Friday Fiction: Celebrities Write for Children

North Shore Books, North Muskegon, MI

Last week, I talked about how celebrities (actors, comedians, politicians, etc.) often try their hand at writing books (last week’s post). You can add the word “author” to the bios of Carrie Fisher, Steve Martin, William Shatner, and Pamela Anderson. Celeb novels range in quality, but I did make a point of saying that Fannie Flagg is a wonderful author and, in my opinion, only a so-so actress. So I guess she at least has found her calling. 

There are plenty of celebrities also writing children’s books!  Here a few I’ve found: 

Julie Andrews – The Broadway and screen star of such beloved tales as The Sound of Music, Mary Poppins, and Princess Diaries, Julie Andrews has authored children’s books for over thirty-five years, including some co-written with her daughter Emma Walton Hamilton. Titles include The Last of the Really Great Wangdoodles, the Dumpy the Dump Truck series, and Simeon’s Gift. 

Jamie Lee Curtis – Known for appearances in Halloween, True Lies, and Freaky Friday, she starred in one of my favorite films – A Fish Called Wanda. But she began writing children’s books when she told her own story of adopting a child in Tell Me Again About the Night I Was Born. Since then, she has written several others, including Today I Feel Silly & Other Moods that Make My Day and When I Was Little: A Four-Year-Old’s Memoir of Her Youth.

Sarah Ferguson – Ah, what’s a duchess to do with her spare time! Apparently, one option is to write children’s books. Thus, Sarah Ferguson, the spunky Duchess of York, has penned Tea for Ruby and the Little Red series. 

Whoopi Goldberg – Comedian, actress, and talk show host Whoopi Goldberg authored Alice back in 1992, an urban retelling of Alice in Wonderland. But she is better known for co-writing the series Sugar Plum Ballerinas with Deborah Underwood. 

Fred Gwynne – Yes, he was Herman Munster. But did you know that he had a role in On the Waterfront? In addition, before his death in 1993, Gwynne wrote and illustrated several children’s books, with wordplay titles such as The King Who Rained, A Chocolate Moose for Dinner, and A Little Pigeon Toad. 

John Lithgow – Known for television roles in Harry and the Hendersons and 3rd Rock from the Sun, Lithgow also launched a children’s music career in 1999. Then he authored several children’s books, including The Remarkable Farkle McBride and Micawber. 

Madonna – If you had told me back in the 1980’s when she was wearing lace bustiers and singing about her sexuality that Madonna would one day write children’s books, I would have called you crazy. But motherhood can alter your priorities. And so Madonna indeed authored the much-touted The English Roses which has spawned a series. 

Henry Winkler – Arthur Fonzarelli is now Author Winkler. Having experienced dyslexia firsthand, he has co-written a series of books with Lin Oliver about a dyslexic adolescent named Hank Zipzer. There are seventeen books in the series now. 

Of the ones listed above, I have only read a couple of Winkler’s Hank Zipzer series and a few from John Lithgow. However, I distinctively remember reading Marsupial Sue by Lithgow to my children when they were younger. 

Do you know of any other celebrities who have penned children’s books? Have you read any of the above? If so, what did you think? Once again, do you have an opinion on actresses, politicians, and other celebs writing books? Do you think it’s a good use of their creativity or a diabolical plot to keep the rest of us from getting published?

Friday Fiction: Getting Hooked

If not for Laura Ingalls Wilder and Carolyn Keene, would I have become such an avid reader?  I don’t know.  But my memories of books as a young girl include hours delving into the lives of Laura in the Little House series and Girl Detective in the Nancy Drew series.  It was finding topics I liked and characters I could identify with that opened me up to the worlds that an author’s words create.

Whenever I hear a kid say that he doesn’t like reading, I think, “You just haven’t figured out what you like to read yet!”  Everyone agrees that the key to making a reader out of anybody is finding an author, a topic, or a genre that they enjoy.  If the successes of J.K. Rowling and Stephanie Meyer have proved anything, it’s that kids and teens still enjoy reading if you give them something they like! 

Frankly, this is true with adults as well.  Sometimes, we think a reader is a person who picks up classic literature, current bestsellers, or book club selections. But people who visit bookstores (or download titles onto their ebook reader) might enjoy graphic novels, cookbooks, magazines, online newspapers, self-help books, thrillers, or romances.  The important thing is to get people reading!

We all started somewhere – often with a Dr. Seuss book or an Archie comic in hand.

A few of my own suggestions for getting kids to read these days:

Junie B. Jones by Barbara Park (ages 4-8) – I admit to never having read a single Junie B. Jones book.  But I enjoy this author, and this series comes highly recommended by many of my friends with daughters.

The Magic Tree House series by Mary Pope Osborne (ages 9-12) – I volunteered in my kids’ school library for two years, and these books were checked out all the time.  They are quick reads, but the author takes children through history in a fun way.

Clementine series by Sara Pennypacker (ages 9-12) – I fell in love with Clementine on page 1.  She’s a spunky elementary girl with excess energy, creative thinking, and a few stories to tell.

Diary of a Wimpy Kid series by Jeff Kinney (ages 9-12) – A combination of text and pictures, these books chronicle the life of a wimpy kid whose experiences are easily understood by most children.

The Time Warp Trio series by Jon Scieszka (ages 9-12) – Boys in particular will love the adventures of three time-traveling friends and their humor.  Let’s just say that the first book includes a giant with giant-sized snot.

Lawn Boy by Gary Paulsen (ages 9-12) – This is the hilarious tale of a young boy just trying to make a little extra money and finding himself an illustrious entrepreneur.

Piper Reed series by Kimberly Willis Holt (ages 9-12) – Both girls and boys will love this daughter of a Navy officer with two sisters, a dog, and a fresh perspective on childhood.

Percy Jackson and the Olympians by Rick Riordan (ages 9-12) – Greek mythology can seem dull to most kids, until you read Riordan’s retelling of the Greek myths with teens as demigods. Then hold on for the fantastic ride!

Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling (ages 9 & up) – Yes, I would still recommend this series to any child who hasn’t read it.  I love how the author weaves the average challenges that all kids face in school with a wizarding world and the fight of good vs. evil.

 
Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins (ages 12 & up) – Tweens, teens, and adults will find these dystopian books to be page-turners. Collins creates an intriguing world and has us rooting for the main characters from the beginning and throughout.

 

 

What books got you reading as a child or an adult?  What books or series would you suggest to non-readers to get them hooked on reading?