Slice of Life Books

Maisy's PoolOn Monday I met a very nice customer who wanted more books like Maisy’s. Boring, boring books (her words, not mine). She had a one-and-a-half year old. He was adorable and evidently just loved books. The problem is, he liked books about boring, everyday things. His favorite books had less than ten words per page and read something like this:

Maisy gets in the pool.

Maisy’s friend gets in the pool.

They splash!

Sounds exciting, huh? Well, we didn’t do real well finding other things just like Maisy, but we did find a whole lot of Maisy books. The problem is, most books about boring everyday things (and there are a lot of them) have too many words for a toddler and most books for toddlers seem to be about animals or something vaguely fantastical happening (how often do hamsters take over your house?).

Then I came home and found this list of the ten most common subjects for picture books to cross editor Liz Waniewski’s desk on Oz and Ends (one of my favorite blogs). The list has been circulating the kidlitosphere this week and people have been generally saying that those are topics that too many books get published on. And I do have to agree with the point that no one really wants to read about going to the dentist. That doesn’t mean we don’t need those books, but do we really need that many?

It did make me think though, all those books are published for preschool and older kids. Why aren’t more boring books about everyday life, about getting out of bed and putting on socks and eating Cheerios, published for toddlers? There is a market for it. Look at how popular Maisy is! Yeah, she’s not great literature, but how much great literature do you really need for the under two set? That little boy isn’t going to remember he loved Maisy when he’s my age, just like I don’t actually remember loving Charlie the Cowboy. I only know I loved it because my parents still complain about having to read it a thousand times (and my father tracked down a copy to prove to me how annoying it was).

Come to think of it, Charlie isn’t a bad example of what I’m talking about. It’s kind of a look-and-find book, but the actual story is just “Charlie is a cowboy. Charlie is playing with a horse. Charlie is hiding!” It’s all typical things kids do and there are only a few words per page. Even without the look-and-find aspect, it’s a great example of boring slice-of-life for toddlers storytelling. Nothing actually happens, and that’s ok. I doubt it was fun to write, but who cares? Obviously it was loved. And obviously Maisy is loved by many, many small children.

So why don’t more people write such books? I get that it’s boring, but I’ve gotten lots of parents looking for them and it’s way harder than it should be to fill that need!  If there was variety in this area, they wouldn’t always be stuck reading Maisy’s Pool.  Sometimes they could vary it with Pete Plays Outside or Susan Eats Lunch and then maybe, just maybe, there wouldn’t be so many parents with grudges against particular books who come into my store looking for something else about boring, everyday things with less than ten words per page.  And maybe I’d have an easier time finding something for them.

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