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Tuesday, September 1, 2020

What Will Our Legacy Be?

The Saalfield Publishing Company of Akron, Ohio, which operated from 1900 to 1976, had its first big bestseller in 1902 with Billy Whiskers: An Autobiography of a Goat. (And I do have some raggedy Billy Whiskers books in stock.) Owner Arthur J. Saalfield was English-born, however, so it is perhaps not surprising that he published a dozen selected children’s titles as his “John Newbery Series,” paying homage to an earlier English publisher, John Newbery from Berkshire County, England, though I only learned about Saalfield’s Newbery series” from the back panel of the dust jacket to Granny’s Wonderful Chair, by Frances Browne, which Saalfield listed in his “Every Child’s Library” series. 

The Newbery Medal in children’s literature, another homage to the 18th-century English publisher, was inaugurated in 1922, and the winner that year – the first-ever Newbery Medal book – was Hendrik Willem van Loon’s The Story of Mankind, a book with wonderful illustrations but so popular with adults that a small paperback edition was issued for the grownups. In my opinion, however, it is the author’s illustrations as much as his lively story-telling that makes history come alive. The first van Loon book I ever found was at a yard sale in 1993, Van Loon’s Geography. I was charmed and intrigued but really fell in love over Van Loon’s Lives. One of my favorite illustrations from that book was of a man – I believe it was Descartes – walking against the wind, coattails streaming out behind him.

First-ever Newbery Medal winner

So there was the publisher John Newbery, and there came to be the Newbery Medal awards, and Saalfield had his John Newbery series. Here in Leelanau County we are proud and happy to have our very own Newbery winner, Lynne Rae Perkins, whose award-winning book was Criss Cross in 2006. Lynne Rae has written books for young people of all ages, from little kid picture books to young adult novels, and it’s hard for me to pick a favorite, since I love them all. Nuts to You, for instance, a tale of adventure and friendship. Love it! Then in 2019 there was the lovely picture book, Wintercake. If you’re thinking ahead to snow and holidays, you might want to pick up a copy of this book now. 

Newbery Medalist Lynne Rae Perkins at Dog Ears Books

John Newbery, Arthur Saalfield, and Hendrik Willem Van Loon – their names live on, but I will never meet any of them, so how amazing and wonderful it feels, to know someone in the Newbery pantheon! Then I wonder -- what about the rest of us? What will we have contributed when it comes our time to leave the earth?

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