A FEW OTHER EVENTS FOR
- Happy birthday June Behrens (Fiesta! ), Stuart J. Murphy (MathStart series), George Ella Lyon (Borrowed Children), Melvin Burgess (Junk), Marie G. Lee (Finding My Voice), and David Kirk (Miss Spider series).
- Itâ€™s the birth date of Walter de la Mare (1873-1956), The Turnip, The Lord Fish; Maud Hart Lovelace (1892-1980), the Betsy-Tacy series; and Alvin Schwartz (1927-1992), Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark.
- New York becomes the first state to require car license plates in 1901. Read The Way Cool License Plate Book by Leonard Wise.
- Itâ€™s the annual White House Easter Egg Roll. Read Madeline at the White House by John Bemelmans Marciano.
In April, we celebrate Pets Are Wonderful Month. For all pet owners the concept is self-explanatory. My furred wonder Lance takes a morning snooze near my desk as I write and generally participate in every activity of my life.
Fifty years ago, in 1961, a book appeared that celebrates the bond between humans and their petsâ€”Sheila Burnfordâ€™s The Incredible Journey. In this story, ideal for seven- to twelve-year-olds, three petsâ€”an old bull terrier, a Siamese cat, and a young Labrador retrieverâ€”attempt a treacherous 250 mile journey through the Canadian wilderness. Having been left with a friend of their owners, the three head back home to their own family. They battle the elements, face starvation and illness, and fight wild animals. The third-person, omniscient voice of the novel allows readers to watch the actions of the animals but avoids anthropomorphizing them. With characters based on Burnfordâ€™s own three pets, the narrative contains lots of action and adventure but still leaves readers smiling at the end.
Emilie McLeod of the Atlantic Monthly Press instantly loved this novel written by an unknown Canadian writer. But in the 1960s, the Atlantic and Little Brown shared publishing operations, and McLeod needed to have the approval of Little Brownâ€™s childrenâ€™s book publisher Helen Jones. Jones was a no-nonsense straight shooter, who said what she thought and took no prisoners. I vividly remember the day she called for an authorâ€™s address (which I knew off the top of my head) and her crisp words, â€śYou are very efficient Miss Silvey,â€ť before she hung up the phone.
But I digress. Emilie and Helen became embroiled in a heated controversy over whether the house should publish this bookâ€”and both refused to back down. Eventually the higher levels of management in both companies intervened. The publisher of the Atlanticâ€™s adult list claimed the bookâ€”his counterpart at Little Brown agreed to the acquisition. Hence one of the great childrenâ€™s books of the 1960s appeared as an adult book, even though no one thought it was written for them. Such are the vagaries of publishing, then and now. After all, it is a business conducted by very â€śhumanâ€ť beings. Things might be better if our pets ran publishing houses. Certainly everyone would get more treats!
Iâ€™m not going to dwell on that idea today; Iâ€™m simply going to spend some quality time with my own sweethearts and savor, once again, the fabulous storytelling in The Incredible Journey.
Hereâ€™s a passage from The Incredible Journey:
Twenty minutes passed by and no move was made; then suddenly the young dog rose, stretched himself, and stood looking intently down the drive. He remained like this for several minutes, while the cat watched closely, one leg still pointing upwards; then slowly the Labrador walked down the driveway and stood at the curve, looking back as though inviting the others to come. The old dog rose too, now, somewhat stiffly, and followed. Together they turned the corner, out of sight.
Originally posted April 25, 2011. Updated for .