Once upon a time in a little school, there was a fifth grade class with children who were bright, funny, talented, and hard working...but when it came to books, they wanted CANDY.
They also really liked BACON. After several humorous conversations in which books were recommended and turned down we had a heart-to-heart discussion about Candy Books versus Bacon Books.
Let me explain.
Have you ever had a piece of candy? (I may be wrong, but I think this is generally accepted as a common experience.) Something sweet even, a drop of honey? The point of the question is what happens when you have that something sweet? If your tastebuds are anything like mine, you experience something - right away. The sensation happens immediately.
This immediacy also happens with "candy books." I am referring to the quick delights of books that are easy to love, pleasing to the senses, including the eyes. A perfect example, the Babymouse series by Jennifer Holm. These books are adorable. They are quick and easy to love. Baby mouse is cute, hilarious, adventurous and alluring. The books are short, fabulously illustrated and consistently checked out in my library and other libraries around town. They are candy books. You don't have to work at it. You unwrap it, pop it in your mouth and Ta-DA! Sugary sweetness!
CANDY BOOKS ARE CRUCIAL TO ENGAGING AND KEEPING READERS ENGAGED.
BUT...Candy books are not second rate. They serve a very important purpose! Like Dav Pilkey (over whom I have been in trouble more times than I can count) who draws readers in and gives them the sense that entertainment can actually happen in written form AND it is worth picking up a book AND when you finish the series YOU WILL BE LEFT WANTING MORE.
The Wimpy Kid Series, Dork Diaries, even mysteries with complicated plots can be candy books. The books can be fantastic, layered and deeply thoughtful, but they are quick to taste and delicious to devour.
A bacon book is different....
Let's go back to Jennifer Holm. Her book Penny From Heaven is a bacon book. It is rich, layered, historical. It's a story about families, the things that pull them apart and the things that bring them together again. It is a book that most, if not all, my Babymouse readers would love...
The thing is, even though bacon is a mouth-watering, indulgent treat, it doesn't look all that appealing in its package. You need to cook it, separate the greasy layers, deal with the slick unappealing packaging and then...you have to wait. You have to manage the waiting too, turning the bacon, readjusting it on the griddle and possibly even get smattered by grease (which always makes me uneasy about the whole process) until finally the aroma lifts and you remember why this is something you wanted in the first place.
I refer to this as the uphill climb to page 6o.
Sometimes a book grabs you right away. Sometimes those first few paragraphs seal the deal and you are in, but sometimes it takes awhile. Sometimes you need to read for a while to really get a feel for the characters and the story and where the arc is taking you.
This is a bacon book. And like that first taste of bacon, it is worth the wait.
My deal with my students is that they can have all the candy (book candy!) they want but they must, from time to time, try a bacon book.
The rules in my little library are as follows:
1. From time to time - Try something that doesn't immediately look good.
2. Remember to Trust the recommendations of friends, or teachers, librarians, parents etc. Just try it.
3. Even if you don't like it right away - Push through to page 60.
That's when the aroma really lifts. That's when you get to EAT THE BACON.
4. If after page 60 you are still struggling to enjoy the book, put it down.
Life is short.
5. And finally, there are lots of different books in the world, there are lots of different people in the world, find something that works for you.
Just don't give up too fast.
Have you tried a bacon book lately? (Vegetarians - should this be changed to a grilled Portabello? Because, yum.)
Also, to that particular fifth grade class who collectively consumed more bacon in a year than I believe I could handle in a lifetime...you guys rock.