Sunday, January 31, 2010

Sunday Brunch

More random ramblings about children’s books. Please forgive the erratic sizes of the pictures below. I'd like to have them uniform throughout but, for reasons I never can understand, sometimes I'm allowed to make larger images and other times only small ones work. However, you can sometimes click on an image and see a larger version.


The other day I thought I saw a new book about Martha, the canine star of Susan Meddaugh’s modern classic MARTHA SPEAKS. I eagerly pulled the volume off the shelf and discovered this instead:

It wasn’t really a new Susan Meddaugh book, though she was credited on the cover for creating the characters. Instead, it was a subpar picture book based on the PBS cartoon series. Neither the story nor the writing had the same appeal as the original “Martha” books. And when I glanced at the backflap, I learned that there are even more books based on the TV show, including early readers (FARM DOG MARTHA; PLAY BALL!) and chapter books (SHELTER DOG BLUES.)

I guess it’s inevitable that every original children’s book made into a movie or TV show will also later be published in cheap, moneymaking adaptations (weren’t Chris Van Allsburg’s POLAR EXPRESS and JUMANJI “novelized” when the movie versions were released?) But in the past you could usually tell the real thing from the pretenders: the original book was published in hardcover with its traditional cover image, while the adaptations were published in paperback and the cover featured a still from the movie or TV program. In the case of MARTHA SAYS IT WITH FLOWERS, the book was issued in hardcover by Ms. Meddaugh’s longtime publisher Houghton Mifflin and utilizes the same green-border-with-vegetable-soup-letters motif used in the original Martha books.

How many kids will know the difference between the originals and these pale imitations?

Do the latter books hurt the integrity of the Meddaugh originals?

Or are most kids savvy enough to create a division in their minds -- the way a generation of earlier readers did between the world depicted in Laura Ingalls Wilder’s children’s books and the characters and situations shown on TV’s LITTLE HOUSE ON THE PRAIRIE?


Last year the publisher Bloomsbury was under fire when they issued an advance reading copy of Justine Larbalastier’s LIAR which featured a caucasian girl on the cover, though the text explicitly stated that the character had dark skin and curly hair. After complaints from both the author and the public, Bloomsbury used a different photograph on the cover of the hardcover volume:

Now comes word that Bloomsbury has done it again.

Although the text describes the character as dark-skinned, the protagonist of Jaclyn Dolamore’s new novel, MAGIC UNDER GLASS, is shown as light-skinned on the dustjacket of the book:

The same mistake coming from the same publisher within six months has caused some bloggers to call for a Bloomsbury boycott.

From a book-collecting perspective, I think it’s probably a good idea to get a copy of the book with the offending dustjacket, for historical purposes, before Bloomsbury ultimately changes the illustration.


...there is no truth to the rumor that Bloomsbury plans to publish this biography:


Many years ago I was in the basement of the Strand, New York’s largest and best used bookstore, when a woman perusing the children’s shelves asked me if I’d ever heard of author Andrew Lang. I said, “Yes, he published a bunch of children’s fairy tale books and each one had a color in the title.” She identified herself as descendent of Andrew Lang and seemed very impressed that I knew about the books. I’m glad she didn’t ask me any more questions about the series, though, as I really didn’t know much more than the author, the titles, and the fact that each volume was named after a color and bound in that color. I’ve never read the books at all.

Recently someone asked me for a list of these books and I thought I’d provide it here for anyone else who might be interested. Beginning with THE BLUE FAIRY BOOK in 1889, there were eleven more books published over the next twenty-one years. Lang selected the stories from a variety of sources and edited them, but they were actually written and translated for the books by his wife, Leonora Blanche Alleyne Lang, and other writers. As stated in Anita Silvey’s CHILDREN’S BOOKS AND THEIR CREATORS, “The irony of Lang's life and work is that although he wrote for a profession—literary criticism; fiction; poems; books and articles on anthropology, mythology, history, and travel original stories for chldren...he is best recognized for the works he did not write.”

Here is the list of the volumes:


There is no truth to the rumor that Bloomsbury plans to re-publish these books by the titles THE FAIRY BOOK, THE FAIRY BOOK, THE FAIRY BOOK, THE FAIRY BOOK, etc., with all-white covers.


Has anyone read Julie Ann Peters’ latest, BY THE TIME YOU READ THIS, I’LL BE DEAD? What did you think?

I’m still trying to sort out my feelings on this one.

Ms. Peters is clearly a talented author. Her works include the National Book Award nominee LUNA as well as GRL2GRL, a volume of short stories that includes some of best work ever.

Her latest, with its Lois Duncan/Carol Beach York-like title and provocative dustjacket will no doubt draw readers, though they may not expect the exceptionally dark content inside. BY THE TIME YOU READ THIS... is the story of teenage Daelyn who, after a lifetime of bullying and a recent failed suicide attempt, is intent on killing herself. Joining a website for the suicidal, Daelyn explores a number of (permanent) options, each of which (cutting one’s wrist, carbon monoxide poisoning, etc.) is thoroughly described in the text (including its effectiveness, the time and pain involved, etc.) Including this type of information in a YA novel will no doubt be deemed controversial (will any readers use this as an instruction book?) though it can be argued that such information is equally available on the internet at any time for anyone to read. In this introspective and unrelenting novel, Daelyn recounts her experiences being bullied throughout school and her wish for death. Although the book ultimately delivers a message of healing and hope, it’s heavy stuff. And the entire tone is overly purposeful.

This is especially evident by the “Discussion Guide and Resource list prepared by C.J. Bott” at the end of the book. As uncomfortable as Daelyn’s story and the blatant descriptions of possible suicide methods made me, this discussion guide (which includes phone numbers for suicide prevention lines and websites) bothered me as well. Part of me thinks that it was necessary -- and responsible -- to include it. Another part of me thinks that it diminishes the book as a work of fiction, turning it instead into a bibliotherapeutic volume.

I’d be interested in hearing what others think of this book. Right now I’m of two minds....


Recently I looked at a copy of GHOST HUNTRESS BOOK 2 : THE GUIDANCE by Marley Gibson and was surprised that this occult thriller included a disclaimer at the end of the book advising young readers to seek help from adults if they feel they have psychic tendencies.

I guess it was included to prevent young readers from going off the deep end, but it strikes me as kind of silly. How many books did I read as a kid -- including a half-dozen by Zilpha Keatley Snyder alone -- in which young people discovered they had psychic abilities. No one in those books ever went running to an adult for help -- what a way to spoil the story! -- and I doubt any real-life kids would as well.


A friend who attended the American Library Association’s midwinter conference sent me these cool souvenirs: a copy of COGNOTES, the daily newspaper distributed each day at ALA, as well as the press release for the Newbery/Caldecott selections.

According to my friend, copies of the newspaper and the press release are handed to attended as they leave the conference room after the award announcements. Considering the advance time that must be needed to print these materials, it’s surprising that this information is never leaked before the official announcements.

If I worked in the ALA printshop, I’d probably spend all night calling friends and telling them who won the prizes.

Which is probably why I will never be offered a job in the ALA printshop.


A few people have written asking about the first printing of WHEN YOU REACH ME.

In response:

The two arcs released prior to publication were paperback.

In order for a book to be a true first edition, it must have the entire print key on the copyright page: 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1. If the “1” is missing, you have a second printing, if the “1” and “2” are missing, you have a third printing, etc.

Once a book gets to ten printings, the row of numbers changes to 20 19 18 17 16 15 14 13 12 11. At this point, WHEN YOU REACH ME is in at least its 15th printing.

Copies of the book with the dustjacket illustration printed on the front cover are probably book club (Junior Literary Guild, etc.) editions. They are usually not considered as valuable as the regular trade edition.

Thanks for visiting Collecting Children’s Books. Hope you’ll be back.


James Mayhew said...

TV tie-ins is a tricky area. Most illustrators would want some integrity to the source material to be maintained, but then of course confusion arises, as for example with Lauren Child's Charlie & Lola. Her digital style means it is extremely easy to replicate the illustrations.

Nevertheless, it worries me that some children only know Winnie the Pooh through Disney or The Moomins via the Japanese animation - so far removed from the haunting books. I LOVE Martha Speaks and I guess that while I'm kind of glad the TV books look a bit like the original, I think the books should have a banner or something prominantly stating they are based on the TV series. At least the TV series is better than the hideous HIDEOUS animation of Falconer's Olivia, which is awful.

I have most of the Andrew Lang books and they are a wonderful and constant source of inspiration and fascinating.

Brooke said...

There's also the Rainbow Fairy Book, an anthology of tales from the various Lang volumes that was printed as an oversized hardback with illustrations by Michael Hague in the '90s. Unlike the original fairy books, which are readily available from Dover Publications, this anthology is out of print, I believe, but easy to find used.

Pete said...

Hi, Great content, I'm glad I found your blog, I'm putting some stories togetehr for my kids see what you think there at

and keep up the good work