FROM YOUR EDITORS Celebrity controversy

The latest news to hit the world of children's publishing actually feels like an old story this year - Ellie Brough, Co-editor of Words & Pictures looks at the latest response to the celebrity authors controversy. 

Celebrity children's authors rear their controversial heads once more... this time, children's authors and booksellers have been voicing their outrage and disappointment at the celebrity-heavy 2018 World Book Day list.

Here's a round up of what's been said, starting with the statement from Kirsten Grant, director of World Book Day.

"There are lots of hugely loved authors and brands on the list, from Mr Men to Paddington, to the Oi! series, as well as fabulous newer stars like Pamela Butchart – and yes, there are celebrity writers on the list (who have written their own books), but if they are the catalyst to encouraging a non-reader to pick up a book and start a nationwide conversation about reading, then everyone will be better off."

Well, I guess some folk might say I'm just being elitist or something if I start going on about the choices for next year's World Book Day books, if I wonder how it is that books by a clutch of celebrities could possibly be better than those by some of the wonderful [children's] authors at work today, if I allow myself to think that the nation's children are being shortchanged by this and that the nation's authors and illustrators are being scorned, if I wonder whether the choices show a lack of true seriousness and a narrow understanding of the importance of children's literary culture... But what the hell. That's what I wonder, that's what I think. I couldn't believe it when the list popped up on my screen. Huh.

"It's a way to reach children who don't have the access to books we assume they have."

- Clare Balding, TV presenter (author of a World Book Day title)

Celebrity authors are the complete opposite of diversity. Celebrity authors reduce children’s fiction to a small group of well-known faces, leaving less room for newcomers, originality, variety. Celebrity authors are the equivalent of the McDonald’s Happy Meal: okay once in awhile, perhaps, but not the everyday, varied diet a healthy child needs to flourish and grow.

Attracting new readers has always been key to WBD and this, I believe, is where celebrity, or a media property, can be powerful. Celebrities and popular brands can offer familiarity, an entry point, a sense that maybe books could be for them after all. In the 2018 line-up, I think Nadiya Hussain, Tom Fletcher and the Avengers title are particularly strong choices [...] Celebrity can have a place, but shouldn't be the staple. I hope the next World Book Day selection offers more balance.

- Fiona Noble, Children's Previewer for the Bookseller 

To close, let's hear from Kirsten Grant again: 

"The aim is to create a list of ten books that will appeal to the widest number of children possible, ensuring there is a representative list with something that will appeal to all ages and stages. We have to balance the publisher representation too."

So, is the influx of celebrity authors damaging children's literature or are they opening the door wider to those who otherwise might not have had the opportunity to embrace books? 

Or is the real question this: why are publishers pushing so many celebrity authors at the moment? What dynamics have changed in children's publishing to make this a trend, or is it a necessity? 

What do you think? Let's hear where SCWBI stands on this interesting debate.

Ellie Brough is the co-editor of Words & Pictures and an Editor at Quarto for its children's imprints QED and words and pictures (not even kidding)
Twitter: @elliebrough

1 comment:

  1. My kids have never heard of these "celebrities" so I don't understand why they've been chosen. If Hacker T Dog brought out a book they'd be all over it. Clare Balding? they just shrug and move on.


We love comments and really appreciate the time it takes to leave one.
Interesting and pithy reactions to a post are brilliant but we also LOVE it when people just say they've read and enjoyed.
We've made it easy to comment by losing the 'are you human?' test, which means we get a lot of spam. Fortunately, Blogger recognises these, so most, if not all, anonymous comments are deleted without reading.

Words & Pictures is the Online Magazine of SCBWI British Isles. Powered by Blogger.