Monday, March 10, 2008

The Little Boy is Worried about the Size of his What?

In March 2008, Cinco Puntos Press is publishing Little Zizi (978-1-933693-05-7), a picture book for children. Zizi is French, a diminutive for penis—as in peepee. Little Zizi tells the story of Martin, a thoughtful little boy who worries about the size of his penis. The book was written by renowned French children’s writer Thierry Lenain and illustrated by St├ęphane Poulin. It was originally published in Canada by Les 400 Coups.

So our friend asked us, “The little boy is worried about the size of his what?”

We like showing our newest book Little Zizi to our friends, especially friends with kids. Every time they begin to read it, they start giggling. The same thing happens with our professional friends—publishers, librarians, educators, reviewers. They can’t suppress their delight. They thoroughly enjoy the book, the whimsy of Thierry Lenain’s tale so perfectly married with St├ęphane Poulin’s illustrations, but in the back of their minds (at least, the adult area of their mindss) is the nagging questions, Why is Cinco Puntos publishing this book?

The answer is simple. We enjoy the book immensely. We fell in love with it and we thought it was a no-brainer. Parents were ready for this book. But we heard the question enough that we decided to ask Thierry Lenain why he wrote the book.

Thierry’s response was straightforward. He remembers his own childhood, and he remembers that growing up into manhood is a difficult and sometimes lonely journey. Now, as a writer, he can look around the world. He has come to believe that so much of the misfortune that we read about in the paper comes from the obsession of many men to assert and prove their manliness. Their virility. And now he’s watching his own children grow up. He wrote this book for them. His own little gift to them, to all children, but especially to boys. Relax, he wants to say. It’s okay to be who you are. Accept your body. You may see it as less than perfect, but it is beautiful just the same.

Thierry Lenain’s uncomplicated answer runs against the flow of our obsessed culture. A day spent deleting spam from incoming e-mail should be proof of this. We are choking with worries about the size and beauty of the human sexual anatomy. Making penises longer and bigger and breasts more ample have become big industries. It seems, as a culture, we are ashamed of who we are. Our media produces all sorts of images of violence and sexual innuendo but when push comes to shove, we don’t want our children to know about their sexual apparatuses before they are ready. Whenever that is. Surely a book with so much joy and whimsical frivolity in such a bipolar cultural environment can do only good.

But people still ask us, why?

Well, from a business point of view, we believe that Little Zizi will have decent financial success. It'll probably get some notoriety, some people will love it, others will hate it. There won't be a lot of middle ground. Besides, the book has had success elsewhere. Cinco Puntos purchased the English language rights from the French Canadian publisher Les 400 Coups who published the book for its French audience in France and Canada. In those markets it did wonderfully well. It goes from printing to next printing like clockwork. Besides, Les 400 Coups has sold the rights for Spanish, German, Korean, Danish and Flemish editions.

Except that in the U.S. no publisher wanted to touch it. No wonder. The French are the French; and the world is the world; but us Americans are still Americans, still wandering around in a discombobulated fog of sexual confusion.

And, yes, before we made our offer, we road-tested Little Zizi on our grandson John Andrew. He was seven at the time. I read him the story and showed him the pictures. He had a big-mouthed grin on his face. At one point he asked me, That’s not how that happens, is it? We were looking at the wondrous painting of little girl Anais and our hero Martin sitting on the park bench. Anais has just told Martin that when she grows up she wants to have ten babies. Ten! Martin is looking over his shoulder in dismay. In his daydream he sees ten babies floating down from the skies!

Johnny Andrew’s curiosity was piqued. I said, Yes, that’s how that happens! He asked more questions. I told him he should ask his dad and mom a lot of these questions. My job was to read the book. He got a hoot out of that. We talked some, we laughed at the little dog who followed Martin around and he was delighted to see that Martin won the heart of Anais.

Lee and I figured our own grandson can’t be wrong. We moved ahead with buying the rights and publishing the book.

So ask any man, “When you were a little boy, were you worried about the size of your peepee?” And if he is honest, that man will squirm and he’ll hem and he’ll haw, but in the end he will confess, “Yes, I was worried. It’s one of the things all little boys worry about!”

But let’s not get philosophical. This is a fun book with a happy ending. Yes, Martin and Adrian are vying for the affection of Anais, the sweetest little girl in class. Yes, there is a pissing contest, and, yes, poor Martin loses the pissing contest, but lo and behold, Anais chooses Martin over Adrian, proving once again that love is justice and delicious understanding…

Anais and Martin will surely love each other for a long time.
And when they’ve grown up, they will have lots of children.

At least ten.
Because love isn’t a question of a zizi—large or small.

—Bobby Byrd, February 2008

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

What a wonderful book! Thank you for your courage.