04 September 2008
While reshuffling our Series section in the Children's Room, I came across a Ready-for-Chapters series called "Hitty's Travels". It is a four volume series based on Rachel Field's Newbery Award winning book Hitty Her First Hundred Years. Hitty is a wooden doll that travels from girl to girl over a span of time, and she recounts her adventures with those girls. The "Hitty's Travels" books circulated as recently as this past May. The original Hitty has not gone out since 2005. That's just not right!
I hate it when dumbed down impersonations supersede the original source. The series of "Great Illustrated Classics" is a prime example. I grind my teeth in anger each time I come across one on our shelves. I firmly believe that if a reader is not yet ready for full force gale Jane Eyre, then wait until they are--don't hand them some lame-o imitation and leave them with the impression that they've read the masterpiece. (And if the issue is remedial reading, then find something original at the appropriate level. There is so much great stuff out there!) Other examples of "divide and dumb down" are the "Portraits of Little Women" series and the cottage industry that has become the Little House books. It seems that every female relative of Laura Ingalls Wilder is entitled to a book.
I think the most over used phrase in Children's publishing today is "now available for today's youngest readers". For instance, it is used to justify the transformation of picture books into board books--two formats that at times are incompatible. Does today's youngest reader really need a board book version of The Snowy Day, written for pre-schoolers, when they will gain so much more from Bow Wow Orders Lunch, which was written specifically for that age bracket (and works better as a board book to boot?) Today's youngest reader doesn't need warmed-over, abridged Hitty. They need original books written just for them, to tie them over until they are ready to meet Hitty in all her 207 page glory.