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Over the last decade, more and more celebrity books are appearing on children's bookshelves in bookshops. Amazingly, the likes of Madonna (The English Roses), Dolly Parton (I Am A Rainbow) and Jennifer Anniston (The Prettiest Actress) considered themselves worthy additions to the creations of AA Milne (Winnie The Pooh), Julia Donaldson (The Gruffalo) and Dr Seuss (The Cat In The Hat).
I wonder in a "Blind Submission" whether a celebrity's book would still make the grade. Would Jamie Lee Curtis (Is There Really a Human Race?) make it to publication or Sarah The Duchess of York (Tea for Ruby), for that matter, without her name on the cover or the press attention it creates? Would a child or a parent choose a celebrity title when placed along side a new Eric Carle (Very Hungry Caterpillar) or Ludwig Bemelmans (Madeline)?
The publishers choose to accept the book because they know, sadly, that the general public will buy a book by a celebrity rather than a non-celebrity, but nonetheless excellent other author, despite the fact it may not be as good! The publishers, naturally want to make money!
It must be frustrating for genuine, hardworking, long suffering children's authors. The celebrities' books probably get the best spots on the shelves and zoom up the publisher's lists, demand greater advances and win more publicity. The celebrities probably get the best interview requests and go on the better tv shows to talk about their books. And, as they are probably not trained, they don't understand the "rules" of children's publishing so the end result is not that good!
For example, when writing for children it is vital that the author doesn't scare the children; they should create suspense without terrifying them. The words must be understandable but not patronising. The story must be structured but not so much that it is confusing. The writing shouldn't be too moralistic or try to teach too many lessons. Overall, and most importantly, it needs to be a good story! It's as simple as that.
Of course, some would argue that children don't know who Whoopi Goldberg (Sugar Plum Ballerina) is and she actually made it to the New York Times Best Sellers List! is. But the parents, the ones paying for the books, do! Julie Andrews has written children's books, but under her unmarried name. This is more like it!
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