Both books are histories not so much of the reception of children’s literature and television, respectively, but of their production. In Marcus’ case, for instance, that means a history of editors, publishers, and librarians more than of authors, illustrators, parents, and children, with a history spanning from the American colonies to Harry Potter. Hayes contextualizes his discussion within the story of how he discovered children’s television through his young daughter. Reception and consumption therefore figure into his narrative, but he also centers on the writers, directors, producers, and programmers who create preschool television, with, for instance, a longitudinal observation of the creation of Nick’s Ni Hao, Kai-lan.
I’ve not yet read either book, but I heard Hayes give a reading two weekends ago at the studios of Little Airplane (Wonder Pets), one of the companies he writes about in the book. It sounds incisive and critical-not an anti-television diatribe, but an intelligent look at the merits and flaws of kids’ television, with respect and deference for its creators (at least those, like our host Josh Selig, who respect children and try to make programming that reflects that). Having had just that taste of the book, I think of it a bit like a Fast Food Nation for children’s television: muckraking perhaps, but very useful and timely investigative reporting nonetheless.