Has anyone been into a bookstore in past weeks to browse for suitable gifts for the children in your lives, and had a little trouble?
Or how about this one: a parent called me last week wondering how to find, in our catalog (so she could place a hold; it's how she most conveniently uses the library) Christmas books that were "just about Christmas," which for her meant no Santa, no presents. We had them for her, of course, but the glut of Christmas books available was just impossible for her to negotiate online.
Allie's review of "An Invisible Thread Christmas Story" was a perfect illumination to me of the problem I always face at this time of year in particular. Publishing seems to be, in this day, more and more profit-driven at its bottom line. Christmas books sell, and bookstores exist on narrow margins. I get it. The problems Allie pointed to in this kid's version of a New York Times bestseller suggest that the only motivation behind this book was money, and that it was therefore written to attract a very particular buying market. I'm sure I'll hear the line that it is subsidizing "worthier" books, but that seems like a deal with the devil to me, or at least a pallid excuse for selling the "White Savior" story in this way. This isn't limited to Simon & Schuster, by the way; we see exactly the same problems on our Thanksgiving shelf, etc.
I understand marketing forces and the need, sometimes, to just make some money... especially for authors and illustrators, for whom it is generally scarce. But it concerns me when the sheer volume of "marketable" holiday books trade on goodwill to entrench stereotype, and drown out other voices and perspectives.
KT often quotes the poet Alexis DeVeaux: "Buying a book is a political act." This goes for our library collections as well as personal purchases. When I manage the forethought to order the book I really want to buy for a present through my bookstore, or manage to find a title on the shelves I actually like and that has a character of color... I delight in not only my little "ka-ching" for that title, but the fact that I didn't buy what the publishers' sales departments shoved in my face. I know that bookstores notice too the books that are being requested, and purchased, especially in this season they count on to land in the black.
Do you have a favorite book for children you purchase at this time of year, or a new favorite? We Need Diverse Books has a holiday list; are there others you've found helpful?