Big A little a posted a BACA alert about an upcoming children's book by Jools Oliver, wife of Jamie Oliver.
But first, the article is ... just... wow. It's this flowery over the top article with photos of Jools walking in fields and is full of quotes that are, well, seriously? If you're tired of Twilight wank, read this. It is equally amusing, from the writer needing to explain that her name is actually a nickname to describing the toys in her home. Also? Her husband doesn't like it when she dresses "tartily" and she has very clear opinions on the future sex lives of her children, now five and six. Both comments, of course, fit perfectly in an article about a book for young children.
Now, on to the book! (oh, and it may be tough, but read the entire article, because at the end? book excerpt.)
The most disturbing bit comes not from Jools, but from the author of the article saying that "Detractors might regard Jools's book (and her lifestyle, perhaps) as too privileged, too middle-class and too, well, English for modern, politically correct, multicultural Britain, but the 33-year-old wife of celebrity chef and national treasure Jamie Oliver is adamant that Dotty and Bluebell (loosely based on her own girls) reflect reality for a great many children today".
I'm pretty much reading this as meaning that books that acknowledge that not every child in England is white, rich, and Christian have basically ruined children's books. That somehow the working class families, or the families that are immigrants or second, third, or more generation of immigrants, or families who don't send their kids to boarding school, or fill in the blank for the kiddies who are not being raised as the Famous Five were, are not "normal." Let me be clear: Jools is not quoted as saying this. But I'm disturbed that the author of the article says it, and that the people in the comments jump on it. (Let's not even get into the implication that Jools's lifestyle is middle class.)
It also amuses me as much as it disturbs me, because, as John Dougherty recently pointed out, the Famous Five came from a dysfunctional family, where the children rarely saw their parents and got shipped out to an uncle they had never met without a by your leave.
Back to Jools. Jools take is really nothing new: her quotes are all "oh noes there are no good books like Enid Blyton for my five and six year old to read so I had to write them myself." Jools mentions how books with bad grammar and books lacking plots about "normal" girls like hers have forced her to write her own books.
Just once, I want a celebrity author to say, "you know, as I was reading with my kids, I fell in love with children's books, and rediscovered just how awesome children's books are" or something like that, rather than "the books suck, so I was forced to write."
Sigh. It would be just too easy to start the booklist to give to Jools to show her all the great books that are out there. Because I do get what she means: she wants a book with a kid friendly adventure.
There is nothing wrong with what she wants to read to her kids. What is wrong is that it becomes "what I read as a kid was the best! what is out now sucks!" which is basically the mantra of so many people who complain about books.. Which is a whole other post - the viewing of the past in a rosey light, while viewing the present in a bleak light. There appears to be an outright refusal to see the value in The Penderwicks, the Casson family, Clementine, etc.
Optimistically speaking, I'd like to believe that Jools just doesn't know about the other books out there. Which is why I've decided to start a consulting service:
Librarian to Celebrities.
Having trouble finding good books for your kids?
Wondering if you will have to be driven to write a book?
In no time at all, you'll have a huge pile of books that your son or daughter will love!
Note to self: Post on Craig's List. Charge $500 an hour.
Monday, September 01, 2008