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Sunday, November 10, 2013

Celebrity Authors and Children's Literautre

For the record, Children's Literature is a fine art. It looks easy. It reads easy. However it is rare that anyone can someone can come along and produce a masterpiece. At the very best, a fine piece of work that stands the test of time. Publishers like to promote well known celebrities as authors thinking that this is a goldmine of an opportunity to cash in on sales. While it's true in the first shout out of the book and publishing date, most consumers are curious and want to take a peek at what the book is like. They may even venture out to buy it if they are fans of the author. Which makes pre-sales rise pretty quickly. Okay, so the publisher makes a few extra bucks on the "fame" of the author but what is painfully obvious is the reader is left with a crappy book. Maybe "crappy" is too harsh a phrase. Perhaps a better phrase would be quickly read, quickly forgotten. This week the theme of this blog is exploring the good, bad and the ugly of celebrity children's authors. First it would be important to point out what makes a good children's book. Every children's book must have illustrations that flow with the text. This seems easy to do but ask any illustrator and writer it takes time to get it perfect. The ultimate magic comes when you can not have the words without the picture and vice versa. They become as it were mirror images to each other. Secondly, never take your audience for granted. Eric Carle, well-known children's author and illustrator, once stated that he never underestimated the mind of a child. He's right. A child's mind is complex and simple all at the same time. When trying to tap into their imagination to help them dream or learn, the author has to find the right words to convey the complex yet simple without "dumbing" it down for the child. Children know when they are being talked down to or treated as if they are simpleton. The result is that they will turn off to reading the book. Bad news for the author and for that matter the publisher. Third, the plot of the story has to be the right combination of fiction and reality. For example, Plots that take the child to another place or time must be consistent with that place and time. Plots that feature good and evil must make it clear who the hero is and who is the villain. Plots which talk about events that shape every child's life should touch the child's mind with a "Aha" moment and they see themselves in that situation. Finally, the magic of the book must bring the reader back again and again and again. How many times have you seen a child read Green Eggs and Ham, only to realize they have memorized the book forward and backwards? It's that magic that lets the child experience the fun one more time and they never grow tired of it. It's the same thing with books that become a series. The young reader has to connect with the character in order to want to visit with him or her in another book. That is not as easy as it seems. With the foundation set forth here for important criteria in Children's books, it will be easier to discuss why author's make the cut and why others do not. It may be quite a shocker for some of the authors to find out that their books do not stand up to the test of great or even good Children's literature. Avid fans of books for the young ones can't really fault them. Frankly, it should be the editors and publishers who should have stopped them in their tracks from writing the books in the beginning. However, there should be applause for those editors and publishers who have unveiled noteworthy works from celebrities that were wonderful surprises. These will be the treasures that will be explored first. Which author's work will be explored first? Here's a helpful hint: one came from a famous Hollywood family and the other has starred in some many genres it's hard to say which they are best at. However, both authors have made the good list for children's books for different reasons. Try guessing who it is until next time. As we all know, the author must keep a title suspense to keep the reader's coming back
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