Tony Shaff, 44 Pages
AUSTIN, Texas—If you ever attended a pediatric dentist or loved reading between the ages of two and 12, chances are good you’ve come across Highlights. The legacy kids’ magazine turned 70 in the summer of 2016, and throughout the decades it has been a cultural constant.
Everyone knows about hidden picture searches or the long-running Goofus and Gallant comic, but poetry from Lewis Carroll, Emily Dickinson, and Langston Hughes has also graced its pages (and unpublished submissions from the likes of Walter Cronkite sit in the archives).
The Highlights brand has become such a part of the American fabric that it has been referenced in pop culture across decades, in everywhere from Beavis and Butthead to The Colbert Report, Mad Men, The Simpsons, Blackish, and Arrested Development.
If you haven’t recently flipped through the magazine, Highlights will likely surprise you after all these years.
A new documentary called 44 Pages (which is the magazine’s constant size, since there’s no advertising) chronicles Highlights’ history, process, and philosophy in the run-up to its 70th anniversary edition in June 2016.
At South by Southwest, the film showed that Highlights is a more complex publication than your younger-self ever recognized. Now, as it has done throughout its history, Highlights quietly packs real, grown-up science and tech into each issue as seamlessly as it hides a hammer within the bark of some illustrated tree.
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