Saturday, November 18, 2006

Juvenile Crime

“Don’t you get tired of writing other people’s stuff?”

“Not as long as they pay me.”

“I mean, why don’t you go and write your own books?”

“But I do.”

“Oh, I know. History and stuff, boring. No, I mean a REAL book, a novel like. Or how about a children’s book? All the celebrities do. Take Madonna…..”

“No, you take her…..”

And it does seem that celebrities, as their star wanes, turn to writing kiddy books. Fergie did and, as my interrogator pointed out, so has Madonna and a good few others. Now it is unfair to criticise a work that you haven’t read but I did read the publisher’s blurb on Madonna’s first effort which was quite enough for me, or, I might suggest, for any self-respecting kid:

“Madonna hangs up her material-girl cloak to teach children the importance of looking beyond a surface sheen. In The English Roses, the superstar's children's book debut, four little girls (the roses in question) "play the same games, read the same books, and like the same boys." Nicole, Amy, Charlotte, and Grace all love to dance the monkey and the tickety-boo… and they all are horribly jealous of Binah, the perfect, beautiful, smart, kind girl who lives nearby. Even though they know Binah is lonely, she makes them sick. They would say, "Let's pretend we don't see her when she walks by." And even, "Let's push her into the lake!" The pleasantly bossy narrator explains, "And that is what they did. No, silly, not the lake part, the pretending not to see her part." One night, however, the four girls all have the same dream that sets them straight. A fairy godmother sprinkles them with fairy dust and takes them to spy on Binah. When they see that she lives alone with her father, slaving away night and day at household chores, the four girly grumblers feel very sorry for her. The fairy scolds them, "… in the future, you might think twice before grumbling that someone else has a better life than you." And they do. This morality tale is nothing new under the sun, but it is cleverly told, with many teaspoonfuls of good humor.”

For me it would take a good many spoonfuls of good humour to make that medicine go down. And “Binah?” Well, Madonna comes from Bay City, Michigan, where I suppose they might name children that way.

My problem with writing anything in the fiction department is that I feel I’m up against some pretty hot stuff in the way of competition. Tolstoy and his mates, for instance. I’m fine at gently criticising other’s work and doing my best to put it right for them, but when it comes to my own unaided work, my critical faculties go into overdrive. The result is a filing cabinet full of unfinished MS.

And children’s books come in the same category. The story I wrote for my daughter some years ago has never been published or even offered other than on my website, where it is available for free download. I thoroughly enjoyed writing it, but will gladly admit that it’s not a patch on Wind in the Willows, a sort of standard set by my own personal standard.

With history or real life events, biographies for instance, it’s a different matter. Here I feel more like a re-packaging service, turning facts into a readable format and making history palatable, something academics are often very bad at. Here I have one up on them. I’m not academic.

The odd snippets I’ve read of celebrities kids books seem to contain revoltingly twee little characters with funny names or inanimate objects equipped with humanly endearing qualities. I hope the kiddiewinkies enjoy them.

But for examples of how it should be done, just take a look at the work of that masterly teller of fairy tales, Andrew Lang, a sort of latter day Hans Andersen. And for many years, the BBC broadcast a children’s serial, Toy Town, written by S.G. Hulme-Beaman, that kept children glued to the radio between five and six o’clock when they should have been having their tea. Nowadays, of course, they’ll probably be out terrorising little old ladies on the street. Larry the Lamb, Mr. Grouser, Mr. Mayor and Denis the Dachshund populated a wonderful fantasy town with not a hoodlum in sight in those days of innocence. Undoubtedly it would be banned today for having some sinister religious or ethnic overtones or, more likely, the Health and Safety people would have something to say about Larry’s adventures. It’s just as well they weren’t about when Richmal Crompton was writing her William stories.

“Ho, ho, ho, Madam, we can’t have you encouraging boys to climb trees and splash in ponds. And as for using a catapault – it clearly says in our manual that you can’t do that there ‘ere. This is 2006 you know – we have rules. Don’t you realise how dangerous conkers are? The sooner the council take that tree down the better, if you ask me. It’s just a temptation and lures them away from the telly where they’ll be safe. I’m afraid you’ll have to come along with us while we write you up an ASBO.”

And so we’re stuck with Mrs. Tiggywinkle and her mates who are unlikely to lead the young astray. But I’m not so sure about Binah and those other kids. Sounds like the Health and Safety people should get over to Madonna’s pad a bit smartish. Isn’t she encouraging the young to push people into lakes?

2 Comments:

Blogger ng2000 said...

Valuable resource of juvenile crime news summaries: http://ng2000.com/ng2000bb/YaBB.pl?num=1221461351

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