Monday News: What is “good” kid lit, digital download tax, limiting what kids read, and literary destinations
THE “GOOSEBUMPS” CONUNDRUM: WHAT MAKES A CHILDREN’S BOOK GOOD? – We talk a lot about so-called “good” or “quality” books for adults, but Adam Gidwitz puts the same basic questions to kids books, and the psychological, moral, and behavioral implications people often assign to these judgments. Does this application make help us re-think the way we have this discussion about adult fiction?
The conundrum of the “good” children’s book is best embodied by the apparently immortal—or maybe just undead—series “Goosebumps,” by R. L. Stine. “Goosebumps” is a series of horror novellas, the kid’s-lit equivalent of B-horror movies. It’s also one of the most successful franchises in the business, selling over three hundred and fifty million copies worldwide—which is a ludicrous, almost obscene, number. And here’s a secret from the depths of the publishing industry: neither marketing nor publicity nor movie tie-ins can move three hundred and fifty million copies. The only way to sell that many copies is if millions of kids actually and truly want to read the books. The conclusion is obvious: “Goosebumps” books are good, right? . . . The New Yorker
46 California Cities Join Rush To Impose ‘Netflix Tax’ – Although it is currently being sued for violating city rules and the Internet Freedom Tax Act, Chicago has apparently set a precedent for other U.S. cities that want to generate revenue by taxing, well, pretty much all digital downloads (including online streaming and cloud computing). More suits are sure to follow, but in the meantime it appears that this tax is making a hasty cross-country sprint.
Earlier this year, the Pennsylvania legislature expanded the state’s 6% sales tax to cover digital downloads and subscription services like Netflix and Hulu — but also music, e-books, apps, online games, and ringtones. And now Pasadena, California, has joined the fun, applying its own 9.4% tax on streaming video providers such as Netflix, HBO Go and Hulu. In fact, Pasadena is one of 46 total California cities that are rushing to embrace the tax to help shore up city budget shortfalls. – Techdirt
How Banning Books Marginalizes Children – Paul Ringel’s essay makes an interesting companion piece to Gidwitz’s, because Ringel’s argument actually extends past banning (although clearly The Atlantic is trying to tie in to Banned Books Week with the piece). Rather, Ringel is really talking about what kids should read, and these decisions often rest on the same kind of moral, psychological, and social arguments that determine a book’s “quality” as children’s reading material.
During the 19th and early 20th centuries, debates over the target audience of the American children’s-literature industry largely centered around the question of how much adults should trust children to choose what they read. Before the Civil War, the prevailing answer was “very little.” Accordingly, kids’ books and magazines addressed the instructional concerns of adults without worrying much about readers’ interests. New entertainment options, from dime novels to nickelodeons, led to a greater effort to retaining children’s attention by amusing them. Yet even as publishers focused more on engagement, they carefully avoided subjects that riled the parents who bought the books. . . .
When librarians and teachers reject works that may be “emotionally inappropriate” for children (a common reason), they’re adhering to the traditional and mostly prevailing view that children’s literature should avoid controversial topics. It’s understandable that adults want to minimize children’s anxiety, and schools are often under intense social and financial pressure to maintain established standards. But it ‘s also important to recognize that this tradition was established in the 19th century to serve the needs of the white, wealthy Protestant producers and consumers who have dominated the field of American children’s literature for much of the past 200 years. – The Atlantic
13 Places That Book-Lovers Should Visit In The Fall – I think there are WAY too many U.S. locales on this list, but there are still some good ones (I highly recommend the Mark Twain House). -Bustle