Sunday, June 1, 2008

A Sunday Brunch in June

A new month, a new brunch -- featuring random facts and opinions on children’s books.


Actually, I almost skipped brunch today because I wanted to finish reading Blue Balliett’s latest, THE CALDER GAME. I am a fan of the author’s books (CHASING VERMEER, THE WRIGHT 3) for their intelligent characters, puzzle-filled plots, and emphasis on art history. This new novel is a worthy follow-up to the first two. And I’m really impressed by the book’s production. Printed on heavy paper (hold this volume in one hand and any other recent book in the other and you’ll feel the difference) with illustrations by Brett Helquist (so few middle-grade novels these days are illustrated), the novel has appealing wide margins and lots of white space. The full-color cover with embossed title adds to the volume’s overall high quality. Collectors, take note.


Kids are often fans of series books and the appeal is understandable. When you enjoy a book, you always wish it would never end. Here’s a list of Newbery books that have -- for better or worse -- spawned sequels:

1923: THE VOYAGES OF DOCTOR DOLITTLE by Hugh Lofting was a sequel to the earlier THE STORY OF DOCTOR DOLITTLE (1920) and was followed by DOCTOR DOLITTLE’S POST OFFICE (1923), DOCTOR DOLITTLE’S CIRCUS (1924), DOCTOR DOLITTLE’S ZOO (1925), DOCTOR DOLITTLE’S CARAVAN (1926), DOCTOR DOLITTLE’S GARDEN (1927), DOCTOR DOLITTLE IN THE MOON (1928), DOCTOR DOLITTLE’S RETURN (1933), DOCTOR DOLITTLE AND THE SECRET LAKE (1948), and DOCTOR DOLITTLE AND THE GREEN CANARY (1950.) Many believe that the later volumes in the series are among the best.

1930: HITTY, HER FIRST HUNDRED YEARS by Rachel Field. No sequel yet, but why do I get the feeling that some smartypants is just waiting for the copyright to expire so they can write about Hitty’s “second hundred years”?

1936: CADDIE WOODLAWN by Carol Ryrie Brink, was followed by a 1944 volume, MAGICAL MELONS : MORE STORIES ABOUT CADDIE WOODLAWN, that never achieved the popularity of its near-classic predecessor.

1937: ROLLER SKATES by Ruth Sawyer. In 1940, Sawyer published THE YEAR OF JUBILO in which Lucinda, older and wiser at thirteen, copes with her father’s death while living in Maine. I was surprised when I first learned about this sequel because I thought Lucinda killed herself at the end of ROLLER SKATES!

1945: RABBIT HILL by Robert Lawson continues with THE TOUGH WINTER in 1954.

1952: GINGER PYE by Eleanor Estes was about the Pye family’s pet dog. 1958’s PINKY PYE was about their cat.

1961: THE ISLAND OF THE BLUE DOLPHINS by Scott O’Dell was followed by a sequel-of-sorts called ZIA in 1976.

1963: A WRINKLE IN TIME by Madeleine L’Engle. And who can unwrinkle all the assorted prequels and sequels and related companion volumes that followed? To my understanding the Newbery winner was followed by sequels A WIND IN THE DOOR (1973), A SWIFTLY TILTING PLANET (1978) and MANY WATERS (1986) to form a quartet. Skipping down a generation in the Murray/O’Keefe family, there’s THE ARM OF THE STARFISH (1965), DRAGONS IN THE WATER (1976), A HOUSE LIKE A LOTUS (1984) and AN ACCEPTABLE TIME (1989.) However, some say that AN ACCEPTABLE TIME is actually part of the series begun with A WRINKLE IN TIME, making those books a quintent instead of a quartet.

1969: THE HIGH KING by Lloyd Alexander was actually the fifth book in the Prydain series, begun with THE BOOK OF THREE (1964), THE BLACK CAULDRON (1965), THE CASTLE OF LLYR (1966), and TARAN WANDERER (1967.) A related volume, THE FOUNDLING AND OTHER TALES OF PRYDAIN was published in 1970. A bit of trivia: the series was only supposed to contain four volumes, but Alexander's editor felt more needed to be said about Taran, resulting in the creation of TARAN WANDERER.

1972: MRS. FRISBY AND THE RATS OF NIMH by Robert C. O’Brien. Years later, O’Brien’s daughter Jane Leslie Conley would continue the series with RACSO AND THE RATS OF NIMH (1986) and R-T, MARGARET, AND THE RATS OF NIMH (1990.) Jane was well-equipped to work on her father's stories, having earlier finished his novel Z FOR ZACHARIAH after his untimely death.

1973: JULIE OF THE WOLVES by Jean Craighead George. I once heard Ms. George speak at a booksigning. She said that she grew up listening to her mother say, “A sequel is never as good as the original book,” so she always rejected the idea of ever writing one herself. However, after her mother died, she wrote JULIE (1994), JULIE’S WOLF PACK (1997), and picture books NUTIK, THE WOLF PUP (2001) and NUTIK AND AMAROQ PLAY BALL (2001.) I have two things to say: 1) I love JULIE OF THE WOLVES. 2) Sometimes mothers do know best.

1976: THE GREY KING by Susan Cooper was actually the penultimate volume in a sequence begun with OVER SEA, UNDER STONE (1965), the Newbery Honor THE DARK IS RISING (1973), and GREENWITCH (1975.) It was followed by the final book, SILVER ON THE TREE in 1977.

1977: ROLL OF THUNDER, HEAR MY CRY by Mildred D. Taylor was the second book the author wrote in her generational saga about the Logan family. Though the family’s story is not published in chronological order, the other volumes include SONG OF THE TREES (1975), LET THE CIRCLE BE UNBROKEN (1981), THE FRIENDSHIP (1987), MISSISSIPPI BRIDGE (1990), THE ROAD TO MEMPHIS (1990), THE WELL : DAVID’S STORY (1995) and THE LAND (2001.) The author is said to be working in the final volume in the series, LOGAN. If it's anywhere near as good as her last, THE LAND, we're in for a real treat.

1983: DICEY’S SONG by Cynthia Voigt was a sequel to the author’s first book, HOMECOMING (1981.) The series continued with Newbery Honor A SOLITARY BLUE (1983), THE RUNNER (1985), COME A STRANGER (1986), SONS FROM AFAR (1987) and SEVENTEEN AGAINST THE DEALER (1989.) Am I alone in thinking that the three books with male protagonists (SOLITARY BLUE, RUNNER, SONS FROM AFAR) are stronger than the four volumes with female protagonists?

1984: DEAR MR. HENSHAW by Beverly Cleary was followed by STRIDER in 1991.

1985: THE HERO AND THE CROWN by Robin McKinley was a prequel to her 1982 Newbery Honor THE BLUE SWORD. McKinley plans to write more books about the kingdom of Damar, but don’t ask her about them. She gets testy.

1986: SARAH, PLAIN AND TALL by Patricia Maclachlan was followed by SKYLARK (1994), CALEB’S STORY (2001), MORE PERFECT THAN THE MOON (2004), and GRANDFATHER’S DANCE (2006.)

1989: JOYFUL NOISE : POEMS FOR TWO VOICES by Paul Fleischman is a collection of dual-voice insect poems and was a companion to I AM PHOENIX : POEMS FOR TWO VOICES, a 1985 volume of poems about birds.

1992: SHILOH by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor became a trilogy with the publication of SHILOH SEASON (1996) and SAVING SHILOH (1997.)

1994: THE GIVER by Lois Lowry. For years Ms. Lowry resisted the many requests for a GIVER sequel, but finally gave in with a pair of companion novels, GATHERING BLUE (2000) and MESSENGER (2004.)

1995: WALK TWO MOONS by Sharon Creech. ABSOLUTELY NORMAL CHAOS (1995) may not be a sequel to Creech’s Newbery winner, but I believe some of the same characters appear in the book. Think of it as a TV spin-off. Since this is my least favorite Newbery winner of all time and discretion is the better part of valor, I won’t make any snide comments about how bad TV shows usually beget equally bad TV spin-offs.

1999: HOLES by Louis Sachar. The author followed this novel everybody loved with SMALL STEPS, a 2006 sequel that generally didn’t get the same affection.

2000: BUD, NOT BUDDY by Christopher Paul Curtis. I’ve heard a sequel is planned.

2001: A YEAR DOWN YONDER by Richard Peck. This book was itself a sequel to Peck’s 1998 book A LONG WAY FROM CHICAGO. Many people felt YEAR was a lesser work, but I love them both equally.

2003: CRISPIN : THE CROSS OF LEAD by Avi was followed by CRISPIN : AT THE EDGE OF THE WORLD in 2006. Some felt this book was even better than the original. How could it NOT be?

2004: THE TALE OF DESPERAUX by Kate DiCamillo. I’ve not heard about a sequel, but I’ll bet money that there will eventually be a DESPERAUX DEUX.

2006: CRISS CROSS by Lynn Rae Perkins. Many people didn’t seem to pick up on the fact that Perkins’ Newbery-winner was already a sequel to her brilliant 1999 novel ALL ALONE IN THE UNIVERSE. I knew that. But I DIDN’T know -- until I read Fuse #8’s blog this week -- that this fall will bring us THE CARDBOARD PIANO, a PICTURE BOOk sequel to CRISS CROSS. Since I like both Ms. Perkins’ novels and picture books, I imagine I’ll be adding this book to my collection.

2007: THE HIGHER POWER OF LUCKY by Susan Patron. A companion novel is said to be in the works.

That’s the list that I’ve come up with. If I’ve missed any Newbery sequels, let me know and I’ll add them in.


Yes, I really did once think that Lucinda, the protagonist of ROLLER SKATES, killed herself at the end of the book. (SPOILER ALERT:) The book concludes with Lucinda rollerskating in Central Park for the last time as her year in New York City comes to an end. On the last page she climbs up over the reservoir and stares into the water, saying to her reflection, “Lucinda, how would you like to stay in the Park? How would you like to stay always ten?”

Well, I just assumed she jumped!

Or at least fell in.

In my defense, I should say that I read the book when I was a bit older than its usual audience -- and was already reading lots of young adult “problem novels” at the time, which were always full of suicides and tragedy.

So I was honestly relieved when, a year of two after reading ROLLER SKATES, I happened across a Dell Yearling copy of its sequel, YEAR OF JUBILO, and discovered that Lucinda didn’t jump after all.


I just read that there was a fire at Universal Studios today and some sets from the old movie BACK TO THE FUTURE were destroyed. I wonder if they saved the magazine REFERENCE QUARTERLY.

Back in 1985 when the movie was released, I was working in the reference department of a small college library. At the desk we kept LIBRARY JOURNAL, REFERENCE QUARTERLY and all those other scintillating titles that some librarians can’t live without. A co-worker went to see BACK TO THE FUTURE and returned to say there was a scene that took place in the bedroom of Marty McFly (played by Michael J. Fox) and in his mess of books and toys and magazines, she happened to notice a copy of REFERENCE QUARTERLY.

I said, “Why in the world would a teenage boy have a copy of REFERENCE QUARTERLY in his bedroom?”

The idea of a teenage boy having a copy of RQ in his bedroom was about as likely as our library having a copy of PLAYBOY on the reference desk.

But a couple weeks later I went to see the movie and also saw REFERENCE QUARTERLY prominently displayed in Marty’s bedroom. Weird.

Today, if you check you will see the following listed under the category of “goofs” in the movie: “When Marty wakes up in his bed in 1985, in the bookcase behind his head there's a yellow magazine named RQ. This stands for "Reference Quarterly", a trade journal of reference librarians. In the DVD commentary track by producers Bob Gale and Neil Canton, they admit that the set dresser made a mistake in putting it in, as a teenager would have no reason to have a copy of RQ".


A friend of mine is reading HARRIET THE SPY for the first time. Louise Fitzhugh’s groundbreaking novel did for mottled black-and-white notebooks what BACK TO THE FUTURE did for REFERENCE QUARTERLY -- giving a big worldwide audience to a mundane item many people never really thought that much about before. Here’s Harriet carrying her notebook:

Actually, I’m somewhat joking about Harriet making these notebooks popular. They have been around forever and have been featured on the covers of many children’s books over the years. In my own collection, I found three examples. This notebook is used for the cover design of Lois Duncan's KILLING MR. GRIFFIN and peeks over the edge of the back cover of Jennifer L. Holm’s recent MIDDLE SCHOOL IS WORSE THAN MEATLOAT.

And Harriet M. Welsch has a thing or two in common with fellow journal-keeper Gertrude Kloppenberg:

Incidentally, they still make these notebooks, but now they come in a variety of colors:


Incidentally, I’m so happy my friend is experiencing HARRIET THE SPY for the very first time. There’s nothing better than discovering a great new book.

...Well, maybe there’s one thing even better: going back to re-read the book again and again after it becomes a personal favorite.


Anonymous said...

Peter; Harriet/Eleanor one in the same. I truly did enjoy reading it and will have to get a composition notebook. For sure I'll read it again before she does. STP

Anonymous said...

Here's some good news on the Richard Peck front. Sources floating and flitting about me say that there is a third Grandma book in the works. And the peculiar thing about "The Cardboard Piano" is that it is a picture book prequel rather than sequel. So odd.

You are so very very right about that Hitty book. I'll be scanning the horizon on a lookout for it.

FYI, the Crispin sequel is actually not quite as good, to my mind. Imagine the first book but one where Bear is tortured continuously in a variety of increasingly creative ways. Fun times!

Anonymous said...

Gotta love a good comprehensive list. You don't realize the amount of sequel action Newbery winners have created until it's all there on the page. Also exciting to hear that there are additions being worked on as we speak from Patron and Peck. 100 Scope Notes has tagged you with a meme, couldn’t find if you had done this one yet.

Anonymous said...

I heard Christopher Paul Curtis speak about a month ago and the "sequel" to Bud, Not Buddy is about Deza Malone, the girl who kisses Bud. I'm not sure it's truly a sequel but will involve some of the same characters.

Miriam said...

I'm so glad to hear that someone else is rather less than enchanted with Crispin. I find it hard to believe that that was the best of the the crop that year.