Monday, July 13, 2009

Background checks for kids' book authors?

You're a children's book author, and you're seeking book promotion opportunities by speaking at schools. That's exposure for you and fun for the kids. What could be a better match? Where do you sign up? Wait! Not so fast! If you live in the United Kingdom, and you're seeking speaking opportunities at schools, the Powers That Be might have to run a background check before they allow you into the school auditorium. All those teachers and school administrators can't protect those kids from, potentially, a kids' book author who is in search of book promotion opportunities. No! You have to do a thorough background check on children's book authors to make sure they're fit for book promotion campaigns! This, according to an article in the U.K.'s Guardian.

I'm sorry to be flippant, but all I could think of when I read this article was my absolute favorite book of all time: Daniel Pinkwater's Author's Day. The book is out of print. (Why? Why? Why?) I actually own two reading copy, and one copy that I'm saving against the sad day when my first copy falls apart. Pinkwater's book brings to life a day in the life of a children's book author who suffers countless indignities during his visit to a school, and every word in the book rings true. From the school administrators who get the title of the author's book wrong to the kindergarten teacher who forces the author to eat pancakes with chunks of crayons in them, Author's Day is utterly perfect -- and serves as a perfect rebuttal to the notion that children's book author should be vetted before they're allowed to speak at schools.

According to Pinkwater's account, we put children's book authors through enough. All they're trying to do is a bit of book publicity. They're not trying to befriend children (and, certainly, they wouldn't want to befriend any of the adults who populate Pinkwater's imaginary school). Why make book promotion for children's book authors tougher than it has to be?

This is one of those times when I say: let Britain serve as a warning. Let's keep an eye on the U.K., and let's make sure that we don't repeat the mistakes they've made...or are about to make.