I have long been of the opinion that children’s authors and basically everyone involved in the production of a successful children’s book do not, and will not ever, get enough credit.
Case in point: we can all name at least one successful children’s author, can’t we?
That’s right, Dr. Seuss.
For those of us who had parents who read to us regularly and as a result are rather “healthy” readers we could probably name at least one more, right?
That’s right, it’s Maurice Sendak (aka the guy who penned Where The Wild Things Are).
And that’s about as far down the rabbit-hole that anybody can go. Sure you can cite celebrities who have dabbled in this medium but they don’t count! Why? Because I said so and that’s as good enough reason for anybody.
So why should they get more credit, or credit at all? On the surface I’m sure that it looks like a cake job. All you have to do is write (not a whole hell of a lot) buddy up with an illustrator with whom you can get along with (or you can just draw the damn thing yourself, right?) and the rest is in the hands of the publisher, right?
Not so fast: there’s one main thing missing from that. All of the creators involved have to create something that the parent will want to read to their child. Sure it’s pretty shallow but it’s the truth.
When I was a young father, The Cat in the Hat was the go-to story. It was a fun read. I enjoyed bumbling through it my first couple of times and feeling like an idiot. It wasn’t before long ad naseum was breached and I could recite the damn thing by rote. A couple of times I tried to make a go of it without the book and I got yelled at by whatever kid I was reading to at the time.
So why the sudden interest in children’s literature? The past week I have been helping my son in his Language Arts Class with a book by the title of Owl at Home. It was penned by Arnold Lobel and it is probably one of the greater books that I have read to any of my children.
What will follow is not a diss to anyone associated with this book, especially Mr. Lobel. What follows is my opinion on this particular work of his and how I have viewed it and how I think parents should view kids books should they find themselves in the unenviable position of having to read something that makes their skin crawl.
Owl at Home is about an Owl, named Owl. He lives in a house by himself and appears (SPOILERS) mentally unsound. While this may be a harsh assessment, I would like to point out that the owl (named Owl) tries to behave like a human (living in a house and not a nest, dressing like a human and engaging in rather mundane human activities) regardless of the fact that (SPOILERS) he:
has no concept of how blankets work (e.g. When you are under a blanket, your body does not simply disappear, it merely resides under the blanket).
- makes tea out of his own tears. For what reason? I have absolutely no clue. And I keep re-reading this chapter in an effort to see the point that I might have missed.
- is apparently schizophrenic. In one chapter, Owl tries to be in two places at once by running back and forth as fast as he can and then, when reaching said destination, he tries to ask himself a question only to be disappointed when he doesn’t hear himself answer.
Based on this alone, I hope that you can see why I FRIGGIN’ LOVE THIS BOOK! Additionally, it is my hope that you can see why children’s authors don’t get nearly enough credit: creating something that is enjoyable for everyone, adult and child alike, is a rare feat.