Monday, February 22, 2010


The latest celebrily entrant into children's writing is Tori Spelling with PRESENTING TALLULAH. She is the latest addition to a string of celebrities turning their hand to writing - From Madonna to Kylie, John Travolta, Bill Cosby, Julie Andrews, Jay Leno and Whoopi Goldberg, A-list actors, comics and singers are reinventing themselves as children's authors.

Celebs writing children's book is in itself not new. Shirley Temple wrote a series of books1930s, and Elizabeth Taylor wrote NIBBLES AND ME in her teens about a pet squirrel. In the 50s, Broadway star Kay Thompson wrote ELOISE, about a little girl who lives in New York's Plaza hotel. Even politicians like President Jimmy Carter wrote THE LITTLE BABY SNOOGLE-FLEEJER, a story about a disabled boy who is befriended by a monster known as, yes, a snoogle-fleejer.

Some efforts are quite good, but others... not so much.  As Anita Silvey, author of 100 BEST BOOKS FOR CHILDREN puts it: "Celebrity books are one of the great negative features of children's publishing in the 21st century. If I were still a publisher, as I used to be, none of these manuscripts would make it past my slush pile." Okay, maybe that's a bit harsh, but many children's authors, those who've  burned the midnight oil, put in endless hours and struggled through the traumas of getting published, feel a tad bit resentful that celebrities get glittering book deals based seemingly on their name alone. Esteemed writer, Jane Yolen bemoans the fact that celebrity children's books command large advances, get lots of publicity and generally muscle the smaller authors out of bookshelf space at your local shop.It seems as if being famous can give you the leg up for anything, even getting a lucrative book contract.

Well, can we blame publishers? At the end of the day they are in the business of selling books to make the bottom line, keep their jobs and their shareholders happy. If they have a product by a well known name, they are guaranteed sales (for the most part). Madonna's THE ENGLISH ROSES instantly became the biggest and fastest selling book ever by a first-time children's author. The book debuted at number one on the New York Times Bestsellers List for children's picture books in 2003 and remained there for eighteen weeks. Combined, Madonna's first three children's books have sold over one and a half million copies worldwide.

So maybe we shouldn't blame the celebrities or the publishers but consumers - they're the ones buying them.

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