One Not-So Impossible Favor Before Breakfast

h1 April 25th, 2010 by jules

Mmm. Coffee.Anyone want to tell me what you consider a) the best celebrity children’s book and b) the worst celebrity children’s book? It’s all in the name of research.

If you weigh in, I swear if we ever meet, I’ll buy you this cup of coffee here.

Thanks in advance.

Yours Truly,
Jules

P.S. Betsy Bird should be asking the same question tomorrow morning over at A Fuse #8 Production, if you’d rather leave a response there.

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63 comments to “One Not-So Impossible Favor Before Breakfast”

  1. Worst: The Jenna Bush YA title “Ana’s Story”. I know others will see many many many picture books that are appalling (MADONNA!) it is the shameless nature of this one that still annoys me. Plus it was so poorly written. Ugh.

    Best: Pretty much all of them by Jamie Lee Curtis although if I had to choose I’d pick “Today I Feel Silly”. She writes like a writer – not someone trying to be a writer and it shows.


  2. Jamie Lee Curtis – It’s Hard to be Five = (one of) the best
    Madonna – English Roses = the worst


  3. A best doesn’t come to mind, but for the worst, I’d like to nominate THE LITTLE BABY SNOOGLE-FLEEJER by Jimmy Carter.

    In fairness, I have to say it must be hard to be President of the United States AND a children’s writer. Just one of those is difficult enough…


  4. Worst ever is “Lotsa de Casha” by Madonna. It is about a man who only finds happiness by finally giving away his wealth – penned by one of the world’s wealthiest women. Plus the whole stupid name thing. Lotsa de Casha? Please, spare us.

    Best is probably some Jamie Lee Curtis title.


  5. Best: Madonna’s Mr. Peabody’s Apples. I read it every year to my class. I need the reminder about not jumping to conclusions too.


  6. Worst: Steve Martin’s ABCs, whatever it was called. Please don’t make me look. Jerry Seinfeld’s Halloween book gives me the shivers in a bad way, too.

    Best: Mandy, by Julie Andrews (who, to her credit, first wrote as Julie Edwards).


  7. Jamie Lee Curtis – Best! Esp. It’s Hard to be Five. The look on the kids’ faces when I read what they have been thinking all along is priceless!
    Worst? Fortunately, haven’t found one yet.


  8. WORST (as in horrible):

    Billy Crystal’s “I Already Know I Love You” is a grandpa’s book NOT a children’s book. Indulgent in all the worst ways (drowning in sentimental syrup, bad poetry and told from an adult’s POV.)

    Katie Couric’s “Blue Ribbon Day” is an embarrassment of forced rhymes and bad writing. Plus she hits kids/parents over the head with the MORAL OF THE STORY (which she actually explains at length in a lengthy “quote from the celebrity”.)

    MIDDLING: In relation to the previous two, Madonna’s efforts.

    BEST: I agree Jamie Lee Curtis’ works show craft and talent. She finds a childlike glee in things.


  9. I probably won’t remember some prominent ones, but…

    My least favorite are anything by Madonna, Jamie Lee Curtis, or Maria Shriver. Oh, but the absolute worst was Sheetzukakapoopoo by Joy Behar. She obviously thinks kids are so stupid you must beat them over the head with a moral lesson, and need not bother wrapping it in a decently written story.

    I like the Hank Zipzer series by Henry Winkler, and Please baby Please by Spike Lee. My favorite would be Just the Two of Us by Will Smith – but I might be picking the latter two because Kadir Nelson illustrated them:)


  10. Worst: Aside from Madonna’s English Roses glop, I’d say The Adventures of Ralphie the Roach by Paulina Porizkova. It’s now out of print, thankfully.

    Best: Jamie Lee Curtis is the only celebrity I consider to be an actual children’s book writer. My favorites are Tell Me Again about the Night I Was Born and When I Was Little: A Four-Year-Old’s Memoir of Her Youth.


  11. Kay Thompson’s Eloise books are the only children’s titles I can think of that have lasted a long time and eclipsed the author’s contemporaneous show-biz career. Thompson appeared in night clubs with the Williams brothers, in Funny Face and a couple of other movies, and on radio and TV. Her musical recordings led to Eloise and promoted that book.


  12. Oh that’s funny – I had completely forgotten Kay Thompson was a celebrity! ha! Her career as the creator of Eloise completely replaced her showbiz career, I think. Which makes her very unique – a celebrity who found enduring fame as a children’s book writer.

    Has that ever happened before?

    And a second to Henry Winkler – for best.


  13. Only one Worst? I have to give it to Tim Mcgraw’s My Little Girl.

    All pink written by a celebrity is a serious no for me.

    The best The Sugar Plum Ballerina series by Whoopie Goldberg.

    Whoopie gets extra points for 1) not having a big, small or any size picture of herself on the books, 2) putting the name of the author who helps write the series on the book


  14. Have to agree, the Jamie Lee Curtis ones get BEST.

    Lots of worst, but this one is awful: Family Huddle, by Peyton, Eli and Archie Manning.


  15. gee. this could be a very long list.

    Jerry Seinfield’s Halloween
    Jay Leno’s If Roast Beef Could Fly
    Billy Crystal’s I Already Know I Love You
    Anything by Leanne Rimes


  16. oops. I should’ve said those were the worst ones.

    I actually think jamie lee curtis’s books are mostly only okay with the exception of Tell Me Again About the Night I Was Born which I think it’s exceptionally good.


  17. Worst – Madonna’s English Roses. Can be summed up thusly: Don’t hate me because I’m beautiful . . . and rich . . . and have snow cone ta tas…

    Probably ties with that Seinfeld book which was simply heinous.

    Best – Probably Jamie Lee Curtis’s books. They are pretty good.

    Andrea B,
    Who is still trying to figure out the review I got for Iggy Peck, Architect which said that I was (and I quote) “no John Lithgow.” ?????


  18. Forgot to say–one of my pet peeves about Madonna’s books is that the illustrator’s name doesn’t appear on the cover, a real shocker in today’s picture book world. I remember spending 10 minutes in a bookstore trying to find the illustrator’s name in her first English Roses book (the one with the deus ex machina grandma who solves everything by telling the cliquey girls to be nice to the newcomer because her mother is dead).


  19. Oh, golly. I don’t like to say anything negative. You know me. Thumper’s mom agrees.


  20. My kids LOVE Henry Winkler’s books. I’m afraid to say I haven’t read any picture books by celebrities, although we do own one by Julie Andrews.


  21. No worst comes to mind, but for best, I really love The Last of the Really Great Whangdoodles, by Julie Andrews.


  22. Worst: there are many, but I am particularly unimpressed with Jay Leno’s “If Roast Beef Could Fly”

    Best: When I Was Little: A Four-Year-Old’s Memoir of Her Youth by Jamie Lee Curtis.
    John Lithgow’s books are fairly decent as well.


  23. Best: Mandy by Julie Andrews.

    Worst: Anything by Madonna, because its not just message books, it’s weird message books. If it has to be a specific title, its the “feel sad for someone = liking them” of The English Roses

    Dissent: I don’t care for Jamie Lee Curtis. I think her books are “good” only withink the spectrum of celebrity books. When looked at within childrens books, period. they are message books that are better written than most but still not good books.


  24. Ack! I can’t believe no one’s mentioned John Lithgow’s books (for best)! I love them.

    My favorite is probably I’m a Manatee, though I love Micawber as well.


  25. I’m just impressed you all actually read those bad titles to know how bad they were. For most of them my eyes started to bleed and my head exploded before I could get to the third page.

    I do have respect for Jamie Lee Curtis, because she seems to “get” it and an extra shout out to JLC for never saying how easy it is to write a children’s book! (and an extra boo to Madonna for saying to David Letterman that there are “no good children’s books out there” or “ones with a lesson”. Oy.


  26. I love Eloise–I didn’t know until reading the comment that Kay Thompson had a career in show biz! I also like Ian Michael Black’s Chicken Cheeks.

    As for worst, I haven’t read many of those mentioned above, but Berndette Peters wrote one called Broadway Barks which was boring and not at all well written.


  27. Best: Freckleface Strawberry by Julianne Moore
    Worst: Read all about it by Laura & Jenna Bush


  28. I forgot how much my daughter liked The Last of the Really Great Whangdoodles until Charlotte mentioned it.

    The mentions of John Lithgow make me want to look up his books. He seems genuinely respectful, both of kids and of the task of writing for them.

    The books Dave Barry co-authored seem well-liked.


  29. BAD: Remember those Fergie (not the Black-Eyed Peas Fergie, the other one) books….Budgie the Helicopter?

    GOOD: I have to agree with everyone on Jamie Lee Curtis. Plus she gets points for being married to a member of Spinal Tap.


  30. Best: The Last of the Really Great Whangdoodles, by Julie Andrews. And since she published it as Julie Edwards, I didn’t know until I was grown that my childhood favorite was actually written by Mary Poppins.


  31. I don’t have any votes for worst, because I immediately forgot them.

    Best: No one has mentioned Fred Gwynne’s books (and he was both author and illustrator)! My kids loved “The King Who Rained”.

    And another vote for Julie Edwards/Andrews’ “Mandy”.


  32. These are difficult picks to make! It will be interesting checking out what folks have to say. Two that come to mind for me are…

    Worst: FAMILY HUDDLE “by” Peyton, Eli, and Archie Manning

    Best: THE PURPLE KANGAROO by Michael Ian Black


  33. I have many boys who love the football stories of Tiki and Ronde Barber. Game Day and By My Brother’s Side specifically.

    I agree that the Madonna books are some of the worst.


  34. I seem to remember really enjoying HRH the Prince of Wales’s whimsical foray into picture books, THE OLD MAN OF LOCHNAGAR. It has been out of print for some years, however, and I don’t know how it would stand up to the test of time.


  35. Can’t say I’ve read many celebrity books at all, so it’s a hard call — but I do love Eloise, and have never considered them celebrity books, maybe because the first one was written before the “jump on the celebrity bandwagon and write a kids’ book thing” started.

    Jamie Lee Curtis = okay. Julie Edwards’ Whangdoodles = equally okay.

    Someone wanted me to review Glenn Beck’s new book. Gag.


  36. Best: Sandy’s right. Fred Gwynne’s wordplay books (The King Who Rained, A Chocolate Moose for Dinner) stand head and shoulders above most celebrity authors.

    Worst: Where to begin? The English Roses struck me as a little mean spirited so I’ll go with that one.


  37. The best one I ever read was THE AMAZING FARKLE MCBRIDE by John Lithgow. It’s good… and not even just good for a celeb book.
    Jamie Lee Curtis usually starts with a good idea, but I think she writes down to children, which I dislike.
    Madonna’s books are pretty bad, and the one I read was also stolen – a Buddhist parable made truly awful by La Madonna.
    But I think the worst might be Billy Crystal’s book. Or Jay Leno’s. Both are truly terrible.

    By the way, I know of a few celeb books that are secretly written by real writers. They go uncredited and are contractually sworn to secrecy. (but of course they tell a friend or two.) So it is kind of difficult to be sure if any of the good ones are actually written by the celeb on the cover.
    Oh- and let’s not forget that sometimes a good illustrator can make a hohum story good. Take a look at HARRY AND HORSIE (by David Letterman’s son’s nanny!!!!) The story is mediocre but the art makes it an award worthy book.


  38. Best: Freckleface Strawberry by Julianne Moore. Or any of Jamie Lee Curtis’ books, especially When I Was Little: A Four-Year-Old’s Memoir of Her Youth. My elementary students loved reading that one (so funny!)

    Worst: Most celebrity authors!


  39. Best: MANDY by Julie Andrews (pubbed as Edwards)

    Worst: DIRT ON MY SHIRT by Jeff Foxworthy is sure up there.


  40. I have to agree with everyone, Jamie Lee Curtis has the best children’s books. My fav is Is there really a human race?

    Worst, there are honestly sooo many. I am not a big fan of the Tiki and Ronde Barber books. The Madonna ones seem pretty horrible too. L.A. Candy by Lauren Conrad.


  41. My least favorite is When I Grow Up by Tina Louise – it’s always the one I grab when someone asks…and it’s always on the shelf.

    I really like the Freckleface Strawberry books by Julianne Moore.


  42. I haven’t read Mandy, but I’m a fan of John Lithgow’s, I Got Two Dogs. His musical rendition never disappoints the storytime crowd! (Simon and Shuster has an audio link)

    I also like Jamie Lee Curtis’, Today I Feel Silly and Other Moods That Make My Day.

    (I also posted over at Fuse #8)

    Worst? No contest – Madonna.


  43. Well, Jules, you know I hate those Madonna books.

    I’d like to add that I am quite reluctantly a fan of Henry Winkler’s Hank Zipzer books. I read one thinking for sure I would hate it, but it really made me laugh. I’ve listened to a couple more on audio since and really enjoyed them. (Winkler reads the audios, and he does a fine job, which makes sense, given that he’s an actor and all).


  44. I love Julie Andrews Edwards’ early novels (MANDY, LAST OF THE REALLY GREAT WHANGDOODLES) and her recent poetry collection with her daughter was lovely. She deserves a lot of credit for initially publishing under her husband’s last name and letting the books stand on their own. Another strong author is Alan Arkin with his novel, THE LEMMING CONDITION, and excellent out-of-print picture book, SOME FINE GRAMPA.

    As for the rest, if I can’t say something nice…and anyway, do they need more attention?


  45. Love:Easy To See Why by Fred Gwynne
    Love: Mr. Peabody’s Apples by Madonna


  46. I watched John Lithgow enthrall a whole tentful of kids at a Book Festival a few years ago. Now, granted he’s a great actor and could charm a snake, BUT I remember thinking at the time that both books he read aloud were actually GOOD. And like I said, the kids were totally with him.


  47. Thank you all very, very much for your feedback.


  48. BEST: Mandy–I loved it as a little girl and my daughter loved in when she was younger. (And I thought it was so cool that Julie Andrews wrote it.)

    WORST: Can’t say I’ve read any of Madonna’s or any of the other most mentioned “worst” books. But I did read Fergie
    s Budgie the Helicopter book and it was pretty bad.


  49. Best: Mandy or The Last of the Really Great Whangdoodles, by Mary Poppins! (Julie Andrews Edwards)


  50. Interesting! I had chosen to read Jamie Lee Curtis’s book – I FEEL SILLY AND OTHER MOODS THAT MAKE MY DAY – this morning for storytime. The children really liked it and had fun with the “mood wheel” in the back of the book! I agree that her books are good. She’s the only celebrity author whose books I’ll recommend.
    I vwwey much dislike that celebrity authors are given a chance to publish children’s book just because they’re celebrities. Madonna’s are the worst.


  51. I’m with the commenters who say celebrities shouldn’t be able to publish just because they are celebrities. And, like the other commenters, Madonna springs to immediately mind. Can we use the words derivative or opportunistic without sounding mean?

    I would love to see a study on how authors feel about having their books made into movies. I suppose most wouldn’t want to be too honest, just in case, but it would be interesting to get a glimpse into their reactions.


  52. Don’t these books already get more attention than they deserve? Even the better ones in the bunch shouldn’t really be raised in prominence. I’m embarrassed by how many of them we’ve read, probably partly because they get displayed in the library, based purely on name recognition.

    I have a hangup about rhyming books, which by default puts most celebrity books on my “worst” list.

    But all of that said, I don’t think anyone mentioned Jason Alexander’s “Dad, are you the Tooth Fairy?” …which we quite liked. It seemed smarter than other attempts to explain magical creatures, and came in handy at a time when our oldest was starting to question Santa, the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy.


  53. I also love Mandy by Julie Andrews. That was the first book that came to mind when I read your email.

    Other favorites: My kids love books based on songs like Puff, the Magic Dragon by Peter Yarrow, The Teddy Bears’ Picnic by Jerry Garcia.


  54. Best: The Remarkable Farkle McBride by John Lithgow. The rhyme and rhythm are spot on. As a kid, I LOVED Sixteen-Hand Horse by Fred Gwynne. I didn’t entirely understand the wordplay, but I still thought it was hysterical. It wasn’t until I became a librarian that I realized that they were written by Herman Munster himself.

    Worst – I have to go with English Roses by Madonna.


  55. To those of you who have noted that these books already get too much attention, I say WORD UP. But part of our book will be about celebrity children’s titles — mostly complaining, mind you — and we were curious about what folks considered the worst. And then, to be fair, the best….Hope that helps.


  56. I think Madonna’s (as bad as they are) are not as awful as the books of Jerry Seinfeld, Billy Crystal, Jay Leno, and Carl Reiner (who SHOULD have been able to write a good book).
    I agree with some of the other comments: Fred Gwynne, Alan Arkin, Julie Andrews (Edwards). John Lithgow’s books are good – but I like seeing him perform his stories better than reading the stories.

    Oh…what I love about Fred Gwynne is that he also did the illustrations for his books.


  57. Sometimes I am tempted to find the reviews for those books by celebrities that I didn’t order, and read them aloud to the patrons that ask for the book.

    For example, about Jada Pinkett’s Girls Hold Up The World, Kirkus wrote, “The beautiful and accomplished actress delivers a drearily earnest paean to girls in some of the clunkiest verse imaginable…” and SLJ wrote, “Unfortunately, they are overpowered by the heavy-handed message and occasional non sequiturs and forced rhymes…”

    You know, as a way to explain why they should be glad I didn’t waste public funds on it…

    But if a book keeps getting requested (because the celebrity is very popular, or it was mentioned on t.v.) then I buy it despite the bad reviews.


  58. I was fascinated by this entire discussion, having never read any celebrity children’s books, good or bad. (I fear them, truly I do…plus I mostly read MG and YA, so I’m usually spared any dismal picture-book efforts by those whose…uh…talents lie elsewhere.)

    And can I just say again that I CANNOT WAIT for your guys’ book?? Man, I’m excited.


  59. The worst one for me was either Laura Bush’s book or Charlie The Caterpillar by Dom Deluise. We got a copy of that one as a gift once. So Bad. The only book I’ve ever actually thrown away in the trash so my kids would never make me read it again.

    I generally like Jamie Lee Curtis’ books, but if you pressed me to remember a single specific thing about any of them, I’d be at a loss. Rather forgettable on the whole (but at least she doesn’t massacre the rhyme).


  60. Just wanted to point out to Jeremy that I’m sure I’m not the only one who goes to the bookstore and reads the new picture books while standing there–and believe me, some of the books mentioned above had me making the kind of face Calvin of Calvin and Hobbes makes for Picture Day! There’s a “watch the train wreck” appeal to seeing how the latest random celebrity did…

    Oh, and somebody over at Fuse #8 brought up Glenn Beck’s book. I couldn’t even open the cover of that one!


  61. Best = All of Fred Gwynn’s books

    Worst = Katie Couric’s labored, pedantic books that teach children (fill ijn the blank)_______. Sort of mean I guess to pick on Bottom of the Ratings Katie but hopefully she will survive $$ wise.


  62. John Lithgow’s raising eyebrows with The Incredible Farkle McBride, my vote for the best of the celeb pack.

    And the trio of trouble makers that contend for worst are Jimmy Fallon’s Snowball Fight!, Mel Brooks’ The 2000 Year Old Man Goes To School and the ringleader: Jay Leno’s If Roast Beef Could Fly. Ugh.


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