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Famous Non-Writers Writing Books

Famous Non-Writers Writing Books

After writing the article on children books written by Bob Dylan, I took an interest in reading up on other famous people who aren’t known for writing but have tried their hands at authoring children’s books. The result was… interesting.

According to Ranker, there are 55 celebrities who have written children’s books and the numbers are growing. Some of the notable names that made the lists are George Foreman, Jim Carrey, and Madonna. Most celebrities have just one title to their names which, in my books, wouldn’t put them in the same league as professional children book writers like Silverstein, Sendak or Seuss.

What lies behind this trend of famous non-writers writing children’s books?

For some, like Keith Richards from the Rolling Stones, it is the best way to encapsulate a personal story for posterity’s sake. Richards’ book Gus &Me: The Story of My Granddad and My First Guitar is a story about his grandfather who inspired him to play the guitar.  Will Smith collaborated with illustrator Kadir Nelson to turn his hit song Just The Two of Us into a children’s book dedicated to his son. I can certainly appreciate such reasoning for writing a book, but I suspect that – and I’m really going out on a limp here – most people think that writing children’s book is just an easy way of getting into the literary scene. How many words are there in Oliver Jeffer’s Stuck ? A hundred? Sounds like it’s all in a day’s work. In fact, this couldn’t be further from the truth. I had a really good discussion with children book writers Jacqueline Harvey and Adeline Foo over the weekend at the Singapore Writers Festival where they shared the long hard road from being nobodies in the literary scene to best selling authors.

Writing a book is easy but writing a good one that children love is another level of art altogether, and when the not-the-usual-writer-types are able to pull it off successfully, they deserve additional respect. Henry Winkler is one unexpected celebrity that really impressed me with his achievements as a children’s book writer that I’m contemplating dedicating an entire article’s worth on the man and his books. Henry Winkler is an actor, producer and director and is most famous for his role as the Fonz in the 1970s US television sitcom, Happy Days. Despite suffering from dyslexia, Winkler with the help of partner Lin Oliver, co-wrote the Hank Zipzer series which was nominated for the Best Children’s Fiction Program Rockie Award in 2014.

The vast majority of celebrity-written kids’ books faded to obscurity after the initial fanfare.

Children generally don’t care much for celebrities and unless the books were written by cartoon characters, names like John Travolta have as much value as John Tan. It is the parents who are the ones getting excited over celebrity names on book covers. Most wouldn’t mind parting with a bit of money to own a book written by their favourite celebrities. I had my guilty pleasure when I purchased local celebrity Wong Li Lin’s Perceptive Play. I queued up for an autograph, flip through a couple of pages and left it on my bookshelf in pristine condition. Two other fan-driven purchases were Ricky Gervais' Flanimals series and Mick Foley’s Tales from Wrescal Lane, which were both surprisingly good. The former is a comedian and the latter is a professional WWE wrestler. Flanimals inspired some of the monsters in the story that I wrote for Monsters Under the Bed.

Written by Eugene Tay, founder of Brain & Butter and Monsters Under the Bed.

When Eugene was a young boy, he wanted to be an astronaut. When that didn't take off, he decided that he was going to be like Indiana Jones and explore the world as an archaeologist. Eventually, he figured out how he can do both. That's when he became a writer.

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