Martha Stewart's Apprentice show kicked off its first episode with a look at children's publishing, through rose-colored glasses. Within 24 hours, the players created a picture book from start to finish. Although the entire book creation process was omitted (lacking editors, art directors, designers, and illustrators) and a finished bound book mysteriously ended up in the apprentices' hands, there is a reality to the illusion. The Primarious Corporation won the grand prize––Random House published their children's book. With a first print run of 100,000, the book will most certainly be visible in most bookstores. Although the book is printed on cheap paper, its modest price makes up for that loss.



A fairy tale adapted by Primarius Corporation

Illustrated by Paul Meisel

Can a children's book be created in 24 hours? Can it be authored by a group of people who know little, if nothing about children's books? Apparently so, but with uninspired results.

Upon first inspection, the reader will notice that the story isn't too verbose, as most beginning children's book writers' books are. There are no Madonna monologues in this fairy tale. The story and message, however, fall apart quickly.

The first few lines start off choppy. "Do you know the real story of Jack and the beanstalk? Well, my name is Jack. I live in a house by the sea..." The next page says "I like riding my red bicycle on the beach. One day, I met a man who looked very sad." The sentences lack eloquence and flow. They seem as though someone was trying to write the story while bull riding.

The text smoothes out a bit but the tragic thing in this book is its flawed message. Sure, the apprentice team meant well––to teach that children should ask before taking––but they got it so very, very wrong. Jack trades his bicycle for a sack of beans, plants one, and a stalk shoots out and sends Jack on a magical ride. His first stop is an underwater visit to an Octopus. After trying to take gold treasure from the Octopus, the sea creature warns "I'm Oscar the Octopus. I rule the sea. You have to ask before taking from me." So far so good, right? Unfortunately, on Jack's next visit (to a friendly giant), the same thing happens. Jack promises to ask before taking. The problem is, he never does! Asking seems to be an after thought for the eager young Jack. The story wraps up by illustrating Jack back at home, safe and sound, with an armful of treasure.

Sadly, the two things children will take from the book are that it's okay to steal as long as you're polite about it and that you can get whatever you want if you ask first. Imagine a supermarket filled with screaming children because they didn't get the candy they asked for! Come on parents, they asked nicely!

The illustrator must be applauded for pulling off this amazing stunt. I, as an illustrator, didn't think it was possible. As the backflap says ––"Working through the night in conjunction with the team, he (Meisel) finished the job on schedule, in less than twenty-four hours." In reality, creating a book takes illustrators anywhere from 3 months to a year.

This marketing stunt has proven that a good book cannot be done in 24 hours, and rightly so. Shame on the creators and involved parties for creating the illusion that it can.