One-Minute Book Reviews

March 14, 2008

And a 2008 Delete Key Awards Honorable Mention to Steve Martin and Roz Chast’s ‘The Alphabet From A to Y: With Bonus Letter Z!”

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And a 2008 Delete Key Awards honorable mention to …

To Steve Martin for:
“Henrietta the hare wore a habit in heaven, / Her hairdo hid hunchbacks: one hundred and seven.”

And to Roz Chast for a drawing that may leave thousands of children with the idea that the plural of “Inca” is “Incans”

From The Alphabet From At to Y: With Bonus Letter Z! by Steve Martin and Roz Chast (Doubleday)

At their best Steve Martin and Roz Chast are two of the funnier people in America. But the actor and cartoonist bring out the worst in each other in an alphabet book – a category typically aimed at 2-to-4-year-olds — that makes fun of, among others, people with disabilities.

Martin and Chast didn’t win the top prize partly because the Delete Key Awards recognize the year’s worst writing in books. And the couplet quoted here, if tasteless, is better written than the grand prize winner and runners-up. Martin’s jaunty anapestic lines are clear, metrically sound and (unlike Chast’s reference to those “Incans”) grammatically correct. This book would raise fewer objections if billed as a book for teenagers or adults (which it is) instead of for 2-year-olds (which it isn’t).

© 2008 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.
www.janiceharayda

February 29, 2008

Delete Key Awards Finalist #1 – Steve Martin and Roz Chast’s ‘The Alphabet from A to Y: With Bonus Letter Z!’

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Delete Key Awards Finalist #1 – From The Alphabet From At to Y: With Bonus Letter Z!’ by Steve Martin and Roz Chast:

“Henrietta the hare wore a habit in heaven, / Her hairdo hid hunchbacks: one hundred and seven.”

And special mention to Chast for a drawing that may leave thousands of children with the idea that the plural of “Inca” is “Incans”

Hey, kids! You’re never too young to make fun of people who are different from you! That’s an implicit message of the shortlisted lines from this demented bestseller by the actor and cartoonist. Yes, American publishers have brought out far too many dreary children’s books that are longer on ideological correctness than good writing. But do we really need books that encourage 2-to-4-year-olds – the usual audience for alphabet books – to laugh at people with disabilities? In this book the joke isn’t on fictional hunchbacks like Quasimodo but on those who look like your Uncle Ed. It doesn’t help that one of Chast’s drawings gives the plural of “Inca” as “Incans” instead of “Incas” or “Inca.”

© 2008 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.
www.janiceharayda

February 20, 2008

Children’s Books to Be Eligible for the Delete Key Awards for the First Time, One-Minute Book Reviews Annouces

Filed under: Delete Key Awards,News — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 3:59 pm
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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

‘WORST WRITING’ PRIZES TO RECOGNIZE CHILDREN’S BOOKS IN 2008

NEW JERSEY, USA — Janice Harayda, editor-in-chief of One-Minute Book Reviews, announced today that children’s books would be eligible for the first time for the Delete Key Awards for the year’s worst writing in books.

Ms. Harayda said that she had opened the annual awards to children’s books to in the interests of diversity. She said the change would allow the Delete Key Awards to represent better the full range of literary bottom-feeders.

“It isn’t fair to suggest that adult-book publishers are the only ones shoveling junk at us,” she said. “Not when we have everything from cheesy knock-offs of The Velveteen Rabbit, which was inadvertently allowed to go out of copyright, to Steve Martin making fun of people with disabilities in an alphabet book for 2-to-4-year-olds.”

Ms. Harayda said she hoped that the decision to include children’s books would make the prizes fairer and also encourage Martin to stick to making movies “unless they were like Sgt. Bilko.” She noted that some people might see the change as a technicality given that the 2007 first runner-up, Mitch Albom’s For One More Day, is written at a third-grade reading level, according to the Flesch-Kincaid readability statistics that are part of the spell-checker on Microsoft Word.

The finalists for the Delete Key Awards will be announced beginning at noon on Friday, Feb. 29, and the winners on March 15. Anybody may nominate a candidate for one of the awards by leaving a comment on the site or sending an e-mail message to the address on the contact form.

Ms. Harayda reminded people that she does not accept free books from publishers even if they would send them to her “which, let’s face it, no same publisher would.” She is an award-winning journalist who has been the book columnist for Glamour and book editor of the Plain Dealer in Cleveland, Ohio.

One-Minute Book Reviews is a site for people who like to read but dislike hype and review inflation. It is the eighth-ranked book-review site in the world on the Google Directory of top arts and literature sites
www.google.com/Top/Arts/Literature/Reviews_and_Criticism/.

© 2008 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.
http://www.janiceharayda.com

October 26, 2007

Steve Martin and Roz Chast Make Fun of Religious, Cultural and Physical Differences in a New Alphabet Book for Preschoolers — Is Your Two-Year-Old Ready for Ethnic Humor?

Maybe they should have called it “S” Is for Sucker

The Alphabet From A to Y: With Bonus Letter Z! Words by Steve Martin. Pictures by Roz Chast. Doubleday/Flying Dolphin, 64 pp., $17.95. Suggested ages: “Young Children” (Doubleday), “Baby/Preschool” (Powell’s), 9-to-12 (Amazon).

By Janice Harayda

Hey, kids! You’re never too young to laugh at people who are different from you! And if you’re an adult who wants to help, Steve Martin and Roz Chast are there for you! They use rhyming couplets to show 2-to-4-year-olds – the usual audience for alphabet books — just how easy it is to make fun of religious, cultural and physical differences!

Looking for the perfect Hannukah gift for a toddler? How about a book that explains the letter “K” by showing an ape-like woman (“King Kong’s aunt Frances”) saying, “Kids! Kome Back! Have Some Kosher Kasha!” Or need something to wrap up for Diwali? Why not a book that shows a funny-looking guy in a turban staring at a woman “indecent in her undies”? Those 2-year-olds have to learn about perverts sometime! And what could be better for kids celebrating the Day of the Dead than a book that introduces the letter “I” with a poster of “The Incans”? (Will those kids ever be surprised to learn that the plural of “Inca” is “Incans” and not “Inca” or “Incas”!) Martin and Chast even show how simple it can be to make fun of disabilities! And nuns! The “H” page says: “Henrietta the hare wore a habit in heaven, / Her hairdo hid hunchbacks: one hundred and seven.” And Martin and Chast aren’t talking about Quasimodo but people who look just like your Uncle Ed except with disabilities! Yes, they could easily have said “halfbacks” instead of “hunchbacks”! But they must have decided that people with disabilities are funnier than athletes!

Sure, you might see all of this as tasteless — not to mention, a little mature for kids who may be poring over Once Upon a Potty. So why didn’t the people at Doubleday pitch this book to the group who would enjoy it most, the adult fans of Chast’s New Yorker cartoons? Could it be that they figured out that they could make more money by selling it as a children’s book? Maybe they should have called it “S” Is for Sucker.

© 2007 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.

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