Friday, February 29, 2008

...And Now a Sextuple Signing

An earlier blog entry, "Hoofprints and Pawtographs," described how Marguerite Henry's MISTY OF CHINCOTEAGUE was based on real-life events and people whose names remained unchanged in her novel. I knew that Joseph Krumgold's Newbery-winning novel ...AND NOW MIGUEL was also based on the lives of an actual family, but only learned a few years ago that he too kept all the names intact in the text.

Many books are adapted for film, but ...AND NOW MIGUEL is the rare case of a film being adapted into a book. Joseph Krumgold (1908-1980) was a Hollywood screenwriter who, after spending World War II with the Office of War Information, began producing documentaries for the U.S. State Department. One of these films focused on a New Mexican boy growing up in a family of sheep farmers. When a publisher suggested that Krumgold adapt his documentary into a children's book, he wrote ...AND NOW MIGUEL, the story of a youth who dreams of joining his father and older brothers on their annual sheep drive to the Mountains of the Sangre de Cristo. It would probably have been quite easy for Joseph Krumgold to write a quickie "novelization" of his film, but instead he created a lasting work of literature notable for its evocative Southwest setting and a multidimensional protagonist, whose first-person narrative has a rhythm, formality, and occasional awkwardness that perfectly captures Miguel's heritage, intelligence, and wit.

As mentioned earlier, I was not aware that Krumgold used the real names of Miguel Chavez and his family in the novel until a few years ago when I purchased a copy of the book that was actually signed by Miguel Chavez (the novel's narrator); his younger brother Pedro; sisters Leocadia, Tomasita and Tinga (usually called Faustina in the book), and their mother, who formally signs in as "Mrs. Blas Chavez."

These six signatures make me treasure this great novel six times as much as an unsigned copy! I love the fact that someone tracked down the real Chavez family from Taos, New Mexico, and asked them to sign the novel. So often we read a novel and wonder what happened to the characters after the story ends. Here's a case where we can actually find out. Doing a little research on the internet this morning, I found this reference to Miguel:
who grew up to raise a family, run a furniture business, and is now semi-retired and receiving acclaim for his wood carving.

As for the author who recorded Miguel's story, Joseph Krumgold won the Newbery Medal in 1954 for ...AND NOW MIGUEL and became the first writer in history to win a second Newbery when his next novel, ONION JOHN, received the award in 1960 -- quite an amazing achievement for an author who only wrote four children's books in his career.

Written by Joseph Krumgold; illustrated by Jean Charlot
Published by Crowell, 1953.

Why the book is collectable:

It won the Newbery Medal.

It's an early portrait of Mexican-Americans living in the United States.

It was based on a documentary, then later made into a fictional movie.

Collectors of Jean Charlot's work will also be interested.

First edition points:

Bound in light brown cloth with black cursive writing on the spine.

$2.75 price on top of the front dustjacket flap.

The words "FIRST PRINTING" are on the copyright page.

Difficulty in finding first editions:

First editions can be found for $100-$200.


Anonymous said...

Two of my favorite Newbery winners. Beautiful writing.

Anthonette said...

Hi Peter,
I was just playing with the Siri feature of my new iPhone and asking her who wrote "...And Now Miguel". She came up with your blog entry as one of the first choices.

My uncle is Miguel Chavez. My dad is Pedro. I've loved having this book be part of my family's history.

Did you know there were movies made too? In one of them my family are the actors. The movie is narrated from Miguel's perpective. Later I came to find out that the narration was done by a young female Spanish actress.