mouth twist that indicates, "no sale."

Timing IS everything. I think kids were very ready for Lemony Snicket following 9-11.
Easy to say : hard to accomplish -- It really is a matter of a book finding its reader. Teri Lesesne (Goddess of YA Literature) has summed up the challenge with her book titled Making the Match: The Right Book for the Right Reader at the Right Time: the right person at the right place at the right time and the right book.
Complicated yes, but that is why us matchmakers keep at it. When it happens, it is m-a-g-i-c.

BTW: Do find Lesesne's new book Naked Reading: Uncovering What Tweens Need to Become Lifelong Readers, 2006.


J. L. Bell said...

I believe the first Snicket book appeared in 1999, so the series became a hit before the terrorist attacks in the US.

It might be more remarkable that the series kept chugging along during those months when irony was supposed to be dead.

Camille said...

Yes, I think I had all books through the The Ersatz Elevator in my library at the time and they had attracted a small following but AFTER Sept. 2001 it seemed like the series just took off at my school.

Their popularity attracted the attention of the BBKNNs who wanted the series pulled from all the district libraries.

School administrators are ALWAYS ready to head for the tall grass on matters like this. When a principal asked me about the books, I told her that I thought since 9-11 my readers were ready for a darker series where bad things happen to children but by using their own smarts and instincts they survive adults who are clueless, unhelpful and dangerous. Everything does not necessarily turn out sunshine and roses but neither does everything in real life.

I heard later that she had read my comments at a principals' meeting. For what ever they were worth, no further action was taken against the books.