105 Ways to Give a Book

BACA Off Again

BACAIn light of recent events, it seemed like the BACA logo needed to be made. It pays to be married to a graphic designer.

Oh, and I’ll go ahead and reprint the original two “BACA” articles; the first, “BACA Off,” set the stage for this groundbreaking organization, and the second, “Bloggers Against Celebrity Authors (BACA),” sort of formalized it.

As founder and... what the hell, president of BACA, I probably have to talk about this whole Laura & Jenna Bush book thing. There are definitely levels of celebrity author irritation, and this announcement does hit pretty close to the top. The lowest level is for the celebrity authors whose names and books you can’t quite remember days after the press release. Like what’s-his-name with the new football picture book (I am actually thinking of a new person and picture book here). Then there are the celebrity author announcements that are so ridiculous they don’t even need the help of BACA to scorn and mock. Like ex-Spice Girl Geri Halliwell (though this guy did a knock-out job). Of course, the highest level of celebrity author irritation is reserved for Madonna, but specifically for her book Lotsa de Casha, in which the rich character learns that the path to happiness is in giving away his money. See, it’s the hypocrisy and sheer chutzpah that mark this book as a 10 on the BACA Irritation Scale.

Now, the Laura & Jenna Bush thing is in the high numbers, for sure. Maybe some will say that whatever else Laura Bush may be, she’s a teacher and a librarian, and that gets her off the hook. Not me. I tend to believe that her influence on children’s reading might best be served in the current political administration. After all, she was paraded around during the campaign circuit largely on her “education” credentials — which at least implies that she has some influence. Of course, that was likely just political posturing... which also makes the book annoying because then, you know, don’t rub it in. It also seems possible that the model for the “little boy” who doesn’t like to read is her husband — though if he ends up liking to read in the book, she’s obviously tacking on a “Hollywood ending.”

Personally, I feel bad that the books will illustrated by Junie B. veteran Denise Brunkus, because I love my Junie B. Jones books. But hopefully she can call up poor Kadir Nelson for moral support.


From a post at Big A, little a, I find that Madonna has a line of children’s clothes based on her book The English Roses. That the line has been available for some time does not change the fact that I just heard about it now. And now is when I am reacting. I’m officially sick of celebrity authors.

I could complain about the quality of the work. Oh boy, could I complain. But what’s sticking in my craw is the greed. Come on, leave us our little bit of turf. If you can be famous (and usually rich) in your field of acting or music or global domination, leave the world of children’s literature for other people to become a tiny bit famous. Because you can imagine, for every book deal these celebrities strike, that’s less of the kid-lit pie for another author trying to get a break. Do celebrities have to be so greedy to take every aspect of everything because they can? Is that a good enough reason? It’s not... it’s just not... fair.

Now, I really don’t think that actors and musicians and global dominators will stay away from this tiny territory I’d like to carve off, fence in, and defend with a shotgun. But I can dream. And to that end, I initiate Bloggers Against Celebrity Authors, or BACA, and I state today, “BACA Off Kids’ Lit!”

Join if you like, if not for me, than for poor Kadir Nelson. The man deserves an author worthy of his work, and as long as the Spike Lees of the world are around, it ain’t gonna happen.



The Bloggers Against Celebrity Authors (BACA) really struck a chord out there. I’m being asked for a logo, guidelines, and a bumper sticker. Who knew?

The logo is in the works. I hope. I’ll say no more at this juncture.

Guidelines for celebrity author exceptions is tricky. I mean, first you’re letting in Lithgow, then Julie Andrews, and next thing you know Pamela Anderson’s got a book deal (title: Who’s Your Daddy?). It’s a slippery slope. The librarian host of The Magic of Books suggested allowing no exceptions for trading on name recognition, but allowing celebrities to write a book under another name. Yeah, like that’s going to happen. But I’m signing off on that rule, because it sounds good in theory.

However, I know we probably all have our personal exception, and that will be worked into the secret handshake. So, at the June membership meeting, I’ll shake your hand, wink, and say “Lithgow.” You’ll wink, and say “Julie Andrews,” or your preferred exception. Then we’ll both smile and nod knowingly. If you don’t have a preferred exception, then you can say “Carrot Top,” because that would be the funniest exception ever. (“I don’t like the work of Jamie Lee Curtis, but that Carrot Top is going places in children’s literature.”)

Fuse#8 wondered about the benefits of membership, considering the possibility that members would have free rein to whack an offending author on the head with his or her own work. While that would be lovely, it might lead to unfortunate arrests and unnecessary back strain from having to carry around all the relevant books on the off chance that one might run into Billy Joel at the corner Starbucks. So, I’m afraid I cannot endorse such actions, even though I might enjoy them.

Benefits of membership will include opportunities to display the logo on your page, to be particularly smug about celebrity authors, and to receive free soda refills at participating Wendy’s.

As BACA members, we will strive to shun celebrity authors in the blogging world. When a non-celebrity illustrator deserves to be recognized, the BACA member may wish to consider the “Spike Lee Who?” option. For instance, a blogger might note the exceptional work of Kadir Nelson by pointing out the availability of the book Please, Puppy, Please “as illustrated by Kadir Nelson and written by some guy.” We will, as members, avoid giving undue publicity to celebrity authors, with the possible allowance of subjecting said celebrity authors to scorn and ridicule.

Our slogan: BACA off kids’ lit! It will look great on a bumper sticker. (NOTE: And now — as of August 13, 2007 — it does.)

21 comments:

Alkelda the Gleeful said...

I just checked out the website for the English Roses merchandise. If I wanted, I could shell out forty-nine dollars for a polka-dotted raincoat and forty dollars for the boots... but I'd need "lotsa de casha" indeed.

Kelly Fineman said...

Funny that when I heard him speak in LA, Kadir didn't mention any of the celebrity books (Will Smith and Debbie Allen -- although in fairness, Will Smith's book probably wasn't his idea -- editors usually dream up the "let's make a picture book out of song lyrics" books, like Billy Joel's lullaby book).

The worst offense by these celeb authors is that they all want to "send a message" to kids. As if didactism is what's needed in kidlit.

TadMack said...

Yeah, I was going to mention that Kadir Nelson finally found a writer worth his art: himself.

Will Smith was speaking to kid's groups since before he was mondo famous, but I'd still view a book of his with some queasiness and asperity. Ditto Spike Lee...

Well done on the rant, MR. SO well done.

david elzey said...

What about the pseudo celebrities whose connection to their status is tenuous at best. I've got a book here called The Big 1-0 and under the author's name is says "Oscar-winning songwriter of "Fame" and "Footloose". This potentially could out of hand as we see "celebrity" books from "The make-up assistant to Cory Feldman in The Lost Boys.

Seriously, how can we make it stop?

Bev. Cooke said...

Go, MotherReader! As a YA author, published, I have nothing but support from you! See my blog: http://preview.tinyurl.com/2syxy6 on the same topic. I'm posting a link to this topic on your blog (assuming your permission, if not, please let me know) and requesting permission to put the BACA decal up on my blog: Bevnal Abbey at Blogger, and noting it on the CW yahoo email list. thanks for the well written topics on this.

DT said...

I've been waiting for BACA to spring back into action after I heard about the latest Bush venture.... sign me up whole-heartedly, again. And I don't even have a favorite celebrity author...

eisha said...

Grrrr.

Kelly said...

Great logo, MR! I love it :)

No more messages, people!

Anonymous said...

I love the part about the little boy who doesn't like to read being modeled on W.

Suz

MotherReader said...

Bev Cooke and others, you are welcome to post the BACA logo on your site. It's a perk of BACA membership - along with the free refills at selected Wendy's. Okay, I may have made up that last part.

TadMack said...

What's sad is that our blog was offered that book The Big 1-0, and the agent who suggested it for us didn't realize how completely the references to Fame and other movies. I mean, hello? Trying to sell me on the Six-Degrees-of-Separation for a children's book? Um...no.

Deirdre Mundy said...

I'm a new reader, and I just wanted to say that I am TOTALLY with you on the Kadir Nelson thing...

We received a copy of Please, Puppy, Please as a gift. Normally it would be the sort of thing that heads straight to the Goodwill pile, but the illustrations......ohhhhhh, the illustrations!

Initially I tried to correct Spike Lee's Meter and make the poem into something readable..... Too much work....

Now I just treat it as a "wordless" book and we sit and look at the illustrations.......

We're all happier that way.....

Sarah Miller said...

I want in. And not just because Kadir Nelson should have won Caldecott *gold* for MOSES.....

A Paperback Writer said...

Nice rant.
Just wanted to let you know I have never purchased a celebrity kids' book and never will -- unless said celebrity learns how to write first.
By the way, have you ever looked into celebrities doing this in other fields? Sometimes it's kind of funny. I'm not a huge Viggo Mortensen fan, but he's done well in several roles, so I respect his acting talent. Well, somewhere online once I ran across some of his poetry and photography..... oh my. The man really should stick with acting.....

Anonymous said...

While I generally agree with BACA, I do want to point out that Julie Andrews actually did write her first books under a different name. Well, technically, it was her married name, but how many people actually think of her as Julie Edwards, other than perhaps Blake and the kids? (Can you tell that I'm one who would make the exception for Julie? Though I admit that I make that exception on the basis of her middle grade chapter books, not her books for preschool kids.) I do love the W. references, though! Now, there was one child who was obviously left behind.

Miriam
(I'm not using my Blogger ID, since I probably shouldn't mix work with politics.)

Robin Brande said...

Um, you do know you're brilliant, right?

And that logo is all kinds of HOT. Good work, Bill.

adrienne said...

I vote for a Cafe Press store at which I can purchase BACA merchandise to wear/display/give to my loved ones.

Thank you, MotherReader, for taking on this important issue.

Anonymous said...

Hey, wait a second BACA! Jon Stewart's book is being plugged over on your sidebar. I love Jon, but I don't think that book would have been written if not for his celeb status. If you let Jon in, you're gonna have to let Bill in too... The O'Reilly Factor for Kids: A Survival Guide for America's Families. Slippery slope indeed! ;)
Wags

patricia said...

Count me in! That's a great logo and concept. As an illustrator of kid's books and wannabe writer of picture books, I froth at the mouth every time I see some new celebrity-penned picture book. I even kvetched about it recently, after finding out about Ginger Spice's foray into kid's books. I got quite a few comments, so it's obviously something that is a matter of concern for intelligent folk.

http://storms.typepad.com/booklust/2007/04/kid_lit_spice.html

What I'd like to know is just who the hell are buying these books??

Amy Hanek said...

Please add me as a member of BACA! When are we marching in ... LA?... London? ... Washington D.C.? I could use a vacation!

Great stuff!

Anonymous said...

Doret

Can someone tell why the celebrities always have a big picture of themselves on the back of the book? It's so tacky. Its bad enough I must shelve the books I don't want to look at their faces while I do it. It's never a small picture on the back inside flap, like real authors do. I wonder how long the meetings last trying to decide which picture to place on the celebrities book. Whatever it is its too long.
The largest ones I have ever seen were on the Jason Alexander's and Lee Ann Rimes's picture books