Project H

(Day one was/is 1st May 2017, even if I did not post this page up)
I found out about the 200th anniversary of HarperCollins sometime last year, and started to bug our distributor about doing something this year for it. Bookstores love anniversaries — because there are anniversary editions, and special covers, and possibly nice bookish stuff to giveaway. So, we met in early March to discuss the plans the bookstore had … and by that time, there were several ideas already on both sides.

Before that, I had been reading the then latest copy Hornbook, where there was a piece about Kevin Henkes’ Egg. At the meeting, we started talking about the usual suspects etc, etc … and I was not so impressed by the fact that the only thing worth promoting was Dr Seuss. Yes, yes, it is a good series and selling well too – did we need to give it another push? But, it would be nice since the publisher did have the collaterals for a nice window display.

Perhaps out of sheer bull-headness, and I am always likely to put my foot where my mouth is … I asked why we could not do a picture book exhibition? After all, Harper has so many classic picturebooks, on both sides of the Atlantic — Sendak, Kerr, Crockett, Krauss … Our rep gave me a strange look, and said someone would have to curate it. Of course, I was going to offer up my good friend D, but realised that she would not be free to do it. Here was a perfectly lovely opportunity and idea, and going to waste — hence, I reluctantly agreed I’d curate (while inwardly cringing). It’s not that I dislike selecting books for a promo, but I’d like that I did not have to also think about the theme, and actually curate. (sigh, sigh, sigh)

But since I did put myself up for this. I’m taking the plunge.

At this point, my list is a vague idea, but possibly these titles:
– Where The Wild Things Are, Maurice Sendak
– Mog or The Tiger Who Came To Tea, Judith Kerr
– Harold and the Purple Crayon, Crockett Johnson
– Egg, Kevin Henkes
– A Hole is to Dig, Ruth Krauss & Maurice Sendak
– Goodnight Moon, Margaret Wise Brown
– Lost and Found, Oliver Jeffers

So I decided to randomly pick up a book to find some ideas and look for a direction — this book which I’m still reading (in Day 4), is The Read Aloud Handbook by Jim Trelease. I’ve also started reading the giant of a book, The Comics Journal #302, which has a huge piece on Sendak.

Elsewhere, I googled and discovered the Lost and Found short animation while trying to decide which Jeffers book, it should be.

It was a holiday, so I went through my books at home to see if I could find anything I would like to read pertaining to Project H.

At this point, my list:
– I’m playing with the idea of choosing 3 books from a list of picturebook artists. A first, a popular one and a latest. For example, Sendak would be A Hole To Dig, Where The Wild Things Are and Bumble-ardy. I hit a snag because most first books might be out of print.
– So, it remains – Sendak, Kerr, Johnson, Henkes, Krauss, Joseph Kuefler (Beyond the Pond), one of the Bear (Minarik) books, Goodnight Moon, something by Charlotte Zolotow (probably William’s Doll), Jeffers.

DAY FOUR: (4th May 2017)
I was reading Places to Be by Mac Barnett and Renata Liwska, and realised that it was a B+B book, and of course, so was Extra Yarn by Barnett and Klassen (currently my favourite team because of Triangle). And, at the side, reading an old issue of the Hornbook (Nov/Dec 2011) which had the Zena Sutherland Lecture by Mo Willems. Mo Willems did do an unusual book for Harper (again B+B) called That Is Not a Good Idea! which is reminiscent of silent movies.

My list now:
– Where The Wild Things Are, Maurice Sendak
– The Tiger Who Came to Tea, Judith Kerr
– Harold and the Purple Crayon, Crockett Johnson
– Egg, Kevin Henkes
– The Carrot Seed, Ruth Krauss & Crockett Johnson
– Lost and Found, Oliver Jeffers,
– Extra Yarn, Mac Barnett & Jon Klassen
– Goodnight Moon, Margaret Wise Brown & Clement Hurd
– Beyond the Pond, Joseph Kuefler
– William’s Doll, Charlotte Zolotow & William Pene du Bois
– That is Not A Good Idea, Mo Willems
– Bread and Jam for Frances, Russell Hoban & Lillian Hoban

Note: A Special House and many William Steig titles were out of print.

DAY SIXTEEN: (16th May 2017)
If Mo Willems wrote about how he tries not to try too hard, and leave as much as possible of this pictures or words to the interpretation of the reader, Crescent Dragonwagon speaks of visual subtexts and how books can be reinterpreted for a new generatio in the latest Horn Book. So, yes, I need a Charlotte Zolotow book in my list.

We occasionally get these top 100 children’s books of the century or some sort, and when I look at them, I wonder if it’s to confirm that I stock these, or I own them, or if it was a good list. But what I also did find is that since we do not actually live in the UK or US, we are limited by many things but also have the opportunity to see things differently. Have you noticed how some books never make it to said lists because the author is only a bestselling one in the UK, or vice versa?

I think I need to have a theme. I won’t look at the list again, yet.

DAY SEVENTY-FIVE!!: (15th July 2017)
So it’s been more than two months since I started this page, and this should have been updated and confirmed ages ago.

Throughout this break when I have not updated this page, purely for reasons that 1) I had a lot going on 2) And I had a lot of things to consider – one being that the titles on the UK side would not be as many as the US ones. Did this make this list askewed? Should I choose the same number to balance it off? Would Dr Seuss be on this list? The UK books that were in-print were not necessarily on the same level as the US ones (my apologies if anyone is offended by how I word this), but this lies inherently with the way that most good US picture books would remain in print for a very long time, and in hardcover even; whereas UK picture books have a much smaller print-run, and tend to go out of print much sooner. (Hence, the need to stock both UK and US editions in case such happened to a key title)
The only Harper UK picturebook that has been in-print since forever, and still so beloved are books by Judith Kerr, and the Tiger Who Came to Tea is already in my list.

I had spoken to the distributor with my concerns which left me kind of stuck, and still did not come to a conclusion.

In between, I read Leonard Marcus’ piece on the Runaway Bunny, which was the first book of three – the Goodnight Moon being the last one, and actually the last book she saw published. He talked about how Margaret Wise Brown experimented with her ideas and writing for children’s book, allowing for books set in the ‘present’ rather than a faraway, fantastic place.. But, my dilemma is then do I use Goodnight Moon which is the huge commercial success, or The Runaway Bunny?

The distributor has been urging me to consider the Dr Seuss book as part of the UK picture books, but I have never been truly comfortable with the idea. One reason being that these books were published at the same time as the Little Bear series by Else Holmelund Minarik and we would be promoting the entire series anyway, in an earlier month.

Then do I use Harold and the Purple Crayon or The Carrot Seed? Or my conclusion is I would use both, despite them being visually similar. Sendak would appear more than once, I’m sure. And the Giving Tree, would that be on the list? Yes. And would I be considering Brian Biggs or Joseph Kuefler? I think so. If there is space. How many would be too many? 40? 50?

I knew for sure there would be a Francis book, but was thrown off by a podcast that talked about the book A Bargain for Francis, which addressed an interesting subject of friendships.  It’s now only available in the series of I Can Read graded readers, but so are the Little Bear ones. Then there is Arnold Lobel, let’s not forget him. And Amelia Bedelia.

Now you see where this is leading you.

DAY SEVENTY-EIGHT (18th July 2017)
Left the office on Saturday without adding the list. Decided to take a different tack and ask my dear friend Daphne for recommendations for authors I was stuck at — you know the ones I can choose because so many good ones or just too many I like. Also, looked at the reviews on GoodReads just to confirm if the ones I chose were suitable to my sort-of-theme …

Here’s the current list. Let’s aim to confirm by Day Eighty:
– A Bargain for Frances, Russell Hoban & Lilian Hoban
– A Chair for My Mother, Vera B Williams
– A Tree Is Nice, Janice May Udry & Marc Simont
– Caps for Sale, Esphyr Slobodkina
– Crazy Hair, Neil Gaiman & Dave McKean
– Crictor, Tomi Ungerer
– Egg, Kevin Henkes
– Everything Goes: On Land, Brian Biggs
– Extra Yarn, Mac Barnett & Jon Klassen
– Fables, Arnold Lobel
– Freight Train, Donald Crews
– Goodnight Already, Jory John & Benji Davies
– Harold and The Purple Crayon, Crockett Johnson
– Harry the Dirty Dog, Gene Zion & Margaret Bloy Graham
– If You Give a Mouse a Cookie, Laura Numeroff & Felicia Bond
– Legend of Rock Paper Scissors, Drew Daywalt & Adam Rex
– Little Bear, Else Holmelund Minarik & Maurice Sendak
– Lost and Found, Oliver Jeffers
– Lucky, David Mackintosh
– One Snowy Night, Nick Butterworth
– Open House for Butterflies, Ruth Krauss & Maurice Sendak
– Outside Over There, Maurice Sendak
– Pete’s a Pizza, William Steig
– That is Not A Good Idea!, Mo Willems
– The Carrot Seed, Ruth Krauss & Crockett Johnson
– The Giving Tree, Shel Silverstein
– The Hating Book, Charlotte Zolotow & Ben Shecter
– The Look Book, Tana Hoban
– The Paper Crane , Molly Bang
– The Runaway Bunny, Margaret Wise Brown & Clement Hurd
– The Tiger Who Came to Tea, Judith Kerr
– Three Little Monkeys, Quentin Blake & Emma Chichester Clark
– Where the Wild Things Are, Maurice Sendak
– William’s Doll, Charlotte Zolotow & William Pene du Bois