Wednesday, 11 October 2017

Pants, Stinks and Children’s Books - Catherine Butler

Some Celebrities Need Professional Help 
I realise that this topic hasn’t exactly been ignored on ABBA, but here’s my take...

There’s a celebrity version of most things these days, isn’t there? Celebrity Masterchef, Celebrity Mastermind, celebrity diving in Splash!, celebrity ballroom dancing in Strictly – I’m sure you can add to the list.

The celebrity versions of programmes are usually a bit easier because, as everyone concerned recognises, the celebrities aren’t actually professionals. No one would expect the winner of Celebrity Masterchef to win Masterchef itself, let alone the pro version. No celebrity on Splash! expects to represent the country in diving at the next Olympics. Even the questions on celebrity versions of quiz shows are generally pitched lower: after all, being a celebrity doesn’t necessarily mean you’re clever. The celebrities are there to scatter a little stardust, to be good sports and to win money for their favourite charities. In fact, if they were too good it would spoil the fun. Nadiya Hussain became a celebrity as a result of winning Bake Off, but ironically Celebrity Bake Off is the one show to which she will never be invited.

That’s the general rule. Celebrities may have their own expertise – singing, acting, cooking, telling jokes, looking beautiful, or just being famous – but when they make guest appearances outside their own domains it is in a spirit of good-natured amateurism.

However, there are three exceptions: lingerie, perfume and children’s books.

Why these three in particular, I’ve no idea, but for some reason being a celebrity in another field can make you an actual expert in any or all of these. If you’ve ever wondered why there are no celebrity shows called Pants! (“This week our six celebrities compete to design the perfect pair of baggy boxers”) or Stinks! (“Alpine ski slopes are the pine-fresh theme in this edition of the olfactory face-off”), perhaps it’s because it would breach the unwritten rule of amateurism. After all, people like David Beckham, Halle Berry, Ariana Grande and Taylor Swift are actually working late into the night with scissors, sewing machines and test tubes, producing underwear and perfume to a professional standard. That, at least, is what I assume is meant when they are said to have brought out their own range of undies or scents.

What’s that you say? It’s not really their own work? They just put their name to products actually produced by unlauded behind-the-scenes professionals?

Oh, I see.  I do feel a fool.

But children’s books are different, right? Otherwise, I’m sure that the organisers of World Book Day wouldn’t have ignored all the talented children’s authors who have spent years learning their craft, who visit schools and libraries throughout the year, who earn a relative pittance and who could really use the exposure that World Book Day can bring, in favour of a line-up of celebrities such as Clare Balding, Julian Clary, Nadiya Hussain and that bloke from McFly.

It’s true that on the day the list was announced my Facebook page (filled as it is with mid-list children’s authors) emitted an audible groan of exasperation, but I have faith that these sports journalists, comedians, bakers and musicians were children’s writers manqué all along. Otherwise it would be a bit like the Olympic committee trying to promote athletics by choosing Graham Norton to represent Team GB in Tokyo 2020, rather than a talented runner who had trained in all weathers for the last four years.  Or even – in the case of ghost-written books – like paying an athlete to wear a Graham Norton mask while running the 1,500 metres. No one would think that was the best way to get children interested in athletics on World Sport Day. Why would World Book Day be different?

11 comments:

Penny Dolan said...

So beautifully explained! Thanks.

Susan Price said...

Hear, hear!

Enid Richemont said...

Say it loud, and repeat it LOUDER!

C.J.Busby said...

Brilliant and spot on.

Saviour Pirotta said...

A brilliant post.

Lynne Benton said...

Excellent! Well said!

Hilary Hawkes said...

Well put. Thank you :)

Angela Soutar said...

Maybe celebrities are the only ones who can afford to give away their work in a book [admittedly a small book] for one pound.
There are many ways we can encourage kids to read and gain further confidence and I guess this is just one way....... introducing them to a series they love [not a one-off and maybe not very well written one] , even if adults detest it, is probably one of the most effective.

Stroppy Author said...

Excellent - well said!

Chitra Soundar said...

Spot on! Happy for celebrities to have a celebrity book shelf in the supermarkets where you expect a ghost written or badly written book for the sake of charities and a real book section where real writers write stories that bring pleasure to children. One of the most painful things I watched was the Apprentice episode of producing a children’s book.

Chitra Soundar said...

They don’t give away anything - other than an advance - all costs are borne by publisher - in return they get massive free marketing and publicity. There is no free lunch and every act of creating bad books have a consequence to our next generation.