Sunday, May 4, 2008

The Return of Sunday Brunch

Please pull up a chair for another Sunday brunch, serving random facts, thoughts, and opinions on children’s books -- but not “everything on a waffle.” Today’s blog is dedicated to the three people who told me they missed last Sunday’s brunch. Thanks guys!


It’s a beautiful morning in these parts -- blue sky, bright sun, cool breeze, greening trees -- and it put me in mind of the old Cat Stevens song from the 1970s, “Morning Has Broken.” Do these lyrics look familiar?

Did you know “A Morning Song (For the First Day of Spring)” was written by the famous British children’s author Eleanor Farjeon in 1922? In addition to appearing on Cat Stevens’ album TEASER AND THE FIRECAT, the song is also included in many Christian hymnals. I found the above verse in this children's book published by Oxford University Press in 1957:


I just discovered that this year’s Newbery winner GOOD MASTERS! SWEET LADIES! was originally scheduled for publication in 2005 under the title A CLAMOR OF CHILDREN, with illustrations by Trina Schart Hyman. Wow! Robert Byrd, who eventually illustrated this book, did a fine job -- but Hyman’s illustrations would have been even more noteworthy. Who knows -- the book may have ended up wearing a Newbery AND a Caldecott seal. (I’m assuming that Ms. Hyman had to pull out of the project because of ill health; she died in November 2004.)

Incidentally, the Library of Congress cataloging record for GOOD MASTERS! SWEET LADIES! lists another, earlier title for this book: VILLEINS AND VERMIN, SIMPLETONS AND SAINTS. This is very odd, since earlier titles are only included on Library of Congress records if a book was previously published under that name -- which wasn’t the case here. Strangely, several booksellers in Austrailia and Canada have Schlitz’s book listed under the title VILLEINS AND VERMIN, SIMPLETONS AND SAINTS, accompanied by a picture of the GOOD MASTERS! SWEET LADIES! dustjacket.

For what it’s worth, I don't think GOOD MASTERS! SWEET LADIES! is the greatest title ever...but it’s certainly stronger than A CLAMOR OF CHILDREN (which sounds like a book Eleanor Farjeon might have written in the 1950s) or VILLEINS AND VERMIN, SIMPLETONS AND SAINTS which is too long and, with the variant spelling of that first word, would have been a major pain to look up online.


Speaking of Trina Schart Hyman, take a look at this illustration she did for the biography WILL YOU SIGN HERE, JOHN HANCOCK? written by Jean Fritz and published by Coward McCann in 1976.

Notice how the tombstone on the far right is curiously blank? If you can find a first edition of this book, the stone will have a name on it.

When Trina Schart Hyman was working on JOHN HANCOCK, Kirkus Reviews sniped about the illustrations she provided for SNOW WHITE (adapted by Paul Heins and published by Little, Brown in 1974.) So Ms. Hyman decided to make a statement of her own. On the right-hand tombstone, she provided an epitaph for Virginia Kirkus, editor of KIRKUS REVIEWS:

Virginia Kirk
us a nasty
soul is its own

It wasn’t until after the book was published that someone noted this very public diss of the famous reviewer. Coward McCann removed the offending text from the gravestone -- and all printings since then (and there have been MANY) feature a blank slate in lower right corner. If you can find a first edition with the Kirkus stone, it’s definitely collectable!

(I’m still trying to find one myself.)


...A DARKLING PLAIN by Philip Reeve just won the Los Angeles Times Book Prize for young adult fiction.

...Tedd Arnold’s RAT LIFE has won the Edgar Award (given by the Mystery Writers of America) in the young adult category. Katherine Marsh’s THE NIGHT TOURIST won in the juvenile category.

...Every time I notice an interesting young adult novel at the bookstore, I turn to the copyright page to see if it’s “Produced by Alloy Entertainment.” A surprising number of them are -- and I can’t take them as seriously as most other books for some reason....

...I’m hearing good things about the new YA novel THE ADORATION OF JENNA FOX by Mary E. Pearson.

....Also hearing a lot of positive talk about the new children’s book SAVVY by Ingrid Law. It was just published on Thursday and the copies that arrived at my favorite bookstore were already second printings -- anathema to the serious book collector! If you’re interested in getting a copy, you’d best track it down now while first printings are still out there somewhere....

...Another YA book getting a lot of attention is SUNRISE OVER FALLUJAH by Walter Dean Myers -- a sequel of sorts to his amazing 1988 Vietnam novel FALLEN ANGELS. This one’s about the war in Iraq.

...And let’s never forget M.E. Kerr’s novel about the first Iraq war, LINGER. This one is just as timely (and just as great to read) in 2008 as it was when first published in 1993.

...Speaking of outstanding young adult war fiction, it doesn’t get much better than the four-volume “Echo Company” series by Zack Emerson (later revealed to be Ellen Emerson White.) Oh how I wish someone would reissue these paperback originals from the early 1990s in hardcover!

...Did you know that this year’s Newbery winner A CLAMOR OF CHILDREN (I mean, GOOD MASTERS! SWEET LADIES!) was rejected by TEN publishers before Candlewick accepted it? Writers, take heart! Editors, take heed!

...Wouldn’t you love to see a new novel from Sue Ellen Bridgers?

...When you were a kid, did you ever come down to breakfast and discover that your copy of George Selden’s A CRICKET IN TIMES SQUARE had been mysteriously autographed during the night? If so, you might (or might NOT) want to read THE STORY OF HAROLD by Terry Andrews and then have a little talk with your parents....

...I was so happy to see Fuse #8 of School Library Journal admit in her May 2 blog that she’s not a big fan of EVERYTHING ON A WAFFLE. For all these years, I’ve thought I was the ONLY one!

...Someone visited my blog earlier this week using a Google search for “Crescent Dragonwagon, signed tablecloth.” I have no idea what that’s all about, but I want one! I love some of her books for young people -- and she has the best cornbread recipe ever in her cookbook.

...Speaking of signed tablecloths, someone once told me they were at a function with James Marshall and two other children’s book illustrators (whose names I’m unfortunately blanking on) and during the dinner the three men completely covered the tablecloth with a beautifully drawn illustration. Wouldn’t that have been something to see?

...For us library lovers of a certain age, doesn’t this picture bring back memories of a simpler time?


On Friday I bought the just-published Madeleine L’Engle novel THE JOYS OF LOVE. Ms. L’Engle died in 2007, but left behind this manuscript, which she wrote in the 1940s.

Since it’s probably inevitable that someone somewhere will eventually continue writing L'Engle's “Austin” or “Time” books, it’s nice to have at least one last book that was actually written by L’Engle herself. (I know, there are probably no plans to continue those series with another writer...for now. But I bet it happens. Popular writers no longer die...someone else just continues writing their books. Laura Ingalls Wilder is just fuming about this in heaven.) Anyway, having read about half of THE JOYS OF LOVE so far, I’m finding it a quiet, sophisticated novel (the heroine has already graduated from college) that will please fans of the author.

Incidentally, the introduction (by L’Engle’s granddaughter) refers to this book as being “the penultimate version” of the novel.


She must not read Lemony Snicket.


This is the one hundredth blog entry of Collecting Children’s Books. Thanks to everybody who reads this blog regularly or stops by for an occasional visit. I really appreciate it!


Unknown said...

Welcome back!! I waited and waited and finally went to our local "Little Brown Shack" but I must say your menu is better.

Anonymous said...

I don't know how you do it, but the sheer amount of information you write is inspiring... and depressing on those days I don't get a good post going. Glad to hear that we see eye to eye on the Horvath book. That makes two.

Anonymous said...

Hey, Peter. How happy, and astonished, I am to have happened into brunch at your place! Because I have a new book out about cornbread (for adults), THE CORNBREAD GOSPELS, I have one of those Google alert things: an email pops up whenever someone includes my name and the word "cornbread" in a blog... And so, here we are at table together.

Speaking of which: the signed tablecloth.More on that later. First:

Sometimes, because far fewer picture books are being published these days, and also as I watch my mother (Charlotte Zolotow, as maybe some of you know and some not) age, I am around her view (which is sadness that what she sees as the legacy of attentive editing that she and Ursula Nordstrom pioneered is not being carried on), it's easy to forget how many people truly love and are passionate about children's books. Still, now, and always. I LOVE remembering and rediscovering this, and I will read your post aloud to my mother... I know it will spark lots of memories and stories for her (for instance, she edited M.E. Kerr for a long time). As fuse#8 says, the sheer amount of what you offer is inspiring, not only in quantity but in minutiae, connection, thoughtfulness, passion. I know Charlotte will really love hearing it.

Okay, tablecloth: The only thing I can think is that back when I owned the inn in Arkansas with my late husband, Ned, we had an annual holiday party for friends, family, and inn staff. Part of the tradition was a tablecloth, with a big white center and a handmade patchwork border. Whoever was part of the party that year would sign the white part of the cloth, and I, somehow (usually just before the following year's party), would embroider in all the names.

Each year had a particular color and nationality and it was all coded: the border had the year and theme, for instance "1991* Country French" , and if it was embroidered in a certain shade of blue, you knew that all the names in that shade of blue were present that year, at that dinner. A lot of fun, highly festive, but while I always enjoyed doing it once I was sitting down doing it, it was so time-consuming. I still have it, and use it occasionally, but retired the embroidery tradition around the time we closed the inn (1998). I believe the tablecloth was once written up somewhere, or possibly the person might have been someone who was part of the festivities? No idea.

That's a long answer to a short question.

Anyway, I am delighted you are enjoying the cornbread; I think the one you mean is the same one that's the first recipe in this book, the Dairy Hollow House Skillet-Sizzled.

I have recently started a blog, "Nothing is wasted on the writer.", at
... the description is, "
Cooking, eating, living, loving, writing, reading, thinking. Listening, tasting, sniffing. Cozying up to mystery at midlife. I think we're all part of the narrative life tells itself about itself."

Which I do. And some of that narrative wraps in and around children's books, and so will the blog, at times. So, of course, you're invited to participate. I am just, JUST getting started, but eventually of course I'll have links all over the place and... for sure I see how it could be addictive

Anyway, a happy meeting here.

I will take my waffle with sliced strawberries, please.

Anonymous said...

Wow...Peter, I was going to drop in and say congrats on your 100th post (have been reading since Roger linked to your April Fools' post) and I open your comments and see that the place is packed with famous people. So much for my piddly little congrats. Wow on the Crescent Dragonwagon story of the tablecloth! Cool!

Sarah Miller said...

Everything on a Waffle: I loved the first two thirds, but wanted to pitch the book out the window at the end. I've never trusted Polly Horvath since.

Sam said...

That was one wild brunch...

Coincidentally, I have a Trina Schart Hyman post up as part of Helen Cresswell Week: