Friday, February 15, 2008

Hoofprints and Pawtographs

I was surprised when SHILOH by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor received the Newbery Medal in 1992. The prolific Naylor had been writing for decades and was considered a solid, capable author, but had never won any major honors. As soon as I heard SHILOH won, I remembered that I'd just seen the book at a local Borders, so I immediately called the store and asked them to save it for me. The clerk put me on hold, then came back on the phone to say the book wasn’t in stock. I said, “Are you sure? I saw it there recently. Did you look in the children’s section under the letter N?”

She sighed (how DARE I question her!) and said, “Sir. It. Isn't. Here.”

So I immediately drove to Borders, went to the children’s section, looked under the letter N and found SHILOH sitting right where I’d seen it a week earlier. (Reason #1431 to avoid chain bookstores.) I read the book that afternoon and found it predictably solid and capable, but questioned whether it was the year’s best. I have to admit the novel has really grown in stature over the past sixteen years, proving to be perfect for school curriculums and a favorite book of many young readers. And Naylor has continued to grow as an author with her popular “Alice” series, as well as many other terrific middle-grade and young adult novels. SANG SPELL (1998) is a particular favorite of mine.

When my local independent bookstore sponsored a Phyllis Reynolds Naylor booksigning (Reason #5319 to support independent booksellers), I was thrilled to get my copy of SHILOH signed by the author -- and the inscription turned out to be one of the most unusual in my collection:

Looking at the image, you’re probably wondering what’s so unusual about “For Peter, Best Wishes! Phyllis Naylor”? But see that big inky splotch in the middle of the page? Can you guess what that is?

It’s Shiloh’s pawprint!

Mrs. Naylor first encountered this real-life dog near the town of Shiloh, West Virginia and described it as “the saddest dog I ever saw.” The canine was later adopted by Naylor’s friends and named Clover. When Clover became famous as the dog who inspired SHILOH, a casting of her front paw was made so that Naylor could rubber-stamp Clover's paw-tograph in books that she signed.

This is the only animal autograph in my own collection, though I’ve seen copies of Marguerite Henry’s classic horse story MISTY OF CHINCOTEAGUE that contain Misty’s “hoofagraph.”
Marguerite Henry first saw the real Misty on “Pony Penning Day,” an annual event during which the wild ponies on Assateague Island, just off the coast of Virginia, are rounded up and swum across the channel to Chincoteague, where they are sold at auction. (Pony Penning Day continues to be held every summer. Tourists -- many inspired by Henry’s book -- still come to witness the stirring sight of the ponies swimming to their new home.) At Chincoteague, Mrs. Henry met “Grandpa Beebe,” who bought some of the wild ponies, and his grandchildren, Paul and Maureen, who helped gentle the feral animals. Names unchanged, the Beebe family and their community all appear in MISTY OF CHINCOTEAGUE; Henry paid $150 to borrow the pony from the Beebes and raise it in a meadow beside her Illinois home as she wrote the book.

MISTY OF CHINCOTEAGUE was named a Newbery Honor Book and continues to be read and loved by kids today. It’s not surprising that Henry included Misty's hoofagraph in many signed copies, as this animal not only inspired the book, but was right beside the author while she wrote it.
After the book was published, Misty became something of a celebrity and even moved in rareified literary circles. Named an honorary member of the American Library Asociation, she was invited to their annual convention in Grand Rapids, Michigan, where she rode the elevator up to the seventh floor of the Pantlind Hotel to attend a party in her honor and dropped by many meetings and lectures, as shown in the photograph below.

(Misty is the one not wearing a hat.)

Written by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor
Atheneum, 1991

Why the book is collectable:

It won the Newbery Medal.

Due to its constant use in schools, it’s fast becoming a modern classic.

Those who collect dog stories, would want this book for their collection.

First edition points:

Bound in red cloth with cream-colored boards, with gold printing on spine.

$12.95 at top of front flap.

“1991” on title page, the words “First edition” on copyright page, as well as the print running from 1 to 10.

Difficulty in finding first editions:

Copies are available, usually running $100-$150, but the book make become increasingly scare in the future as those who studied the book in school become adults and want a copy for themselves.

Written by Marguerite Henry
Illustrated by Wesley Dennis
Rand McNally, 1947

Why the book is collectable:

It’s a Newbery Honor Book.

It’s a classic horse story.

Those who collect books written by Henry or illustrated by Dennis will want the book in thier collection.

First edition points:

Bound in blue cloth with yellow printing and a vignette of three running horses on the front panel.

The price of $2.50 is at the top of the front flap.

Copyright page states “Edition of 1947” and has the letter “A” which indicates this is a first printing.

Difficulty in finding first editions:

Henry’s book must have had unusually large printings, as they are often fairly easy to find. Copies of this book are available for less than $100.


Emile said...

"Misty is the one not wearing a hat"! Ha ha! Misty was a childhood favorite of mine, and I was really thrilled a couple years back to find a copy that was autographed by the four Beebes: Paul, Maureen, and their grandparents. Unfortunately there's no hoofagraph, and it's a later printing, but still for a nice old hardcover with dust jacket, I think that I got a good deal for $8. Taking it off my shelves now to gloat over the autograph, it strikes me that the grandparents' signatures are nearly identical. I wonder if one of them was doing signing duty for both, or if they wrote in a similar way from having been taught in the same school, at a time when penmanship teaching was more rigorous.
Thanks for this blog, I've been reading it regularly and enjoying it.

Peter D. Sieruta said...

Hi Emily. While writing this blog entry, I wondered if there were any copies of MISTY out there that the Beebes had signed. How wonderful that you found one -- and what a deal for only $8! Thanks for reading my blog! Peter

Nancy Bell said...

Hi Peter,
I have several of Marguerite Henry's books and at one time had the first editions signed by the author with the horseshoe print. Unfortunately they were lost in a house fire. I also have a letter from Ms. Henry with a black and white snapshot of Misty that she sent me, showing the famous map of the US on her withers. It is a typed letter, very personalized on stationary with the Wesley Dennis illustrations across the top. It is one of my most treasured possessions.

Peter D. Sieruta said...

Hi Nancy. Did you know Ms. Henry personally or did you attend an author event where she signed your books? I'm sorry to hear they were lost in a fire, but it sounds like your letter from the author is equally special. I got a kick out of hearing she had special stationery with Wesley Dennis illustrations. Thanks for visiting my blog. Peter

skynyc said...

I, too, loved Misty. I love that there are books out there signed with a hoofprint. I also love Shiloh, and my copy is signed, but without the pawprint. Ms. Naylor swung by the store when in town, but didn't do a formal appearance. But I do have a pawprint in Jan Brett's Cave Dog. Her dog, Perky, was her model. I think it is a very clever and simple way to promote animal books...and so kid friendly.

Mrs. F said...

Just wanted to say that it's too bad you didn't grow up in West Virginia. Around the time that the book came out I was in elementary school. Clover actually came to the school with her owner and signed my book. (= It is too bad that she stamps the books now because I won't be able to show that I have the real Shiloh. =p

Anonymous said...

Hi Peter - I too have a Misty of Chincoteague book publish 1948. I bought it a a yard sale for .25. At the time I didn't know of the story of Misty. I bought it for my daughter who loved horses. It has all of the signatures. Paul & Maureen Beebe, Marguerite Henry, Clarence & Ida Beebe and a hoofprint (Misty's autograph)We have since gone to Chincoteague Island. What a wonderful place. This book has become one of my prized possesions.

Nancy Bell said...

Maguerite Henry lived and wrote many of her books in Wayne, Il. a small horsey community west of Chicago. I grew up in Geneva, Il about 10 miles to the south. Ms. Henry did much of her research at the St. Charles, Il public library. She often visited the local schools and the small bookstore in Geneva. My older sisters claim she brought Misty to the bookstore for an autograph session which is how we came to own so many autographed books.
Recently our library in Geneva had a booksale and I picked up a copy of a history of the Wayne-DuPage Hunt which was published in 1980. Much to my excitement I found that Marguerite had written a chapter in the book which includes many anecdotal comments on writing many of her stories. Several characters were based on locals, a few I knew of through mutual friends. I am happy to hear that people are still enjoying her stories. I am a Youth Services librarian in my girlhood library and still take great pleasure in introducing Marguerite Henry's books to new generations of children.

Nancy Bell

buy jeans said...

The permanence of the internet makes this kind of joke even more amusing. I just saw this today, and it wasn't until the photo was MENTIONED in the post that I looked at it closely and scrolled back up to the date to see if it was an AF.