Sujatha Bagal

Stories and essays on food, travel, culture.

Review: Lulu.com’s Self-Published Children’s Literature

Once upon a time, there was a baby polar bear who was a very picky eater; there were two girls, Orelda and Corelda, who went on a cruise aboard a ship called the S.S. Rottensteamer; there was Orangie the orange, who wanted, more than anything, to be back among his friends on the orange tree in the orange grove; and there was a boy who liked to play and not go to bed at the end of the day because the night monsters were waiting for him.

If these sound like stories you might have read to your children or might want to read to your children, you’re right. These are children’s stories. But what is unique about the books these four stories came out of is that they are all self-published books. The authors decided they had stories to tell and they were good enough to be published and they went ahead and did it themselves.

And the stories are good, very good. They are fun to read (even for me), very well told, they have excellent illustrations accompanying them and the books are slickly produced.

Potato Soup, written and illustrated by Phil Weinstein, is a heartwarming story about a baby polar bear who is a picky eater and how his parents got him to eat soup with a whole lot of different vegetables. This story reminded me of the time I used to read Green Eggs and Ham to my son and for months afterward we used to repeat the idea that although we think we might not like something at first, if we just tried it we might end up liking it after all.

“We’re gonna need some corn,” the daddy polar bear said. “Corn?! I don’t like corn!” the baby polar bear said. “I only like potatoes! Potatoes, potatoes, potatoes!”

“It’s OK, it’s OK,” said the daddy polar bear. “We need corn to make potato soup.” “All right, all right,” said the baby polar bear. “I’ll get some corn but I’m not gonna like it and I’m not gonna eat it!”

In this manner, the baby polar bear adds one vegetable after another into the soup and in the end ends up liking the soup and all the vegetables that went into the making of it.

I particularly liked the illustrations in this book. The polar bears look warm and cuddly and the picturization is appealing.

The Book of Monsters by Jamie Melani Marshall is a lovely story of how a young boy gets over his fear of monsters in his room at night. He decides to follow the monsters to their abode one night and discovers that there was nothing to fear after all.

The author has illustrated the story herself and the colorful drawings are a major attraction. They are stylized and it’s fun to pore over the pictures trying to find small details relating to the story. The text is in simple rhyme and the language is easy on the early reader.

Orelda and Corelda’s Ocean Voyage by George and Leslie Nazarian is, as the title suggests, a travel adventure book and coloring book in one. Any journey is fascinating and a cruise especially so. Children will love this story as much for the cool stuff the two girls and Oradillo, their friend, get to do on the ship as for the opportunity to color the pictures using their own imagination of how a cruise might feel. It’s a great book to carry along on a trip.

Orangie, by Tempie Johnson, recounts the journey of Orangie the Orange from his tree in the orchard to the supermarket and back. It’s a simple story, simply told, but is a life lesson for little children in kindness and humanity. It has the feel of a story that grandma would make up on the spot by your bedside – the best kind of story there is – and for this reason, children will find it attractive.

Perhaps because these are self-published books, I get the feeling that we, the readers, are privy to a little bit more of the authors’ personalities. We find out, for example, that Tempie Johnson has been telling her story for ages, and that her son Stephens, finally got her story published. We read about the origins of Phil Weinstein’s story at the back of the book in a personal note from the author that most parents will relate to immediately.

In Marshall’s book, the usually boring bio and information about the book is replaced by,

The Book of Monsters (a bedtime story) is author Jamie Melanie Marshall’s first book. It’s not that bad. Really. It’s pretty good. You should probably buy it. Unless of course…

You have no money with which to buy the book (this is sad. Perhaps if you wrote a letter to the author, she would take pity on you and send you a copy. If you can’t write either, a simple handprint or droolmark will do.)

There’s a long list of such helpful suggestions and I have a feeling young children will love reading something of this nature addressed to them directly by the author.

If you are an author interested in publishing your book yourself, given the quality of the books I’ve described above, Lulu.com appears to be an valuable resource. The FAQ is useful to get to started in case you are interested in exploring their services.

They also have a handy catalogue that you can search by genre and popularity if you are interested in buying the books. The books have been rated by customers and the rating appears in the blurb related to each book on the web page.

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This entry was posted on May 14, 2007 by in Blog, Reviews and tagged , .
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