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What’s Wrong with Children’s Books Today?

June 7, 2012


English: Madonna performing "La Isla Boni...

Madonna promoting her boxed set of children’s books…no, that’s Madonna singing something (that probably has nothing to do with her children’s books). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Jill Biden (wife of Vice-President Joe Biden) has written a children’s book.  Normally, when celebrities or politicians write children’s books, I mock them, but I don’t have the heart to make fun of Jill Biden.  She’s married to Joe Biden, so she probably spends most of her time apologizing already. 

I don’t have a problem with Jill Biden writing a children’s book (because she’s the vice-president’s wife, and that’s the kind of thing they’re expected to do), but I do have a gripe about most children’s books  (whether they’re written by a public figure or not).  A lot of recent children’s books are bland and seem to be more for parents than the kids. 

The problem with some authors is that they want to have a positive message for kids instead of telling a really cool story.  Jill Biden’s book (I haven’t seen it or read it) is supposed to have a positive message for children of U.S. service people.  Books written by Jamie Lee Curtis (an actress in a lot of movies not meant for children) are usually blatant with their positive messages, even in the titles.  I know a children’s book is going to be bland when there’s a positive message in the title.  .  Yeah, Grandma is Great, but I’d rather read Green Eggs and Ham.  No offense, Grandma.  

If you’re going to teach kids a lesson in a children’s book (civic duty, healthy eating, be nice to grandma), whatever you do, don’t let the main characters be human.  That’s boring and downright disrespectful to the kids.  At least try to disguise the lesson a little bit.  Come up with some goofy cartoon characters, give them silly names, put them in ridiculous situations, and maybe throw in some rhyme or alliteration. 

A children’s book should require imagination to read.  Where the Wild Things Are was about a boy’s imagination, and when I was a kid, we’d  race to the library to get to that book first.  Dr. Seuss was like being high with the teacher’s permission (though I heard having permission always took some of the fun out of getting high).  Even more straight forward series like Babar or Curious George at least had animals as the main characters instead of humans. 

One of my personal favorites Dirty, the Hairy Dog didn’t even have a message (I don’t think it did).  The dirty dog got lost, came home, and got clean (while dreaming of getting dirty again).  I read Dirty, the Hairy Dog when I was a kid.  My kids read Dirty, the Hairy Dog with me.  Their kids will read Dirty, the Hairy Dog (especially if I’m around to make sure of it). 

Oh yeah.  The book was called Harry, the Dirty Dog.  If I couldn’t get the title right, then I probably missed the positive message too. 

The  problem with celebrity children’s book authors is that the celebrity sometimes has done a bunch of stuff that children shouldn’t know about (until they’re older).  There should be a rule (but not a rule in a Mayor Bloomberg kind of way).  If a celebrity has ever done a bunch of stuff that would be inappropriate around children, then they shouldn’t be writing children’s books.  

For example, maybe Jamie Lee Curtis shouldn’t write children’s books.  When I was about 16, I was really grateful for that scene in Trading Places (every guy knows what I’m talking about), and I also appreciate her ability to decapitate seemingly indestructible mass murderers, but once she makes the choices to be in those movies, she probably shouldn’t write children’s books. 

Once Madonna kissed Britney Spears on stage (I would have really appreciated that when I was 16, but now my annoyance at their need to be noticed overrides my “woman-kissing-woman” radar), that should automatically have disqualified her from writing children’s books.  Yeah, I know.  Following my standards, Madonna would have disqualified herself long before that (probably before I was 16), but that’s the second best example I can think of.  If you make a coffee table sex book, you probably shouldn’t be allowed to write children’s books. 

Maybe there should be a statute of limitations for my children’s book rule.  If there were such a statute, Jamie Lee Curtis would probably be okay.  Madonna?  Never! 

English: Joe and Jill Biden dance at Obama Hom...

“When beetles battle beetles in a puddle paddle battle and the beetle battle puddle… Jill, don’t put any of those f***ing tongue twisters in your children’s book.” (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Fortunately, I don’t know of anything that Jill Biden has done to keep her from writing a children’s book under my perfect world rule.  Joe Biden, on the other hand, has said so much stupid stuff that he should be forced to write a children’s book, simply for the entertainment value.  I’d buy a Joe Biden children’s book, even if it had an obvious positive message (like keep your mouth shut if you don’t know what you’re talking about).

I should probably take my own advice. 

WARNING: The following fake Joe Biden children’s book titles are taken from stupid things that Joe Biden has said.  Joe Biden has said a lot of stupid (and probably offensive) things, and for some reason was picked to be vice-president.  I think he’s being punished.  Or the American people are. 


J-O-B-S and other Three Letter Words by Joe Biden

FDR’s Greatest Televised Speeches in the 1920’s by Joe Biden

Convenience Store Clerks and their Indian Accents by Joe Biden

Why Your Health is a Big F***ing Deal by Joe Biden

Americans with Disabilities: Stand Up! by Joe Biden


Yeah, maybe these aren’t THE BEST CHILDREN’S BOOK TITLES EVER, but these books would be more entertaining (or more offensive) than Today I Feel Silly.

  1. Great post.

    The best children’s books are full of anarchy and love–Roald Dahl, Maurice Sendack, Shel Silverstein, etc.

  2. Thank you. I agree with you about the children’s books, and I don’t see a lot of that loving wackiness in many recent books (though they could be out there, and I’ve missed them). I kind of liked the first few Olivia books.

  3. And this is why I have an undying fondness for Aesop’s Fables.

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