On May 13, I reported that a South African publisher was interested in including “The Little Boy’s Secret” from THE BOOK OF GIANT STORIES in an upcoming book for 4th grade Afrikaans-speaking students.
I’m pleased to say that I’ve now signed the agreement and look forward to seeing the new book in print. Publisher is Pearson South Africa in Cape Town. The book will be in print and electronic with up to 50,000 copies print and 10,000 electronic/digital.
I just did a fast scan of records and counted 31 previous reprints of stories from THE BOOK OF GIANT STORIES since it first appeared in 1972. The original book sold 780,000 copies in hardback and book club in a dozen languages. I have no way to know how many children have read some part of the book in the fifty years since then, but I think the number could rival or surpass the original number.
WILD COUNTRY came out in 1999 and had a difficult birth. At the time, Highlights publisher KENT BROWN and I had a gentlemen’s agreement that his book division, Boyds Mills Press, would publish my poetry and NYC professor BERNICE CULLINAN, who was also his poetry editor-in-chief, would be my editor. We did five books together between 1993 and 1998, SOMEBODY CATCH MY HOMEWORK, THE BOY WHO COUNTED STARS, A THOUSAND COUSINS, THE ANIMALS’ SONG, and THE PURCHASE OF SMALL SECRETS.
But in 1998, Bee and I did a book together for teachers, my first, called EASY POETRY LESSONS THAT DAZZLE AND DELIGHT We quarreled over whether elementary students can handle rhymed verse in the classroom. She said they could not and I insisted that they could. We had a serious falling out and had to meet in New York with our Scholastic editor, WENDY MURRY, to reach a decision that would allow us to continue the book. I got my way, we included verse as well as free verse in our book, and life went on. Some time after the book came out, Bee apologized to me and agreed that I had been right.
But during the time of our spat, Bee accepted my next manuscript for Boyds Mills but declined to edit it. My friend there, JAN CHERIPKO, was thrown into the breach. He read the work and said he thought we should illustrate it with photography. I liked the idea and eventually we got WILD COUNTRY into print. The book is a collection of impressions from various places SANDY and I had visited over the years. Here are two from Alaska. Through binoculars we watched, one fine sunny day, a bear taking her cubs out to pick berries.
Down the valley
where the willows grow
and paintbrush paints
the meadow yellow,
you bring your cubs to breakfast.
The berries are ripe!
Take your time.
reward the tongue
with sticky sweet jelly.
It’s a fine sunny day
to stroll with your cubs,
the sort of day
to lick your lips.
Have another berry.
On a driving tour up a slope of Mt. Denali, we stopped to view an eagle nest built into the side of a bluff. A young eagle perched on the edge of the enormous nest made me think of my own young eagles, ROBIN and JEFF, at a certain age, so I wrote this poem with them in mind.
Not quite ready,
he sits on the family nest
and calls for food.
Soon he must leave.
Soon he’ll be ready,
but today the world
still looks too big,
the future too uncertain.
Not quite ready,
he sits on the family nest
and waits for food.
As I write this post today about mama bears feeding their cubs and young eagles dreaming their dreams, I think once more of Robin and Jeff, so long out of the nest and living their lives. I’m grateful that the family nest still beckons to them now and then, as it did last week.
Yesterday I received a most delightful gift from a kind woman I haven’t met. KATHERINE WHITE lives in Annapolis, Maryland and her hobby is refacing clocks. Because THE BOY WITH A DRUM is a family favorite, she chose it for one of her projects.
Catherine told me by phone recently, “We purchased the book for Christmas in 1969 or 1970.” That would be the first or second year after THE BOY WITH A DRUM was published. For her 1 1/2-year-old son NOEL, she also bought a drum like the one in the story. Already blessed with a great sense of rhythm, Noel liked the book and drum and by 7 his greatest treasure was a set of drums picked up at a garage sale. From there, Noel has gone on over the years to become a musician, has done stage set-ups with HERBIE HANCOCK and STING, and today has his own studio. Redheaded boys run in the family, like the boy in the book. When grandson GUS came along, he got his own copy of THE BOY WITH THE DRUM. Now Catherine’s great-grandson, NATHAN, has received his own copy of my first book, making it four generations Catherine’s family who have met my little boy marching down the road with a RAT-A-TAT-TAT-A-TAT, RUM-A-TUM-TUM.
Catherine White, thank you! I am honored and delighted. You have made me very happy.
After a fine three weeks of goo foffing, we arrived home yesterday and were picked up at the airport by grandson KRIS, who also brought food for our dinner from son-in-law TIM. What a delightful way to come home!
We had our mail held so today we should have quite a box of accumulated pieces to go through. Two packages were already waiting, both containing great surprises. One was a new paperback edition of RUM PUM PUM, the picture that JANE YOLEN and I wrote together about a lonely tiger who finds a lost drum that changes his life. I’m SO happy to see this. At $8.99, it’s a bargain and I hope to see buyers taking advantage of it. The artwork by ANJAN SARKAR is wonderful.
The other box held two copies of a new HarperColins anthology, STORIES FOR 4 YEAR OLDS, Fifteen Stories from Favourite Authors to Enjoy and Share. The editor is JULIA ECCLESHARE. It’s published in England and includes stories about Paddington Bear and Rapunzel.
I was curious about Julia so I Googled her and learned that “Eccleshare is currently children’s books editor for The Guardian newspaper, and also regularly appears on BBC Radio 4‘s Open Book and Front Row programmes. In 2014 she was appointed Head of Policy and Advocacy for Public Lending Right. She was appointed Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) in the 2014 Birthday Honours for services to children’s literature. She was an awarded an Honorary Doctor of Letters (DLitt, Hons) by the University of Worcester in 2014. She is married and has four children, and lives in London.“
Way to go, Julia, and thank you for choosing my story to go in such fine company.
An old friend of ours shared something he and his wife had recently done in response to an article he’d read about simpler times. Dr. DOUG DUNCAN and wife LINDA decided to reenact a day in the life of a summer event when ice cream in the park was a special treat. Here’s his report.
I purposely reminisced about those days yesterday by sitting outside in the shade on the hot day in front of a fan drinking a Coke out of a glass full of ice like we did in the days before anyone had air conditioning. Then in the evening Linda and I got an ice cream sundae and ate it in a park. Also enjoyed ignoring the bad diet just like we did as kids in the good old days.
Also, when we went to the ice cream shop I didn't bother to clean up after working in the yard or change out of my sweaty old clothes and sandal stained with dirt, grass and stains from picking and eating raspberries from our flower and vegetable garden. While we ate our ice cream we listened with pleasure to the frogs on the waters edge and geese as they walked by a few feet in front of us asking us if we were going to share whatever we were eating with them. All this while we watched the blue sky and pink clouds fade as the sun set.In addition to his profession as an orthopedic surgeon, Doug is a gifted photographer whose pictures illustrated SOUNDS OF RAIN, the book I wrote after a trip up the Amazon a number of years ago.All four of us were on the trip, along with a dozen others from the Springfield area.
Upstream the jungle hovers,
leans in from either side,
hides secrets behind vines.
Unexpectedly, three huts perch
along a strip of clay.
Men stand still as trunks,
size us up as hunters do.
Mothers pause, smile a little,
a courtesy to strangers on the river.
Children laughing with their eyes
run the bank naked or not
good will grinning across the water.
They wave and we wave back
until we turn the bend,
carrying away the memory.
(c) 2006 David L. Harrison
Thank you, Doug, for the great reminders of times that were.