I will be the first to admit that I am a book snob. We have always operated our bookshop based on what we consider quality titles, books that everyone can enjoy reading; to the exclusion of ones we consider to be inferior. There's nothing worse as a parent than being stuck reading terrible books to your little one night after night after night. There's nothing that will discourage a child more, than reading something they don't enjoy. Having said that, we are also a business, so we try to carefully toe the line between what is popular and what it good. Thankfully, most of the time those two things match up, but things get difficult when they don't.
Recently, the new picture book "The Very Fairy Princess Takes the Stage" was released. The book is written by the mother/daughter team of Julie Andrews and Emma Walton Hamilton and illustrated by Christine Davenier. It has garnered lots of media attention due to the fame of the authors and has made the New York Times Bestseller list. So, inevitably we started to receive calls about the book. Here's where my book-snobbery comes in to play. I was prejudiced against this book without ever having read it for two reasons.
Firstly, I am suspicious of any children's book written by celebrities. Despite a few examples of great books, namely "Mr. Peabody's Apples" by Madonna (illustrated by Loren Long), "Freckleface Strawberry" by Julianne Moore (illustrated by LeUyen Pham), and "When I Grow Up" by Weird Al Yankovic (illustrated by Wes Hargis), my knee-jerk reaction is still that the book is being sold on the basis of the fame of the author and not the merits of the book itself. It's kind of like when an actor suddenly decides they want to record an album or an athlete wants to become an actor. Sure it works out sometimes, but their new project usually goes ahead based on their fame and not their talents in the new area of expression. There is also this assumption by the general masses that anyone can write a children's book. Those of you who know children's books know this simply isn't the case.
Secondly, I already had my reservations about books authored by Julie Andrews and Emma Walton Hamilton. When our daughter was a little younger than a year old we picked up a copy of "Dumpy and His Pals", a board book based on the "Dumpy the Dumptruck" series, at a second-hand book sale. She fell in love with that book. It seems that every little kid latches on to one book their parents hate and this was definitely the one for us. I had to read that book nearly every night for months. Given, it was a simple book with very little narrative made for infants and toddlers, but I couldn't stand it. My experience with that book tainted my opinion about anything that Andrews and Hamilton could do.
So, needless to say I was a bit reluctant to bring in this new sparkly and girly book using both key words "fairy" and "princess" in the title and written by my (admittedly unfairly designated) literary nemeses. But, I needed to listen to the customer demand and at least give it a fair shake.
I ordered one copy to check it out, I sat down and read it, and LOVED it!
The story is about Geraldine, who considers herself a fairy princess, and the ballet recital she is a part of called "The Crystal Princess". Unfortunately, another girl is chosen to play the role of the princess and Geraldine will play the court jester. She must accept her situation and in doing so, ends up saving the day. It's a very cute story with some great messages about sharing and being gracious. Despite the coat of glitter on the cover, I found the art to be very sweet and it captures the mood of the story perfectly without being over-the-top. I'm glad I took a chance on this book. It will now be regularly stocked in our store and I will seek out the first "Very Fairy Princess" book as well.
Lesson learned? Mostly. I will try to be more open-minded about books without judging them based on author, illustrator, or any other situation that came into play in the book's creation. However, I reserve my right to remain a book snob...
Now go read a book with your kids...