Sunday, August 23, 2009

A Brief Brunch in August

Today’s shorter-than-usual Sunday Brunch reveals the full names of some fictional characters and lists the “Shoe Books” in chronological order.


I’m always interested in seeing what “search terms” people have used to get to this blog. It gives me a sense of what children’s books people are thinking about and talking about.

Nearly every day someone will drop by looking for “the name of the book where soda pop comes out of the faucets.” When Ruth Christoffer Carlsen wrote MR. PUDGINS in 1951, she obviously created an indelible image that has continued to fire the imaginations of kids and former-kids for generations.

There are also frequent searches for the “Ginnie and Geneva” books by Catherine Wooley -- a series I know almost nothing about and only mentioned fleetingly on this blog about a year ago; seeing how much “traffic” Ginnie and Geneva brings in, I really need to track down these books and write a longer piece about them.

Quite a few visitors appear to be in the middle of homework assignments, based on some of the queries I receive (“What is the climax of chapter 9 in Gary Paulsen’s novel HATCHET?”; “What are the main themes of CADDIE WOODLAWN?”)

And many of the searches pique my interest and send me off on my own research assignments. For example, someone this week wrote in asking “What is Curious George’s last name?”

I dunno.

Did he have one? So many children’s book characters go by single names -- just like, well, Madonna and Cher. Anyway, this query sent me on a mad search to see which one-named characters actually have full names.

Here’s what I found:

CURIOUS GEORGE AND THE MAN WITH THE YELLOW HAT : Like Tarzan’s “Cheetah” or Michael Jackson’s “Bubbles,” H. A. Rey’s famous monkey goes by one name only. He is either called “George” or “Curious George” throughout the books. His human friend is known as “The Man in the Yellow Hat” or just “The Man,” but in the 2006 feature film based on the books he was given the name Ted Shackleford.

MADELINE : It’s not widely known, but Ludwig Bemelmans’ beloved character actually has a last name. It’s “Fogg.” Back in 1955, the author-illustrator created a Christmas booklet for the Neiman-Marcus store in Texas. One of the lines read, "Including Mlle. Madeline Fogg and Genevieve her dog." Years later, when the author’s grandson John Bemelmans Marciano, wrote MADELINE IN AMERICA (1999), he made it official by including the heroine’s full name in the book.

FROG AND TOAD : Arnold Lobel’s protagonists don’t have last names. Heck, it sounds like they barely have first names, as they are known by their species!

DOROTHY FROM THE WIZARD OF OZ : Fans probably remember that, in the book as well as the movie, Dorothy’s last name is Gale. The name was a tribute to author L. Frank Baum’s niece, the similarly-named Dorothy Gage, who died in infancy.

WILBUR AND CHARLOTTE FROM THE E.B. WHITE CLASSIC : Wilbur has no full name, but Charlotte does have a last name. No, it’s not Zweb. Her full name in the book is Charlotte A. Cavatica.

WINNIE THE POOH : No, Pooh’s not his last name. Actually, this is one of the more convoluted character names in the history of children’s books. As most people know, author A.A. Milne named the character after his son’s stuffed bear, which in turn was named after a real bear on display at the London Zoo called “Winnie” and a real swan that was known as “Pooh.” In the books, he’s called “Winnie the Pooh,” “Poor Bear” and, strangest of all, “Edward Bear.” Oh, and let’s not forget that he lives under a sign that says “Sanders” -- though Pooh experts (yes, there are such folks) insist that Sanders is not Pooh’s last name either; the sign was already there when he moved in.

ALICE : Though Lewis Carroll (real name Charles Dodgson) based the Wonderland heroine on a real girl named Alice Liddell, even giving both Alices the same birthday, the character in the book has no last name.

KAY THOMPSON’S ELOISE : The terror of New York’s Plaza Hotel appears to have no last name. How very vulgar.

HORTON : The elephant hero of Dr. Seuss’s HORTON HATCHES THE EGG (1940) and HORTON HEARS A WHO (1954) joins the ranks of all the other individuals so famous that one name is enough: Coolio, Charo, Cher, Prince, Bono, Usher, and Yanni.


Conversely, there are a number of children’s book characters who are best known by their last names. Do they even have first names?

MR. POPPER : The hero of Richard and Florence Atwater’s 1938 classic MR. POPPER’S PENGUINS doesn’t appear to have a first name. His wife calls him “Papa” and he calls her “Mamma.”

MISS NELSON : First introduced by author Harry Allard and illustrator James Marshall in 1977’s MISS NELSON IS MISSING, the character does not seem to have a first name...though her alter ego’s full name is Viola Swamp.

DR. DE SOTO : William Steig’s mouse DDS doesn’t seem to have a first name either.

CORRECTION! : Blog-reader Eric wrote in to say that Steig's second book about this character, DR. DE SOTO GOES TO AFRICA, reveals the tiny dentist's first name is Bernard.

DR. DOLITTLE : At last, a character with a first name : John.

MISS RUMPHIUS : And another one! The protagonist of Barbara Cooney’s 1992 masterpiece goes by the name “Alice Rumphius.”

CAPTAIN UNDERPANTS : If he has a first name, I don’t want to know. It’s probably something gross and scatological. We do know the complete name of his alter ego though: Benny Krupp.

MRS. PIGGLE-WIGGLE : Betty MacDonald apparently didn’t give her character a first name. Let’s choose one ourselves. I think Peggy Piggle-Wiggle has a nice ring to it.

MR. TOAD : Kenneth Grahame never reveals the full name of this WIND IN THE WILLOWS character, but one movie version refers to him as “J. Thaddeus Toad, Esq.”

MISS HICKORY : No first name for the title character of Carolyn Sherwin Bailey’s 1947 Newbery winner.

MRS. FRISBY : Although we know the first names of all Mrs. Frisby’s kids -- and even her late husband - in Robert C. O’Brien’s MRS. FRISBY AND THE RATS OF NIMH, we never do learn the name of the titular titmouse. (Okay, she was a fieldmouse, not a titmouse, but I couldn't resist the alliteration.) Incidentally, when Disney made an animated movie out of this Newbery winner they changed the character's last name to Brisby to avoid conflicts with the flying toy.

YET ANOTHER CORRECTION : Eric also pointed out THE SECRET OF NIMH was not a Disney film, but was instead "a Don Bluth film (American Tale, Land Before Time, etc) distributed by MGM/United Artist. Bluth worked as an animator for Disney from the late 50s to mid 70s before leaving to start his own production company."


A recent newspaper article about shoe buying for the new school year had my parents in a tizzy.

The article advised that each child in a family get two or, better yet, three new pairs of shoes by September and then alternate using each pair so the shoes can “rest” between wearings.

The piece also suggested getting rid of a shoe as soon as its treads wear down.

My folks -- both Depression-era kids -- then began sharing stories of their shoeless childhoods. Well, not quite “shoeless,” but nearly so. They told me that shoes were rarer than hen's teeth back in the day, that they were always purchased way too big “so you can grow into them,” and that they had to last forever. My father got a fifty cent pair of tennis shoes for a holiday “and I was lucky to get them.” My mother’s sister -- to her great embarrassment -- had a pair of wet shoes “literally melt off her feet” at a party. And going back a generation earlier, my grandparents walked around barefoot like Laura Ingalls, the original “long-legged snipe” of the prairie.

I didn't bother to ask if my folks read Noel Streatfeild’s “Shoe” books as kids; if they couldn’t afford footware, they sure couldn’t afford books about them.

Anyway, these books continue to be highly sought-after by collectors, so I thought I’d list the titles in chronological order for those who are trying to track them down to read or purchase.

BALLET SHOES : A STORY OF THREE CHILDREN ON THE STAGE (1936) was the author’s first book for young readers. This story of young ballerinas in training is considered the first British “career novel.” The book became so popular that some bookstore even began limiting “one book per customer” rules to avoid running out.

TENNIS SHOES was published the following year.

1938’s THE CIRCUS IS COMING won Great Britain’s Carnegie prize, but was published in the U.S. the next year as CIRCUS SHOES. This is how it would continue for the rest of the author’s career, with the original English titles being changed to a “shoe” title when the work was published in America.

1944’s CURTAIN UP was published in the U.S. as THEATRE SHOES.



England’s WHITE BOOTS (1951) became America’s SKATING SHOES.



NEW TOWN (1960) became (what else?) NEW SHOES

APPLE BOUGH (1962) was published stateside as TRAVELING SHOES


I was excited by a couple recent e-mails and thought I’d share them here. Cheryl Harness, the well-regarded author of such books as GHOSTS OF THE WHITE HOUSE and the recent HARRY BOOK (about Harry S Truman) responded to last Wednesday's blog about Clyde Robert Bulla with this:

I'm proud to say that I knew dear Clyde Robt. Bulla. In fact, my 'bibliobabe' friends, Joanie, Naomi, Vicki, & I once rode in the back of a pickup truck w/ CRB, in Central MO State's homecoming parade. He was the dearest, most soft-spoken gentleman, fond of margaritas, much-loved by his many friends, a swellegant letter-writer, and downright glorious at the ivories, once seated at his grand piano. bless him forever.

Also, an older blog entry about an obscure book by Muriel E. Cann brought this recent letter:

I graduated from Mount Holyoke College in 1997 and since 2003 I have
lived in an 1890s Victorian in Marlborough, MA. The house was
originally built by Charles "Duke" Farrell, the catcher of the 1903
World Series-winning Red Sox team (then called the Boston Americans).

A good friend of mine and fellow Mount Holyoke alumna is an avid
collector of MHC memorabilia. In 2004, she brought some of her
collection to show me. We enjoyed pouring over the old yearbooks,
songbooks, postcards, and other ephemera. One thing that struck my
interest was a Class Directory from 1926-1927. While skimming through
the home addresses the students listed, I was amazed to read my own
home address! You guessed it, our friend Muriel Evadne Cann, MHC
Class of '27, lived in my house. I thought it very wonderful indeed
that she graduated from Mount Holyoke exactly 70 years before I did.
And what a coincidence that my friend chose to bring that particular
directory with her! She has a vast collection of MHC memorabilia, and
upon checking her collection of other directories, the one she brought
is the only one that listed Muriel's full address.

Thanks to my friend, I own the 1927 Llamarada (yearbook) with Muriel's
senior picture. She was an English major. I also own the
Commencement booklet from 1927; Muriel's commencement.

The College's 1937 biographical directory had this listing:
Muriel E. Cann 1927
Address in 1937: 46 Mountfort St Boston MA
student courses Boston Public Library
assistant to supervisor of branch libraries 1927-?? Boston

I also found some minutes from the Boston Public Library in 1938 and
it has her as the Lead Librarian at the Lower Mills Branch
(Dorchester) of the BPL.

The online alumnae directory has her married to an Ivan L Goad and
that she is deceased. I found her listed in the SSA Death Index as
having passed away in 1994 in Southbury, CT.

Other than that, my trail (and Google-fu) has gone cold. I keep
meaning to visit the College Archives, to see if I can find out more
about her.

Anyway, I hope you enjoyed receiving some more information about Muriel.

Kind regards,

Thanks, Diane -- and thanks to everyone who has taken the time to write to -- or read -- Collecting Children’s Books. I truly appreciate it and hope you’ll return.


Eric Carpenter said...

in Doctor De Soto Goes to Africa Steig reveals our dentist's first name to be Bernard.

Also the film version of Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH wasn't a Disney film. It was a Don Bluth film (American Tale, Land Before Time, etc) distributed by MGM/United Artist. Bluth worked as an animator for Disney from the late 50s to mid 70s before leaving to start his own production company.

luvbooks7 said...

I loved the Ginnie books, some are hard to find now.

It's interesting to see which characters have one name or more.

Wendy said...

I've sometimes thought it too bad that the American publisher didn't have the sense of humor to rename Streatfeild's When the Siren Wailed "Rationed Shoes".

Bybee said...

I'm excited that he gifted his books and papers to UCM -- that's where I got my M.A. I spent many happy hours in that library. Pretty decent children's section, BTW.

The first "chapter book" I ever read by myself was Ginnie And The New Girl. I also read Ginnie and Geneva, but I liked Ginnie And The New Girl much better.

Robin Gaphni said...

I just wanted to tell you how much I enjoy reading your blog. It's always informative, and often brings back wonderful memories of books I read long ago. Thank you!

Sam said...

I'm always so excited when I have some little nugget of information to pass your way!

According to "The Origin of Captain Underpants" by George Beard and Harold Hutchins:
Captain Underpants' real first name is "Little Baby." But when his home planet was about to be destroyed, his parents shot him into space and he came to earth and was adopted "solm old guys."
They named him Captain, "after there faverite cereal."

Of course, George and Harold's story was fake - only they knew the real origin story -- but since they named the real Captain Underpants, too, we'll have to take their word for it.

Unknown said...

According to Mrs. Corkhill, my sixth grade teacher, the A in Charlotte's name was for Arachnid. But according to Wikipedia, it's for Araneus, as in Araneus cavaticus, a barn spider. As much as I adored Mrs. Corkhill, this second explanation is probably the correct one. E.B. White was a precise kind of guy.

Thanks for the list of Shoe books. The only one that doesn't ring a bell (and that I don't own) is Family Shoes. Now I have to go on a hunt.

Jeanne Birdsall

Anonymous said...

does anyone know where I might find 'New Shoes' a children's book that was written prior to 1964 by an author whose last name began with the letter 'E'?