08 December 2006

Little House in the Doldrums

Publishers Weekly reports on booksellers' mixed reaction to HarperCollins's reissue of the Little House books by Laura Ingalls Wilder with new, photographic covers and no interior art.

What was the problem with Garth Williams's drawings? Apparently, they betrayed the fact that these books take place in...history.

The magazine quotes Kate Jackson, Editor-in-Chief at HarperCollins, as saying, "But Laura Ingalls was a real little girl, not a made-up character. Using photographs highlights that these are not history but adventure books." Hence the series sell line at the bottom of the cover: "Little House • Big Adventure."

So photographs = real = adventure, but real ≠ history.

What's really "real," I suspect, is that after years of selling the Little House books and then reselling them through abridgments, prequels, sequels, anniversary editions, and every other type of spin-off, HarperCollins has seen sales drop. Fantasy has pushed aside historical fiction as the way young readers--even girls--prefer to try out different societies.

But eventually that will change.

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