Are you sitting comfortably? Then we will begin. Once upon a time there was a bullied new mom (me, I’m talking about me) who sat down and read a book to her baby. She then she read another book to the baby and then she read another book to the baby, etc., etc. That’s what you’re supposed to do when you have a kid, isn’t it? You read books to them so they can develop a passion for literature and grow up to have a poor future in the arts.
As far as I can tell, my 10 month old has not yet developed a passion for literature. Unless you count putting books in his mouth, screeching, and then throwing them across the room as a “passion.” But I have certainly learned a lot from all this new reading material. And since sharing is caring (a big theme in children’s books), I’m going to share these learnings with you.
Number one: It’s time we had a serious conversation about Dear Zoo. Everyone loves this classic baby book, we were given FIVE copies, but the central theme is haunting. Does a little kid keep sending animals back to the zoo because they’re not quite ready for tobacco? I’m sorry, but I strongly suspect that book helped raise a generation of Karen of all genders. It might as well be called Dear Zoo (I want to speak to the manager).
My second big takeaway is that celebrities really need to stop writing children’s books. By my count, 93.2% of celebrities, from Whoopi Goldberg to Chelsea Clinton, Jimmy Fallon, George Galloway (!!), Kelly Clarkson, and Mike Pence’s rabbit, have written a children’s book. Most of these are either terribly or terribly unimaginative. Here, for example, is a sample quote from one of Fallon’s creations: “This is the baby’s nose, these are the baby’s fingers, these are the baby’s toes.” It must be nice to be famous! You can get paid billions of dollars to rhyme nose with toes. I guess that’s how it works. Money makes money; when you’re rich, you keep accumulating zeros. (Where’s my book deal, huh?). Which brings me to my final takeaway: everyone seems to think they can write a great children’s book, but very few people actually can. Writing a great children’s book is not child’s play, it’s serious work.
• Arwa Mahdawi is a columnist for The Guardian