Monday, February 21, 2011

Once Upon a Time, a Chipmunk and a Penguin Went to a Motel Room

I'm finishing an illustration-only book. It was intended for children, but it's suitable for all ages. 
Please refer to this post.
So would it be considered a children's picture book because it meets the page-count criteria, or could it be stretched to the novelty category and submitted to agents that don't accept children's fiction? It seems to me that novelty can be a tough sell, but aren't consumers more likely to purchase a novelty/gift book than, say, a fifteen-dollar picture book? I ask that realizing your answer most likely is that it depends on the pictures, but feel free to surprise me here.
It depends on the pictures---and the topic. 

There is a core audience for your book.  I'm guessing, from your question, that the topic or treatment is somewhat adult, and the only reason you think it might be a children's book is the format.  I don't suppose you've seen Baby, Mix Me a Drink?  Or Furverts?  Those are both board book formats, a format associated with infants and toddlers.  Does the format make them for that audience?  OH HELL NO.

Of course, there are some picture books published every year by children's imprints for which the audience is really adults.  The ones who skate that line in an acceptable way are usually light-hearted life advice, like: "if you love someone, set them free."  They are bought as graduation gifts (see Walk On or Oh The Places You'll Go).  The ones that don't are usually dreadful and sometimes psychotic life advice, like: "if you love someone, let them chop you down to a stump."

But graduation gifts is a difficult niche to publish into---more difficult than adult novelty books. 

Figure out who your audience is.  Good luck!

19 comments:

Anonymous said...

Are you referencing Shel Silverstein's 'The Giving Tree'? I thought that was a story about the self-sacrificing and unconditional love of a mother, who gives a good part of herself for the health and happiness of her child, from conception onwards really. That's how I read it when I picked up my nephew's copy - not so much life advice as holding up a mirror to motherhood.

AE said...

Arthur Levine put out a great one a few years back called "How Are You Peeling" (and others by the same creators, Elffers and Freymann). I think it is a general audience book, even though it is marketed for kids. Probably would be harder to market for adults, though.

We have it and we all love it. Fun with fruits and vegetables!

Anonymous said...

Ah, EA, I would've guessed you were a fellow Giving Tree loather. IMHO, the people who dote on that book haven't read it very carefully.

The late Mr. Silverstein probably didn't think it worth mentioning that the tale had been slightly misinterpreted, while those royalty checks were rolling in.

Editorial Anonymous said...

I've seen people give The Giving Tree for many reasons and in many situations, and I'm afraid I always feel it's inappropriate.
Certainly there is some self-sacrifice in parenthood (what else is getting up at 3:00 am to clean up an infant with a stomach bug?). But utter sacrifice to another person-- sacrifice that leaves you ruined and destitute, dead?
Taking a bullet for your child is perfectly understandable, but letting them wipe their feet on you because their shoes are dirty is not.
I think one of the most important responsibilities of parenting (especially as the child grows older) is to role model a full and happy adult life, so that your child sees how it's done. Modeling an adulthood in which you destroy yourself for other people is sick. Is that what you want for your children?

Anonymous said...

Lol. As a child I thought that book was great and I couldn't see why my mother hated it so much.

Now, I see.

And I hate it too. And I find it somewhat annoying when other people love it.

But isn't there some irony in the fact that a tree actually did have to give it's life to make that book? And that that tree is totally unappreciated because of the book that was printed on it.

Stumpy said...

"If you love someone, let them chop you down to a stump."

That comment's a keeper!

Anonymous said...

A recent EA post reminds us "true generosity comes without obligation," in which case the Giving Tree is setting the best possible example for her boy. This giving without obligation is necessary anyway for the sake of continued life, but I'm not sure Silverstein's observations as recorded in the book don't agree with you too - especially in the world today, where infantilized adults keep on consuming without any regard or responsibility for the world or others. When I think of it I'm reminded as well by advice I once read elsewhere - don't forget your other half (and your own life), as your children will leave you. Still, the parents must set the example if the children are to learn from it and return a little care when the parents have nothing left to give.

Deirdre Mundy said...

As a former CCD student (and current CCD teacher), my loathing for the giving tree comes from all the adults over the years who tried to treat it as a religious parable. Inevitably, it all devolved into really, really bad theology of what "sacrificial love" actually means.

On the other hand, it does provide a GREAT example of a co-dependant relationship. Though I think John Forestor (folk singer) did a better job with the concept...

"You hold your breath, dear, and I'll turn blue, cause I'm so co-dependant with you! You unstable you, I'll enable you...."

Valerie said...

I'd like to think the intended message of "The Giving Tree" is "Mammas Don't Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be A**holes," but maybe I'm just deluding myself.

Deirdre Mundy said...

Actually, being unappreciated by cruel and heartless children is a constant theme in Silverstein's work... I mean, think about the ABZ book-- constant references to poor, unappreciated Uncle Shelby. Of course, as we see from "A Boy Named Sue," he also felt that the legacy parents bequeath to their children is one of pain and suffering.

Clearly, he was writing as a form of therapy.

What I find odd about people's love for Giving Tree is that, given the rest of Silverstein's work, it's pretty clear that he's usually writing tongue in cheek. Yet people take the giving tree as some deep, earnest story about how much they love their kids....

Really, I think the tree is like LC.S. Lewis's description of those mothers who simply live for everyone else around them--- and you can tell, because of the hunted, miserable looks on everyone else.

Or, as the old saying goes: "A Saint is someone who has to live with a Martyr."

Anonymous said...

this is a great send up of the giving tree for people who loathe it:

sassy gay friend: the giving tree

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XYQavD9mSIc

Domestica Etcetera said...

Haha! The first thing that went through my mind when I reached the "nether regions" of that post was "Aww! The Giving Tree!" Then, I promptly read your interpretation, and couldn't help but also think, "Fair enough." I think my favorite thing about my copy of The Giving Tree is the calligraphy writing of the family friend who gave it to me inside the front cover.

... and that concludes today's segment of "childhood memories from random strangers."

Tarsila Kr├╝se said...

This is not related to the post, but I thought it is relevant to share...
A comic strip from Posy Simmonds on the preconceived ideas about the world of Children's Picture Books...
http://blog.drawn.ca/post/3445342771/a-too-true-view-of-childrens-publishing-by-the

Venus said...

I recently ran across a picture book, It's a Book by Lane Smith and although there are some children who may enjoy it, there was definitely an adultness to it. I don't mind that really although I can't imagine it being an easy sell and if it weren't such a popular children's book writer and illustrator, I do wonder if it would have been published.

Anonymous said...

“The ones that don't are usually dreadful and sometimes psychotic life advice, like: ‘if you love someone, let them chop you down to a stump.”‘

Ah, how nice to see that in print... I hate that book.

Laurie said...

In total agreement with you about The Giving Tree!
Thank you, thank you, thank you for daring to put it in print...

Ebony McKenna. said...

I know absolutely zilch about The Giving Tree and in my case it seems like ignorance is bliss.

librariankris said...

Thank God. I love it when people slay literary sacred cows, and the Giving Tree is a classic. Add to that Love You Forever. She drives to his house in the middle of the night? Really?

Ebony McKenna. said...

Um, this is seriously strange.

On the bookdepository's page for my book, Ondine, the suggestions below it include such great reads as Anna & The French Kiss and Lauren Oliver's Delirium and . . . . The Giving Tree!!!

http://www.bookdepository.com/book/9781405256384/The-Autumn-Palace

I have no idea how it happened, but I'm blaming you anyway! :-)