Joining a list of unlikely literary luminaries that includes Paul McCartney, Jimmy Carter, Madonna, Geri Halliwell, Sarah Ferguson and Barack Obama, comes Frank Lampard. The Chelsea footballer is to write five children's books, about a young boy, his dog and his football-loving friends, based on bedside stories he told his own children. This is a familiar catalyst for celebrities turned children's authors: an assumption that their stories are so good, they should be shared.
But, warns writer Steve Cole: "Your own child is unlikely to give your bedtime story a bad review, and I imagine that when you're surrounded by fans and sycophants who'd applaud your every bowel movement it can be easy to get a distorted view of things." The author of Astrosaurs adds: "I think writing children's books is considered by celebrities a 'nice' and 'fun' way to generate a further income stream – and, in fairness, that's absolutely correct. It's enormous fun to write escapist fantasy for young children, and easy to play at – but hard to do well."
Lampard isn't even the first Premier League footballer-turned-children's-author: the Arsenal player Theo Walcott has published four children's books. But what do celebrities who venture into the literary world discover? "If I were being cynical I'd suggest they'll discover the importance of editors and ghost writers," says Cole. "I'd love it if Frank Lampard took this challenge - and this privilege - seriously. I'd suggest that, just as in his own game, without commitment and hard graft and serious ambition, the performance outcome can only ever be mediocre."
The problem, says the writer Frank Cottrell-Boyce, isn't that celebrities are not professional writers: "Most of the best books were written by people who were not writing for a living. Within the field of children's literature, Tolkien and Lewis were academics, Edith Nesbit was a political activist." The issue is that many celebrities who become children's authors "are not actually people any more – they're brands".
But writer Michael Morpurgo suggests: "Anything that gets children reading is fine." Especially boys who "are more reluctant to read, so if Lampard is going to write football books, I'd hope that gets more boys reading."
While some children's books written by famous people are occasionally well-received – Stephen Hawking's and David Walliams's books spring to mind – most seem forgettable; none, for instance, have been nominated for the Carnegie award, which recognises good children's literature. And Morpurgo warns: "There is the myth that writing books for children is easier than writing books for grownups, whereas we know that truly great books for children are works of genius, whether it's Alice in Wonderland or the Gruffalo or Northern Lights. When it's a great book, it's a great book, whether it's for children or not."