Sunday, November 29, 2009

A Sunday Brunch for a Lucky December

Today’s Sunday brunch reveals a back-story for a classic young adult book, supplies some foggy images, and tells how to have good luck for the entire month of December.


Anita Silvey’s latest, EVERYTHING I NEED TO KNOW I LEARNED FROM A CHILDREN’S BOOK, explores the life lessons that famous actors, politicians, athletes, and others acquire from the books they read while growing up. I’ve learned my share of important lessons from kids’ books as well -- but when I looked at the calendar this morning and realized that tomorrow is the last day of the month, I remembered a trivial, but fun activity that I first learned from one of my favorite YA novels, TRYING HARD TO HEAR YOU by Sandra Scoppettone.

In the story, protagonist Camilla Crawford returns home from a date to discover that her younger sister has had a wild party in her absence. The house is a mess, a valuable antique has been broken, and little sister Rachel is dead drunk. The next morning, Camilla tries to rouse her sister, who is moaning in bed (“Let me die...just let me die”) and begging for a Coca Cola. Camilla responds with some hilarious comebacks (“Coke? Heavens no. You need protein...nice, firm, yellow eggies and thick, not too crisp, bacon. Poor little tyke.”) While describing other breakfast treats for the hungover girl (“Nice oatmeal with heavy cream. How does that sound, hmmm?”) Camilla recalls that it’s the first day of July and yanks Rachel out of bed (“Come, darling, let sister help you”) to perform something called “Rabbit, Rabbit.” Camilla describes it for the reader: “Rabbit, Rabbit is a game -- well, not exactly a game, more like a superstitious thing you do on the first of every month. <...> In the morning, on the first, you have to get out of bed at the end, turn around to the right three times, and say ‘Rabbit, Rabbit’ with each turn. Then you’re supposed to have good luck for the whole month.” I had never heard of “Rabbit, Rabbit” before TRYING HARD TO HEAR YOU, but I’ve been intrigued by it ever since reading the book. Unfortunately, in the thirty-five years since this novel was published (thirty-five years = 420 months!) I’ve never once remembered to get up and do “Rabbit, Rabbit” on the first of the month. Sometimes I remember fifteen minutes after I’ve gotten up, while standing in the bathroom brushing my teeth. Sometimes I remember later in day. Sometimes I don’t remember till about the fifth or sixth day of the month that I was supposed to do “Rabbit, Rabbit” way back on the first.

Ah well, where there’s life, there’s hope. And a new month begins on Tuesday morning. Hope I remember to do it this time!


I’ve written many times about my admiration for Sandra Scoppettone’s TRYING HARD TO HEAR YOU. The story is set during the summer of 1973 -- a time I well remember -- and since the characters listened to the same music, wore the same clothes, and used the same slang as me and my friends, they were particularly real to me. When I first read the novel in December 1974, the characters seemed to spring right off the page -- as if they were people I knew. I’ve re-read the book many times since and now, when I open the cover, it’s like visiting old friends from my high school years.

I did not know until recently that the characters were, at least in part, based on real people. Science fiction writer Chuck Rothman has written a fascinating piece about the novel, contending that he was the basis for Camilla’s friend Walt Feinberg; he even includes a chart, noting the parallels between himself and the fictional Walt. Mr Rothman tells about the summer that he and his friends (members of an “anti-clique” that called itself the “Bull Contingent”) participated in a youth production of ANYTHING GOES, just like the characters in Ms. Scoppettone’s novel. Rothman says, “Now, Sandra has said that the characters were all fictional. And there is truth to that, since their actions were nothing like the real thing. She was writing a story, and what people did had to fit into the story and not real people. I understand that.” But he adds: “If you have a program for the play, you can figure out who was who merely by matching the roles in the program.”

I guess very few programs from a three-decade old youth theatre production of ANYTHING GOES are still extant but, fortunately, TRYING HARD TO HEAR YOU is still around and still remains one of my favorites.


Last week’s Sunday Brunch included a list of books about fog. As I was thinking up titles, the very first one that came to mind was FOG MAGIC by Julia L. Sauer. Then, as I put the blog together, that title somehow disappeared from the list without me noticing -- until I started getting notes from people wondering why I hadn’t included FOG MAGIC!

Published in 1943 and named a Newbery Honor Book (or “runner-up,” as they were called in those years) FOG MAGIC is a quiet, atmospheric fantasy about a girl from Nova Scotia who is able to visit the mysterious village of Blue Cove only on foggy days. Author Julia L. Sauer sent her story to Viking with a cover letter stating, “Sooner or later, I suppose that every children’s librarian sends a manuscript, and here is mine. Please will you read it and consider it? For years I have been obsessed by the cellar holes of the abandoned little village near our cabin in Nova Scotia, and by the tales the old people up there tell us. And this year, when we couldn’t get there, I finally got it into tangible form out of sheer homesickness for the place itself and for the fog that is so much part of it.”

Viking knew they had a special story on their hands and the concluding comment on the dustjacket flap (“This is a book which will not easily grow old nor be outworn, but like the people of Blue Cove itself, will live long in a gracious present.”) proved prescient. Some sixty-five years after publication, Ms. Sauer’s little story remains available for young readers -- on Kindle!

As for the author, Julia L. Sauer reminds me of Elizabeth George Speare and Joseph Krumgold, both writers who published just a handful of books for children, yet won multiple honors for their efforts. Ms. Sauer, who was the head children's librarian for the Rochester, New York Public Library, only wrote three books for kids, but two of them -- FOG MAGIC and THE LIGHT AT TERN ROCK -- were named Newbery Honors.


Incidentally, every time I hear the title FOG MAGIC I immediately picture Lynd Ward’s superb dustjacket, shown above. When I took the book down from my shelf today, I flipped through to look at the other illustrations and was shocked to find there are no internal decorations in the book. In fact, Mr. Ward’s name doesn’t even appear inside the book. Only on the dustjacket flap do we learn “Jacket, binding, and endpapers by Lynd Ward.”

Here is the binding:

and here are the endpapers:

I’m still pondering the fact that no illustrations appear inside...even though I have vague memories of them.

What do you think this means?

Were Lynd Ward’s dj, binding and endpapers so evocative that they set the mood for the entire book, making me think he'd contributed many more illustrations to the book?

Or were Julia Sauer’s descriptions of the fog so powerful that they made me conjure up pictures in my mind?


Lynd Ward must have been the go-to guy when publishers needed illustrations featuring fog, islands, ocean sprays, and other moody elements of coastal life. He also illustrated these books by Mabel L. Robinson, both set on Maine islands:

The style of illustrations, plus the turquoise borders of these books, remind me very much of FOG MAGIC.

Incidentally, several years ago I came across a copy of FOG MAGIC that was inscribed by Lynd Ward to his own daughter. It was a real find, but I couldn’t quite afford the $85 price tag. I kept my eye on the book, though, until finally it was sold to someone else. What a missed opportunity.

Or, considering the theme of the book, maybe I should call it a “mist opportunity”?


Lynd Ward, incidentally, won the 1953 Caldecott Medal for THE BIGGEST BEAR, a book that he both illustrated and wrote. This reminds me of a question sent in last week by blog-reader Anamaria:

How often does an illustrator win the Caldecott for a book he or she has also written as opposed to an illustrator winning for a book authored by someone else?

Good question. I checked the archives and discovered that 42 of the 72 Caldecott Awards -- or somewhat more than half -- have gone to books that were written and illustrated by the same creator. I wonder if artists prefer illustrating their own books -- fulfilling their own vision -- or if they like the challenge of trying to bring someone else’s words to life? Is one job more difficult than the other?


I just finished reading KALEIDOSCOPE EYES by Jen Bryant, an involving mystery about three kids trying to track down Captain Kidd’s treasure in modern-day New Jersey. Fans of Blue Balliett will like this book. I enjoyed it too, though I questioned the use of the “novel-in-verse” format; this is one of those books where the text didn’t read like a poem, but rather like a conventional narrative artistically arranged to look like verse through odd line breaks. It was intriguing to read a story set in 1968 -- yet another era I remember; geez, I’m old! -- with its references to Vietnam, Candid Camera, and Janis Joplin. However, I did note one error -- at least I’m assuming it’s an error -- that the copy editors didn’t catch. At one point narrator Lyza gets a dishwashing job at a local diner -- but her hands are so sore and calloused from digging for treasure that she can barely submerge them in hot water. Lyza says:

so to keep myself from
yelling out loud whenever

my hands hit the suds,
I have begun to sing
“Me and Bobby McGee’
while I’m working, and since

blues goddess Janis yells
at least as much as she sings,
no one in the kitchen is
the least bit suspicious.

Well, that quote made me a little suspicious. In fact, it made me go to Wikipedia to check out some dates. Now I’ve composed a response-in-verse for Lyza:

I heard you yelling
“Me and Bobby McGee”
every time you stuck your hands
in that soapy water

You sounded just like Janis
screaming and wailing --
but I’ve just got one
question I hope you can answer:

Janis Joplin didn’t record
”Bobby McGee” till right before she died in 1970
So how did you know this song
way back in ‘68?


“Say ‘Yes’ to Michigan” is the advertising slogan they use for our state, so I thought I’d borrow it now to tell you about an event my favorite local bookstore is having in celebration of Michigan children’s book creators.

Next weekend the Bookbeat of Oak Park, Michigan, is sponsoring two events. On Saturday new talents James Tobin and David Coverly (SUE MACDONALD HAD A BOOK), John Perry (THE BOOK THAT EATS PEOPLE) and Philip Christian Stead (CREAMED TUNA-FISH & PEAS ON TOAST) will be signing their latest picture books. The next day young adult authors Pearl North (LIBYRINTH), Amy Huntley (THE HEREAFTER) and Helen Frost (CROSSING STONES) will appear to read from and sign their books. All these authors currently live in Michigan, except for Helen Frost, whose latest work, CROSSING STONES, is set in rural Michigan.

For more info or to reserve signed copies of any of these books, you can call 248-968-1190 or visit the Bookbeat’s website.

Say “yes” to independent booksellers!


Oh, and finally...


I finished MIDDLEMARCH this weekend.

Well, that only took five months.

Of course I’ve been reading other books in-between chapters of MIDDLEMARCH too, but still...that took a long time.

Can’t say I loved it.

But at least now I can say I’m better read.

As soon as I closed the last page of MIDDLEMARCH I picked up a young adult novel I’ve been anxious to read, THE KNIFE OF NEVER LETTING GO by Patrick Ness, and discovered the epigraph was a quote from...MIDDLEMARCH!

Boy, did that make me feel literate.

And how’s that for a coincidence?

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

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

'Twas the Night Before Thanksgiving

This afternoon I'm leaving work early to do a few Thanksgiving errands -- including stopping at the public library.

That's right: I'll be going directly from one library to another.

Call it a busman's holiday.

I call it Thanksgiving Eve.

Although "Thanksgiving Eve" doesn't have the same glamor as, for example, Christmas Eve or New Year's Eve, I still have a soft spot in my heart for the Wednesday evening before Thanksgiving.

I think it has to do with my childhood. There was a spell of two or three years during which my parents made us go to bed really early on school nights. And by "really early," I mean reeaally in, the sun hadn't quite gone down in, our friends were still coming to the door asking if we could come out and play after we were in bed!

This was not a good situation for a night owl like me.

No wonder I loved Thanksgiving Eve. It was the first Wednesday night since school started that I was allowed to stay up past twilight. We could play outside after dark. We could watch prime-time TV! And when we finally got to bed, I was allowed to stay up reading library books for as long as I wanted. The next day we'd usually go to a relative's house for Thanksgiving dinner, but we must have stayed home a few times, because I can still remember the aroma of holiday food being prepared or kept warm in the oven as it wafted up the stairs those Wednesday nights while I lay in bed reading until I finally dozed off with the light on.

That was when I began my tradition of visiting the library on the day before Thanksgiving, checking out a bunch of books to read that evening and all through the long weekend. I'd get some old favorites ("comfort books") as well some brand new books with fresh mylar covers. Sometimes I'd get so many books that I couldn't read them all. (Some people find their eyes are bigger than their stomachs during Thanksgiving dinner. My eyes are always bigger than my stomach at the library.)

Decades have passed and I still continue that tradition today. That's why I'm leaving work early this afternoon to hit the library. I'll be up late reading tonight. Of course that's no longer a once-a-year event for me. "School nights" are now "work nights," yet I almost never go to bed before two...or three...sometimes even four A.M. Our parents' efforts to instill an "early-to-bed, early-to-rise" mindset on us may have worked on my brother, but somehow it never clicked with this night owl. What I did learn was that staying up reading makes every night feel like Thanksgiving Eve.

And waking up the next morning in a bed full of books makes every day feel like Thanksgiving.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Sunday Brunch for a Foggy Morning

Today’s Sunday Brunch wonders where all the Newbery and Caldecott medals have gone, supplies some surprising stats on the number of male vs. female award winners, and explains why I’m freaked out by books such as FREAKY MONDAY.


I woke up this morning to find fog tucked tight around my bedroom window like a thick gray blanket. I wondered how long it would last and heard a half-familiar phrase run through my mind: “The fog burns off by eleven o’clock.” I wondered if that was an old quote from the Farmer’s Almanac...maybe from the nineteenth century or something. Then I remembered it was the title of a young adult novel from 1985. Staring lazily out the window, I challenged myself to think of ten children’s books with the word “fog” in the title before I got out of bed.

...Five minutes later I jumped out of bed, uttering a very twenty-first century quote: “I don’t have time for this. I’ve got a blog to write. I’ll look it up on Google.”

I found quite a few foggy books on Google. I think the reason fog is such a popular motif in books for young people is that it can make for some beautiful artwork in picture books and can serve as a wonderful metaphor for the confusion of adolescence in young adult novels.

Here are a few:

THE FOG BURNS OFF BY 11 O’CLOCK by Diana Gregory



HIDE AND SEEK FOG by Alvin Tresselt; illustrated by Roger Duvoisin

FOG by Mildred Lee

FOG IN THE MEADOW by Joanne Ryder; illustrated by Gail Owens

FOG by Susi Gregg Fowler; illustrated by Jim Fowler

DEVIL IN THE FOG by Leon Garfield




School Library Journal blogger Fuse #8 recently reported on an upcoming Bloomsbury auction featuring many books by Evaline Ness as well as her 1967 Caldecott Medal for SAM, BANGS & MOONSHINE.

Yes, Ms. Ness’s heir are actually auctioning off the medal itself to the highest bidder.

Talk about a rare collectable!

This got me wondering....

From the first award in 1938 until today, the American Library Association has bestowed 72 Caldecott Medals.

From the first Newbery in 1922 until today, there have been 88 Newbery Medals.

Where are all those medals today?

If the authors or their immediate heirs are still alive, it’s probably safe to assume that those medals are proudly displayed on a shelf or tucked away in a special drawer. ...Of course you know what they say about “assuming.” I would have assumed Beth Henley probably had the Pulitzer Prize certificate she received for her play CRIMES OF THE HEART framed and displayed too, but I read somewhere that she came across it while cleaning out a drawer one day and decided to toss it in the trash.

So...where have all the old Newbery and Caldecott Medals gone? Fuse #8 told me that the New York Public Library owns the 1924 Newbery that Charles Boardman Hawes received for THE DARK FRIGATE. And author Sarah Miller blogged about seeing the 1950 Newbery Medal for THE DOOR IN THE WALL at the Marguerite De Angeli Library in Lapeer, Michigan.

Are additional medals owned and displayed by other libraries? Have some, like the one by Ness, been auctioned off to collectors? Have some been lost?

I’d love to know!


Speaking of Fuse #8 (AKA Elizabeth Bird), she recently mentioned my blog entry about multiple Newbery and Caldecott winners and added, “Now I want Peter to determine whether or not it's true that men win more children's literary awards than women like folks always claim. Facts! I demand facts on the matter!”

You want facts? You got ‘em!

Men do NOT win more children’s literary awards than women. In fact, women have won the Newbery Medal nearly TWICE as often as men.

As of this year, we have 58 female winners...and 30 male winners.

And if you factor in all the Honor Books as well, the disparity actually widens -- with 256 titles written by women...and only 118 by men.

Anyone who studies the Newbery knows that the winners for the first truncated decade (1922-1929) were all men and that the winners for the second decade (1930-1939) were all women.

Since those first two decades, the longest “run” of male winners has been three years. It’s happened twice, from 1987 to 1989 (Sid Fleischman, Russell Freedman, Paul “Sid’s Son” Fleischman) and 1999 to 2001 (Louis Sachar, Christopher Paul Curtis, Richard Peck.)

However, the longest run of female winners was a mind-boggling fourteen years between Jean Craighead George in 1973 and Patricia MacLachlan in 1986! There have also been two seven-year runs of female-only winners, from 1962 (Elizabeth George Speare) to 1967 (E. L. Konigsburg) and from 1992 (Phyllis Reynolds Naylor) to 1998 (Karen Hesse.)

Finally, for kicks, let’s look at the years in which the Newbery and ALL the Honors have gone to only male writers:

It’s happened in 1926...1961...1969...1991...and 1999. And it should be pointed out that in three of those years there was only one Honor Book!

On the distaff side, there have been almost twenty occasions when the winner and ALL the Honors have gone to only female writers:

1930 (winner plus six Honors!), 1932 (winner plus six Honors!), 1933, 1935, 1943, 1944, 1946, 1951, 1956, 1963, 1965, 1970, 1979, 1981, 1982, 1995, 1997, 2002, and 2007.


You’re probably wondering if the same male and female (or, as Sarah Palin is wont to say, “guys and gals”) disparity exists with the Caldecott Award.

Well, believe it or not, it does.

Only in the case of the Caldecott, men tend to win at about TWICE the rate of women!

These figures are a little difficult to, er, figure because there are many cases when m-and-f teams (Leo and Diane Dillon, Maud and Miska Petersham, etc.) were honored together. When that happened, I gave them both a tick mark in the “male” column and the “female” column.

So, as of this year, we have 52 male winners...and only 26 female winners.

Factoring in all the Honor Books as well, we have 204 titles illustrated by men...and only 116 by women.

The longest “run” of female winners has been three years -- and it only happened once: 1983 (Marcia Brown for SHADOW) 1984 (Alice Provensen, who shared the award with husband Martin for THE GLORIOUS FLIGHT) and 1985 (Trina Schart Hyman for SAINT GEORGE AND THE DRAGON.)

However, the longest run of male winners was nine years between Simms Taback in 2000 and Brian Selznick in 2009. There was also a seven-year span of male-only winners, from 1986 (Chris Van Allsburg) to 1992 (David Wiesner.)

Finally, let’s also look at the years in which the Caldecott and ALL the Honors have gone to only female writers:

It’s happened in 1945 and 1983. That’s it.

Conversely, there have been almost fifteen occasions when the winner and ALL the Honors have gone to only male writers:

1958, 1961, 1968, 1969, 1975, 1979, 1986, 1988, 1989, 1995, 1998, 2002, 2003, 2007. Strangely, it seems to be happening more often in the modern era than in the early days of the Caldecott Award!


Well, I guess I always knew that Shel Silverstein, famous for writing children’s books such as THE GIVING TREE and WHERE THE SIDEWALK ENDS, had written the Johnny Cash hit “A Boy Named Sue,” but I just learned that he was also responsible for Loretta Lynn’s 1971 country ode about being barefoot and pregnant, “One’s on the Way.” Do you remember these lyrics:

But here in Topeka the rain is a fallin'
The faucet is a drippin' and the kids are a bawlin'
One of them a toddlin' and one is a crawlin'
...and one's on the way

or the final words to the song:

Here in Topeka the flies are a buzzin'
The dog is a barkin' and the floor needs a scrubbin'
One needs a spankin' and one needs a huggin'
...Lord, one's on the way
(spoken) Oh gee I hope it ain't twins again!

I also just learned that he wrote that hokey Irish Rovers song, “The Unicorn.” Yeah, the one about the green alligators and long-necked geese, humpty-backed camels and some chimpanzees

And did you know he wrote “On the Cover the Rolling Stone”:

Wanna see my picture on the cover
Wanna buy five copies for my mother
Wanna see my smilin' face
On the cover of the Rolling Stone.

Finally, he also wrote a song about venereal disease called “Don't Give a Dose to the One You Love Most.”

I’ve never heard that one on the radio though. Probably just as well.


I’ve been reading about ME AND ORSON WELLES, a film slated for release next week. It’s about an aspiring actor hired to perform in one of Orson Welles’ famous Mercury Theatre productions. I imagine older audiences will be interested in this film because it’s set in 1937 and concerns the legendary Orson Welles. Young audiences will be interested because it stars teen actor Zac Efron. If you fall in the middle of that age spectrum, like me, you might be interested in the movie because it’s based on a novel by Robert Kaplow. Does anyone remember his young-adult novels, or am I the only one? His first book, TWO IN THE CITY, was published in 1979 when the author was only twenty-five years old. It was an unusual book in that protagonists David and Stacey had already graduated high school and -- a somewhat daring move for YA fiction at the time -- and were living together in New York City. This romance features strong characterizations and realistic situations as the young couple face hardships and question whether they are growing apart. When I first read this book in ‘79, I predicted a big future in YA fiction for the author. However, after a couple more books for teens (including ALESSANDRA IN LOVE and ALESSANDRA IN BETWEEN) Kaplow focused on writing for adults. I’m excited that his adult novel ME AND ORSON WELLES is coming to the big screen, but hope that Robert Kaplow, who apparently still works as a high school teacher, will continue writing the occasional young adult book as well.


I’ve been reading FREAKY MONDAY by Mary Rodgers and Heather Hach and I’m depressed.

I’m a huge fan of the original novel FREAKY FRIDAY and its sequel A BILLION FOR BORIS. (I’m not as fond of the third book in this series, SUMMER SWITCH.) The first two books are masterpieces of comedy, and can still make me roar thirty years after they were first published. The plots are inventive, the dialogue is fast and funny, the characters are humorously sympathetic. Mary Rodgers, who wrote the first three books also has her name on the cover of FREAKY MONDAY, but I wonder how much she contributed to this volume besides her name. I don’t see her characteristic humor and style in these pages. Instead, I see a very ordinary, rather glib story that especially suffers when compared to the books that preceded it. When I read a volume like this -- a book that (to me) seems written to capitalize on a pre-existing franchise -- I wonder if it ultimately hurts the reputation and integrity of the author’s original work. I’ve wondered the same thing about the “Little House” books. Laura Ingalls Wilder created a classic with her original series...only to have that work sullied by the endless “sequels” later written by other authors and illustrated “in the style of Garth Williams” by other artists. Surely kids who read both the Wilder originals and the later books can tell the difference, can’t they? Will kids who read FREAKY MONDAY realize that MONDAY isn’t nearly as freaky (or as good!) as FRIDAY? I hope that young readers have the critical abilities to separate the wheat from the chaff. I hate to think that someday they’ll be dismissive or negative towards Mary Rodgers’ or Laura Ingalls Wilder’s original works because they don’t know which ones were real and which were rip-offs...I mean, pale imitations.


Earlier this week I wrote about the five titles that were nominated for the National Book Award in the category of Young People’s Literature. On Wednesday night, CLAUDETTE COLVIN : TWICE TOWARD FREEDOM by Phillip Hoose, was named the winner. This is a solid choice -- and it’s always nice to see nonfiction win an award.

The very next day I returned home from work after a bad day and found a box waiting for me. It contained a copy of CLAUDETTE COLVIN, signed to me by the author:

A friend in New York had attended a book signing earlier that work and gotten a copy signed for me. So...less than twenty-four hours after CLAUDETTE won the NBA, I had a signed copy in my hands!

How cool is that?

Big thanks to the friend who sent me this book.

And, this week of Thanksgiving, a big thank you to everyone who has visited Collecting Children’s Books this past year!

Hope you’ll return.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

The National Book Award Finalists

The National Book Awards will be announced tonight in New York. I learned long ago that there is little point in trying to second-guess these awards, as the least likely titles often come out on top. Last year is a good example. Although I very much liked Judy Blundell's WHAT I SAW AND HOW I LIED and had it ranked second highest in my critique of the top five, very few people expected it to win.

Here are my thoughts on this year's nominees, beginning with what I consider the least successful book and working up to my favorite of the five finalists.

by Rita Garcia-Williams

First edition points: Red paper boards with title embossed on front oover. The dustjacket has a price of $16.99 on the back. The copyright page must contain the statement "First Edition" and the following complete numbering sequence: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10.

Difficulty in finding first editions: The book is already in at least its fourth printing.

The plot is simple: one morning at school, Trina cuts past Dominique and a group of girls gathered in the hallway. Dominique is incensed ("Unh-unh. Can't let her cut into me like that. Through my space. Through me. Can't let that slide.") and plans to jump the oblivous Trina after school. Leticia witnesses the incident and must decide whether to warn Trina in advance. Related alternately in the colorful, mouthy, loud (you can hear the volume coming right off the page) voices of these three characters, JUMPED is in many ways a triumph of first-person narration. Williams-Garcia does a good job revealing three distinct characters -- angry, basketball-playing Dominique, shallow Latisha, and egotistical Trina -- with three distinct voices. But what's missing in their monologues is any sense of introspection or self-awareness. Because, for example, we never see any self-doubt, irony, or questioning behind Trina's constant self-praise, she comes across as insufferable to the reader of the book as she does to Dominique within the story. None of the girls really change over the course of the novel -- the Dominique we see at the end is as angry as the girl we first met; Leticia remains as clueless on the last page as she was on the first. This results in limited, even superficial, characterizations, but does provide a sense of inevitability to the novel's powerful and thought-provoking conclusion.

by Laini Taylor ; illustrated by Jim Di Bartolo
Arthur A. Levine Books

First edition points: Black paper boards with title embossed on front cover. The dustjacket has a price of $17.99 on the front flap. The copyright page must contain the statement "First Edition, October 2009" and the descending number sequence: 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1.

Difficulty in finding first editions: Published last month, first editions should still be in most stores.

If I was working for a magazine and given LIPS TOUCH : THREE TIMES to review, I'd probably hand it back, saying, "I'm not the right reader for this book." I do not have that luxury in writing today's blog, so will just preface my remarks by saying that, with some exceptions, novels of fantasy and magic are Not My Thing. Having said that, this collection of three romantic tales, each centered around a kiss, contains two stories that even I enjoyed. "Goblin Fruit" tells of misfit Kizzy, who finds herself falling for the dangerous new boy at school; "Spicy Little Curses Such as These" concerns Anamique, who is cursed with silence from birth. Both tales of first love feature well-defined settings (modern-day America and Victorian-era India), startling plots, well-drawn characters, and lyrical language reminiscent of Francesca Lia Block. The final story in the collection, "Hatchling," concerns fourteen-year-old Esme, whose mother escaped from the "druj" -- a group of demons who have the ability to "wear humans...for fighting and rutting and dancing and other such things as make mortal blood flow fast." Now the druj are back for Esme. It's a convoluted story that skips back and forth between generations (Esme and her mother Mab) and locations and reminded me of why fantasy is Not My Thing. Although novella-length, "Hatchling" felt rushed and condensed -- and one wonders how it would have fared as a lengthier, stand-alone novel.

by David Small

First edition points: The copyright page must contain the following number sequence: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0. The price on the front flap is $24.95.

Difficulty in finding first editions: Already showing up on some of the "year's best" lists, STITCHES is a hit -- and first editions may become difficult to find over time.

In his memoir, STITCHES, writer-illustrator David Small explores the dark, soul-killing aspects of silence. Growing up in 1950s Detroit, Small lived in a silent, unloving home punctuated by an unspoken current of anger (“Mama had her little cough...once or trice, some quiet sobbing, out of sight...or the slamming of kitchen cupboard doors. That was her language.”) When he was fourteen years old, Small had surgery that resulted in losing his own voice; in typical fashion, his parents never told him he was suffering from cancer until he accidentally uncovered the truth. Their response? “Well, the fact is, you did have cancer...but you didn’t need to know anything then...and you don’t need to know about it now. That’s final!” Small tells his story mainly through illustration, with only a minimum of text. The superb artwork has a cinematic flow, occasionally utilizing metaphor (an analyst is depicted as the White Rabbit from ALICE IN WONDERLAND) and moments of surrealism in an otherwise unflinchingly honest, often horrifying, memoir. STITCHES doesn’t exploit the author’s brutal childhood, nor does it wallow in self-pity; instead, it ultimately tells how a damaged young man recovers his voice, both literally and -- through therapy, leaving home at an early age, and discovering his talent (“Art has given me everything I have wanted or needed since”) -- figuratively. Though nominated for an NBA in the category of "Young People's Literature," STITCHES was originally published for adults and -- since the real growth and change experienced by the protagonist occurs toward the end of the book, after he's grown up -- I actually feel this story is best suited for adult readers rather than young readers -- or, since there are always exceptions -- maybe I should say: most young readers.

by Phillip Hoose
Farrar, Strauss, Giroux

First edition points: Yellow/green spine and brown board paper covers, price of $19.95 on front flap. The copyright page must state "First Edition 2009" and contain the following number sequence: 1 3 5 7 9 10 8 6 4 2.

Difficulty in finding first editions: Still available at many stores.

We all know Rosa Parks, but how many know the story of Claudette Colvin, the Montgomery, Alabama teenager whose refusal to give up her bus seat occurred nearly a year before Mrs. Parks' historic arrest? Charged with violating segregation laws, disturbing the peace, and assaulting a police offer, the young African American woman would later serve as one of four plaintiffs in the Browder v. Gayle Supreme Court decision. Extensive quotes from interviews place Claudette Colvin's personal fight for justice within the context of the broader history of the civil rights movement, while simultanesously introducing other notable figures of the era, including Rosa Parks, Ralph Abernathy, and Dr. Martin Luther King. This oversized volume -- concisely written and illustrated with black-and-white photographs, presents young readers with an empowering portrait of one teenager who made a difference.

by Deborah Heiligman
Henry Holt

First edition points: Black textured spine and beige boards; price of $18.95 on front flap. Yellow/green spine and brown board paper covers, price of $19.95 on front flap. The copyright page must state "First Edition 2009" and contain the following number sequence: 1 3 5 7 9 10 8 6 4 2.

Difficulty in finding first editions: Published very early in the year (despite its 2009 copyright date, some sources say the book was released in late 2008...what does that mean for its Newbery chances?), the book may now be in later printings. But take a look around at your local bookstore.

Of the five National Book Award finalists, this may be my favorite. Not just a biography of Charles Darwin, or a portrait of his happy marriage to Emma Wedgwood, the book explores what happens -- in very personal terms -- when science (Charles) and religion (Emma, a devout Christian) clash. The answer, at least in this case, is compromise and understanding. It's an issue as timely today as it was when Darwin began expressing his then-daring theories of evolution in the mid-nineteenth century. CHARLES AND EMMA is a fine work of scholarship written in accessible prose. It's notable that the subject of Charles and Emma's marriage, like the story of Claudette Colvin above, is getting one of its first tellings within the pages of a book for young readers. There was once a time when nonfiction and biographies for adult readers would beget junior editions for kids. But today many important and original topics are seeing first light in children's books; adult versions of these stories will no doubt turn up eventually...but right now childrens' books are where it's at!

Monday, November 16, 2009

Brunching by Moonlight

I’ve been busy working on another Sunday Brunch is a little late today. In fact, it’s being served by moonlight. Today’s entry counts Caldecotts, reviews a new book, and reports on the shunning of Pooh’s friend Piglet.


Ever since H1N1 hit the scene, a number of cartoons utilizing children’s book characters have hit the web. There’s this take-off on A.A. Milne:

as well as this one:

What’s next -- a cartoon of Wilbur in his pen with the web above him spelling out, “Get Your Flu Shot”?


Did you hear about Willow? This twelve-year-old mixed-breed has been in the news recently demonstrating her uncanny ability to “read.” When her trainer holds up a sign that says “BANG,” Willow plays dead. “SIT UP”causes her to rise up on her haunches and beg. Many experts question whether Willow can actually read words. Some say she reacts to the general shape of the words on the page, or takes cues from her trainer’s body language. What impressed me the most was this picture of Willow with a stack of books.

There’s no denying, Willow has good taste in books. If you squint your eyes and get very close to the computer screen, you may recognize most of the volumes as canine-related children’s books. I can’t quite see them all, but I can make out GO, DOG, GO by P.D. Eastman, BECAUSE OF WINN-DIXIE by Kate DiCamillo, HOTEL FOR DOGS by Lois Duncan, and GOOD DOG CARL by Alexandra Day.


Last Sunday I created a list of all the multiple Newbery winners. This week I thought I’d do the same for the Caldecotts. Last week’s list showed that no author had won a total of more than five Newbery Medals and Honor Books. Things are very different in the Land of Caldecott, where we’ve got a six-time honoree, an eight-time honoree and even someone with a combined total of NINE Caldecott Awards and Honor Books. Can you guess who that person is? Hint: it’s not Sendak.


Adrienne Adams had two Caldecott Honors: HOUSES FROM THE SEA (1960) and THE DAY WE SAW THE SUN COME UP (1962.)

Ludwig Bemelmans won in 1954 for MADELINE’S RESCUE and had an Honor Book in 1940 for the original MADELINE.

Virginia Lee Burton had one Caldecott winner (THE LITTLE HOUSE, 1943) and one Honor Book (SONG OF ROBIN HOOD, 1948.)

Jean Charlot had two Honor Books: WHEN WILL THE WORLD BE MINE (1954) and A CHILD’S GOODNIGHT BOOk (1944.)

Bryan Collier has had two Honors, in 2002 for MARTIN’S BIG WORDS and in 200^ for ROSA.

Barbara Cooney won two Caldecott golds -- for CHANTICLEER AND THE FOX (1960) and THE OX-CART MAN (1980.)

Donald Crews received a Caldecott Honor for FREIGHT TRAIN (1979) and another for TRUCK (1981.)

James Daugherty had two Honors: ANDY AND THE LION in 1939 and GILLESPIE AND THE GUARDS (1956.)

Marguerite De Angeli had a pair of Caldecott Honors: YONIE WONDERNOSE (1945) and BOOK OF NURSERY AND MOTHER GOOSE RHYMES (1955.)

Leo and Diane Dillion struck Caldecott gold two years in a row with WHY MOSQUITOES BUZZ IN PEOPLE’S EARS (1976) and ASHANTI TO ZULU (1977.)

William Pene Du Bois received Honors for BEAR PARTY (1952) and LION (1957.)

Roger Duvoisin won the 1948 Caldecott with WHITE SNOW, BRIGHT SNOW and had a 1966 Honor with HIDE AND SEEK FOG.Ed Emberley has had one winner (DRUMMER HOFF, 1968) and one Honor (ONE WIDE RIVER TO CROSS (1967.)

Tom Feelings won Honors for MOJA MEANS ONE (1972) and JAMBO MEANS HELLO (1975.)

Wanda Gag (who had two Newbery Honor) also received two Caldecott Honors: SNOW WHITE AND THE SEVEN DWARVES (1939) and NOTHING AT ALL (1942.)

Paul Galdone’s illustrations for the Anatole stories were recognized in 1957 (ANATOLE) and 1958 (ANATOLE AND THE CAT.)

Margaret Bloy Graham had back-to-back Honors with ALL FALLING DOWN (1952) and THE STORM BOOK (1953.)

Kevin Henkes won for KITTEN’S FIRST FULL MOON (2005) and had an Honor with OWEN (1994.)

Elizabeth Orton Jones won for PRAYER FOR A CHILD (1945) and had an Honor Book, SMALL RAIN, the previous year.

Ezra Jack Keats won in 1963 for THE SNOWY DAY and had an Honor in 1968 for GOGGLES.

Nicholas Mordvinoff won for FINDERS KEEPERS (1952) and had an Honor with THE TWO REDS (1951.)

Kadir Nelson has won two Honors: MOSES (2007) and HENRY’S FREEDOM BOX (2008.)

Maud and Miska Petersham received the 1946 for THE ROOSTER CROWS and had a 1942 Honor Book with AN AMERICAN ABC.

Brian Pinkney has won two Honors: A FAITHFUL FRIEND (1996) and DUKE ELLINGTON (1999.)

Marjorie Priceman had two Honors: ZIN! ZIN! ZIN! A VIOLIN in 1996 and HOT AIR in 2006.

Alice and Martin Provensen won with 1984’s THE GLORIOUS FLIGHT and had an Honor for A VISIT TO WILLIAM BLAKE’S INN (1982.)

Chris Raschka won in 2006 for THE HELLO, GOODBYE WINDOW and had a 1994 Honor with YO? YES!

Eric Rohmann won for MY FRIEND RABBIT (2003) and had a 1995 Honor with TIME FLIES.

Allen Say won the 1994 Caldecott for GRANDFATHER’S JOURNEY and had a 1989 HONOR with BOY OF THE THREE-YEAR NAP.

Brian Selznick won for THE INVENTION OF HUGO CABRET (2008) and Honored with THE DINOSAURS OF WASTERHOUSE HAWKINS (2002.)

David Small won for SO YOU WANT TO BE PRESIDENT (2001) and Honored with THE GARDENER (1998.)

Peter Spier won in 1978 for NOAH’s ARK and had a 1962 Honor Book, FOX WENT OUT ON A CHILLY NIGHT.

William Steig won in 1970 (SYLVESTER AND THE MAGIC PEBBLE) and had a 1977 Honor (THE AMAZING BONE.)

John Steptoe had a pair of Honors with THE STORY OF JUMPING MOUSE (1985) and MUFARO’S BEAUTIFUL DAUGHTERS (1988.)

Helen Stone had two Caldecott Honors -- ALL AROUND THE TOWN (1949) and THE MOST WONDERFUL DOLL IN THE WORLD (1951.)

Simms Taback won for JOSEPH HAD A LITTLE OVERCOAT (2000) and Honored with THERE WAS AN OLD LADY WHO SWALLOWED A FLY (1998.)

Marjorie Torrey had an Honor Book two years in a row: SING MOTHER GOOSE (1946) and SING IN PRAISE (1947.)

Tasha Tudor had two Caldecott Honors: MOTHER GOOSE (1945) and 1 IS ONE (1957.)

Lynd Ward won in 1953 with THE BIGGEST BEAR and had an Honor in 1950 with AMERICA’S ETHAN ALLEN.

Kurt Wiese had two Caldecott Honors: YOU CAN WRITE CHINESE (1946) and FISH IN THE AIR (1949.)

Vera B. Williams scored a pair of Honor Books with A CHAIR FOR MY MOTHER (1983) and “MORE, MORE, MORE,” SAID THE BABY (1991.)

Hildegard Woodward had Honors in 1948 (ROGER AND THE FOX) and 1950 (THE WILD BIRTHDAY CAKE.


Molly Bang has a trio of Caldecott Honors: TH GREY LADY AND THE STRAWBERRY SNATCHER (1981), TEN, NINE, EIGHT (1984), and WHEN SOPHIE GETS ANGRY -- REALLY REALLY ANGRY (2000.)

Stephen Gammell won in 1989 for SONG AND DANCE MAN and had two Honors, WHERE THE BUFFALO BEGAN (1982) and THE RELATIVES CAME (1986.)

Berta and Elmer Hader received the 1949 Caldecott for THE BIG SNOW and also had two Honors: COCK-A-DOODLE-DO (1940) and THE MIGHTY HUNTER (1943.)

Nonny Hogrogian won twice (ALWAYS ROOM FOR ONE MORE, 1966; ONE FINE DAY, 1972) and had one Honor (THE CONTEST, 1977.)

Robert Lawson had one winner (THEY WERE STRONG AND GOOD, 1941) and two Honors: FOUR AND TWENTY BLACKBIRDS (1938) and WEE GILLIS (1939.)

Arnold Lobel won for FABLES (1971) and had Honors with FROG AND TOAD ARE FRIENDS (1971) and HILIDID’S NIGHT (1972.)

David Macaulay won for BLACK AND WHITE (1991) and received Honors for CATHEDRAL (1974) and CASTLE (1978.)

Gerald McDermott won in the 1975 for ARROW TO THE SUN and has had two Honor Books, ANANSI THE SPIDER, 1973, and RAVEN, 1994.

Peter Parnall received three Honors for THE DESERT IS THEIRS (1976), HAWK, I’M YOUR BROTHER (1977), and THE WAY TO START A DAY (1978.)

Leo Politi won in 1950 for SONG OF THE SWALLOWS and had two Honors: PEDRO, THE ANGEL OF OLVERA STREET (1947) and JUANITA (1949.)

Dr. Seuss was a three time Honoree with MCELLIGOT’S POOL (1948), BARTHOLEMEW AND THE OOBLECK (1950), IF I RAN THE ZOO (1951.)

Marc Simont had one winner (A TREE IS NICE, 1957) and two Honors (THE HAPPY DAY, 1950) and THE STRAY DOG (2002.)

Peter Sis has a trio of Honor Books: STARRY MESSENGER (1997), TIBET THROUGH THE RED BOX (1999) and THE WALL (2008.)

Chris Van Allsburg has two Caldecott winners (JUMANJI, 1982; THE POLAR EXPRESS, 1986) and one Honor (THE GARDEN OF ABDUL GASAZI, 1980.)

Leonard Weisgard won in 1947 for THE LITTLE ISLAND and also had an Honor Book that year with RAIN DROP SPLASH. In 1946 he illustrated the Honor LITTLE LOST LAMB.

Mo Williems has three Honors: DON’T LET THE PIGEON DRIVE THE BUS (2004), KNUFFLE BUNNY (2005), and KNUFFLE BUNNY TOO (2008.)

Taro Yashima received three Caldecott Honors: CROW BOY (1956), UMBRELLA (1959), and SEASHORE STORY (1968.)

Ed Young won for LON PO PO (1990) and had two Honors, THE EMPEROR AND THE KITE (1968) and SEVEN BLIND MICE (1993.)

Margot Zemach won the 1974 Medal for DUFFY AND THE DEVIL and had Honors in 1970 for THE JUDGE and in 1978 for IT COULD ALWAYS BE WORSE.

Four Times Fortunate

Trina Schart Hyman had a quartet of prizes with winner ST. GEORGE AND THE DRAGON (1985) and Honor Books LITTLE RED RIDING HOOD (1984), HERSHEL AND THE HANUKKAH GOBLINS (1990), and A CHILD’S CALENDAR (1998.)

Blair Lent was recognized for his winner THE FUNNY LITTLE WOMAN (1973) and three Honors: THE WAVE (1965), WHY THE SUN AND THE MOON LIVE IN THE SKY (1969), and THE ANGRY MOON (1972.)

Leo Lionni had four Honor Books: INCH BY INCH (1961), SWIMMY (1964), FREDERICK (1968), and ALEXANDER AND THE WIND-UP MOUSE (1970.)

Evaline Ness won the 1967 Medal for SAM, BANGS & MOONSHINE and had three more Honors: ALL IN THE MORNING EARLY (1964), A POCKET FULL OF CRICKET (1965), and TOM TIT TOT (1966.)

Clare Turley Newberry had four Honor Books: BARKIS (1939), APRIL’S KITTENS (1941), MARSHMALLOW (1943), and T-BONE AND THE BABYSITTER (1951.)

Uri Shulevitz won the 1969 Caldecott for THE FOOL OF THE WORLD AND THE FLYING SHIP and also had three subsequent Honors. They are THE TREASUR (1980), SNOW (1999) and HOW I LEARNED GEOGRAPHY (2009.)

Paul O. Zelinsky won for RAPUNZEL (1998) and had three Honor Books: HANSEL AND GRETEL (1985), RUMPLESTILSKIN (1987) and SWAMP ANGEL (1995.)

Five Timers

In additon to his two Caldecott Medals (MAKE WAY FOR DUCKLINGS, 1942; TIME OF WONDER, 1958), Robert McClosky racked up three more Honor Books: BLUEBERRIES FOR SAL (1949), ONE MORNING IN MAINE (1953) and JOURNEY CAKE, HO! (1954.)

Jerry Pinkney has had five Honor Books so far: MIRANDY AND BROTHER WIND (1989), THE TALKING EGGS (1990), JOHN HENRY (1995), THE UGLY DUCKLING (2000), and NOAH’S ARK (2003.)

David Wiesner has had three winners (TUESDAY, 1992; THE THREE PIGS, 2002; FLOTSAM , 2007) and two Honors, FREE FALL (1989) and SECTOR SEVEN (2000.)

Six Times Successful

Marie Hall Ets was recognized six times, with winner NINE DAYS TO CHRISTMAS (1960) and Honor Books IN THE FOREST (1945), MR. T.W. ANTHONY WOO (1952), PLAY WITH ME (1956), MR. PENNY’S HORSE RACE (1957), and JUST ME (1966.)

The Eight Timer!

Maurice Sendak won the 1964 Caldecott for WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE and had an amazing seven Honor Book titles: A VERY SPECIAL HOUSE (1954), WHAT DO YOU SAY, DEAR (1959), THE MOON JUMPERS (1960), LITTLE BEAR’S VISIT (1962), MR. RABBIT AND THE LOVELY PRESENT (1963), IN THE NIGHT KITCHEN (1971), and OUTSIDE OVER THERE (1982.)

The Nine Timer!!!!!!!!!

The illustrator with the most Caldecott commendations of all is Marcia Brown, who won three gold medals (CINDERELLA, 1955; ONCE A MOUSE,1962; SHADOW, 1983) plus a whopping six silver medals for STONE SOUP (1948), HENRY FISHERMAN (1950), DICK WHITTINGTON AND HIS CAT (1951), SKIPPER JOHN’S COOK (1952), PUSS IN BOOTS (1953), and THE STEADFAST TIN SOLDIER (1954.)


Considering how many people were honored multiple times, I was curious to see which illustrators received the Caldecott just once and never received any other recognition from the committee -- no winners or Honors -- for the rest of their career. They are:

1938 / Dorothy P. Lathrop / ANIMALS OF THE BIBLE
1939 / Thomas Handforth / MEI LI
1940 / Ingri and Edgar Parin d’Aulaire / ABRAHAM LINCOLN
1944 / Louis Slobodkin / MANY MOONS
1951 / Katherine Milhous / THE EGG TREE
1956 / Feodor Rojankovsky / FROG WENT A’COURTIN’
1961 / Nicholas Sidjakov / BABOUSHKA AND THE THREE KINGS
1965 / Beni Montresor / MAY I BRING A FRIEND?
1971 / Gail E. Haley / A STORY, A STORY
1987 / Richard Egielski / HEY, AL
1988 / John Schoenherr / OWL MOON
1993 / Emily Arnold McCully / MIRETTE ON THE HIGH WIRE
1995 / David Diaz / SMOKY NIGHT
1996 / Peggy Rathmann / OFFICER BUCKLE AND GLORIA
1997 / David Wisniewski / GOLEM
1999 / Mary Azarian / SNOWFLAKE BENTLEY
2009 / Beth Krommes / THE HOUSE IN THE NIGHT, 19 out of 71 total winners-- or well less than a third -- have gone to illustrators who never before or since received any Caldecott recognition.


Maybe you’ve never been the bully. Maybe you’ve never been the victim. But at some point, nearly everyone has been the bystander -- the individual who witnesses a bully’s attack and does nothing about it. Eric Hayes is new to Long Island when he meets Griffin, the reigning bully of Bellport Central Middle School. Initially, Eric is “drawn to Griffin, the way a caveman might be drawn to fire.” Hanging around the edges of Griff’s clique, Eric silently, even smilingly, watches his new friend’s Eddie Haskell act around grown-ups as well as his continual harrassment of a fellow student. When Eric eventually speaks up about the bullying, he suddenly becomes Griffin’s new prey. James Preller has written a fast-moving, accessible story about an everyday kid confronting a satisfyingly-complex villian. Occasionally the story seems overly purposeful -- especially when an entire class period (and and entire chapter) is spent explaining the issue of bullying (“Mr. Floyd said there were four types of bullying: verbal, physical, intimidation, and indirect bullying.”) And some of Eric’s insights are too adult (and too pop-psych) to be believable, as when he realizes that his mentally ill father is “like two men, the good guy and the sick one. For Eric to ever live a full life he would have to love both men.” The story is at its best when it sticks to Eric’s seventh-grade perspective, complete with artlessly perfect metaphors (“A long row of yellow school buses, like a line of enormous Twinkies, idled along the right side of the parking lot.”), a sense of emotional immediacy, and a realistically triumphant ending.


In the book collecting world, people are always concerned about condition. Wear, nicks, and chips on dustjackets are always noted and, if bad enough, are sometimes a “deal breaker” when it comes to selling a book. I am not excessively picky about such things myself -- especially when a book is over forty or fifty years old. Nothing gets that old (and I count myself among that category) without a few battle scars. But what do you say about a book that’s only a week old and looks like it’s already been through a war? I’m talking about the aforementioned BYSTANDER. I just bought the book a week ago and only read it once -- and I was certainly careful with the volume. Yet look at the folds on the dustjacket:

I’m not sure if the photograph captures it very well, but both the folds on the fore-edge of the book are so cracked that the color has flecked off from top to bottom. In fact, the edges are now so rough and worn that it wouldn’t take much for the front and back flaps of the dustjacket to tear off and completely separate from the book. I’ve never seen something like this happen to a brand new book that’s only been read once. Did the publisher use subpar paper? Is the dustjacket coated with some kind of inferior paper treatment? Did I just get a bum copy? Whatever the case, it’s worth noting for future reference. If you purchase a copy for your home or library, you might want to slip a mylar cover over the jacket before reading.

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

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Finders Keepers?

I knew it would happen.

It was practically inevitable.

Nearly two years ago, I began writing this blog with the philosophy that every book has at least three stories:

* One is the story you read between the covers of that book.

* Another is the story of how and why the book came to be written by its author.

* The third story is the history of the particular volume that you have in your hands.

If you collect old books you're aware that each one was previously owned and presumably loved by someone else. I enjoy looking at the faded inscriptions inside and speculating on the individual journeys these books have made over the years. How did a book purchased in Oregon in 1909 end up on my bookshelf in 2009? Why does a book inscribed "with all my love from your husband" end up in a used bookstore discount bin three years later? Over the last couple years I've shared some of these individual "book histories" in my blog, often including scans of original signatures or background information on the books' prior owners. All along, I've wondered if anyone would ever spot a book that used to belong to them or to a member of their family.

Well, it finally happened.

The book was A BIRTHDAY GARLAND, a title I blogged about last summer. In that posting, I wrote:

The reason I purchased this book is because it was presented as a gift to those who attended the 1950 Newbery-Caldecott Banquet -- the year Marguerite de Angeli won the Newbery for THE DOOR IN THE WALL and Leo Politi got the Caldecott for SONG OF THE SWALLOWS.

There is a note attached to the illustrated endpapers (which feature a tree weathering the four seasons) that says: THIS KEEPSAKE / OF THE NEWBERY-CALDECOTT DINNER / HELD IN CLEVELAND, OHIO, ON JULY 18, 1950 / IS GIVEN BY THE THOMAS Y. CROWELL COMPANY / TO CELEBRATE THE FIFTIETH BIRTHDAY OF / THE CHILDREN'S LIBRARY ASSOCIATION.

A pocket-sized volume, A BIRTHDAY GARLAND contains verses and proverbs (compiled by Elinor Parker) for each day of the year, along with tiny color illustrations by "Primrose," an artist who apparently didn't need a last name. There were also blank spaces, where the owner could jot down the birthdays of family and friends. In my original posting, I wrote, "The book's previous owner made good use of these blank lines, adding birthdays on many of the pages. The oldest person listed is Perley E. Jeffery, who was born December 17, 1878. The youngest is Peter Jeffery, born January 5, 1960 -- showing that the owner was still using this volume ten years after receiving it at ALA."

I've often wondered about the person who first owned my copy of A BIRTHDAY GARLAND. Was she (I assumed it was a "she") a children's librarian? Who were all the people whose birthdays were carefully listed on the pages? Since several of the entries had the last name of Jeffery -- from Perley in 1878 to Peter in 1960 -- could I assume the owner's name was Jeffery as well? All I really knew for sure was that the previous owner had used this book for many years and had obviously treasured it, as it was still in very good condition nearly six decades after it was published.

Of course this was all speculation and I never expected to have any answers.

Then last week I received this e-mail:

Dear Peter - I am another Peter - the Peter whose birthday is inscribed in your copy of the Birthday Garland Book. It was quite a thrill to come across your website when I was researching my geneology - quite unexpected.

My Grandmother was a children's and research librarian, and I suppose she attended the meeting and was presented the book as a memento.

I wonder if you might consider selling or trading the book - I don't have very many of my Grandmother's possessions, and certainly not anything like this, with my name inscribed along with other family members.

My Grandmother instilled in me a love of books and chose many wonderful ones for me before children's books became an industry unto itself. I grew up on Narnia, Swallows and Amazons, the Children and It, and many other wonderful English and American stories.

I hope you enjoy the Birthday Garland Book, and will consider parting with it at some time in the future.

My best, Peter Jeffery

...How cool is that?

The only problem, as you can see, is:

That Peter wants this Peter's copy of the book!

I've always wondered what would happen if someone saw one of their own books, or a family member's book, written up on my blog...and then wanted it back? Of course, the book belongs to me by law. I paid for it, I own it. In most instances it would be an open-and-shut case. But what makes this story a little different is that it belonged to somone's grandmother! A little old lady who lovingly inscribed her new grandson's name into the book when he was born on January 5, 1960. (Sigh.) A grandmother who introduced her little grandson to Narnia and Swallows and Amazons. (Another sigh.)

How can one say "no" in this situation?

I haven't officially made up my mind yet, but here's what I'm thinking: This Peter originally wanted the book because it's a keepsake of the Newbery-Caldecott dinner. That Peter wants the book because it's a keepsake of his grandmother. Part of me thinks he should have this book because he has a personal kinship to it; after all, his name was written in it nearly fifty years ago. On the other hand, I do still want a copy of A BIRTHDAY GARLAND commemorating the 1950 Newbery-Caldecott dinner. So I'm going to scout around and see if I can find a reasonably-priced copy of the ALA edition (with the Newbery mention on the attached note.) If I do, I'll buy that copy for myself and sell Peter his grandmother's copy for the exact same price.

I think that sounds fair.

Peter will end up with his "family" copy of the book and I'll have a different copy, possibly filled in with birthdays from an entirely different family to speculate about. And even if the copy I find is pristine with no scrawled birthdays inside, it will still have its own special story:

"A BIRTHDAY GARLAND? Oh yeah, there's a tale behind this one. See, I once had a copy of this book in my collection that was filled with inked-in birthdays. Family named Jeffery. There were birthdates in there from, like, 1878 to 1960. So one day I blogged about it and then, a year later, I get an e-mail from this guy named Peter Jeffery and, you won't believe this, but HIS NAME was written in the book! Yeah, really, his grandmother wrote it there! And he said--"

Another book, another story.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Sunday Brunch, Punctuated by Gasps

Today’s Sunday brunch contains a Newbery mystery, a book ID request, and one of those long lists that everyone will probably scroll right past.


It’s not often that a blog makes me gasp outloud.

But it happened yesterday when I read Fuse #8’s tribute to the recently deceased author Esther Hautzig. Born in Poland, but deported to Siberia with her family as a young girl, Ms. Hautzig eventually came to the United States, where she worked in publishing and became a professional writer. She wrote a number of well-received books, but is best known for her autobiographical work THE ENDLESS STEPPE, which related her childhood experiences in Siberia.

This moving work was nominated for the National Book Award, was named a Boston Globe-Horn Book Honor Book, received a Lewis Carroll Shelf Award and a Jane Addams Book Award, and was selected as a New York Times Outstanding Book of the Year. ...It won everything but the Newbery.

Or did it?

In her memorial, Fuse #8 links to a blog entry by M.B. Goffstein, in which Ms. Goffstein discusses her friendship with Esther Hautzig:

Ezra Jack Keats had told me a terrible secret: Esther's book The Endless Steppe won the 1969 Newbery Award.

The committee chair called her editor, Elizabeth Riley.

Miss Riley said Esther didn't write it.


Did Esther Hautzig’s own editor sabotage her chances of winning the Newbery? And why? You see, Ms. Hautzig didn’t just publish her book with Elizabeth Riley at Crowell publishing...she also worked for Miss Riley at Crowell publishing. What would motivate Ms. Riley to make this claim about THE ENDLESS STEPPE? Surely she knew that Esther Hautzig had written the book herself. Was Riley being petulant? Dishonest? What’s the story behind this story?

Putting on my Encyclopedia Brown hat, I contacted Elizabeth Bird (AKA Fuse #8)...who put me in touch with M.B. Goffstein’s husband...who then suggested I write to his wife.

Today I heard back from Ms. Goffstein. She said that after posting her Esther Hautzig memorial, she'd received an e-mail from a highly-regarded children’s book editor. This editor said that it was not a case of THE ENDLESS STEPPE actually “winning” the Newbery and the award then being revoked before the public announcement; instead Ms. Riley had sabotaged the book before it could be selected...perhaps out of jealousy that one of her employees at Crowell was about to receive this high honor.


Is there anyone out there with additional information on this incident? Or info on any other Newbery mysteries? (I keep hearing about an author who was told he’d won the award on Sunday night...and then his book wasn’t listed when the winners were announced on Monday morning.) I’d very much like to hear any of these stories. You can write me at Encyclopdiabro--...I mean, Anonymity guaranteed.


In addition to leaving us with a number of fine books (including A GIFT FOR MAMA, RICHES, and several others), Esther Hautzig also left a living legacy -- her daughter Deborah Hautzig, whose two hard-hitting young adult novels, HEY DOLLFACE! and SECOND STAR TO THE RIGHT (one of the first teen novel to tackle the subject of anorexia) are still read and loved by young readers.


When I wrote to Ms. Goffstein, I told her how much I enjoy her picture books, but added that I love her novels best of all. THE UNDERSIDE OF THE LEAF (1972) and DAISY SUMMERFIELD’S STYLE (1975) are both sensitive and perceptive character studies. The latter -- a kind of “portrait of an artist as a young woman” -- will appeal to anyone who has a creative spirit, whether their interest lies in art, writing, music, or some other pursuit.

These books deserve to be back in print!

Imagine my surprise when Ms. Goffstein wrote to say that Daisy Summerfield’s story is continued in a set of novels on her website which are free to download.

I could hardly believe that there were more stories about Daisy to click away on the internet.

In fact, I gasped for the second time in two days.

I’m just sad that some publisher hasn’t bought these books and put them out in hardcover.

But I can’t wait to download them and read ‘em!


These Sunday Brunch blogs have a reputation for containing big long lists of ephemera. Though a couple regular readers have told me they usually “scroll right past them,” I’ve noticed that people doing research on children’s book topics often visit the blog to consult these lists. Today’s list highlights authors who have been recognized more than once by the Newbery committee.

Quite a few people have been noticed at last twice, but can you name the six authors whose titles have been honored four times?

And can you name the two authors who have been regognized five times? Here is a hint: one of them remains one of the biggest names in children’s books even today; this person has five Newbery Honors. The other author is no longer very popular, despite having won received Newbery Medal and four Honor Books.

Did you guess right? Scroll down for the answers


Julia Davis Adams had two Honor books in two consecutive years: VAINO (1930), MOUNTAINS ARE FREE (1931.)

Lloyd Alexander won once (THE HIGH KING, 1969) and Honored once (THE BLACK CAULDRON, 1966.)

Claire Huchet Bishop had two Honors: PANCAKES-PARIS (1948) and ALL ALONE (1954.)

Bruce Brooks has had two Honors (THE MOVES MAKE THE MAN, 1985) and WHAT HEARTS, 1993.)

Susan Cooper had one winner (THE GREY KING, 1976) and one Honor (THE DARK IS RISING, 1974.)

Sharon Creech has had one winner (WALK TWO MOONS,1995) and one Honor (THE WANDERER, 2001.)

Karen Cushman won for THE MIDWIFE’S APPRENTICE (1996) and Honored with CATHERINE, CALLED BIRDY (1995.)

Marguerite DeAngeli had one winner (THE DOOR IN THE WALL, 1950) and one Honor (BLACK FOX OF LORNE, 1957.)

Kate DiCamillo has had one winner (THE TALE OF DESPEREAUX, 2004) and one Honor (BECAUSE OF WINN-DIXIE, 2001.)

Elizabeth Enright had one winner (THIMBLE SUMMER, 1939) and one Honor (GONE-AWAY LAKE, 1958.)

Rachel Field was recognized twice with HITTY (1930 winner) and CALICO BUSH (1932 Honor.)

Paul Fleischman has had one winner (JOYFUL NOISE, 1989) and one Honor (GRAVEN IMAGES, 1983.)

Paula Fox won once (THE SLAVE DANCER, 1974) and Honored once (ONE-EYED CAT, 1985.)

Wanda Gag had two Newbery Honors (MILLIONS OF CATS, 1929) and ABC BUNNY (1934.)

Jean Craighead George had one winner (JULIE OF THE WOLVES, 1973) and one Honor, MY SIDE OF THE MOUNTAIN, 1960.)

Patricia Reilly Giff has had two Honors: LILY’S CROSSING (1998) and PICTURES OF HOLLIS WOODS (2003.)

Charles Hawes won for THE DARK FRIGATE (1924) and had a 1922 Honor Book, THE GREAT QUEST.

Holling C. Holling received two Newbery Honors for SEABIRD (1949) and MINN OF THE MISSISSIPPI (1952.)

Jennifer L. Holm has had a pair of Honors: OUR ONLY MAY AMELIA (2000) and PENNY FROM HEAVEN (2007.)

Irene Hunt’s Honor Book (Across Five Aprils, 1965) was soon followed by a winner (UP A ROAD SLOWLY. 1967.)

Mabel Leigh Hunt won Newbery Honors for HAVE YOU SEEN TOM THUMB? (1943) and BETTER KNOWN AS JOHNNY APPLESEED (1951.)

Gerald W. Johnson had two Honors with AMERICA IS BORN (1960) and AMERICA MOVES FORWARD (1961.)

Joseph Krumgold -- two Newbery winners (...AND NOW MIGUEL, 1954, and ONION JOHN (1960.)

Robert Lawson won for RABBIT HILL (1945) and had a posthumous Honor with THE GREAT WHEEL in 1958.

Madeleine L’Engle had a winner (A WRINKLE IN TIME, 1963) and an Honor (A RING OF ENDLESS LIGHT, 1981.)

Lois Lowry has had two winners: NUMBER THE STARS in 1990 and THE GIVER in 1994.

Robin McKinley has had one winner (THE HERO AND THE CROWN, 1985) and one Honor (THE BLUE SWORD, 1982.)

Jim Murphy has had two Honors: THE GREAT FIRE (1996) and AN AMERICAN PLAGUE (2004.)

Walter Dean Myers has had two Honor Books: SCORPIONS (1989) and SOMEWHERE IN THE DARKNESS (1993.)

Richard Peck has had one winner (A YEAR DOWN YONDER, 2001) and one Honor (A LONG WAY FROM CHICAGO, 1999.)

Ellen Raskin had a winner (THE WESTING GAME, 1979) and an Honor FIGGS & PHANTOMS, 1975.)

Mabel Robinson had two Newbery Honors -- one for fiction (BRIGHT ISLAND, 1938) and one nonfiction (RUNNER OF THE MOUNTAIN TOPS, 1940.)

Constance Rourke had a pair of Newbery Honors: DAVY CROCKETT (1935) and AUDUBON (1937.)

Cynthia Rylant has had one winner, MISSING MAY (1993) and one Honor, A FINE WHITE DUST (1987.)

Julia Sauer had two Newbery Honors -- FOG MAGIC (1944) and THE LIGHT AT TERN ROCK (1952.)

Gary D. Schmidt has had two Honors: LIZZIE BRIGHT AND THE BUCKMINSTER BOY (2005) and THE WEDNESDAY WARS (2008.)

Katherine Shippen’s two Honors are NEW FOUND WORLD (1946) and MEN, MICROSCOPES AND LIVING THINGS (1956.)

Armstrong Sperry had one Newbery winner (CALL IT COURAGE, 1941) and one Honor (ALL SET SAIL, 1937.)

Jerry Spinelli: one win (MANIAC MAGEE, 1991), one Honor (WRINGER, 1998.)

William Steig had a pair of Newbery Honors: ABEL’S ISLAND (1977) and DR. DE SOTO (1983.)

Mary Stolz had two Honors: BELLING THE TIGER (1962) and THE NOONDAY FRIENDS (1966.)

Hildegarde Swift’s two Newbery Honors were LITTLE BLACKNOSE (1930) and RAILROAD TO FREEDOM (1933.)

Carolyn Snedeker won two Newbery Honors: DOWNRIGHT DENCEY (1928) and THE FORGOTTEN DAUGHTER (1934.)

Cynthia Voigt has had one winner (DICEY’S SONG, 1983) and one Honor (A SOLITARY BLUE, 1984.)

Elizabeth Yates had one winner (AMOS FORTUNE, FREE MAN, 1951) and one Honor (MOUNTAIN BORN, 1944.)

Laurence Yep has had wo Newbery Honors: DRAGONWINGS in 1976 and DRAGON’S GATE in 1994.



Avi has had one winner (CRISPIN, 2003) and two Honors (THE TRUE CONFESSIONS OF CHARLOTTE DOYLE, 1991; NOTHING BUT THE TRUTH, 1992.)

Mary and Conrad Buff had three Honor Books: BIG TREE (1947), THE APPLE AND THE ARROW (1952) and MAGIC MAIZE (1954.)

Beverly Cleary had a winner (DEAR MR. HENSHAW, 1984) and two Honors (RAMONA AND HER FATHER, 1978 and RAMONA QUIMBY, AGE 8, 1982.)

Padraic Colum had three Honor Books: THE GOLDEN FLEECE (1922), THE VOYAGERS (1926 Honor Book), and BIG TREE OF BUNLAHY (1934.)

Christopher Paul Curtis has one winner (BUD, NOT BUDDY in 2000) and two Honors, THE WATSONS GO TO BIRMINGHAM -- 1963 (1996) and ELIJAH OF BUXTON (2008.)

Alice Dalgliesh had a trio of Newbery Honors: THE SILVER PENCIL (1945), THE BEARS ON HEMLOCK MOUNTAIN (1953) and THE COURAGE OF SARAH NOBLE (1955.)

Nancy Farmer has had three Newbery Honors -- so far. They are: THE EAR, THE EYE, AND THE ARM (1995), A GIRL NAMED DISASTER (1997), and THE HOUSE OF THE SCORPION (2003.)

Marguerite Henry won for KING OF THE WIND (1949) and had two Honors: JUSTIN MORGAN HAD A HORSE (1946) and MISTY OF CHINCOTEAGUE (1948.)

Agnes Hewes won three Newbery Honors for SPICE AND THE DEVIL’S CAVE (1931), GLORY OF THE SEAS (1934), and THE CODFISH MUSKET (1937.)

Clara Ingram Judson won three Honors for the biographies ABRAHAM LINCOLN, FRIEND OF THE PEOPLE (1951), THEODORE ROOSEVELT, FIGHTING PATRIOT (1954), AND MR. JUSTICE HOLMES (1957.)


Lois Lenski had one winner (STRAWBERRY GIRL, 1946) and two Honors (PHEBE FAIRCHILD, 1937 and INDIAN CAPTIVE, 1942.)

Eloise Jarvis McGraw had three Honors: MOCCASIN TRAIL (1953), THE GOLDEN GOBLET (1962) and THE MOORCHILD (1997.) The forty-four years between her first and last Honors represents the longest stretch of time between honored books in an author’s career.

Anne Parrish had three Honor Books: THE DREAM COACH (1925), FLOATING ISLAND (1931), and THE STORY OF APPLEBY CAPPLE (1951.)

Katherine Paterson won twice (BRIDGE TO TERABITHIA, 1978 and JACOB HAVE I LOVED, 1981) and also Honored for THE GREAT GILLY HOPKINS (1979.)

Gary Paulsen has a trio of Honors: DOGSONG (1986), HATCHET (1988), and THE WINTER ROOM (1990.)

Kate Seredy had one winner (THE WHITE STAG, 1938) and two Honors (THE GOOD MASTER, 1936, and THE SINGING TREE, 1940.)

Isaac Bashevis Singer had three Honors three-years-in-a-row: ZLATEH THE GOAT (1967), THE FEARSOME INN (1968), and WHEN SHLEMIEL WENT TO WARSAW (1969.)

Zilpha Keatley Snyder has three Honors for THE EGYPT GAME (1968), THE HEADLESS CUPID (1972), and THE WITCHES OF WORM (1973.)

Elizabeth George Speare had two winners (THE WITCH OF BLACKBIRD POND, 1958 and THE BRONZE BOW, 1959) and one Honor Book, THE SIGN OF THE BEAVER, 1984.

Jacqueline Woodson has had three Newbery Honors the past four years: SHOW WAY (2006), FEATHERS (2008), and AFTER TUPAC & D FOSTER (2009.)


Jeanette Eaton had four Newbery Honors: A DAUGHTER OF THE SEINE (1930), LEADER BY DESTINY (1939), LONE JOURNEY (1945), and GANDHI, FIGHTER WITHOUT A SWORD (1951.)

Eleanor Estes won for GINGER PYE (1952) and had three Honors: THE MIDDLE MOFFAT (1943), RUFUS M. (1944), and THE HUNDRED DRESSES (1945.)

Genevieve Foster won a quartet of Newbery Honors: GEORGE WASHINGTON’S WORLD (1942), ABRAHAM LINCOLN’S WORLD (1945), GEORGE WASHINGTON (1950), BIRTHDAYS OF FREEDOM, VOLUME 1 (1953.)

Russell Freedman has had one winner (LINCOLN, 1988) and three Honors: THE WRIGHT BROTHERS (1992), ELEANOR ROOSEVELT (1994), and THE VOICE THAT CHALLENGED A NATION (2005.)

Elizabeth Janet Gray won for ADAM OF THE ROAD (1943) and had three Honors: MEGGY MACINTOSH (1931), YOUNG WALTER SCOTT (1936), and PENN (1939.)

Virginia Hamilton also had one winner (M.C. HIGGINS THE GREAT and three Honors: THE PLANET OF JUNIOR BROWN (1972), SWEET WHISPERS, BROTHER RUSH (1983), and IN THE BEGINNING (1989.)

Cornelia Meigs had one winner (INVINCIBLE LOUISA, 1934) and three Honor Books, THE WINDY HILL (1922), CLEARING WEATHER (1929), and SWIFT RIVERS (1933.)

Scott O’Dell won for his first children’s books (ISLAND OF THE BLUE DOLPHINS, 1961) and subsequently had three Honors: THE KING’S FIFTH (1967), THE BLACK PEARL (1968) and SING DOWN THE MOON (1971.)


Laura Ingalls Wilder had five Newbery Honors: ON THE BANKS OF PLUM CREEK (1938), BY THE SHORES OF SILVER LAKE (1940), THE LONG WINTER (1941), LITTLE TOWN ON THE PRAIRIE (1942), and THESE HAPPY GOLDEN YEARS (1944.)

Meindert DeJong has been cited five times, with one winner (THE WHEEL ON THE SCHOOL, 1955) and the following Honors: SHADRACH (1954), HURRY HOME, CANDY (1954), THE HOUSE OF SIXTY FATHERS (1957) and ALONG CAME A DOG (1959.)


While we’re on the subject, why not a list of all the authors who have won the Newbery Medal, yet never received any other recognition from the committee -- no other winners, not even any Honor Books -- for the rest of their career:

1922 / Hendrik Van Loon / THE STORY OF MANKIND
1925 / Charles Finger / TALES FROM SILVER LANDS
1926 / Arthur Bowie Chrisman/ SHEN OF THE SEA
1927 / Will James / SMOKY THE COWHORSE
1928 / Dhan Mukerji / GAY NECK
1929 / Eric P. Kelly / THE TRUMPETER OF KRAKOW
1931 / Elizabeth Coatsworth / THE CAT WHO WENT TO HEAVEN
1932 / Laura Adams Armer / WATERLESS MOUNTAIN
1933 / Elizabeth Foreman Lewis / YOUNG FU OF THE UPPER YANGTZE
1935 / Monica Shannon / DOBRY
1936 / Carol Ryrie Brink / CADDIE WOODLAWN
1937 / Ruth Sawyer / ROLLER SKATES
1940 / James Daugherty / DANIEL BOONE
1942 / Walter D. Edmonds/ THE MATCHLOCK GUN
1944 / Esther Forbes/ JOHNNY TREMAIN
1947 / Carolyn Sherwin Bailey / MISS HICKORY
1948 / William Pene Du Bois/ THE TWENTY-ONE BALLOONS
1953 / Ann Nolan Clark / SECRET OF THE ANDES
1956 / Jean Lee Latham / CARRY ON, MR. BOWDITCH
1957 / Virginia Sorensen / MIRACLES ON MAPLE HILL
1958 / Harold Keith / RIFLES FOR WATIE
1964 / Emily Cheney Neville / IT’S LIKE THIS, CAT
1965 / Maia Wojciechowska / SHADOW OF A BULL
1966 / Elizabeth Borton De Trevino / I, JUAN DE PAREJA
1970 / William Armstrong / SOUNDER
1971 / Betsy Byars / SUMMER OF THE SWANS
1972 / Robert C. O’Brien /MRS. FRISBY AND THE RATS OF NIMH
1977 / Mildred Taylor / ROLL OF THUNDER, HEAR MY CRY
1980 / Joan Blos / A GATHERING OF DAYS
1982 / Nancy Willard / A VISIT TO WILLIAM BLAKE’S INN
1986 / Patricia Maclachlan / SARAH, PLAIN AND TALL
1987 / Sid Fleischman / THE WHIPPING BOY
1992 / Phyllis Reynolds Naylor / SHILOH
1998 / Karen Hesse / OUT OF THE DUST
1999 / Louis Sachar / HOLES
2001 / Linda Sue Park / A SINGLE SHARD
2005 / Cynthia Kadohata / KIRA-KIRA
2006 / Lynne Rae Perkins / CRISS CROSS
2007 / Susan Patron / THE HIGHER POWER OF LUCKY
2008 / Laura Amy Schlitz / GOOD MASTERS! SWEET LADIES!
2009 / Neal Gaiman / THE GRAVEYARD BOOK, 39 out of the 87 -- or almost half -- of the winning books have gone to authors who never before or after received any Newbery recognition.

Of course these numbers may be skewed by the fact that several recent winners are still writing and will likely win or receive Honors in the future.

But what do we make of the earlier authors on this list? Did they really write one great book that stood far above anything else they’d written? Or were they so-so writers who “by the luck of the draw” had a so-so book chosen by the committee?

Considering the overall high quality of their work, I’m surprised that Sid Fleischman, Betsy Byars, Phyllis Reynolds Naylor, Mildred Taylor and Patricia Maclachlan didn’t (or haven’t yet) picked up at least one or two more Newbery Honors during their writing careers.


Someone came across my blog this week while seeking a book. Here’s what she said:

A friend had a favorite book I would like to find. It was set during World War II. A family with children live in the country and have a Victory Cow. There is a school assembly where one boy must recite the Gettysburg Address. He has practiced while milking the cow. To help him remember during the performance his sister ties a rope to his belt so that he can make milking motions behind his back and keep the rhythm. I know those are odd recollections but they are the ones that stuck in her mind. She was born in 1944 and this sounds like a grade school level book....

Unfortunately, I was unable to identify this book. Does it ring a bell for anyone else? If it does, please let me know and I’ll pass it on to the person who asked. (Heck, I might track down the book and read it myself. It sounds fun, doesn’t it?)


A couple months back I blogged about a cartoon character from the old HUMPTY DUMPTY magazine. His name was “Twinkle, the Star Who Came Down from Heaven” and I recalled him looking like this:

I even mentioned that I remembered this star walking on his bottom two “points” as if they were feet. Well, Miapappa had also recently remembered Twinkle and began doing some research. She found an image from a 1967 HUMPTY DUMPTY magazine:

Now I see that Twinkle actually just had a star for a head; otherwise he seemed to have a human body. I was surprised to learn Twinkle was still running in 1967; I remember it from the early sixties, before I even started school.


Last Saturday was Halloween. One week later I got in the car on Saturday and Christmas music was playing on the radio. We have a couple stations in town that go to an all-Christmas format starting November 1. As much as I love Christmas carols, I think it’s a bit much to listen to “Come All Ye Faithful” while you’re still picking candy corn out of your teeth.

But the Christmas music reminded me that this is the time of year when remaindered book stores open up all around town. One day you’ll pass an empty superstore and the next day it’s full of books with a yellow banner over the door announcing “DISCOUNT BOOKS.”

These stores, which sell overstocks, out of print, and damaged volumes are great for browsing -- and with prices usually at least half off the cover price -- you can get some great deals.

I’ve never had much luck when it comes to finding collectable children’s books, although I have heard of some bookdealers who have made some great finds at such stores. My own experience is that the children’s tables are usually filled with stuff that was second-rate to begin with (Sesame Street volumes, puzzle books) as well as novelty items (i.e. the kind of books that come packaged with soap bubble kits or ink stamps.) I’ve had better luck finding good young adult fiction mixed in with the adult books; a couple weeks ago I went to local “discount bookstore” and found a first edition of DREAMHUNTER by Elizabeth Knox, the first volume in the two-book series that included one of last year’s Printz Honor Books, DREAMQUAKE.

Most remaindered books have a black marker line on the bottom edge of the pages. This prevents people from taking the books back to a regular bookstore and trying to get a full refund. Some collectors have a disdain for remaindered books, but if the only thing wrong with a book is a mark on the bottom edge of the pages, I am not bothered.

Who even LOOKS at the bottom edge of a book’s pages?


On Friday I visited the bookstore. The owners are friends of mine and often set things aside for me to look at. This week it was this book:

1001 CHILDREN’S BOOKS TO READ BEFORE YOU GROW by Julia Eccleshare is a massive (960 pages) paperback compendium of book information. Originally published in Great Britain, the selection of titles does skew a little toward the British, but there are many American books included as well. I glanced through the well-designed volume, but the $36.95 price tag (for a paperback!) put me off. On the one hand, it’s the kind of reference book that every children’s lit afficionado should probably own. On the other hand, $36.95 is a bit pricey. I decided I’d put the book on my Christmas list.

This morning I was talking on the phone to my friend from the bookstore and she asked what I thought of 1001 CHILDREN’S BOOKS.... I told her I really liked it and might put it on my holiday list. She said, “Oh, I actually set the book aside as your belated birthday present. It’s not wrapped, but I want to give it to you.”

And that was my third gasp in less than two days!

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

Thursday, November 5, 2009

My Friend Irma

Beginning a new job is a bit like starting to read a novel by jumping right into the middle of the book.

Suddenly you're in the midst of a scene and you have no idea who is who or what is what. You don't know the characters, you don't know the plot, and your head starts spinning just trying to keep up.

That's how I felt when I started my current job nearly twenty years ago. Everyone in the library knew each other and shared a history of sorts. As a newbie and outsider, I listened to their memories of a beloved former director who would hire anyone who personally requested a job in the library. I heard them talk about the former employee who was arrested on the job and taken out of the building in handcuffs. Names of old co-workers were tossed around. Miss So-and-So was exacting and precise. Mr. So-and-So was fun and down-to-earth. I also heard a lot about a woman named Connie who was in charge of one of the library departments.

The names didn't mean much; I was still trying to learn the details of the job. One day, while discussing the books in the juvenile collection, a co-worker said, "And of course every year we order the latest Newbery winners..."

(I smiled. Newbery -- at last I was hearing a familiar name!)

"...and the Caldecott winners..."

(Another smile. Another familiar name.)

"...and the Black Award winners."

(I continued to smile, but it was a fake smile -- as I had never heard of a "Black Award." Did my co-worker mean the Coretta Scott King Awards, which are given to African American children's book creators? I was confused.)

Over the next few months, I would occasionally hear other references to the Black Awards. Finally, I had to ask: "Do you mean the Coretta Scott K--"

"No," my co-worker interrupted. "The Irma Simonton Black Awards."

That threw me. I thought I knew a lot about children's books, but this was one award I didn't know. Of course I immediately started doing some research.

The Irma Simonton Black Award was named after an educator and author who was a founding member of the Bank Street Writers Laboratory, famous as the training ground for writers such as Margaret Wise Brown. Mrs. Black was affiliated with Bank Street for her entire professional life -- as a nursery school teacher, a teacher of children's literature, and director of publications and communications. She also wrote a variety of books aimed at parents and professionals (OFF TO A GOOD START : A HANDBOOK FOR MODERN PARENTS, 1946) as well as many picture books for young readers, including HAMLET : A COCKER SPANIEL, 1938; THE TROUBLEMAKER, 1959, and THE OLD MAN WHO COOKED AND CLEANED, 1970.

Researching the Irma Simonton Black Award, I learned that many luminaries of the children's book world had received this honor, including William Steig, Chris Van Allsburg, and Jerry Pinkney. I guess the main reason I'd never noticed the award is that it honors picture books -- and that's never been my top area of interest. Still, it seems a worthy award for many reasons. Over the years, a lot people have complained that the Newbery Medal seldom recognizes picture book texts. Others complain that some of the Caldecott winners are beautifully-illustrated but have weak texts. The Black Award offers an alternative solution. According to the Bank Street's website, the award honors "a book in which text and illustrations are inseparable, each enhancing and enlarging on the other to produce a singular whole." And children have a hand in determining the winner. An initial list of twenty to twenty-five nominees are selected by an adult committee. Students at the Bank Street School for Children narrow the titles down to four finalists, which are then sent to a number of different schools and libraries at which kids choose the winner. According to the Bank Street site, one recent winner was selected by 2500 students at schools in five different states.

A couple years after researching this award, we got our copy of the latest winner at the library. While cataloging it, I told one of my co-workers what I had learned about the Irma Simonton Black Award. She nodded and said, "Yeah, I remember hearing some of that stuff before."

"From where?" I asked, because -- egotistical as I am about kid-book knowledge -- I could hardly believe she knew something about children's literature before me.

"I think Connie told me about it."

"Connie who?"

"Connie, our old boss. Oh, didn't I tell you that Irma Simonton Black was Connie's mother?" had ever told me that.

A few years went by, and one day I happened upon a biographical entry for Mrs. Black in a reference book. She was born in 1906 and died in 1972. But what caught my eye was the cause of death: "died of stab wounds."

Stab wounds?

I ran to my co-worker's desk and gasped, "Did you know that Connie's mom" (because by then I thought of her as "Connie's mom" even though I'd never met Connie in my life) "died of stab wounds???"

"Yeah, I think I remember that," she replied in a dull voice, then returned to her work.

People can be awfully blasé, can't they? I mean, if I had a co-worker whose mother was a famous writer...and had an award named after her...and died of stab wounds, I'd be talking about it all the time. It would be a story I pulled out at every cocktail party I attended -- if I ever attended cocktail parties. But that's just me. Other people don't feel the need to live their lives basking in the shadow of celebrity.

As it turns out, Mrs. Black was stabbed to death in her Greenwich village home in what is still an unsolved murder. Out of this tragedy, her family established the Irma Simonton Black Award in her honor. Beginning in 1992, the name of the prize was changed to The Irma Simonton Black and James H. Black Award for Excellence in Children's Literature in order to also recognize Irma's husband. ...Or, as I now think of him, "Connie's dad."

Here is the list of all the winning books:

1972 / MOUSE TALES by Arnold Lobel

1973 / BEAR MOUSE by Bernice Freschet, illustrated by Donald Carrick; HARLEQUEN AND THE GIFT OF MANY COLORS by Remy Charlip and Burton Supree

1974 / SHE COME BRINGING ME THAT LITTLE BABY GIRL by Eloise Greenfield, illustrated by John Steptoe

1975 / MORRIS'S DISAPPEARING BAG by Rosemary Wells; THE MAGGIE B. by Irene Hass

1976 / THE EASTER EGG ARTITS by Adrienne Adams; EVERYONE KNOWS WHAT A DRAGON LOOKS LIKE by Jay Williams, illustrated by Mercer Mayer

1977 / THE MYSTERIOUS TADPOLE by Steven Kellogg

1978 / FELIX IN THE ATTIC by Larry Bograd, illustrated by Dirk Zimmer

1979 / THE GARDEN OF ABDUL GASAZI by Chris Van Allsburg

1980 / GORKY RISES by William Steig

1981 / THE STORIES JULIAN TELLS by Ann Cameron, illustrated by Ann Strugnell

1982 / MUSTARD by Charlotte Graebner, illustrated by Donna Diamond

1983 / NO ONE IS GOING TO NASHVILLE by Mavis Jukes, illusrated by Larry Bloom

1984 / THE MYSTERIES OF HARRIS BURDICK by Chris Van Allsburg

1985 / CHLOE AND MAUDE by Sandra Boynton

1986 / DR. CHANGE by Joanna Cole, illustrated by Donald Carrick

1987 / HECKEDY PEG by Audrey Wood, illustrated by Don Wood

1988 / THE PORCUPINE MOUSE by Bonnie Pryor, illustrated by Maryjane Begin

1989 / THE TALKING EGGS by Robert D. San Souci, illustrated by Jerry Pinkney

1990 / CHARLES ANDERSON by Barbara Abercrombie, illustrated by Mark Graham

1991 / THE ENCHANTED WOOD by Ruth Sanderson.

1992 / THE KING'S EQUAL by Katherine Paterson, illustrated by Vladimer Vagin

1993 / THREE SACKS OF TRUTH by Eric A. Kimmell, illustrated by Robert Rayevsky

1994 / PINK AND SAY by Patricia Polacco

1995 / WICKED JACK by Connie Nordheim Wooldridge, illustrated by Will Hillenbrand

1996 / JOJOFU by Michael P. Waite, illustrated by Yorkio Ito

1997 / AKIAK : A TALE FROM THE IDITAROD by Robert J. Blake

1998 / ZAK'S LUNCH by Margie Palatini, illustrated by Howard Fine; RAISING DRAGONS by Jerdine Nolen, illustrated by Elise Primavera

1999 / A DOG LIKE JACK by DyAnne DiSalvo-Ryan

2000 / THE RAFT by Jim LaMarche

2001 / THE THREE PIGS by David Wiesner

2002 / BUBBA AND BEAU, BEST FRIENDS by Kathi Appelt, illustrated by Arthur Howard

2003 / HOW I BECAME A PIRATE by Melinda Long

2004 / KNUFFLE BUNNY by Mo Willems


2006 / ONCE I ATE A PIE by Patricia MacLachlan and Emily MacLachlan Charest, illustrated by Katy Schneider

2007 / THE WICKED BIG TODDLAH by by Kevin Hawkes

2008 / MAIL HARRY TO THE MOON by Robie H. Harris, illustrated by Michael Emberley