Saturday, April 3, 2010

Jane Crowley is Stealing Money

I would like to share with you today the work of a little-known author by the name of Jane Crowley. Ms. Crowley has published over 100 books, which are read by thousands of people on a daily basis.

Why have you never heard of her, you ask?

Well, that would probably be because she writes books for beginning readers. Don't misunderstand, I certainly understand the need for such reading material. Kids need to interact with text along with engaging illustrations, blah, blah, blah. But from a writer's point of view, could there possibly be an easier gig on the entire planet?

I would love to know how much ol' Jane gets paid per book, because if it's more than, say, a buck then she's a friggin' thief. Let me explain what I'm talking about.

Story by Jane Crowley

Down, down, down.
Up, up, up.
Down, down, down.
Up, up, up.
Down, down, down.
Up, up, up.
I can fly!

What first caught my attention was the phrase "Story by".

Really? This "story" contains five different words.  If I Can Fly is a story, a bag of Flamin' Hot Cheetos is a family buffet.  It's barely a friggin' SENTENCE, Jane! Did you do extensive research for your backstory here, maybe interview a few good folks from the Audubon Society? What a great "story", Jane. I was on the edge of my seat.

Here, let me do a quick rewrite, whaddaya think of this?

Down, down, down.
Up, up, up.
Down, down, down.
Up, up, up.
A hunter blasts my freakin' head off with a shotgun.
Down, down, down.

NOW, dear Jane, we have a story. Action, conflict, death. I bet your illustrator Rodney McRae would've had a much more enjoyable time drawing my concluding scene rather than the seven watercolor robins that graced your masterpiece. And don't give me any of that crap about "kids would be traumatized by a bird getting murdered", either. Have you been in a first grade classroom lately, Jane?  These kids play Grand Theft Auto six hours a day. They can handle a shotgun and a few scorched feathers.

Moving right along, let me introduce you to another Crowley page-turner.

Story by Jane Crowley

The pants, the shirt, the petticoat, the dress, the socks, the shoes, the rain, the mess.

That's not a story, it's the inventory from Sunnybrook Nursing Home's lost and found.  And let's look at the content for a minute, shall we? A petticoat, Jane? Tell me, who under the age of 93 has ever heard of a petticoat? Certainly not the six- and seven-year olds plodding through your book, that's for sure. After stumbling over that for a minute, and ultimately needing their teacher to read it for them, they'll ask, "But Mrs. Jones, what's a petticoat?"

To which Mrs. Jones will reply, "Something grandmothers and crotchety old storybook writers used to wear a hundred years ago, Jimmy."

And let me direct your attention to the stunning twist at the end of "Baby Gets Dressed".

"The mess."

Oh, yeah, that's friggin' hilarious, Jane. The little baby got all dressed up, walked outside into a rainstorm, her whole outfit got soaked and she probably ended up with whooping cough. Did you think about that, Jane? Nice message. "Go out in the rain, kids, with nothing but a dress and a moth-eaten petticoat." You think you could've added "the umbrella" right before the end, maybe? "The poncho" perhaps? "Poncho" is a much simpler word than "petticoat" that's for damn sure. But no, you didn't think about that, did you?


Next up is a great work by one of Jane Crowley's literary peers. Her name is Lillian Cushing, and let me tell you, she's absolutely ground-breaking in her prose and subtext. Let's examine her classic piece entitled "Shopping".

Story by Lillian Cushing

The bread. The ice cream. The toothpaste. The peas. The apples. The eggs. The mess!

"The mess!"  You plagiarizing whore! That's a shameless ripoff of the surprise ending to Jane Crowley's "Baby Gets Dressed"! Lillian, did you not think people would notice? Your whole book is fifteen words long, and you stole two of them from Crowley? Good God, if there's anything worse than being a hack, it's being an unoriginal hack.

On the plus side, though, at least Cushing has progressed into using periods in her work. Not sentences, mind you, she's still residing in the valley of the verbless, but we're getting there.

And now for the piece de resistance.

Story by Jane Crowley and Lillian Cushing
Illustrations by Jan van der Voo

I am fast.
I am slow.
I am fast.
I am slow.
I am slow.
I am fast.
I am fast.

That's right, my friends, it took two authors and an illustrator to create a book that contains exactly two different sentences. That's like a team of eight engineers being assembled to make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Honestly, what level of collaboration is really required for a book that contains four words?

Imagine the story development meeting.

Jane: "Lillian, look, we need to start with the rabbit being fast."

Lillian: "No, Jane, we have to show the turtle first so the reader will understand the contrast between our key themes of speed and lethargy."

Jane: "If we start with 'I am slow', Lillian, the reader will lose interest. We need to start with action!"

Lillian: "Look, you take care of the 'I am' part, and leave the adjectives to me. Is that all right with you, ya petticoat-wearing old fart?"

Jane: "Don't get snippy with me, Missy, I've been at this much longer than you have. And don't think I've forgiven you for stealing my ending from 'Baby Gets Dressed', either!"

Lillian: "Oh, I'm sorry, Miss 'I met Dr. Seuss at the New Zealand Children's Book Convention in 1957'! I'm telling you, we start with the turtle going slow, then the rabbit, then a snail, then the rabbit again . . . "

Jane: "Wait, we're going to keep using the same rabbit to demonstrate 'fast'? Why not bring in a cheetah or a greyhound?"

Lillian: "Because, you stupid twit, we need to let the readers bond with the rabbit so we can use him in the sequel, 'I Can Hop'. Don't you know anything about characterization?"

J.K. Rowling writes the entire Harry Potter series by herself, yet it takes the combined efforts of Jane Crowley and Lillian Cushing, along with a separate illustrator, to create "I Am Fast"? Explain that one to me, please.

All kidding aside, well, sort of, I'm sure that Jane Crowley is a wonderful person and that Lillian Cushing is on the cutting edge of early childhood reading strategies. But when the entire collection of your work contains about eighteen different words, well, sooner or later you're gonna have to answer for that.

You know where to find me.

Jane Crowley: Jane eats. Jane breathes. Jane writes. An author!
Lillian Cushing: Lillian is a mom. Lillian is a woman. Lillian is a writer. Lillian, Lillian, Lillian.

(Note: The books mentioned in this piece are real, and cited word for word. Hard to believe, but absolutely true. I have, however changed the names of the authors because the last thing I need is a letter from an attorney reading "Jane is mad. Jane filed a lawsuit. Lawsuit, lawsuit, lawsuit. You are bad. You are screwed. Screwed, screwed, screwed.")


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Little Ms Blogger said...

I wonder if Jane is Lillian's therapy patient and these books are really a result of a heavily sedated word association game.

Anonymous said...

Is this a re-post? I'm pretty sure I've read it before, hilarious as it might be.

JohnnyB said...

The bong, the dope, the water, the match, the mouth, the lungs, the high, the book.

I am slow, I am sloow, I am slooow, Iiiii aaaaaammmmmmm sssllllooooooww.

Maggie said...

Love this post! Hate the books!

Grumpy, M.D. said...

The patient. The pain. The narcotic request. The horror. My brain is numb.

I guess I'm ready for my career.

lime said...

what drivel. dr. seuss, now there
's a guy who could take a very limited word list and add some wild illustrations to generate a story that was FUN!

Tgoette said...

LOL! I didn't let my kids read stuff like that which was so banal and unsophisticated. I thought it would stifle their creativity. Instead their first book was "Valley of the Dolls."

Great post!

Michelle H. said...

Oh, this was way too funny, yet slightly foul in the mouth that people make money from off such tripe... and that I didn't think of it first.

knucklehead is funny.
knucklehead is mad.
knucklehead, petticoat, rain, what a mess!

I could be famous by now with just that bit...

Heff said...

The last name "Crowley" SHOULD have been a dead giveaway. Only evil can come from that !

Frank Lee MeiDere said...

That was truly funny. And weirdly thought-provoking. But mostly funny.

Me-Me King said...

Dear Jane,

I am bored
I am bored
I am bored
I am bored


Dear Knucklehead,

You are awesome
You are awesome
You are awesome
You are awesome

CatLadyLarew said...

Ha! As a teacher of the very young, I see these things often in classrooms, but I wouldn't buy them myself. ZZZZZZZZZ! I prefer to think that the children I teach are a bit more sophisticated than that.

middle child said...

I prefer the "Dick and Jane" books myself. Hmm,...isn't that the name of an adult movie too?

screwdestiny said...

You think six- and seven-year-olds are reading those? I was reading Dr. Suess when I was if anyone should be reading that crap it should probably be, oh, three-year-olds.

Theresa said...

Okay, this was a friggin' hilarious post! I'm honored to share the same address.

MikeWJ at Too Many Mornings said...

The Knucklehead, Jane Crowley, the post, the laughter, I'm slow, up, down, up, up, up, down, I can fly, oh, no I can't, the mess!

The End.

Awesomeness said...

Up up
Down down
Left right
Left right

Jane is a closet Nintendo nerd.

ReformingGeek said...

That's some great stuff there, Jane.


See book close.
See book burn.

Eva Gallant said...

You are hilarious! I was roaring by the time I finished. And some of the comments were good, too! Thanks for the great laugh!

Phillipia said...

I am fat.
I am slow.
I am last.
I know
I am a mess.

But I did it myself...
Where's the check???

Great post - not mine - yours:)

Suldog said...

Love this stuff from you, as you know.

Ivan Toblog said...

The cruel truth is that the original Dick and Jane readers were semi-biographical. Jane Crowley was one of the main characters and never, ever got over the speech pattern.

Jeanne said...

Did you ever read "Who's a Pest?" by Crosby Newell Bonsall?

She repeats the same words/phonics over and over, but the ideas change and the story actually progresses.

(Course, you have to buy it as an antique these days, but it rocks.)

Swami Dil said...

Jane makes millions. I don't.

Jules said...

Laundry sucks
No time to read
Dishes suck
No time to read
Exercise sucks
No time to read
Cleaning sucks
No time to read

Finally catching up
Posting this one on Facebook

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