Sunday, March 28, 2010

March 28 Sunday Brunch

Not much to share in today’s blog, but here are a few news items and opinion pieces, presented Sunday Brunch style.


A couple weeks ago I received in the mail a large packet of information about the Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award. Called “the world’s largest prize for children’s and young adult literature,” the $620,000 award can be given to one person or shared among several, and the candidates include not just children’s authors and illustrators, but also oral storytellers and promotors of reading.

The nomination list included 168 names, including Americans Ashley Bryan, Kevin Henkes, Russel Hoban, Maira Kalman, Lois Lowry, Greg Mortenson, Walter Dean Myers, Anne Pellowski, Room the Read, Allen Say,Uri Shulevitz, and Peter Sis.

I wouldn’t even know who to pick among that dozen -- not to mention the other 150+ on the list!

Earlier this week the 2010 Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award was given to Belgian illustrator and writer Kitty Crowther. I have to admit I am unfamiliar with her work, most of which has been published in French and Dutch. I did see one reference to a book published in Engish, JACK AND JIM, in 2000.

It will be interesting to see if more of her books appear in the U.S. now that she’s won this award.


Incidentally, the Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award has only been around since 2002. The previous winners were:

Maurice Sendak / United States
Christine Nöstlinger / Austria
Lygia Bojunga Nunes / Brazil

Philip Pullman / United Kingdom
Ryÿji Arai / Japan

Katherine Paterson / United States

Banco del Libro / Venezuela

Sonya Hartnett / Australia

Tamer Institute for Community Education / Palestine

One of the things I find most interesting about this award is that it was founded by the Swedish government. The promotional packet I received referred to it as “an award by the Swedish people to the world.”


When I looked up those previous Astrid Lindgren winners on Wikipedia, I was surprised to see Sonya Hartnett among the previous winners. I would never have put her in the same category as, for instance, Maurice Sendak and Katherine Paterson. Personally, I can’t say I really like her books, but they are often interesting. Anyway, I clicked on the link to her name and discovered an intriguing anecdote I knew nothing about. According to Wikipedia:

In 2006, Hartnett was involved with some controversy regarding the publication of LANDSCAPE WITH ANIMALS, published under the pseudonym Cameron S. Redfern. The book contains many sex scenes and Hartnett was almost immediately "outed" as the author. She said that she wanted to avoid the book being accidentally shelved with her work for children in libraries and denied that she used a pseudonym to evade responsibility for the work or as a publicity stunt.... In a review published in THE AGE, Peter Craven savaged the book describing it as an "overblown little sex shocker", a "tawdry little crotch tickler" and lamented that Hartnett was "too good a writer to put her name to this indigestible hairball of spunk and spite". It was defended vigorously in the THE AUSTRALIAN by Marion Halligan ("I haven't read many books by Hartnett, but I think this is a much more amazing piece of writing than any of them") who chastised Craven for missing the joke ("How could an experienced critic get that so wrong?") and wonders why female authors writing frankly about sex is so frowned upon. might be interesting to track down a copy of this novel!


This past week also brought the announcement of the Hans Christian Andersen Award winners. This international prize is given every two years to honor the complete works of both an author and an illustrator.

This year’s award for illustration went to Germany’s Jutta Bauer.

The award for writing went to David Almond of the United Kingdom.

This year’s nominees from the United States were Walter Dean Myers for writing and Eric Carle for illustration.


“The sun sets in the west (just about everyone knows that)....”

The famous opening lines of Ellen Raskin’s Newbery winning THE WESTING GAME may have to be rewritten to say:

“The sun is rising in the west...”

because it appears that there is a sequel to THE WESTING GAME on the horizon.

In January 2007, Publishers Weekly announced that Dutton had purchased from Ellen Raskin’s estate “two new puzzle mystery novels: THE WESTING QUEST, a sequel to THE WESTING GAME, and A MURDER FOR MACARONI AND CHEESE, a never-before-seen manuscript nearly completed at the author's death in 1984.”

Since then I have not heard much about these books. I still don’t know when the WESTING GAME sequel will be published (and how much of it is really based on Ms. Raskin’s own ideas) but it appears that a novel titled THE CASE OF MACARONI AND CHEESE "by Ellen Raskin with help from Daniel Ehrenhaft" will be published this fall.

I’ll be very curious to read this one. If the book was “nearly completed” in 1984, why did it take over a quarter century for it to see publication? I guess that’s yet another mystery!


Seems like wherever I go, whatever I do, I stumble onto something involving children’s books.

This afternoon I ran out to the store and, scanning through the radio dial, came across a show called “Good Parenting with Matt Bubala.” And just when I stopped to listen, he announced that his next guest would be Mary Pope Osborne, author of the “Magic Tree House” series.

When was the last time you heard a children’s author interviewed on the radio?

Ms. Osborne started off describing the plot of her latest, LEPRECHAUN IN LATE WINTER, and it was a pleasure to hear a kids’ book described in sentences, even paragraphs, instead of the kind of one-line summary used to introduce the Newbery and Caldecott winners on the Today show each year. And although I’ve never been a big fan of this series, I gained a new respect for the books when I heard the author’s obvious commitment to writing for kids and getting them to read.

I liked Matt Bubala’s attitude as well, as he discussed reading aloud with his eight year old son each evening, with Matt reading each left-hand page and his son reading each right-hand page. The only thing I didn’t like was when the host said that his son was starting to grow past the Magic Tree House and was now into the Wimpy Kid series. Yeah, the voice and attitude of the Wimpy Kid books is definitely geared for older readers...but I’m not sure they are a step up in reading. Aren’t there just a few words on each page...?


I was sorry to hear that Australian author Patricia Wrightson passed away this past week. She was a past winner of the Hans Christian Andersen Award (1986) and also received a Boston Globe-Horn Book Award for her 1983 novel A LITTLE FEAR.

I was going to end this entry with a slam-bang finish by showing you my inscribed copy of A LITTLE FEAR...which happened to be the copy that was originally owned by the Horn Book and which Ms. Wrightson signed when she came to the U.S. to accept her award.

Unfortunately, the volume is not currently on my shelves and must already be packed away in one of the dozens of boxes of books stacked behind me at this moment, waiting for my move.


Thanks for visiting Collecting Children’s Books. I plan to be back later this week with at least one weekday posting.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

March 22 Sunday Brunch

So, I started last week’s Sunday Brunch with a pledge to write more daily entries this week...and didn’t write a single one.

2010 has not been a good year for me. Every time I think this year couldn’t get gets worse!

This week was the worst of all.

Oh well, maybe things will start to improve now that spring is here.


In the spirit of the season, here are a dozen random titles about springtime:

BRIANA, JAMAICA, AND THE DANCE OF SPRING by Juanita Havill ; illustrated by Anne Sibley O'Brien.
Boston : Houghton Mifflin, 2002.

SPRING : AN ALPHABET ACROSTIC by Steven Schnur ; illustrated by Leslie Evans.

DAKOTA SPRING by D. Anne Love ; drawings by Ronald Himler.

WINTER HOLDING SPRING by Crescent Dragonwagon ; illustrated by Ronald Himler.

MY SPRING ROBIN by Anne Rockwell ; pictures by Harlow Rockwell & Lizzy Rockwell.


WAITING-FOR-SPRING STORIES by by Bethany Roberts ; illustrations by William Joyce.

THREE FRIENDS FIND SPRING by Judy Delton ; pictures by Giulio Maestro.

PEEPER, FIRST VOICE OF SPRING by Robert M. McClung ; illustrated by Carol Lerner.

SPRING IS... by Janina Domanska.

SPRING BEGINS IN MARCH by Jean Little ; illustrated by Lewis Parker.

IN A SPRING GARDEN by Richard Lewis; pictures by Ezra Jack Keats.


Sad to see that author Sid Fleischman died this week, just days after his ninetieth birthday.

Mr. Fleischman started off as a magician (recalled in his fine autobiography, THE ABRACADABRA KID), became a suspense novelist and screenwriter (BLOOD ALLEY), and entered the field of children’s books because he wanted his own kids to know what he did for a living. He submitted that first story for young people, MR. MYSTERIOUS & COMPANY, to his agent with a note saying, "If you're not interested, just drop it in the waste basket."

Thank goodness that didn’t happen.

MR. MYSTERIOUS was the first of more than fifty children’s books that Sid Fleischman would write, including the well-known GHOST IN THE NOONDAY SUN (1965), Boston Globe-Horn Book winner HUMBUG MOUNTAIN (1978), Newbery winner THE WHIPPING BOY (1986), and one of Fleischman’s own favorites, THE SCAREBIRD (1978.) In recent years he published a pair of highly-regarded biographies, ESCAPE! : THE STORY O THE GREAT HOUDINI and THE TROUBLE BEGINS AT 8 : A LIFE OF MARK TWAIN IN THE WILD, WILD WEST, with a biography of Charlie Chaplin, SIR CHARLIE, slated for later this spring.

Besides leaving an amazing body of work, the author will continued to be remembered each year with the “Sid Fleischman Award,” which is given each year by the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators to the author “whose work exemplifies the excellence of writing in the genre of humor.” Mr. Fleischman was named the first winner of that award, in 2003, for his complete canon. Subsequent winners have included Lisa Yee for MILLICENT MIN, GIRL GENIUS; Gennifer Choldenko for AL CAPONE DOES MY SHIRTS, David LaRochelle for ABSOLUTELY POSITIVELY NOT, Sara Pennypacker for CLEMENTINE and Donna Gephart for AS IF BEING 12 3/4 ISN’T BAD ENOUGH, MY MOTHER IS RUNNING FOR PRESIDENT!

Sid’s son, Paul, is also a Newbery winner (JOYFUL NOISE), making them the only parent/child winners in the history of that award.


This week at work I cataloged a recent volume in Houghton Mifflin’s always-excellent “Scientists in the Field” series. This one, WHALING SEASON : A YEAR IN THE LIFE OF A WHALING SCIENTIST by Peter Lourie, focuses on Arctic biologist Craig George. Browsing through the book, I was surprised to discover that Craig George is the son of children’s author Jean Craighead George. His mother, who’s had her own memorable experiences in the Arctic and whose 1973 Newbery winner, JULIE OF THE WOLVES, is set in that location, even began her Newbery acceptance speech discussing her son. She said:

Last January thirtieth, my telephone rang about eight o’clock in the evening and I picked it up in the kitchen. Luke, my sixteen-year-old son, and I had just learned that it is a felony to overdraw a bank account in Utah, where his older brother Craig was a sophomore in college. We were wondering how Craig, who thinks more about mountains and backpacks rather than budgets, would fare with his allowance in a Utah bank. This was in the front of my mind when I answered the ring.

“It’s long distance,” I called to Luke, who was leaning over his homework at the dining room table. “Oh, oh,” he said, as I braced myself for the sound of clanking chains. The telephone clicked, and in bright contrast to my dark fears, I heard Priscilla Moulton’s pleasant voice:

“The Children’s Services Division of the American Library Association,” she said, “has selected you to be the recipient of the 1973 John Newbery Medal for the most distinguished contribution to American Literature for Children. The award proclaims your achievement in the creation of JULIE OF THE WOLVES.”

Who would have thought that the subject of this amusing anecdote would end up being the subject of a children’s book some thirty-five years later!


Two very entertaining and informative children’s books competitions are occurring in cyberspace right now.

Over at the Fuse #8 blog, Betsy Bird is counting down the Top 100 Children’s Novels in a series of amazingly thorough entries. Working backward from 100, she’s down to #17 now. What book will be number one?

Meanwhile, it’s year #2 for School Library Journal’s Battle of the Kids’ Books, in which sixteen of 2009’s top titles duke it out in a last-book-standing competition judged by the likes of Helen Frost, Gary Schmidt, Christopher Paul Curtis and Anita Silvey.

Next year I think Fuse #8 and the BOB folks should join forces and run competitions to select the top Newbery title of all time.

Can you imagine THE GIVER competing against A WRINKLE IN TIME?


THE HIGH KING and THE GREY KING trying to knock each other’s crowns off?

Elizabeth George Speare’s two winners in a grudge match to see which comes out on top?

What would be the #1 Newbery title ever?


In one of my first Collecting Children’s Books postings in 2008 I blogged about the radio drama DOWN GILEAD LANE. Here’s what I said:

Three or four years ago, I tossed and turned all night and uncharacteristically woke up right at dawn on a summer Sunday morning. My clock-radio was on and I heard the sound of kids arguing about going to a party. I turned the radio up and was soon drawn into a radio drama. A radio drama in the twenty-first century? It was called DOWN GILEAD LANE, a continuing story about the Morrison family who live in the midwestern town of Coleraine. Produced by CBH Ministries, every episode contained an overt religious message (I guess that's why they run it Sunday mornings), but what impressed me the most about these shows was how contemporary and non-stodgy the series actually was (with episode titles like “Bo-Ring!” and “Snot Fair.”) The plots were tightly written, the huge cast of characters was well-developed, and the dialogue was just right. The creator of this series was named Beth Klima (later Culp) and I read on the show’s website that her goal was to write children’s books. I could definitely see that, because each episode of the show seemed like a chapter from a wonderful children’s book. Beth Culp (who was very young when she created and began writing this series) left the show a couple years ago, but I hope she’s out there trying to write a children’s book. I’d definitely be anxious to read it!

I bring up this show again because it continues to fascinate me. The twelfth and final season finished airing a few months back and, although I was saddened to see, hear it...end, I’m glad to learn that most radio stations are now rerunning the entire series from the very beginning. It’s a good time to jump in, if you’re interested in a show that -- to me -- sounds like a great children’s book or YA novel adapted for radio. You can listen here . Incidentally, I’m also enjoying a neat weekly podcast in which two "Brodingnagian Gileadites" -- Daniel Gray from Canada and Dave Brown from New Zealand -- review each of the repeated episodes, which can be found right here. They are joined by one of the show’s former directors, Steve O’Dell, and one of the very talented later writers, Lori Twichell, who provide further insight into the stories.

As for me, I keep wondering what happened to the creator of the series, Beth Klima Culp. From what I read, she came up with these fictional characters when she herself was young and coping with family tragedy. I always wonder how she felt seeing these characters brought to life on the radio...and how it felt to leave the show and have other writers continue the story she created.

Wherever she is, I still hope she’s out there writing a children’s book!


In 1990 Caroline B. Coney published THE FACE ON THE MILK CARTON, the story of teenage Janie Johnson’s realization that she was once a “missing child.” In the years since, the prolific author has published dozens of fast-paced suspense stories (DRIVER’S ED; IF THE WITNESS LIED) as well as the occasional literary volume such as ENTER THREE WITCHES. But THE FACE ON THE MILK CARTON likely remains her best-known work, and over the years Coney has capitalized on that by writing three more stories about Janie, most of which seemed to rehash the original material.

Cooney’s latest, THEY NEVER CAME BACK, is another “missing child” story, but because it has a brand-new protagonist, a plot that seems torn from the headlines (think Bernie Madoff), and a decidedly contemporary setting (the economy is described as being “in tatters”), it’s a fresher, more readable story than all those pale Janie sequels.

In this novel, fifteen-year-old Cathy Ferris is attending an intensive summer school program when a classmate approaches, claiming that Cathy is his long-lost cousin Murielle who, five years earlier, disappeared into the foster system when her financier parents fled the country after embezzling millions from their clients.

Coney reveals Cathy’s connection to Murielle gradually, using alternating chapters from the perspective of each, to build suspense. The prose is occasionally slick, but the story is fast-paced, emotionally-sound, and many of the details -- such as the beehive behavior of Cathy’s classmates, each armed with Blackberry and cellphone -- are just right.

This page-turner will intrigue fans of Cooney’s earlier books, as well as earn some new ones.


I just read an interesting article from ABE Books about Cy Fox, a long-time collector of Wyndham Lewis books, who ended up donating his entire rare collection to the University of Victoria in Canada. “I’m not sad,” he said, explaining that “it’s a relief that it’s in a good home.”

This doesn’t surprise me. Nearly every serious book collector I know -- unless they have their volumes earmarked for family members or special friends -- intends to donate his or her collection of books to a library, research center, or special collection. Most of us probably can’t bear to part with our books while we’re living, as Cy Fox did, but we plan to bequeath them to someplace special when we die. I know I do. I just haven’t decided where yet.

What do you plan to do with your special books?

Give them to a special organization?

Leave them to a family member or friend?

Or just let them scatter into the world like autumn leaves, where they can be discovered and collected anew?

There are nice things about each of those arrangements, actually.

Thanks for visiting Collecting Children’s Books.

Hope you’ll be back.

And hoping for better days ahead, for all.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

A Brunch with Napkins

Today’s Sunday Brunch starts, once again, with an apology.

My goal is to write two or three blog entries a week, yet I haven’t posted anything since last Sunday.

Sorry about that.

This past week my father had an adventure, which involved a wild ride followed by three relaxing days of eating breakfast in bed and having his every need attended to by a staff of professionals. Sounds like fun -- until you realize he took his wild ride in an ambulance and spent those three days in the hospital. The good news is that he has recovered, is out of the hospital and, I hope, this blog can now return to a more normal schedule.


Although it’s only been a week, it seems like the Academy Awards were a million years ago. It was nice, though, to hear a couple children’s books -- Roald Dahl’s THE FANTASTIC MR. FOX and Neil Gaiman’s CORALINE -- mentioned on the broadcast, as both were nominated for Best Animated Film.

Since the Oscars, I’ve been intrigued by Howard Stern’s controversial statement that Gabourey Sidibe, nominated for her debut in PRECIOUS, is unlikely to find future work in Hollywood. Personally, I think Gabourey should look to the world of young adult books for future roles. I guess she’s too old to play Emma in Louise Fitzhugh’s NOBODY’S FAMILY IS GOING TO CHANGE, but how about putting an option on MY LIFE AS A RHOMBUS by Varian Johnson, as well as A LITTLE LOVE by Virginia Hamilton? Both of these strong novels could feature powerful roles for Ms. Sidibe.


Speaking of movies, I recently read an article that said the famous logo that appears on the screen before every Paramount motion picture

began as a drawing sketched on the back of a napkin by the company’s founder William Hodkinson.

This got me wondering if any children’s books began in similar fashion.

So far I’ve only found one.

Back in 1988, Neal Waldman received his first assignment to illustrate a children’s book. The title was BRING BACK THE DEER by Jeffrey Prusski. Mr. Waldman recalled how he felt when he received the manuscript: "As I began to read, I felt like I was entering a dark, winding cave. By the time I finished reading, I was totally confused. The story left me feeling that I had missed something. If I hadn't promised to read it five times, I would never have looked at it again. But then a strange thing happened. On my second reading, a few things were revealed to me that had escaped me the first time. And when I read it again, I saw even more. By the fifth time, not only did I begin to appreciate it . . . I began to love it."

But it wasn’t until he met the author for lunch that Waldman figured out how to illustrate the book. “As Jeff [spoke] I felt myself being transported back . . . back . . . back into the story. Images began flooding my brain. I opened my napkin and began scribbling on it. When I got home later that afternoon, I unfolded the napkin and began to study it. One of my scribblings was the image of two rectangles, one inside the other. I envisioned the main subject of each page within the smaller rectangle, with secondary subjects floating around it. The larger rectangle became the frame for each page. The color within the smaller rectangle would be very bright, to focus the viewer's attention on the central image." Soon "the paintings were flowing effortlessly. Each image was like a road sign, directing me to whatever came next. I created a tribe, with its own special clothing, dwellings, environment, and even its own language of pictographs. It was as if I was constructing an entire world, which I lived in as I continued to paint. I painted intensely for two months and when I finished the book it was clear that my life had changed forever. I knew that I wouldn't be working for advertising agencies or design studios anymore. I wanted to do more picture books. I had tiptoed through the window, and my path lay clearly before me. Like a many-colored fan, my life was unfolding before my eyes, revealing colors I had never even dreamed of."

Does anyone know any other children’s books that had their beginnings on the back of an envelope, on a piece of scrap paper, or on the edges of a used napkin?


This past week I saw this new volume at the bookstore:

It’s a sequel to Frances Hodgson Burnett’s A LITTLE PRINCESS, which was originally published in 1905.

I was surprised that a writer as well-known and critically-acclaimed as Hilary McKay -- wrote the “Misfits” series, among others -- would attempt a sequel to another author’s work. Doing a little research, I found the explanation in a Publishers Weekly article:

As a child, the author read and reread the story of Sara Crewe, a wealthy, pampered girl plunged into a penniless, dreary existence at a London boarding school after her father’s death. “I was mesmerized by the world Burnett described: early 20th-century London, an old-fashioned school, rainy pavements and candlelit attics, the smell of hot currant buns to a hungry child, the rustle of colored silk,” McKay recalls. “I knew the details so well I could have lived there myself.”

The author found the novel’s ending “perfect in all ways but one.” She was plagued by the lingering questions she had about Sara’s friends, who are left behind when the heroine drives away at the end of A LITTLE PRINCESS. McKay decided she must answer the question, “What happened next?” In Wishing for Tomorrow, she does just that, continuing the stories of Ermengarde, Lottie, Lavinia and others who remain at the school.

I understand a writer’s desire to continue a story...but is it fair to the original author? I can’t decide.

A couple years back Geraldine McCaughrean gave us a sequel to PETER PAN called PETER PAN IN SCARLET. Some time ago, Susan Beth Pfeffer wrote a series called “Portraits of Little Women” which focused on members of the March family. (And let’s not forget that Geraldine Brooks won a Pulitzer for her adult novel about that same family called, simply, MARCH.)

I’ll be curious to see how McKay’s tale fares with modern readers. Are enough of them familiar with the Burnett classic to read this sequel, or will it be the other way around, with fans of Hilary McKay’s novel seeking out A LITTLE PRINCESS and reviving interest in the work of Frances Hodgson Burnett?


Considering the success of TWILIGHT -- not to mention all the copycat children’s and YA novels published over the last few years -- any writer who wants to continue a classic for today’s audiences should probably add a vampire component.

This would be especially helpful if a character in the original novel died. ...Sequels could bring Beth March and Charlotte A. Cavatica back from the grave...with a taste for blood.

Not to mention: MY BROTHER SAM IS UNDEAD and THE ELEVENTH GOOD THING ABOUT BARNEY -- he was able to return from the dead!


Cleaning out drawers in preparation for moving, I realize that I was born to blog about children’s books. No Johnny-come-lately to this field, I was already serious about children’s books back when I was a kid myself.

Just this past week I found an article I photocopied from the July 17, 1972 issue of PUBLISHERS WEEKLY when I was thirteen years old. (Who remembers the early days of photocopying, when your copy was printed with gray ink on damp paper? Who remembers the pungent scent of that paper? Who remembers the jagged edges at the bottom of each page as it emerged from the machine?) Anyway, this article “Fair or Unfair : Confessions of a Literary Contest Judge” by Jane Langton fascinated me at age thirteen and continues to fascinate me now at age (well, you do the math.)

I don’t think I’ve ever read an article about choosing books for an award as revealing and honest as this one. It concerns Ms. Langton’s stint as judge for the 1972 Children’s Spring Book Festival Award. Working with a librarian in California named Regina Minudri, Langton was charged with choosing five honor books in the Young Adult category, then picking one of those five as the winner.

How’s this for honesty? Langton says that she began the process with a commitment to reading two books a night: “Since I am a writer myself I was very much aware that for every book in the contest there was an author out there somewhere, and at first I could feel him breathing over my shoulder, picking at my sleeve, warning me not to be too hasty, not to make up my mind too soon, to read every single precious word. So at first I did. But as the weeks went by I grew less obsessive about it. By that time I had read enough really good books to eliminate some of the later arrivals with little more than a careful skimming.”

And here’s another candid admission: “Did it make a difference whether a book arrived early or late? Did it have a better chance if the judge’s mind was ready to be imprinted as a a tabula rasa? Or was it better to be among the last, when she was wearying of her first favorites, perhaps, and having second thoughts? ...I would like to think that the order of arrival had nothing to do with the process of selection, but I’m not sure if that was so.”

And here’s the most frank confession of all: Langton found herself “grumpy” that all the submissions were so “dreadfully good” and decided “They had had their chance at a prize in England.... Wasn’t it hard enough on us poor American writers to be competing with each other, with dragging in those diabolically clever foreigners?” So Langton “decided to choose no more than one British book, no matter how hard I had to clench my teeth in disposing of the others.”

(Her chosen British book, by the way, was Jane Gardam’s A LONG WAY FROM VERONA, which Langton described as “a work of genius, a towering phenomenon.” I guess you’d have to be old enough to remember damp gray photocopies to remember the stunning impact of VERONA back in 1972. It was truly revered by most critics at the time. I’m not sure kids loved it (I didn’t at age thirteen) but the reviewers sure did. Incidentally, I’ve always wondered if Jeanne Birdsall was saluting Jane Gardam with the title of her recent, wonderful novel THE PENDERWICKS ON GARDAM STREET.)

Eventually, the two judges share their “ten best” lists with each other and are rather shocked by each other’s choices. (A LONG WAY FROM VERONA didn’t even appear on Regina Minudri’s list.) But their eventual decision was “was settled in a matter of three minutes by telephone:

”I’ll put A LONG WAY FROM VERONA on the list,” said Regina, “but I don’t think it’s the best of the five.”

“Good,” I said. “Which do you think the best should be?”


“That’s okay with me. It’s one of my three favorite, but I couldn’t choose between FREAKY FRIDAY and THE FOG COMES ON LITTLE PIG FEET.”

“Well, FOG is on my list of five too, but the children in my library liked FREAKY FRIDAY the best of all.”

“All right, FRIDAY it is. And VERONA and FOG. Now you get a free book in exchange for giving me VERONA.”


“Okay, that’s fine. It wasn’t on my final list, but it was on my list of ten, and I’d be delighted to have it as one of the five. Now, don’t you think we’ve got to have at least one nonfiction book? What about OH, LIZZIE?”

“Yes, I think that’s the best one.”

That was all there was to it. We gave voice to our regrets about the good books we had had to leave out, and hung up, both of us, I think, relieved and reasonably satisfied.

Gosh, I’m so glad I found this article in my drawer -- not only because I remember the books so well (for the record, FREAKY FRIDAY is by Mary Rodgers; FOG COMES ON LITTLE PIG FEET by Rosemary Wells; THE MOUNTAIN OF TRUTH by Dale Carlson and OH, LIZZIE : THE LIFE OF ELIZABETH CADY STANTON by Doris Faber) but because of the honest insights it provides into how these awards were chosen.

I know, the Newbery and Caldecott panels are sworn to secrecy...but one day wouldn’t you love to read an article of this type about the selection of those awards?


Those who collect unusual dustjackets will be interested in a new young adult novel by Stephen Emond called HAPPYFACE.

The book features a banded dustjacket over about half the cover. When the dustjacket is in place, you see a smiling face; remove the dustjacket and it’s a frown:

It’s so interesting to me that as dustjackets are getting cheaper and cheaper in terms of illustration (most feature royalty-free photographic images -- reportedly so that publishers don’t have to pay for painted images) they are becoming more stylistically sophisticated with the use of die-cuts, unusual sizing, etc.

As for the content of HAPPYFACE? I just got it and haven’t read it yet. Heavily illustrated with comic art, the book also contains an equal amount of text, so it’s likely a good choice for reluctant readers...and the story seems fun so far. I’ll try to report back on this one.

Well, I had a couple more items to bring to today’s Brunch, but there’s no time to add them. That’s because we lost an hour of time last night, plus I have to run out and take some things I found buried in my drawers -- things other than that Jane Langton article -- to the Salvation Army truck, which picks up donations in the grocery store parking lot on Saturday and Sunday. I’ll save those items for next Sunday’s blog, though -- barring any other adventures -- I hope to post a weekday blog or two before then.

Thanks for visiting Collecting Children’s Books.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Sunday Brunch in March

It’s Sunday brunch time at Collecting Children’s Books and here’s a round-up of facts and opinions on children’s books old and new.


I’m going to be moving within the next few weeks. After a lifetime of storing books sideways, two and three deep on every shelf, I will finally have a room completely devoted to my book collection. I will actually have my own library! That’s the exciting part. The bad part is having to pack all these volumes away in boxes. The work is I’m concerned that I won’t be able to get all these boxes over to the new place. A fellow book-collector told me that her moving company flat-out refused to move her books saying it was “too much work.” Since I’m only moving two miles away, I am thinking of avoiding that problem by moving most of these books on my own. If I pack the car with ten boxes a night, it should only take something like...thirty days....

And maybe I’m getting punch-drunk from all this packing, but I’ve begun to notice I have a tendency to anthropomorphize my books. (I know I’m not the only one who ascribes human qualities to inanimate objects. At Thanksgiving a friend of mine was grocery shopping and stopped to move a frozen turkey from the empty end of the display case back to the pile of Butterballs on the other side because “it looked lonely being away from its friends.”) Anyway, as I pack these books into boxes and seal them shut, I’m finding myself feeling sorry for them being shut away in the dark, unread and unappreciated.

I imagine a psychologist would say that I’m really feeling sorry for myself -- not being able to have access to all my beloved books for the next several weeks.

That’s it -- I’m going through separation anxiety!

Can’t wait until I can reopen these boxes, and put these books on the shelves in their -- and my! -- new home.


One of the books I’ll be packing away today just arrived in the mail a couple days ago.

It’s a tiny volume that was distributed at the 1965 Newbery/Caldecott/Wilder Dinner, which was held at Cobo Hall in my hometown of Detroit on July 6 of that year.

I love these N/C programs, not only because they commemorate an important annual event in the world of children’s books, but because they evoke a very different era. Who would think that in 1965 women were still known mainly by their husband’s names. For example, the Wilder award was given to Mrs. Albert Durand that year.

Who was she?

Ruth Sawyer.

Another highlight of these programs is that they usually contain some special material created by the year’s Newbery and Caldecott winners.

This book includes “A Greeting from Beni Montresor,” who received the Caldecott for illustrating MAY I BRING A FRIEND:

“Ciao” back atya, Beni! ...Though to my untrained eye Montresor’s art appears very much a product of its era and doesn’t seem to hold up well in the twenty-first century.

There is also “A Fable from Maia Wojciechowska,” who won the Newbery for SHADOW OF A BULL. Since the tale is short, I think I’ll include the whole thing here:

Once upon a time two friends went to Spain and together they saw a bullfight. One was a realist, the other an idealist.

“Why is it,” the realist asked the idealist, “that you did not cry or faint at the bullfight? It made
me sick to see the bull die, and you, who are made ill at the sight of a burned moth and weep for the deer in the dead of winter, why did you not cry for the bull?”

“A moth,” the idealist replied, “does not seek death but light. The deer asks not for the ground to harden nor the snow to fall. But a brave bull makes his choice, almost at birth, and lives to die with it. It need not die from the sword if it chooses a coward’s life. And that is what I did not cry.

Talk about “anthromorphosizing”!

And, Miss Wojciechowska, you have a call on line one: it’s PETA.

A blank page in the back of the program is reserved for autographs. I’d love to say that Beni and Maia and editor Jean Karl signed this book, but it appears to be autographed by lesser known lights. I don’t recognize any of the following names. Do you? Are you one of them?


Given my devotion to children’s books, it may surprise you to learn that I also enjoyed reading Archie comics as a kid.

The girl across the street got me hooked.

For weeks and weeks she promised to take me to the grocery store and show me how to buy a comic book out of a machine. I don’t know what intrigued me more -- reading my first comic or actually using a machine to acquire it.

The big day came.

I had twelve cents -- a sum that seemed like a hundred dollars at the time -- to buy my comic and my friend had $5 -- an amount that seemed like a million bucks back then -- to pick up a a few items at the grocery store for her mother.

When we arrived at the grocery, my friend discovered the five dollar bill, which she’d tucked into her mitten on the way to the store, had disappeared.

She became frantic and wanted to retrace our steps and hunt for her money.

I said, “Can’t we get my comic book first?”

“No,” she wailed, and ran home crying.

The comic book machine was about the size and shape of a Coke machine, but the front was made of clear plastic so you could see the selection of Archie comics inside. Each magazine (ARCHIE, PEP, BETTY AND VERONICA) had a handle in front of it. On one side of the handle you’d place a dime and on the other side you’d place your two pennies, then you’d push the handle in and the comic would slide down into a chute below.

At least that was the theory.

Of course being only about eight and not that bright to start with, I put the dime in the penny slot and couldn’t get it back out, then dropped my two pennies under the machine and then I also ran home crying.

Later that night my father drove me back to the grocery store and helped my get my very first comic book out of the machine. It was an issue of ARCHIE AND ME.

I brought it home and soon got my brother addicted. Before long, one of our uncles began buying Archie comic books for us and, every time we visited him, he’d hand us each a thick bag of ARCHIE’S PALS AND GALS, JUGHEAD, LAUGH, ARCHIE’S JOKE BOOK and all the rest. We had a long wooden shelf in the basement where we kept stacks of these magazines, and constantly ran downstairs to refresh and replenish the comics we had in our bedrooms. The difference between my brother and me was that, for me, the comics were just a supplement to all the regular books I was reading. In my brother’s case, they were a substitute to all the regular books he should have been reading. For years, he wrote everything in all caps and only used exclamation points for punctuation, since THAT WAS HOW ALL THE ARCHIE COMICS WERE WRITTEN!

What was it that kept me reading Archie for years and years? Part of it was simply that they were funny and fast-paced nd reader-friendly. And they gave you an advance preview of what it was like to be a teenager. (Never mind that my teenage years -- and probably everybody’s teenage years -- turned out to be a lot less fun than what was promised in Archie comics.) And there was also something very appealing and comforting about the friendship of Archie, Jughead, Betty, Veronica, and the rest. A friend of mine who also grew up reading Archie Comics, said that his favorite thing about the stories was that there was always a nearby wall or bench where the characters could always sit down and talk.

What does all this have to do with children’s books?

Nothing, except I recently read that Archie comics are going to be teaming with Random House to to “exclusively handle worldwide distribution of Archie graphic novels and trade paperbacks.”

I’m not sure if that includes novelizations, but I wish it would. I have never thought about writing fiction about already-conceived characters for an already-extant series, but feel uniquely qualified to write about Archie...and all his friends...who always have a nearby bench or wall where they can sit down and talk.

Archie, if you’re reading this: give me a call!


Any new book by Kimberly Willis Holt is an event and I’m particularly intrigued by her forthcoming novel called...well, what is it called, anyway?

The original title was apparently THE DOWSER’S SON and here is the cover of the ARC:

However, it now appears the title has been changed to THE WATER SEEKER, and it has a new cover illustration:

It’s not unusual for books to change either their titles or cover art at the last minute like this. From a collecting point of view, however, it’s always nice to have a copy of the ARC with the original title and art. And should the book go on to become famous (and remember, Ms. Holt has received both a Boston Globe Horn Book Honor and a National Book Award) the original title/cover will be even more desirable by collectors.


Yesterday I received a surprise in the mail from a friend -- a copy of VIRGINIA HAMILTON : SPEECHES, ESSAYS, CONVERSATIONS, edited by the late author’s husband, Arnold Adoff, and Kacy Cook:

As a special treat, my copy was signed by both the editors!

When I was growing up, Virginia Hamilton was considered one of the top authors of children’s books -- perhaps the top author of all. This remarkable volume collects her speeches (Newbery acceptance, Coretta Scott King Award acceptance) and lectures, and includes powerful memories from family members and colleagues.

It’s a book that every fan of children’s literature will want to own.

Just sampling this book over the weekend has made me eager to return to Ms. Hamilton’s novels such as ZEELY, M.C. HIGGINS THE GREAT and my personal-favorite THE PLANET OF JUNIOR BROWN.

I wish I could figure out which box I stored them in.

After perusing VIRGINIA HAMILTON : SPEECHES, ESSAYS, AND CONVERSATIONS, I really don’t want to wait till I finish moving before I can re-read this author’s timeless treasures!

Thanks for visiting Collecting Children’s Books.

Hope you’ll return!