Have you noticed that children’s books are proving to be irresistable to marketers and brand-builders worldwide? First came the wave of celebrity authors — some good (Julie Andrews and John Lithgow come to mind) and some, um, not so good (The offerings by Lynne Cheney and Paul McCartney were not keepers in my house). And, of course, there are entire lines of books tied to TV shows like Dora The Explorer, Sesame Street and Hannah Montana.
Now Saks has commissioned a children’s book called Snowpeople that’s written by musician brothers Rick and Ryan Zeeb. It’s being cast largely as a fund-raising effort for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital—with $2 of the $16.99 cover price being donated to the facility. Saks has decorated the famed holiday windows of its Fifth Ave. Manhattan store in a Snowpeople theme this year. There are also ornaments and greeting cards based on the illustrations of Trish Burgio (who goes unmentioned in press releases, though her work is obviously a huge part of the book’s appeal).
The book itself is fine, with a Dr. Seuss-like whimsy. (ie “With charcoal black eyes and carrot stick noses / standing up straight in their stand-up-straight poses / Their similar samenesses cover the ground / the shape of their shapeses assuredly round.”)
Some might complain about Snowpeople’s well-trodden theme that diversity is a good thing. But familiarity tends to be the hallmark of children’s books, in any case. And these icy heroes are talking about the joys of shopping, not cultural diversity. The snowpeople—whom Marlo Thomas seemed determined to call “snowmen” during her reading this week—discover it’s fun to wear different outfits and develop a personal style. (Hey kids! “Roll yourselves down to Fifth Avenue”)
What readers won’t see, thankfully, is a heavy-handed reference to Saks. Rick Zeeb says “it played a larger role at first but we took it out … It seems like less of a marketing book.” After all, what idiot comes to Fifth Avenue and doesn’t stop at Saks?
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