I have found further evidence of a gaping hole in the children’s literature market. Last week it became clear that the children’s book Marvin Redpost: Class President was too American-centric to be suitable for international school students. This week, as we finished the book, it became clear that it was even too American-centric to be suitable for American students.
Near the end of Marvin Redpost: Class President there is a question and answer session between a fictional US president and a group of third grade students. The president uses this important moment in these children’s lives to impress on them the importance of doing their duty as American citizens:
“America is not just a place on a map … America is made up of all of its citizens. If we want America to be a great country, it is up to every single one of us … to be good citizens.”
While hard to read while sitting with a group of almost entirely non-American students, this passage is a perhaps a suitable message about civic responsibility for American students.
Unfortunately the mini-civics lesson did not end there. The author then delivers his second punch:
[Nick, a student, asks] “When you go to another country, do you ever have to eat really weird food and pretend you like it?”
The president nodded. “It happens a lot. I try to spread it around on my plate, so it looks as if I ate more than I really did.”
“I do that, too,” said Nick. “What’s the weirdest thing you ever had to eat?”
“Oh, gross!” said Nick.
My eyes rolled up into my forehead and I inwardly blushed with the shame of being tacitly associated with this drivel by virtue of being an American.
The two-part, take-away message that my jaded mind latched onto was: Firstly, we Americans need to stick together to keep our country great. Secondly, those foreign people over there eat weird things and are not like us.
When I finished listening to the students read this bit of dialogue aloud, I restrained myself from throwing the book across the room and instead asked them about their experiences trying new foods.
Being the awesome and remarkable international citizens that they are, they completely ignored the opportunity to talk about “weird” foods that “other” people eat. Instead they immediately started fantasizing about their own food invention: the Giant Sushi Cake.
(1) Who is ready to launch an international children’s publishing house to compete against this garbage?
(2) Who will join me and a handful of second graders to further develop the “Giant Sushi Cake” concept?
(3) Can I sell the following “shocking true stories” book idea to a short-sighted American publisher? (Proceeds to be used to finance the first two ventures.)