The Copy Cat

Coming March 2020

Children’s Authors as Role Models


Do we want our favorite children’s authors to be role models for our children? Should they be?


I wasn’t planning on writing about this topic, and then Donovan Bailey retweeted me yesterday.

For those of you of a certain age or who aren’t from Canada, you might not have an idea who Donovan Bailey is. Bailey was the world’s fastest man in 1996, winning Olympic gold medals in the 100 meter and 4×100 meter relay in Atlanta. He also happens to be Canadian.


donovan bailey


But this was no ordinary record breaker, or run. Canada’s hearts had been broken by Ben Jonson four years prior. An entire nation had woken up in the middle of the night to watch him run and were overjoyed when he shattered the world record. Hours later, he was disqualified for doping. To say that Canada was disheartened and humiliated would be an understatement. We are a large country, but small in population, and every medal and medalist is cherished here.

So when Donovan Bailey won, and won clean, the country went mad. I tweeted about him watching our current phenom, Andre DeGrasse, the other night and Bailey retweeted me. I almost fell over with delight.

And that got me thinking. Potentially, that could happen to me someday. If my books sell. If people love them. If people follow me on Twitter or Facebook or whatever. Someone, some day, might like my work enough to almost fall over with delight if I retweeted them. It was kind of a strange thought, actually.

And then I wondered: “Is Donovan Bailey careful about what he tweets, says, writes?” Should I be more careful?

Let’s be clear about two things:

  1. I am not well known so this is purely a theoretical discussion: and
  2. I tend to admire authors’ works, and know very little about their personal lives, except in exceptional circumstances, like the fact that I know Neil Gaiman is married to a talented musician or that Stephen King lives in Maine.

Let’s take Kate diCamillo who I could fangirl about all day. She is an amazing ambassador for children’s literature and she does wonderful things. I know nothing about her personal life, nor should I. I don’t know her opinion about world event, politics, religion, or dogs. I believe she likes children.

But what if I knew she supported hateful ideologies? Would her spectacular storytelling trump even that? Would we all be okay with our favorite middle grade author saying atrocious things publicly? Swearing on twitter? Telling us how to vote?

Unlike writers who write exclusively for adults, the writer of children’s stories is, I think, under a bit more of a microscope. We want them to love children, cuddle puppies, and always be kind.

(for the record, I am firmly two of those three things, and kind about 80% of the time)

But the question is: must Kate BE those things if she wants to write for children?

I suspect that in almost every public event Kate diCamillo walks into, she is the center of attention: adored by her fans – young and old alike – admired by other writers, worshipped by those of us who wish they could string together a sentence like she does. It must be a burden. And yet, from all I’ve heard, she handles this burden with remarkable grace and kindness.

But I also notice in this world of social media, where authors are encouraged – nay, nudged firmly, in the direction of a strong social media presence – Kate DiCamillo is not on twitter and has only a Facebook author page. I’m not saying that’s right or wrong, but I do find it intriguing.

I don’t want to censor my thoughts or opinions – I like to be authentic and true – but Donovan Bailey has stuck with me for the last 24 hours.

David Walliams is a well-known British personality who now writes for children.


david Walliams


Should we care that he has been known to say some outrageous and inappropriate things on TV, some at a time of day his young readers might be watching?

Is there an extra burden to be careful about your public persona if you are writing for children?

I don’t know the answer to my own question, but I’d love to hear your thoughts about it!




Author of Children's Literature