Children’s Books

Pippi Longstocking books charged with racism

17 July 2017

From The Guardian:

Astrid Lindgren’s much-loved books about Pippi Longstocking, she of the red hair, incredible strength and impossible lies, have been described as racist by a German theologian.

Dr Eske Wollrad, a feminist theologian from Germany’s Federal Association of Evangelical Women, has claimed that Lindgren’s classic children’s novels “have colonial racist stereotypes”. In Pippi in the South Seas, “the black children throw themselves into the sand in front of the white children in the book,” she told German paper the Local. “When reading the book to my nephew, who is black, I simply left that passage out.”

Wollrad neglected to mention that Pippi goes on to mock white children for their obsession with school. “If you come across a white child crying you can be pretty sure that the school has either gone up in flames, or that a half-term holiday has broken out, or that the teacher has forgotten to set homework for the children in pluttification,” she says.

The Pippi Longstocking books were written by Lindgren in the 1940s, covering the adventures of Pippi, an inveterate liar and eccentric whose parents are dead and who shares her house with a monkey and a horse who lives on the porch.

“It is not that the figure of Pippi Longstocking is racist, but that all three in the trilogy of books have colonial racist stereotypes,” said Wollrad. “I would certainly not condemn the book completely – on the contrary, there are many very positive aspects to the book, as well as being very funny, it is instructive for children as it not only has a strong female character, she is against adultism, grown-ups being in charge, and she is fiercely opposed to violence against animals – there is a very strong critique of authority in the book,” she told the Local.

But Wollrad believes footnotes should be added to the text to help put racist terms in context and to prompt discussions. “The question to ask yourself is whether you could read a certain passage out loud to a black child without stopping or stumbling,” she said. “Only then can you say whether it is OK or not.”

Link to the rest at The Guardian and thanks to Meryl for the tip.



A Wrinkle in Time

17 July 2017


New Sendak Picture Book Discovered

7 July 2017

From Publishers Weekly:

Lynn Caponera, president of the Maurice Sendak Foundation, was going through the late artist’s files last year “to see what could be discarded,” she said. “I was asking myself, do we really need all these?” when she found a typewritten manuscript titled Presto and Zesto in Limboland, co-authored by Sendak and his frequent collaborator, Arthur Yorinks. Caponera, who managed Sendak’s household for decades, didn’t remember the two friends working on a text with that title, so she scanned the manuscript and e-mailed it to Michael di Capua, Sendak’s longtime editor and publisher.

“I read it in disbelief,” said di Capua. “What a miracle to find this buried treasure in the archives. To think something as good as this has been lying around there gathering dust.”

Not only is the manuscript complete, so, too, are the illustrations. Sendak created them in 1990 to accompany a London Symphony Orchestra performance of Leoš Janáček’s Rikadla, a 1927 composition that set a series of nonsense Czech nursery rhymes to music.

Voila! So it is that Sendak, considered by many to be the most influential picture book creator of the 20th century, will have another publication in the 21st, five years after his death. PW has the exclusive news that Michael di Capua Books/HarperCollins plans to publish Presto and Zesto in Limboland in fall 2018.

Link to the rest at Publishers Weekly

PG was tempted to make a comment about Big Publishing and dead authors, but he won’t.


Harry Potter Sparks Illegal Owl Trade in Indonesia

30 June 2017


When the Harry Potter books debuted 20 years ago, they launched a $25 billion industry and an army of wizard-loving muggles. Most of the fun is light-hearted enough: popular sorting hat quizzes, friendly games of quidditch. But that international obsession has an unexpected cost, reports Shaunacy Ferro for Mental Floss: It’s fueling an illegal trade in owls.

The books are filled with owls, from Harry’s BFF Hedwig to Draco Malfoy’s mail-delivering eagle owl. But those fictional owls could be linked with a black market in the real world, reports Ferro.

In a new study in the journal Global Ecology and Conservation, researchers describe what they call the “Harry Potter Effect” in Indonesia. Birds are already popular pets there. But after the release of the Harry Potter books in the early 2000s, owls rose in popularity. The creatures rarely appeared in bird markets before the books were released, the researchers write, only constituting roughly 0.06 of the percent of the black market birds. But by 2008, that number has risen to 0.43 percent.

Majority of owls for sale in the markets were caught in the wild, which is illegal in Indonesia. And the researchers worry that growing demand could deplete owls in the wild.

Expanded internet access and social media in Indonesia during this period could also have played into the owl trade increase. Though this could be a non-Harry Potter related reason for the uptick, the internet could also have paved the way for wider conversation about the books online. But there are other clues to the Harry Potter trade connection: “Whereas in the past owls were collective known as Burung Hantu (“Ghost birds”),” the researchers write in the study, “in the bird markets they are now commonly referred to as Burung Harry Potter (‘Harry Potter birds’).”

Link to the rest at


Book of Feminist Fairy Tales Outsells Harry Potter

30 June 2017

From Inquisitr:

Sensational feminist fairytales authored by two women, who suffered sexist abuse, has now outsold Harry Potter in the U.K., the homeland of author J.K. Rowling.

Feminist fairytales Goodnight Stories For Rebel Girls self-published by authors Elena Favilli and Francesca Cavallo, who were laughed at and endured sexist jokes in meetings, feature 100 bedtime stories about amazing and powerful women.

While the list of Goodnight Stories For Rebel Girls includes such iconic figures as Cleopatra, Elizabeth I, and Malala Yousafzai (and even Hillary Clinton), there’s a new volume that will tell the mesmerizing stories of Beyoncé and J.K. Rowling in the works.

After years of sexist remarks and jibes from investors, the two women decided to self-publish the 100 feminist fairytales, which went on to become a huge hit.

The Daily Mail reports that Goodnight Stories For Rebel Girls has become a major success both in the U.K. and around the world after the project became one of the most successful Kickstarter campaigns in history.

. . . .

In April 2016, Favilli and Cavallo launched their Kickstarter campaign and, much to everyone’s surprise, raised over $1 million and had plenty of people talking about it.

Link to the rest at Inquisitr


Paddington Creator Michael Bond Dies at 91

28 June 2017

From BookRiot:

Children of all ages have something to sniffle about today. Michael Bond, the creator of the much-beloved Paddington Bear, has died at age 91. HarperCollins reports that he died at home after a short illness.

Bond leaves behind an illustrious career, including children’s book characters such as Olga de Polga and A Mouse Called Thursday, as well as an adult series featuring the detective Monsieur Pamplemousse. Despite these accomplishments, his most famous contribution to literature will forever remain the marmalade-toting, Wellington-wearing teddy bear named Paddington, who has spawned over 20 books, TV shows, toys, and two feature films, the second of which is due out this year. Bond’s most recent Paddington novel, Paddington’s Finest Hour, was published in April of 2017, keeping Paddington in our modern thoughts as much as he exists in our nostalgic memories.

Link to the rest at BookRiot


Beatrix Potter’s Greatest Work Was a Secret, Coded Journal She Kept as a Teen

20 June 2017

From Atlas Obscura:

In November of 1943, Beatrix Potter wrote a letter to her beloved cousin, Caroline Clark. Seventy-seven years old, laid up in bed with pneumonia and heart disease, Potter was doubtlessly thinking back on her long and varied career: her hundreds of landscape watercolors, her respected mycology research, and her 24 children’s books, some of which, like The Tale of Peter Rabbit and The Tale of Two Bad Mice, were already considered classics.

In the letter, though, she didn’t mention any of these. Instead, she reminisced about a very different project—longer, bolder, and entirely secret. “When I was young I already had the itch to write, without having any material to write about,” she explained to Clark. “I used to write long-winded descriptions, hymns (!) and records of conversations in a kind of cipher shorthand.”

Five weeks later, Potter died. As far as we know, this is the only time she ever mentioned what may well be her masterwork: a private journal, written in secret code, that she kept for over fifteen years. In it, she wrote her innermost thoughts—about art and literature, science and nature, politics and society, and her own hopes and frustrations. Its eventual publication transformed her reputation, from “brilliant children’s book author” to “writer for the ages.” If it weren’t for one tireless, dedicated fan, we might never have seen it at all.

. . . .

Potter began keeping her journal when she was about 14 years old, “apparently inspired by a united admiration of [James] Boswell and [Samuel] Pepys,” as she later wrote to Clark. While those two luminaries were adult men when they started their diaries—Boswell a 22-year-old city playboy, and Pepys an up-and-coming civil servant—Potter, as a young woman in a Victorian household, was writing from a different life stage and station.

Her mother, Helen, herself constrained by social circumstances, wanted a quiet, obedient daughter—one that, when she grew older, would stay home and look after her parents. This was not a role that came naturally to Beatrix, who was adventurous, opinionated, even mischievous—the Peter Rabbit to her mother’s Mr. McGregor.

. . . .

Decades later, though—after her bestselling books had brought her fame and fortune—she was keenly aware that people besides her mother would now be interested in her private thoughts. Before she died in 1943, she and her husband, the lawyer William Heelis, bequeathed their entire 4,000-acre estate to Britain’s National Trust, along with her original illustrations. She failed to tell anyone about the diaries, though, or to provide for their translation. “[They were] exasperating and absurd compositions,” she wrote in the letter to Clark. “I am now unable to read [them] even with a magnifying glass.”

So when Stephanie Duke, a younger relation of Potter’s, came across what she described as “a large bundle of loose sheets and exercise books written in cipher-writing” in the late author’s home in 1952, she wasn’t quite sure what to make of them herself. She did know who to ask for help, though—Leslie Linder, a close friend and neighbor of hers, and the biggest Potter fan around.

. . . .

As codes go, Potter’s wasn’t inordinately complicated. As Wiltshire explains, it was a “mono-alphabetic substitution cipher code,” in which each letter of the alphabet was replaced by a symbol—the kind of thing they teach you in Cub Scouts. The real trouble was Potter’s own fluency with it. She quickly learned to write the code so fast that each sheet looked, even to Linder’s trained eye, like a maze of scribbles.

. . . .

For five years, Linder pulled out his pile of pages, looked over them, and filed them away again with a sigh. “By Easter 1958, I was beginning to think somewhat sadly that these code-written sheets would remain a mystery for ever,” he remembered later. That Monday, April 7, he decided to give himself a final crack at them. He pulled a sheet at random from his stack. There, near the bottom of the page, was something decipherable at last: the Roman numerals XVI, and the year 1793.

To which sixteenth person had something happened in 1793? He fruitlessly flipped through a Dictionary of Dates. He then turned to a more appropriate ally, a children’s encyclopedia, which told him: “Louis XVI, French King; born Versailles 1754; guillotined Paris 1793.” “Here at last was a possible clue!” he wrote.

. . . .

All told, it took Linder 13 years to decode Potter’s journals. In 1966, they were published by Frederick Warne Ltd. as The Journal of Beatrix Potter. Up to that point, critics had mostly considered Potter “a writer of bunny rabbit tales” and not much else, says Wiltshire. The journal showed that she was much more—an inquisitive spirit with a sense of humor and a great gift for language, and a keen observer of Victorian life.

Link to the rest at Atlas Obscura


These Maps Reveal the Hidden Structures of ‘Choose Your Own Adventure’ Books

14 June 2017

From Atlas Obscura:

Reading a “Choose Your Own Adventure” book can feel like being lost in a maze and running through twists and turns only to find dead ends, switchbacks, and disappointment. In the books—for those not familiar with them—you read until you come to a decision point, which prompts you to flip to another page, backward or forward. The early books in the series, which began in 1979, have dozens of endings, reached through branching storylines so complex that that trying to keep track of your path can seem hopeless—no matter how many fingers you stick into the book in order to find your way back to the key, fateful choice. You might end up back at an early fork again, surprised at how far you traveled only to reemerge at a simple decision, weighted with consequences that you couldn’t have imagined at the beginning.

The last installment of the original “Choose Your Own Adventure” series came out in 1998, but since 2004, Chooseco, founded by one of the series’ original authors, R.A. Montgomery, has been republishing classic volumes, as well as new riffs on the form of interactive fiction that seemed ubiquitous in the 1980s and ’90s. The new editions also carry an additional feature—maps of the hidden structure of each book.

. . . .

For years, fans have been creating visualizations of the forking structures of “Choose Your Own Adventure” books. Often, they’re interested in the types of outcomes at the end of each path. One map labels each ending as “new life, return home, or death,” and another separates them into “cliffhanger, solution, or death.” Christian Swineheart’s extensive graphical analysis of the books labels the endings as “great, favorable, mediocre, disappointing, or catastrophic.”

On the official maps, however, the endings aren’t coded in any way that reveals their nature. Instead, they operate according to a simple key: each arrow represents a page, each circle a choice, and each square an ending. Dotted lines show where branches link to one another.

Link to the rest at Atlas Obscura


An Oral History of Reading Rainbow

4 June 2017

From Mental Floss:

For students, the summer months represent freedom from the shackles of regimented learning. For educators, they were becoming a problem. In the late 1970s and early 1980s, there was growing concern that children were becoming so captivated by both television and warm weather during their summer vacation that they had abandoned reading altogether. When they returned to school in the fall, their literacy skills had noticeably plummeted.

For a group of broadcasters and teachers, the solution was unusual: Air a new program during the summer months, and use television as a means to get kids excited about opening up a book.

The result was Reading Rainbow, a magazine-style series that celebrated books by reading them out loud to viewers, then exploring their themes in on-location segments. Hosted by LeVar Burton, the show grew from modest trials at PBS affiliate WNED in Buffalo and Great Plains National out of Nebraska. It ran for 150 episodes and 26 years, making it one of the most enduring children’s shows to ever air on public television. If Sesame Street taught kids the alphabet, Reading Rainbow helped them develop a love of words, paragraphs, and narratives.

Link to the rest at Mental Floss


Micropublisher Goosebottom Books Shifts To A Non-Profit Model

2 June 2017

From Digital Book World:

Micropublisher Goosebottom Books has recently announced that is changing its business model to a become nonprofit organization. The children’s book publisher is known for its titles about real-life women who have performed extraordinary feats.

. . . .

As a non-profit 501C3 Corporation, the organization can now foster cooperative relationships with donors and grant foundations that share their mission. “Goosebottom may be ideally suited for a nonprofit model because we have a very focused vision: we are dedicated to diversity in publishing,” said Founder Shirin Bridges.

Independent publishers have a variety of business models to choose from. For those dedicated to a specific mission, a shifting into the nonprofit space can make practical and financial sense.

. . . .

”Goosebottom has had a great run. We have achieved a certain level of success,” said Bridges. “We have a strong footprint, great awareness, and wonderful reviews.” The financial aspects part of the business, however have been challenging. “Books are expensive to produce,” said Bridges. “We cannot reduce the per-item costs. Still, we are competing with large publishers that can.”

Many Goosebottom Books titles are 32-page, full-color books. When printing such books in small quantities, the publisher has had little room benefit from economies of scale. “A Goosebottom book cost dollars to produce,” said Bridges, “whereas books produced in mass quantities cost can cost cents to produce [per item].”

Link to the rest at Digital Book World

PG will note that non-profit status will allow Goosebottom to avoid paying a variety of different taxes that it previously paid, including corporate income tax. Nonprofit status also means that people who are providing money to keep Goosebottom afloat will receive nice tax deductions.

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