Saturday, November 13, 2010

The Children’s Book Bandwagon

Detail of illustration of book I've written

Pretty much everyone is writing children’s picture books nowadays. 
There are, of course, the celebrities: Madonna, John Lithgow, Julie Andrews, Kathie Lee Gifford, Tori Spelling…. Perhaps it’s their second career. I can’t fault them for that. I’m working on MY second career.

But my sneaky suspicion is that “how hard can it be?” popped up in their minds. Followed by “I bet this would make a great idea for a children’s book!” I'd like to think that my favorite children’s book authors never ever have that thought. They have a story to tell and the stories just happen to be for children.  They don’t moralize. They don’t talk down to kids. And I’d bet that they don’t ever think “what child wouldn’t love to hear my story about a (insert favorite barnyard animal here)?” 

This trend is not limited to celebs. I can say with great certainty that, myself included, almost everyone has thought of a “great idea for a children’s book.” How do I know? Because I’m an Illustrator. And practically not a week goes by that some friend or relative or friend-of-a -friend or friend-of-a-relative doesn’t ask me to illustrate their book. Maybe they’ve just been introduced to me. Maybe they’ve never seen my work.  For all they know I could produce evil evil artwork that would make Hieronymous Bosch blush.* Doesn’t matter. They have a great book about a little (turtle, girl, rabbit, gender-confused child) that they know I can help them with. 

I’ve only said Yes once. To a wonderful cousin who can write well and has good things to share with children.  I really wanted to work with her and it’s been a great experience. In my experience most publishing companies prefer to find their own illustrators for books by first time writers. So truthfully the writers shouldn’t bother hiring me anyway.  They should feel free, however, to recommend me to their publishers!

Right now I’m fine-tuning a few picture books that I’ve written. They have been pretty tough to fine-tune. Writing for children can be harder than it looks.  I guess we can’t all be Tori Spelling, Bette Midler, The Prince of Wales, John Travolta, and Jimmy Buffet.

*I’m hoping to sprinkle my blog posts with references to artists. I know you all have all “Googled” your second grade nemesis, that good looking physical therapist you once met, that date that stood you up. So I know you can “Google” a few artists. If you don’t know Hieronymous then please look him up. 


  1. Well I almost didn't google Heironymous Bosch...mostly because he sounded like an eponymous dishwasher. As I am late to the inaugural blog, I would like to congratulate you! I have always been a fan of your humor and talent and a blog is the perfect way for you to showcase yourself! And by the way, you should probably write a children's book too. One for boys that doesn't involve wizards...

  2. Thanks Erika. I only have the stamina to write picture books. But I agree, I'm all about books without wizards. No vampires either for that matter.
    You are a bit late for the inaugural blog. Read my first one to catch up.

  3. I happen to know who Hieronymous Bosch is so no googling necessary for me. He'll probably be the last name I recognize, however, once you start getty all jiggy with the artist references.

    I know that I was guilty of doing just what you describe: I told you at one point that I had an idea for a children's book. But hopefully I've got some street cred now. (Although I've long since recognized that children's books are a totally different kettle of cheez doodles from what I do.)

    We'll see you all next weekend. Keep up the good blogging!

  4. No no, KLM! You are just a fantastic solid writer. And you are all about not talking down to kids. I really admire that.
    Here's what I imagine is the whole thing about picture books: they are short so some people think that hey are easy to write. And since it's for kids, hey, who cares about quality writing? I just think that as they aren't as lengthy as other books they are open to a whole host of people who think "HEY! Even I can do that!"
    Kinda like blogging. Like say, some imaginary silly illustrator teacher-wanna-be thinking "HEY! Even I can have a blog!" Well, yeah, they CAN but that doesn't make it good....

    That said, I think there are some phenomenal picture book writers out there. Notice I didn't include Jamie Lee Curtis on my celeb list? I LOVE her books, I think she writes from the heart. I know that sounds corny but I really do think that.

    Right now, as my youngest learns to read, I've come to appreciate good Learn To Read books. There weren't as many out there for my older son. I remember there being a lot of easy reader Thomas the Tankengine books that wouldn't appeal to a 7 year old. But Mo Willems and Ted Arnold and others have changed all that.

  5. Hi Paula I did not know who Hieronymous Bosch is but I sure am glad Mom did not name me that name. I hear through Wikipedia ( yes at this time I will give Wikipedia human attributions as did the Supreme Court with corporations)that his name would be Jerome now. Jerome sure can paint!

  6. Hi Paula! I know who Hieronymous is! Do I get another Bunny sticker? Cause that was awesome and I am all about brown-nosing the teacher. And straight A's.

    I had the, um, privilege (?) to meet Jamie Lee Curtis once and while she was very nice, her kids books don't do anything for me. I am in complete agreement. Although, to give these people credit, this is also the reason I started blogging. I read a bunch of blogs, and was all, "Pssssshhhh, I can do that. Maybe better." I guess the difference is that they get published and make *another* bazillion dollars and the problem becomes cyclic. Or something. I don't know.

    Hit me with more artists, baby. :)

  7. Actually, I just read the comments and we're not in agreement about Jamie! Maybe I haven't read her books closely enough? Also she tried to shift the blame on why her daughter was failing my chemistry class to me, so maybe it's just a personal thing. *sigh* I'd have given anything to have had that conference with Christopher Guest. *sigh*

  8. Good lord, I should read all the comments before I post my comment. Redundant much? Yup.

    I'm going to go be quiet now.

  9. Holy crap, Paula. I just realized why it was redundant. We're the same freakin person. Well. Except for your amazing talent and our feelings about Jamie. But other than that? Same person.

  10. My youngest LOVES her book The Human Race by Jamie Lee Curtis. A bit might be due to the illustrations which are sort of Roz Chast-like. Initially I didn't like the drawings much but I think there is something in them that really appeals to kids. I am not going to say she is a phenomenal writer but I do think there is a good energy in her books.

    I agree Penelope, given a meeting with Jamie Lee Curtis or her husband Christopher Guest I would, of course, have to pick Sir Guest. (Wasn't he knighted? Or of royal blood or something?) I will watch anything he has a hand in. If sent off to a desert island I would have to pick at least 2 of his films for my list of 10 desert island DVDs.

    I don't think we are quite the same person. I do know we have different reading habits. And oh, there's that giant brain of yours. Mine is a peanut, yours is a coconut. Um...not sure that was a good analogy. Well, you know what I mean. But we definitely overlap.