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Big Little Books were huge


Ten years in business is not just a time to celebrate the past accomplishments but also a time to TOSS the past stuff that no longer matters to the business. For the past two months I’ve been tossing out a LOT of paper — applications to 2006 conferences, Amazon setup paperwork from 2005, printed e-mails from 2003, expense receipts from 2008. A. LOT. OF. PAPER.

And in the momentum I’ve also tackled my bookshelves of research material and even my sons’ bookshelves. I’ve finally let go of half of my childhood collection of Big Little Books. I read a few to my sons when they were little guys, and I stacked the collection on my sons’ bookshelf years ago thinking they would be a nice bridge to the boys reading by themselves. But the boys didn’t really take to them, and now one son is 21 and studying abroad and the other is a junior in high school. Not the target audience for Big Little Books.

So I saved my favorite ones and put the rest in the box to donate to the used bookstore across town. I pointed the Big Little Books out to the two bibliophiles behind the counter — and was shocked when they said they had never heard of them. NEVER??

Big Little Books were like comix for generations of American reluctant readers. They were tiny — and so, non-threatening. Their format was text on the left side and a captioned drawing on the right side page. EVERY right side page!! To my eyes, they were almost as much fun as a full-color comic. Some of mine even had another drawing tucked in the upper-righthand corner so that you could flip them quickly to get an animated cartoon. That was a great deal for 35 cents!

Of course it helped that so many of the books were based on cartoon characters. The very first Big Little Book published by the Whitman Publishing Co. of Wisconsin was a Dick Tracy story in 1932. More than 1,300 titles were published between then and the 1960s. The books started out with hard cardboard covers, but by the time I found them in my hometown drugstore in the 1970s they were paperbacks. They’ve held up really well to my countless readings.

It’s gratifying when parents and teachers tell me how great Chester Comix are for reluctant readers. But me and my crab are just continuing a long, well-worn path. When you talk about Chester Comix offering exciting and colorful reading to excite young people, you have to also give props to Classics Illustrated comix and to Big Little Books. Google some images of their covers today and keep your eyes out in the used bookstores!

This entry was posted on Wednesday, October 23rd, 2013 at 10:10 am and is filed under Author's Purpose, literacy. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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Chester crab comics