Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Pocket to the Moon

In the beginning, Zim created the concept of the Golden Guides. For the earth was dark and ignorance filled the void. And Zim said let there be enlightment and there was enlightment....

Yeah, those are pretty lofty words to describe a series of children's books.

Hey, don't look at me. I didn't write 'em.

Those were the words of a Justice Goldberg from the Federal Court of Appeals when he made a 1970 decision on the future of the Golden Guides, a series of science and nature books that Herbert S. Zim began in 1949 -- many of which are still in print today.

People often ask which twentieth-century children's books are the most well-known and best-remembered today. Cases can be made for GOODNIGHT MOON, CHARLOTTE'S WEB, and a myriad of other picture books and novels. But take a look at the covers of these books:

These are some of the most ubiquitous books in the world.

When I was growing up, you saw them everywhere: in libraries, bookstores, department stores, and sporting goods shops. Everyone's family seemed to have at least one on the bookshelf for easy reference. If a relative lived in the country, they might have the bird volume on the windowsell to identify what species came flying by. If another relative had a cottage at the beach, they probably had a sandy copy of the seashells volume handy.

Author Herbert S. Zim had a Ph.D. from Columbia University and spent decades teaching both elementary school and university level science courses. Many of his earliest books sprang from the classroom interests of his young science students. While most of his books were published for children, his readership included people of all ages. This was particularly true for the Golden Guides, which provided basic information of many areas of science.

The Golden Guides were not the first series of this kind. Way back at the turn of the twentieth century, there were the "Reed Guides" -- pocket-sized nature handbooks published by Doubleday. When Dr. Zim learned that the "Reed Guides" had ceased publication during World War II, he came up with the idea of creating a modernized series of pocket nature books. After selling the idea to Simon and Schuster and Golden Books -- who produced the books jointly -- the author spent a lot of time measuring the pants, sweater, and coat pockets of his friends, trying to find the perfect size for his books. It was eventually decided that "the books were to be one hundred and sixty pages, four inches by six inches, hardbound, and to sell for one dollar."

The first volume, BIRDS, was pubilshed in 1949, followed by FLOWERS, TREES, and INSECTS. The books kept a-coming and, over time, Zim served not just as their primary writer, but also held such titles as "Editor of Golden Guides; Consultant and Special Editor; Edition Director; Educational Consultant, and Editor-in-Chief." In its first thirty-five years, BIRDS alone went through 104 printings and sold 7.3 million copies.

By the late sixties, the Golden Guides empire was so huge that Zim was pretty much forced to step away from the series. A legal agreement allowing him to approve updates for the previously-published volumes was so complicated that it eventually went to court, resulting in this blog's opening quote from Justice Goldberg.

It should be noted that the "Golden Guides" were only one part of the author's body of work. He also wrote many individual, highly-esteemed science volumes on his own, before, during, and after his main involvement with the Golden Guides.

Writing this blog today I came across a fascinating bit of trivia involving one of Herbert S. Zim's books.

In 1945, he published a children's book called ROCKETS AND JETS. This book contained the first recorded mention of a space pioneer from the Ming Dynasty named Wan Hu:

Early in the sixteenth century, Wan decided to take advantage of China's advanced rocket and fireworks technology to launch himself into outer space. He supposedly had a chair built with forty-seven rockets attached. On the day of lift-off, Wan, splendidly attired, climbed into his rocket chair and forty seven servants lit the fuses and then hastily ran for cover. There was a huge explosion. When the smoke cleared, Wan and the chair were gone, and was said never to have been seen again.

Zim did not cite a reference for this bit of trivia but, over the years, the legend of Wan Hu has grown. No one is sure if that was his real name...or if he existed at all. But Zim's random comment inspired this 1995 children's book by Jennifer Armstrong:

as well as a 2004 episode of the TV series MYTHBUSTERS, which attempted to replicate Wan Hu's experiment in flight.

Most amazing of all, there is now a crater named "Wan Hoo" on the dark side of the moon, which honors the space pioneer that Herbert Zim first introduced in the pages of a book.

Although Dr. Zim died in 1994, the influence of this science writer for young people continues to be felt -- as close as the book in your pants pocket and as distant as the far side of moon.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Brunching with Muskrats, Buffy, and Aunt Bee

Welcome to another Sunday Brunch at Collecting Children's Books. Today's entry discusses the "new house" in my neighborhood, talks about the power of old e-mails, and reviews a scary new book by Richard Peck. Oh, and Buffy (of "Buffy and Jody") and Aunt Bee are here today too.


Are our personalities fixed at birth or are we products of our environment?

Based on my experiences over the last few months, I opt for the latter. I grew up in Detroit, where the only wild animals I ever saw were squirrels and -- as our neighborhood got grungier -- rats. Even after I moved to the suburbs, I never spent much time thinking abour nature. Four months ago I relocated again. Granted, I only moved two miles away, and I still live in a suburban city. But the fact that I now live next to a tiny pond has totally changed my life. Now I spend all my free time growing beans and tomatoes, watching hummingbirds, counting the ducks on the pond, and saying things like, "Think the rain will hurt the rhubarb?" and "He's all vines and no taters." By next summer I'll probably be wearing overalls, a straw hat, and smoking a corncob pipe.

This week I delved even further into my new rural lifestyle when I woke up one morning, went outside to count the ducks (twenty-six!), and saw this mess of straw and cat tails out in the middle of the pond:

I got out the binoculars for a closer look:

Was it some kind of natural formation? A nest? Then I saw a pair of muskrats swim out to that mound and wondered if they'd built it. I should admit that, until I moved here, the only thing I knew about muskrats was that they whirl and they twirl and they tango, plus do the jitterbug out in Muskratland. So when I first saw these creatures swimming in the pond, I put out an S.O.S. to blog readers asking what kind of animals they were...beavers?...water rats? A couple readers kindly told me that I was probably seeing muskrats. A quick visit to "Google Images" confirmed it. So, after seeing the muskrats swimming around the mounded sticks this week, I took another trip to Google and learned that the muskrats had built themselves a house for winter!

Doing further research, I discovered that muskrat houses play a small but portentous role in Laura Ingalls Wilder's masterpiece THE LONG WINTER -- the book which many consider her best. I must have read that book ten times as a kid, but had forgotten this ominous scene, which takes place as Laura and Pa are stacking hay:

One day when Pa came clambering up to the top of the load, she told him, "You've left a haycock, Pa."

"I have!" said Pa, surprised. "Where?"

"Over there, in the tall grass."

Pa looked where she pointed. Then he said, "That isn't a haycock, Half-Pint. That's a muskrat house." He looked at it a moment longer. "I'm going to have a clsoer look at that," he said. "Want to come along?"

...At the edge of the pool stood the muskrats' house. It was taller than Laura, and far larger than her arms could reach around. Its rounded sides and top were rough, hard gray. The muskrats had gnawed dry grass to bits and mixed the bits well with mud to make a good plaster for their house, and they built it solidly and smoothly and rounded the top carefully to shield the rain.

...Inside those thick, still walls, Pa said, the muskrats were sleeping now, each family curled in its own little room lined softly with grass. Each room had a small round doorway that opened onto a sloping hall. The hallway curved down through the house from top to bottom and ended in dark water. That was the muskrats' front door.

...Laura put her hand on the wall of their house. The coarse plaster was hot in the hot wind and sunshine, but inside the thick mud walls, in the dark, the air must be cool She liked to think of the muskrats sleeping there.

Pa was shaking his head. "We're going to have a hard winter," he said, not liking the prospect.

"Why, how do you know?" Laura asked in surprise.

"The colder the winter will be, the thicker the muskrats build the walls of their houses," Pa told her. "I never saw a heavier-built muskrats' house than that one."

Laura looked at it again. It was very solid and big. But the sun was blazing, burning on her shoulders through the faded, thin calico and the hot wind was blowing, and stronger than the damp-mud smell of the slough was the ripening smell of grasses parching in the heat. Laura could hardly think of ice and snow and cruel cold.

Well, we all know how that winter went.

From the description in THE LONG WINTER, I don't think the muskrat house in my pond is as solidly-built as the one Laura saw in 1880.

At least I hope it isn't!


I always say that every book is like a box of Crackerjack...because there’s always a surprise waiting for you inside.

When I took down my copy of THE LONG WINTER to get the above muskrat quotes, I found a folded-up sheet of paper inside the front cover. It was a message to a children’s book listserve that someone named Rebecca Webb submitted on July 6, 1999.

Ms. Webb wrote:

The Lone Cottonwood is no more.

I visited DeSmet, South Dakota on Friday 7/2/99. I’ve been there once before in the summer of 1994. This time I wanted to see Spirit Lake, find the path taken by the children making their way home through the blizzard in THE LONG WINTER, and see the Lone Cottonwood.

The Lone Cottonwood grew on a strip of land between Lakes Henry and Thompson several miles south/southwest of DeSmet and the Ingalls homestead. Laura writes of Almanzo taking her driving along the strip…it was barely wide enough to accommodate the buggy and the shrubs growing alongside the water. The Lone Cottonwood seeded most of the trees in the area (including the five cottonwoods Pa planted on the Ingalls homestead which remain to this day) and served as the last landmark for Cap and Almanzo as they rode to secure the wheat that saved the town in THE LONG WINTER.

The recent wet winters have brought so much rain to the northern plains area that Henry and Thompson have become one huge lake. The ancient tree was swamped and eventually keeled over, according to the folks staffing the Laura Ingalls Wilder Memorial Society tour booth on Friday. It was “giant” in Laura’s time (according to Pa) so it must have been a hundred years old BACK THEN…and now it’s gone.

Back in 1999, I found this note interesting enough to print off and keep inside my copy of THE LONG WINTER. And it sort of gave me a lift when I came across it today. Writing a blog can sometimes be depressing. You’re throwing info and opinions out there blindly -- never really knowing who -- if anyone -- is reading your words or what they may be getting from them. But discovering this note made me realize that our words have long shadows. I bet Rebecca Webb – whoever she is, wherever she is – would be surprised that someone saved a note she wrote to a listserve for nearly a dozen years and today shared it with a whole new set of readers on a blog. …Maybe a dozen years from now, someone will quote something from this blog to another set of readers.

And so it goes – stories passed down from decade to decade.


My friend and co-author, Jules Danielson, of the Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast blog, sent me a thought-provoking Publishers Weekly article about Lois Duncan. Beginning next month with I KNOW WHAT YOU DID LAST SUMMER, KILLING MR. GRIFFIN, and DON'T LOOK BEHIND YOU, ten of the author's superb suspense novels are going to be republished over the next three years with new cover art, an author Q&A, reading guides and...modernized texts.

According to the article:

When she reread the books, Duncan was surprised at how little needed to be changed. “I’ve been amazed that these books have remained in print and have been so popular for so long,” she says. “I realized as I read the novels back-to-back that the plots and characters had held up all these years, and it was just little fringe things that had to be reworked, mostly due to today’s technology. I loved going through the novels and giving the characters cell phones and computers, and changing their clothes so they were no longer wearing polyester pantsuits. And of course I changed the dialogue slightly so that it sounded more contemporary.”

...Interestingly, it was today’s omnipresent cell phone that presented Duncan with the biggest challenge as she updated the texts. “A strong element of many of my plots is having the protagonist be in a dangerous situation and not being able to reach the outside world,” she explains. “But cell phones let teens be in touch, so I had to keep finding ways of disposing of those awful instruments! I had one fall into a river and another fall into a toilet, and another with batteries that needed recharging. It was tricky coming up with 10 different ways to get rid of a cell phone.”

I'm intrigued. And I'll undoubtedly read these new editions myself, with a copy of the original edition in my other hand to compare the changes in the texts.

But I still have to wonder if it's really necessary to modernize texts for contemporary kids. Can't today's young people just take a step back in time when reading Duncan's books, the way most of us did when reading, for instance, Agatha Christie's books from the thirties and forties several decades later?

What's next...?

Pa was shaking his head. "We're going to have a hard winter," he said, not liking the prospect.

"What the hell makes you say that?" Laura asked in surprise.

"The colder the winter will be, the thicker the muskrats build the walls of their houses," Pa told her. "I never saw a heavier-built muskrats' house than that one."

"What an old wives' tale!" snorted Laura, pulling an iPad from the pocket of her calico dress. "Let's check Yeah, these meteorologists also think the winter will be rough. We'd better tell Almanzo to gas up his snowmobile and go get that wheat now, before it starts to snow. And we'd better stock up on staples early, so we won't starve. And oh -- I just got a text message from the medical center saying they've received a set of donated corneas for Mary! Call the airport and tell them we need tickets ASAP!"


I mentioned last week that, after several months, I had a couple older first edition books for my collection.

One of them was HENRY AND RIBSY by Beverly Cleary.

When I was kid almost none of Beverly Cleary's books were availa ble in paperback. Not having the money for hardcovers, I checked her books out of the library again and again. After many years, Ms. Cleary's hardcover publisher Morrow decided to publish their own paperback versions of these books sometimes around the early seventies. (A few years later they would all be published as Dell Yearling paperbacks.) Although past the target age for Cleary's books, I was anxious to have copies of these titles for my collection, so I bought the Morrow paperbacks one by one as they were released. Over the years the books got dog-eared and the pages began falling out (I guess one never really outgrows the target age for Cleary's books!) so I began the job of replacing these paperbacks with permanant hardcover first editions. It's been a difficult and sometimes expensive project, but over the past fifteen years or so, I've been able to replace all but two of the paperbacks (BEEZUS AND RAMONA; HENRY AND RIBSY) with hardcovers.

This past week a copy of HENRY AND RIBSY came up for sale. The bookseller had it listed as a "true first editon" because the same date (1954) appears on both the title page and copyright page, which is how Morrow generally marks their first editions.

HENRY AND RIBSY arrived in the mail this week and I was really excited to replace my paperback copy with the spillling pages for this first edition:

I double-checked to make sure the 1954 date was on the title page, and it was. But then my eye caught something else that made me realize this was not a true first. Can you see what it was?

Although ostensibly published in 1954, the list of Beverly Cleary's books on the opposite page lists titles that were released in the 1960s and 1970s -- up through RAMONA AND HER FATHER, which was published in 1977.

It always pays to check every detail of a book that's listed as a "true first edition." Often they are not first editions at all.


I've just begun reading Han Nolan's new YA novel, CRAZY, and am somewhat dubious about the book's narrative voice. Jason, the fifteen-year-old protagonist, says he has an "imaginary audience" in his head. Members of this audience comment on Jason's first-person narration throughout the book, functioning as a kind of Greek chorus. There's a "fat bald guy with mustache," another fantasy character called "Sexy Lady" and there's also...Aunt Bee ("yep, the Aunt Bee from the old Andy Griffith Show. You always wondered what happened to her. Well, here she is, in my head!") Now I love Han Nolan's books and I love Aunt Bee (well, except for her Kerosene Pickles) but the whole Greek Chrous thing seems a little gimmicky to me...and I really question the use of Aunt Bee in a book written for today's teens. I've seen articles in which today's kids profess not to know who JFK the idea that they would know Aunt Bee seems even less likely. Yeah, she's been on TVLand...but how many people under forty ever watch that station?

On the other hand, Aunt Bee also had a strong presence in Lauren Myracle's 2008 YA horror novel BLISS....

So maybe I'm wrong.

Is Aunt Bee, of all people, now a teen icon?

Or should we make a "citizen's a-RAY-est" of Han Nolan and Lauren Myracle for utilizing a character that most of today's teens neither know nor care about?


After a recent string of brilliant historical novels, including THE RIVER BETWEEN US and THE TEACHER'S FUNERAL, Richard Peck is back to modern times with his latest YA novel, THREE QUARTERS DEAD.

As she begins her sophomore year, narrator Kerry -- a lonely sophomore -- is shocked to find herself accepted by a group of older students who pretty much run the school's social network. Peck has always been expert at charting the divisions between high school's haves and have-nots, and he doesn't disappoint here -- making glittery hotshots Tanya, Natalie and Mackenzie so appealing that the reader easily understands why needy Kerry feels compelled to perform a cruel Halloween night prank against another classmate on behalf of these girls. The novel then skips ahead several months to a time when everything has changed. Kerry is again friendless and isolated, but when she's asked to meet her former gang for a night in New York, she immediately complies -- despite some serious (and well-warranted) misgivings. Unfortunately, this is where the novel loses focus, devolving into a series of intriguing, sometimes horrific, set-pieces as the girls visit a nightclub, rollerskate around an empty penthouse apartment, and return home for an after-prom party. What began as a sharply-written account of peer pressure and the need to belong comes to a hazy and unresolved conclusion in this eerie, but not wholly effective ghost story.


Are there certain subjects and themes that make a book a harder sell in stores? Make a book more difficult to get into schools and libraries?

I have heard in the past that books for young readers that include abortion, homosexuality, religious elements, and mixed-race romances can face difficulties.

Perhaps those times are changing. One of the titles that people keep citing for this year's Newbery is KEEPER by Kathi Appelt, which includes a gay relationship -- a rarity in a novel for middle-grade readers.

After last year's controversy about black characters having their race hidden or disguised on dust jackets, no one can accuse ALICE IN CHARGE by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor of trying to duck the issue:

And while I personally find pictures of tattoos on dustjackets tacky -- especially if they include religious symbols -- Egmont used this in-your-face dustjacket for the new YA VIRGIN TERRITORY by James Lecesne.

I bring these things up because of the unusual way the subject of abortion is handled in THREE QUARTERS DEAD.

Granted, abortion is a very sensitive topic and not one that I want to see argued -- either pro or con -- on this children's book blog.

But I was quite taken aback by how...well, coyly the topic is handled in Peck's book. The word "abortion" is not even used. Listen to this exchange:

"Why was she absent?" I asked because I was supposed to ask.

"She had a...procedure, Kerry. An oupatient procedure. Not at Crossland Hospital, of course. Somewhere else. Maybe in the city. Maybe Jersey. It doesn't matter where. It really doesn't."

I didn't get it.

"Kerry, do I have to spell it out for you? When Alyssa went in for the procedure , she was going to have a baby. When she came out of the procedure, she wasn't. Okay?"

I knew what she was talking about. It wasn't a word I was used to....

Reading this exchange, it seemed unnatural to have the teenage characters talking all around the issue in 2010. I'm still not sure whether this dialogue sprang from the characters...or the author's (or publisher's) attempt not to make waves by addressing this controversial topic head-on in a book for teens.


My brother came across this book on the internet recently:

He asked how good a cook Buffy could be, considering the fact that she's rolling out her apron. (Yeah, that was a joke; he knew it was dough.)

Anyway, I figured this throwaway paperback was just a novelty TV tie-in for kids and not worth much money. And I was right. You can find it for sale for under $5.

But then I started looking for other TV cookbooks from that area and found this:

And it turns out to be the opposite of a throwaway. For whatever reason, that 1973 Patridge Family Cookbook sells for over $200! ...So if you happen to find one in a box of old, packed-away children's books, you've got a money maker on your hands.


Speaking of paperbacks from the 1970s, does anyone remember the "Harrison High" books by John Farris?

The first book, HARRISON HIGH, was published in hardcover in 1959, when the author was only twenty-three years old. And it wasn't even his first published novel! HARRISON HIGH was made into a 1960 movie called BECAUSE THEY'RE YOUNG starring Dick Clark (!) as a teacher "trying to make a difference."

Years later, John Farris returned to Harrison High in a series of paperbacks that included:


Does anyone remember these books? Although set in a high school (always billed as "America's Most Famous High School" or "America's Most Notorious High School" on the covers) I seem to recall they were geared for adults, not high school readers. And the content was often risque.

Considering how popular the books seemed to be in the seventies, they appear to have fallen off the map today.

Did you read them? Do you have any memories of them? The one that I started reading in high school (and I don't even remember which title it was) was so adult and so different from my own high school experience that I couldn't even finish the book....


Author Tom Angleberger (AKA Sam T. Riddleburger) of the Berger and Burger blog recently sent me a challenge. He asked: "Which current day kidlit author (not illustrator) was an animator on Nimh? Hint: his main character is rather loud."

I didn't know the answer, so asked for another hint.

Tom wrote back to add: "He wrote a bunch of funny poem books and more recently a series if graphic novels for kids. Also worked on Mulan, All Dogs Go to Heaven and Rockadoodle!"

Hmm, I'm still stumped.

And Google has not been my friend in trying to figure this one out.

Anybody know?

Thanks for any responses...and thanks for visting Collecting Children's Books. Hope you'll be back!

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Sunday Brunch for September 19

Did you know that Stephen King once wrote a short story based on a famous picture book? Would you like to see a note that Elizabeth George Speare wrote soon after winning her first Newbery Medal? These topics -- plus dancing librarians! -- are served up in today's Sunday brunch-style offering of facts and opinions on children's books old and new.


I have been fired from more jobs than you can shake a stick at.

It’s bad enough having to experience that kind of thing in real life, but once it happens to you (or at least, once it happened to me--repeatedly) you continue to having recurring nightmares about it for years and years and years.

I’ve heard the phrase “You’re fired!” more times in my sleep than the cast of THE APPRENTICE hears during a dozen seasons of that show.

Last night I even dreamed I got fired from a job in a bookstore.

From the children’s book department, no less!

In my own defense, the bookstore in my dream didn’t make good use of my children’s book knowledge. Instead, they had me hanging novelty items (pillows, toys, calendars) from hooks on the wall, and the boss-lady was skulking around behind me the whole time, complaining that I wasn’t doing a good job. At one point I picked up a calendar that was pure white, with no pictures or print on the outside. I went to the boss and said, “Where does this one go?” and she pointed to a TINY line of print on the back that said “Arlene Alda 1991 Calendar,” then hit me over the head with it, snarling, “You idiot!”

(I wasn’t shocked that the boss hit me – that happens all the time in my dreams. What shocks me most was that I dreamed about, of all people, Arlene Alda. And that the calendar was nineteen years old. …I later figured out the Alda part. I’d recently come across an ad for a children’s book called LULU’S PIANO LESSON…written by Arlene Alda. I still don’t know where the “1991” date came from though.)

Because I was such a bust at hanging merchandise, the boss said she’d give me one more chance and brought out a gigantic plastic model of Eric Carle’s “very hungry caterpillar”:

Each of the caterpillar’s segments was about three feet in diameter and I was supposed to hook them all together to create a big floor display that kids could climb on, sit on to read, etc. I didn’t know where to start. Well, I guess I did know where to start -- with the head -- but had no idea which segment came next. So I sat there on the floor, forlornly cradling that big red, vacant-eyed caterpillar head in my lap, surrounded by dozens of loose caterpillar segments and various feet scattered on the floor around me...along with a bunch of tools and nails and bolts...and I didn’t know what to do next.

That’s when the boss stormed up to me, but before she could say, “You’re fired!” I woke up.

Oh well, if you’ve got to have a nightmare, at least it’s nice to have a children’s-book-themed nightmare.


Far be it from me to infringe on my friend Fuse #8's "Video Sundays" series, but when I logged on to America Online this morning and saw this library-related video clip on AOL's main page, I couldn't resist sharing it. The video was created by the library staff from the Central Rappahannock Regional Library in response to the budget cuts affecting libraries everywhere:

Are you like me in that you spend half your time watching library videos trying to spot specific titles on the shelves in the background?


Also on today's AOL main page is a story about Swallow, the eleven-year-old cow (and moo-ther of ten calves) who has just been included in the new Guiness Book of World Records as the smallest cow in the world. She measures 33.5 inches "from rear foot to hind" and I don't think I need to explain that she's the one on the right:

My question is: did anyone check with Katherine Paterson to see if she knows an even smaller cow:


Chris Van Allsburg's picture book THE MYSTERIES OF HARRIS BURDICK contains fourteen black-and-white illustrations, each accompanied by a title and one line of text.

Since its publication in 1984, readers have been mesmeritzed by Van Allsburg's stunning artwork and the mysteries contained with the illustrations and minimal text.

Stephen King was so intrigued by HARRIS BURDICK that he wrote a short story, "The House on Maple Street" based on one of the illustrations; it was published in his 1993 collection NIGHTMARES AND DREAMSCAPES.

There has even been a stage adaptation of Van Allsburg's book.

For decades, teachers have used HARRIS BURDICK to inspire students in creative writing classes.

Not long ago, the daughter of Houghton Mifflin editorial director Margaret Raymo was given such an assignment in school. This gave Ms. Raymo the idea of asking several famous authors to write their own stories based on the illustrations and tantalizing bits of text in THE MYSTERIES OF HARRIS BURDICK.

The result?

A book which may be called THE CHRONICLES OF HARRIS BURDICK, which contains original stories by Sherman Alexie, M.T. Anderson, Kate DiCamillo, Cory Doctorow, Jules Feiffer, Stephen King, Tabitha King (Stephen's wife), Lois Lowry, Gregory Maguire, Walter Dean Myers, Linda Sue Park, Louis Sachar, Jon Scieszka, and Chris Van Allsburg himself. Daniel Handler (AKA Lemony Snicket) will write the book's introduction.

Scheduled for publication next fall, it's sure to be one of the most anticipated books of 2011.

It will be interesting to see if these mystery stories add interest and resonance to the original picture book and give it new life -- or instead provide an unnecessary sense of closure, making readers feel that the mysteries of Harris Burdick have now been definitively solved.


On Friday I stood in the bookstore and read BINK & GOLLIE by Kate DiCamillio and Allison McGhee. It's only 96 pages, heavily illustrated, with just a few lines of text on every page. The perfect book for standing-in-the-store-reading-but-not-buying. However, after getting home and thinking about the book -- which contains three warm and funny stories of friendship and compromise, I think I'm going to have to go back and buy it. Just the final Tony Fucile illustration -- of Bink and Gollie skating while a goldfish, who appears in an earlier story, swims beneath the ice -- is worth the price of admission.

I have read many books by Kate DiCamillo and a few by Allison McGhee. I have no idea if they are friends in real life -- though I assume they are, since they're working together here -- or if their friendship and banter is similar to what's depicted in this very enjoyable book. Nor do I know how well illustrator Tony Fucile knows the two authors. But, as my bookstore friend pointed out to me (instead of saying, "Listen, mister, either buy the book or put it down. This ain't a library") last Friday: don't you think the characters of Bink and Gollie bear a certain a resemblance to their creators:


Maybe it was the millennium. Maybe it's the upcoming arrival of 2012. Maybe it's the economy. Whatever the case, young adult literature has seen a recent run of dystopian novels. Leslie Connor's latest, CRUNCH, might come under the category of apocalyp-lite novels, telling the story of a summer in which gas is suddenly unavailable, but life goes on. Mom was accompanying truck-driver Dad on a trip up north when the gasoline pumps suddenly ran dry, so fourteen-year-old narrator Dewey is left home with only his older sister, Lil, "people phobic" brother Vince, and five-year-old twins Angus and Eva. Lil's summer art class is closed, food and supplies are hard to get, but -- because no one can drive cars -- it's a boom time for the family's bike repair business. Leslie Connor has created a likable crew of characters who -- although faced with missing Mom and Dad, dealing with a cranky neighbor, and a local thief -- learn that family and community support are the best way to weather any crisis. Some may complain that this plainly-written novel feels a little simplistic. The Marriss kids never face any true danger...or even much internal family conflict. Dewey seems like a very young fourteen-year-old. And the problems imposed by a gasless society don't impact this family much beyond making Dewey and Vince take on some major responsibilities running the bike shop. We never doubt that a happy ending is in store. Still, it's refreshing to read a dystopian novel that simply shows young characters facing challenges and getting along -- and proving that bad times don't always mean, either literally or figuratively, the end of the world.


It's been a while since I've purchased any older books for my collection, but this week I found two volumes.

The strange thing is that they are both the same book: THE WITCH OF BLACKBIRD POND by Elizabeth George Speare.

THE WITCH OF BLACKBIRD POND was the author's second book (after CALICO CAPTIVE) for young readers and this historical novel won the Newbery Medal, reportedly with a rare unanimous vote. Three years later Ms. Speare won the Newbery again for THE BRONZE BOW, a brilliant novel set during the era of Jesus. It would be another quarter century before she wrote another novel for kids but -- remarkably -- THE SIGN OF THE BEAVER also received Newbery recognition as an Honor Book.

Elizabeth George Speare's accomplishments are even more amazing when one considers her generally small output of work; she only wrote two other books -- one adult novel and one nonfiction volume for children.

After waiting several decades to find a signed copy of THE WITCH OF BLACKBIRD POND, two of them came on the market this past week. That is the way it always happens.

One copy was a signed first edition. The other was also an early (1959) signed copy, but it was not a first. The way to identify a first edition of THE WITCH OF BLACKBIRD POND or ANY Houghton Mifflin book, is to check the title page. If a book is a first, the date of publication will be on that page:

The later printing will not have the date on it:

Normally I would only have bought the signed first edition of this book. But there were two reasons I ordered both copies. First, both books were relatively inexpensive. Secondly, the later printing was advertised as having a "warmly written eleven-line note from the author laid in." Of course I was very interested in reading that note!

As it turns out, the note was written on a scrap of folded paper barely two inches tall. Here it is, enlarged a bit for legibility:

In case you can't read that, I'll type it out:


Dear Dorothy--

Thank you
so much for
your very
thoughtful note.

The nicest part of this
rather dubious business
of being "Famous" (?) is
hearing from friends. It
makes me resolve to
write more such letters


Eliz Speare

Or does it say "Betty Speare"? I can't tell. Anyway, I'm so intrigued by this note. Does it sound "warmly-written" to you? Or is it written with the reserve of a born-and-bred New Englander? Or is there something more there -- a flaunting of being famous and a brusque brush-off? Hey, maybe it just seemed that way because she was busy and trying to answer many letters that day.

It's amazing what one can read into an eleven-line note, isn't it?

But then I have an overactive imagination.

Now I can see why so many writers were willing to write stories for that forthcoming Harris Burdick book.


I guess we can say that awards season has offically begun with the return of the Heavy Medal Blog at School Library Journal. If you'd like to be kept up to date on which titles might soon be wearing gold, join Nina Lindsay and Jonathan Hunt for some engaging discussions here.

And I hope you'll also join me back HERE at Collecting Children's Books as well.

Thanks for dropping by!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Teenage Baboons and Dragon Forces

When young-adult author Paul Zindel was at the top of his game, there was no one better. His first novel, THE PIGMAN, is a landmark of YA fiction -- hilarious, poignant, eccentric, and honest.

Many of his later novels are very entertaining, but the characterizations are often over-the-top, the tone is frantic, and the writing seems repetitive and forced.

The same is true of Mr. Zindel's plays. He won the Pulitzer Prize for THE EFFECT OF GAMMA RAYS ON MAN-IN-THE-MOON MARIGOLDS, a pitch-perfect drama about an emotionally-wounded girl who is able to free herself from an abusive mother.

Zindel was never able to re-capture the brilliance of MARIGOLDS in his later plays, which were usually loud, labored, and featured grotesque characters.

It was actually Mr. Zindel's skill as a dramatist that brought him to the field of young adult fiction. A public television presentation of MARIGOLDS caught the attention of legendary children's book author and editor Charlotte Zolotow, who suggested that Zindel try his hand at a young adult novel. Beginning with the publication of THE PIGMAN in 1968, the author continued on a dual career path, regularly publishing novels for young people as well as writing plays and screenplays for general audiences. He seemed to keep these parts of his work compartmentalized. Though an acting edition of THE PIGMAN has been performed at high schools all across the country, Mr. Zindel did not write it.

Only once did the worlds of YA author and playwright collide -- and the results were fascinating.

For many years I've had a tradition of going to the bookstore on New Year's Eve and picking up a book (or three) to read over the holiday. On New Year's Eve 1977, I stopped at Little Professsor Bookstore and bought CONFESSIONS OF A TEENAGE BABOON by Paul Zindel. I'd been a big fan of the author's books since the beginning and couldn't wait to read this new one.

The first-person story concerns fifteen-year-old Chris Boyd, who has spent much of his youth residing in other people's houses as his mother -- a home nurse -- tends the sick and dying. When Mrs. Boyd is sent to care for elderly Carmelita Dipardi, she immediately butts heads with Carmelita's thirty-year-old son Lloyd, an alcoholic and irresponsible shipyard worker who throws wild pool parties for all the neighborhood teenagers and is waited on hand-and-foot by a sixteen-year-old boy, Harold, who idolizes him. Chris, a chatty kid who tells big lies, actually has a lot in common with Lloyd Dipardi (both have a love/hate relationship with their emasculating, emotionally-abusive mothers -- a recurring character in Zindel's books) yet Lloyd has nothing but contempt for the teenager he calls a "nurd" [sic] and cruelly mocks Chris in hopes of toughening him up ("You don't know how to hang up your clothes after you take them off. Or about polishing your shoes. Have you ever looked in the mirror when you walk? You droop over. You don't even know how to take pride in your body. You don't know the first thing about being a man.") Tensions continue to mount in the Dipardi house, with Chris's mother stealing from her employer (kleptomaniac nurses are another recurring theme in Zindel's novels), Carmelita's health declining, and Lloyd becoming increasingly confrontational. Reading the novel, I found both Chris and Lloyd difficult to like. Chris seems a lightweight character whose romantic feelings for neighborhood "concubine" Rosemary ring hollow. And even when Lloyd opens up about being a misfit ("I know what it's like to have a witch for a mother. And just because my father was around physically doesn't mean I had a father any more than you do. I really feel for you, kid, and I don't want to see you grow up twisted.") and tells Chris about his own growing up years ("I joined a gym. I put inches on my arm. I brought my voice down an octave! I even put a mirror in front of the telephone so I could study my expressions. I did everything I could to present myself as a man.") it's more hectoring than helpful. And I never could figure out the character of Harold, who always seems to be at Lloyd's elbow, serving up a plate of fruit salad or handing him a beer. When I finished reading CONFESSIONS OF A TEENAGE BABOON on January 1, 1978, I felt strangely unfulfilled. The book seemed underwritten. Too much was left unexplained. I felt like I'd missed something....

Several years later, I read an interview with Paul Zindel in which he commented, "CONFESSIONS OF A TEENAGE BABOON is a story so close to me that I almost had a nervous breakdown writing it. I pushed myself too close to the inner demons which drive me."

This intrigued me, so I went back and read the book again. A little older, a little wiser, and a little less naive, I now found myself questioning why the adult Lloyd hung out only with young people. And I wondered more about his relationship with his teenage friend Harold. When I read the book the first time, Mrs. Boyd's late-in-the-novel accusation that Lloyd had been inappropriate with neighborhood boys seemed baseless...just something she angrily tosses off to get Lloyd in deeper trouble during the book's frantic conclusion. Now I wondered if there was any truth to it.

In April 1989, New York's Circle Repertory Company presented a new play by Paul Zindel called AMULETS AGAINST THE DRAGON FORCES. I did not know until years later that this play was based on his young adult novel CONFESSIONS OF A TEENAGE BABOON. There are some differences between the play and the book. The book was contemporary in 1977 (a character is shown watching ALL IN THE FAMILY on TV), whereas the play is set in 1955. Rosemary, the girl whom Chris falls for, or claims to fall for, in the book only has three words of dialogue in the play ("Hi, I'm Rosemary.") In this version Chris is a puppeteer who tells stories using handmade figures and Lloyd's name is now "Floyd." Although the drama doesn't end as tragically as the book, much of the plot is the same. Yet the play tells us things that were only hinted at in the novel. Look at Lloyd', Floyd's...hectoring of Chris in this version: "Your fingernails are fermenting. You slump! You take no pride in yourself. A boy's got to have pride. Jeez, you're cute when you're scared."

Whoa, didn't see that one coming!

In the play, we also actually witness Harold sleeping in Floyd's bed (Chris: "How long have you been letting him do stuff like that to you?" Harold: "I figured you knew I used to hustle.") And in this version, Floyd's relentless criticism of Chris is aimed at helping a sexually-confused teenager toward self-acceptance. (There's a reason that Rosemary, the novel's love interest, doesn't really have a role in this production.) So, unlike the book -- which ends with Chris holding hands with Rosemary -- the play ends with Chris confronting Floyd: "Mr. Dipardi, I want to learn how to love...whoever I love...I don't want to be ashamed and angry like you," to which Floyd responds, "M'boy...that part of you you don't like so much... don't be so afraid of it. Someday it may fit you more kindly..."

Considering that both BABOON and AMULETS basically share the same plot, the difference between novel and play is staggering.

Of course they are two separate works and should be viewed as such. Perhaps Mr. Zindel completely reconceived the story for the stage, choosing a more adult approach for a more sophisticated theatre audience.

Yet when I see how neatly the scenes from AMULETS would fit into the BABOON narrative, I suspect this was what was the author was implying all along. And what I sensed was "missing" from the story all along. 1980 was a long time ago and even in today's more open times it would be shocking to include a pedophile as a mentor in a young adult novel.

Reading AMULETS AGAINST THE DRAGON FORCES not only made me discover hidden depths within CONFESSIONS OF A TEENAGE BABOON. It also makes me wonder what unspoken themes are submerged just beyond the surface of other books I've read.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Sunday Brunch for Prinzes and Frozzies

My all-time favorite scene from the movies is that moment in the Jane Fonda/Vanessa Redgrave film JULIA when playwright Lillian Hellman (played by Fonda) becomes so frustrated with her writing that she throws her typewriter out the window.

I have lived that scene in my imagination many times.

Many decades have passed since Hellman's era. Now we use computers instead of typewriters, but the impulse remains the same and there have been many times in my life when I've looked down at my uncooperative computer and thought what a dandy projectile it would make.

One of those instances occured this morning, when I had to spend an hour uninstalling, then reinstalling a piece of malfunctioning software.

I considered it again when I looked at some of the notes I'd written down for this blog and couldn't decipher a word I'd written:

Oh yeah, I was looking at the notes upside down.

So I righted them and -- guess what? -- I still couldn't read them!

No wonder I feel so frustrated and frozzy today.

What does the word "frozzy" mean?

And what is a "prinz"? (No, it's not a mispelled young adult book award.)

Read on for the answers in today's Sunday Brunch, featuring an eclectic mix of info and opinion on children's books.


Two recent children's books with a focus on reading and writing recently caught my eye. In MY LIFE AS A BOOK by Janet Tashjian (Henry Holt & Company) twelve-year-old Derek -- dubbed a "reluctant reader" by his teacher -- insists that he actually likes reading ("If everyone just left me alone with Calvin, Hobbes, Garfield, Bucky and Satchel, I could read all day") but would prefer having his own summertime adventures "instead of reading about someone else's." Since his idea of adventure includes making hand grenades out of avocados and uncaging a monkey being treated by his veteranarian mother, Derrick soon finds himself attending Learning Camp. The lessons he learns there -- plus a family vacation in which he investigates a mystery from his own past -- don't make a Derrick a big reader, but he does finish one of his assigned books and learns that "even if reading is hard, everyone needs stories." Large print, lots of white space, and clever stick-figure drawings that define words in the text make this a natural for other reluctant readers looking for something a little more challenging than the Wimpy Kid series.

The text is even bigger and the white space is even whiter in WORD AFTER WORD AFTER WORD by Patricia MacLachlan, yet this easy-to-read book still packs a powerful punch. When a author named Ms. Mirabel visits their fourth-grade classroom, dispensing wisdom about writing and life, a group of students is inspired to write their own poems and paragraphs. Patricia MacLachlan has written some near-perfect books (SARAH, PLAIN AND TALL; THE FACTS AND FICTIONS OF MINNA PRATT) and some bogged down by sentimentality (JOURNEY; BABY -- and yes, I know, I'm the only one who dislikes these books.) There's only one show-offy misstep in her latest -- a scene in which Ms. Mirabel reads samples from several children's books, including a couple of MacLachlan's own -- but otherwise this story of how several kids use writing to confront troubling personal issues (a sick mother; a parental separation; a new baby in the family) is sometimes funny and often extremely touching without become sugary or over-sentimental. Ms. Mirabel may inspire more than the characters in this book to put pen to paper. Some young readers may finish WORD AFTER WORD AFTER WORD and discover that they are also young writers.


Last week I wrote about the "Childhoods of Famous Americans" books, a much-loved series from the past that related the youthful experiences of notable individuals in a fictionalized format that included manufactured events and imaginary dialogue.

Some readers remembered the books as being blue:

while others recalled orange volumes:

Some remembered seeing both colors on their library shelves and wondered if the blue books were about male subjects while the orange featured females.

I did a little poking around this week and discovered that the series was printed in blue bindings from its inception in 1932 through the early 1960s. During that time all volumes apparently utilized silhouette illustrations. Beginning in the 1960s, the books changed their bindings from blue to orange and also switched from silhouette illustrations to more modern black-and-white illustrations, always accompanied by one color, such as green:

or tannish-orange:

Beginning in the late sixties and early seventies, the style of the books was revised yet again to include a glossy cover with illustrated vignettes from the subject's life:

These volumes, like the orange books before them, also included black-and-white line drawings with one color overlaid. These are actually the versions of the "Childhoods of Famous Americans" books I remember from my grade school years in the late 1960s.


As I looked at those last couple covers and remembered others from the series, I was suddenly hit with a craving -- for pumpkin!

I'm almost certain that reading one of those "Childhoods of Famous Americans" volumes with the illustrated covers back in grade school caused me to beg my mother to bake me a pumpkin. One of those books -- and I wish now that I could remember which one! -- had a scene in which a boy's mother was cooking dinner. One of the items baking in the oven was a whole pumpkin which filled the house with a spicy aroma. She then took it out of the oven and -- here's where it gets vague for me -- either sliced it up for dinner or scooped the contents onto the plate. Being a big pumpkin pie fan, that scene really made an impression on me and I asked me mother if she would bake a pumpkin for us. After saying "no" about ten times, she finally relented. I can't remember if she just used our old Halloween pumpkin or actually went out and got a new one. All I remember is that -- as good as it smells baking in the oven, all sprinkled with cinnamon and nutmeg -- baked pumpkin is a far cry from a pumpkin pie.... Of course I was only about nine at the time. Maybe I would like it now. I imagine it tastes like squash...a vegetable I hated back then but really like now. Hmm...fall is here and pumpkins are appearing at the grocery store. I may have to try this recipe again!

This may also be the autumn that I finally try my hand at Spaghetti Carbonara. My favorite writer, M.E. Kerr, mentions this dish in several of her young adult novels and it always sounds so good (what's better than pasta and bacon?) until she adds that some people like to put a raw egg on top. Well, I guess I won't be one of those people (I almost spit up my popcorn with Sylvester Stallone drank that glass full of raw eggs in ROCKY) but the rest of the ingredients are so inviting that I need to try making this meal very soon.

What fictional meals have caused you to rush to the kitchen and pull out your recipe book?

Over the years I've heard that many readers hunger for "Turkish Delight" from the "Narnia" series by C.S. Lewis. If you're interested in making this sweet treat, just click here for a recipe.


Last week's discussion of the "Famous Childhoods" series, brought a few letters asking about the "Signature Biography" series.

Beginning in 1952 with THE STORY OF BUFFALO BILL by Edmund Collier and continuing through at least 1967 with the fifty-first volume in the series, THE STORY OF JACQUELINE KENNEDY by Alida Sims Malkus (does anyone know of a Signature Biography after that date?) the books were published by Grossett and Dunlap. They always featured the subject's signature on the front cover, as in these volumes about Winston Churchill and Dwight D. Eisenhower:

Many readers recall the illustrated endpapers, which showed an illustrated timeline of events in the subjecdt's life:

Like the "Famous Childhoods" series, I believe the "Signature Biographies" also included invented dialogue, but the focus was the subject's entire life, as opposed to the youthful experiences primarily captured in the "Childhoods" series.


One of the things that dates the "Famous Childhoods" series is its reliance on imaginary dialogue. This was true of many, if not most, juvenile biographies of the day. Nowadays, such books would be called "fictionalized biographies" or "novels based on the life of...." and stored on the fiction shelves, rather than nonfiction.

I've been thinking about the differences between fiction and nonfiction writing lately. Not all writers are adept at both. Some have no interest in crossing between fields. But this got me wondering if any authors have become so enthused about a world they captured in nonfiction that they later wrote a novel using that background. And has anyone ever done factual research for a novel and then written an accompanying nonfiction book? I can think of two recent examples.

In 2002, Chris Crowe wrote MISSISSIPPI TRIAL, 1955 an unusually strong novel set against the backdrop of the Emmett Till murder case. The following year he published a nonfiction account of that event: GETTING AWAY WITH MURDER : THE TRUE STORY OF THE EMMETT TILL CASE.

Susan Campbell Bartoletti took the opposite tack -- going from nonfiction to fiction in writing about the Holocaust era. In 2006 she published HITLER YOUTH : GROWING UP IN HITLER'S SHADOW, an informational book that received a Newbery Honor. She followed this up in 2008 with THE BOY WHO DARED, a novel about Helmuth Hübener, one of the young people profiled in HITLER YOUTH.

Can you think of other examples where an author wrote a novel and nonfiction work on the same subject?


Wandering through the library stacks this week, I came across this historical oddity from 1973, T.A. FOR TOTS by Alvyn M. Freed:

A condescending, handprinted text and subpar illustration explain the concept of transacational analysis for kids...or, as they are called in this book, "little boys and girls."

According to the introduction, T.A. FOR TOTS: designed to help little boys and girls get acquainted with themselves, to find out that they are not frogs, but princes and princesses. By talking straight to their mothers and fathers and other important people, they will be able to avoid some of the unhappiness that most grown-ups now experience.

The book explains:

You and I have three people inside of us. Bossy Me (acts like mom or dad), Thinking me (learns and makes sense), Feeling me (Is happy, sad, hurt, or angry, likes to play.) These three make us act like we are three different people. Can you recognize the three people inside of you?

T.A. FOR TOTS tells kids that, " At one time all boys and girls were PRINZES." (The author explains that "Prinze is woman's Lib for 'prince' or 'princess.'") He continues:

Then along came some people called Ma and Pa who changed the little Prinzes...

(a footnote tells us that "frozzies" are "girlfrogs and boyfrogs.")

It gets worse:

And for many years they wandered around feeling frozzy.

Until later they discovered that WARM FUZZIES

could change them back into--

PRINZES again!

My favorite run of pages in T.A. FOR TOTS starts with page 166:

Followed by -- what else? -- page 167:

Then comes...167 and a half!

Followed by 168:

Have you ever seen such a thing in a children's book before? Even in THE STINKY CHEESEMAN? I can't explain it, except to say...well, it was the seventies.


You may noticed that our library's copy of T.A. FOR TOTS, pictured above, was downright dirty and grubby. I had a container of "Clorox Disinfecting Wipes" in my office and they really did a good job cleaning off the cover:

People often ask about cleaning grubby books. I'm sure every case is different. And that a professional would punch me in the nose for using Clorox Wipes on a book...but it worked. In this case the book had been rebound and had a shiny cover. I never would have tried it on a cloth bound book. But it's worth trying on library rebounds. Just test a little on a less obvious place (for instance, a corner of the back cover) before using it on the front an obliterating half the letters so the title reads "T.A. ROTS"


I was also interested in this printing statement on the copyright page of T.A. FOR TOTS:

Wow, this book sold a lot of copies in the first five years!

T.A. FOR TOTS must have been hot back then. (Okay, let's be honest here: did any of your parents have this book in this house? Did your parents ever try to commune with Feeling You, Thinking You and Bossy You? Did they ever call you "My little prinze" or chastise you by calling you a "Little frozzie" in public? ...Do you still speak to them?)

One of the reasons these print figures intrigue me is that I suspect they are much larger than most printings today. I have no way of knowing this for sure, but I think first printings much be comparatively small these days. Consequently, brand new books are arriving in stores already in their second and third printings. My bookstores copies of THE ETERNAL ONES by Kristen Miller all arrived as third printings. And Nancy Werlin's latest novel, EXTRAORDINARY, was unpacked this week and turned out to be second printings. This is great for the authors' royalty statements, of course, but lousy for us collectors, who now have to cheat our favorite independent bookstores by running all over town trying to find a first printing somewhere else and spending our money there.


Thanks to all the readers who sent in names of many other "forgotten young adult writers" of the 1950s and 1960s. I'm going to track their books down and will probably blog about them at a later date. I was intrigued by this note from Roger Sutton:

Amelia Elizabeth Walden wrote some of the great crypto-gay YA novels. Although most of her books featured standard boy-girl romances, the most intense relationships were frequently between a jock and her female coach or between two girls. I don't know what Walden's story was but her books provided pre-Stonewall gay kids with some heady stuff.

Since I haven't yet read the Walden novels, I can't really comment...except to say: Amelia Walden, meet Margery Bianco!

Although best known for such children's books as THE VELVETEEN RABBIT, Ms. Bianco also wrote a couple young adult novels, WINTERBOUND (a Newbery Honor) and OTHER PEOPLE'S HOUSES. These books -- particularly the latter title -- feature "handsome" girls who go by boy's nicknames, wear androgynous clothing and hairstyles, and enjoy hobbies which were then considered masculine, such as woodworking.

I wonder if these novels read the same way in the 1930s as they do to modern-day readers.


Last night I watched a TV movie based on Jeffrey Deaver's mystery novel, THE DEVIL'S TEARDROP. (Quick, can anyone figure out Jeffrey Deaver's connection to children's books? Answer: his sister, Julie Reece Deaver is the acclaimed author of SAY GOODNIGHT GRACIE, FIRST WEDDING ONCE REMOVED and other good books for kids.) The hero of THE DEVIL'S TEARDROP is a former member of the FBI who specializes in the documents. In this story, he was called back to the FBI to investigate the source of written clues from a crazed bomber. I especially liked the final scene, in which the protagonist and his new love interest sat looking at an aging postcard and the document specialist said, "Paper seems so fragile...but it lasts longer than almost anything."

In today's increasingly Kindled world, I found those words very hopeful.

Thanks for visiting Collecting Children's Books. Providing that life doesn't get too frozzie, I'm hoping to do at least one mid-week blog in the next few days. Hope you'll be back!