March 16, 2008

Zippy's kid lit

For those of you who are thinking of starting a new career in writing for children, here's a cautionary tale from Little Zippy, plus an example of his style (in stark contrast to the "See Spot run!" approach of Fun With Dick And Jane -- the books, not the 1977 or 2005 movies).

I sent a copy of this one to children's author Lois Lowry (she's the mother of a friend of mine), who replied on 3/6/08, "And not only the narrative cohesion...but the overarching metaphor sucked, too."

What about the writing style?  See:

Billy and Eddie are stuck in Dick-and-Jane-Land, where simple vocabulary, banal content, and short sentences rule.  Short, awkward sentences; "Watch me ride around" is imaginable, but I find "See my fast car go" unnatural (though grammatical).  Zippy, on the other hand, has something to say -- granted, something bizarre, but then that's Zippy -- and has moved past monosyllables (I especially liked the juicy "sauerkraut") and simple imperative sentences.  His two sentences even cohere -- sauerkraut and Oscar Mayer wieners link them -- but the metaphor of religious conversion has probably been overused (though maybe not in kid lit), and I'm not sure that the Fifth Dimension reference works ("Up, Up and Away"?  "Aquarius/Let the Sunshine In"?  "Go Where You Wanna Go"?).  Then there's the phallic subtext: too racy for the kiddies?

Posted by Arnold Zwicky at March 16, 2008 12:35 PM