Saturday, May 10, 2008

In lieu of a gift

I'm guessing they're too busy to read this but maybe you're not.

20 comments:

JLH said...

Super-duper, Roger! I saw it here first, because I haven't gotten my Sunday Times yet. Thank you!

Andy Laties said...

Well, I question your patriotism.

Anonymous said...

Who do you suppose REALLY wrote that book? My hunch is, someone on the White House publicity staff. (Not Harper editorial or promotion folks - they would know better. Must be wincing now.)

So much for MY patriotism. Thanks for a great review!

Roger Sutton said...

No, they wrote it--Laura said they thought about it for a long time and then sat down and wrote the thing in twenty minutes. I remember Bill O'Reilly saying Madonna couldn't have written The English Roses, but, as there, I don't understand why everyone thinks writing a bad picture book is difficult. It isn't.

Anonymous said...

I think they wrote it in less than ten minutes. Did you read that thing- I won't qualify it as a book? Harpercollins-LOL! Shame on you!

janeyolen said...

Shame on Harper indeed--but it IS #1 on the NY Times bestseller list and that is all the Game now. Sigh

By the way,I thought they said it took them 45 minutes to write. I see they were exaggerating.

Jane

Roger Sutton said...

I don't think this is a shame-on-Harper moment--is there a major publisher out there who would have turned this down? Except when publishers eat their own (like Harper commissioning the colorized Charlotte's Web, or Random House's collection of truncated picture book classics) I think blame should stick to the authors, so shame on Laura like white on rice.

Jordan Sonnenblick said...

Amen, Roger. Amen.

Anonymous said...

I don't understand.

Why would two people who presumably know better produce a book like this? Do you think they were constrained by expectations? Suppose they had produced a competent but uninspiring rehash of Where the Wild Things are-- the typical Billy had a bad day, but he's better now Book. It might have gone to the top of the list driven by celebrity and marketing, but buying it wouldn't have been an affirmation of right-mindedness, a badge of honor. It just would have been a book. But THIS, this isn't a book you are buying but a token of your membership in the Literacy Party. Did it have to be bad in order to count? So heavy handed so that grown-ups could buy into it?

Would Harpercollins have pushed for just this kind of book because everybody who claims to believe in Literacy has to buy it?

Or is it that the book isn't actually for children but for adults who need to be convinced that reading is important for their children. So many picture books seem to be parenting lessons in disguise, like the TV show Caillou. Adults are so much denser than children, you have to be really heavy handed to get the point across?

I'm clutching at straws, maybe, but I'd like to know why this sort of thing happens so often.

h

Anonymous said...

It seems odd to me that no one has yet asked: "How much was the ADVANCE?"

Roger Sutton said...

The market for celebrity-author picture books is almost always parents and other end-consumer adults. Such books have little traction in the school-and-library market and little kids themselves have zero interest in who wrote a book. I think they're mostly aimed at people who don't read but think that reading is a virtue they should inculcate in their kids. The celebrity authorship provides a comfortable reference point, and because these consumers equate reading with school, they think there should be lessons.

Anonymous said...

So you think they couldn't successfully have written anything else? If they had written a book that would have appealed to readers/librarians, it wouldn't have sold well enough to justify the costs?
h

Anonymous said...

It may not become a bestseller but it is nonetheless a real investment for the publisher. The authors get a whopping advance, which will presumably be donated with appropriate fanfare to a well publicized charity.
And the agency, in addition to the fee, solidifies its relationship with a major publisher and potential clients.

Anonymous said...

I’ll bet that the book is at least as bad as RS’s review indicates but let’s not pile on. It’s not the first time that good intentions and belief in a worthy effort (and we can at least give them that, yes?) have clouded authorial talent and judgement. Often enough, the more noble the cause, the worse the prose.

The Snow Cone said...

Roger notes in his review, " ...no librarian! In a book promoting the joy of reading, this, my friends, is low."
It's ironic that the Bush administration's unfunded NCLB mandates is making this very nearly true. Thank goodness for moms with the stamina to push back.

Anonymous said...

Anon@2:37

I didn't mean to pile on. I am not interested in bashing the Bushes. As you pointed out, this isn't the first time people have poured heart and soul into something that turns out heavy handed and soulless. I just wonder why that happens. And why people, who should be able to see that something has gone wrong, can't.

Anonymous said...

I bought the Bush book and read it with my son. He said, "Papa that book is by the President's Wife. It should have been really good!"

Then we went back to Prince Caspain. Thank goodness Harpercollins has a Backlist!

A.D.

Lisa Yee said...

On LARRY KING, Larry asked the Laura and Jenna how old Tyrone, their main character was. I was appalled that Jenna, a former teacher, doesn't know age ranges. This is from the transcript:

KING: How old is he?

(CROSSTALK)

L. BUSH: Second grade.

J. BUSH: So he's about nine or 10, eight or nine.

MotherReader said...

I hated the book, but I'd totally forgotten the reference to the library pages. Along with being offensive and totally unnecessary, put using the term "pages" in the category of "words kids wouldn't use."

I've also wondered at the choice of name for the main character, Tyrone. What's up with that?

Roger Sutton said...

I was reading somewhere a discussion of the Bushes' choice of "Tyrone," with several commentors querying why she gave a "black" name to a white character, and others countering that Tyrone is actually Irish. But BabyNameFacts.com confirmed what I had suspected, that, black or white, guys named Tyrone are far more likely to be pushing forty than nine--it's getting into dog-name territory, like Roger.