1. The Beginning.
2. The Middle.
3. The Children's Book.
This highly profound thought hit me while spending lonely hours practicing my puppetry in a dark, empty studio last week. It's hard to write down thoughts because they're so brief and shoot into our mind from out of nowhere. But the process went something like this...
"I'm hungry. It's dark in here. My shoes feel funny. The floor in here is very flat. I wonder if they paid to make it that flat or just lucked out. I wonder if there's someone who's paid to make floors flat. It's dark in here. Maybe I should write a children's book. I'm hungry."
I rolled the idea of a Children's Book in my mind for a while and then quickly decided against it. "I'm not that washed up yet. I still have a few good years left in me. Maybe in a few years."
It seems when an actor has nothing left to do, they write a Children's Book. I don't know why this is.
It makes me feel sorry for kids that they're forced to read books written by people who are too tired or depressed to do anything else. Or worse, read a book by a celebrity who has a lot to say about social issues and can only say them in a Children's Book. These books are usually titled something like, 'Mr. Higgly and The Lonely Tree.' Or, 'Clucky, The Duck With A Sideways Waddle.' (These books are usually about being kind to people who are different, misunderstood or have disfigurements.)
A few years ago, Madonna wrote a children's book. It was something about a man who had apples. I read it to my daughter one night. We haven't looked at it since. My daughter was too young to realize that it really wasn't about apples but something much more important. I was old enough to realize it wasn't about apples but couldn't quite figure out what that much more important thing was. But I know this: when I think of wholesome and inspirational messages for children, Madonna is always top on my list.
Search any kids section of a book store and you will find the carcasses of Children's Books written by celebrities in this third stage of their career.
Curiously, some of these books come with a quote from a child psychologist. Something like, "In Bunny Num Num's Cotton Caper, TV's Donny Most from Happy Days has managed to magically convey the importance of Social Justice and Liberation Theology in this story of a spirited Bunny who's just trying to sell his cotton to a finicky pig."
Usually, however, there is no underlying message to these books and just lazy, third stage career prose. A good example is Abe Vigoda's Children's Book, Funny Tree. "Funny Tree was hungry. Who had lunch for Funny Tree? Mike did!" See? What's all that about?
I think probably the best explanation for why third stage career celebrities write Children's Books is because...truth be told...most childrens' books are shamefully stupid.
Come on. I'm a dad. When my daughter was two, I spent countless hours reading her things I couldn't believe someone got paid to write. Sometimes, there were only two or three words per page. Sometimes there were only four pages. That's 12 words! In a book.
I always try to think how a 12 word book comes to be. Does a writer come up with those twelve words and then look for an illustrator to bring them to life? How do you pitch a 12 word book to a publisher? Do you only give them two or three words for fear that if you give them all 12 they might steal your story? How does that work?
I notice there's always a photo of the author on the back cover and a little bio. "Ethel Wenz-Loopine is the author of numerous 12 word Children's Books. Her trilogy Spider's Big Day, Spider Takes A Nap, and Spider Sees His Reflection have sold over 8 million copies and been printed in every known language. Ms. Wenz-Loopine lives on a 100 acre farm and drives a different expensive car for every day of the week."
Hmmm. Maybe I will write that book.