Readers

The Value of a Book

Several years ago, I was part of the California Authors exhibit at the California State Fair. This one evening, I was seated next to my friend Phil Silver, a children’s book author who had two small books for sale. At one point, a man and his son (maybe four years old) stepped over. The man picked up one of Phil’s books and flipped through it. Then he turned to his boy and said, “Hey, would you like to get a book?”

The son seemed fairly disinterested, but the father continued to leaf through the pages before saying, “Are these free?”

Phil and I sat there in shock for a moment before Phil advised him that, no, they weren’t free, but seven dollars each or both for twelve (or something to that effect).

The man looked absolutely incredulous and said, “Seven bucks? For a book?”

He said this in all seriousness, then put down the book and escorted his son away… carrying a can of beer that I knew was selling at the fair for six dollars.

This is what’s wrong with America.

I regularly tell this story as an example not only of a massive parenting fail, but of society’s misplaced sense of value. A man will pay six dollars to enjoy a beer for maybe fifteen minutes, but be utterly appalled at the suggestion that a book was worth seven, even though it would likely give his son many hours of enjoyment.

This could not be more backward. I admit that the concept of “value” is somewhat subjective, but only a person dying of thirst should find more value in a beer than a book.

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Not Age Appropriate… Honest

Years ago, not long after Wish You Were Here was published, an acquaintance told me that her daughter had read it and really enjoyed it. I knew this woman hadn’t read it, herself, so I asked how old her daughter was.

Twelve.

I groaned inside when she told me that. Unless her daughter was pretty mature for her age, this was not an appropriate book for her to be reading. (As it happened, she was.)

Here’s what I think of your age rating system.

Not long ago, another acquaintance purchased the book and said he was going to read it to his kids, who were considerably younger than twelve.

“That’s really not a good idea,” I said, and told him the book was not even remotely appropriate for children.

“It’s okay,” he said. “I can edit on the fly.”

I continued trying to dissuade him from using this as bedtime story material, telling him that the maturity level had everything to do with subject matter and nothing to do with four-letter words, but he assured me he knew what he was doing. “Okay, then,” I said, mentally adding, “but you’ll be sorry!”

I saw him yesterday. “Wow,” he said, “you weren’t kidding! It was fine, up to a point, but then I just had to stop. You cover some really heavy issues.”

Yes. Yes, I do.

Way to traumatize those kids, Vince. Good job!

“It’s not at all what I was expecting! But it’s really good. I’m gonna read it again.”

Lesson to be learned, people… if the author says a book isn’t age appropriate, you’d best believe it.

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