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Does it take crude and rude to get a kids book published?

How is it that a children’s book series about a flatulating dog is in every library, every bookstore in the U.S., but one that explains difficult subjects such as death, cancer and bullying to young kids may never be read, or reach a bookstore shelf? Why does a series about a boy and his garbage eating pet fly scream out in all it’s Technicolor glory from the shelf of the “my first reader section” at my local library, but books that give young kids clear answers to their tough questions sit unpublished on the author’s hard drive? Do we think young kids should be shielded from “uncomfortable” topics? Do we think children under a certain age “can’t handle” the subject matter? Do we think it’s better to entertain than to educate until children reach school age? Or does crudeness sell more books?

 I write a series of children’s books that explain difficult subjects to preschool and young children. I created the “Mommy, What is…?” books to answer the questions my own kids asked. Back in 2007, I wrote “Mommy, What is Dead?” as a way to explain the loss of our baby to my young son. Since then, I have written “Mommy, What is Deaf?” to explain to my kids why their grandma can’t hear, “Mommy, What is Cancer?” to explain why our dog died, “Mommy, What is Fat?” to explain why we should try to eat healthy foods and exercise and “Mommy, What is a Bully?” to address the epidemic of aggression kids face today, which my own son has been a victim of. I self illustrated and self printed (not published) the first three and made them available on a website ( because I had so many requests from friends, family and a few support groups who wanted to share them with the kids in their lives. I have done newspaper interviews about the books, blog interviews, a radio interview with a well known celebrity journalist and even won a top spot in StartUp Nation’s 2011 Moms in Business competition. I have heard “What a great idea!” and “There’s nothing else like this out there!” time and time again. Best of all, I have had glowing endorsements from the people who matter most of all – the kids whose faces light up with understanding after I read the “Mommy, What Is…?” books to them. Still no publishers banging down my door…

I have queried the “Mommy, What Is…?” books to dozens of agents and children’s book publishers, and have received dozens of the same rejection emails saying basically the same thing – “Your books are great, but I’m (we’re) not the right person to represent (publish) them.” I know children’s non-fiction books aren’t big money makers, I don’t think you’ll see “The Life Cycle of a Butterfly” on the NY Times Best Seller list any time soon, but how about just seeing the value in giving kids some straight up answers? Well at least I can purchase “Everyone Poops” in four different languages. Self publish you say? I checked the statistics on self published books, and saw that most authors who do so struggle to get their books distributed and end up with boxes of their own books tucked away in the attic or collecting dust in the garage. A hundred pounds of paper in storage boxes isn’t going to do much in the way of helping kids. Our world is complicated, and full of so many things that confuse, frighten, and even anger young children. I wrote the “Mommy, What is…?” books hoping to give them a measure of clarity, comfort and some uncomplicated answers to their questions. I never imagined that it wasn’t a good enough reason to get published. Maybe if I write “Mommy, What is a Fart?”…

Source by Nikki Aksamit

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