Friday, October 2, 2009

Commercial Books - All Sugar and Sprinkles

Mmmm...mmm....mm. Donut with sprinkles. Just thinking about one makes me want to ditch my blogging and find the nearest donut shop.





Okay, no. No, I'm a big girl. I can resist the urge (for twenty minutes).

But isn't that the effect commercial books have on our brains? Sugar rush pure. By commercial I mean dime store reads that make beach life perfect. I have guiltily indulged in them time and time again. My favorite, the Shopaholic series. Yep. Totally love those. Too much of them, though, and I start to feel a sugar rush coming on. I need a little meat-and-potatoes, and soon. Time to reach for a Lisa See.

So what is the value of commercial reads? They get such flack. They aren't National Book Award material. They aren't Pulitzer worthy. Worse, in the world of kidlit, commercial reads have been dodge balled for rotting out kids' brains, much like too much candy will rot their teeth.

Are they really that bad?

I don't know about you, but after I finished Where the Red Fern Grows a couple of weeks ago (and for anyone who has not read it, it's the Everest of dead dog books, two dead dogs!), I was glad the next books on my MFA reading list were my third grader's Rainbow Magic Series Shannon the Ocean Fairy and Joy the Summer Vacation Fairy. Fluff. Cotton candy fluff.

And just what I needed. I didn't need anymore emotional upheaval. I needed lightness.

That experience got me thinking about the value of commercial reads (and, I'll admit, the stuff for a much-needed second critical paper for my Vermont packet).

If books like Where the Red Fern Grows are the meat-and-potatoes reads (Barrie Summy's parent's terminology. I'm indebted to them for life) then commercial books like the Rainbow Magic Series are dessert. And dessert definitely has its place in a meal.

Dessert is the reward for finishing that meatloaf, or the perfect touch after a filet mignon, or the prize after a mystery meal cooked by (insert name).

At the kidlit level, commercial reads are also educational (just don't tell young readers that). By holding plot, characters, setting, and format constant, emerging readers can focus on the really tough issue at hand, learning to read. They are the chapbooks of our generation.

While I was reading my daughter's Rainbow Magic Series books (which thrilled her to no end because we could talk about them), I got her to read Sarah, Plain and Tall (Newbery winner that is still short enough for her to tackle). We both learned something. Dessert tastes pretty yummy. And meat and potatoes isn't so bad after all. It's all about balance.

Now where's that donut...

5 comments:

beth said...

Amen! Pass the donuts!

Green Girl in Wisconsin said...

Amen! That's why I enjoy some Sophie Kinsella alongside my Geraldine Moore:)

Pen Pen said...

I read 'THe Devil Wears Prada' recently(it's super different than the movie!), and enjoyed it. I consider that a commercial read. You should check out 'Maniac Magee' if u and ur kiddo haven't read that. It's one of my favorite books of all time-It's querky and fun, but also deals with issues you wouldn't expect.
AND-THis isn't really main stream, but make sure ur kiddo has read, 'THe GIver' if she's at that reading level soon! That book changed my life! Have u read that one?!

Stacy Nyikos said...

Pen Pen, I have read The Giver. I really enjoy Lois Lowry. Deep thought. But I haven't read Maniac Magee. I've had it my hand twice and put it back twice. Now I'll have to get it!

adrienne said...

I love that analogy. I'm all for a balanced diet.