by Paula Gail Benson
Okay, I have to admit it. Since I had the opportunity to visit the Highlights editorial offices in Honesdale, Pennsylvania, and attend a Highlights Foundation workshop, every time I go to a doctor’s office, I scan the stacks of magazines to see if the children’s magazines are there. The other day I hit the jackpot. I arrived extra early for a routine appointment and at the top of a stack were Highlights for Children (ages 6 to 12) and High Five (ages 6 to 8). I picked them up for closer study, glad to see that I wasn’t keeping them from a member of their true audience, since there were only adults in the waiting room.
Although I glanced at High Five, my focus was on the issue of Highlights because I had an idea for a submission. Both magazines were dated November 2014 and labelled as sample issues, which I decided must be the company’s advertising campaign. A savvy idea.
During the workshop, my classmates and I had discussed what a good marketing strategy it had been for the magazines to have been distributed to doctors’ offices with perforated subscription forms that allowed immediate mailings to a child and later billings for the giver. No wonder they maintain a million subscribers to each, even in this digital age. As our guide at the editorial offices told us, “Children love to get something of their own in the mail.”
I enjoyed reviewing some of the regular features, but focused upon the fiction. A contemporary story about Thanksgiving had a young girl protagonist trying to convince her parents to prepare only foods that would have been served at the first feast. The family quickly realized the idea was impractical in that several dishes now considered traditional would be missing (like pie, cranberries, and potatoes) and that others would be difficult, if not impossible, to obtain (lobster, eel, partridge, and–horrors!–eagle).
The second story that drew my interest was a historical one, set during the depression. A young boy, Chet, resented that hoboes (or askers—a term I had not previously heard hoboes called) kept frequenting his grandmother’s house and eating the best portions of their meager meals. From listening to the group of hobo visitors, Chet learned that his house has been marked by the depiction of a cat, meaning to other hoboes that a nice woman lives there. Chet asked if there was symbol for danger and the hoboes showed it to him. After the hoboes left, Chet replaced the cat with the danger sign. When his father returned after having lost his job and riding the rails, Chet realized his selfishness and replaced the welcoming signal. The story was beautifully told as well as revealing a fascinating, little known history.
Although the Highlights editors buy all rights to a story, they pay generously and display the stories to their best advantage. The illustrations are beautifully created and reflect the true nature of the stories, drawing in readers as well as contributing to the enjoyment of the story.