Tuesday, 10 May 2011

Pixi Books and Celeb Children's Authors

Pixi Books are small books for children, slightly smaller than the Mister Men format. You'll usually find them in a big transparent dish held aloft at children's grabbing level by a moulded plastic pixie that always reminds me of those charity collection boxes shaped like pitiable children in 1970s England. Only the pixie is smiling through button eyes like a horror film character in a silly hat. Although it looks tasteless enough to be very retro, it seems the plastic pixie has only been around since 1994.

Children are very fond of Pixi books because they cost 95 cents and are the perfect item to nag their mother for while in a bookshop. Maternal guilt dictates that she cannot refuse to buy her child a small, cheap book with fairies or tractors on the cover while agonising over whether to get a lovely new hardback for herself or maybe two paperbacks. On the other hand, the large transparent dish is sometimes good for at least five minutes of earnest rummaging, thus distracting the child while the mother deliberates further.

Now Germany has fixed book prices of course, which is why the concept has worked since 1954. There's probably not a huge profit margin on a 95c book, but at least nobody's going to try to get it even cheaper. Having sold 13.5 million copies worldwide per annum, though, the German publishers Carlsen have finally managed to export the concept to the UK. As The Bookseller reported a while back, British publishers Autumn Children's Books will be marketing the mini books in packs with stickers from this summer. Which means they can set a fixed price too, of 99p. Because it would seem it's OK to demand a fair price for stickers, just not for books.

No word in the article on whether they've bought into the scary plastic pixie thing though.

Meanwhile, a recent Süddeutsche Zeitung article reviews the latest Pixi series (they come in sets of eight with a common theme). To celebrate the 200th series, Carlsen commissioned celebrities to write books for them. Only - who'd have thought it - they don't seem to be all that good, at least if the reviewer Cornelia Fiedler is to be believed. Heidi Klum's story is about a sadistic tooth fairy, film director Fatih Akin can't be bothered to tell a story, and there's one by a TV presenter about a bread roll and a doughnut who make friends. Luckily, they drafted in a genuine expert, children's writer Cornelia Funke, to write one of them. Funke is famous for being a writer and living in LA.

It's a great cantankerous piece, I must say. But does it really come as a surprise that celebs don't do good (children's) books? Ahhh, a quick search of German Amazon reveals that Katie Price's Perfect Ponies series hasn't made it into translation.

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