Fuse #8

Friday, December 08, 2006

The New and What's New With the Old

My favorite part of the PW Children's Bookshelf is this portion. I'm going to just post it in its entirety here for your amusement.

What I'm Working On

Alessandra Balzer,
Executive Editor, Hyperion Books for Children

One of my favorite fall '07 books is a young adult novel called Hero by Perry Moore. I love Hero because it's such a fresh approach to the usual hero genre. The story is about Thom, a high school basketball star who is coming to terms with two secrets. One is that he is gay. The other is that he has the power to heal people—but he hasn't quite managed to come to terms with either secret yet.

In this alternate reality that Perry has created, heroes are a part of everyday society and the most famous heroes are part of The League. Among them are clever send-ups of iconic heroes like Superman and Wonder Woman, but also hilarious new ones like Scarlett, a feisty super heroine who talks a blue streak and Typhoid Larry, who makes everybody sick. Thom is offered a chance to join The League, but he has to keep it as yet another secret from his father. Thom's father, who is a lovingly gruff character, had once been one of the greatest heroes of The League, but then was publicly disgraced in tragedy where many lives were lost. I'm not always drawn to superhero stories, but this one has such heart, you really come to care for these characters and root for them.

The last exciting piece is that Chip Kidd has agreed to design the jacket. I can't wait to give this book to everyone I know.
Sometimes I enjoy a trailer more than the film itself. This may be the case here, but I dunno. I'm very pleased indeed to hear that Chip Kidd is doing the cover. If we can lure him into doing YA covers then maybe someday soon we'll be able to convince him to do a children's book now and then. Dare to dream, people.

Plus, Little House Under Renovation.
The prairie landscape of Laura Ingalls Wilder will soon be changing. HarperCollins, in an effort to keep the classic Little House on the Prairie series relevant to a new generation, is repackaging the paperback editions, and will replace the familiar covers by Garth Williams with photographic covers, and remove the inside art, starting in January.
Hey, it worked for Charlotte's Web... right?


At 8:15 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Part of me is horrified about the LITTLE HOUSE cover, but then again, I haven't been able to convince either of my two older daughters (both voracious readers) to read any of the books.

So just now I asked my oldest about how much impact book covers have on her decision to read something and she said she won't even pick up something that looks like it was published in the 80s (I know exactly what she means, though I didn't know she paid that much attention). Then I showed her the two covers and she picked the photograph. She said the other looked like an "ancient, old-person book."

Of course, that's just one kid, but maybe they're on to something. Now that I'm thinking about it, I remember that when I was a kid, before I owned all the books and was still checking out the library's copies, I refused to read the Helen Sewell editions. :(

At 12:12 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wrong. So very wrong. I idolize Laura Ingalls Wilder, but Garth Williams' pictures are so a part of those books.

I read Ursula Nordstrom's letters a few years ago. Had you heard this story--when they did this print job, reprinting Laura's books with Williams' pics, Nordstrom wrote to Laura (!!) asking if she had any photos or small things they could borrow for an exhibit about the books. A while later, a box came, and Nordstrom opened it. Inside was Pa's violin.

At 1:07 PM , Blogger Melissa said...

This is akin to re-ordering the Narnia books. It's just wrong. It also makes me glad I bought copies of the books before publishers got it into their heads to change something that doesn't need changing.

BTW, the art never stopped my girls from reading the books.

At 2:06 PM , Blogger ariana said...

Argh! horrible horrible horrible
As an illustrator just breaking into the biz, I must say that the idea that kids today only respond to photographs is truly distressing...

At 7:35 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Actually, I think a nice photographic rendition of Lindsay Lohan as Laura would be JUST the ticket to sell more books. Yes, that was sarcasm. The Garth Williams pictures totally capture the feel of these books. I would not be against well-done photo covers, but I think even period photos will go out of "fashion" quicker than any art. But hell, leave the interior pictures in!!

At 1:03 AM , Blogger fusenumber8 said...

FYI, I heard the other night that David Weisner is redoing the Narnia covers soon. Of course, there are a TON of restriction being placed on him. So if you see the Narnia covers someday and they still look a little off, don't blame the artist. It's not his fault.

At 1:11 AM , Blogger Gabrielle said...

What??? OMG, ok, maybe redoing the cover art is one thing (although I hate it when they do that to make it more "modern"-particularly when the book is set in a specific time period.) But to take out the original Garth Williams illustrations?? Absolute sacrelige!!

At 7:29 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree with others that the covers aren't such a big deal but the interior pictures?! Not only are they wonderful but they help explain the story! The butter churning! The cheese making! This is madness!

At 2:55 PM , Blogger Becky said...

First Anne, now this. Shame. I had heard this the other month from a friend but it's still galling. "Relevant" has a lot to answer for these days.

My 9yod started reading her way through the Little House last year and I'm glad to see she enjoys the art, both on the covers and interiors. She was delighted to discover that Garth Williams was the same artist who illustrated her beloved Charlotte's Web.

I'm glad I saved all of my old Little House Harper & Row paperback editions, the ones with all the yellow (before that lively checkerboard business).

What's next -- a live-action version of Charlotte's Web? Erm, never mind...

At 11:59 AM , Blogger fusenumber8 said...

I don't suppose anyone has noticed, but Louise Erdrich's remarkable book series beginning with "The Birchbark House" owes some of its success to its similarities to the original Little House books. The use of interior art in those books (created by Erdrich) have done nothing but help its success. I don't know why we're caught up in a new-interior-art frenzy, but this is obviously a trend we must monitor closely. Consider the new Ramona inner art and then look me in the eye and tell me that a single child refused to read those books because Ramona was wearing saddle shoes. In the eye! Now!

And if Erdrich's stories can gain a recent following with a style that can only be described as "classic", I don't understand where this frenzy has come from. But then maybe I'm less worried about the inner art changing than I am about the publisher deciding to never reintroduce Mr. Williams' work.

At 12:30 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi everyone. I'm the Harper editor who handles the Little House books, and I've been overseeing this repackage. I just thought I should clarify that this new edition of the Little House books with photographic covers and no interior art is just ONE edition. There are still two editions--one hardcover and one paperback--with Garth Williams' art in place, and there are no plans to change that. I grew up with those editions and am quite fond of them as well. We feel, though, that there are readers out there who might respond better to a book with a photo on it rather than artwork-- especially a "classic" that they might not have chosen on their own but that has been handed to them-- and who might feel that interior art belongs in a book for younger children, so we're offering up more than one option to appeal to as many readers as possible. Coincidentally, I'm also Louise Erdrich's editor, and I absolutely agree that her interior artwork complements her books tremendously, so please don't worry that getting rid of interior art is a new, overall trend to fear!

At 9:11 PM , Blogger fusenumber8 said...

And, to be frank, a relief. Methinks this deserves a posting in and of itself. A tip of the hat to you, Ms. Weikum, for the response.

At 8:21 AM , Blogger Sarah Louise said...

Phew! Glad to know that this is only one edition. Unfortunately, it is the edition our library has purchased, ugh.

I'm posting on this as we speak and found this as I was looking for Ursula Nordstrom/Garth Williams links.

At 11:09 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

I know I'm a little late to this commenting party, but... did anyone find this hugely depressing proof of marketing-uber-alles that Garth Williams' work for the "Little House" series is considered too OLD-FASHIONED by the publisher?? Love Mark Tucker as a shooter but his work for this is more like "Little Pottery Barn on the Prairie"...


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