Times Reformats New Kids' Bestseller List
Jason Britton &Diane Roback -- 9/11/00
Now divides children's bestseller list into three categories

The New York Times has announced changes in its recently launched children's bestseller list (News, July 10). Starting yesterday, the Times will now divide its children's bestseller list into three categories--picture books, paperbacks and chapter books--which will rotate weekly in the printed version of the Book Review. All three category lists will appear each week on the Times's Web site, however, and those lists will be used to keep track of the "Weeks on List" numbers.

Charles McGrath, editor of the Book Review, explained that the Times felt that lumping the categories together was unfair, and it left out books that should have been included, primarily a number of paperbacks and young adult novels. The change is also partly dictated by the design of the Book Review, McGrath explained. "The children's list has to fit on one page, and we weren't willing to expand it to two pages," he said. Also, McGrath observed, the list wasn't changing much week to week, and he pointed out, "This new format should allow us to use the list to take a look at other kinds of books."

McGrath said that the feedback he has been getting from the industry about the creation of a children's bestseller list has been generally positive. "The controversy, if there was one," he said, "was in calling Harry Potter a children's book--which it clearly is." This new rotation means that Potter titles will not appear in the print version of the Times list week after week, as they have until this point. "That d sn't mean anything," McGrath said. "I don't think Harry Potter will suffer from not being on the printed list every week."

Brenda Bowen, v-p and publisher of Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing, told PW, "I'm very happy that the Times has started a children's list. I think it's great for children's publishing. And expanding the lists will certainly give exposure to a lot more titles, though it means that true bestsellers like Harry Potter will fall off the list for two weeks at a time, and that seems a shame."

Barbara Marcus, president of children's books at Scholastic, which publishes the Potter books, strongly protested the changes in the list. "It is inconceivable to me," she said, "that the bestselling book in America over this summer will not be listed anywhere on the Times bestseller list. The point of a bestseller list is to reflect the bestselling books in the country, and now this list d s not do that. I'm not saying there aren't some positive things to this decision, because there are some children's books appearing on the list that people might not have known about before. But to punish books that are being read by generations--adults and children both--and then to remove them because of this categorization seems unfair."