Telling time with a book

Hi everyone,

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.

The Boy with a Drum is marching still

Hi everyone,

Yesterday was the last day of school for kids in a Colorado school where my friend SU HUTCHENS teaches. As a fun activity and to burn a little energy, Su had her 4th grade students make some props and costumes and perform the first book I ever had published, THE BOY WITH A DRUM (1969).

When the actors were rehearsed and in their places, Su called at the appointed time. SANDY and I sat on a sofa in the living room and the show began. We laughed and applauded and marveled at the ingenuity of teacher and flock as the familiar story came to life on the tiny screen on my phone.

Su and Dan Hutchens, great friends

The story ends with these words: “And if they haven’t stopped marching, they’ll be marching still.” I think those kids, lucky enough to have a wonderful teacher, are going to be marching still, all the way to a bright future.

I have a delightful picture of Su’s beautiful class, but I won’t post it. I don’t have permission to show the kids, plus with today’s great sadness across the nation, protecting our children and their teachers is much on our minds.

What I have for your young reader

Hi everyone,

Picture thanks to Nathan Papes, Springfield News-Leader

Those of us who write for young people are sometimes asked by friends who want to get a book as a gift if we have anything for a certain age and/or particular interest. I’ve never blogged about it, but in some of the upcoming posts I’ll try to include brief descriptions as an aid to anyone who might be interested.

To start, here’s the link to my website book page where you can see all my titles plus other information, including, in many cases, what reviewers have said about them.

Most of my work has been for children in grades 3-5 but some titles appeal to older readers and a few were written with the very young in mind. Today I’ll give you a couple of suggestions for the very young, starting with the first book I ever wrote, THE BOY WITH A DRUM, which came out in 1969 and can still be found now and the on Amazon Used Books.

A little boy — charmingly illustrated by Eloise Wilkin — marches down a road and is followed by a growing number of animals, each singing its own song as they go. “If they haven’t stop marching, they’ll be marching still.” It’s a mass market book that sold for 29 cents in 1969. I just checked it on Amazon and a used copy is listed for $66, but that’s a computer-driven price. Try it again and the price will probably be much lower. You might have to settle for a well-loved copy, more than 2,000,000 copies have sold. It’s a good rhyming tale for kids at the age to learn the sounds that animals make and follow along with the marching little boy going rat-a-tat-tat on his drum.

Jane Yolen and I combined to create a different sort of parade although it, too, involves a drum and a following of animals through the forest. RUM PUM PUM is handsomely illustrated with a setting in India, thanks to gifted Indian artist Anjan Sarkar, who lives in London. “As Tiger traverses the forest, other animals take a chance and accompany the big cat and his gentle ‘friend,’ adding their voices to Tiger’s ‘ Rrrrrrrrrrhhh’ and Drum’s ‘Rum pum pum.’ Monkey, Rhino, Parrot, Chameleon, and Elephant make up the rest of the parade through the lush green-and-gold Indian forest. The phrase ‘And they went along and went along and went along the road’ recurs, giving the story the feel of a folktale.”—Booklist

50 years ago today: There once was a boy with a little toy drum

Hi everyone,

I’ve been having a grand year celebrating my 50th year as a published children’s author. But today, October 1, 1969, is when A BOY WITH A DRUM was published. My thanks to more than 2,000,000 people who bought a copy. Today it’s official.

My heartfelt gratitude to you, my friends, readers, supporters, and mentors, for continuing to make me gloriously happy. I’m still following that little boy and marching to his music.

The Boy with a Drum

Hi everyone,

Yesterday I spoke to The Hospitality Club at Twin Oaks Country Club in Springfield and enjoyed it very much. Shortly before leaving the house I received a note from a lovely woman named Amy Hebert that began, “rat-a-tat-tat, rum-a-tum-tum.” I knew at once she was talking about THE BOY WITH A DRUM, illustrated by the wonderful artist Eloise Wilkin. Amy told me that her daughter, now in her 30s, loved THE BOY WITH A DRUM when she was six months old and used to bounce and bob to the rhythm of the book. That, of course, made my day.

As we exchanged notes I also learned that Amy’s husband once gave a sermon based on the story. I smiled about that thought as I drove to Twin Oaks and on the way remembered that many years ago a friend of mine who died had THE BOY WITH A DRUM read at her funeral. I was there to hear it.

THE BOY WITH A DRUM was my first children’s book and came out on October 1, 1969. I was paid $350 outright for it and by 1979 it had sold 2 million copies. Later this year I’ll try to remember to have a small celebration on that date. This morning I visited Amazon to capture a picture of the book for this blog and discovered that it is still being reviewed now and then, one as recently as July, 2018. The only reviews that aren’t 5 stars are by people who bought used copies and weren’t happy about the condition of their book. Here’s a typical review.

5.0 out of 5 stars
A Must-Have for Every Child’s LibraryApril 2, 2012
Format: HardcoverVerified Purchase

This darling little book has gotten oodles of use in my family- so many fond memories. My sisters and I were read it growing up, and once our brother came along….well let’s just say we all STILL have it memorized even now that he’s all grown up and a talented drummer in a band, LOL. It has such a fun rhythm and rhyme to it while telling a story about a little boy playing his drum and meeting different animals along his way. By the end, they’re all following him. You can almost hear his rat-a-tat-tat, rum-a-tum-tum going off into the distance 🙂 Really gets everyone’s feet and hands tapping. Great pictures too. One of those books you won’t mind reading over and over and over…and you WILL 🙂 It’s as enjoyable to read as it is to listen to. I buy this book for every baby shower I attend and I haven’t met a parent, grandparent, or child yet (infant on up) that doesn’t love it (and I was a nanny.) What are you waiting for, buy it already!!

In a 2017 review I read that THE BOY WITH A DRUM was read to a sick infant who died after living only thirty days. The family read the book at his funeral. I’m deeply touched knowing that my simple little story has been so intimately involved in people’s lives.

THE BOY WITH A DRUM hasn’t been in print for decades except for anthologies such as LITTLE GOLDEN BOOK CLASSICS and FARM TALES. I’m grateful that my little boy is still out there, playing his drum and marching over the hill.