While I would not call myself a complete snob when it comes to TV/Film tie-ins, I would say that I definitely avoid them. Yet, I have never stopped my children from reading them, particularly picturebooks linked to children’s series. Even though their interest in them is often time-limited (lots of interest for a short time, then not interest at all after a while when they have moved on to another TV programme), reading is reading and I am not one to curb that type of enthusiasm.
However, something interesting happened in the Library Mice household, instigated by me, and it has mad me think about the power of TV tie-ins.
My children get two “special” bundles of books a year, on Christmas Eve, and at Easter. At Christmas, they always get a classic, and some other books. At Easter, they always get a comic and some other books. Now, I am a big fan of Shannon Hale. I loved Princess Academy so much I have just used it as for an essay for my MA. So when I realised she had written a middle grade series set in a fairy tale world, I knew I had found a winner for my daughter’s Christmas bundle.
The series follows the adventures of the offspring of fairy tale characters who all go to the same boarding school where they prepare to fulfill their destinies as the next generation’s Cinderella, Snow White etc. But there is rebellion amongst the ranks, particularly from Raven, daughter of the Evil Queen, who is not happy about following her mother’s footsteps.
So I bought Ever After High: The Storybook of Legends.
Even though I was not enamoured with the book cover.
Even though it reminded me too much of Monster High, which I loathe.
But come on, it IS Shannon Hale, so it had to be good.
So my daughter read it a few weeks ago. She loved it. She really loved it, and I have bought her the second one, Ever After High: The Unfairest of Them All, which she is reading already.
And then, we made the discovery that Ever After High was a franchise from Mattel (which I should not bash too much as they put bread on my table for many years, as my mother was a Mattel rep in a department store). But that means dolls. Dolls that look a lot like Monster High dolls (ha!). Dolls with make-up, big hair and small waists. I was a bit cross with myself, and Shannon Hale to be honest (sorry Shannon, if you are reading this). I used Princess Academy for my essay on feminism, and now this!
And not only dolls, but a whole website, with videos, a shop and lots of stuff.
Of course, you know what happened next. My daughter started to ask for a doll. E-ve-ry-day. Aaaaargh!!!!
But last night it was just the two of us and as we could not read the book I have been reading to her and her brother as he wasn’t there, she asked if I would read a chapter of her Ever After High book to her instead. So I did. And it was lovely. Because Shannon Hale wrote it. Because she is a thoughtful, eloquent writer. And though I still object to the way the girls look, there is plenty of positive female imagery and behaviour in the stories. We watched a couple of youtube videos together; we had just read about the food fight, so we chose that one:
And no, I still don’t like the whole franchise. But we discovered it in a skewed way, in a way. We read the books first, then discovered the dolls. For most little girls, it will be the other way round. They will know about the dolls and all the other media stuff first, and hopefully this will encourage them to pick up the books. And if this means they get exposed to Shannon Hale’s writing, and later on seek out her books for older readers, then I think this is no bad thing really. Actually, it is a great thing. Whatever path children use to find their way into reading should be ok with us. It IS ok with us. Being skeptic and snobbish about books is so counter-productive. I should know better. I DO know better.
So I have made my peace with it all. And it is likely she will even get a doll, eventually. And in case you are interested, it is Raven my daughter wants to be. Because she is a rebel. Though the irony that she is daughter of the Evil Queen is not lost on my husband *sigh*
Source: Miss R’s copies of the books.