Saturday, July 23, 2011

Brunch for the Last Day of July

July is nearly over.

I just hope my job isn't.

This past week the university where I work began lay offs. Two hundred positions were eliminated, including eighty that are currently filled.

Word began trickling in on Thursday afternoon: two employees let go from the Law Library. One from the Medical Library. A department head from my building. At the end of the day, we received an e-mail from the university president stating, "Most of those affected have not been notified."


Then we came in the next day and both my supervisors were laid-off and "escorted out of the building."

Now we hear that more layoffs are coming on Monday.

I was laid-off from a previous job about twenty years ago. It was the biggest nightmare of my life. I can only imagine how much worse it could be to lose one's job in this economy and at my current advanced age. It feels like my whole perspective on the world has changed in less than a week. A few nights ago I began hearing a tree frog broadcasting his distinctive two-beat croak from the umbrella tree across from my bedroom window.

At first it sounded like he was sending me a cheery greeting: "Hey Pete, hey Pete, hey Pete, hey Pete."

For the last couple nights it's sounded like he's saying, "Dead meat, dead meat, dead meat, dead meat."

Bookstores closing, library workers being laid off.... I imagine gangs of unemployed book lovers running through the streets, smashing e-readers, dumpster diving for discarded books and magazines, and holding impromptu readathons around bonfires.

A friend of mine says it feels as if we're entering a second dark ages.

Maybe she's right....


When I first started my job as a cataloger (please let me keep my job, please let me keep my job!), one of the first things I learned was that all the other catalogers referred to the copyright page of a book as the "title page verso." It's library lingo. In the past few days I've noticed these fun oddities on the versos of recent young adult and children's books:

The publisher of Sue Corbett's THE LAST NEWSPAPER BOY IN AMERICA doesn't want to get sued if readers are directed to anything questionable through websites mentioned in the book:

The publisher of THE SPACE BETWEEN TREES by Katie Williams "confirms to CPSIA 2008."

What is that? The Consumer Product Safety Act of 2008.

The novel ORCHARDS by Holly Thompson, as well as many other books published by the Random House group includes this thought-provoking quote:

In the midst of the typeset warnings on the verso of CARTER FINALLY GETS IT by Brent Crawford, we get a special "no copying" notice:

And I was sort of stunned by all the copyright and tradmark acknowedgements on the verso of BASS ACKWARDS AND BACK TO FRONT by Elizabeth Craft and Sarah Fain.

I totally understand having to acknowledge the use of works by Amy Vanderbilt and D.H. Lawrence, but since when do we have to acknowledge a novel's use of trademarked products such as Chapstick, Tinactin, and Neosporin?

Have you ever seen a product trademark acknowledged in a book?

What is the strangest think you've ever seen on a copyright page...I mean verso?


I was just reading the book THE HIVE DETECTIVES : CHRONICLE OF A HONEYBEE CATASTROPHE by Loree Burns. On the backflap of the dustjacket, Dr. Burns says she was stung five times while writing this book -- once by accident, and for times while posing for this picture by photographer Emily Harasimowicz:

This got me wondering how many other children's authors have been stung, bitten, or attacked while working on books.

A British author named Ernie Gordon, who had written a children's book about a squirrel called THE ADVENTURES OF RUSTY RED COAT took in an injured squirrel whose bites caused the author to require a tetanus shot and antibiotics.

Mary Casanova was bitten by fire ants while doing research in Belize -- and later had her protagaonist experience a similar painful event in her children's books JESSE.

Many authors rely on secondhand accounts in writing their books.

The central event in Betsy Byars' THE TV KID is a rattlesnake bite. The author recalls, "I had a friend who was bitten by a rattlesnake, and I knew how many shots she'd had and what colors her leg turned, etc, and when a writer gets stuff like that, she's going to use it. I was waiting for just the right character and situation, and when Lennie crawled under that house, I said, 'Sorry, Lennie, it's going to be you.'"

In writing her "Horrible Harry" books, author Suzy Kline relied on a book called PAIN INDEX by professional sadist Justin O. Schmidt, stating that Schmidt "was a scientist who did fieldwork on insect bites. He went out and got bitten by all kinds of insects! Then he charted their sting—how much it hurt and for how long. I loved it! Harry and his classmates would be fascinated with this new information! I could have Professor Guo, who was leading Harry's class on a field trip to a local pond, share some of it.

But only Norma Fox Mazer turned the tables on the insects. When researching the prehistoric novel SATURDAY THE TWELFTH OF OCTOBER, the late author ate live insects so she could learn about her protagonist's diet!


For the past few decades, Ruth White has established a reputation for chronicling southern life in a series of well-regarded novels for young people. Although the Newbery Honor BELLE PRATER’S BOY is her best-known work, I’m partial to WAY DOWN DEEP, a feel-good novel with hints of magical realism.

This is a banner year for Ruth White fans, as the author is publishing two novels in 2011.

The just-published YOU’LL LIKE IT HERE (EVERYBODY DOES) is definitely an oddity in the author’s body of work. It starts in typical White fashion, with narrator Meggie Blue describing life in the small North Carolina town where she lives with her mother, brother, and grandfather. The setting may be pastoral --Meggie likes picking strawberries, discussing Taylor Swift with her best friend, and sleeping on the porch on hot summer nights -- but something strange is going on in town. There are rumors of UFOs and aliens. When a mob of neighbors shows up at their house in the middle of the night, the Blue family boards their “Carriage,” a space vehicle, and takes flight for a random planet. Turns out -- to the reader’s surprise -- that Meggie and her family are aliens “from the distant world of Chroma” who have secretly been living here on Earth.

The Blues end up landing in a town called Fashion City on avplanet which appears to be an alternate Earth. In this highly-regimented society run by “the Fathers,” adults work factory jobs, kids are schooled via television, and everyone takes tranquilizing pills and abides by curfews. With all the harsh dystopian novels currently published for young adults, Ms. White fills a need with this tamer book for somewhat younger readers, but she doesn’t always seem in complete control of the genre. Though the Blues’ new home resembles Earth, people from various eras -- including Lincoln, Martin Luther King, Chief Seattle, and even Elvis -- all seem to exist in the same time period. And what are we to make of the alien hunter who tracks down Meggie on both Earth and in Fashion City? His presence isn’t really explained, so he seems more like a plot device than a fully-understood presence in the story. Though not fully successful, YOU’LL LIKE IT HERE contains action, excitement, and thoughtful commentary on utopian societies for middle grade readers, but it doesn’t hold up to the best of the genre, such as Lois Lowry’s THE GIVER. Some readers may wish the Blues never left Earth for Fashion City, but had instead stayed home and showed us what life was like for extraterrestrials hiding in a small southern town in the US of A.

Ruth White returns to her more traditional narrative style in A MONTH OF SUNDAYS, due out in October. While her mother goes to seek work in Florida, fourteen-year-old Garnet is left with her father’s relatives in Virginia. Not only has Garnet never met her aunt, uncle, and cousins -- she has never met her father, who left town before she was born. Over the next several weeks, Garnet samples of variety of southern churches with her aunt Jane, falls for a boy preacher, and ultimately meets the father she has never known. Set in the mid-1950s, the book is strong in setting, character, and dialogue. Some aspects of the plot -- such as Aunt Jane’s miracle healing from terminal cancer -- seem rushed and facile, but an uncompromising ending gives the novel an unexpected depth, while its religious themes -- so often unexplored in children’s fiction -- add interest.


Although most of her work is known and widely-read, few readers know about Ruth White's very first book, THE CITY ROSE. She wrote the book as a young teacher: "The schools had just been integrated in North Carolina the year before I started teaching, and I had two black girls in one of my classes. When we would go to the library, I noticed that they didn't check any books out. I was trying to help them find books, and they finally told me that they couldn't find any books about black children -- about themselves -- so I decided that was something we would have to fix. I decided to write one. So that's how The City Rose was born. Of course, it was several years after that that it was finally published, and those children had grown up and gone away by that time. I was really lucky with it. I had a copy of Writer's Market. I don't remember where I got it; I just looked through it for addresses of publishers who published children's stories, and I decided to send it to McGraw Hill. I had heard of them --probably because they published textbooks -- and they bought it."

The book was released in hardcover in 1977:

and was later available in paperback:

But it was eleven years before the author wrote her next novel. By then THE CITY ROSE was long of print and it's unlikely that even those who stumble across it in a library or used bookstore today realize that the "Ruth White Miller" who wrote THE CITY ROSE is now the critically-acclaimed and commercially-successful author Ruth White.


I haven't yet read it, but I'm excited by the new YA novel THE GIRL IS MURDER by Kathryn Miller Haines. This 1940s mystery concerns a teenage girl who gets involved in one of the cases her private investigator father is handling. I hope it has the same kind of fun and style as Sandra Scoppettone's 1940s mysteries (THIS DAME FOR HIRE; TOO DARNED HOT) which were published for adults, but also appealing to teenage readers.

Here is the cover of THE GIRL IS MURDER:

And here is a mystery!

Is she the same girl featured on the cover of Judy Blundell's National Book Award winning novel WHAT I SAW AND HOW I LIED, also set in the forties?

And is she also featured on Ms. Blundell's latest, NO STRINGS?

I think it's the same girl, but perhaps I'm confused by similar appearances and similar photographic styles. Is the same model on all three books? Is she the go-to gal for noirish YA novels?


Two weeks ago I wrote about the new YA novel ON THE VOLCANO and my surprise at the author's birthdate in the cataloging-in-publication inforamtion on the copyri-- I mean, verso:

According to the CIP, James Nelson was born in 1921, meaning he is turning ninety this year, and I wondered if this set a new record for a first-time young adult novelist.

A few days later, Helen Schinske wrote to say, "It's possible the Library of Congress made a mistake -- James Nelson is of course a common name, and they may accidentally have used an old authority record. I think that's a lot more likely than an 89-year-old getting a book deal without it being big news."

I thought about this and decided Helen was probably right. As mentioned above, I am a book cataloger in a library (please let me keep my job, please let me keep my job!) and work with CIP data every day. Although generally correct, I know that it's not unusual for the Library of Congress to make mistakes, especially involving a new author with a common name.

However, I decided to do a bit more research and finally came across this internet interview with the EIGHTY-NINE-YEAR-OLD AUTHOR!

Who would have guessed it!

Though I have to agree with Ms. Schinske: it's surprising that the story of an 89-year-old getting a book deal (for a teenage novel, no less!) did not become bigger news.


Sad to note the passing of Georgess McHargue, author of many wonderful children's books in the 1970s. Though she eventually left the field for other work, her award-nominated books remain a vivid testament to her talent.

Some savvy publisher should snap up the rights to her classic STONEFLIGHT, making it available to a new generation of kids.

IS IT 2012 YET?

I've mentioned my work as a cataloger (please let me keep my...yeah, yeah, you've already heard it!) One of the traditions in our cataloging department has always been seeing who would discover the first book with NEXT YEAR'S date on the verso. It often happens as early as midsummer. You don't get a prize for finding such a book, but you do get to show it around the office and then have bragging rights for the whole year ("Remember when I found that book dated 2003 way back on June 15, 2002?" "Oh big deal, I was the first one to find a 1996 book all the way back on April 19, 1995." It obviously take much to entertain us.)

I mention this because I have just seen my first 2012 book.

This time it's not a hardcover book ready to be put on a library shelf, but an advance reading copy. This makes sense, as such volumes are printed way in advance of the actual publication date.

The book is WHY WE BROKE UP:

I think it will be a talked-about title because it's written by Daniel Handler (aka Lemony Snicket) and illustrated by Maira Kalman. The artwork will in color too, which is unusual for a young adult novel.

This ARC came shrinkwrapped in plastic and contains a number of postcards featuring Ms. Kalman's illustrations:

What a collectable package!

My friend also sent me some bookmarks:

and some promotional pieces advertising forthcoming children's books:

I'm so grateful to my friend for sharing these things.

And grateful that I can share them with you here in this blog.

And I'll be most grateful of all if I can hold onto my job!

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


Bybee said...

I'm keeping my fingers crossed and thinking good thoughts.

Brer said...

Sad to hear about Georgess McHargue. Her "The Impossible People" was one of the first books I ever personally owned, as opposed to books belonging to the family. But I'm glad you tell us about it when these authors pass away; I don't know anywhere else I'd find this news.

My prayers and hopes are for you in this trying time.

Anonymous said...

I really really really hope you keep your job.

Of interest: the same boy was used in cover art for Anita Silvey's 500 GREAT BOOKS FOR TEENS and Peter Cameron's SOMEDAY THIS PAIN...
There's also a third book he's on, but I'm blocking on the title. Stock photos, stock photos.

I really really really hope you keep your job.

leda schubert

Lisa Jenn Bigelow said...

Thanks for another fascinating post, Peter. I hope you keep your job! Sending you good vibes.

Daughter Number Three said...

I hope you keep your job too!

Thanks for the info on Ruth White's first book. It sounds like a fit with books from the same era like The Soul Brothers and Sister Lou, The Almost Year, and A Hero Ain't Nothing But a Sandwich. Wish I'd known about The City Rose when I was still a young adult YA reader, but never late than never!

Anonymous said...

Peter, I'm sorry you and your colleagues are having to go through this agonizing experience. I hope you, and as many of your colleagues as possible, keep your jobs. You'll be in my thoughts.

Laura Canon said...

"Professional sadist?"
Good luck and hope for the best.

Peter D. Sieruta said...

Thank you to everyone for your very kind thoughts about my job. It appears that, as of today, all the pink slips have been handed my job is least for now. In the next couple days I'm going to write a blog about all the others who lost their positions.

Thank you again!


Peter D. Sieruta said...


I'm fascinated to learn about the same boy being on the cover of those volumes. I actually did some research work for Anita Silvey when she was writing 500 GREAT BOOKS... and my name is in the acknowledgements. And Peter Cameron's book is one of my favorite recent YA novels. So I'm very familiar with both books...yet never, ever noticed it was the same boy on both covers!


Peter D. Sieruta said...

Daughter Number Three,

I'm always so happy when someone mentions THE ALMOST YEAR. It's one of my all-time favorites and I wish someone would give it a chance in paperback. I think kids today would like it just as much as I did back in the 1970s!


lin said...

Am sorry for your co-workers, but glad you were spared, Peter! Don't know if your workplace goes on seniority (ours does).

re: YA noir covers -- girl #1 & 3 look like they might be the same, but #2 is definitely a different girl; the nose is more Roman, eye shape is different. They are all sharing the same lipstick, though.

hschinske said...

Thanks for tracking down that interview -- wow, that is cool. I hope the book is actually good. Will keep an eye out for it.

Helen Schinske

Jenny Schwartzberg said...

The complex and intertwined history of the Albert Whitman Company, Whitman Publishing Company, Western Publishing Company, and Golden Press doesn't really have an authoritative account save for Leonard Marcus's books. You seem to be confusing books published by the Albert Whitman Company with those published by the Whitman Publishing company. As this blog explains, they are separate companies which happened to be founded by the same person: By the way, I really enjoyed your blog as always!