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44 Pages

2017
Distributed by Passion River Films, 154 Mt. Bethel Rd., Warren, NJ 07059; 732-321-0711
Produced by Rebecca Green, Tony Shaff, Laura D. Smith
Directed by Tony Shaff
DVD, color, 91 min.
High School - General Adult
Children, Popular Culture, Publishing, Media


Reviewed by Mary Northrup, Metropolitan Community College-Maple Woods, Kansas City, Missouri

Highly Recommended  Highly Recommended   
 
Date Entered: 5/15/2018

Highlights, the children’s magazine, has been published since 1946. This documentary takes an inside look at the magazine, its history, its philosophy, and how its employees work to produce a monthly publication that embodies its motto “Fun with a Purpose.”

Much of the filming was done at its editorial headquarters in Honesdale, Pennsylvania. Viewers will meet the editor, senior editors, the art director, and others who put together each issue. Along the way, they will learn about this magazine that began as the retirement career of Garry and Caroline Myers. It is a story of struggle, tragedy, and persistence. The grandchildren of the founders still work for the magazine either in Honesdale or in the corporate headquarters in Columbus, Ohio.

Many shots of the employees in their workplaces lend a day-to-day feel, as they talk about their work right in the heart of their workplaces. In the magazine, they try to show a diversity of age, gender, areas of the country and the world, and religion, not to be politically correct, but so that each child will see himself or herself in Highlights.

Viewers of the film who remember reading Highlights as children will enjoy seeing the legacy features, such as Goofus and Gallant and Hidden Pictures, as well as the poetry, crafts, fiction, nonfiction, and recipes that round out the magazine.

44 Pages is a comprehensive look at the operations of the children’s magazine, including some of the more interesting aspects; such as the fact that each of the 3,000 letters received from children is answered by someone on the editorial staff. Also discussed are off- limit subjects, such as violence and politics, the emphasis on STEM subjects, and the expansion into an app that provides daily content for children.

A fun section shows scenes from TV shows that have referenced Highlights: Parks and Recreation, The Colbert Report, Blackish, Modern Family, The Simpsons, and others.

Anyone who is interested in how magazines function, how they are planned, how they handle freelance submissions, how they set up the blend of text and art, will be interested in this film. Anyone who has read Highlights and remembers it fondly will also enjoy it. For colleges and universities, classes in children’s literature would be a prime audience, as well as classes that discuss magazine publishing. Much like the magazine itself, this film offers Fun with a Purpose. Enjoyable to watch, it educates and brings viewers into its universe.