March 9, 2006

Celebrity Children's Books I Didn't Know About

So in that Kylie Minogue article, the Guardian mentions a bunch of other celebrities who decided to have a go at making children's books. Some, like Madonna, just have their Kabbalah flack throw some preachy crap together, while others, like Jamie Lee Curtis, actually write and write well. But there are a couple of celebrity kid book endeavors I hadn't heard anything about until now:

  • Spike & Mrs Lee, for example, whose story about a tireless toddler wearing down her parents takes its title from a hookup line in one of Spike's earliest movies: Please, Baby, Please.
  • Flanimals is some sort of Pokemon thing cooked up by Ricky Gervais. Maybe the only reason I haven't heard of it is because I'm not the parent of an 8-yr-old Brit. Supposedly, it's quite popular there.
  • Will Smith turned his cover of Just The Two Of Us into a book about being a dad to his son. The illustrator is the same guy who later did the Lees book, so children's bookwriting may just be one more of those celebrity things, like having your own juice guy. Because whaddya know, Jada did one, too.
  • Seinfeld wrote a book about Halloween called Halloween? What? Is up? With that? Because it sounds really lame.
  • And finally, I knew about John Lithgow's kids CD's, of course, but not his books. Hmm. These seem too old to really be talking about here.


    We have two of the Dumpy books, Dumpy at School and Dumpy and the Firefighters. They are "co-written" by Julie Andrews. They are AWFUL but my kid loves them. We try to hide them by putting them spine-in on the bookshelf.

    lithgow's I'm a Manatee was very popular here for a while. (fwiw, we never listened to the CD it came with--obviously the guy can really sing, but josie doesn't have a CD player in her bedroom, and i would rather have her just enjoy books as books, rather than, y'know multimedia experiences, but i digress.) it's actually very funny and sweet, with witty wordplay that can keep a parent interested. it's good as a BOOK, not just as a celebrity book.

    seinfeld, larry king and billy crystal have written kids' books. i'll pass. (but i hear that former mayor ed koch's book about growing up as a sissy is pretty good!)

    when i was a child, i LOVED "she was nice to mice" which i knew was written by another (slightly older i might add) kid. i didn't find out until i was in college that that kid was ally sheedy (whose mom is bigtime literary agent charlotte sheedy). dunno if it's as terrific as i remember--it's out of print.

    [so she wrote it BEFORE she was famous. OR she first became known as a children's author. Who knew? There are at least 9 copies on -ed.]

    We have the Flanimals book. There is a sequel to it, I think it's called More Flanimals.

    It's written in the style of those very British spotting books, like bird spotting or something. The Flanimals are written up for type, habit, etc. and there is a test in the end. It's a spoof on a Brit tradition.

    However, don't let that stop you from buying, because the very visceral nature of the Flanimals is appealing to kids in love with fart and poop jokes, which is about 3 to 10?

    I got one for my son and one for my 6yo gawddaughter, who loves hers, as does her mum, a Brit, herself.

    I'd love to see a Spike Lee children's book about the alphabet (tentatively titled "D. Motherfucker. D"

    But really, what is it with celebrities and children's books? Is it some sort of post-embryonic marketing strategy?

    ("Hmm...Madonna. That name sounds strangely familiar. Oh yeah, I had that book years ago. Wow! She sings too?")

    Ok...I'll leave now. Sorry for the rant.

    [Yeah, don't slip up and give the wrong Madonna book to the kid... Daddy, why does that woman have face in that other woman's diaper region? -ed.]

    For those of us who used to be in the biz (kids book biz) celebrity books are about vanity and name recognition. Everybody thinks they've got a great kids book in them which isn't true. Otherwise, we'd all have a bestseller on the list.

    Anyhow, the only celebrity kid's books I ever respected were the Fred Gwynne (Herman Munster) books. These, I liked.

    You're still going with that whole "diaper region" thing, aren't you? Did it ever really catch on? That's what I admire about you, my friend. You keep fighting the good fight!

    I'm pretty sure if any of our kids see the Madonna sex book, they're going to ask, "Daddy. Why is Madonna's face buried in that woman's ASS???"

    "Diaper region" just doesn't have that same zing.

    My favorite celebrity children's books have got to be the one's that WWE's Mick Foley has written. Christmas Chaos, Halloween Hijinx and Tales from Wrescal Lane. Sure these aren't your typical kids books, but they are written by a man with a heart of gold. He may be a wrestling hardcore legend, but you can tell he's a big softy.

    I do not get the appeal of the Lithgow book, Marsupial Sue. My son sure does. It's the current #1 favorite. There are balls and glasses to point and grunt at on every page. I do not like the accompanying CD either. Not only does the little man love the book, but he loves Lithgow himself. He points to the picture on the back cover and says "gwampa". Wrong.

    I don't think it really matters if celebs can write GOOD children's books... the MBA in me knows that it just matters that they can SELL children's books.

    I can sell a Paul McCartney children's book not because a kid likes it and wants it, but because the parents (okay, grandparents) say, "cool! Paul McCartney wrote a children's book! I gotta buy it for little Cody.. oh, and a copy for little Zander and Madison, too!"

    If I am a bookseller, why do I care if the kids like the book? I already sold it. And if no one will buy a second Paul McCartney children's book, I'll just give a call to Mick Jagger.

    John Lithgow also performs childrens songs once in a while. For some reason, Monster loves them.

    I don't know if he really counts as celebrity, but Carson from Queer Eye has also written a children's book I think.
    I haven't read the Lithgow books, the art is kind of scary and we're still in board book stage anyway, but I really like his "Singing in the Bathtub" cd.

    [I don't think Carson is a celebrity. Kai goes to my gym, though, He's like a little old Jewish man at the shvitz. Also not a celebrity. -ed.]

    Other celebrities who've written children books include Billy Joel, Bill Cosby, Billy Crystal and LeAnn Rimes.

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