LilaTovCocktail: Ingredients: one part NE Ohio; two parts politics; two parts media, and one part each: culture, family & the Jewish community. Directions: Shake well.

Cheap & easy: Scholastic Books covers of the '60s & '70s


I can say with certainty that I am more always more excited when the Scholastic Books order forms come home than my kids are.

I've always loved Scholastic Books. One of the first ones I got was a cookbook for kids which contained the recipe for the first supper I ever cooked: pigs in a blanket.

It was with great pride that I stretched those Pillsbury refrigerator rolls around the hot dogs and put them on a foil-lined pan. (OK, so I used a dish towel instead of an oven mitt when I took them out of the oven and the fringe caught fire a little! So what?)

Recently collections of vintage Scholastic Books covers have been popping up online, annotated with the fond memories of the adults who found them at garage sales, scanned and uploaded them. (See links below.)

They're not exactly what you'd call rare books, although people do collect them and sell them on Their longevity isn't so great; the paper yellowed quickly and the covers were easily wrinkled and dog-eared. Scholastic Books' goal was to print cheaply and disseminate widely.

But even as a child, I felt that the stories and cover art tended toward the melancholic. Sure, there were lighthearted stories and emotionally-neutral educational stories: Henry and Ribsy, Encyclopedia Brown, Miss Pickerell Goes Undersea.

But a lot of them were scary or sad, some truly scary and others only superficially so. I was partial to the quasi-scary supernatural mysteries and ghost stories.

And (for reasons that will remain between me and my therapist), I bought a lot of books about Cinderella types and ostracized school girls.

Evidently grownups didn't find these stories particularly dispiriting.

My fourth grade teacher read us Follow My Leader, the story of a boy who picks up a "dud" firecracker only to have it blow up in his face and blind him.

My memory of the book is grueling descriptions of the blinded boy's experience of darkness, helplessness, despair, and loneliness -- until he gets Leader, his seeing eye dog. (And there's still some trouble after that.)

The experience was redeemed by a real-life visit from a local woman who had a seeing eye dog, an Irish setter named "Rusty." I thought Rusty was magnificent, a real hero, for giving up the doggyish joys of romping around and being petted by kids like myself in order to lead his mistress safely through life.

To this day, I'd like to get a dog and name him Rusty. And I won't ever touch a firecracker.

There are about 60 images of Scholastic book covers and illustrations in jl.incrowd's photostream Nostalgia for the Scholastic Book Club, circa '60's & '70's. and another 15 or so in Brent Cox's photostream.

If anyone comes across a Scholastic cookbook for kids with a pigs in blanket recipe, let me know.

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David November 16, 2008 at 12:02 AM  

If I get a dog I'm just gonna name him Scholastic. No... actually Scholastic makes me nervous. It doesn't quite creep me out. But it's ubiquitous. Or like a parasite, using schools and PTAs to set up book fairs where all there is for children to buy is Scholastic Books. And from there they spread, strangling books by other authors and less powerful children's publishers... Oh, how will it end??!!

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