Thursday, May 7, 2009

How the mighty have fallen (and no one knows)

How the mighty have fallen (and in the children's department, no one knows)

Michael Vick, Barry Bonds, A-Rod, Marion Jones, Britney Spears, Lindsay Lohan, ... professional athletes, Olympians, singers, movie stars ... when someone has reached the pinnacle of fame, publishers rush to make their biographies (often poorly written ones) available to children. But what happens when those once-shining stars fall from grace by virtue of their own misdeeds?

That's when adult publishing kicks into high gear and "tell-all" biographies of "the fallen" begin to appear, but in the children's department, there is a different story.

In the children's section of public libraries, biographies of the disgraced sit on the shelves, largely ignored by kids and parents, until at some point, they are discarded. Out-of-date, they no longer circulate and take up valuable shelf space. In school libraries, they're often quickly pulled from the shelves or quietly become "lost."

But children do not live in a vacuum. They know their favorite hero is not "lost." They know that something has happened. Perhaps they even have an idea (possibly even a wrong one) about what has happened. But we don't tell them, at least not in print.

I wonder if children's publishing is missing an opportunity here. Cautionary tales of rags to riches to rags might not be as uplifting as rags to riches and fame, but they are real stories and they are human stories and sometimes, they are stories that children should hear.

If you know of any good books that tell these stories of descent (and in some cases redemption) in a fashion appropriate for children, please feel free to leave them in the comments section.

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