Thursday, December 07, 2006

Little House Books: No Illustrations More "Relevant"?

HarperCollins, in a misguided move to make Laura Ingalls Wilder's LITTLE HOUSE books more "relevant," is removing the classic illustrations by Garth Williams from upcoming paperback editions.

The covers on the new editions, available in January, will feature photographs of a girl. There will be no illustrations inside.

Williams' art will still be available in other editions.

Williams wasn't the first to illustrate the LITTLE HOUSE books -- that honor went to Helen Sewell and Mildred Boyle -- but he was the best. It's hard to imagine the books without his beautiful pictures. Williams did extensive research before undertaking the project.

A decade or more ago I attended an exhibit at an art gallery in Hollywood which featured several of Williams' original drawings for the books, along with his original painting of the cover for CHARLOTTE'S WEB. For someone who grew up with these books, seeing Williams' artwork was quite a moving experience.

It's sad to think that HarperCollins believes no illustrations at all are somehow going to be easier to market to today's children than the Williams editions, but there you have it.


Blogger Mrs. Happy Housewife said...

They are idiots. I can't say any more - I'm just too stunned by the stupidity.

5:01 AM  
Blogger Irene said...

That amazes me. Given that children are looking at TV cartoons, comic books, etc., ad nauseam one would think that illustrations would be more marketable! Go figure.

7:34 AM  
Blogger jau said...

How on earth does removing illustrations make the books more relevant and/or appealing?? If someone who agreed with them explained it, what would they say? Irene is so right - kids have more graphic influence than print these days so you'd think they'd think the drawings would be helpful. Is there a cultural issue hidden between the lines?

8:21 AM  
Blogger Robin B said...

After reading the article you linked to, I can't say that I don't like the sample cover. However, I think that their marketing research is less than desirable. If I were making that decision, I'd have done focus groups with actual children and had them respond to the covers.

8:23 AM  
Blogger J.C. Loophole said...

I was never a big fan (I guess I wasn't really the target demo!) of the show, but my sister was and she had all of the books.
I remember really liking the covers and used them as an example of book illustrations for a project in art class (along with Charlotte's Web although I didn't realize it was the same artist).
It's sad, but it's reflective of the idea that "jazzing it up for the kids! make it now! make it wow!" attitude still prevails among the marketing gurus.
Don't they know that some things are called classic for a reason, and not because they are old?

9:38 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

"Don't they know that some things are called classic for a reason, and not because they are old?"

How true!

The Sewell/Boyle illustrations were charming -- rather reminiscent of Lois Lenski -- but Williams' illustrations have accompanied the books for over half a century for good reason.

I appreciate everyone's feedback and comments! As Robin knows, I was named for Laura and have a great interest in the subject -- I have visited her homes in Mansfield, MO (where she wrote the books) and Kansas (the "prairie" homestead site). De Smet, SD, and Malone, NY (the FARMER BOY site) are still on my to do list. This story thus particularly interests me.

Best wishes, Laura

12:03 PM  

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