I recently finished Bill Bryson's A Short History of Nearly Everything. Initially, I accidentally ordered A Really Short History of Nearly Everything. I asked Bede, "What's next, a board book series?" and started to think about a post for Children's Books That Never Were. Here is the letter from hapless editor Garrulous MacKenzie recommending some edits:
Dear Bill Bryson,
Thank you for submitting your manuscript for a board book entitled A Teeny-Tiny History of Nearly Everything as a companion piece to A Short History of Nearly Everything and A Really Short History of Nearly Everything. The concept of two-page spreads that illustrate contrasting items is standard of the board book genre, and you execute it brilliantly with the atom and the galaxy:
I enjoyed browsing through some of the other subjects, too. The chemical elements with the smallest and largest number of atoms (hydrogen and lawrencium!),and the oldest and newest sets of hominid skeletons were standouts. However, there are two major problems which need to be addressed before we can conceive of publishing your board book.
First, despite the catchy title, in no way is your board book teeny-tiny, or even “brief.” The ideal length of a board book is 10 pages long, which includes both sides of the boards. Your manuscript is 10 2 pages long, which is exponentially more than a single board book can accommodate. It’s possible that we could split the manuscript up into 10 equal parts and feature it as a box set, but in the meantime, I suggest that you work on trimming some of the sections. For example, you could eliminate the Permian-Triassic extinction event, also known as “The Great Dying,” as it might make people concerned about climate change. Science is supposed to be fun, after all!
Second, you say that this manuscript is a “history” of nearly everything, but the subject matter is natural science, not history. Studies have shown that the general public does not take kindly to being misled. Remember the controversy over A Moveable Feast, by Ernest Hemingway, where everyone thought it was a travel cookbook? There was a similar outcry over A Room With a View, by E. M. Forster, as 99 percent of the story took place outside of the room in question. Children are even more discriminating than adults when it comes to deception. For the sake of clarity and truth, I recommend a title change along the lines of A Practically Microscopic Scientific Examination of a Whole Lot of Stuff.
Sharper & Crow Publishers
Disclaimer: This post is a work of fiction mean to be for fun. As far as I know, Bill Bryson is not actually working on a board-book series.