September 10, 2010

Exhibit: Following the Yellow Brick Road

The M.E. Grenander Department of Special Collections and Archives Presents: Following the Yellow Brick Road: Imitation and Influence in Children’s Literature

Classic children’s books endure for their originality and timeless value to generations of young (and older) readers. A handful of these books distinguish themselves as exemplars and definers of entire genres. Six such examples are presented in this exhibit. They are: The Pilgrim’s Progress (1678); Robinson Crusoe (1719); Gulliver’s Travels (1726); Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (1865); The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (1900); and The Tale of Peter Rabbit (1902).

Presented here are small selections of books, some classics in their own right, which take influence from their groundbreaking predecessors in a broad variety of ways. Some are explicit sequels or pastiches, while others borrow structural, stylistic, or symbolic elements, but are otherwise independent entities. Some are written by associates of the influencing novel’s author, and some even share visual similarities with their parent work. Still more are abridged or excerpted versions of classics intended to make them accessible to even the youngest readers, or to convert works originally written for adults into child-friendly formats.

Selected Exhibit Highlights:

In 1899, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, by L. Frank Baum, was published and enjoyed a moderate but quickly burgeoning popularity. Itself an imitation of Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz saw imitators as soon as two years after its publication with the release of Zauberlinda the Wise Witch, by Eva Katherine Clapp (1901). Zauberlinda is the story of a Midwestern prairie girl named Annie who falls down a rabbit hole with her cat, Silvertip, into the land of the Gnome King. Interestingly, L. Frank Baum would introduce the Nome King and his underground Nome Kingdom six years later in Ozma of Oz (1907). In addition to plot similarities, Mabel Tibbitts illustrations from Zauberlinda are noticeably similar to those of W.W. Denslow in The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.

The Wizard of Oz and Zauberlinda the Wise Witch are similar in plot and in illustration. Above is an example of an illustration of Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz (l) and an illustration of Annie from Zauberlinda (r).

Seven years following Zauberlinda, Frederic Chapin, composer for L. Frank Baum’s 1905 musical, The Woggle-Bug, wrote Toodles of Treasure Town and Her Snow Man(1908). The story is of a little girl who is whisked away in a magical snowglobe to Treasure Town. En route, she and her odd assortment of companions are intercepted by the evil Hi-Ho and his Harum Scarums. An army of cockatoos transports them to Walnut Town, where they are held hostage until they agree to hand over a magic bracelet belonging to the Fairy Queen Elinora of Treasure Town. Toodles and her companions are nearly one-to-one telegraphs of Dorothy, Toto, the Tin Woodman, Cowardly Lion, and Scarecrow. Elinora stands in for Glinda the Good, Hi-Ho for the Wicked Witch of the West, his cockatoos for the winged monkeys, the magic bracelet for Dorothy’s silver slippers, and so on. Particularly striking is Toodles visual similarity to Baum’s Oz in both illustration and typography.

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Above is an illustration of Dorothy and a winged monkey from The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (top) along with Toodles and a Cockatoo soldier from Toodles of Treasure Town (below). The illustrations are strikingly similar in composition and style.

Following Frank Baum’s death in 1919, the legacy of Oz continued with Ruth Plumly Thompson’s 19 Oz-influenced books, beginning with The Royal Book of Oz (1921) and ending in 1939 with Ozoplaning with the Wizard of Oz. All of Thompson’s books were illustrated by John R. Neill, who also illustrated all of Baum’s Oz books apart from the original, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. Neill himself wrote three Oz derivatives before his death in 1942.

In 1904, two years following the publication of The Tale of Peter Rabbit by Beatrix Potter (London: Frederick Warne, 1902), the Henry Altemus Company of Philadelphia published the first pirated American edition as part of their “Wee Books for Wee Folks� series. The majority of illustrations in the piracy are redrafted versions of Potter’s originals. Notably, four illustrations appear in the pirated edition that do not appear in the Warne editions following the first three printings. As a result, readers of the piracy benefit from seeing the entire body of Potter’s illustrations, albeit in redrafted form.

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Above is a comparison of illustrations for The Tale of Peter Rabbit as published by the Henry Altemus Company in 1904 (top row), with Potter's original illustrations as published by Frederick Warne (bottom row). The Altemus illustrations are attributed to John R. Neill, illustrator of L. Frank Baum's Oz books following The Wonderful Wizard of Oz

Following the Yellow Brick Road: Imitation and Influence in Children’s Literature is viewable in the atrium of the Science Library on the University at Albany’s Main Campus.

Erin Shoudy, Graduate Assistant, Miriam Snow Mathes Historical Children’s Literature Collection, selected the items from over 12,000 titles in the collection. The Mathes collection is accessible in the Department of Special Collections and Archives on the University Science Library’s third floor. Further information is also available at:

November 5, 2008

Historical Children's Literature Exhibit

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This exhibition, originally mounted in conjunction with the publication of Minders of Make-Believe: Idealists, Entrepreneurs, and the Shaping of American Children’s Literature by Leonard Marcus, will remain on display here in the M.E. Grenander Special Collections Department through Friday January 16th, 2009.

July 31, 2008

Leonard S. Marcus

Minders of Make-Believe: Idealists, Entrepreneurs, and the Shaping of American Children’s Literature

Where: Standish Room, Third floor Science Library, University at Albany, SUNY

When: October 23, 2008, 4:00 PM

cover copy.jpg Leonard Marcus, one of the foremost authorities on the history of children’s literature, will discuss and sign his new book, Minders of Make-Believe (2008, Houghton Mifflin), an animated first-time history of the visionary editors, authors, librarians, booksellers, and others whose passion for books has transformed American childhood and American culture.

What should children read? Marcus tackles this three-hundred-year-old question that sparked the creation of a rambunctious children’s book publishing scene in Colonial times. And it’s the urgent issue that went on to fuel the transformation of twentieth-century children’s book publishing from a genteel backwater to big business. Marcus delivers a provocative look at the fierce turf wars fought among pioneering editors, progressive educators, and librarians - most of them women - throughout the twentieth century. His story of the emergence and growth of the major publishing houses - and of the distinctive literature for the young they shaped - gains extraordinary depth through the author’s path-finding research and in-depth interviews with dozens of editors, artists, and other key publishing figures whose careers go back to the 1930s.

Free and open to the public. Seating is limited. RSVP to: Brian Keough, at or 518-437-3931

November 27, 2006

Intern Blog: Kali Roy

The M.E. Grenander Department of Special Collections and Archives is fortunate to have undergraduate and graduate students working on a variety of projects including arranging and describing collections, conducting research related to our collections, and many other initiatives. Here is another posting from one of these students, University at Albany graduate student Kali Roy.

My name is Kali Roy and I am a graduate student in the Information Science Program at the University at Albany, SUNY. I also work as a student assistant in the University at Albany’s M.E. Grenander Department of Special Collections and Archives. In general, I aid David Mitchell (Curator pro bono of the Miriam Snow Mathes Historical Children’s Collection) with collection maintenance. This collection maintenance can involve seemingly mundane tasks such as shelving, searching Minerva and OCLC for copies of books for the collection, and providing preservation housing for the collection artifacts, such as phase boxes, portfolios and enclosures. The reason I use the word seemingly is that while I am in the process of performing these necessary tasks to keep the collection neat, orderly, and significant, I am also gaining knowledge about how a special collections department works, and about how the history of children’s literature has evolved over time. This results in giving the tasks a positive complexity with learning that is two fold. Past and present children’s literature is one of my all time favorite interests; this job has provided me with great resources for learning about past and present authors, artists, publishers, and stories that continue to inspire those working in the field of children’s literature. As a student assistant, I have also learned to be flexible and open to all avenues of learning and experience.

Continue reading "Intern Blog: Kali Roy" »

August 25, 2006

Exhibit: The Secret Lives of Toys and Their Friends

The exhibit The Secret Lives of Toys and Their Friends is on display in the lobby of the M.E. Grenander Department of Special Collections and Archives on the third floor of the Science Library at the University at Albany.
A small number of items and information from the exhibit are made available online at as an introduction to the physical exhibit.
This exhibit contains items drawn from The Miriam Snow Mathes Historical Children’s Literature Collection and is on exhibit through early October 2006. This exhibit features a small sampling of the many stories written for children from either a toy’s point of view or about adventures based on the lives of living toys or objects. The over fifty items in the physical exhibit, including the small number displayed in the online exhibit, are a fraction of what the Mathes Collection contains on the subject of animated objects and/or toys.

Update: The Secret Lives of Toys and Their Friends is back by popular demand on display in the lobby of the Department of Special Collections and Archives beginning January 24, 2007.