Wednesday, January 24, 2007

I Don't Think Laura Ingalls Wilder Would Like This

What are they doing to children’s literature?

Newsweek has a story that says the publisher of the Little House on the Prairie series will remove the iconic, charming art of Garth Williams from the books and replace it with photos of models dressed up to look like Laura and Mary Ingalls.

"Girls might feel the Garth Williams art is too old-fashioned," Tara Weikum, executive editor for the "Little House" series told Newsweek. "We wanted to convey the fact that these are action-packed. There were dust storms and locusts. And they had to build a cabin from scratch." (The new tag line: "Little House, Big Adventure.")

Aaaaahhhhhhh!! This goes against my most basic sensibilities. I grew up on those books and those pictures. I read and reread the Little House series countless times and I even named my favorite doll Laura. I always planned to name a daughter Laura but that got ruined in college when I dated a man for months before he revealed to me he actually had a girlfriend named ….. Laura.

I know I am being a fuddy-duddy in my desire to see the Little House books retain their classic art. It’s not even a defensible position in my own household, because neither of my daughters has ever taken to the series. I read them the books but they never adored them the way I fantasized they would. Perhaps their appreciation was tainted by watching Melissa Gilbert on the television show.

So my dismay over this news is a reaction to my own nostalgic feelings and a desire to ignore the demands of the marketplace. To be frank -- and I hate to admit this, I think the books will probably sell better with cool looking prairie girls on the cover. Young readers probably will relate better to contemporary pictures. (The art director just better not smear their faces with a touch of Lancome or Benefit lip gloss.)

The books already went through a makeover. Garth Williams was not the original artist. Helen Sewell did the first set of illustrations and Williams’ pictures were first included in 1954.

Be prepared for more of this. Apparently, new covers are planned for A Wrinkle in Time and Bridge to Terabitha. The publisher of Charlotte’s Web just released a new version of the book with Dakota Fanning, the star of the movie, on the front. She replaces another iconic illustration drawn by …. Garth Williams.

1 comment:

Beth said...

I absolutely agree! Don't mess with the classics! Another one of my childhood favorites, "Flat Stanley" was redone by another illustrator. I hunted and hunted until I could find the original version. Thank goodness I kept all my childhood copies of Laura Ingalls Wilder books. I would not want redone versions of those either.