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Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Kid Lit Konspiracy Kapers

In my recent Pajamazon post re: Al Roker’s new Book Club for Kids, I scrupulously avoided the whole issue of the project’s underwriting.

Which is to say that the Book Club is sponsored by Scholastic and, hey, what a co-winky-dink, the first title selected is a Scholastic title! I was just going to keep my mouth shut about that and focus on Al Roker’s lack of kid book credentials and sudden Jenna-Bush-like desire to cannonball into the swimming pool of children’s literature because, like, it’s fun and, hey, look at me!

But I can keep silent in the face of conspiracy no longer.

Here’s why (see Exhibit A, above):

Yes, it’s a pair of kids’ pajamas bearing images from the children’s book ELLA THE ELEGANT ELEPHANT. They’re made by a company called Books To Bed for the catalog and online merchant cwdkids. When I saw them, doting parent and shrewd merchandiser that I am, I immediately called the company and got their buyer on the phone (no, I’m not that great at working my way up the chain of command. they seem to be an extremely small company, despite the fact that their catalog comes flying through our mailslot about every other day).

I pitched them my brilliant idea: Pajamas based on MY book, CHICKEN BEDTIME IS REALLY EARLY, which happens to have the perfect images printed on the book’s endpages… lovely little chickens, rabbits, sheep and frogs in nightcaps, all ready for bed. What child wouldn’t love these jammies? I offered to order two (heck, make it FOUR!) pairs on the spot, just to prove how successful these little numbers would be.

Politely, the buyer declined. I could send her my book, of course, and she’d take a look. But decisions about which books would be immortalized on flame-retardant cotton long johns would be based on book sales, primarily.

That’s great, I told her. CHICKEN BEDTIME is in its fifth printing now, and…

But it was clear she wasn’t listening any more. The conversation ended soon after she called me “a firecracker” (I think this was a compliment) and wished me well in my future endeavors. Come to think of it, she started to tune me out right around when I answered her question about the name of my publisher.

My publisher, which is not Scholastic.

The whole thing seemed a little fishy, so I dug a little deeper on the cwdkids website. Sure enough, three titles were chosen for pajamification: How Do Dinosaurs Say Good Night? (OK, Jane Yolen can do no wrong, and this one seems like bonafide pajama fodder, what with the words “dinosaur” and “good night” in the title, plus Mark Teague’s illustrations are terrific), Good Boy, Fergus (what exactly does this book have to do with bedtime? and did it really sell so great?) and the aforementioned Ella (ditto my Fergus grumblings). Hmmm? What do all these books have in common?

Terrific, adorable, kid-pleasing characters? Maybe…

Impressive sales figures? Perhaps…

Or, could it be…

Yup, they’re all published by Scholastic.

Just wait. By next fall, I have no doubt cwdkids will be unveiling a new pajama style. With images of yet another cuddly, kid-pleasing character brought to you by Scholastic:

Al Roker.

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