|Could you write a best-selling children's book?|
Tom Lamont, a writer and commissioning editor for the Observer, wrote a very interesting piece today for the Guardian, in dialogue with children's author, Robert Muchamore. In it,he underlines what I, as a parent think and feel about the ever-growing number of celebrity authors.
Find the article here
"A celebrity – Kylie, Sting – announces his or her intention to write for children, and I instinctively feel for the career-pledged writers who have been huffing away with their thesaurus and watercolour brushes for years. Beneath them, the hopefuls with worthwhile manuscripts hustle for interest... And, uh oh, here's another celebrity, lolloping into the game. They've noodled out an idea on a Groucho Club napkin. Their agent has swivelled at the bar to arrange a six-figure deal. The published result, you can bet, will absorb more than its share of publicity budgets, review space, shelf space."
Working in a children's library, it's something I'm asked all the time; 'which books will my child like?' and also, 'which books are best for my child?'.
And I really do think I am quite good at pointing someone in the right direction. I myself have a special interest in children's literature and have studied the development of it, so celebrity writing is something which I have certainly noticed growing at a rapid rate on our bookshelves, and I see first-hand the impact it has when there is a chance to pick it up, for free, over a host of other titles.
The world of literature is awash with people who think they have a fantastic idea for a children's book - after all, it seems so easy, doesn't it?
|I wrote to the zoo, to send me a pet...|
Think of all of your children's favourites - Dear Zoo, Goodnight Moon, Guess How Much I Love you, Kipper - all with simple words and picture illustrations. Surely it doesn't take a genius to put together a successful children's book?
The truth is, it's really hard to get it right. Children are the most discerning audience, and above anything else are honest in their approach to things; if they do not like something, they will not pick it up.
Also, developmentally speaking, they are already geared towards a certain kind of literature at a certain age - it's not enough to simply have an easy story for pre-schoolers; research has shown that a story with rhyme and repetition works best, which is probably why author Julia Donaldson is so popular.
|Oh help, oh no!|
Baby board book have become so much more than pictures with words - there's now a huge array of black and white picture books, touch and feel boards and surprise flap books to garner the interest of the smallest babes.
So how is it then, that most celebrities who write, do in fact get it right? How are they so popular?
|David Walliams and his fabulous fiction|
But when you think of someone like Madonna, or Katie Price, do you immediately think of someone who has a natural affinity with children, who could make kids giggle?
|Tom loves a good book!|
And if kids, who don't really know who these people are, are judging their books on content rather than who wrote them, like them, does it really matter?
Lamont claims we are jealous:
"We like to pretend we're reasonable souls, but most of us are way more petty and jealous than we'd like to admit. I mean, we may hate bankers, but if someone offered you two million a year to wear a snappy suit and yell, "Buy, buy, buy!" down a telephone you wouldn't say no, would you?"
There is something a bit odd about it all though, a bit cringe-worthy. And I've been trying to work out what it is.
I think it makes me feel funny because books are a sacred and very intricate world into which a child steps. It's free. It's pure. It's a world free from commercialism (in the main) and everything is completely based in imagination.
A book provides some of our most intimate childhood moments - at bedtime, when we are ill, when we are sad and connects with us in a way that is as individual as we are. It's a mother's warm cuddle at night, entertainment on a rainy day, travel when we have to stay where we are.
For our children, I can think of nothing more important.
|Reading has always been on the menu!|
The names of children's authors, are words we utter to our book seller or librarians in the search for an old fable or beautiful moment from our own childhood, whispered with a twist of a smile on our lips. These names are those who brought us all the understanding we sought out as children in an ever-confusing world.
It's not very often that we know much about them, or even what they look like. And with massively magical authors, such as Roald Dahl or Judith Kerr, the author's own lives become a beautiful fable themselves, abound with rumours of magic and whimsy.
But these celebrities who write - the Madonnas, the Holly Willoughbys, the Russel Brands - we know more about them than is comfortable or necessary. We know who they had sex with, what affairs they've had, the bad habits they advertise and, in the case of Katie Price, what their intimate parts look like during childbirth.
It doesn't feel right that we should be inviting their 'brands' into our children's domains.
Children's authors, traditionally, haven't courted this kind of celebrity for themselves, and we are all very comfortable with that. But, quite rightly, they are peeved at the attention a celebrity's book is given - getting a book published is a difficult and emotional time for many authors. It must feel like standing patiently in line, just to see the big ballsy, loudmouth bully skip the queue.
Children's author Robert Muchamore laments: