Q&A: Mike Nemeth, satirical children’s book author

By Columbus Alive
From the September 27, 2012 edition

When Mike Nemeth got roped into staying for his wife Jill’s baby shower, an idea dawned on him after unwrapping the five thousandth diaper.

“There’s no gift for guys who are about to have kids,” he said. “I thought, you know, it’d be fun to write a children’s book for a new dad.”

He began working on “Daddy’s Favorite Juice: The Bottles in the Fridge that Aren’t for You” soon after. The satirical story, illustrated by artist Veronica Jane, is about a dad who watches the football game on his day off and drinks his “juice” (beer, for you teetotalers who haven’t caught on yet). Coming up next, “Mommy’s Favorite Juice: Why Mommy Gets Thirsty When You Misbehave.”

Part of the whole idea behind the book is that other children’s books, really, are the ones that are more fake. Everything’s so perfect and the kids are all dressed. Even the house inside my book—there’s stuff everywhere; it’s not the perfect setting. I figured it’d be nice to have Max running around in socks and no shirt and make things a little more realistic.

I do get people who are like, “Uh, children books. That has to be so easy.” It’s not. There’s really only a limited number of pages. You have to be really selective with how you tell the story. I leave a lot of things to nuance; like the juices in the beginning of the book, they’re all alcoholic mixers. Next to the orange juice is the vodka, but it’s unspoken. There’s some depth to even a children’s book.

I spent a lot of time crafting the story so it is kid friendly. There are other adult humor books where you just can’t read them to your kids. There are good messages in it. At the end of the story, Daddy can’t have more than three juices each day—responsible drinking. I keep within the three juice limit.

I get legitimate hate mail. One guy wrote me, “Your book’s awful. What’s next, ‘Mommy’s Little Meth Lab’?” It’s not baby juice. I’m not saying it’s juice for babies. If somebody is truly offended by it, so be it. But I’m pretty sure the majority of people can appreciate the humor behind it.

The other wine in [my second book, “Mommy’s Favorite Juice”] is a wine called Mommy Juice Wines. The owner was in Time magazine this week in a story about wine being marketed to mothers and is that OK. Do you think beer isn’t marketed to dads? That’s all it is.

My advice to new dads is to not get too stressed out. Charlotte [his 10-month old daughter] was up last night from midnight to three and then she slept for like an hour. You gotta keep everything in perspective and just relax.

Photo by Tessa Berg