Thursday, October 05, 2006


Who's the latest celebrity to jump into the kids' book ring? Queen Latifah. Last week it was Joy Behar with shitzu-caca-poopy-pants or whatever it's called. I haven't read either of these books so I won't make comments about them, but for the most part, celebrity PBs S-T-I-N-K. I wonder what the editor was doing. Perhaps he/she was making paper doilies or playing solitaire on the computer to fill the void. I don't know. The thing is that the well-known children's book authors, the ones who got well known without prior status via Caldecott, etc., do the same things sometimes. I have to wonder about Sendak's collaboration with Kushner.

So my question is--is this industry about making good books or knowing how to market bad ones? Unfortunately, I've concluded it's the later. Every time I hear about how a book hit the bestseller list I then hear the rumors of how it got there. I'll hear "Oh, well that book was done by so-and-so's husband" or "They decided to make it a bestseller before it was even created and talked it up at every conference and used lots of stickers and toys that made noises..."

Do you guys think famous faces are helping the book industry by getting parents who would normally go buy a Sponge Bob book for their toddler to think more about more quality picture books instead? Or do these potential buyers race right into the bookstore and refuse to look at other options? Are bad books making shoppers think that ALL kids' books are bad? I have concluded, since I work in a bookstore, that CELEBRITY BOOKS DON'T HELP. Please tell me if I'm wrong because I'd love to hear it.

What I'd like to do is start a campaign called STOP THE CELEBRITIES. I will do so but showing up at their jobs. I will go on Good Morning America and shove Mr. Weather Man off his chair. I will then BADLY predict the weather by announcing that it will be sunny for 2 straight years and demanding that all umbrellas be destroyed. Then I will jump over to the latest TV set and swap a few lines with Ray Ramano. I will ruin this by sounding like I have turetts and repeating the word "boob" over and over again. I'll tell some really bad jokes about chickens on the Jay Leno show and I'll follow this up by boxing a few rounds. Of course, I'll cheat by kicking and then the match will be called off. I'll RUIN EVERYTHING. The funny thing is that my antics and bad showmanship (like William Hung's 15 - will make me a celebrity and then my books will sell millions. Hmm. I have always thought I have some singing and acting ability... I have always thought I have STAR potential....



Anna Alter said...

You are hilarious. I can just picture you knocking on Jay Leno's door!

I agree and would just add that another frustrating effect of the celebrity book phenomon is that it adds to the idea that making a children's book is easy, that anyone can do it if they just take enough time out of their busy schedules!

alvinaling said...

Well, if it's any consolation, I think many publishers have been getting feedback that EVERYONE is tired of celebrity books (especially booksellers), and so I think there will be less of them published...or I hope less BAD ones published.

Then again, here's another one in the pipeline:

Just so you know, celebrity books often are assigned to editors--most of the editors I know who have worked on celebrity books didn't have much choice in the matter. And there's often very little they can do about the text, and sometimes the illustrator choice, too.

Anonymous said...


One of my favorite celebrity bad books is THE NIGHTTIME CHAUFFEUR, which was written by Carly Simon. It is a blast from the not-so- distant past. It was published in 1993. It is about a boy named Jasper who is looking forward to his seventh birthday. What is his idea of the dream gift?
A baseball glove? Nah!
A bicycle? No way!
A skateboard? Not this boy!
What Jasper wants is, get this, a ride in a horse-and-buggy around Central Park with a princess who has a long golden braid and magnolia blossoms in her hair! He wants the moon to follow them as he sings to the royal maiden.
Get that kid to a shrink. Quick!!!
Well, what do Jasper's parents--total geeks as pictured by the illustrator--give him as his surprise present? You're not going to believe this--
A ROCKING HORSE!!! To a seven year old?
Some day I'll have to tell you about Mario Cuomo's oh-so-not-inspiring book THE BLUE SPRUCE.

Libby Koponen said...

You do, Meghan! (have star potential). If only people got invited onto talk shows because they were smart and funny....

Absolutely agree about effect of the celebrity books. It's debasing the English language, too, to have all this drivel being given to kids.

Does anyone know if the celebrities even write the books???

Anonymous said...

I thought you were kidding about the Joy Behar book. Ah, but truth IS weirder than fiction. I checked on Amazon. The actual title of her book is "Sheetzucacapoopoo: My Kind of Dog."

Just think about the picture book collection a classroom teacher could start with this book and "Walter the Farting Dog." What
a delightful way to introduce young children to literature.

Maybe I could write a book called
"My Dog Comet Likes to Vomit"--or "Boogers the Beagle."

But, I guess, they wouldn't get published because I'm not a SAHLEBRITTEE!

Anna Alter said...

I heard Joy Behar interviewd on npr the other day about her children's book. This makes me crazy we well, npr should know better than to promote flash in the pan celebrity books!!! What kind of world are we living in?

Agyw said...

Meghan and others, I wouldn't have such a hard time with celebrity books (and I confess I don't spend a lot of time thinking about it, because it could drive me the rest of insane, and in this political climate, that ain't good), if one, they didn't have such a wide percentage of the market, bookshelf and face-out space (so much for most of the midlist people making a living and growing to phenomenal talents). And they have such an ingrained PR machine. If the same PR were given to REGULAR children's book, many far much more than the 89% dribble of celebrity books, I'd have NO beef.

But here's the thing, I believe a lot of this has to do with the corporatization of the publishing industry (the bottom line will always be profit margins, and many will simply get greedier and greedier, at the expense of quality) and the fact that the PR machine is much more readily available to celebrities, via connections through the media and name recognition.

I also couldn't say my ideals would preclude me from illustrating said books. Meghan, though I absolutely agree (and truthfully, teaching is much the same way. If you have great talent, does not necessarily make you a great teacher, but many do become a teacher in all walks of celebrity. Perhaps the fallacy is about communication. Not everyone can translate a gift of one kind of communication, be it acting, painting, public office, into another, say writing, or the arts. Though there are some that can and do. I especially loved the idea of you popping around making yourself a celebrity. I absolutely agree with Libby, you have star quality, which makes it sometimes hard to understand those who do not. You so should take on Al Rocher, and I could use a few years of sunshine.

Meghan McCarthy said...

thanks agy. I think I will start a new crusade. The crusade for sunshine--24/7. I really don't like the rain one bit. It makes my hair all gross.

elaine--I'll have to check out those books. Hey anyone seen jane Seymour's? those weren't even grammatically correct! An ellipsis had 7 dots or so!