Sunday, July 13, 2008

What's for Brunch? Books "Over Easy"

The library where I work classifies picture books under a “PE” heading.

PE stands for “Picture Easy.”

I’ve never quite understood that designation. To me, “easy” books are titles geared for early readers, such as the “I Can Read” series published by HarperCollins.

I wouldn’t necessarily call a picture book an “easy” book. They are not easy to write, nor are they easy to illustrate. The intended audience (often preschoolers) probably doesn’t find them easy to read. Heck, they’re not even easy for me to catalog.

But I guess people just assume they’re “easy” because they contain mostly pictures.

I’ve been busy this weekend, so didn’t get around to preparing a blog entry. Then I thought, “Why don’t I just post a bunch of pictures? That should be easy.”


See how quickly one can fall into that “pictures” equal “easy” trap?

Anyway, a couple people have asked to see pictures of my Newbery Book collection, so I thought I’d post a couple on my blog today. All the books are first editions. It’s taken a whole lifetime to collect them...and I still haven’t found them all yet. (Anybody have a first edition of the 1922 Newbery Honor WINDY HILL by Cornelia Meigs? How about 1931’s DARK STAR OF ITZA by Alida Malkus? Buyer desperate.)

Here’s a panoramic view of the main collection:

And here’s a close-up of a random shelf. This one contains books from the early to mid-1960s. ...Hey, does that book have a tail?

That’s actually a fraying tassel attached to the program for the 1967 Newbery-Caldecott banquet. Every year the people who attend this ceremony receive a program or souvenier of some sort. Last year it was a harmonica! Naturally these items are highly valued by collectors. I’ve never attended an N-C ceremony but sometimes I’ve had friends who attended and brought me back a souvenier (thanks, guys!) If that doesn’t happen, I usually try to buy one. The older it is, the more it costs. This program from 1967 cost over one hundred dollars:

The program for the 1967 banquet, which was held in the ballroom of the San Francisco Hilton on June 27, contains a list of the people who sat the head table. In addition to the winners (Irene Hunt won the Newbery for UP A ROAD SLOWLY and Evaline Ness won the Caldecott for SAM, BANGS & MOONSHINE) and their editors, guests included Daniel Melcher (“Donor of the Newbery and Caldecott Medals"), Mary Gaver ("President of the American Library Association") and Mrs. Clift, Mr. Meeks, Mrs. O’Hara, Mrs. Holman, and Mrs. Mohrhardt, who not only don’t have any positions listed...they don’t even seem to have first names! The highlight of the banquet program are two removable pages, one containing a quote from UP A ROAD SLOWLY (if you have a copy of the book, the quote is from page 171. It concerns the moment the novel’s protagonist first becomes a REAL writer) and the other a print from SAM, BANGS & MOONSHINE:

As you can see, there are many shelves in my Newbery collection, each one special. This one contains a favorite book, that one contains a favorite memory. But if you asked me about the most special shelf of all, I’d have to say this one:

Not just because it also features pictures of treasured pets, a treasured friend (and favorite author), and a treasured memento -- a mug from another Newbery-Caldecott dinner. No, what makes this shelf special is that it contains the most recent winners and Honor Books. I love that it’s always in a state of flux. As soon as I added this year’s winner (GOOD MASTERS! SWEET LADIES!) and Honor Books (ELIJAH OF BUXTON, THE WEDNESDAY WARS, and FEATHERS) people were already talking about what books will win NEXT year. My Newbery book collection isn’t just a bunch of dusty old books sitting on a's something that continues to grow and change with every passing year.

Incidentally, if you’re wondering about the mug, it’s a gift from a friend who attended the 1989 banquet, honoring Paul Fleischman for JOYFUL NOISE and Stephen Gammell for SONG AND DANCE MAN. And you can see I put it to good use:

Every night I empty my pocket change into the Newbery mug. When I have enough coins saved, I may be able to add a new book to my Newbery collection.

...Now if only I could find copies of WINDY HILL or DARK STAR OF ITZA....


Esperanza said...

Our picture books are labeled E which stands for Everybody not Easy.
I tell my students they are for all of us because all of us enjoy them whether we read the pictures or the words or both.

Anonymous said...

Hi. I just discovered your blog, which was mentioned, nicely, in a CCBC-net discussion of fabulous blogs--and now I see why. I have a question that I thought you might be able to answer. I keep finding Cadmus editions of older books that I'm interested in. In one of my copies of Jesse Jackson's *Call Me Charley* (published in 1945)--a book I believe you are familiar with--it says "this special edition is published by arrangement with the publishers of the regular edition." Why would a major publisher like Harper & Brothers let someone else publish their book? There's no information about printings to help date the copy I have in my hand, which just gives the copyright date. I've been assuming this edition was available simultaneously with the "regular edition," but we all know what happens when we assume...

Peter D. Sieruta said...

Hi Esperanza:

What a great idea! I wish every library would adopt the "E is for Everybody" classification! Thanks for sharing that.


Hello Fern:

I have encountered many Cadmus Editions over the years and have also wondered about them. For example, most of the "Little House" books, though originally published by Harper, were also issued as Cadmus Editions though E.M. Hale of Wisconsin. I have always assumed these were book club editions, similar to the Junior Literary Guild (also known as the Junior Library Guild at some points) which were issued simultaneously with the regular trade editions. While the JLG books went to individual subscribers and libraries, I've always had the impression that the Cadmus books were sold directly to schools for use in the curriculum; maybe I just though this because some of the copies I've seen have had school ink stamps on them. In 1951, Bernice Elizabeth Leary and Edward Krug wrote three books or booklets that link Cadmus books to educational curriculums:

Curriculum correlation of Cadmus books with the Alice and Jerry basic readers, Row, Peterson and Company

Curriculum correlation of Cadmus books with the basic readers of the Curriculum Foundation series, Scott, Foresman and Company

Curriculum correlation of Cadmus books with the Ginn basic readers.

I am going to continue researching this topic and if I uncover any more info, I will include it in a future blog.

Incidentally, does your copy of CALL ME CHARLEY have illustrated endpapers featuring a blue-and-yellow repeated illustration of a boy and girl reading a book?

Please check back on my blog for further info -- and thanks again for your interest.


Anonymous said...

Interesting. I see that you've one ARC and one hardcover copy of each Newbery winner. Now THAT is an interesting way to go about it! Do you buy them after the award announcement or keep a bunch about in the event that they might win?

Peter D. Sieruta said...

Hi Fuse #8,

I try to keep up with the titles people are talking about during the that I'll already have them when the awards are announced. That's why I'm glad for blogs like yours, where you provide occasional Newbery predictions. They help me know what to look for.

I've been really lucky the last few years to already have the winning titles when the awards were announced. In fact, this year I scored a real coup: SIGNED copies of all four Newbery titles! (Gary Schmidt and Christopher Paul Curtis are from here in Michigan and book buddies in Connecticut and New York acquired signed copies of the other two titles for me.)

In those years when a "surprise" winner is announced, I feel personally affronted ("WHY didn't I know about this book in advance!?!") and then really have to scramble to find copies -- because everyone else is hunting for them too. And if you're interested in first editions, you really need to find them fast because surprise winners like KIRA-KIRA and SINGLE SHARD end up selling for hundreds or even thousands of dollars. ...So in the long run it's usually cheaper to collect all during the year rather than be caught with one's britches down in January.

...It's true, you do end up with a lot of non-winners at year's end, but many of them turn out to be great books...sometimes better than the titles that actually do win. Not that I'd ever mention any of those titles (cough...walk two moons...cough...crispin... cough) by name or anything.

Thanks for dropping by,


Sarah said...

Hi, I stumbled upon your blog and was wondering.

Did you ever find a copy of the "The Dark Star of Itza"?