Saturday, July 7, 2007

Huh, Scientists. Always Thinking All That Education Counts for Something

I was hoping to get your take on an agent's particular sentiment on a recent picture book manuscript...
Even with all the facts known about dinosaurs, their disappearance might always remain a mystery. There’s a lot of wiggle room in explaining their extinction. Every smart-aleck know-it-all has their own theories. And now kids can consider a theory that’s just for them. The dinosaurs’ demise was REALLY caused by a lack of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches in their diet.
She thought it was an original idea and very well-written. She said however, that she'd be unable to sell it because "there are so many tree nut allergies that schools and parents might not buy for that silly (but potentially life threatening) reason. As you might be aware, many preschools and elementary schools are now peanut-product-free."
Are publishers that reticent to put out a book because it has peanut butter in it?

I’m not. Last time I checked, peanut butter was still selling like crazy, and it was still one of the only foods that picky eaters would touch.

I would have some hesitations about an author who thinks of scientists as smart-aleck know-it-alls.

Having fun with the way the dinosaurs became extinct is just fine. I’d just cut the first four sentences of your pitch.


Anonymous said...

The person didn't say that scientists are smart-aleck know-it-alls.

If this is a real, true quote from an agent, we might as well all pack it in and become, well, maybe scientists. Either the whole industry's gone nuts (sorry) or she came up with a really creative way to say "I'm blowing you off and make no mistake." If we can't write about peanut butter and jelly now, then there's no escaping the taboos.

Anonymous said...

I don't think the agent's being stupid, necessarily. There's a difference between writing about peanut butter and jelly, and writing a book that tells children that dinosaurs became extinct because they didn't eat peanut butter--when some kids, in fact, can't eat peanut butter. Of course, no matter what you chose, some kids would be left out (marshmallows? what about juvenile diabetes?) . . . however, I'm guessing if the story was all that delightful, the agent would have suggested some way to rework it. Probably it was not that great.

Anonymous said...

I have to believe that EA is spreading a smear of poetic license right here with this sandwich example.

Anonymous said...

Ah, so this author is a Peanut-Butter-ist, which, I believe, is a branch of creationism.

Anonymous said...

Damn. I guess I can forget my idea for a humorous pb about dinosaurs going extinct due to "conspicuous large nut" allergies.

Lillian said...

Food allergies are no laughing matter. But if I had a peanut allergic child, this story wouldn't bother me. As long as it was handled in a way that didn't seem to mock food allergies.

I can laugh about almost anything except this, because parents of food allergic kids spend so much time and energy trying to get the world to take the dangers seriously.

My child has a severe dairy allergy ('s not lactose intolerance...and yes it can kill him...and yes he has ended up in the hospital because of a baked good.)

I tended to avoid books that had too many references to dairy products when he was little. It was confusing to a little kid. Here all these books made these things sound good, and I was telling him he had to stay far, far, away from it. I don't include pizza and ice cream and stuff in my books, just because I figure although my son's allergy is rare...there are other kids with it...and I want to have that book on the shelf where a mom like me says...Ahhhh!!!! yay! they AREN'T eating ice cream!

But yeah, using the peanut excuse for this book seems odd, unless in someway it can be seen as insensitive to allergic kids.

Anonymous said...

If we must be "sensitive" to everything, we are truly muzzled. Because there is no one who doesn't have issues. No book appeals to 100% of readers, but to its own audience. We all choose what works for us and leave the rest. To say you can't publish a book that mentions peanut butter because kids have allergies is just lame -- but preferable to believing that this agent is serious. Spoken as a parent of children with nut allergies.

Anonymous said...

It may not be that peanut butter was mentioned, but because the book is for very young children and it says (even humorously) that the lack of peanut butter and jelly KILLED things.

My child is severely allergic and although we read a lot of books with peanut butter in them (I certainly didn't avoid them) it might have made her fret just the tiniest bit when she was VERY young to hear that a group of animals just up and died because they couldn't eat peanut butter.

Anonymous said...

I agee with the first anonymous. [We better start numbering ourselves. I'll be anonymous #21.]
The rejecion is a little bit about peanut butter.
I think the author should take this story for a spin and fire it back, deleting the peanut butter and making jelly sandwiches the killer. BUT... wait six weeks and read the entire story again, with fresh eyes. Read it out loud, too.
There may be more work needed.
Regards, Anonymous #21

holly cupala said...

Ha! I think I heard that ms at the SCBWI Winter Conference and thought it was hilarious - ho there, Dino-writer! I was to your left. ;)


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