In Praise of Children’s Booksellers and Librarians

Children confuse me.

When I was a bookseller, I spent a lot of time in the Children’s Section. If I wasn’t actually in the character costume for an event, I was behind the desk, frantically searching for the by-age-and-grade-level cheat sheets the children’s specialist kept.

The character costume part was easy. All you  have to do is fit in the costume, keep your mouth shut, and pretend to be a dog. (Or whatever.)

The book part? Virtually impossible.

In the first place, nothing you read when you were a child is relevant. What was I reading in third grade? Not Captain Underpants. So, for a child-free soul like myself, that’s going to mean rote memorization. A lot of it.

And in the second place, none of the kids you’re talking to are reading at their age/grade level, anyway. Well, I guess those cheat sheets were more a set of guidelines, anyway. Does fifth grade mean fifth grade, or second? Does “gifted” mean the standardized test score shows him at a 4.6 reading level (And only six months into 4th grade!) or does it mean college physics?

Then, on top of that, there are the parents.

Let’s be honest… half the time, what you’re really looking for is something the parents like. Child friendly, with good values, and wholesome adventures. Maybe something where the dog actually survives, or the kid grows up to be an accountant… you know, just like his mom. But nobody’s gonna give you a wish list. Nope. You have to guess.

And if they don’t like what their kid’s reading?

Oh, boy. They’re gonna track you down.

Your name’s on that receipt, and they will find you. Were there talking animals in that book? An abomination. Sex? Violence? Fart jokes? Run!

Oh, no. You will not speak. After all, you should have known the moment an over-21 type adult tried to buy that manga–the shrink-wrapped one with the giant age-rating on the cover–that it was clearly a birthday gift for her eight year old.

So, to all the Kids’ Specialists, Children’s librarians, and **gulp** school teachers…

For all your hard work and dedication…

For all the time and energy you expend trying to expand the minds of the next generation, and for the effort you put into encouraging them…

Thanks for taking the bullet.


  1. Reply

    Rolling on the floor here!

    When I think of all the inappropriate stuff I read when I was younger (and most of it went over my head).
    And there… you see over there? The kid wrapped in cotton wool?
    Yep – that one’s mine!

    • Reply

      That’s not a kid. It’s some kind of shrub dressed up to confuse the adults. Your kid’s over there… with the book.

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