Sunday, December 6, 2009

Sunday Brunch


If you’ve been bopping around the blogosphere this week, you’ve probably read about the controversy surrounding November’s issue of School Library Journal.

Apparently a good half-dozen readers wrote the magazine to complain that the cover photograph depicted several notable children’s book bloggers in the unseemly act of drinking adult beverages.

What a lot of people don’t know is that SLJ also issued an alternate cover for the same issue. This variant cover was sent to Mormons, teetotalers, AA members, anyone who lives in a “dry county” -- as well as old fuddy-duddies. As a card-carrying member of at least one of those groups, this was the issue I received last month:

For those subscribers who were upset by the “all liquored-up” cover, School Library Journal is, for a limited time, offering to send a replacement “alcohol-free” cover, which can be pasted over the offending illustration. Send your request to:

GOT MILK? cover
School Library Journal
New York, NY

Incidentally, cover-girl Elizabeth Bird reports that real alcohol was not used in the photo shoot. According to her blog, the drinks were actually made from a “dishwater-esque concoction of lime juice and pink food coloring.”

I have it on good authority that the beverages in the alternate cover were props as well (hot studio lights + milk = curdled sour moo juice) and that the liquid in the glasses and pitchers was actually...Milk of Magnesia!


My VCR has been acting up over the last few weeks -- the image on the screen occasionally gets fuzzy, the volume sometimes drops to the pitch of a whisper. I’m hoping it will hold out for a while longer (at least until the middle of this week, so I can record the finale of TOP least until the end of December, so I can keep taping all those nice Christmas movies) but I know that I’ll have to replace it eventually. What’s stopping me from buying one now? Well -- the money! But more than that, the whole world of VCRs has changed since I last had to get one. Now the electronics aisle is filled with VCR/DVD combos and DVRs and HD-this and Blu Ray-that and it all confuses me. I mean, I just want something simple that will record Judge Judy while I’m at work.

This got me thinking how everything electronic eventually changes over time.

How much money did I spend converting my LP collection to CDs? ...And now CDs seem to have fallen victim to downloading songs from the computer.

How about all those movies we bought on videotape that later were replaced by DVD versions?

Seems like something new is always coming along -- and it always requires you to buy the same song, movie, or game in a new, improved format.

For many years the sturdy, old-fashioned BOOK escaped this fate.

But it struck me recently that this may be changing in the future.

Right now a lot of books are available for Kindle and other electronic reading devices. But isn’t it just a matter of time till Kindle and the others go through so many upgrades and changes that the 2009 Kindle will be viewed as the electronic equivalent of 1972’s “Pong” game?

So it seems inevitable that there will also come a time when the books you purchased for today’s Kindle will no longer function with the future models -- the same way your VHS videotape of GONE WITH THE WIND can not be played on your brand new DVD player.

It will be a matter of either buying the same book all over again in a different format or just letting the old book fall by the wayside.

I think we know what will happen. And that’s why I continue my loyalty to the sturdy, old BOOK.


Last Sunday’s blog included comments on FOG MAGIC by Julia L. Sauer, so today I thought I’d mention her second title, THE LIGHT AT TERN ROCK, which was published in 1951.

In this brief story, Ronnie and his widowed Aunt Marthy are asked to spend a couple weeks minding the lighthouse at Tern Rock while its current keeper leaves the island to visit family. Byron Flagg assures Aunt Marthy that he will be back in plenty of time for Ronnie to return to the mainland for Christmas. Although Ronnie enjoys the fun and novelty of living in the lighthouse and helping to fire the lamp each evening, he grows increasingly nervous as the holidays draw near and Mr. Flagg still has not returned.

Reading this book as a child, I (like Ronnie) was outraged to discover that it wasn’t bad weather or illness that kept the old man from returning, but instead Mr. Flagg’s calculated plan to trick someone into staying on the island while he enjoyed the holidays with family. Re-reading the book when I was a little older made me realize that Mr. Flagg’s betrayal gives the book its conflict, its edge, and, ultimately, its message of forgiveness. This atmospheric and thoughtful story is the perfect read-aloud for the Christmas season.


A number of well-known children’s Christmas books made their first appearance as stories in adult magazines. This includes A CHRISTMAS TREE FOR LYDIA by Elizabeth Enright, which was originally published in WOMAN’S HOME COMPANION, as well as THE BEST CHRISTMAS PAGEANT EVER by Barbara Robinson, which was first seen in MCCALL’S magazine.

THE LIGHT AT TERN ROCK originally appeared as a short story in the HORN BOOK MAGAZINE. It would later be named a Newbery Honor Book, dispelling the notion that previously-published material is not eligible for that award.


Incidentally, my copy of THE LIGHT AT TERN ROCK is inscribed by Julia Sauer -- who worked as a librarian when she wasn’t writing books -- to one of her library patrons.

I don’t know if it’s clear from the above image, but it looks as though either the inscriber or inscribee went back and added a final “e” in a different colorof ink to the last name “Wolf.”

Can’t say I blame Ms. Sauer for getting it wrong. Children’s books are filled with Woolfs (Tucker; Virginia Euwer) and Wolves (of WILLOUGHBY CHASE; of JULIE AND THE...) and the Big Bad Wolf and Peter and the Wolf and now, with that newish Australian book called WOOLVS IN THE SITEE, well, it’s hard to keep track!

Thanks for visiting Collecting Children’s Books. Hope you’ll be back.


Charles Ghigna said...

Thanks, Peter. I, too, collect children's books, especially poetry anthologies for children. I've posted a list of my favorites and welcome readers' suggestions at the FATHER GOOSE blog

Christine Borne said...

That alternate cover was really funny. The best part was I believed every word of it until I scrolled down to see the picture.

Liz B said...

I love the alternate cover! SLJ is collecting send ups at

One wonders what the cover for Amsterdam has us doing...

And on a different note -- did you ever hear of a story/ rumor/ urban legend about Richard Nixon being one of the passengers in the swanboat in MAKE WAY FOR DUCKLINGS?

P. J. Grath said...

Only today I had a conversation with a woman who was busily converting her entire film library over to DVD. "What will the next medium be?" I asked wickedly. Yes, the BOOK! Portable, requires no batteries or external power source, human-readable, sometimes a handsome object in itself. One of humankind's most successful technological innovations!

Fuse #8 said...

Peter, you are brilliant. And your cover would be the highlight of the SLJ Flickr group.

Monica Edinger said...

I'm not sure my school will approve of me in such a place holding that sort of beverage.

(Just kidding --- the pic is terrific!)

Liz B said...

Correction: SLJ is not collecting covers. Its not an official SLJ thing, just someone who is interested in compiling covers.