1) He bragged that he knew nothing about children's books and wrote this with ease.
2) He is a celebrity trading only on his celebrity status.
3) He claims that his idea is thoroughly original but it's not.
4) His story is too dark and meant for an adult audience.
I understand that many of us who write for children are protective of our craft and offended whenever someone who writes for adults, or who wishes to, proclaims that writing for children is easy, so perhaps they'll start with that or maybe they'll take a break from writing heady, intellectual adult stuff and write some kid fluff. As we all know, that is a huge fallacy, and my own students discovered that last semester in their Writing Children's Literature course. HOWEVER, If you listen to Mr. Breathed's interview, you will find that he was not dissing us at all.
On the first point: He found something that came more naturally to him than he expected. He began with the art and let the story unfold for him. Somepeople see in pictures first. He worked from what many of us do...his memory of childhood and his experience with his own kids.
Second: Berkeley Breathed is a Pulitzer Prize-winning artist/writer. He's not some dizzy rock diva or movie star or dope injected athelete. His celebrity, whatever that may be, stems from his talent as a writer and an artist. Yes, his work was political satire, but ironically set through the eyes of children.
Third: He did not claim that his idea had never been explored before. He said it was "an area that had not yet been wholly explored." Many Picture Books stop short of entering the darkness and exploring deeper consequences, the darker implications of life and love. Mr. Breathed was committed to the idea that he wanted to face that question head on..."would a mother really die for her child?" The answer is yes. Of course he's not going to kill her off, but he takes it to the brink, answers the question, and then offers something wonderful: growth and understanding for the child. The child comes to understand on a deeper level the committment that "bellowing broccoli bully" has for her child. She loves him beyond measure, and he loves her, too. Mr. Breathed left his publisher of 25 years over this point because it was the crux of his story. I applaud his artistic integrity.
Which leads to the fourth complaint: There is some truth in the claim that adults will be drawn to this book for their own grown-up reasons. And yes, the climax is dark and threatening. But the language, the art, the rhythm of the story is a treat for young eyes and ears. The ending is thoroughly satisfying as a happy ending. Some kids may not be ready for a dark confrontation such as this, but many are. My two children were ready, and they love this book.
So...I hope that more people will check out this book and listen to the interview with a discerning ear before they pass judgement. I do despise people who make the lame assumption that anything designed for children is by definition easier to create. We all know how much work it is raising our children. Why would creating stories for them be any easier? But writers often work in different ways, crafting their stories from different angles, starting at completely different points in the process, exploring the same themes and plots with a different eye. We must not become self-righteous in our dedication to our craft.