I'm sorry this blog has been so erratic of late.
In the words of Roseanne Roseannadanna, "It's always something!"
Actually, I had to skip last weekend's brunch for a happy reason. I spent much of Saturday on a conference call with Cindy Dobrez and Angelina Benedetti, as we deliberated our selections for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize. There were about 120 young adult books on our initial list, which we narrowed down to around 20 for serious deliberations. If was very difficult to whittle those 20 down to a shortlist of five. Every cut hurt, and it got even worse as we eliminated the final few titles. But I am THRILLED with our five finalists. I want to shout the titles from the rooftops, but must wait ten days or so before the shortlist is made public. I hope you agree that our top five titles are among 2011's very best.
The following day was also quite busy. It was my father's birthday and he was reaching a milestone year. How old is he? Let's put it this way: I've never personally known anyone as old as he is now. For his birthday, we brought in a nice Chinese meal and a beautiful cake from a favorite bakery.
I gave him the following four presents:
1. some instant lottery tickets
2. a package of socks
3. three new sweatshirts
4. several adult coloring books
Now let's see how well those four gifts worked out!
1. he didn't win a cent on any the lottery tickets
2. on Wednesday morning he was walking in the hall when one of his new socks snagged on the metal transition strip covering the edge of the carpet, and he tripped and fell down -- breaking his arm!
3. the EMS people had to CUT OFF his brand new sweatshirt in order to get to his broken arm; that only-worn-once sweathshirt is currently in the rag bag
4. now he can't color his art books due to the broken arm
So much of the past few days have been spent going to and from the hospital. On Friday he was released from the hospital and sent directly to a rehabilitation facility to spend ten days getting physical therapy. Unfortunately, that night he had a medical issue and was rushed back to the hospital. I drove between the two places in a blinding blizzard, the car skidding and swerving at every stop. Thankfully the medical crisis was shortlived and he is now back at the rehab center.
But guess what? The rehab center is less than a mile from my favorite bookstore.
So there is a silver lining to this story!
Now...on to children's books.
Last year we were all amazed that two of 2011's most-talked about books for kids, OKAY FOR NOW and DEAD END IN NORVELT, had such similar dustjacket illustrations:
I haven't seen anything that similar among this year's dustjackets, but I did note some similarities between the covers of the following much talked-about new novels. Okay, they're not identical, and no one will get them confused...unless maybe you are looking at them across a room...and the lights are kind of dim...and you need a new prescription for eyeglasses:
Fellow children's book aficionado, fellow blogger, and fellow Michigander Travis Jonker has one of the best book blogs out there. I especially enjoy seeing his original designs for new, updated Newbery book dustjackets.
I didn't realize until today that many people have the same hobby.
Looking on Google for an image of the John Green cover to post above, I discovered nearly two dozen different versions of THE FAULT IN OUR STARS dustjacket! At first I thought they were from foreign editions of the book, but soon realized that were designed by young fans and artists. Most of them are quite good. In fact, I think many are better than the actual cover used by the publisher. I'd re-post them here, but would undoubtedly get cease-and-desist letters from some of these young artists...so instead I'll just direct you to Google. Do an image search, type in the title "The Fault in Our Stars" and scroll down. Amazing creativity.
NOT FOR SALE...YES, IT IS
ARCs, or "advance reader copies," are highly prized in the children's book world. These softcover volumes are essentially uncorrected proofs of forthcoming books, released to reviewers, bookstores, and other members of the industry several months before the hardcover volume hits the streets. In the past, ARCs were often tall narrow volumes with nondescript covers. Even in the eighties and ninties, they were fairly utilitarian, with rough colored-paper covers. These days, however, most ARCs resemble the final book, with the dustjacket illustration printed on the front of the glossy cover and selling points ("Eight city author tour!" "200,000 first printing!") listed on the back. At one point, I suspect only the cognoscenti knew about ARCs, but with the advent of the internet, book blogging, and ardent fanships, everyone has come to know about ARCs and everyone now wants them. I suspect there are some readers today who get most of their new books in this format and rarely buy a hardcover. My bookstore friend sometimes gives me ARCs but, even though I'm poor as the proverbial churchmouse, it's a point of personal pride that I try to also buy the hardcover editions of these books if I possibly can. I feel like I have to support the children's book world. From a collecting perspective, I have always tried to obtain ARCs of the Newbery books, since they sometimes (though not always) reveal changes in book's text between manuscript and hardcover publication.
Every ARC has the same warning on the cover: "NOT FOR SALE."
This has led to a continuing issue in the world of bookselling.
Because of the demand for ARCs -- whether from serious book collectors or simply fans who want to read an author's newest title STAT -- sellers often try to sell these volumes online. Every now and then this creates a tempest in a teapot, as someone complains that booksellers are taking advantage of publisher "freebies" in order to make a profit. From time to time, eBay and other online companies have tried to ban the selling of ARCs due to these complaints.
Just recently (thanks to a tip from fellow book collector Sarah H.), I heard about an ARC of this year's surprise Newbery Honor that was listed for sale online. I ordered the book and was thrilled to receive it this week. It arrived with this sticker on the cover:
I have never seen such a sticker on an ARC before. Have you? My guess is that it did not come this way from the publisher (would a publisher cover up the title like that? would a publisher cooperate in the re-selling of a free volume?) but that the sticker was created by a bookseller to avoid controversy.
Whatever the case, I'm not complaining. I'm just glad to add this ARC to my collection.
...Now if I could only find one for INSIDE OUT & BACK AGAIN!
INSPIRED TO FLY
Earlier this week, Dr. Janice Voss died of cancer at age 55. An astronaut, Dr. Voss was one of only six women who have traveled in space five times.
The conclusion of her New York Times obituary really struck me:
She was just 16 and a freshman at Purdue University when she first worked for NASA, as an intern at the Johnson Space Center. After receiving her bachelor’s degree in engineering science in 1975, she returned to the center to train crews in navigation and entry guidance. She went on to earn a master’s in electrical engineering, in 1977, and a doctorate in aeronautics and astronautics, in 1987, both at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
It all started, her mother said, when Janice was 6 and picked up a book at the local library, “A Wrinkle in Time” by Madeleine L’Engle — a fantasy in which one of the main characters is a scientist who happens to be a woman.
What a testament to the power of children's books!
FIFTY AND WRINKLED
Speaking of A WRINKLE IN TIME, have you seen the just-released fiftieth anniversary edition of this Madeleine L'Engle's novel?
The cover modernizes the original dustjacket art by Ellen Raskin (herself a future Newbery winner):
In the new illustration, the characters look a bit more "hip" and confident.
The 50th anniversary edition also features "an introduction by Katherine Paterson, an afterword by Madeleine L’Engle’s granddaughter Charlotte Jones Voiklis that includes photographs and memorabilia, the author’s Newbery Medal acceptance speech, and other bonus materials."
A WRINKLE IN TIME joins a growing number of modern Newbery winners and Honor Books that have been re-released in anniversary or collectable editions.
A 60th annniversary edition of 1948 Newbery Honor MISTY OF CHINCOTEAGUE.
A 60th anniversary edition of 1949 Newbery Honor MY FATHER'S DRAGON.
A 35th anniversary edition of 1968 Newbery winner FROM THE MIXED-UP FILES OF MRS. BASIL E. FRANKWEILER.
A 25th anniversary edition of 1977 Newbery winner ROLL OF THUNDER, HEAR MY CRY.
A 10th anniverary edition of 1999 Newbery winner HOLES.
Do you know of any others?
Volumes that were created to celebrate anniversaries are always nice for the collector's shelves, but they are not necessarily rare or unusual. Issued many years after the original book has already achieved success, they often published in fairly large print runs. What makes these volumes particuarly interesting is that they often contain "bonus material," such as biographical sketches of the author, copies of their Newbery speech, or correspondence between author and editor. Not every "anniversary" edition contains this kind of ephemera though. Also, some anniversary books are issued in different editions; for example, some may offer a limited run of signed, numbered volumes. So if you see a copy of a book offered as a "special anniversary edition," it's always a good idea to check around and see which of these variables apply. Just because the book says "anniversary edition" on its cover does not mean it's worth a lot of extra money. A case in point is the aforementioned anniversary edition of A WRINKLE IN TIME. The 60th anniversary edition can be found at almost any bookstore these days and sells at $24.95. However, there is also a 25th anniversary edition out there. Limited to 500 signed number copies and presented in a slipcase, this 1987 volume sells for approximately $750 these days.
Last month Nancy Pearl wrote an article called "New Year's Resolutions 2012" for Publishers Weekly. In her piece, she suggested some old titles that she wished would be re-printed, wished that libraries and bookstore had larger poetry sections, and even made a plea directed at young-adult fiction: "Although there are some notable teen dystopian novels that I’m very eager to read, the sequels to Veronica Roth’s Insurgent, Marie Lu’s Legend, Ally Condie’s Matched (to name just three), I wish we could give that plot line a rest and move on to other topics for teens."
I was particularly intrigued by one of Ms. Pearl's suggestions:
I wish that everyone who works at a library or bookstore would include in the signature line of their e-mails what they’re currently reading. It takes less than a minute to add it, and it’s a simple and effective way to highlight books both old and new. The staff at both Seattle Public and Cuyahoga County Library System have been encouraged to do exactly that, and it’s a treat to get e-mail from the employees there.
That's a great idea! Maybe we should all try that one.
And even though we're already deep into February -- well past the time for "New Year's Resolutions," I'm still wondering what literary wishes and dreams you might have for 2012.
Here are a few of mine:
* It's wonderful that the children's book world gets world-wide publicity every year when the book awards are announced in January. But why should we settle with one day only? I wish we could come up with an idea that would publicize children's books in a BIG way several times a year.
* Looking at the new books being published over the past year or so, it seems the emphasis is on creating massive bestsellers. Debut authors are receiving six-figure deals, with massive first 200,000 printings, international rights sold all over the world, etc., etc. That's great. But I wonder what ever happened to the good old days of midlist authors who write midlist books. Sometimes those are the books that mean the most to us as kids and are remembered best as adults. I hope that in our rush to lionize the next "big thing," we don't ignore (or stop publishing) those who write books that sell modestly but are still very much loved.
* I already announced plans to keep my ramshackle, sorely-neglected "Printz Picks" blog open all year in anticipation of the 2013 awards. Now I'm deligheted to hear that Karyn Silverman and Sarah Couri plan to make their "Someday My Printz Will Come" blog at School Library Journal an annual affair as well. Now, my wish is that Nina Lindsay and Jonathan Hunt make their SLJ Newbery blog, "Heavy Medal" a year-round enterprise as well. I know it's a lot of work, but keeping us updated on Newbery possibilities all year (hey, maybe once every couple weeks? even once a month?) would keep us all on our toes -- not mention, keep us all reading! -- from now through next January.
* Speaking of School Library Journal, I wish that magazine wasn't so starstruck. Let PEOPLE MAGAZINE or ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY interview Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Regis Philbin's daughter about their children's books. SLJ has a built-in audience composed of real book people...so they should give us interviews of real book authors -- not celebs whose books would probably never have been published if they didn't have famous names.
* I wish that children's books were more visible on TV...and in real-life. Think how much publicity a book would receive if one of the kids from MODERN FAMILY or one of the teens on GLEE was seen reading it on TV. And I bet that if Malia or Sasha Obama was photographed getting off a plane with a children's book in her hand, that title would hit Amazon's bestseller list within hours.
* I wish that people would stop using bookstores as "show rooms." You've heard the same stories I have. These days many customers visit bookstores, get recommendations from the staff, browse through the books, sample a page here or a chapter there, and then bypass the cash register and order the (discounted) books from Amazon.com on their iPad or download the e-book onto their Kindle...sometimes while still standing in the store! Then people wonder why bookstores are closing. I was thinking about this the other day, and remembered something from my youth in the early 1970s. That was the era when "adult" books and magazines were becoming more mainstream and many bookstores didn't know what to do with this material. They couldn't put them on display with all the other magazines; even the covers contained X-rated images. And how to keep curious kids from looking at (not to mention swiping) them? The solution was to have a separate "closed" area for adults only. One local bookstore had a small, walled room in back; another had a separate aisle which could only be entered through a closed gate. However, these stores soon discovered that many customers would spend hours "browsing" but buy nothing. So both instituted a policy: you had to pay $1 or $2 just to go IN the closed area. If you bought a book or magazine from that section, the $1 or $2 was deducted from the price of your purchase. If you didn't buy anything, that was your price for "looking." It recently crossed my mind that, if the trend of bookstores becoming "book show rooms" for Kindle readers continues, the stores may have to institute a "browsing fee" just like they did in those early days of porn: $10 to enter the bookstore, which will be cheerfully deducted from your purchase if you BUY a book. Otherwise, that's the price you pay for using a bookstore as a catalog. I'd hate to see things come to that though....
* I wish every parent would share their favorite childhood book with their child; and then I wish every child would share their favorite book with their parents. Imagine what that would do for children's books. Imagine what that would do for families.
What are your wishes for the children's book world in 2012?
I'd love to hear them!
ENDING WITH LAUGHTER
Finally, I recently asked about your favorite "five hanky" book from childhood and have been fascinated to learn about the books that made you cry as a kid. Some of the titles included MAY I CROSS YOUR GOLDEN RIVER? (I loved that one too), WHERE THE RED FERN GROWS, ECHOES OF A SUMMER (I'd never heard of that one), ELLEN : A SHORT LIFE REMEMBERED, GIRL OF THE LIMBERLOST, JEFFERSON'S SONS, BETWEEN SHADES OF GRAY, OLD YELLER, THE VISITOR (another one new to me), MICHELLE (also new to me), CHARLOTTE'S WEB (maybe every kid's first really, really sad book), DEATH BE NOT PROUD, and THE BOOK THIEF.
Now I have a happy question:
What childhood book made you snicker, laugh, guffaw, or roar with laughter? As an adult, I rarely laugh out loud while reading...which doesn't mean that I don't find many books very funny. But I've noticed I don't have that same extreme physical reaction to humor these days when reading. But I certainly do remember laughing out loud reading about Henry Huggins, Ramona Quimby, and Henry Reed as a kid. And I remember reading FREAKY FRIDAY the first time while taking a bath and literally screaming with laughter -- so much that someone knocked on the bathroom door to see if I was okay.
What kids' books made you laugh? And do you still find them just as funny today?
Thanks for visiting Collecting Children's Books. Hope you'll be back again!