You may have seen my recent piece about James Joyce penning children’s stories and found it flabbergasting, but that hasn’t been an uncommon practice for “adult” authors in need of a break from more high-minded works. Here’s a rundown of a few beloved and one situationally beloved author who’ve taken some time to entertain the wee ones.
Comic fans know Gaiman best as the scribe behind the legendary Sandman series, fantasy dorks probably think of him as the author of tomes including American Gods and Neverwhere, art rock aficionados consider him “Mr. Amanda Palmer,” and to Whovians, he’s the dude who wrote “The Doctor’s Wife.” Of course he had to add an award winning children’s book to his resume, because he wasn’t already famous for enough other things.
While one could argue that Coraline counts as a kid’s book, enough children get poked in the eye with needles to make us wonder if it’s too scary for a G rating. While officially designated for children, The Graveyard Book might contain a bit too much murder and too many, well, words for anyone who hasn’t graduated to the level of YA readership. That said, it might be the perfect introduction to Gaiman’s singular vision of gothic fantasy for a kid who, let’s say, really liked the concept of Twilight, but found the novels underwhelming because Twilight sucks.
While most Paris-dwelling art curators/avant-garde novelists might consider kid lit beneath them, such was not the case for Gertrude Stein. From what we can surmise from We Too Were Children and BrainPickings, Margaret Wise Brown of Goodnight Moon fame thought it would be neat if heavy hitters among the late 1930s literary scene tried their hands at writing children’s stories. To her mild shock, Stein was the only affirmative response she received from the group of famous authors she contacted. But the pioneer of queer prose required that The World Is Round be printed on pink pages with blue ink, which made the publishing process much more complicated than Brown’s company anticipated.
Throughout The World is Round, protagonists Rose and Wily spend lots of time interacting with animals and, albeit for very different reasons, singing to themselves. Perhaps it lacks a coherent plot, but from a kid’s perspective, childhood itself doesn’t make much sense either.
Money and a room of her own might have been enough to keep Virginia Woolf, one of the early experts at the stream of consciousness narrative style, writing. But it wasn’t enough for her to produce much in the way of fiction most readers would consider upbeat.
However, the New York Times notes that, when a favorite nephew asked her for a children’s story for his newspaper, she absolutely came through with a cute animal rights allegory. In The Widow and the Parrot, karma pays off for an old woman who, as an indirect result of her affinity for nonhumans, unearths a small fortune that was left to her from her lately departed brother. We should warn you that most of the characters die at some point in the story, so this might not be a great choice for children who haven’t yet been introduced to the concept of mortality.
Some might make the case that Aldous Huxley accidentally predicted what would happen once the internet caught on with Brave New World. Perhaps most of us are too distracted by the flood of cat videos and celebrity news to pay much attention to more important matters, but that would imply cat videos aren’t important. And kitties are always important.
Anyway, once in awhile, Huxley took a break from prophesying the undoing of humanity to do things like write an adorable story about crows.
Amazon explains that in The Crows of Pearblossom, Mr. and Mrs. Crow yearn to have a child, but can’t seem to keep their eggs out of the belly of the snake who lives at the bottom of their tree. While the overlords of Brave New World would’ve distracted the snake with an orgy or pharmaceuticals or whathaveyou, the Crow family recruits their Owl buddy to help foil the snake’s wicked schemes.
Okay, hear us out – it wouldn’t necessarily be the worst thing in the world if your child grows up to be a Fox News pundit. Your tyke’s lucrative career will mostly involve reciting partisan talking points, but unlike Rachel Maddow and Fox’s other adversaries at MSNBC, they won’t be expected to learn nearly as many vocabulary words.
In fairness to O’Reilly, excerpts from The O’Reilly Factor for Kids, available on his website, send messages along the lines of “Be a good friend,” and “Don’t hang out with drug dealers,” as opposed to “People who wash dishes for 50 hours a week are poor because they don’t work as hard as the Koch Brothers.” But if O’Reilly did add some indoctrinating subtext to scrub young minds clean of lefty ideals, especially precocious youngsters could parlay their brainwashing into a cameo on Fox and Friends.
Funny sidenote: Jonathan Krohn, the smug, loudmouthed conservative kid in the above clip has since distanced himself from the GOP. He did a particularly notable about-face on the Republican social agenda, and described it as “dogmatic” on the Lawrence O’Donnell show. We doubt he made the shortlist of potential replacements for Gretchen Carlson.