Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Hangin' with Al...Reflecting on Fairest : EPHEMERA

I've always envied those lucky enough to attend conventions held by the American Library Association and the American Booksellers Association -- especially when they return home carrying free galleys of upcoming books, promotional giveaways (a box of candy handed out to promote a book with the word "chocolate" in its title; a stuffed animal publicizing a new children's book character), not to mention all the lapel pins and ink pens and postcards and notecards stuffed inside those fabric bags emblazoned with publisher logos which are standard-issue freebies at these conventions.

I'm too far out of the loop to have access to most of these goodies. The few pieces of children's book ephemera I own have either been gifts from friends who DID attend conventions, or things I've purchased off eBay. Two of my eBay wins are pictured above: a coat-hanger promoting Gennifer Choldenko's Newbery Honor Book AL CAPONE DOES MY SHIRTS and a sturdy cardboard box containing a little mirror and an advance reading copy of Gail Carson Levine's FAIREST (her best book since ELLA ENCHANTED.)

I often wonder if anyone is making a concerted effort to save all these promotional materials. After all, the lifespan of ephemera is pretty short. It gets sent to bookstores, where it goes on display (or sits in the backroom) until the next publishing season rolls around and all the old material gets tossed. Or it's given to librarians, who pass out the assorted pens and stickers and bookmarks to their young patrons. Consequently, a piece of ephemera promoting a novel is likely more rare than a first edition copy of the novel itself. So I hope there are at least a f few collectors out there socking this stuff away. It's not only appealing to look at, but it also documents how (and how much) various children's books were promoted and publicized through the years. It's part of the history of children's publishing and well worth preserving.


Anonymous said...

I've kept some things. My favorite is a little sewing kit that was put out to promote Joseph Had a Little Overcoat. And at Book Expo one year, I picked up a guitar-shaped flyswatter that promoted an adult biography of Elvis Presley. It's been my household flyswatter for a decade or more and works really well.

Another interesting type of ephemera is that given out in past years at Newbery banquets. I've got a little silver horse that was a party favor when King of the Wind won, and a tiny little bound book published by Harper as the banquet program the year Where the Wild Things Are and It's Like This, Cat won. These were collected and kept by one of the librarians who worked here years ago.

bibliogrrl said...

as a former bookseller, I have some stuff hoarded. I have a bunch of Series Of Unfortunate Events stuff, and some other various sundry things (a Mo Williems Monster Stand Up, a couple of key chains here and there)... that I kept because honestly? No one else really cared.

I love some of the things they did. They are cute, and clever, and well, they are from BOOKS. How could I not love them?

Unknown said...

Mr. Peter; Three years ago I wrote Mo Willems to get my book signed He returned it in a white box which he drew all over the outside and included a Pigeon key ring. The box is on the wall in my bed room and I will treasure it forever along with his note. We enjoy your blog.

Peter D. Sieruta said...

WTT, I'm always looking for Newbery banquet ephemera as well, but so far the only things I have are a couple programs and a mug, which a friend kindly gave to me. I've heard there is another small book out there of New England verses that was given out the year Elizabeth George Speare won the Newbery for WITCH OF BLACKBIRD POND. I haven't seen it myself though.

Bibliogrrl: Hang on to your stuff! Sounds like you have a nice collection already started!

Ms. Eleanor: You have a box that Mo Willems decorated himself? Guard it with your life! It sounds phenomenal!

skynyc said...

Just found this blog and not much of a blog responder, but this post really struck a chord. I have drawers and folders of stuff that I collected in my years as a bookseller and then in book clubs. Having moved last fall, I have been going through boxes and marvelling how much I actually kept. Most stuff directly from publishers, but one of my great finds was in a little bookshop up near my folks' house that had a flat file full of ephemera. I don't know what made me look...I mean who looks through ephemera drawers when there are bookshelves to peruse. There must have been someone slowly going over the kids shelves that was in my way that led me to the file. I found a plastic folder inside with a bunch of Newbery Banquet programs. I was pretty amazed. Dealer must have acquired a collection from the local librarian. In no order, there's a program/folder from teh 1970 banquet. There is a page with a printed drawing by Steig of Sylvester and his parents, which I don't find in the book. (Dad is playing the violin, Mom knitting and S is on the rug playing with his toy trucks.) There is also a page Wm Armstrong talking about a childhood memory. I have a folded program from th '73 banquet with a lovely embossed design based on The Funny Little woman on the cover. The cover of the '74 banquet is shows a preliminary sketch from Duffy and the Devil. The 69 program has a photo tucked in...not a great picture...but on the back is written "Lloyd Alexander, taken at the "show off" party for the dinner guests following the Awards dinner--with Virginia Haviland." The 68 Program has a charming inserted sheet with a little dialog between Claudia and Jamie from Mixed Up Files. I beleive that this was printed in the 35th Anniversary edition of the book. As mentioned in the above comments the little hardcover (3 3/4" x 4") given at the 64 banquet is mostly blank pages, but does have a nice little drawing of Max riding a Wild Thing. (Moishe)
But the loveliest one is the little hardcover (3 x 4 1/2) from the 59 banquet which contains 12 "Seasonal verses gathered by Elizabeth George Speare from the Connecticut Almanack for the Year fo the Christian Era 1773 illustrated by Barbara Cooney."
As a collector, I am concentrating on the Caldecott books right now. The Honor books really fascinate me. Thanks.

Peter D. Sieruta said...

Wow, Skynyc, you hit the motherlode! What an amazing find. I've heard of the Speare/Cooney book and have seen the 1968 material reprinted in the anniversary edition of FROM THE MIXED-UP FILES, but all the rest of the things you mentioned are new to me. I imagine each is worth over $100, but to a collector they are invaluable.

I don't collect the Caldecott books in general, but I know from collecting Newberys that the Honor Books can be fascinating -- and often better than the winning title.

Congrat on your amazing collection.