chapter  6
Celebrity Picturebooks
Pages 34

In Crossover Fiction, I discussed the recent trend of bestselling adult writers crossing over from adult books to children’s and young adult books in the wake of the unprecedented commercial success of the Harry Potter series that made J. K. Rowling the fi rst international media superstar from the literary world.1 When famous people such as Michael Chabon, Neil Gaiman, and Isabel Allende invade the fi eld of children’s literature, at least they know how to write even if they do not necessarily know how to write children’s books. Writing for children has become so trendy over the past fi fteen years or so that celebrities from all walks of life have begun moonlighting as children’s authors in extraordinary numbers. It seems that everyone who’s anyone, from royals to rappers to movie stars to sports superstars, wants to write a children’s book. Even mobsters are getting into the game. While in prison, alleged mob boss John Gotti Jr. reportedly wrote a children’s book titled “The Children of Shaolin Forest.” Although as yet unpublished, the book received a great deal of media attention after the New York Times reported that Gotti’s lawyer had attempted to have him released on bail on the basis that his client “now prefers writing children’s books to extortion and racketeering.”2 The trend is so widespread that when the British children’s author Anne Cassidy posted on a blog, in 2010, that Balmoral Press had signed up then Prime Minister Gordon Brown for a series of stories about the heroic adventures of Gordy and gang which were “aimed at children but could warm the hearts of 7 to 70 year olds everywhere,” many readers did not realize it was an April Fool’s joke. Cassidy, who was shortlisted for the 2004 Whitbread Children’s Book Award, laments the fact that writing children’s books seems to have

become “a fall back career for everyone from sex goddess singers to disgraced royals to yesterday’s soap stars.”3