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Friday, 3 October 2008

Celebrity Children's Authors

What is it with celebs and writing children's books? Well it's quite simple really. Children's books are short, you can always 'co-write' them (co-written will be in teeny tiny letters and means 'written by someone else') hire a good illustrator and whay hay! Instant cred. Possibly. I can't see legions of small children rushing to Waterstones to pick up a copy of The English Roses where Madonna, one of the richest women in the world, exhorts how money doesn't make you happy by dreaming up a character called Lotsa de Casha. If the parents are fans maybe. But apart from a few exceptions, which I actually can't think of - are there any? - children's books written by celebs don't sell that well. Because children don't give a shit that the author looks great in a leotard at 50, or is married to a famous chef. They just want a good story.

No - this is what annoys me: If Geri, Madonna and now Jools Oliver were to simply say: "Children's books are a bit shorter and easier to write and by writing one myself I may just scrape up a bit of literary kudos and as I'm famous it's bound to get published by some fame dazzled publishing house," then I would give nary a toss. But it's the 'we're actually doing YOU a favour' routine that fucks me off. Big time.

Madonna wrote her execrable series of preachy-screechy books because she wanted to share her spiritual wisdom. And show that "we are all connected to each other on a soul level." And now Jools Oliver is going to write a children's book because she "couldn't find enough good simple stories for children." Has she been walking into greengrocers or butchers shops by mistake? "Could I have a great, simple story for children?" "Er I'm sorry madam. We only serve fruit and veg here." That's the only way I can imagine she missed the literary ramblings of Roald Dahl, Babette Cole, Melvyn Burgess, Phillip Pullman, and J.K Rowling. Thank God you've come along to save our little ones from this stream of literary dross.


John said...

Ooohh... she's got your back up, hasn't she? And quite right too. Couldn't find enough good simple stories...? Is she blind??

Jane said...

Yes she effing well has! Grrrrr! (And no - I've never wanted to write a children's book myself.)

podpilot said...

Whenever I am asked to suggest presents for the kids I tell people a book would be wonderful, especially if its not written by a celebrity or tied to a movie or TV product.

I may sound crankish but it is absolutely dreadful what is happening on the shelves of children's book sections.

Jane said...

Agree Podpilot. The thing is, small children don't care that the author is married to a famous chef, or once wrote an execrable book called Sex. They just want a great story. So who's buying these books?

I used to work in children's publishing and the vast majority of manuscripts were unpublishable because they were preachy and heavy handed. It's really hard to write for children - every single word has to count.

podpilot said...

Small children are much more sensible than we are, Jane!

But surely, of all the book-buying constituencies, children get the least say in what is purchased?

Publishers of celebrity kidlit know that a certain sales volume is guaranteed by having a "name" on the cover. It has become immaterial how they actually gained public recognition, alas.

For Christmas, this means no doubt a Gary Glitter line of South Sea adventure stories. We're a long way from Kaye Webb...

/Fin Keegan

Jane said...

Aahhh! Re: Gary Glitter, I have an old Jackie anuual where the stars are asked what would be their ideal christmas? Gary Glitter's response was that he loved "being surrounded by all my little nieces and nephews because Christmas is about the kids." *shudders*

Gary Glitter South Sea Adventure stories! I'm ashamed to admit I sniggered.