I’ve had this children’s book kicking around in my head for years now (When you stop snickering, we can continue. I’ll wait). I’ve got the rough draft done, and a few sketches for the illustrations, but have yet to reach the point of submitting a draft to any publishers. I’m not sure that in these times of political correctness and hyper-sensitivity that writing a half decent book for the young ‘uns is even possible. To test my theory, I submitted a few plot lines to a publisher* to see what kind of feedback I’d get. Here’s how it went:
Dear Mr. One Point,
I’ve read the story-lines you’ve submitted. While I applaud your obviously fertile imagination, there are some macabre overtones in many of your stories which may make them unsuitable to a young audience. In addition, there are topics which may offend any number of groups and organizations, raising the chances of boycotts and/or possible legal action.
Hansel and Gretel – Maybe this sort of thing plays well with the Steven King-horror set, but you’re going to traumatize kids with this garbage. They’re abandoned by their parents and waste their only source of carbs leaving a trail? As if that isn’t bad enough – they get captured by a witch who lives in an edible house, but prefers to eat fattened, caged children? I’m assuming that free-range kids would be a healthier diet alternative, but that’s neither here nor there. Creative Recommendations: Lay off the peyote, ferchrissakes! The Teutonic names have got to go – give the kids edgier, but closer to mainstream American names, like maybe “Dustin and Michaela“. Drop the witch entirely, and have them get lost somewhere safe, like in a science museum. They can learn about photosynthesis and how magnets work on their journey back to the help desk and chaperones. End of story, no one is imprisoned, no threat of cannibalism.
Humpty Dumpty – Okay, first off, this one is going to upset The American Egg Council, self-righteous vegans and possibly The International Federation of Wall Builders. The idea of this character falling and breaking into a bunch of pieces is disturbing. I couldn’t help but imagine the gory image of yolk and albumin spilling out of him as he lay dying. If it was a hot enough day, he may well have fried on the sidewalk while the king’s horses and men tried to put him together again. Horses? They have hooves – if the ones I see pulling carriages full of tourists in the park are any indication, they’d be more likely to drop a number two on him. Creative Recommendations: If you’re hellbent on keeping this character as a broken egg, perhaps he should go on living in his post-fall state in some sort of wheelchair or with a prosthetic shell. It can teach kids that just because someone’s had catastrophic injuries, it doesn’t mean they can’t live a full and happy life (at least until the expiration date on their carton). Then again, a “full and happy life” for an egg generally consists of either hatching or playing a critical role in a frittata.
Little Red Riding Hood – This is damn near as creepy as the one about the two caged kids in the witches house. Seriously, man – you should consider writing graphic novels about post-apocalyptic adventures of zombie-hunting lesbians and not wasting my time. Creative Recommendations: Honestly, I don’t know where to start. You can’t send a kid into the woods alone and expect not to hear from DYFS – so drop that angle. Also, aren’t wolves an endangered species? You can’t kill a wolf, even a bad one – it’s violent. Besides, dog food commercials are constantly comparing wolves to the family pooch. Dressing Wolfie up like Grandma is a little too transvestite-ish for young readers. My vote is to just scrap this story entirely, it’ll never see the light of day.
Goldilocks and the Three Bears – Decent premise, though I don’t know what it is with you and unsupervised kids wandering around in the woods.. This could possibly be offensive to bears, blondes and the PMA (Porridge Marketing of America). It may also send a message that it’s permissible to “sleep around” not to mention condoning breaking and entering. The guys from legal also pointed out that destruction of property is to be discouraged. Creative Recommendations: Change her name to something less Aryan-race, and reconsider the whole “bear” thing. Maybe she could have the same adventure at a family reunion, eating the food, sitting in chairs and sleeping in the beds of her second cousins – though this might be a little too Arkansas. Send me a draft and I’ll let you know.
Little Miss Muffett – It’s obvious to anyone that you named her that because it rhymes with “tuffet”. WTF is a tuffet? I had to Goggle search it. I think my MeeMaw had one of those – it had scratchy plaid upholstery and like everything else in her house, smelled like cats made of mothballs. Pappy called it a “hassock”, though that could been the Old Mr. Boston talking. Curds and whey? This is insulting to people with taste buds and dairy allergies. Creative Recommendations: Change the name, drop the tuffet reference. Whatever her new name is, it should be “Ms.” not “Miss”. Spiders have an important role in the eco-system. She can be scared by one, but maybe she can come back and discover the beauty and vital function spiders play in our world. For Pete’s sake, give her something more nutritious to eat, maybe some kale chips or a Tupperware container full of fair-trade, organic apple slices.
To be candid, the only reason I gave this drivel any time at all is because I owed your brother a favor. We’re even now. It’ll take a weekend’s use of his beach house before I subject myself to anymore of your disturbing children’s book ideas.
(Name Withheld by Request)
* Yes of course it’s an imaginary publisher! If you thought I actually knew a publisher, you’ve been nipping at Pappy’s nerve tonic again.