Saturday, January 19, 2008

A Double Shard?

Common sense would dictate that the older a book is, the harder it is to find and the more recent a book is, the easier it is to find.

Yet this isn't always true. Of the eighty-six Newbery winning books, two of the most difficult to find were published within the last decade. Both A SINGLE SHARD by Linda Sue Park and KIRA-KIRA by Cynthia Kadohata were released quite early in the year with fairly small printings. They didn't seem to be on anyone's radar as possible award winners (though in retrospect, I do remember SINGLE SHARD winning a Mock Newbery competition at some point. Why didn't I pay closer attention?) Consequently, the first printings of both these books had already been sold (mostly to the library market) by the time the Newbery Medal was announced the following January, leaving just a few copies floating around to be fought after by book collectors. They can be found, even today, if you are willing to pay between one and three thousand dollars for them. My first car cost less than three thousand dollars.

I was lucky enough to find a first edition of A SINGLE SHARD at my favorite bookstore on Newbery Day and always hoped I'd find another copy which I could re-sell in order to plump up my book-buying fund. A couple years back, I saw a "first edition" of SINGLE SHARD for sale on the internet. I asked the dealer if the volume had the complete numbering sequence (10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1) on the copyright page, indicating a first edition. He said it did, so I immediately purchased it for (can you believe it?) forty-five dollars.

When the book arrived, I was ecstatic. The dustjackets were an exact match (in the picture above, my copy is on the left, the new copy is on the right.) I flipped to the copyright page and was relieved to see the full descending number sequence.

However, I quickly noticed some other differences between the two books. Here are the front flaps of the dustjacket:

In addition to being slightly different in color, my copy had a price at the top of the flap, but the new copy did not. Both, though, had the 301 publication date at the bottom of the flap.

Next I took the jackets off the books and compared them:

As you can see, my copy had a flecked oatmeal-colored binding, with a circular design imprinted in the center; the new copy was a dark color with no design imprint. I then turned the books sideways to compare the spines:

Identical, except for the different colored bindings and the fact that the author's name is a different distance from the top spine end.

Opening the books again, I noticed that my copy had red endpapers, but the new book's endpapers were white. Everything on the title page and copyright page matched in both books, except for one tiny difference. The pagination in both books has a little pen-stroke slash below each page number, like this:

However, my new copy of SINGLE SHARD also had that little pen-stroke on the bottom of the title page!

So...I'm confused.

If I didn't have both copies in front of me I would assume that each was a true first edition. After all, the complete print key on the copyright page of both books indicates this. But there are just enough variables (no price on the second copy; different binding colors; color vs. white endpapers, and that mysterious tilde-like figure on the title page of one volume) for me to know these are two different editions.

My first thought is that my copy is the publishers' trade edition and the second copy is a book club edition...yet if it were a Junior Library Guild volume, wouldn't those words appear SOMEWHERE on the book? On the title page? The spine? The dustjacket flaps?

I'm telling this story in hopes that someone out there in the blogosphere can explain the reason for these two variant editions. I also present it as a warning to other collectors. If the copy with the dark binding and no price on the dustjacket is some kind book club edition, don't even think of spending thousands of dollars for it!


Anonymous said...

Is one a trade and the other a library edition? Do they have the same ISBNs?

[I loved the title of this entry, by the way. Very clever!]

Anonymous said...

I think the lack of a price code indicates the second book is a BOMC edition - and was possibly bound from some excess signatures from the first edition, but the underlined page numbers must mean the entire run was different.

Early book club editions once had a small square indentation on the back lower right side of the binding. I don't know if this is a continued practice.

I would also ask sellers if the original price is still on the book flap or if it has been cut. The lack of a printed price could mean the book was not meant for the bookstore trade.

Besides BOMC editions, Advanced Reading Copies (ARCs) and some proof copies do not have prices printed on the jacket. With more research you might find that your SHARD is an unusual hardbound proof copy, which would give it added value. Good luck.

Peter D. Sieruta said...

Worththetrip: Yes, both books have the same ISBN, so they appear to be the same edition -- despite all the differences. And thanks for your compliment and your continued support of my blog. I appreciate it!

Cary: I forgot that BOMC published children's books for a while. I guess that is one possibility here, though nothing on the book indicates book club...nor is there an indentation on the back cover. Thank you, also, for visiting my blog!

Anonymous said...


Author-blogger here. Just wanted to let you know that I read your post with interest, and I've asked the folks at Clarion Books if they have any answers to the mystery. If they get back to me I'll let you know.

All best, Linda Sue Park

Peter D. Sieruta said...

I'm honored that you dropped by my blog. If you find out an answer to the Big Mystery, I'd love to hear it! I've asked so many people but no one seems to have a definitive answer.

Incidentally, I recenty read and LOVED your poetry book TAP DANCING ON THE ROOF and a bookstore buddy just gave me an advance copy of KEEPING SCORE, which I'm looking forward to reading very soon (don't worry, I'll also buy the book in hardcover!)

Thanks again for your interest,


Anonymous said...

Hi Peter,

I still have not heard back from anyone at the publisher, but it occurred to me that (duh) I could offer the following: I looked at MY first edition copy (I have three. I gave away all the rest of my author freebies as soon as I received them...because who knew!??).

It has the oatmeal colored binding with a blind stamp; the price on the inside front jacket corner; and *no* little slash mark on the title page.

So it would appear that the black-bound book is *not* a true first edition? But again, if I learn anything further, I'll let you know. All best, LSP.

Anonymous said...

Hi, I just discovered your site today and have enjoyed it all. I have a hardcover collection of all of the Newbery award and honor(less 3) selections. I have a, lways told my friends that it is a poor man's collection without many pristine books--and I do read them. I guess that I will now have to re-think about what is on my shelves. I have 1st editions of both Shard (yes,the white one) and Kira-- little did I know. I look forward to reading more of your posts. thanks,

Diane Vogan

p.s. pick up "One Crazy Summer" by Rita Williams-Garcia (just out). It should make next year's list, and even if it dosen't it's a good read.