Sunday, January 23, 2011

Sunday Brunch with Betty White

Today's Sunday Brunch lists the latest Edgar Award nominees, recommends books for Chinese New Year, and takes you dancing with Betty White.

Okay, not the Betty White, but still....


So, the 2011 book awards have now been announced.

Collectors have spent the past couple weeks scurrying around trying to find copies of the winning titles.

In years past it seemed as if all available copies of the books would disappear from store shelves within twenty-four hours of the announcement...and then there would be a lull of four to six weeks (during which the book was being reprinted) before bookstore shelves were stocked again. However, I've noticed for the last couple years that the reprint process is much faster than it used to be. Desperate customers no longer have to wait till late February or early March for copies to become available.

As you know, the awards were announced on January 10 this year.

By January 20, my local bookstore already had a new batch of MOON OVER MANIFEST -- fourth printings with the gold Newbery sticker on the dustjacket.

A couple years ago a book-collecting buddy talked about the annual "ritual" of adding the new winners to the shelves that hold the previous winners. He asked if I played any special music to commemorate the event.

This year, due to the economy, I had to ditch the trumpet corps.

But it was still a wonderful moment when I added the books to the shelves. Here are the latest entries to my Newbery shelf:

And here's the Printz shelf:

Actually, I cheated a bit with this one. Normally I collect only first editions, but my copy of NOTHING is second printing. Right now it's serving as a "place holder" until a first edition turns up.


The nominations for the 2011 Edgar Awards have just been announced.

The finalists for Best Juvenile Mystery are:

ZORA AND ME by Victoria Bond and T.R. Simon

The nominees in the young adult category are:

THE RIVER by Mary Jane Beaufrand
7 SOULS by Barnabas Miller and Jordan Orlando
DUST CITY by Robert Paul Weston

The winning titles will be announced on April 28.


I'm always on the lookout for references to children's books in the popular media. And on Friday night a famous book by Charlotte Zolotow got mentioned on TV's WHAT WOULD YOU DO? I don't know if you've ever seen this program, but it might best be described as a serious version of the classic series CANDID CAMERA : a hidden camera tapes the reactions of bystanders who witness actors engaged in situations that have moral or social repercussions. Will they help a welfare mother who runs out of money at the grocery checkout? Will they get involved when they see someone discriminate against a minority? This past Friday one of the segments concerned a father in a toy shop who refused to buy the Barbie doll that his young son was demanding.

Several shoppers contributed their opinions, then one woman jotted something down on a piece of paper and handed it to the man:

She said, "You should read this book." The camera then showed the cover of the book and several pages of the text.

Hurray for children's books on TV!

How ironic that this 1972 picture book got more airtime this week than the Newbery and Caldecott winners got from the TODAY show last week.

If you're still steamed about the TODAY fiasco, read the next item.


Did you hear about the Facebook campaign to get this year's Newbery and Caldecott winners, Clare Vanderpool and Erin Stead on the TODAY SHOW?

Incidentally, according to, the word "snook" is defined as "a gesture of defiance, disrespect, or derision."

Don't you think the TODAY SHOW deserves our defiance, disrespect, and derision for the Snooki debacle?


I was browsing through the library stacks this week and discovered several books for teenagers written by Betty White.

Okay, it's not the Betty White of Password/Sue Ann Nivens/Rose Nylund/Snickers Bar/Saturday Night Live fame, but this lady had the same name and she wrote books of dance instruction for young readers, including DANCING MADE EASY (1953), HOW TO MAMBO (1955) and, my favorite, TEEN-AGE DANCE ETIQUETTE (1956.)

That last book, a slim, picture-filled (illustrations by June Kirkpatrick) volume was written, according to the foreword, because "Too often...the teen-ager who knows how to dance does not have any conception of what constitutes socially acceptable behavior at a dance."

BETTY WHITE'S TEEN-AGE DANCE ETIQUETTE explains the "socially acceptable behavior" from popping the big question (notice how the guy gets to sort through options like a gambler sorting through a deck of cards while the lonely girl is thrilled to simply be chosen?)... the end of the date, with a last-page fade-out just before the good-night kiss?

But it's everything in-between that makes the book so fun! (Make sure to click on the images to get a better view of the pictures.)

There are tips on selecting the right clothes, proper grooming, arranging transportation, then arriving to pick up one's date. I love the line "And don't forget to include the small fry if they happen to be hanging around."

My favorite section comes at the end: several pages of admonitions on what NOT to do.

They include not primping at the table...

...not pigging out at the refreshment table or being a "dance exhibitionist"...

...and not having "octopus" hands on the dance floor:

And remember, kids, no rough-housing" or closing your eyes!

(Actually, I think the girl bustin' the balloon with a pin looks kind of fun.)


As I said, the Betty White we know from television has never written a children's book...but her husband did!

Those of us who are, well, old, may remember Betty's late husband, Allen Ludden, who hosted PASSWORD and other game shows on television.

Because he knew all the answers on these games shows (of course he did -- he had the answers on index cards in his hand!) and because he wore glasses and had a slightly professorial appearance, he was known on early TV as "the happy highbrow."

I wonder if that nickname influenced the name of Betty's character on THE MARY TYLER MOORE SHOW -- the "Happy Homemaker"?

I did not know until recently that Mr. Ludden parlayed his "happy highbrow" persona into a career as a children's book writer. During the fifties and sixties, he wrote several books of advice for young readers, including PLAIN TALK FOR MEN UNDER 21 (1954), PLAIN TALK FOR WOMEN UNDER 21 (1956), PLAIN TALK ABOUT COLLEGE (1961), and PLAIN TALK FOR YOUNG MARRIEDS (1964.)

He even wrote a novel, ROGER THOMAS, ACTOR! (1959) for Dodd Mead's Career Book series for young readers.


I came across several intriguing books. First, a children's book by entertainer Pearl Bailey:

Because DUEY'S TALE came out in 1975, years before the recent explosion of "celebrity author" books, I thought it may have been published due to some real writing ability rather than just because the a author had a famous name.


This is a book about a maple seed.

Yeah, one of these things:

After a big wind blows him off the mama tree, Duey the seedling floats around, meeting other goofy objects like Gabby the Log and Slicker the Bottle. Duey apparently has eyes and a mouth (at one point he sticks out his tongue) though it's hard for me to envision this and the unappealing gray silhouette illustrations provide no clue.

(The touching group portrait below features Duey, Gabby and Slicker. AKA a seed, a log, and a bottle.)

Because the story is so slight, the text is formatted oddly with a paragraph here, a paragraph there, until it reaches the inevitable conclusion in which Duey the seedling becomes...

(Wait for it.)

...a mighty maple tree!

Pearl Baily (1918-1990) was a hugely talented actress and singer. I love watching this Youtube clip of her Broadway performance in HELLO DOLLY.

But as a children's book author, she's...well, she's a hugely talented actress and singer.

I was shocked to learn that this hacknayed, cliched, and poorly-written story won a Coretta Scott King Award in 1976.

The committee must have been starstruck.

Or maybe they thought Ms. Bailey would perform at the award ceremony and save them from having to hire entertainment.

During my library stack wanderings, I also stumbled across (well, not literally) these two curiosities:

TEN BOYS FROM DICKENS and TEN GIRLS FROM DICKENS by Kate Dickinson Sweetsir contain portraits of Little Nell, Sissy Jupe, Tiny Tim, Oliver Twist, and Pip and other young people from the novels of Charles Dickens. As Ms. Sweetsir says in the foreword of TEN BOYS, the characters are "followed only to the threshold of manhood and in all cases the orignal text of the story has been kept, except where of necessity a phrase or paragraph has been inserted to connect passages."

She explains the purpose of these books: "If through this volume any boy or girl should be aroused to a keener interest in the great writer, and should learn to love him and his work, my labor will be reachly repaid."

I'm not sure how much "labor" was involved in cutting and pasting Dickens' own words together, but I digress.... I found the books interesting for a couple reasons. First, that there was so little true children's literature being published back then that one had to adapt stories from adult books to serve a young audience. Secondly, it's intriguing to think that much of Dickens work was only forty to fifty years old when these books were published in 1901 and 1902 -- yet Dickens already had the kind of "classic" appeal that made it appropriate for all audiences. To put that in perspective, can you think of many authors who flourished from 1960 to 1970 who would merit a children's volume of this type today?

...Continuing my stack wanderings, I noticed this book on the fiction shelves:

I took it down mainly because the spine title made me think it was an author study and not a work of fiction. I thought I'd have to recatalog it.

As it turns out, THE MANY WORLDS OF ANDRE NORTON is basically a book of fiction. It does contain a couple essays about the author, but most of the volume is devoted to seven Andre Norton stories that were originally published in science fiction and fantasy magazines from the 1950s through the early 1970s. They recall an era when the newstands were filled with all sorts of magazines that published short stories. Try to find such a magazine today. The science fiction and fantasy magazines were particularly important because they introduced new writers to the genre as well as allowed established novelists, such as Ms. Norton, make an occasional foray into short fiction.

I suspect that even some fans of the author are not familiar with THE MANY WORLDS OF ANDRE NORTON, which was published by a smaller press (Chilton) in 1974.


Long known as the "Grande Dame of Science Fiction," Andre Norton amassed quite a large research library during her writing career.

One of her lifetime goals was to establish a library complex and retreat for genre writers -- those writing science fiction, mysteries, romances, and westerns for adult, YA, or juvenile audiences.

Ms. Norton announced plans for "High Hallack" (named after a geographical region in her "Witch World" novels) in the early 1990s. It would be located on seventy acres of land in the Tennessee mountains. Norton's personal collection of ten thousand volumes would seed the library and the elderly author's administrative assistant would continue to run the library after Andre Norton's death.

You know what they say about "the best laid plans"....

Despite her fame as a writer, Ms. Norton was unable to get funding for her dream project. Her decades-younger assistant, who was supposed to continue Norton's legacy after her death, ended up dying of cancer long before Ms. Norton herself died.

However, Andre Norton's dream did not die.

Instead of establishing a huge library complex in the mountains, she instead had a large building constructed behind her Murfreesboro, Tennessee home and opened High Hallack in her own backyard.

Curious to know what it looked like? Then take the virtual tour!

Several years later, the 92-year-old author was in declining health and decided to close High Hallack to the public. In 2004, the contents of the library were auctioned off to private collectors and book dealers, with the remaining books sold to the public for two dollars per hardcover and fifty cents a paperback.

I understand that all these bookswere labeled "Formerly Owned by High Hallack Library/Andre Norton."

Who knows where they've ended up?

Maybe one day you'll stumble across one at a used bookstore or rummage sale and you'll hold a piece of Andre Norton's dream in your hand.


I just read something awful.

The Chinese Year of the Rabbit begins on February 3 and many people are marking the event by giving rabbits as pets. Most of these animals are being shipped through the mail and, according to a CNN article, "many have suffocated or frozen to death in the small boxes in which they are sent."

So I've come up with an alternative idea.

Instead of sending a kid a pet rabbit for the Chinese New Year (or, come to think of it, for Easter a couple months from now), why not send a children's book about rabbits instead?

There is certainly no lack of good bunny books.

Here is a just a small sampling:

THE RUNAWAY BUNNY by Margaret Wise Brown, illustrated by Clement Hurd, 1942

WATERSHIP DOWN by Richard Adams, 1972

UNCLE REMUS STORIES by Joel Chandler Harris, beginning in 1881

BLACK RABBIT SUMMER by Kevin Brooks, 2008

BUNNICULA : A RABBIT TALE OF MYSTERY by Deborah and James Howe, 1979

THE TALE OF PETER RABBIT by Beatrix Potter, 1902



SHADRACH by Meindert DeJong, 1953

PAT THE BUNNY by Dorothy Kunhardt, 1940

VOYAGE TO THE BUNNY PLANET by Rosemary Wells, 1992


RABBIT HILL by Robert Lawson, 1944

KNUFFLE BUNNY by Mo Willems, 2004

Thanks for visiting Collecting Children's Books. I plan to write another blog entry sometime during this week and and hope you'll come back to read it.

Till then, remember:

Don't play with your food or silver...

Don't be an exhibitionist on the dance floor...

Avoid "octopus holds"...

And don't forget to "include the small fry" and their books in your life!


Alex said...

I love the Betty White book on teenagers and know a few who could use it.
When we were kids, we called the maple seeds pollynoses, because if you open the straight end it was sticky and you could put it on your nose.
Great idea for the Chinese New Year. I hate to think an unsuspecting kid opening a box with a poor dead rabbit.

sdn said...

You say: They recall an era when the newsstands were filled with all sorts of magazines that published short stories. Try to find such a magazine today.

That's easy. Here are a few:

There are loads of zines and small magazines out there, but the links above are probably what you were thinking about.

Beth said...

I loved Andre Norton as a kid (still like her books, actually). I remember a long argument I had in college about whether or not she was a woman (clearly this was pre-internet).

I like the idea of pushing rabbit books for Chinese New Year. Hmm.

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That is horrible about the rabbits being sent through the mail. I have an older friend from the midwest who told me when he was a child it was quite common to be given a newly hatched chick for Easter - which often died due to overhandling shortly thereafter (and it seems unlikely the average suburban family would know how to care for it anyway).

I must prefer the idea of giving a bunny story. My favorite as a child was The Country Bunny and the Little Gold Shoes. In fact, I think I need to give that to my nephews for Lenten reading.

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