This weekend, Berkeley Breathed’s guest essay on “Mars Needs Moms!” runs in the Sunday Calendar section of the Los Angeles Times. Here’s an excerpt…
We had a birth on Aug. 24, 2006. A difficult delivery — some screaming and tears. Yes, unplanned and yes, conceived in sin.
A bit later I sold her on Buena Vista Street to some shadowy men wearing shiny loafers without socks. They drove her off into the Burbanknight, muttering about “big plans.” She cried. I cried.
Selling your baby is emotionally tricky.
On the other hand, they paid me in cash and I’ll need hair plugs one day. They’re $400 each.
Stop with the shocked look. As a struggling new parent without a spare $100 million for expenses, I was in no position to raise my painted progeny myself. And “progeny” is exactly what picture books are to those of us who conceive, birth, nurse and wipe the clichés from their little watercolor bottoms. Yes, I know every artist refers to their creations as their babies, including the kid who recites the Pledge of Allegiance in burps. But picture books really are story babies, and they’re uniquely born begging to adolesce onto a movie screen. The problem is that adolescence is where things can go really wrong. One word: Snooki.
My own book baby was named “Mars Needs Moms!” and she dropped from the womb pudgy with plot: A wrathful boy declares his world better without mothers, and alien commandos arrive to make it happen. Plus rocket ships, ray guns, 2 million mom-less Martians in a hollowed-out planet and a controversial genre-cracking third-act twist that got me axed by my publisher of 25 years. In contrast, the third act of “The Very Hungry Caterpillar” is eating a pear.
My kid was trouble. She needed Madame Hollywood’s Finishing School for Picture Books.
But which one? Hollywood charm schools have had iffy results with their recent picture-book grads, but it’d be highly indelicate for me to simply blurt out the names (“The Cat in the Hat”) of their unlovely, awkward debutants (“Where the Wild Things Are”). Because once upon a time they were all adorable (“How the Grinch Stole Christmas”) babies.
But at least they got to grow up. Madame Hollywood has taken several of my other book tots in the past decade. Poof. Never saw them again. My wife and I have a nightmare that we’ll be watching “Sesame Street” one morning and recognize one of their ravaged, ruined faces sharing a trash can with Oscar…
THERE’S MORE, READ THE REST.
— Berkeley Breathed