I think I’ll write a children’s book. I am a writer, so it’s not that much of a stretch. I know how to put words together in interesting ways. Of course I’ve never done that particular type of writing before, but that certainly hasn’t stopped other non-kids-book writers from the trade.
Indeed, hearing Julianne Moore last Thursday at the Barnes and Noble on Seventh Avenue reading from her new children’s book, “Freckleface Strawberry,” has given me hope. After all, she’s never had anything published before — and I have! And, anyway, it’s easy — right? There aren’t that many words, and all I need is a good moral, or some kind of childhood affliction that turns out to not matter after all. I didn’t have an annoying childhood nickname like Moore’s Freckleface Strawberry. But I did have awfully hairy arms for a 9-year-old girl, and the boy sitting next to me at school teased me all year until I finally convinced my mother to let me use bleach. Maybe I could call my book “Gorilla Girl,” or just plain “Hairyette.”
One thing is for sure, if I become a children’s book author, I will never keep my audience waiting for a half an hour, the way Moore did, her fans packed into the steamy children’s book department in too-few folding chairs. And my audience would be mostly real kids. Moore’s audience was mostly grown-up women.
Barbara Ensor, who belongs to my writer’s group (I wonder if Moore has a writer’s group like I do), is a children’s book author all the time and never acts in movies at all. She lives right here in Park Slope and she wrote “Cinderella (as if you didn’t already know the story)”, which has gotten great reviews.
“It’s kind of flattering, in a way, that all these famous people think that writing a children’s book is so cool,” Ensor told me. “On the other hand, I find myself thinking, gosh, it must be so easy, what I’m doing.”
In all fairness, Moore’s book is perfectly sweet. The writing is just fine. But it isn’t brilliant and it certainly isn’t unique. Ensor writes with a quirky style that couldn’t be duplicated by someone else. Moore said she wrote the first draft of her book in her Filofax on an airplane. Ensor works and re-works her stories in excruciating detail. Sometime the words flow easily, but the thought process is extremely complex. I know, because I see her in action every week in our group.
If I were inclined to choose a children’s book based on the author’s name, I would be much more likely to pick up a book by Jon Scieszka, Mo Willems, or Julie Markes, all of whom live here in the Slope, than one written by Madonna, Jamie Lee Curtis, Katie Couric, or Naomi Judd (yes, they all got their kids’ books published, mostly because of their last — or in Madonna’s case, only — name).
Let’s face it, if I saw “Freckleface Strawberry” on a shelf in the bookstore, written by Jane Smith, I probably wouldn’t even pick it up — since neither I nor my daughter has red hair and freckles. My kid has never heard of Julianne Moore — so that’s no draw. Admittedly, she does go for the books that Julie Andrews has written because who wouldn’t want to read a book written by Maria von Trapp? And who wouldn’t want to read a book by Inspector Clouseau, or Steve Martin, as us adults call him? His alphabet book was just released last week.
Of course, she’s a big fan of me, her mother, as well. So maybe I will write that book. Or perhaps, on second thought, I’ll just tell her a bedtime story and leave it at that.
Wendy Ponte is a freelance writer who lives in Park Slope.
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