Saturday, June 13, 2009

Rules, rules, rules.

I'm thinking about two things today: one is, the derth of SWISS children's literature.
I was looking for a copy of The Swiss Family Robinson. This was written by a Bernese man, Johann David Wyss, in German, so the logical thing would be to read the original. A quick look on Amazon revealed that though there are countless editions of The Swiss Family Robinson available, both in and out of print, Der schweizerische Robinson is out of print, and expensive to get second hand.
I guess this is no real surprise. America and the English speaking world in general are just so huge. They do things on massive scales simply out of Switzerland's league. But all the same it makes me sad. Swiss publishers just can't keep such a huge back-catalogue, I guess, and keep all those books in print. But even the current stuff. How big of a children's book industry is there really, in Switzerland? Does the Nord-Süd Verlag have as much of a monopoly on picture books in German-speaking Switzerland as it seems? Does one have to play by there rules to get a picture book published in Switzerland? And write something as trite and didactic as Marcus Pfister's Regenbogenfisch? If the only hope of German-speaking Swiss authors is to either do that or submit in Germany or learn another language and submit in another market, this is sad...

Now, the other thing that bugs me is the current moratorium against anthropomorphism. There is a magazine, not just of children's stories, but of children's stories, written by kids no older than 13. Stone Soup has sample issues available online, so of course, I was curious. The first two stories both feature animals- in the first story, Flynn by Hugh Cole, the animal, a dog, can talk. Now most of these stories are by children around age 10-13. And I just can't help but wonder; is it really the kids who don't like anthropomorphised characters? Or is this just another rule imposed by some powerful cynics in the big leather chairs at the top of the kidlit pyramid? Diary of a Worm, Click Clack Moo, and the Olivia series along with a gazillion others prove that kids do like these stories. If I thought that anyone was actually reading this blog I would get you a list of kidlit houses and imprints that specifically say "no animal characters, please" and look up references in all my books saying "publishers hate anthropomorphic characters." Complain in the comments if you care. Otherwise, I'll just ignore yet another arbitrary rule and write what I need to write. Man am I grumpy today... Sorry.

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