The Thursday Book Beat: Coloring Books Aren’t the Only Revolution in Publishing

Happy Thursday, readers! With one more day left to the weekend, are you already thinking about settling in with a warm blanket, and your favourite adult coloring book? Neuroscientist Jordan Gaines Lewis examined the phenomenon for NY Magazine, having recently purchased a coloring book of her own. She is both skeptical and intrigued by how coloring has become less of a kindergarten-focused activity to one that professionals, young and old alike, have adopted.

As someone who used coloring books to de-stress in her last two years of university, nevertheless I find I’m in the same boat as Lewis. I feel guilty about using time to color instead of doing something “productive,” and I’m more than a little intimidated by the complex patterns in most adult coloring books. Given the choice, I think I’d prefer to shade in the simple drawings in children’s coloring pads, if letting my brain shut off for a little while is the goal.

If apps are more your style, you might want to check out Julian Fellowes’ new novel/reading app coming out in April. Belgravia will be released in weekly installments on the app itself, spread out over 11 weeks, and takes place a little earlier in time than Fellowes’ most famous series, Downton AbbeyDownton‘s dual thematic focus on the well-to-do and those below stairs will be echoed in Belgravia, with the Industrial Revolution’s new wealthy businessmen learning to deal with the social mores of the upper class.

A Birthday Cake for George Washington Ramin Ganeshram Vanessa Brantley Newton January 2016Across the Atlantic, class tensions are as old as America itself, but recently, a few children’s books seem to be rewriting the country’s history of slavery. A Birthday Cake for George Washington, written by Ramin Ganeshram and illustrated by Vanessa Brantley-Newton, was called out earlier this month for its depiction of smiling slaves. Ganeshram wrote about these comments and previous discussion of another children’s book, A Fine Dessert, that fell into the same quicksand. Editor Andrea Davis Pinkley also stepped in to defend the book and her author’s work:

In crafting the narrative for this book, culinary historian and Washington scholar, Ramin Ganeshram, took great care in contextualizing Hercules and Delia as enslaved people, while at the same time accurately depicting Hercules as the notable figure he was. In her extensive author’s note, Ramin clearly and carefully addresses the cruel injustice of slavery, as well as the vicious complexity of slavery that George Washington himself faced. In the book, Ramin notes that George Washington understood that it was evil to own fellow human beings, and that he was very conflicted about his part in the wicked institution known as slavery. Slavery’s injustice is also cited on the book’s front flap, so that any parent or teacher will know that this is an aspect of the story, and that it is to be addressed.

Taking all this in, Scholastic announced on Sunday afternoon that they would no longer be distributing A Birthday Cake for George Washington. They cite “standards of appropriate presentation of information to younger children,” and that the book does not meet these standards “despite the positive intentions and beliefs of the author, editor, and illustrator.”

While it’s disheartening to have to hear about books like these continuing to make it all the way through the publication process without more careful scrutiny, it is encouraging to know that publishers are beginning to listen. It’s a quiet revolution in literature that’s slowly gaining strength, and I’m looking forward to the great work still to be done.

Hamilton: The Revolution - Lin-Manuel Miranda, Jeremy McCarter (2016)Speaking of revolutions, fans of the Broadway hit musical Hamilton got a sneak peek at the upcoming book Hamilton: The Revolution this week. Initially proposed by Lin-Manuel Miranda to former theatre critic Jeremy McCarter, The Revolution will be an inside look at the work behind the songs, the show, and the actors that have contributed to its success over the last six years.

I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t 10000% bouncing off the walls in excitement for this book, as both a Hamilton nerd and a theatre aficionado. But something tells me that even with all the things we’re sure to learn about the show in this book, we’ll likely never be satisfied. And isn’t that the hallmark of a truly excellent show?


Angel Cruz

Angel Cruz

Angel Cruz is a writer and boy band scholar. You can also find her at Book Riot for endless discussion and flailing over all things literature. Ice cream, Broadway musicals, and Arashi are her lifeblood.