In Adrienne's post about Crocket Johnson's Harold and the Purple Crayon books, she writes, "Not Reviewed: Harold’s Circus (1959)...I don’t read books about the circus." I started to think about what elements of books I would automatically avoid. I wrote in Adrienne's comments section that dragons in children's books were dealbreakers for me. I didn't count dragons in childrens books that I'd already enjoyed, i.e. the Harper Hall trilogy by Anne McCaffrey, The Discovery of Dragons, by Graeme Base, and My Father's Dragon by Ruth Gannett. I used to like dragons. However, books about dragons written past a certain point bcame too much for me to enjoy. Really, I think it was the cover of Eragon that sent me over the top. After Eragon, the glut of dragons in young adult fantasy was so overwhelming that I asked School Library Journal to stop sending me fantasy novels and have me review only Readers (a la the Mr. Putter and Tabby series by Cynthia Rylant) and easy non-fiction.
I have a couple more dealbreakers in children's books. Here they are:
1) Any book illustrated by Stephen Kellogg
Mr. Kellogg, if you happen to read this, do not think I am casting aspersions upon your character. A quick look at your biography page makes me think you're probably a pretty pleasant guy. However, I don't care for the bubbly aspects of your drawing style, and I think another illustrator would have been a better match for Diane Redfield Massie's The Baby Beebee Bird.
2) Children's books penned by celebrity authors
If a book happens to be good, I'll read it regardless. Unfortunately, celebrity author children's books tend to be written as poorly as most vanity-press publications (not to be confused with print-on-demand titles). Celebrity authors remind me of a particular patron who asked me to steer him toward the current edition of Children's Writer's & Illustrator's Market. He said, "I've decided to write a children's book. How hard can it be, right?" I smiled my professional smile and wished him luck.
What are deal-breakers in books for you (children's books or not)?Seven pm update: I've got some lovely posts in store for this week, but I'm not publishing them until I hear from you, my friends. What do you think? How do you feel about circuses in books? I'm holding my breath until I hear from you, and I'm turning a peculiar shade of blue from the effort. Frankly, I don't know how Superman does it (flying in outer-space without oxygen).
9/18/07: Thanks to Lone Star Ma and Sam Riddleburger, I can finally stop holding my breath.