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Bratz: Runway to Highway September 23, 2008

I was looking for someone to high-five when I read the New York Times report that children’s publisher Scholastic Inc. has axed the sexed-up Bratz book rip-off series from their book clubs and fairs.

Well, nobody else is home so I’m high-fiving via blog. This rare “No” to the book merchandising of junky TV shows and products is a major step (although I don’t really understand why Scholastic allowed the trashy Bratz to move in in the first place, vamping about in titles such as “Catwalk Cuties”).

Boston-based Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood claims credit for cutting the Bratz chapter books from the fliers that go home in students’ bookbags, as well as other spinoff products, via an aggressive e-mail campaign. Their beef is as much with the gimmick factor as the inappropriateness of the Bratz dolls, as is mine.

Unfortunately, Scholastic reports their decision to yank the series was based as much on dwindling sales as parent protests.

I’ve always felt Scholastic selections erred severely on the junky side, while sprinkling in some high-quality choices here and there, like the Harry Potter series. One stroll through a school Scholastic book fair and you tend to see as many, if not more, toys, cheapo plastic items and “imitation book products” on display as bona fide good books.

In her article, Times writer Motoko Rich quotes teachers who actually argue that book tie-ins to trendy shows like “Hannah Montana” and movies might be “the only books some children would read.”

Why? Why would spin-off drivel be the only thing a child would read? I’ll gladly field arguments to the contrary, but my feeling is that somebody just isn’t trying hard enough — if at all — to find such kids something good to read.

posted by Janie McQueen, author of The New Magic Bookshelf: Finding Great Books Your Child Will Treasure Forever

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