Fanciful Reader

a book blog about romance and more. . .

Month: March, 2012

Christmas Eve at the Mellops’

Tomi Ungerer’s charming book for children, Christmas Eve at the Mellops’, was originally published in 1960. It was reprinted in 2011 by Phaidon Press to bring the story to a new generation of children. Ungerer is known for classic picture books that he has written and illustrated such as Moon Man.

Christmas Eve at the Mellops’, is one of a few stories by Ungerer about a family of pigs. The style is very different from later works such as Moon Man with drawings that are similar to those of William Steig.

The story begins with the father, Mr. Mellop, reading an article about Christmas decorations. He shows his four sons, Casimir, Isidor, Felix and Ferdinand the article. One by one, each of the young pigs goes out to get a Christmas tree. The four brothers are sad when they return home to discover that each one had the same idea. So Mr. Mellop suggests that they take the trees to those in need such as prisoners and hospital patients. But they discover that the places they visit already have a Christmas tree.

Then they encounter a little girl pig who is crying, and follow her home where she lives with her sick grandmother. They find other sad and lonely pigs in various rooms in the house and realize that this is where their trees are needed the most. Not only that, the Mellop brothers bring necessities for the families in the house such as warm clothes, food, medicine, and wood for a fire.

The brothers return home in a very good mood and discover that Mr. and Mrs. Mellop have prepared a Christmas celebration with their own family tree, as well as lots of gifts and festive food.

Today, many of the illustrations and situations, such as the pig brothers bringing goods to a poor house or a drawing of a prisoner smoking a cigar, would not be considered. In the late 50s through early 60s when the Mellops books were first published, these situations were more acceptable and the whimsical drawings and funny situations were more unusual in children’s literature.

While my five-year-old enjoyed Christmas Eve at the Mellops’, this is a title that children today may not seek out on their own because of the wide variety of Christmas-themed books that are available. It is worth seeking out if you’d like a charming holiday story with a vintage feel.

Antique children’s books provide a fun way to glimpse the past

However, antique children’s books such as those written in the 19th century were not fun reading by today’s standards. Instead, they were often cautionary tales with a moral at the end. Definitely designed to be instructive rather than entertaining.

Another fact that’s interesting but not so fun—

Literature for young people from that time period often did not have illustrations–a far cry from today’s popular comics and graphic novels!

One of the first well-known artists to add illustrations to books for youth in the late 1800s was Randolph Caldecott (Randolph Caldecott’s Picture Books), whose name was given to the prestigious Caldecott Award.

Studying vintage literature gives us valuable insights into how children of that time period lived and how their parents raised them. For example, moral tales with a religious tone tell us that good conduct was a very important part of education.

The cover art and other design elements of antique books for young people often have details that reflect the style preferences of the period. For that reason, and simply because of their beauty and uniqueness, they are popular collectors items.

Whether you’re a collector, casual reader, parent, or educator, you’ll find a lot of useful information in these works. Plus, preserving and studying antique children’s books gives you important lessons that you can pass on to future generations.

Finding literary agents for children’s books

Did you realize some of the benefits of having agents for children’s books? It is possible to publish a book on your own.

But literary agents have valuable contacts in the publishing world, and can help you sell your manuscript for the best possible terms.

Also, an agent can handle the nitty-gritty financial details, so that you have more time to concentrate on what you do best–writing!

So how do you go about finding an agent?

Keep in mind that while many literary agents have informational websites, it’s not necessarily enough to do a quick web search to find them.

You see, there are some not-so-reputable folks out there claiming that for a fee, they will help you get published. But in some cases, the only guarantee is that they’ll take your money.

How else can you find good agents for children’s books?

  • Ask other children’s book authors for recommendations.
  • Check with your professional writing associations.
  • Read professional magazines such as Publishers Weekly to find out which agents are quoted.
  • Find out which agents represent your favorite authors.
  • You can check an agent to see if they’re listed by the Association of Authors’ Representatives (AAR) which is a sure sign of a good reputation.

The process of finding an agent is somewhat similar to submitting your manuscript to a publisher. You’ll need a query letter and a sample of your work. Then you wait to see if the agent will represent you.

It may seem like a long, complicated process. But in the end, finding a good agent for children’s books will be a great benefit to your writing career.