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A Fuse #8 Production
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Celebrity Children’s Books: Good V. Bad – Who Will Win?

Jules at Seven Impossible Things has already started the ball rolling, so I’m here to follow it up.  In the name of research, I need your help.  Please answer the following questions:

1.  What is the worst children’s book written by a celebrity.  I know that this is hard.  Choose only one.  The worst of the worst.

2.  What is the best children’s book written by a celebrity.  Difficult?  Perhaps.  But I think the answers might be fascinating.

If you could leave your comment with the answers here, I’d be mighty obliged.  The comments over at 7-Imp are also well worth reading.


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.


  1. Best: I Already Know I Love You by Billy Crystal

  2. vikkivansickle says

    Best: Tell Me Again About the Night I Was Born by Jamie Lee Curtis and illustrated by Laura Cornell

    Worst: Lotsa de Casha by Madonna

  3. Best: Mandy by Julie Andrews

    Worst: English Roses by Madonna (feeling sorry for someone is what makes you like someone? really?). Anytitle by Madonna, actually — I’d hate to split the vote amongst her titles.

    Most Overrated; Jamie Lee Curtis. While I think she is “best” amongst the celeb book genre, compared to childrens books in general? eh, just better written message books.

    (BTW, also commented at 7 Things)

  4. Best: Halloween by Jerry Seinfeld and Is There Really a Human Race? by Jamie Lee Curtis.
    Worst: L.A. Candy by Lauren Conrad (I know this one is going to get me in trouble but…eee gads, this is God awful).

  5. Monica Edinger says

    I’m fascinated by the answers here and over at 7Imp because it definitely reflects our various ages. I’m actually curious about books before our time — J.L. Bell mentioned Eloise, but I would guess there are even earlier ones. But you’d need to define celebrity for those earlier era and then take it from there. For example, did Houdini have anything to do with a kid’s book in his time?

    As for more recent celebrities I think Caroline Kennedy’s poetry collections are terrific.

  6. Chris in NY says

    Ana’s story by Jenna Bush (worst)

  7. I also vote for Mandy as best, Madonna as worst.

  8. Spike Lee (and co., of course) did a wonderful job with “Please, Baby, Please”.

    If Kay Thompson counts as a celebrity, Eloise is the hands-down best series written by one!

  9. The Best: Henry Winkler’s Hank Zipzer (with Lin Oliver); Freckleface Strawberry by Julianne Moore; Tea for Ruby by Sarah Ferguson.

    The Worst: The Joy Behar book (some kind of dog, don’t want to look it up); Tim McGraw’s My Little Girl.

  10. Genevieve says

    Best: The Last of the Really Great Whangdoodles, by Julie Andrews (but I haven’t read Mandy). Honorable mention to Please, Baby, Please by Spike Lee (though I like the illustrations more than the text, and they’re not Lee’s).

  11. lisachellman says

    I’ll happily jump on the Mandy bandwagon for best. I think the worst I’ve seen, though, has got to be The Magically Mysterious Adventures of Noelle the Bulldog, by Gloria Estefan. It is written in horrifying clunky verse and has a trite, didactic story, and the illustrations look like they were done by someone still learning how to use Adobe Illustrator. Also, it comes with a FREAKIN’ CD of a sappy single Gloria Estefan wrote to go with it.

  12. Best MG book: The Last of the Really Great Whangdoodles, by Julie Andrews Edwards

    Best picture book: The Remarkable Farkle McBride, by John Lithgow

  13. Best: The Last of the Really Great Whangdoodles, by Julie Edwards

    Worst: Dad, Are You the Toothfairy, by Jason Alexander

  14. Margaret H. S. W. says

    Best: Mandy! It has to be Mandy! by Julie Edwards. God I love that book.

    Worst: Let me second the “anything by Madonna” advocated earlier. Specifically The English Roses, as that’s the only one I’ve read.

  15. Worst: If Roast Beef Could Fly Jay Leno

  16. Terry Doherty says

    Best: This One and That One series by Jane Seymour (though “Tell Me Again” by JL Curtis ranks up there for personal reasons).

    Worst: Goodnight My Angel by Billy Joel

  17. H.Christensen says

    Best: The King Who Rained by Fred Gwynne (though I am seriously going to have to read Mandy now).

    Worst: I wholeheartedly agree with the Madonna coalition. ugh.

  18. I know these have both been touched upon, but…

    Best: Mandy by Julie Andrews Edwards

    Words: I COMPLETELY FORGOT ABOUT MADONNA WRITING CHILDREN’S BOOKS. That’s definitely a Monday afternoon damper.

  19. I loved the Julie Andrews Edwards books too! But my kids’ favorite celeb picture book is John Lithgow’s I’m a Manatee (undulating underneath the sea! immune from human folly and inanity! that’s why a manatee is such a happy herbivore!) and I heartily endorse it.

    The worst: gotta go with madge. the english roses and their plot/moral: OMG PEOPLE ARE SO JEALOUS OF THE BEAUTIFUL AND IT IS RILLY RILLY WRONG! the emaciated uber-fashiony superchic fulvimari illustrations do not help.

  20. I’m in the Mandy camp for best, I read it as a kid and the residue of charm is still engraved in my heart. I also quite like the Fred Gwynne wordplay as well.

    Would I have to read the Madonna, Bush or Estefan books to vote for them?

  21. Worst, worst: Propeller One-Way Night Coach: A Fable for all ages by John Travolta (not worth reading at any age!)

    Worst title: What’s wrong with Timmy? by Maria Shriver

    Best (YA): Porcupine by Meg Tilly

  22. BEST: Please Baby Please by Spike Lee (and Kadir Nelson should be a celebrity because he is so awesome)

    WORST: Tie between Read all about it (Laura and Jenna Bush) and Finding Susie by Sandra Day O’Connor

  23. your neighborhood librarian says

    I don’t know if it can beat out Mandy for best, but Holly Robinson Peete’s book, My Brother Charlie, is exceptional. Not just good-considering-it’s-a-celeb-author-good, but good period.

    I’m always looking for better autism books, and it’s one of them.

    Jason Alexander’s shameless piece of crap about the tooth fairy gets my vote for worst.

    What is it about the tooth fairy? Seems to bring out the worst in everyone: What The Dickens by Gregory Maguire kind of sucked, and don’t get me started on The Rock’s movie.

  24. I second the worst for: IF ROAST BEEF COULD FLY by Jay Leno

    and the best…?

    This may be a stretch, I don’t know if Dare Wright counts as a celebrity but she was a model before doing her amazingly wacky LONELY DOLL series. If she counts, that’s my vote.

  25. Shelf-employed says

    I haven’t read Mandy, but I’m a fan of John Lithgow’s, I Got Two Dogs. His musical rendition never disappoints the storytime crowd! (Simon and Shuster has an audio link)

    I also like Jamie Lee Curtis’, Today I Feel Silly and Other Moods That Make My Day.

    Worst? No contest – Madonna.

  26. cbarringer says

    WORST: Dirt On My Shirt by Jeff Foxworthy (I can’t believe I’m the only one to mention this title so far)

    And I don’t know Mandy — but I’d try it. Other than that, I didn’t think there were any good celebrity books.

  27. Brooke Shirts says

    Worst: William Bennett’s The Children’s Book of Virtues. Among many sappy stories is one about Genghis Khan being sad that his pet falcon died, and Learning Something About Life.

    Best: yeah, the Julie Andrews books are pretty great.

    Weirdest: Any picture book you can find by David Lynch. Yeah, THAT David Lynch. He wrote three or four of ’em. My sister in law found two at a library discard sale, but I can’t for the life of me remember what they were called. (One was about a pig . . . does this sound like the worst reference interview, or what?)

  28. One of my favortie books of all time is Julie Andrews’s “The Last of the Really Great Whangdoodles”. I loved loved loved that book when I was younger (still do) and gave it to all my book-reading friends, who all loved loved loved it too. Nowadays I also think of her as one of my all time favotite actresses or singers, but I didn’t really think about it when I read the book. And to be honest, I still don’t all that much. It’s an outstanding book on every level in its own right.

    P.S. Not to speak out gainst the numerous lovers that have already spoken, I also read “Mandy” when I was younger and don’t recall liking it all that much, however, I read it after “Whangdoodles” and can’t remember much about it today, so the immense likelihhod is that it just was not “my kind of book” at that time.

  29. Oh, right, and “Eloise”! Probably the only case in which a celebrity wrote a book for children, and decades late no one remembers what you did on stage, screen, or record, but your book is a classic. Which is “rawther” awesome in a “rawther” ironic sort of way if you ask me! Hooray for Eloise!!!

    In response to an earlier post, I’ve taken a peek at some of Caroline Kennedy’s poetry books, and yes, they are very good indeed. But they’re anthologies and not actually written by Caroline Kennedy, so I’m not sure if that counts here or not.

  30. Best: Tell Me A Scary Story, but Not Too Scary, by Carl Reiner. A favorite among my students as well.

    Worst: Any of Madonna’s children’s books. They are absolutely unreadable.

  31. Tie for best celebrity authors: Julie Andrews (I loved both MANDY and THE LAST OF THE REALLY GREAT WHANGDOODLES) and Alan Arkin, who is wonderful both with novels, like THE LEMMING CONDITION, and picture books, like SOME FINE GRAMPA!

    I generally don’t read recent celebrity books. If I didn’t know THE ENGLISH ROSES was by Madonna, I would have just given it a shrug. I’m afraid the Gloria Estefan book, though, literally did send shivers down my spine.

  32. Can I chime in with a celebrity let down? They Might Be Giants paired with fantastic artist Marcel Dzama, for BED, BED, BED. I wanted to like this so badly…

    All in all, I guess most celebrities should just not cross over, no matter how promising it sounds. Celebrity children’s books seem to be the celebrity catnip that folk singing once once. But at least Captain Kirk singing Mr Tambourine Man has value in it’s hilariousness, though can you imagine how Bob Dylan felt?

    Was Shel Silverstein a “celebrity” before he did kid’s books? “Freakin’ at the Freaker’s Ball”, and all? I do think a special dispensation should be given to those who did it before it was trendy, since it shows they may have had an actual interest in children’s books.

  33. What? Alan Arkin wrote a book about Gradpas? Please tell me it was based on his role in Little Miss Sunshine, because I really want to see the parental warning on that book.

    And Brooke, if those David Lynch books were around last Saturday at that discard sale and you didn’t point them out to me I will never forgive you. (You are still on my list for beating me out of Great Brain and Punk Farm booty.) I so hope there was a character that hauled around a log in those books!

  34. your neighborhood librarian says

    Ooh wait, Cheech Marin’s picture books! Cheech the School Bus Driver and it’s two (TWO!) sequels.

  35. Jean Reagan says

    Best: Abiyoyo by Pete Seeger

    Painfully awful: Read All About It by Laura Bush, Jenna Bush Hager

  36. WORST WORST WORST: The Brand New Kid by Katie Couric.

  37. K. C. O'Meara says

    Best: I’m with the Kay Thompson and Eloise voters (though I like Mandy too.)

    Worst: The English Roses; I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that this awful series led to colony collapse disorder.

  38. Best: Jamie Lee Curtis – I always loved the How I Feel Silly and Other Moods (the feelings wheel in the back is just so fun).

    Worst: a second vote for Dirt on My Shirt – Jeff Foxworthy – I was forced to read it for a poetry class – ugh!

  39. Oh my gosh! Mandy definitely! I adored this book as a child but had no idea who wrote it for the longest time. It wasn’t until I was in college taking a children’s lit class that I found it again. I had to buy a copy then to keep with me forever.

    I’ll even admit that I was secretly hoping it would show up somewhere in the top 100 (or get at least one vote!). I’m so, so happy to see it get recognition here.

    Something about that book really connected with me. It’s been years since I read it though… I think I’m going to go do it now!

  40. Worst: Dr. Laura Schlessinger’s Why do you love me?

    Not the Worst: Jaime Lee Curtis’ Is there really a human race?

  41. Judy Freeman says

    Every year I pick my Worst Book of the Year, including Billy Crystal’s Grandpa’s Little One (painful poetry) and Madonna’s The English Roses, and Jay Leno’s If Roast Beef Could Fly (thankfully OP, because it scared me half to death). But this year, I think we’ve hit a new low–a book so dreadful, it filled me with aw. (That is not a misprint.) At the end of the book, you say, “Oh, no, he can’t possibly have falllen for the It Was Just a Dream motif,” but indeed, he has. That book, which I kept because you don’t often come across stories so trite, hackneyed, and just plain treacly, is Glenn Beck’s The Christmas Sweater. It took 5 people to write and illustrate this execrable picture book. I don’t think you could find a worse example of celebrity tripe.

    Best? Probably Julie Andrews for The Last of the Really Great Whangdoodles. Though I love all of the Fred Gwynne picture books, too.

  42. Best: Mandy by Julie Andrews/Edwards followed by The Last of the Really Great Wangdoodles also by Julie Andrews. I know I read Mandy several times when I was in elementary school, and find myself wanting to read it again now that I am thinking about it!

    Worst: I guess I’m lucky in that I can’t think of any awful titles, but I’m sure that’s just because I haven’t read them, not because they don’t exist.

  43. I’m not sure about best and worst, but I have to say, Madonna’s Mr. Peabody’s Apples is actually quite tolerable. And although I think Steve Martin as amazing, his alphabet book (something about a bonus letter Z?) is really weak.

  44. rockinlibrarian says

    I haven’t read many books that qualify, but reading everyone’s responses got me thinking: is there a way to qualify “celebrity” that separates out the “I’ll write a children’s book because it’s EASY and I can sell it with my big name!” from people who happen to be generally multitalented and just happened to make their name in another field before they wrote their books? I think particularly also of songwriters who end up writing a poetic picture book– different, but not SO different; or usually-comic actors who got their acting starts in troupes that wrote their own scripts– scriptwriting vs bookwriting, also different, but still not SO different that we’re talking about people who never wrote a creative word before. So, them writing a good book, not so shocking. Them writing a BAD book, perhaps even worse than the “I’ll write a children’s book won’t that be FUN!” types writing a bad book….

    And then also, how much credit do you give ghostwriters?

  45. (Caveat: I have read very few celebrity books, it’s a “genre” I tend to avoid.)
    Worst – Otto Undercover by Rhea Perlman. A waste of paper and ink.
    Best – Hank Zipzer by Henry Winkler

  46. Best: Last of the Really Great Whangdoodles for MG, and Please, Puppy, Please for Picture (although I suspect Kadir Nelson had more to do with why I like it than Spike Lee did)

    Worst: Halloween by Jerry Seinfeld (okay, maybe it’s not *the* worst ever, but I don’t read a lot of celebrity books and this one is pretty spectacularly awful.)

  47. Well, they’ve all been said. But I’ll go with Remarkable Farkle for best picture book and Mandy/Whangdoodles for best novel. Also, what about Dave Barry’s Peter & The Starcatchers? Haven’t read it yet but it was very popular for a time. Runner-up picture book: all the Jamie Lee Curtis books, but the best parts of those books are Laura Cornell anyway.

    I luckily work in a school library where the bad books are not, so I don’t know about all the bad celebrity books.

  48. Okay, best – a tie between “The Remarkable Farkle McBride” by John Lithgow and “Let George Do it!” By George Foreman. I also love “Please, Baby Please” and “Please, Puppy Please”, but I credit their greatness to Kadir Nelson more than Spike Lee.
    Worst: Three-way tie between anything by Madonna and “If Roast Beef Could Fly” by Jay Leno, although I’ve avoided reading many, many more that could very well be worse.

  49. WORST of the WORST (and I mean gag-me-with-a-spoon BAD):

    “Noelle’s Treasure Tale” by Gloria Estefan

    “Blue Ribbon Day” and “The Brand New Kid” by Katie Couric

    You can’t let these blights on kid lit get away scott free.

  50. Best; A Family of Poems, Caroline Kennedy. Worst; Mr. Peabody’s Apples, Maddona, but they are all bad including Julie Andrews.

  51. Dave Barry doesn’t really count, because at least he is a celebrity for being a *writer*.

    A really good one from a long, long time ago is Alan Arkin’s book, “The Lemming Condition”. I thought no one but me would remember it; but I se that the paperback is back in print and listed on Amazon.

  52. Best: Last of the Really Great Whangdoodles by Julie Andrews Edwards. Love the book; love the backstory: that she spotted the word “whangdoodle” while looking up another word in the dictionary. (Incidentaly, a Very Good Reason for advocating for hard copy, paper and ink dictionaries….Merriam-Webster online can only DEFINE serendipity!)

    If I got a second vote for Best for Younger Readers, it would go to the Eloise books by Kay Thompson.

    Worst: English Roses by Madonna

  53. Rebecca Young says

    I agree with most of these nominees (I think some of Jamie Lee Curtis books are much better than others), but haven’t seen anyone mention:

    Raymie, Dickie, and the Bean: Why I Love and Hate My Brothers,” by Ray Romano. BAD!

    Also, the Duchess of York Sarah Ferguson’s Budgie the Helicopter books are insipid.

    Also, I wonder if Hank Zipzer is so good because Henry Winkler co-writes them with an experienced author – Lin Oliver?

  54. Worst – definitely “Little T Learns to Share” by Terrell Owens. Absolutely awful.