Sunday, February 10, 2008

My last day of vacation. . .

. . . was spent making a book for my niece.

Not as fun as it sounds. I had this vision before I left for New York of taking a small plush toy with me and photographing it wherever I went. I would then send the pictures up to her with the toy. Cute and fun were what I intended.

Then I thought to myself, "Hey, self, why don't you make a small book of it? You have the camera and computer for it. You can even string words together pretty well when you really want to. Wouldn't you be a cool uncle if you did this?" Thus began the downward spiral.

The road to hell is paved with plush toys, digital cameras and computers. Actually, that sounded far worse than intended. This modern age. . .

I know better. I know that kids’ books are hard and should really be written only by those with the skill and talent to do it well. I cringe every time I see a star, even a d level star like that guy from Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, put out a children's book because, for all their talk of good intentions, what they are doing is committing an act of great hubris. They are saying that not only can they recite other people words in front of a camera, they can also write.

Truth is, they mostly can't.

And then we are forced to see them on the morning shows shilling these books that are a torture for both the parent and the kid.

I set my sights much lower and still it became a pain in the butt. I wasn't looking at publishing more than one copy of the thing but I was determined to make it at least worthy of a good show and tell session.

The reality is I really do not know how to talk to five year olds. All I knew is I did not want to talk down to them. For someone who grew up watching such talented children's entertainers as Mr. Dressup, that is the great evil. (I'm serious, watch him now and you will be amazed at how he does it all without pandering) Of course, the danger is that, in trying to avoid this, I wind up writing something that is too complex. I'm in my thirties and I live on my own. The only person I know anywhere close to kindergarten age is my niece. And I couldn't well ask her, now could I?

So I wavered back and forth. I rearranged things, reworded things. I played with fonts and formatting. I resized and repositioned the photos. I cracked open a beer and ordered in dinner. Eventually, with little fanfare and many doubts, I got it finished.

My verdict? I'm not too sure. There are thing I like about it, for sure, but I am not the target demographic. It's enough to make me almost glad to go to work tomorrow. If given another week, I don't know what sort of foolishness I would come up with.

Next time, she's getting a postcard.

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