Should celebrities write children’s books?
Whether we believe they should or not… that doesn’t seem to be stopping them.
Does the fact that they are rich and famous give them greater insight to children’s literature than the rest of us?
The celebrities… and their books
Peeking inside a few recent children’s books by celebrities, you can see that celebrity status doesn’t necessarily make for a talented or insightful writer… but it also doesn’t mean they’re not.
By My Brother’s Side by Ronde and Tiki Barber, illustrated by Barry Root
This one gets a resounding “Like!”
This middle grade book, along with several others by the football-playing, kids’-book-writing brothers, is a great example of an encouraging children’s story by a celebrity, or in this case two celebrities.
Twins and best friends throughout life, Ronde and Tiki even joined the NFL together. With their exciting stories full of sports and brotherly bonding, these are great books for young boys, who can be some of the most reluctant readers.
(This book shows only 4 stars on Amazon.com, but its 24 reviews are unfairly skewed by 2 1-star reviews for a totally different book, by a totally different author; I have no idea why they’re showing up with this book.)
The name of this book says it all.
Actually, it says nothing, which is probably the biggest thing going against it. It’s a name, and a weird, unprounceable one, at that. Sure, some very popular kids’ books have used nonsense names for critters in their title, so maybe we can chalk that up to personal taste. (“Gruffalo,” anyone?)
But even if you don’t mind nonsensical titles, take another look at this particular “nonsense” word.
Yup, you guessed right. It really is made up of different words for… droppings. Maybe bathroom humor is right up your alley, but several reviewers agree that this book is inappropriate for children, which is no surprise since the author is a comedienne of adult humor.
Just the ability to talk about poo-poo doesn’t make you a children’s writer, obviously.
(This book got 3.5 stars from Amazon.com.)
Just the Two of Us by Will Smith, illustrated by Kadir Nelson
As a mom who loves a guy who loves his kids, all I can say is “aww…”
Okay, so the book is basically the lyrics to Smith’s song of the same name, but it’s also a great story for boys and fathers to read together.
In his words of advice and hope for his son, the author captures the essence of fatherhood. This book encourages fathers, not only to read the book with its sweet illustrations to their son, but to have a conversation about life and the future when the story ends.
(This book got 4.5 stars on Amazon.com.)
Raymie, Dickie, and the Bean: Why I Love and Hate My Brothers by Ray Romano, illustrated by Gary Locke
Phew. I just read the title and I’m exhausted already.
The first strike against this book is that it has a title with more words in it than some preschool stories. This is a mildly boring story that can’t seem to decide if it’s unfolding in the first or third person, a common problem with “memoir” type stories.
When little Raymie travels to an amusement park with his brothers, some limp attempts at boyish humor and little plotline drag the reader through until the end. This is a good example of a book that would never have been published if it weren’t written by a celebrity.
(This book got 3.5 stars on Amazon.com.)
Competing against celebrities?
Do I believe celebs should write kids’ books? Sure, absolutely. Same as the rest of us.
But then, same as the rest of us, they should be subject to reasonable critique, and not just rushed to print because of their writers’ big-name media status.
It’s discouraging enough for the rest of us. Here we are, either slogging away with self-publishing as indie writers or begging traditional agents and publishers to represent our wonderful writing. And then we watch books like these (some deserving; others not) sail into print on their celeb writers’ coattails with none of the hassle we’ve experienced.
But don’t be discouraged. And don’t ever quit.
We may not be able to compete against these celebs on the football field or on the (big or small) screen… but books are books. Write yours the best it can be and then, just as we do with our kids, give it the best possible start in the world.
Write the best books you can, and then stand proud alongside true celebrities. Like Roald Dahl, Mem Fox, Judy Blume and Maurice Sendak.
Writers who (like me) maybe never played a football game or appeared on TV… but wrote great books and changed children’s lives.
Like I said, true celebrities.
Who are your writing heroes? (In kids’ books, or any type of writing…)