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Likely Stories

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Keir Graff and editors from Booklist's adult and youth departments write candidly about books, book reviewing, and the publishing industry

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Tuesday, October 10, 2006 4:06 pm
Picture This: T.O. an Author
Posted by: Keir Graff

Okay, I know I’m nearly a week late on this item–an eternity in blogworld–but you wouldn’t really want to read a blog written by a person who had no life, who simply sat at the computer 24 hours a day in order to be the first person to weigh in on a subject, would you? You would? Oh. Well, I think that says more about you and your unreasonable expectations than about me and my relaxed work ethic.

Anyway, as has been widely reported, troubled wide receiver Terrell Owens will soon join the ranks of famous folks who’ve either scribbled a children’s book on a cocktail napkin or simply licensed the use of their name on the cover. Publishers Weekly reports that Little T Learns to Share tells the story of a young, would-be diplomat who learns the value of compromise during his first Model United Nations assembly. Just kidding. It’s about a little boy who shares his football. Even better, it’s the first of a five-part series, called “T.O’s Time Out.”

(My favorite part of the PW story, by the way, is when Owens’ drug overdose is referred to as one of his “antics.” Yes, I speak Journalese.)

I’m not going to say anything about the fact that he’s not a good role model for kids–the kids who read the book don’t have to join his party posse–but I wonder if Ladbrokes will take bets on whether it will be any good? I know I’m supposed to keep an open mind until the book shows up, but because I don’t review children’s books, I think it’s safe to say that the odds are at least 50-1.

I think it’s fine when celebrities write–or allow to have written for them–memoirs. But I’m generally opposed to it when athletes and actors write novels and children’s books, because then they’re taking opportunities away from people who have dedicated much more time and effort to writing. The celebrity children’s book, however, seems to show no signs of going away.

In 1996, Ilene Cooper wrote a piece called, “It’s Not as Easy as It Looks,” in which, after noting the “undistinguished” books by Ken Follett, Chaim Potok, Fran Lebowitz, the Duchess of York, and Jimmy Carter, she then reviewed so-so offerings by Garrison Keillor, Marianne Williamson, and Wendy Wasserstein.

In 2004, in “It’s Not as Easy as It Looks, Part 2,” she discussed the efforts of Billy Crystal and Jay Leno. But to me, the quintessential children’s book by an author who doesn’t get it will always be Jerry Seinfeld’s Halloween, which reads like an old bit that was transcribed and illustrated.

At least T.O. had the decency not to say he’s writing the book because “there just isn’t anything good out there” (a standard, if jaw-dropping, celebrity line). I’m assuming he does know he’s writing a book….

Comments

comments

5 Responses to “Picture This: T.O. an Author”
  1. Lynn Says:

    Well, it’s certainly not the prettiest picture I’ve been asked to consider. I guess time will tell. I purchase children’s literature for the library and will be interested in reading the subsequent reviews.

  2. John Says:

    I agree with everything you’ve said. I mean, I was pretty horrified when I learned that my own publisher is putting out the new Joy Behar picturebook. JOY BEHAR?! Joy Behar isn’t a celebrity; she’s a punchline.

    But here we are, normal book-loving people, talking about books by Joy Behar and T.O. What other picturebooks are we talking about so early? Celebrities simply have access to more publicity (and not just Jay Leno, but also the booklist blog) than normal people. So personally, I think the trend is here to stay.

  3. Keir Says:

    Good point, John. The only picture books I’ve talked about at all in Likely Stories have been celebrity picture-books, and even if I’m doing it to express my indignation at the phenomenon, I’m still contributing to the hype. Of course, as I’ve said, I don’t review children’s books. But I want to get my karma back in balance–can someone recommend a non-celebrity children’s book that deserves to be talked up?

    (And I also agree that the trend is not going to go away. If anything, it’s going to get a lot worse.)

  4. jess Says:

    You could talk up My Cat, the Silliest Cat in the World. The first subject heading is ‘elephants – juvenile fiction.’ And it’s hilarious.

  5. Likely Stories » Blog Archive » Trying Not to Be Part of the Problem Says:

    [...] I’ve been lamenting the rise of the celebrity-authored picture book often and loudly enough to have finally realized that I’m part of the problem. Even if I’m only mentioning these books only in order to criticize them, I’m still contributing in a small way–very, very small–to the media hype. [...]


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