Archive for November 24th, 2010

November 24, 2010

Celebrity princesses and other no-no’s of picture book writers

So, when they give out advice at the SCBWI conference, here are a few things they tell picture book writers.  Don’t write in rhyme, don’t write an ABC book, don’t write a princess book, and don’t read any of the tidal wave of picture books coming from celebrities these days for inspiration on how to do it well.  And it’s true, if you are a celebrity, it seems that you can get a picture book published no matter what you write.  Let me tell you, I know dozens of picture book writers who are not celebrities, and the same thing does NOT hold true for them.  They write and rewrite, workshop and critique, write and rewrite some more, and then send in queries and submissions for years on end sometimes.  And having read many celebrity picture books, it would seem that maybe they didn’t go through all of that…in fact, they might not even have gotten to the “rewrite” part.  But, like the Jeff Foxworthy book I’ve mentioned earlier, this one from everyone’s favorite Julie Andrews is a gem.  And it’s even about princesses.  But if you have a princess aversion, read on…I think you’ll still like it!

Title: The Very Fairy Princess
Author: Julie Andrews and Emma Walton Hamilton (her daughter)
Illustrator: Christine Davenier
Genre: Picture Book
Age: 0 – 8

Summary and Review: Geraldine, the sparky and wonderful main character in the book knows that she is a fairy princess because she can “FEEL it inside—a sparkly feeling of just KNOWING in my heart.”  If that doesn’t capture your love and imagination, I don’t know what will.  But maybe this.  Geraldine does everything that fairy princesses do, such as: putting on her crown to come downstairs (which she does by sliding down the rail, of course), eating pancakes with extra fairy dust, putting on royal attire which includes sneakers and scabby knees.  (In Geraldine’s words “I say sneakers help me practice my flying skills, ESPECIALLY when we’re late for the school bus, and scabs are the price you pay.”)  When others don’t believe her, she happily responds that you can be whatever you want to be—“you just have to let your SPARKLE out!”

If I was going to be a stickler, and why would I write a blog if I wasn’t, I’d say that I would PREFER if the fairy princess occasionally something other than sugar, and maybe if TV wasn’t used as the homework distraction, but something a little more active instead.  However, the character is certainly active overall and you can’t expect every kid role model to do things differently than most kids do anyway…they wouldn’t be kid role models if they did.

Possible conversations to have with your kids:

Well, talk about their sparkle of course!  When do they sparkle best?  When they are playing the trombone, like the Fairy Princess’s friend?  Or dancing in a recital?  Or climbing a tree?  Or reading a book?  Helping cook in the kitchen?  What do they believe about themselves?  You might want to share some of your own secret sparkles, too.  Children are often surprised by their parents talents, some of which are often tucked away as we spend more and more of our time on the job or reading Fairy Princess books.