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Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Celebrity & Children's Books: The Bad and The Ugly

This is the time when the bitter news must be given to the celebrities that their talents for writing children's books is less then stellar. Regardless of what their devoted fans and family say, their works deserve the "thumbs down" award. Most of these celebrities must already know this or at least their publishers do, because the fact is, they haven't written another children's book. Thank goodness for a little common sense that comes along once in a blue moon. However, there is a confession that needs to be addressed here. The theme of the past couple of entries was inspired by an author who recently wrote a children's book and, for the love of the written word, especially as it pertains to children, they shouldn't have gone down that road. Madonna's list of tomes is a questionable coffee table book about sex and children's books. A pretty odd mix but other to be sure. However, the one thing the Material Girl excels at is marketing herself as controversial. Which is probably why she decided to write for children Although she claims that her daughter was her inspiration, some readers don't buy that line. Madonna failed at her attempts because she did what so many other celebrities do, write for herself but not for her audience. In the case of, The Four English Roses basically comes off as shallow, preachy book about accepting others. It's The Title should have been "don't hate me because I'm beautiful." Young readers didn't find it appealing. Which shouldn't surpassing, writing pop songs is more her style. Fast, good beat and no substance. That's her trademark. It works well with music but not so much with books. The wonderfully talented Billy Crystal tried his hand at writing a children's book and failed. His inspiration? Becoming a grandfather. I Already Knew I Loved You could be appropriately re-titled I Already Knew This Would Be An Awful Children's Book. Children can relate to having a grandparent and love having them around. However, seeing things through the eyes of their grandparents is not what children understand. Their world revolves around them and how they see the world. Asking them to see the world through the lens of an old person, you might as well be asking them to know what it's like to experience life as a dog. They haven't got a clue. Crystal would have been a better success if he stepped out of his shoes and thought about writing from the perspective of his grandchild. Movie legend John Travolta was inspired at one point to pen a book on his son's first experience with planes. One Way Night Coach: A Tale For All Ages is really a tale that should have been shared with just Travolta and his son. The rest of the world should not have been burdened with a tale so bad. Travolta's love of planes and the joy he gets from his child's first experience does not translate well to readers of any age. All three of the books just listed had one thing in common: they had good intentions. Or at least it seemed like a good intention in the beginning. A couple of weeks ago, Rush Limbaugh's attempt at children's book hit the bookstores. Unlike the previous books, this book is written for tweens, children who are too old for picture books but not in high school yet. The tough years of being in between a kid and a teen. Which makes this market hard to make a connection. Mr. Limbaugh has good intentions for his book, Rush Revere and the Brave Pilgrims, however, it failed. It had such great potential only to let down the readers. The absolute sad fact about this endeavor is that Simon & Schuster, Rush and all of his devoted fans will probably see to it that a sequel is written. That is too bad because another book like this one is sure to turn children off from history and reading. Because this is a recent release, and the likely hood of a sequel to be published, it seems appropriate to give the review a little extra attention. There are three major problems with Rush Revere and the Brave Pilgrims. Actually more like five, but three of the worst offenses will be discussed. Dittoheads out there who may be reading this blog, a moment of your time to review the facts presented here before blowing up and labeling the blogger a liberal, over-educated Rush/Conservative talk show hater. (Actually, Limbaugh's show is good and entertaining. His talent shines through at the microphone.) First, time travel is very difficult to master without messing up key elements like continuity. This book misses the mark on so many occasions it's amazing the editors didn't catch it. One example of this is when Mr. Revere and his companion Tommy are on the Mayflower and decide to jump three months ahead to the tail end of the Mayflower's long, harsh journey. They are still smelling nice, their clothes are still fresh yet everyone else has been through the wear and tear of the journey. No one asks where these two have been? No one wonders why they don't look as worn as they everyone else? Really? There are other "holes" in his time traveling that run a list too long to post here but suffice it to say, there are easier ways of introducing history to children without using time travel. Second, the dialogue is so stiff and forced that it isn't natural. As a matter of fact, at points it is similar to reading an over the top and overly rated play. How does Rush Revere know that William Bradford was so confident about his journey to the New World and his success? Children reading this book will know that they are being talked down to and lectured. It is that blatantly obvious. It's beaten over the readers' heads so many times, it's better to put the book down and get a lecture from grandpa instead. Give credit where credit is due, Limbaugh gets the historical facts right. There is no disputing that. It's true that the Pilgrims were heroic in their journey to this great land. However, Mr. Limbaugh's desire to portray their bravery and struggles is lost because he tried too hard. Again just as time travel is hard to master so is writing a story to convey the depth of historical significance and sacrifice to give a lasting impression. It can be done but those who do it best are able to so by weaving the story around the reader's mind and heart. Third, the illustration of Rush Revere look like they have been photoshopped into the scenes. The character is more illuminated than the rest of the scene giving it an eerie feel. Which brings up the point of "cute" in jokes like being a spokes person for a ice tea company and substitute teaching on the side. Even going so far as to praise Rush Revere for the great advice he gives to William Bradford and suggesting he have a radio talk show. If the book actually did half of what Limbaugh had intended this could have easily been overlooked. Having said that, the gimmicks are cheap, not to mention forming the book around the icon of Mr. Limbaugh's Two If By Tea Brand is a terrible idea. Marketing to adults through their children is questionable judgment on Rush's part to say the least. He may not care that the general public believes he's arrogant but this latest endeavor magnifies his personality. So much so that it seems that his ego is bigger than life. That's okay, he's accomplished quite a bit in his lifetime. He deserves the accolades he has received. On top of that, he has overcome many obstacles as well. However, he certainly does not succeed at everything and this book proves it. This book definitely goes into the Bad and Ugly category of why celebrities should not write for children.
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