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Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Actors who write children's books

There has always been a tight relationship between books and the silver screen. The two often feed off each other with movies being made from books and "novelizations" following most movie releases.

So it isn't terribly surprising that many actors have become authors. What is interesting is the increasing number of actors who have written children's books--books with relatively little chance of being turned into big screen movies. It's almost become its own publishing niche given the number of celebrities crossing the line into children's book writing.

Julie Andrews wrote Mandy and The Last of the Really Great Wangdoodles more than 30 years ago and has continued to contribute to children's literature. This month will see the release of The Great American Mousical. She's also written Dragon: Hound of Honor, Dumpy and the Firefighters, Dumpy to the Rescue, Dumpy's Apple Shop, and Simeon's Gift.

She also works with HarperCollins to put together "The Julie Andrews Collection"--a collection of "new works by established and emerging authors, out-of-print gems worthy of resurrection, and books by Ms. Andrews herself."

Joining Ms. Andrews as a children's book authors are such folks as:
  • Henry Winkler, who wrote a collection of Hank Zipzer books. Poor Hank is called the world's greatest underachiever, a boy who struggles with his learning differences.
  • Jamie Lee Curtis' books have become bestsellers by promoting a positive message and a delight in family. Her titles include I'm Gonna Like Me, It's Hard to Be Five, Tell Me Again About the Night I Was Born, and Today I Feel Silly.
  • John Lithgow's writing has garnered him Parents' Choice Awards--in particular for his Boredom Blasters. He's also written Lithgow Party Paloozas!, The Carnival of Animals, I'm a Manatee, Micawber, Marsupial Sue, The Remarkable Farkle McBride, and Child Magazine's selection of "Best Book of 2005": Marsupial Sue Presents The Runaway Pancake.
  • Sonia Manzano, best-known as Maria on Sesame Street, shared 15 writing Emmy awards as a staff writer for Sesame Street. She's also written her own book: No Dogs Allowed!
  • Actress Katharine Ross has written The Little Quiet Book and Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Bug.

Other actors who have written children's books include:

  • Jerry Seinfeld
  • Katie Couric
  • Bill Cosby
  • Jay Leno
  • Spike Lee
  • Jane Seymour
  • John Travolta
Not everyone thinks this trend in celebrity-published books is a good idea. In 2004, the Post-Gazette in Pennsylvania wrote an interesting take on the trend:

http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/04308/405539.stm

Jane Yolen has a point when she says, "celebrity children's books eat up all the available oxygen ... I have over 250 books out, have won a great number of awards within the field, have been given four honorary doctorates for my body of work, but have never been on 'Oprah' or spoken to Katie Couric or gotten a $100,000 advance for my work."

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