Promotions, Reviews, Integrity, Plus a Certain Amount of Contrariness: The Truth Will Out

When
I started this blog, one of the things I used to sort-of-jokingly say
was that the whole point was to get free books, as the laudable reading
habits of the two smaller people with whom I share a house make for a
lot of money spent on books. But lo and behold, when I actually got my
very first bona fide review copy, my feelings were more complicated.

Because the review copies were always accompanied by a friendly,
inquiring email from a publicist, wanting to know whether I wanted this
book or that, extolling the virtues of this book and that, and I
felt…uneasy. I felt pushed. Why would I review those books with enterprising
publicists and not other books? Would getting the book for free
compromise my judgment? I don't exactly feel that book reviews are what
I'm doing here, it's more like recommendations, and did that matter?

What was the right thing to do?

So when I got a hearty promotional email about the Horrid Henry books,
offering Author Interviews! Giveaways! Amazing Results! Check Out Our Reading Guides! See What Other Media Are Saying! I just—backed away.
The books still came, though, 6 in shiny covers. I read one and it seemed fine and then I didn't think anymore about it.

Horridhenry2_385x18_194220a

Not so for my children.

This
was in the summer, when Chestnut was just breaking through the barriers
of a very rough ride in learning to read, and she picked one up. Then
she picked up another, and then another, and before I knew it I was
finding them in all those places that indicate true love: on the
bathroom floor, on the back of the toilet, at the side of the tub, under the covers of the bed, on the kitchen table.
OK, I thought to myself. She likes them because they're something,
finally, that is right at the level she is starting to rock at, and
it's a real thrill. It may not necessarily be the books.
Then Diana started reading them.
Now,
Diana is happy to read just about anything: the newspaper, the back of
the cereal box, an advertisement on the subway. So I was not surprised
to see her start. But then she, too, kept on going. And going. And
going. Before I knew quite what was happening, they were packing them
to take with us on our trip to Sweden.
The books are about the naughty (though not very) title character and his travails, particularly
when contrasted with his brother, Perfect Peter. They are not books
that an adult will want to read. But kids? Especially kids for whom the
world of reading has proved resistant? For kids, they are magical in a
way I cannot understand but have witnessed with my own eyes.
There, I said it. And yes, I got them for free. And I am sorry to the
author if this is going up too late to do her any good in the U.S.
market due to my inner conflicts. But for kids, they are amazing.

5 thoughts on “Promotions, Reviews, Integrity, Plus a Certain Amount of Contrariness: The Truth Will Out

  1. I have a love/hate relationship with Horrid Henry. Love him because, as you say, children just eat him up; hate him because the rowdiness and cheekiness level is raised very soon after reading him – in my house at least. It’s a small price to pay I suppose!

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  2. That’s really good to know! (Say, as the mom of someone who is just starting down the road to independent reading, do you think you could provide some indication of the reading levels of books? I’m sure, for example, that my first-grader and I could muddle through one of those books if I read it to him, but I wonder if he could get anything out of it on his own.) I especially love books that my kids and I can enjoy together; there’s something marvelous about sharing a story. But it’s also important to remember that kids’ books are written for kids, and if we don’t enjoy them as much, that’s actually okay.

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  3. We have already received the Horrible Henry books and have read one of them. Three thumbs up from these boys, one who is a big reader and the other not. And I giggled a bit uncontrollably at the one we read! Thanks for the recommendation…

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