• The Hub

    News, Notes, Talk

    Celebrity children’s books ranked from ? to ???

    Janet Manley

    March 2, 2023, 12:43pm

    When they’re not launching NFTs or pasting their own labels onto mass-produced wine bottles, celebrities love to dip an Ozempic toe into the waters of children’s literature. Most recently, the world learned that Taylor Swift was getting the Golden Book treatment, but she seemingly doesn’t have much involvement with the project. In the past, Celebrities with Platforms have dedicated themselves more overtly to giving the world the Channing Tatum picture book it didn’t know it needed. (Coming soon… Ani Di Franco’s kids’ book!)

    Article continues below

    Onto some of the biggest celebrity children’s books, as we put in our monocles and pass a critical eye over their work…


    The Book With No Pictures

    B.J. Novak, The Book With No Pictures

    Article continues below

    You hate to admit that a celebrity has had an idea far smarter than any of yours, and that he has bent you to your children’s wi—BLURP. I didn’t mean to write that.

    Jill Biden, Joey: The Story of Joe Biden

    No presidential campaign dedicating itself to arguing that no he is not too old!!!! can be launched before the candidate has a hagiography published of himself shuffling to and from the coal mines in the pre-Depression era, before cameras were invented.

    (I do give Dr. Biden points for keeping this book a little abstracted from Uncle Joe the grownup—the sections about bullying and his stutter in childhood are kind of sweet, tho I am a flaming libsnowflake and my critical faculties are colored by that.)

    Article continues below

    Elbow Grease

    John Cena, Elbow Grease

    My son picked this out of the Scholastic catalog, and I probably otherwise wouldn’t have brought a children’s book by a wrestler/rapper into the house, but Elbow Grease is a real winner! Elbow Grease is an electric monster truck and the smallest in his family of bigger, faster, more meat-headed demolition derby brothers. He’s slow, but what he doesn’t have in fossil fuels he makes up for in gumption.

    Your Baby's First Word Will Be Dada

    Jimmy Fallon, Your Baby’s First Word Will Be Dada

    Article continues below

    I don’t have Nielsen ratings data to back me up, but I’m willing to state that the publication of Your Baby’s First Word Will Be Dada cost Fallon at least a few pissed off moms. He tried to make up for it with Everything Is Mama, but the damage was already done. We will not forgive or forget, Jimmy!

    Madame Badobedah

    Sophie Dahl, Madame Badobedah

    Before she was an author, Dahl was a model, and before that she was the granddaughter of children’s lit giant and controversial dead person Roald Dahl (apparently, the girl in The BFG was named after her). No matter where you fall on wigs, I am happy to tell you that Madame Badobedah is a fabulous book that brings together a weird and crabby old lady and a lonely girl whose parents run a bed and breakfast. It’s illustrated by Lauren O’Hara (of the O’Hara sisters) and legitimately made me feel wistful and old, and dazzled and young.

    Sweet Child O Mine

    Article continues below

    Guns N’ Roses, Sweet Child O Mine

    In a prime example of who asked for this? we have Sweet Child O Mine, which takes the ass-grinding lyrics of the Guns N Roses classic and applies them to two girls who go on tour with the band. There’s something that appeals to my soul about the aging rockstar-turned-dad, and so I give this book a pass.


    Lupita Nyong’o, Sulwe

    File under actually very well done children’s books: Lupita Nyong’o’s book tells a story about a girl whose skin is darker than everyone else in her family. It’s illustrated by the skilled Vashti Harrison, and won a Coretta Scott King Illustrator Honor Award.

    The World Needs More Purple People

    Kristen Bell, The World Needs More Purple People

    Did the world need more purple people? The near-instantaneous disappearance of Kristen Bell’s children’s book debut suggest maybe not.

    Sex by Madonna

    Madonna, The English Roses

    Wait, hold on … wrong coverrrrrrr …. okay, here we go:

    The English Roses

    Mads was early to the kids’ books game, publishing a series of English Roses books back in the oughts when the youths were on her mind (she is, after all, a mum!). My chief problem is that the characters all look like Bratz dolls and I worry that Lourdes drew these pictures.

    The One and Only Sparkarella

    Channing Tatum, The One and Only Sparkarella

    Who better to teach your child about joy than the guy from the stripper movie-slash-the guy who got Jessica Pressler shickered out in the desert? Tatum is a dad, as we get from the smooth speech bubble on the cover signaling his involvement with the project, and you know what? I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt for being a fun dad.

    The Bench

    Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex, The Bench

    Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, handcrafted the spindles and legs of one of the great protagonists of English literature in this children’s book: a wooden bench upon which the publishing project uneasily sits.

    The bench sees many things, mostly ambiguous life-ly things, but at one point a Prince Harry-looking guy. Intriguing! Points deducted for having no actual characters or plot, and for misuse of Christian Robinson.

    Natalie Portman's Fables

    Natalie Portman, Natalie Portman’s Fables

    An important moral collection, in which we learn not to sleep with the future head of the dark army. Not as lively as her be-nickered correspondence with Jonathan Safran Foer, and not enough shaved heads.

    I Am A Pole

    Stephen Colbert, I Am A Pole (And So Can You)

    I have this book, and it’s a real winner, as Maurice Sendak attests with the best blurb of all time: “The sad thing is, I like it.”

  • Become a Lit Hub Supporting Member: Because Books Matter

    For the past decade, Literary Hub has brought you the best of the book world for free—no paywall. But our future relies on you. In return for a donation, you’ll get an ad-free reading experience, exclusive editors’ picks, book giveaways, and our coveted Joan Didion Lit Hub tote bag. Most importantly, you’ll keep independent book coverage alive and thriving on the internet.