I was struck this time around by a couple of things:
The preponderance of victims-overcoming-adversity and white people-gaining-understanding books. I think most of the novels concerned either the Holocaust or Civil Rights issues. This has been the trend in children's literature since the 1960's, and while it's important that there be a place in children's literature for consideration of such issues, the tone of most of these books is almost unbearably prescriptive and, as a result, predictable and uninteresting to children.
The absence, in this book fair at a Catholic school, of any religion books. Yes, it was sponsored by Scholastic, and, as such, was selling only that imprint, but it still made me wonder. Why have Catholic schools become such sell-outs? It used to be that publishers produced textbooks that were Catholic specific for Catholic schools. I have a small collection of them on the bookshelf behind me. Readers, social studies, and even science textbooks were produced strictly for the Catholic market. When I was in eighth grade (in 1973) in a junior high school in Tennessee, my English teacher (in a public school) used an old Catholic grammar textbook as a supplement in our class. She mainly used it as a resource for sentences for us to diagram. She explained this to us once while dictating a sentence to us that had some religious content - I think it was about the Holy Spirit - briskly noting that she really didn't care if anyone might be offended - it was the best grammar textbook she'd ever seen, and she was going to use it.
No more, of course. The accommodation has gone completely in the other direction now. Catholic schools seek, not excellence and integrity, but acceptance by the educational establishment, and that acceptance has a concrete form: it's called accreditation. Accreditation is the cause of a host of ills ranging from the mind-numbing waste of time called the "in-service" to eviscerated and dumbed-down to course offerings to the capitulation to secular textbook publishers.
Anyway. Back to the book fair. As I said, no religion books - I take that back. On a small table displaying items adults might be interested in for themselves, right next to an Italian cookbook, was a book on Chinese astrology. Pardon me.
Wouldn't a book fair be a fabulous time for a Catholic school to get religious books into the hands of parents and children? Why don't they see it this way? Are there any organizations or companies out there that do Catholic book fairs for Catholic schools? Shouldn't there be? Shouldn't they all prominently feature my books?