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Reading My Library

Monday, October 5, 2009

When an Actor Takes up a Pen

This post will be added to as I run across names of note in my picture book explorations.

Artists express themselves in many different ways and even though we try to lock them into boxes, they fight to escape. A painter doesn't necessarily just want to paint and an actor, apparently, doesn't just want to act. They also wish to write. More and more frequently I've seen children's picture books appear on shelves that are coming from the likes of Billy Crystal, Julie Andrews and even Madonna.

You know.....there are certain actors (and mostly actresses) who I hope never pick up a pen, but here are a few that are rather interesting.

Actress Debbie Allen has appeared in the movie Amistad, directed by Steven Spielberg. She has appeared in several films, the only one of which I've ever seen is Ragtime. She has received many acting awards, including two Emmys and a Tony nomination for her role in West Side Story. With a long list of performance credits to her name and the birth of a daughter who studies ballet, Ms. Allen wrote the following book:

Dancing in the Wings is about a girl who is considered by her peers to be too tall to be a ballerina and who also has rather large feet. However, Sassy, as her mother called her, had a deep desire to dance. Allen opens up the book beautifully with these poetic lines:

"Ever since I was born and could see,
Everywhere I looked, I saw dance.
In the clouds as the wind blew them across the sky,
In the ripples on the pond,
Even in the sea of ants marching up and own their hills.
Dance was all arund me. Dance was me."
Sassy is quite sassy which made the book hard for me to swallow at times. There is an air of attitude about the book, but the main message is entirely palatable: "Do not let others define who you are and what you want to do."

As a Christian, I would add to that: Use the gifts that God gave you. He made you uniquely special and gave you particular gifts and talents that He means for you to use. Don't waste them on popular opinion. Follow His leading, live for His glory, and while you are doing that (and because you are doing that) - live spectacularly.

This book definitely has a golden message and the illustrations by Kadir Nelson are a perfect compliment to the words penned by Allen. Nicely done.

An actor that I was a little more familiar with, from his Seinfeld days is Jason Alexander.

I had no idea that he had written anything. The name on the front of the book sounded familiar to me, but I didn't bother looking at the jacket flap until I was done reading the book. I was bowled over when I realized it was THE Jason Alexander.

Dad, Are You The Tooth Fairy? is an incredibly imaginative way to answer the, "Are YOU the tooth fairy?" question that your children might ask (if you still want them to believe, that is.) As Jason explains, moms and dads have the ability to hear from the fairies and are the message translators and the tooth transporters. In other words, parents are agents. Only this book does not read like a sci-fi story, but instead is polished off like a fairy tale. While we aren't going to go the tooth fairy route, I thought this book was particularly cute and well-done. Seriously well done. I rather liked it from a story-telling perspective.

I wonder how many times on this journey I'll be surprised by a familiar name on a book that I would not have normally associated with the written word. I know Julie Andrews is just a few letters away and having recently read Mandy, I'm anxious to read her children's picture books.

I have to say that it's lots of fun to dash into the library, dump books in a bag, and then come home to make discoveries about them.

Stay tuned for more!


  1. Hellllloooooooooooo Carrie! (Sorry, couldn't help myself). Mainly this is a comment about nothing. ;)

  2. Yeah, I tend to avoid those celebrities-turned-authors, too. I've read that Debbie Allen book (actually, aloud to some kids, likely) way back when I worked for a mental health center (!!!).

  3. Amanda likes some of Julie Andrews other books as well, most notably The Last of the Really Great Whangdoodles (that title may be totally wrong -- it's something like that).