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>Books for Unfit Mothers

>At ALA last year I screamed intemperately at a perfectly nice young woman from Ten Speed Press for publishing this, now it looks like I’ll have to go after HarperCollins for this. If only these books that are funny precisely because they fly over the heads of their putative audience could be made to hit the actual audience right in the eye, corner first. Parents should laugh on their own time.

Roger Sutton About Roger Sutton

Roger Sutton has been the editor in chief of The Horn Book, Inc, since 1996. He was previously editor of The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books and a children's and young adult librarian. He received his M.A. in library science from the University of Chicago in 1982 and a B.A. from Pitzer College in 1978. Follow him on Twitter: @RogerReads.



  1. >Yuch. Yuch, yuch, yuch. But, hey, the most horrifically bad taste book of the year, nay century (also HC) — the O.J. Simpson monstrosity — has been trashed ten days before its pub date. Sometimes moral justice does prevail after all.

  2. >”Plus, any guilt you might have about promoting rampant commercialism is minimized if you remind yourself that a portion of proceeds from every copy will be donated to Save the Children.” (from the blurb at

    Perhaps the proceeds could go straight to the -Save Your Doomed Relationship With a Toddler Who Screams for Stuff in Every Store- fund. Ick. Gimicky books are such a waste of good trees.

  3. >They’re marketing it all wrong. These book isn’t for babies. They’re a gag gift for baby showers, just like my current stand by for new moms with a sense of humor “Baby, Make me a Drink”.

    Personally, both books sound hilarious, but I don’t know who to pity more– the parents who think they’re actually meant to be read to their kids or the publishers who think that’s the intended audience.

  4. >I don’t understand why publishers don’t just create a category specifically for picture books for adults. Why not just admit that there are picture books that are written for adults? Why not admit adults read them? Right now it’s as if there’s some kind of secret, underground publishing economy.

  5. >I’m not familiar with either of the titles mentioned, but am curious now and will be sure to take a look. Gail is right, there are a lot of picture books for adults, or maybe not for kids is a better description.

    Dang, I missed the screaming show at ALA in NOLA last year. Bummer. Let me know when you’re headed to the HarperCollins booth this summer! 😉

  6. Andy Laties says:

    >My “Picture Books For Grown-Ups” section here at the Eric Carle Museum Shop caught the eyes of the three Barnes & Noble execs who came through three years ago. They proposed that B&N could replicate the section at their stores nationwide and brand is as an Eric Carle Museum section! However they didn’t come up with an accompanying financial commitment to us to the idea didn’t materialize. Thus: if you want a good Picture Books For Grown-Ups section, you still have to shop at a good indie bookstore that’s thought to construct one from scratch, ignoring the publishers’ failure to develop such an indentifying moniker for the appropriate titles on their lists.

    Sample titles:
    “The Gashlycrumb Tinies” (Gorey)
    “There’s A Hair In My Dirt” (Larsen)
    “Turbulence” (Drescher)
    “God’s Man” (Ward)
    “Codex Expangliensis” (Gomez-Pena)
    “The Wild Party” (March/Spiegelman)
    “Dante’s Inferno” (Sandow Birk)

  7. >I work for HC, selling children’s books, and This Little Piggy is not a children’s book. It’s intended to be a humor book.

  8. Monica Edinger says:

    >As the previous poster noted the “putative audience” is an adult one. So leave poor HarperCollins (still smarting, no doubt, from the OJ fiasco) alone.

    “For the woman more accustomed to singing Missoni’s praises than singing lullabies comes Amy Allen’s irresistible This Little Piggy Went to Prada: Nursery Rhymes for the Blahnik Brigade. Filled from cover to cover with sumptuous full color illustrations by Eun-Kyung Kung, This Little Piggy Went to Prada presents classic nursery rhymes with a thoroughly modern and charmingly ironic spin that will make the most sleepless fashionista mom smile, even when she’s knee-deep in diapers.” (

  9. Monica Edinger says:

    >I’ve seen adult books that mimic children’s book tropes for years. They are often around this time of year as potential stocking stuffers et al. I’ve not seen them in the children’s section, but on tables along with similar kinds of books. I remember when I wanted Peter Sis’s Tibet: Through the Red Book, the bookstore had it on such a table.

  10. >Dante’s available in a pb?!

    How many pages is this puppy, anyway? If it’s 32 I’m going to barf.

    If not … *wonders how much it costs on Amazon*

  11. >First sentence: “Dante the Pilgrim wakes from a stupor to discover that he’s lost in a dark forest and can’t remember anything from the night before…”

    Dude. So much for that.

  12. rindawriter says:

    >Roger, I’m GLAD you screamed.

    Looking at the cover of the Urban Baby book brought tears to my eyes.

    Two days ago, I had just been watching a very young teen urban mom with her young baby at the computer screen. She was so young, so lovely, so tender to the child who was fussy while she was trying to work. What struck me was that the baby although well fed and warmly clothed had not one toy toys…and no board book either. Forgive the mush-gush, I just got a new grandniece, would love to hold her, but she’s so far away…okay back to the bookstore for more baby books, now that my husband will let me buy there again with O.J. out of the way..

  13. Andy Laties says:

    >The Sandow Birk version of INFERNO sticks very close to the original text. It’s uncut. Slangy. Vernacular. Makes a great read-aloud.

  14. >Well …



    I think that Dorothy Sayers could get Sandow down in a headlock pretty easily. Linguistically speaking, of course.

    BUT the books are good for a new look at the poem, esp. for somebody who’s meeting the poem for the first time.

    You know what? It might simply be that I am being some kind of literary snob. I’ve seen the books at the library; I’ll check them out again.

  15. >A late note – as others have mentioned, it’s not for kids, any more than a book that greatly puzzled me when I found it on the shelves in my parents’ bedroom. The title was THE CENSORED MOTHER GOOSE. I couldn’t figure out what it was about – was it to see if people knew what words went in the blanks?

    The only one I recall was

    Old Mother Goose, when she wanted to __________
    Would ________ a large goose or a very small _________.

    (I may be misremembering; I don’t know if the third blank was a blank or because I now realize the aimed-at filling for the first two blanks wouldn’t rhyme with “gander”.)

    When one or the other of my parents discovered that I had found the book, it disappeared from their shelves. Which, I can only assume, indicates their lack of understanding of my lack of understanding. 🙂

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