Bonus Material: Is a Kids Book About Cancer Too Tough to Sell?

In Children's, Discussion by Edward Nawotka

By Edward Nawotka

Is Cancer Contagious?

What would happen if someone I knew was suddenly stricken with cancer and I had to explain it to a child, what would I do? Apparently, calling a bookstore would be a bad idea. As Amy Koppelman explains in our lead editorial, few books exist to explain such traumatic topics to children in a forthright manner. War, terrorism, and disease are all difficult subjects that we want to shelter our children from as much as possible, so it’s no surprise that even if the books do exist, there are few of them available on store shelves. For starters, where would you shelve them? Surely not in the children’s section next to Dr. Seuss…

Perhaps what’s ironic about this is that adults themselves are (overly) fond of memoirs from (overly) aggrieved writers, often ones describing their recovery from a childhood trauma of one kind or another.

Trauma can be a very difficult thing to confront, but sometimes booksellers can indeed help in a way that others can not. Following the September 11 terrorist attacks on New York City and Washington, D.C., the first thing I did as a journalist was, indeed, to phone Full Circle Bookstore in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma to ask them for books about terrorism and how to deal with psychological trauma. Why Full Circle? Because the booksellers there had special knowledge of the literature which they acquired when helping locals deal with the aftermath of Timothy McVeigh’s bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in 1995. The folks at Full Circle were generous with their recommendations of which books to read and which ones to stay away from.

Koppelman confessed to me that few booksellers have shown much interest in the Is it Contagious? series, despite a demonstrated audience, and she’s had to focus on special sales—to hospitals, medical clinics, even funeral homes and the like.

So, the question remains, is a book aimed at children to explain a traumatic occurrence, whether a serious disease or terrorism, simply untenable in the conventional book retail marketplace?

Let us know what you think in the comments below or via Twitter using hashtag #ppbonus

About the Author

Edward Nawotka

A widely published critic and essayist, Edward Nawotka serves as a speaker, educator and consultant for institutions and businesses involved in the global publishing and content industries. He was also editor-in-chief of Publishing Perspectives since the launch of the publication in 2009 until January 2016.