It's not going to stop. We're doomed to wade forever in a sea of celebrity picture books. People who should know better seem to think that acting in a movie, marrying a prince, or springing from the loins of a president qualifies them to write for children. A look at the fall releases from major publishing houses proves that the trend shows no signs of stopping.
THE UPS AND DOWNS OF BENNIE THE BARBELL, by Arnold Schwartzenegger, is the touching story of a free weight who wants desperately to be a Nordic Trak. Bennie feels humiliated as he sits ignored in a corner of the spa while all the patrons flock to the modern equipment. When Ninja terrorists attack the spa (for reasons that are never made clear), it is Benny, in the hands of a young body builder, who comes to the rescue. As the body builder says on the penultimate page, "I'm glad you were available, Benny. You can't brain someone with a rowing machine."
STEWIE THE SURFBOARD TAKES A TRIP, by Mike Love and Brian Wilson, is the pastoral tale of a piece of laminated fiberglass. Stewie visits several coasts in search of great waves, and learns a lesson in tolerance when his life is saved by a boogie board. The watercolor illustrations are lovely, but the text, in doggerel-like rhyme, is rather too simplistic for even the youngest readers.
ALGERNON, THE ANTI-HERO, by Howard Stern, is the tale of a misunderstood mouse who is so bent on exposing the hypocrisy of his little mouse society that he is perceived by others as being mean-spirited and evil. Only after Algernon loses his life in an attempt to save others from Conservative Cat, does society come to appreciate him. Though the book as a whole seems somewhat flat, the chorus of bimbo rats at Algernon's funeral is rather touching.
MISTER SILLY-WALKS CHANGES HIS PANTS, by John Cleese, seems aimed much more at adults than children. The humor is extremely sophisticated, and some of the illustrations are a bit on the risque side, though older children might enjoy the occasional scene of spurting blood and even the youngest toddler will be charmed by the dead parrot.
THE JOLLY GYMNAST, by John Tesh, is a touching story of a starving athlete who finally, after years of struggle and sacrifice, achieves her lifelong dream when she gets to eat an entire Oreo, creme filling and all. Though not marketed as a bedtime story, the books is packaged with a CD containing original new-age compositions that are guaranteed to send even the most hyperactive kid into a coma-like sleep within thirty seconds.
THE UnComPlic8ed KOUNTING BOOK, by Avril Lavigne, helps kids learn their numbers from one all the way up to like maybe three or four. In a brillaint punkish departure from conventionalism and conformity, the numbers are given out of sequence.
WINDOWS ARE WONDERFUL, by Bill Gates, seems to be designed not so much for readers as for browsers. Apparently, it's a pop up book. We'd like to tell you more about it, but our reviewers haven't quite been able to get it to work yet. And ever since we installed in on our shelves, none of our other books will open.
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