Saturday, October 25, 2014

Scholastic Fest: #3, The Wonderful Flight to the Mushroom Planet

  • Title: The Wonderful Flight to the Mushroom Planet
  • Author: Eleanor Cameron (1912–1996)
  • Illustrator: Robert Henneberger
  • Publisher: Scholastic Book Services
  • Year: First printing, September 1966
  • Back-cover text:
    "Chuck and David gasped. There, in the telescope, a tiny greenish dot appeared, shining through the vast black of outer space.

    "The mysterious little man spoke:

    "'I should like you two boys to set off this very night for the Mushroom Planet!'

    "'Tonight?' repeated Chuck faintly.

    "'But, how...' David began.

    "How, indeed, could they ever hope to reach that pale and ghostly moon. No other earth dwellers even knew it existed!"
  • Notes: OK, readers. Things are getting serious now, as we barrel into the Top Three of Scholastic Fest! ... Or perhaps, not so serious. ... This is the wonderfully silly and trippy cover to the 1966 Scholastic paperback edition of The Wonderful Flight to the Mushroom Planet, a much-beloved and much-reprinted book by Eleanor Cameron. How beloved? It has a 4.6-star rating with more than 110 reviews on Amazon. And here is a gallery with the covers of some of the other editions that have been printed over the years...

    I think I like the Scholastic version best. Interestingly, the title page of this book states: "Drawings adapted from original illustrations by Robert Henneberger." That's an odd thing to say. Were his illustrations cropped? Were pieces of them cut out and moved around to form new Franken-illustrations? I believe that the illustration in the upper-left corner of the gallery that I posted is the original cover illustration from 1954. There are certainly some similarities between that cover and the Scholastic cover. Were the boys removed in favor of more prominent and goofy Little Green Men? More importantly, I cannot find any biographical information about illustrator Robert Henneberger. Even his Scholastic page is sadly blank. This needs to be rectified. Does anyone out there have any information on Henneberger? ... The Wonderful Flight to the Mushroom Planet author Cameron, meanwhile, was born in Canada but lived most of her life in the United States. Originally a librarian, she did not start writing children's books until her eight-year-old son, David, asked her to write an outer space story with him as the main character. This is that book. It was followed by four sequels. ... The plot of the book involves a tiny moon (not actually a planet) called Basidium that is just 50,000 miles from Earth. (The moon is about 225,000 miles from Earth, by comparison.) The plot also involves a chicken.1 ... Cameron also published an award-winning book titled The Court of the Stone Children in 1973, but her bigger "claim to fame" during that time might have involved her criticism of Roald Dahl's Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Here's an excerpt from Wikipedia:
    In a the first of a three part essay titled "McLuhan, Youth, and Literature", Cameron labeled Charlie "one of the most tasteless books ever written for children," finding it to be "sadistic" and "phony." She was especially chagrined at its use as a classroom read-aloud. Dahl replied in the February 1973 issue of Horn Book. He wrote that Cameron was entitled to her opinion about his book, but he felt that she had attacked his character as well. He also scoffed at her recommendation that teachers find better literature to share with their students: "I would dearly like to see Ms. Cameron trying to read Little Women, or Robinson Crusoe for that matter to a class of today's children. This lady is completely out of touch with reality. She would be howled out of the classroom."

1. According to a Google search, prior to the publication of this post:

No results found for "The plot also involves a chicken.".


Friday, October 24, 2014

Scholastic Fest: #4, Arrow Book of Baseball Fun

  • Title: Arrow Book of Baseball Fun
  • Editor: Ellen Stern Ryp
  • Illustrator: George Wilde
  • Publisher: Scholastic Book Services
  • Year: Fourth printing (updated), April 1971
  • Excerpt:
    "Back in the early 1900's Cleveland's Ray Chapman was as proud of his batting ability as the next man. Except when he had to face the great Walter Johnson.

    "In one game, Johnson was pitching at the top of his form when Chapman stepped up to bat. Twice the ball streaked across the plate. Twice the umpire called, 'Ste-rike!' Then Chapman stepped out of the batter's box and started back to the dugout.

    "'Wait a minute,' the umpired called. 'You've got another strike coming.'

    "'Never mind,' Chapman shrugged. 'I don't want it!'"
  • Notes: This book slides into place nicely today, as the Kansas City Royals, featuring Jayson Nix, and San Francisco Giants, featuring Matt Duffy, prepare for Game 3 of the World Series tonight. ... First off, though, our scanner did not do an exemplary job in conveying accurately the color of this book cover. Pictured at right is another image, found on the Internet, of the book's cover. It better shows the "muted pea soup" green of the front. ... This is a bit of a Franken-book, as the copyright page explains that portions of it were selected and adapted from 1963's Baseball Funbook by Thomas Wallington Moran. That book was published by Doubleday & Company. ... The illustrations and adaptation, meanwhile, are copyright 1967 by Scholastic Magazines Inc. ... The 80-page book features baseball anecdotes, lists, puzzles, quizzes and more. Tons of great stuff for school-age baseball fans who might not have had many other resources to tap in a quest to satisfy their thirst for knowledge of America's pastime. ... Section headers include "No-Hitters," "Bat-Time Stories," "The Great Nine," "So You Know Your Baseball?" and "Last Laugh for the Umpire." ... I can't find much information about illustrator George Wilde, but I can tell you that he also provided the artwork for another Scholastic title, Arrow Book of Ghost Stories. That 1960s title has a glorious cover that would have landed it in the Top 10 of this countdown, is highly sought even today and is remembered fondly in this 2011 And Everything Else Too blog post. ... Finally, the two center pages of this book invite readers to write down their choices for the all-time all-star team. One former owner of this book did just that, scrawling the names in nice cursive writing. Here's a look at the picks, which include Yogi Berra, Jimmy [sic] Foxx, Maury Wills and Cy Young.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

A pair of "Appetizing Recipes From Canned Foods"

Holy moly! We haven't had any new old recipes on here since August 6, back in the dogs days of summer.

So let's enjoy a couple from "Appetizing Recipes From Canned Foods." This 44-page staplebound booklet was published by the American Can Company of New York City.

The American Can Company was incorporated in 1901 and decades later, following a series of incomprehensible transactions, somehow formed part of the basis of the creation of Citigroup. Which makes me a little sad.

But we'll always have the recipes from back when the company was part of the Tin Can Trust and held one of the largest military production contracts in the United States.

One of the recipes, by the way, is called "Meat Salad Mold" and it's salmon-colored. We're not going to go there. Also, "Jellied Beet Salad" is right out.

Tomato Corned Beef Hash Cutlets
  • 1 1-pound can Corned Beef Hash
  • 2 medium-sized Tomatoes, peeled and chilled
  • Prepared Mustard1
  • Salt and Pepper
  • 2 tablespoons finely minced Onion
  • Bread Crumbs
  • Margarine
Chill hash in can at least 6 hours or longer; remove from can by cutting both ends. Cut hash in 6 slices; place in shallow baking pan; spread tops with mustard. Cut tomatoes into ½-inch slices; placed on top of hash. Sprinkle tomato generously with salt and pepper then 1 teaspoon onion. Cover with bread crumbs and dot with margarine. Bake in moderately hot oven 375° F. about 30 minutes remove from pan with wide spatula to warmed serving plate and garnish with parsley or watercress. 6 servings.

Baked Crispy Peaches
  • ½ No. 2½ can Peach Halves2
  • ¾ cup Cornflakes
  • 3 tablespoons Brown Sugar
  • 1 tablespoon Butter or Margarine
Drain peach halves. Crush cornflakes lightly. Rolls peach halves in cornflakes. Place peaches, hollow side up, in baking dish. Fill centers with sugar; dot with butter or margarine. Pour ¼ cup juice around peaches. Bake in moderately hot oven 375° F. for about 25 minutes until browned. Serve warm with cream or evaporated milk. 4 servings.
NOTE: Other cereal flakes may be used in place of cornflakes.3

1. Unprepared Mustard, on the other hand, is kind of pathetic. It's that condiment that always shows up late for the exam, wearing a T-shirt from last Tuesday and having not studied at all.
2. According to a chart elsewhere in the booklet, a No. 2½ can holds approximately 3½ cups and is used primarily for fruits, spinach, tomatoes, sauerkraut, beets and pumpkin.
3. For example, Kaboom or Sir Grapefellow breakfast cereals.

Scholastic Fest: #5, The Shy Stegosaurus of Cricket Creek

  • Title: The Shy Stegosaurus of Cricket Creek
  • Author: Evelyn Sibley Lampman (1907-1980)
  • Illustrator: Hubert Buel (1915-1984)
  • Publisher: Scholastic Book Services
  • Year: Fifth printing, December 1968
  • Excerpt:
    "Joan moaned with fright, and the animal looked in her direction. The whole head turned with the eyes as it did so.

    "'You should say thank you,' said the creature. His voice, like his head, seemed much too small for the body. It was just an ordinary voice, such as you would expect to hear in any human being, but there was no inflection of words. They all came out in the same tone.

    "'Thank you,' answered Joan automatically. Then she remembered that animals, except parrots and magpies possibly, don't speak English, and her mouth fell open in even greater amazement.

    "'A-are you a dragon?' stammered Joey.

    "'No,' said the creature without surprise. 'I don't know what that is. I am a stegosaurus.'"
  • Notes: I did not read this book in my youth, but it's a much-loved classic from many childhoods and sports a fabulous Scholastic cover. ... Let's start right in with this excerpt from an emotional 2003 remembrance on Amazon:
    "This book changed my life.......
    Strange, but if I were to pick the two books that have had the biggest influence on my life, this would be one of them -- the other being The Brothers Karamazov (but that's another review). I remember reading this book, just before my tenth birthday. The story was so dramatic, so moving (remember -- I'm nine years old here), the characters so vivid -- even though I knew it was fiction, that there really wasn't any stegosaurus (never mind a shy one who spoke English & wagged his tail like a dog), that after finishing it, I cried harder than I ever remember crying in my life. NOTE: The stegosaurus does not die -- nobody dies. But somehow, that made it worse for me -- The seemly impossible bind of a continued lonely existence for the stegosaurus: too shy to meet anyone, too social not to."
    Phew! That's some heavy stuff. But typical of the love for this book, which has 27 five-star reviews (out of 32 total) on Amazon for a 4.8 overall rating. ... A reasonably priced reprint edition is available from Purple House Press for those who can't find one of the older Scholastic copies. (I will, however, mail MY copy for free to the first person to email their name and address to chrisottopa (at) This copy belongs in the hands of someone who once loved it.) ... Evelyn Sibley Lampman was the author of more than three dozen published books, many for children, during her lifetime. She is profiled in a wonderful essay by Truman Price on Old Children's Books. It describes how she was born and raised in Oregon and worked at a radio station in between trying to raise her kids. According to Price: "One day Evelyn’s 4th grade daughter complained that she had read everything in the school library, and couldn’t Mama write another book. Responding to demand, Evelyn set to work." ... Meanwhile, according to this short biography of illustrator Hubert Buel, he was born and raised in California. In the early 1930s, he studied watercolor painting at Fresno State College and later worked briefly at Walt Disney Studios. After serving with the Navy in the South Pacific in World War II, he worked as a Hollywood set designer and then art director of a San Francisco newspaper. He greatest artistic passion was watercolor painting. ... A final tangental note: When I was researching this post, I came across the work of photographer Kerry Mansfield. One of her passions is photographing discarded library books. And one of the photos in the jaw-droppingly gorgeous gallery on her website features, of course, a beat-up (aka "much-loved") copy of The Shy Stegosaurus of Cricket Creek. Here's an excerpt from an article that Matt McCann of The New York Times wrote about Mansfield in June 2013:
    "[T]he nostalgic tug of the old cards and the books they’re glued to compelled her to photograph, as she characterized it, obsessively.

    "This relationship with books is textural — the dog-eared corners or the imprints left by scrawls in the margins are what appeal to Ms. Mansfield’s eye. There is one book from the Hadley Library with 'mold damage on it, and that’s beautiful to me,' she said.

    "'I also truly love paper,' she said. 'I don’t know how else to put that.'

    "Her photographs also reveal details that will disappear as scanners replace cards and tablets replace books."
    If love old books in all their well-used glory, please check out Mansfield's work. You'll be glad you did.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Scholastic Fest: #6, The Phantom Brakeman and Other Railroad Stories

  • Title: The Phantom Brakeman and Other Railroad Stories
  • Author: Freeman Hubbard (1894-1981)
  • Illustrator: Jerry Robinson (1922-2011)
  • Publisher: Scholastic Book Services
  • Year: Ninth printing, April 1973
  • Excerpt:
    "The midnight train ground to a stop. Sparks flew from the wheels where the brake shoes clamped against them. The engineer, a big man, swung down from his cab and strode over to the station agent. He didn't like to be stopped at a small village like this.

    "'What's up?' he demanded.

    "'Honey Creek bridge is washed out!' said the agent 'That girl saved your train. She brought me the news. How she got here, I don't know.'

    "The engineer couldn't find anything to say."
  • Notes: This groovy 91-page Scholastic paperback is an abridgement of Hubbard's 1952 book titled The Train That Never Came Back, and Other Railroad Stories, which was published by Whittlesey House. ... The tales in this Scholastic version are:
    • The Phantom Brakeman
    • The Train That Never Came Back
    • The Broken Lantern
    • Casey Jones and the Cannonball Express
    • Signal-Tower Decision
    • A Depot Rescue
    According to the back cover, "each one of these incredible adventures really happened!" That's certainly true with the Casey Jones tale and "The Broken Lantern," which is excerpted above and relates the heroic story of Kate Shelley. ... Author Freeman Henry Hubbard wrote a great deal about railroad history and legends during his lifetime. He was, for many years, editor of of Railroad Magazine, and his other books included Great Trains of All Time and The Roundhouse Cat and Other Railroad Animals. Here are some additional (and unconfirmed) tidbits about Hubbard gleaned from a 2004 discussion on the Railway Preservation News message board:
    • "Hubbard also was a kind of benefactor in his own right. I remember one issue in which he took personal affront to the fact that Casey Jones grave had no marker, and personally saw that one was provided."
    • "I believe Railroad magazine, toward the end, was mostly a one-man operation, a dying magazine about what was then considered a dying industry. Freeman Hubbard was probably lucky to keep it going as long as he did."
    • "An extensive article on Hubbard by the late Tom Jacklin appeared in 'Railroad History #185' (Autumn 2001). ('RR History' is the twice-a-year journal of the Railway & Locomotive Historical Society.)"
    ... Meanwhile, changing gears, there is marvelous website,, devoted to the life and works of Jerry Robinson, who illustrated this Scholastic volume. His work included book illustrations, comic books, photography and much more. He was once the president and editorial director of CartoonArts International and Cartoonists & Writers Syndicate. ... Some of the other Scholastic titles that he illustrated include Hurricane Luck and True Classroom Flubs & Fluffs. You can see a selection of his other titles here. (I particularly like 1962's Let's Go Logging.) ...

    Most importantly, however, (and my daughter Sarah will love this), Jerry Robinson was a co-creator — and perhaps the primary creator — of the Joker, of Batman fame. ... Wikipedia has an in-depth look at the super-villain's creation that begins with this sentence: "Jerry Robinson, Bill Finger and Bob Kane are credited with creating the Joker, but each man had their own version of the character's conception and their role in it." It's interesting reading and a good launching pad, I'm sure, for reading more about Batman's fascinating history. ... But while the Joker is a lasting part of our popular culture, another important historical contribution Robinson made was authoring The Comics: An Illustrated History of Comic Strip Art, which was first published in 1974.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

American Autumn (a photo essay)

If I may indulge myself, here's a collection of photographs I took during an autumn drive through southcentral Pennsylvania on October 9.












Monday, October 20, 2014

Vintage postcard: Wonderful place relax and read and book

This place looks inviting, doesn't it?

The undated old postcard (carte postale, actually) shows a view of a historic hotel in Dives-sur-Mer, a tiny commune with a population of about 6,000 in northwestern France. The ongoing claim to fame of area is that William the Conqueror (1028-1087) used its harbor to depart for the Norman conquest of England in 1066. (The conquest is depicted on the Bayeux Tapestry.)

Tourism is important for Dives-sur-Mer, though it's probably not a top destination for sight-seers in the Normandy region of France. It's more of an out-of-the-way stop. According to France This Way:
"Within Dives-sur-Mer the most interesting part for visitors is the sector called the 'Village of William the Conqueror', now a magnet for artists and artisans and with picturesque and often ornately decorated medieval half-timbered houses — or 19th century recreations of medieval style houses in some cases, when much of the centre was created, around the original 'auberge of the Royal Sword'

The 14th century market hall is the other main notable monument, still used for the Saturday market and with incredible carpentry work in the roof.Also on the market square you can see the 17th century Maison de Bois Hibout, a substantial stone manor house on five levels."
The credit on the back of this postcard states: "IMP.-PHOT. A. THIRIAT & cie, TOULOUSE".

Scholastic Fest: #7, A Chimp in the Family

  • Title: A Chimp in the Family
  • Author: Charlotte Becker (1907-1984)
  • Illustrator: Seymour Fleishman (1918-2012)
  • Publisher: Scholastic Book Services
  • Year: Eighth printing, September 1968
  • Excerpt:
    "Mr. Davis was walking up and down his pet store with a baby chimpanzee in his arms. He was trying to figure out what to do with the little ape.

    "That morning a sailor had sold Maggie to him. She came from the warm forests of faraway Africa. Sooner or later a circus or zoo or someone who liked unusual pets would buy Maggie. But, until then, the store was no place for her."1
  • Notes: And now for some monkey business. ... Charlotte Becker was a tough nut to crack when it came to Internet sleuthing. It turns out, as far as I can figure, that she was more well known as an artist and illustrator than as an author. According to, she was born in 1907 in Dresden, Germany. At some point she married and became Charlotte Becker Cox. She "painted over a thousand magazine covers, art calendars and art prints, all of children." ... A Chimp in the Family was first published in 1953 by Julian Messner Inc. and, according to, Becker did her own illustrations for that first edition. ... The illustrator of this Scholastic edition, Seymour Fleishman, was well-remembered in his 2012 obituary in the Chicago Sun-Times, written by Maureen O'Donnell, whose lede states: "Seymour Fleishman’s books beckoned children to come inside and stay a while." Fleishman was a U.S. Army veteran, a newspaper and magazine artist, and the artist for about 80 children's books, the most famous of which might be Gus Was A Friendly Ghost. Fleishman had a parakeet named Piccolo in his studio. ... Finally, this edition of A Chimp in the Family comes with an inscription from one of its former owners, Linda Kay Linthurst, who wrote the following in careful, grade-school cursive: "I read it and it was very good about Peg, Tom, and Maggie."

1. I hope current and future generations find the concepts of kidnapping and selling animals and sending them off to "life" in circuses and zoos as horrible as I do. Upon further review, I should not have ranked this book as highly as I did.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Scholastic Fest: #8, Mystery by Moonlight

  • Title: Mystery by Moonlight
  • Author: Mary C. Jane (1909-1991)
  • Illustrator: Raymond Abel
  • Cover design: Ethel Gold
  • Publisher: Scholastic Book Services
  • Year: Seventh printing, December 1974
  • Excerpt:
    "They went down to the living room, and with Lianne's father and mother watched a detective story on television. When that was over, the grownups left the girls alone to enjoy their favorite program, 'The Howland Girls.' It was a boarding-school story that the twins and Conan hated, so Gail was surprised to have Conan appear at the door and announce that he thought he'd watch TV with her and Lianne.

    "She felt a pang of envy. Conan liked Lianne so much he didn't even mind watching 'The Howland Girls.'"

    [FYI: "The Howland Girls" is a fictitious TV show. I checked.]
  • Notes: Are you getting the sense that I like book covers with old or wonderful (or creepy) buildings? We've already had #10 The Wizard of Oz (back-cover illustration) and #13 The Witch House and Other Tales Our Settlers Told. And there's one more great one to come. (Plus, of course, you should check out Guide to Papergreat's photos of graveyards and old buildings.) ... Mary C. Jane is not a pseudonym. She was born Mary Grace Childs in 1909 in Massachusetts and died in 1991 in Maine, according to her obituary on Find a Grave. Here is an excerpt:
    "[S]he was a graduate of Bridgewater State Teachers' College in Massachusetts. After graduating in 1931, Mary Childs taught for one year in Kentucky. In 1932, she returned to Massachusetts where she taught fifth and sixth graders. In 1937, she married William Jane and moved to Newcastle, Maine. She gave up teaching to raise their two sons. Reading aloud to them sparked an interest in children's literature. After the boys were grown, she returned to teaching. From her teaching experiences, she learned that many reluctant readers could be encouraged to read with mysteries. In 1955, she wrote her first book, a juvenile mystery entitled Mystery in Old Quebec. Over the next 15 years, Mrs. Jane authored more mystery novels ... [and] she continued writing at the rate of one book per year until her last book in 1970 when she retired."
    ... Her literary papers can be found at the Raymond H. Fogler Library at the University of Maine. ... One of Jane's admirers on the Find A Grave page writes: "I absolutely loved her books, and grew up reading them in the 1970s.. On especially cold weekends, my dad would go to the library for me and take out one of her books." ... And an Amazon reviewer named Marla wrote this in 2008: "I discovered Mary C. Jane books at my parent's house. Apparently my older sister was addicted to them as a child (and hid them from me since I didn't know about them.) I love the settings of these books. Just the right blend of 'spooky' happenings and 'danger.' I read them to my 10 year old son who is a Scooby-Doo fan. Great for introducing kids to mystery books!" ... It appears that illustrator Raymond Abel provided artwork for many of Jane's books, but I cannot find much more about him. If anyone has biographical information about him to share, please include it in the comments section. ... I can't find much, either, about Ethel Gold, who did the marvelous cover design. She might have worked in-house for Scholastic Book Services, as she is credited with multiple cover designs, includingly, in an amazing Papergreat coincidence, Hi There, High School! ... Finally, Mystery by Moonlight has a wonderful dedication:
    To those delightful people, the boys and girls who read my books, and to the understanding teachers and librarians who introduced us to each other.