Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Kessler's sports books touted on Greenwillow Books bookmark

Here's the front and back of an old bookmark for Greenwillow Books, which has been publishing children's books as a subsidiary of HarperCollins since 1974.1

The bookmark, probably from the mid-1980s, is touting the "read-alone" sports books by Leonard Kessler, including:
  • "Super Bowl"
  • "Old Turtle's Baseball Stories"
  • "The Big Mile Race"
  • "Old Turtle's Winter Games"
  • "The Worst Team Ever"

Kessler, who is 90 or 91 and now lives in Sarasota, Fla., has illustrated more than 200 books, many of which he also wrote. Perhaps his most famous book is 1965's "Mr. Pine's Purple House," which has had an enduring impact on a couple different levels.

Here's an excerpt from a June 2007 article in The Atlantic by Virginia Postrel:
"The book, says its author, Leonard Kessler, tells kids, 'It’s OK to be different. You can find your own way, and purple seems to be a fine color to paint a house.' Kessler, whose license plate reads MR PINE, loves purple. He has three pairs of violet-hued shoes—lavender, magenta, and purple—and a lavender studio with one striped wall that he says 'looks like a circus.' The inside of his home’s front door is painted purple, too."
"Mr. Pine's Purple House" went out of print in the early 1970s and nostalgia for it helped to inspire the launch of Jill Morgan's Purple House Press, which specializes in republishing out-of-print children's books and has published several titles by Kessler.

"She changed my life," Kessler said of Morgan's interest in "Mr. Pine's Purple House" in a June 2007 magazine article. "She brought me back to life again.”

Meanwile, readers also have fond memories of Kessler's other titles, including the sports-related ones mentioned on today's bookmark.

Here are reviewer Frankie Jones' thoughts on "Super Bowl":
"Another fun piece by Leonard Kessler. Unfortunately, Super Bowl had a short print run 1980, and an even shorter print run in 1990 before quickly going out of print for good. That's a shame, because this is one of Kessler's better works. Super Bowl tells the tale of two teams, The Animal Champs (Dog, Cat, Frog, Rabbit, Raccoon) and the Super Birds (Gull, Chicken, Crow, Owl, and the enigmatic Duck). For any kid who loves football, they'll really like this one. It's full of football action, but also shows the value of preparation, determination, and teamwork. Duck, the equivalent of your modern day prima donna player, proves to be the Super Birds undoing with a costly fumble late in the game. Afterward, while the Animal Champs celebrate their hard earned Super Bowl championship, the Super Birds console themselves with the old adage, 'Wait `til next year!' If your child is a football fan and an emerging reader, you can't go wrong with this one."
1. Greenwillow Books has a nice blog, Under the Green Willow, which is currently celebrating the works of the late Diana Wynne Jones.

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