As BACA members, we will strive to shun celebrity authors in the blogging world... We will, as members, avoid giving undue publicity to celebrity authors, with the possible allowance of subjecting said celebrity authors to scorn and ridicule.Often I bypass opportunities to mention celebrity work. Other than my initial outrage about Jenna Bush writing a Young Adult book, I’ve remained quiet. At this point I have read the book, Ana’s Story, and the best — and worst — I’ll say is that I no longer believe that a ghost writer was involved.
But occasionally, along comes a book so wrong that I must employ the “scorn and ridicule” part of the BACA code. I’d be doing the community — nay, the nation — a disservice to do any less. It’s even forced me to take the MotherReader offerings to a new level, which you’ll see at the end of the post
So: The Alphabet from A to Y with Bonus Letter Z! by Steve Martin and Roz Chast. At first glance, such a wealth of possibility. Good title, for one. Steve Martin is an accomplished author of adult books that are pretty darn good. He’s a funny guy, a former wild and crazy guy. One can assume he’s a person in touch with his inner child.
Apparently, his inner child on hallucenogenic drugs.
I’m sorry, but as a children’s picture book, the book is bad. Bad, bad, bad. The rhymes are nonsensical, but not in that playful way that some writers can pull off. The text is more surreal, with a so-sophisticated tone. It’s hard to even pick the worst, so here’s a fairly random sample:
Clunky Clarissa, all clingy and clueless,WTF? On how many levels is this couplet just wrong? I’d say clunky as a body description is pretty disturbing. Clingy and clueless seem pretty adult to me, and shoeless is a pretty random rhyme for the sadly used clueless. Maybe it should have been a tip-off that several of the rhyming dictionaries wouldn’t match the word clueless with anything. Take a hint.
Left California and now she is shoeless.
Another stellar writing example:
Pedro the puppy piled poop on his pawsHere, the inappropriate nature of this rhyme is supported by the illustration of an angry papa dog scolding Pedro while showing him the magazine cover of him proudly posing with poop on his paws. What kind of weird mixed messages are going on in this household? Can you say long-term therapy?
And Papa Dog published his photo because.
Which brings us to the illustrations by Roz Chast... Hmmm, don’t know that name. Hold on. Yes, New Yorker cartoonist Roz Chast. Of course, because I’ve always thought, “If only there were more New Yorker cartoons for kids.”
No, no, no! These cartoons are so wrong and sometimes even dreadfully inappropriate for kids. I’ll give her teeny, tiny props for managing to include lots of items in each illustration using the featured letter. But I can’t forgive using a drunk under the letter D. I’m not happy with the misspelled text in the balloon, “Kids! Kome back! Have some kosher kasha! I kovered it in ketchup!” or on a book on the floor, “Inglish for Idiots.” Overall, I hate that the cartoons are definitely from an adult world — even when children are featured — and are presented with a surreal quasi-sophistication that is NOT FOR KIDS.
And yes, I meant to shout that, because one thing that will force me to employ my powers of snark is when people market books to children that are NOT FOR KIDS. And all the BACA sirens are wailing because (1) people are buying this book (how sad), and (2) it would never have been published if it weren’t coming from a celebrity.
Hey, I’m not happy about this myself. I like Steve Martin. I think he’s a talented man — as an actor, yes, but I was also willing to cut him slack as a writer based on his adult books, which were pretty good. Man, he was even awarded at the Kennedy Center Honors last night.
But I have to say it, and I have to say it loud: BACA OFF KIDS’ LIT! (That goes double for you, Roz Chast.) If you need to say it too, the MotherReader store is now open.
(The post title would be better sung to the tune of “Backstreet’s Back,” just in case you missed the reference.)