Character is the most important part of writing, especially if you can make a toy out of it

Posted: November 17, 2011 in All, Children's books and movies
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Megan McCafferty, an of young adult novels, was speaking today to students at Central Regional High School, where she graduated. She said that she came up with what she thought was a great idea for a picture book.

Her agent declined it because there wasn’t enough potential for a stuffed animal to come out of it.

“Wow,” said an English teacher behind me, sadly.

Christopher Nolan was told by the film studio to make his Batman movies more “Toyetic.” Now, I suppose, books need to be.

This should come as no great shock, really. Everything is merchandised.

But two things make this worse. The first is that here’s this New York Times bestselling novelist, and she doesn’t have the muscle to get a non-toy book published. Secondly, marketing toys to children when you’re trying to get them to read is a downward slope. Reading should open doors to more reading, not to buying commercial products.

My wife and I were in Toys R Us and were surprised to see Fancy Nancy and Pinkalicious dolls. Reading is a very private thing, most of the time. And despite the popularity of these series, we just never thought of the idea that hundreds of thousands of kids read them. Hundreds of thousands of potential customers.

I saw a Splat the Cat at Barnes and Noble. I almost got it, but I didn’t because:

  1. I’m cheap
  2. My daughter has enough stuffed animals already
  3. I don’t think she’d play with him the way she’d play with her other toys. Maybe I’m wrong about this.

 

This is depressing. But I guess you have to think of it in terms of children’s TV shows. There isn’t any children’s program on TV right now that isn’t trying to sell you something. Except maybe the public broadcasting shows. But if Sesame Street is any indication, with Elmo’s face on everything, the other shows will have marketing potential too. A quick Google turned up Word Girl (My favorite PBS show) costumes.

So, I guess we just have to live with it. Books aren’t just for education or entertainment anymore. The main thing they teach us is how to be a consumer.

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