Tuesday, November 22, 2011


By Mélanie Watt

(Kids Can Press, 2009)

It’s a good thing I wasn’t a rich kid. I would have bought enough “Must-Have” toys and gadgets to create a mountain of abandoned playthings in the back yard. Unsightly in summer, a skiing attraction come winter. On Saturday mornings, I watched cartoons and paid as much attention to the commercials as I did to that always-“menacing” group of sleuths on “Scooby Doo.” Every ad made a compelling pitch, convincing me, This toy is the best ever! (Even better than the sea monkeys I sent away for in the summer and the miniature Spirograph kit I received the week before after saving box tops!) I was part of the key demographic group for every marketer: the gullible.

As the cover of Have I got a book for you! makes clear, popular children’s author Mélanie Watt has her own selling to do. This is a pitch I can still get excited about. Buy a book! To be very specific, but THIS book! Al Foxword, a plaid-jacketed, bow-tied salesman (sales-fox?) pours on the pressure tactics. You need this book! You REALLY do!

Young readers will enjoy the goofiness. Older students could use the book as a springboard to talk about consumerism and needs versus wants. Many classes participate in book order programs and I often shake my head as the orders come in, flimsy books that come with cereal box prizes outselling the genuinely compelling stories on the list. (Yes, they’re excited. They’re buying books—or plastic necklaces that come with books. But will the books they get turn them on to reading or turn them off?)

As a published author, I cannot help but find a dark side to Have I got a book for you! If Watt has to cheekily work so hard to shuck her book, what about us lesser known writers? And, more generally, isn’t it sad that we have to expend so much extra energy to promote books, to defend the importance of libraries and to argue against prominent newspapers that predict the death of the picture book? This title rings too true. Perhaps that is why I prefer Watt’s later book You’re Finally Here!, a celebration of books and reading without the business of bookselling in the forefront.

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