Monday, May 24, 2010

A Marketing Mystery (to me, anyway)

Well, once again, we were killing time between the end of school and an after-school function. (It sort of stinks living 20+ miles away from the kids' school.) So once again, we spent that time in the local Hastings store. (I guess living 20+ miles from the kids' school doesn't stink that badly.) I was perusing the middle-grade aisle while my daughter was ooing and ahhing over the stuffed tiger in the little kids' area. What I saw was typical stuff, the Newberry winners and honor books sharing shelf space with the many fantasy series and the books about horses and girls who go to schools with horses. And then I saw it.

Robinson Crusoe.

I picked it up, thinking it might be one of those "abridged classics" reworked for children (although it was pretty thick).  But no, it was the original work, in Defoe's antique English. I thought it seemed like an odd choice to have in the middle-grade aisle, but I know the placement was deliberate, because there were two copies. Oh, well, it's an adventure story, sort of like Treasure Island, which has long been read to and by children. So I guess the placement wasn't too strange.

I moved on down the aisle, and there I saw Wuthering Heights (again, two copies).

What is going on here???!!! Who in their right mind thinks enough kids my daughter's age (she's 11) are going to want to read classics like Robinson Crusoe and Wuthering Heights that it warrants shelving those books in the middle-grade area? Even if they made it through the language style (which I sincerely doubt, because I had serious trouble at times keeping my mind from wandering while I was a college student majoring in English), you can't tell me 11-year-olds have the maturity to understand Wuthering Heights. I could see placing these titles in the young adult section at the front of the store, but I'm just mystified by the thought that pre-teens are expected to choose those books.

Although, come to think of it, one of my friends told me last night that her son (also 11) is reading Moby Dick. She said he told her he chose it because it's "thick." The kid is a reading machine, and I know he will have no problems understanding the words in the book. But I just have to wonder if the symbolism and themes that make Moby Dick an American classic are going to fly right over his head and the book will be nothing but a long fish story.

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