Deep down, everyone thinks they can write a children’s book. It seems this sentiment also extends to musicians, with a wide array of successful artists deciding to try their hand at writing. With the list ranging from Madonna to 50 Cent, for some, being a musician just wasn’t enough.
The often scantily-clad singer behind such huge hits as ‘Like A Virgin’ and ‘Bad Girl’ may not seem like the ideal choice to pen a children's picture book. The English Roses, released in 2003, was Madonna’s first foray into the children’s book-writing scene, and is the story of the lives of five schoolgirls in London, as illustrated by Jeffrey Fulvimari. This should definitely not be confused with some of Madonna’s other adventures into writing, including the subtly named and highly controversial coffee-table book ‘Sex’.
Co-written with daughter Savannah Jane Buffet, The Jolly Mon tells ”an original tale where music and enchantment, pirates and trickery, friendship and the loyalty of a very special dolphin, create a timeless story of adventure”. That actually sounds quite good. Buffet seems a natural to the authorship game, with three of his books becoming #1 best sellers. If you miss the sound of Buffet’s voice, he also recorded an accompanying CD of the pair reading the story.
The country singer herself rose to fame as a child with the cover of Bill Mack’s classic ‘Blue’. In 2003, Rimes became the author behind Jag , an emotional roller-coaster describing a jaguar with a deliberating fear of water. The book apparently delivers some life-lessons regarding peer-pressure and trying new things.
Dolly Parton is no stranger to expressing her feelings with powerful and highly emotive songs such as ‘I Will Always Love You’ and ‘Jolene’, and with I Am A Rainbow she’s encouraging kids to do the same, providing a “fun way to talk about their feelings.” According to Parton, “by understanding their own feelings, they can learn to respect the feelings of others.”
The one time bassist and singer for The Police tried his hand at biblical storytelling with Rock Steady, a ‘sharp-retelling’ of Noah’s Ark, based on his lyrics of the same name. Sting continues his activist ways, with proceeds from the book being donated to Rainforest Foundation, however, judging by the novel appearing for 1 cent on Amazon, this may not be making a huge impact.
A collaboration between McCartney, Geoff Dunbar and Philip Ardagh, High In The Clouds is the story of Wirral the squirrel, (Paul obviously hasn’t lost his rhyming talents) who is left without a home or a mother and embarks on “an epic journey filled with evil realities and wild dreams.” McCartney’s first foray into children’s books has definite political undertones, and was even described by The Observer as “a tale about the perils of unchecked global capitalism.” Heavy stuff for a children’s book.
While not actually penned by the great man, the book is adapted from Dylan’s 1973 song of the same name, and is illustrated by Paul Rogers. The song, written recently after Dylan’s 1978 Christian rebirth, is a simple number, and the book comes with accompanying audio track so any kid can sing-along with good old Bob.
Dubbed the ‘Queen Of Latin Pop’ and being in the top 100 best selling artists worldwide just wasn’t enough for Gloria Estefan, with the singer trying her hand at children’s books. Noelle’s Treasure Tale involves the protagonist, a bulldog, on the search for a long-lost pirate ship full of treasure. Estefan has already found success in this venture, with the book enjoying a #3 spot on the New York Times Bestseller list for children’s books.
McGraw proves that he’s a real softie at heart with his book about being a father, co-written with Tom Douglas. My Little Girl is about the adventures of a Dad and his daughter, along with a dog, who “set off on an ordinary day and turn it into a wonderful adventure.” The book was even honored with a ‘Mom’s Choice Award’ win, which McGraw must value nearly as much as his 3 Grammys, 14 Academy Of Country Music awards and 10 American Music Awards.
Joining McGraw with another ode to fatherhood, Smith focuses on a father and son relationship in Just The Two Of Us, which is based on the classic song of the same name. Contradictory to the ‘two of us’ statement, Smith has two sons, Jaden and Trey, as well as a hair-whipping daughter, Willow. Wonder if they’re jealous at all?
Dionne Warwick has pretty much done it all, what with being a hugely successful singer, actress, TV host and even a UN Global Ambassador. In 2008 Warwick added to this, penning Say A Little Prayer, a possibly autobiographical story of ‘Little D’ who ‘one day discovers she has a special talent’. Continuing on with the gospel theme, the book also comes with an extra song, ‘Jesus Loves Me’, sung by Warwick.
Bono teamed up with childhood friend Gavin Friend to recreate Prokofiev’s 1936 classic. Bono’s main contribution were the illustrations, which were completed by him and his daughters, while a CD features a reading by Gavin Friend and music by The Seezer Ensemble.
While not actually writing the made-for-iPad story, The National’s lead-singer Matt Berninger provides a very deep-voiced narration, while twin guitarists Aaron and Bryce Dessner contribute the score. When asked about the story, Berninger said “the story has all my favourite things. Waterfalls, magical dragons, and the sound of my own voice.”
While The Decemberists often create extremely dark and intense lyrics, lead-singer Meloy has also tried his hand at children’s books, penning Wildwood, an epic fantasy novel featuring two 7th-graders drawn into a magical forest while trying to rescue a baby kidnapped by crows. While a far cry from Meloy’s work with The Decemberists the book has received widespread praise.
Definitely not everyone’s first choice when imagining children’s authors, Fiddy aka Curtis Jackson’s debut novel, released early this year, describes a 13-year-old bully who ‘learns to mend his ways after witnessing the harm he has caused’. Apparently the book is semi-autobiographical, but hopefully it doesn’t include the various shootings, drug dealings and car crashes that have surrounded his life.
Not content with just being the master of the parody song, Yankovic has also thrown his weight behind a children’s book, writing the inspiring When I Grow Up. The book outlines eight year-old Billy’s various dream jobs for the future and ‘invites readers of all ages to consider afresh what they want to be when they grow up’. Who knows, perhaps with the help of this book, your son or daughter could grow up to be the next parody-song master.
Fall Out Boy bassist and primary lyricist Wentz entered the children’s books game by transforming his childhood recurring nightmares into a short novel with illustrations from Joe Tesauro. Commenting on the book, Wentz said “my inspiration and my ideas don’t begin and end at the beginning and the ending of a song. It is too limiting”. The emo poster-boy also plans on writing a second book titled Rainy Day Kids.
Featuring drawings of a who’s-who of indie music, Yellow Bird Project’s The Indie Rock Colouring Book is a hipster’s dream. With all royalties going to charity, it allows keen drawers of all ages to colour in Devendra Banhart’s beard, find their way through Broken Social Scene’s maze, wonder in Bon Iver’s water supply and explore a Clap Your Hands Say Yeah-style carnival.
Although technically not a musician writing a children’s book, this one was definitely too cool to not include. Combining the childhood joys of Where’s Wally? and the best-of-the-best of indie music, this picture, made for a Pitchfork fan competition, includes the likes of Japandroids, Jeff Tweedy, Feist and even a hipster-version of Wally himself. How many indie superstars can you find?