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April 22, 2009

Not PC, But CC

Sipping my morning coffee, checking 
email and listening to morning TV.
First Brooke Shields then less than 20 
minutes later, Dolly Parton touting
their new children's books. Earlier I 
read that Mario Lopez is authoring a 
children's book. I have nothing personal 
against these three or anyone for that 
matter who wants to try and write a 
children's book. There is always room for 
good new book ideas. Wannabe children's 
writers please note: Publishers pay 
celebrities huge sums that dwarf  any 
advance paid to mid list real authors.

I initiated and taught the Children's Book 
Illustration class at the University of the 
Arts, some years ago. Each student produced 
their own original picture book from 
manuscript through dummy to a finished 
art sample. Most were artists not writers, 
but with some direction  and constructive 
critiques, as one would receive from a good editor 
at a good publishing house, they produced some 
wonderful books. One, The Third Story Cat, by 
Leslie Baker, was published by Little Brown and 
won Leslie the Ezra jack Keats award. The first 
of over a dozen handsome books she published,
some by other authors. 

For some students, including Jacqueline 
Bardner Smith and Alix Berenzy, their 
dummies helped open publishing doors 

I always encourage anyone who tells me 
they have an idea for a kid's book to 
write it and if they are serious, include 
advice on professional presentation 
and finding an appropriate publisher for 

All this said, I am deeply dismayed by the 
trite subject matter and substandard writing 
in so many celebrity books. Material that 
would never be tolerated from true
children's book authors. 

The biggest losers, I believe, are children 
growing up thinking the mediocrity is literature 
and being famous is far more important and than
ideas and writing skill. 

I am also wondering how come with all the celebrity 
children's book authors there are no celebrity 
children's book Illustrators


  1. Oh, bay-bay! That's tellin' 'em. I think there may be a FEW well-written, well-intended celeb kiddie authors out there, but no doubt they are dwarfed by those doing it for (sorry) opportunistic PR purposes. & I'm sure you're right; the biggest losers are future generations of kids who will think that this is as good as children's lit gets...when, at its best, it's such an evocative & miraculous art form. Love you, Carolyn!

  2. Well, C., as usual, you tell it like it is. Unfortunately, we live in a celebrity infused culture: celebrity jeans, celebrity jewelry, celebrity make-up, celebrity perfume,,celebrity cooking shows,celebrity rehab etc etc.We have all these magazines that exist simply to chronicle their lives and all these silly shows: TMZ, Inside edition, Dancing With the Stars etc etc. Yikes, there's even celebrity ART materials! The bottom line as we know is about making $$$$$$$$$$. Not $. But $$$$$$$$$$$ and lots of it, any way you can.Even if it's a crappy product, mediocre, just plain stupid or...illegal!
    Publishing is just a business just like everything else now. And I'm afraid quality many times has been left behind in the quest for the golden calf.But that being said,I feel fortunate that i was able to participate in publishing during an era when things were different. I am proud of the work I did and grateful for the good editors, authors and illustrators and independent booksellers I met. And , of course,you C., without whom this wouldn't have happened. (By the by, I think Jamie Lee Curtis actually has some good things to say in her books.)

  3. I think it's the editors and publishing committees that are as star struck as the comsumers. They want to have a meeting with Brooke Shields, et al, it's so exciting! The celebrity name may help sell many numbers of copies, but after paying off that huge advance, how many of them actually make a profit?