A good book?

One thing I won’t miss from my school library is the perpetual battle over what makes a good book. I do wish I’d had Adam Gidwitz’s recent New Yorker article to hand to parents and administrators, however. Gidwitz’s article is a beautiful examination of what, exactly, makes a children’s book good.

Using R.L. Stine’s Goosebumps series as an example, Gidwitz makes the excellent point that selling over 350 million copies – please read that number in a Dr. Evil voice, ok? – just isn’t possible unless children themselves love and adore the books, devouring them like popcorn. He says no marketing push or movie tie-in can give a book those numbers, and he’s right.

I believe him because I’ve watched students descend upon that section of library shelves like a horde of locusts, class after class, year after year.

I’ve also had to convince concerned parents and faculty that reading those books – or Diary of a Wimpy Kid or graphic novels or the Rainbow Fairies or name your child’s favorite popular title – is OKAY.

Sigh. They’re reading, folks! All reading is good reading. (Great reading, now that’s another story.)

The article continues with an examination of the difference between a good book and lit-ra-cha. (Thank you, Laura Amy Schlitz, for that. Loved Splendors and Glooms!)

My personal opinion is that children should be reading. I don’t care if it’s a cereal box. If they’re reading something, it is SO much easier to get them to read other things. While I’m no longer a librarian, that philosophy guides my writing as well.

Like Adam Gidwitz, I just want to write something that some child somewhere will “clutch to their chest and say, ‘I love this book!’ “


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