Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Oh no. I am thinking about defacing a library book.

We have a brand new Breyer Stablemates book called Lucky that I checked out of the library a few days ago.  My two year old and I started reading it the other night. I told him the title of the story is Lucky, and when we turned to the first page that showed a picture of the horse Lucky on it, he became excited and said, "THAT YUCKY!!" (he's still learning how to make the L sound) -- it was adorable. We have not finished reading Lucky yet, but I was thoroughly enjoying it and I'm becoming a big fan of the Breyer Stablemates books.  I love horses, always have, and the stories are nice and have lots of great horsey language in them and nice illustrations.  The books we've seen have featured all girl characters but that doesn't matter to the boys right now. 

So here's the problem. I was sitting in my son's room browsing the rest of Lucky and admiring the illustrations, and I see the last page of the book is an advertisement for Breyer products. Talk about YUCKY!  I used to work in marketing, but seeing an ad in a children's book is almost revolting.  My first thought was to rip that ad out.  It seems that it could be torn or cut easily without damaging the book's content or cover. (The ad is double sided.)  So, I could wipe out this ad without anyone really knowing (except me, and well, you!)  

But... it's not my book.  I am thinking of getting some Breyer Stablemates books for our own collection and I will definitely cut ads out of them.  The other Breyer book we read, Snowflake, did not contain an ad.  Lucky has one of the library's new stickers on it, so this must be a new thing.  

So.... should I do other library patrons a favor by slicing out this ad?  Or should I be more respectful of the library's public property?  Maybe other patrons actually would benefit from the advertising message? (Look mom! A free catalog!)  How do you feel about advertising in children's books?  It makes me gag, even in this case, where I have a great deal of affection for the brand promoted. Most children's books don't have advertising.  At most, I have seen cross-promotion for other titles (the back covers of our Sandra Boynton books come to mind). I would generally say it is an awful and disgusting thing to damage or mess with library property, but...I don't know!  It might be good to keep the commercials out of kids' books, or at least, this particular copy of Lucky.

Leave your thoughts in the comments, and vote in the poll!  We'll have this title checked out for at least 3 weeks, and I'm interested in your advice whether or not to actually alter the book.  It feels right and wrong at the same time.


Jill said...

Oh wow...that's a tough call. The rebel in me says rip it out, but then the good angel says not to because it belongs to the library.

Cross promotion on the back of a book doesn't bother as much as this line on the front: "By the bestselling author of...." I understand it's all about selling the brand and marketing an author whose previous books have been successful, but it seems kind of icky to me. I want to base my opinion on the merits of the book in question.

But putting an ad in the back of a children's book? YUCK!

Karen said...

Jill, that's exactly my dilemma, whether to be the rebel or not. I'd rather see ads in places I expect them, in magazines, not in children's books. Is product placement next? Come to think of it, we have a set of Tonka books that feature characters that are toy trucks... not my most favorites, but the boys are attached to them. I think some young reader may jump at the chance to go online and get a free Breyer catalog, but is that what books are for?

Karen said...

Oh, speaking of product placement, I almost forgot about the very popular American Girl dolls and their books! I wonder if those actually contain ads, though.

Deanna H. said...

I would rip it out and not feel bad about it. It would be my good deed for the day.

I can't stand when companies solicit kids. As a teacher, we often get flyers and such to pass out from outside places soliciting to the kids. I throw them away every time. So, I guess I have rebel issues on all that anyway.

Kate said...

show the librarian the ad when ou take it back and explain your feelings?

Kay said...

Yes American Girl books do contain an invitation to receive a catalog in the back and usually some kind of picture. It has changed slightly over the years (and over the different series) as to what it says. They are still great books, even if nothing is purchased. I would guess though that many people send in for that catalog and you never seem to go off of that list!

The Book Chook said...

I'm with you on this one, Karen. We know it's wrong to deface books, but what is the greater wrong? I guess I would do what Kate said. At least that way you register a protest and it may even prompt the librarian to action.

I loathe the whole concept of advertising targeting young kids. Through whatever media.

Abby said...

I'd suggest showing a librarian in the children's department when you take it back to the library. Chances are they don't even know it's there and they might want to remove the ad themselves.

You might think "Oh, she's a librarian, so of course she's gonna say this" but I feel pretty strongly about ripping the ad out yourself. Just because you find it objectionable doesn't mean that others will. Personally, it would bother me to see an ad in a book like that and if it was your own copy I'd say "Rip it out!" But since it's a library book I'd recommend letting the librarians know your objection and letting them decide what is and is not appropriate for their collection.

Also, if you rip it out on your own it's possible that someone at the library might notice and think "Oh, that book is damaged" and order a replacement copy, not knowing that what was removed wasn't part of the story or information in the book. Kind of counterproductive, that.

Heidi Estrin said...

As a librarian I must agree that it's much more appropriate to state you concerns to the library rather than be a vigilante and take matters into your own hands. But I also want to point out that books and marketing have gone together forever. One of my favorite books as a child was actually a book-shaped promotion for Jello; in the story a brother and sister are trying to come up with the perfect birthday present for mom and they end up making her a Jello cake. As a child the whole ad thing went over my head, I just liked the birthday concept and pretty pictures. And I've never liked Jello, so the advertising did not affect me! So I don't think we need to necessarily be so frightened of big bad advertisements in our books. Better to use it as a teachable moment - when there is a blatent ad in the book like in this case, talk about it with your kids so they understand what it is and why it's there, and that they don't necessarily have to believe what advertisers say or buy their products just because they provided an enjoyable story.

jonathan said...

As a youth services librarian, if I noticed that in one of my books, I'd probably be inclined to remove it. As long as I was confident I wouldn't weaken the binding by doing so.

However, I'd prefer library users didn't do this themselves for a few reasons:

1. Like Abby said - no matter how strongly you feel about the ad, it's not your book;

2.Also like Abby said - we might see the stub of a page and not know what's missing;

3. I've seen plenty of books that have been given less than ideal backyard repair jobs by well meaning library users, and I'd much prefer to repair (or disassemble) books in house.

But like I said, I think I might remove it from my collection and would be happy to have it pointed out to me.

Anonymous said...

This is ironic. We just brought home a couple of library books with the pages missing, so the idea of defacing a books is pretty fresh in my mind.

Although I don't like ads, I would have to agree with the librarians: call the book to their attention. They'll tell you the library's policy, and they may look more closely at books before they add them to the collection.

On the flip side, books sometimes have ads that we don't object to. If I've enjoyed a book I like reading an excerpt from the next book or a list of other books by an author.

Sherrie said...

Being a mom and a homeschool teacher, I'm lovin' your blog! I love books myself, and we have a ton of them in our "library." I'll have to check back often to see some of your favorites!

Amy @ Literacy Launchpad said...

Is nothing sacred? You can't escape the advertising anywhere, huh? I understand your frustration and desire to pluck the ad from the book. If it were me, I would feel bad about doing it. But that's just me. More power to ya if you decide to rip!!

I'm pleased to find your blog!

Cheryl said...

I just came across your blog as I am in search for a "children's book" that shows an ad to coincide with my current event article about the debate with Scholastic. The Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood launched a protest about Scholastic selling toys and video games to prompt sales. I'm going to bring up the book "Lucky" in class for discussion. If any other books come to mind, I'd love to hear them. Or if you know of a book that teaches children how advertisers use cartoons to market to them? Great Blog! Thanks for the insight into Lucky.

Cheryl said...

Found one! The Berenstain Bears and the Trouble with Commercials.

Infant Bibliophile said...

I'd tell the librarian, but I'm too much of a goodie to rip it out myself.