Record Fee Paid for Children’s Book

September 28, 1989 5 min read

The Houghton Mifflin Company has paid what is believed to be the largest sum ever offered for a book aimed primarily at children.

Outbidding Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, the publisher agreed to pay $801,000 for the rights to a 60-page retelling of Tchaikovsky’s 19th-century ballet “Swan Lake.” Previously, publishers had considered $50,000 a generous cash advance for the author of a children’s book.

The new version of “Swan Lake” will feature a text by the novelist Mark Helprin, author of Winter’s Tale, and illustrations by Chris Van Allsburg, winner of two Caldecott Medals for distinguished American picture books for children. Publication of the book is tentatively scheduled for the fall of 1989.

Mr. Van Allsburg is also the artist for the American Library Association’s new poster promoting “1989--Year of the Young Reader.”

In the poster, he depicts two children absorbed in reading as they sit amid a pile of books.

The “Year of the Young Reader” is a national observance organized by the Library of Congress to encourage reading for young people.

The full-color poster, which measures 20 inches by 30 inches, can be purchased for $6 from ala Graphics, 50 East Huron St., Chicago, Ill. 60611.

Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers has announced that it will publish a picture book for children featuring an introduction by former President Jimmy Carter.

Intended to raise money for the Georgia-based Habitat for Humanity--for which Mr. Carter and his wife have served as volunteers--the book will describe the work of the Christian outreach program that builds housing for low-income families.

The President Builds a House: The Work of Habitat for Humanity will include an essay by Tom Shachtman and photographs by Margaret Miller.

“We believe that it is important to inform young people of the need for outreach programs such as Habitat for Humanity,” said John Sargent, publisher of Simon & Schuster’s Juvenile Book Division.

Scheduled for publication next July, The President Builds a House is tentatively priced at $14.95 and will be available from Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, Simon & Schuster Building, 1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, N.Y. 10020.

A new publication designed to provide school counselors and other educators with current information about programs helping students resolve personal problems has made its debut.

In articles written by counselors and other professionals, Student Assistance Journal will profile successful programs and strategies, with particular attention to those treating drug and alcohol abuse.

The magazine is published by Performance Resource Press, a for-profit publishing and consulting firm specializing in employee-assistance programs.

The journal--to run approximately 60 pages per issue--will appear bimonthly, September through June. The subscription rate is $32 for five issues. Inquiries should be addressed to Performance Resource Press, 2145 Crooks Rd., Suite 103, Troy, Mich. 48084.

Another new publication--the National Dropout Prevention Newsletter--will track programs for at-risk young people and strategies for dropout prevention in the schools.

According to Ray Eberhard, executive director of the National Dropout Prevention Network, the newsletter will emphasize “an emerging consensus about dropout prevention” based on structural changes in schools--the ways they are organized, managed, staffed, and financed.

The first issue of the newsletter--published by the ndpn and the National Dropout Prevention Center, based at Clemson University--appeared this summer.

The quarterly publication will not be available by subscription but will be sent to members of the ndpn Inquiries should be addressed to the National Dropout Prevention Network, P.O. Box 1864, Clemson, S.C. 29631.

Hoping to expand the development and marketing of their products, two well-known publishers of learning materials have agreed to merge.

In the transaction, Field Publications of Middletown, Conn.--publisher of the Weekly Reader and other educational magazines and books--acquired the New Jersey-based publisher Funk & Wagnalls Inc., best known for its encyclopedias and other reference works sold in supermarkets.

“Combining our two companies,” Bruce Seide, president of Field Publications, said in a statement, “creates a unique opportunity for these two prestigious publishing organizations to expand their creation and marketing of high-quality learning information to families throughout the United States.”

While the encyclopedia-marketing arm of Funk & Wagnalls will remain in Ramsey, N.J., the remainder of the publishing house’s interests will be operated in conjunction with Field Publications in Connecticut.

And to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the Weekly Reader, Field Publications has prepared a historical review of the children’s newspaper.

Published by World Almanac/Pharos Books, Weekly Reader: 60 Years of News for Kids highlights articles and columns dating back to the publication’s first issue, which appeared on Sept. 21, 1928.

Tracing the newspaper’s editorial and stylistic changes over the years, the book is aimed at both current readers and the generations of students who grew up with the paper in their classrooms.

Available in bookstores, the book is priced at $11.95 for the paperback and $21.95 for the hardback. Prepaid orders should be addressed to Pharos Books, World Almanac Education Division, 1278 West 9th St., Cleveland, Ohio 44113.

In another transaction, Scholastic Inc., a leading educational publisher, has acquired Child Care Center magazine from Lake Publishing Company of Libertyville, Ill.

Scholastic’s magazine Pre-K Today plans to take over the circulation of Child Care Center, which will no longer be published as a separate magazine.

Aimed at early-childhood educators and child-care professionals, Pre-K Today provides advice, teaching activities, and current information on early-childhood legislation and trends.

Scholastic will expand Pre-K Today’s coverage of administrative strategies and management concerns, according to a statement from Richard Robinson, the company’s chief executive officer and president.

Annotated bibliographies of children’s trade books in social studies and science can be ordered from the Children’s Book Council.

“Notable 1987 Children’s Trade Books in the Field of Social Studies,” a project of the National Council for the Social Studies and the cbc Joint Committee, originally appeared in the April/May issue of Social Education.

The eight-page pamphlet provides brief descriptions of approximately 100 titles, with appropriate reading levels and current prices.

“Outstanding Science Trade Books for Children in 1987,” reprinted from the March issue of Science and Children, is a project of the National Science Teachers Association and the cbc

Listing approximately 80 titles, this pamphlet includes information similar to that offered by its social-studies counterpart.

Single copies of each bibliography are free; two to five copies are 75 cents each. Discounts are available for larger orders. Prepaid orders and inquiries should be addressed to: Children’s Book Council Inc., 67 Irving Place, New York, N.Y. 10003.--jw & lc

A version of this article appeared in the September 27, 1989 edition of Education Week as Record Fee Paid for Children’s Book