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A Fuse #8 Production
Inside A Fuse #8 Production

Celebrities Don’t Draw: Kvetching About Credit

What is wrong with the following picture?

If you said, “Gee, I had no idea that Jimmy Fallon was an artist as well as a late night talk show host,” that would be a forgivable misunderstanding. Folks, it is time to launch a couple darts at everyone’s favorite problematic picture book authors: Celebrities that don’t really know what they’re doing. The celebrity picture book has a long and storied history, and has appeared in a variety of awful ways over the years. Yet it wasn’t until recently that I realized that a few of them share a single, terrible quality: They do not credit their illustrators on their covers.

Now this is a bit of a baffling choice on the part of the publisher. We get that the celebrity would want their name to be in a big, bold font that sometimes dwarfs the title itself. Sure. Whatever. But how on earth do they justify forgetting the artist’s work? Even Madonna (whose English Roses is still, bafflingly in print) gave cover credits. You want to know who did the art for that Fallon book I mentioned? It’s Miguel Ordóñez. He’s original from Spain. Has some interesting stuff worth looking at here. But unless you’re trying to specifically sniff him out, it is hard from that cover to know who the heck he is.

Now let us compare Mr. Fallon’s book with a celebrity book that has not only gotten good reviews but several awards (NAACP, Coretta Scott King, etc.). Check this out:

See the difference?

So then I started wondering if this was a case of publishers. Is one better than another in terms of how they treat their artists? If Fallon is with Macmillan and Nyong’o is with Simon & Schuster, is that true across the board? Let’s find out. And let’s begin with my own personal entry into the category of Worst Celebrity Picture Book of All Time:

I practically have a TED Talk on how bad this book is.

I don’t like this book but I can’t help but admire the fact that Scholastic gave Ford his due. How about Harper Collins? I know they have a couple out this year.

Huh! That’s a very nice credit for Ashley Evans! Random House, how you guys doing?

Well, shoot. Maybe I was wrong all along. Oh! I know! Let’s look at my old buddy, old pal Natalie Portman’s book. I’m sure it’s . . .

Oh, Macmillan. Where did you hide Janna Mattia’s name? Is it behind the peacock there? Well, don’t worry. You’re not the only publisher I’ve found doing this. Penguin? Wanna fess up?

Technically this is photography but since Pharrell didn’t take it or digitally collage it, I’m not a fan. Amanda Pratt took the photography and Kristin Smith the the collage.

I guess the lesson I’m taking away from all this is that there is almost ALWAYS room for an illustrator to get credit on a cover. Best of all, I see more and more publishers embracing that thinking. There will always be exceptions, but hopefully someday even the worst celebrity picture book, the one with the run on sentences and insulting metaphors, will at the very least give credit where credit is due to their poor, beleaguered (but rather well paid!) artists.

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About Elizabeth Bird

Elizabeth Bird is currently the Collection Development Manager of the Evanston Public Library system and a former Materials Specialist for New York Public Library. She has served on Newbery, written for Horn Book, and has done other lovely little things that she'd love to tell you about but that she's sure you'd find more interesting to hear of in person. Her opinions are her own and do not reflect those of EPL, SLJ, or any of the other acronyms you might be able to name. Follow her on Twitter: @fuseeight.

Comments

  1. Betsy, Thanks for taking up this issue! There are many problems with celebrity children’s books but this one edges over from just poor quality to borderline intellectual property violations. Please read one of my favorite writers at PW’s ShelfTalker blog on the overall affront of these books:
    http://blogs.publishersweekly.com/blogs/shelftalker/
    I’m sure you realize that sometimes books by non-celebrity authors do this as well, and I’m also bothered when an illustrator who provides small chapter heading pictures or other vignettes gets no credit; the reader has to carefully look inside to find any evidence that an artist has contributed these.

  2. Book Reader says:

    Take a look at the book Madonna wrote which Loren Long illustrated. I don’t even believe his name landed on the spine.

    • Oh! Silly me, I just looked at English Roses and assumed the artists got credited regularly. Insane that Loren friggin’ Long wouldn’t get his name there.