Saturday, April 4, 2015

The Whitman Books Are Worth a Second Look

Many juvenile series collectors are not interested in books published by the Western Publishing Company.  Western's books were primarily issued under the Whitman and Golden Press imprints.  Collectors focus more on books published by Grosset and Dunlap, Cupples and Leon, and other publishers.

Aside from the Trixie Belden series, I typically have always ignored Whitman books and have had very little interest in collecting them.  I have always thought that the books look neat with pretty covers, but for some reason, I have had little interest in purchasing them.

My aversion originally came from the knowledge that the Whitman books were published by the same company that published the Little Golden Books.  The Little Golden Books are for very young children, so I grouped all Whitman books in with them.  Furthermore, the Whitman books for older children and young adults tend to have cover art with characters that look rather young.

The content of the Whitman books does seem to be aimed at slightly younger children than the series by Grosset and Dunlap.  The young people in the Whitman books often still have both parents who put firm constraints on their children.  The protagonists can only sleuth when they can temporarily escape from those constraints.  In contrast, the protagonists in the Grosset and Dunlap books tend to have only one parent or parents that let them do whatever they want.

The often poor condition of the Whitman books has added to my aversion.

The books have not aged well.  They were published with pulp paper that has now deeply yellowed or turned brown.  The cello books from the 1950s almost always have cello that has peeled off or is damaged.  The hardcover books from the 1970s were made with such poor materials that they were already falling apart by the early 1990s.  It's very hard to find nice copies of Whitman books.

Other collectors have mentioned being turned off by the Whitman books when they were children.  All of the Whitman hardcover books were already out of print by the time I was old enough to read, so I don't know how I would have reacted.  My only childhood exposure to the Whitman books was when I checked out the thin hardcover Trixie Belden books from my elementary school library during the 1983-1984 school year.  My elementary school had the complete set of #1-16, and I believe I read all of them that year during 6th grade.  I loved them so much.

So naturally, when I started collecting in 1991, I sought out the Trixie Belden Whitman books as well as the Nancy Drew books.  I did pick up a number of other Whitman books at garage sales during the early 1990s, but I later got rid of them.  I just wasn't interested in any Whitman books outside of Trixie Belden, even though I always thought that the covers were attractive.

In the last year, I have started reading books that I previously ignored.  I never wanted to read either the Three Investigators or Rick Brant series, but I found nearly complete sets of both and tried them out to make certain that I didn't like them.  I was surprised to discover that both series are very much to my liking.  I'm so glad that I gave both of them a chance.

This left me with the nagging feeling that I could be ignoring other wonderful series because of the publisher, such as Whitman, or because of other preconceived ideas.  I have been gathering books in the last year to try just to make certain that I'm not missing out on some wonderful books.  In some cases, I was correct that certain books were not to my liking, while in other cases I found wonderful stories.

For Whitman, I have so far tried Brains Benton, Troy Nesbit, and the Power Boys, with mixed results.  I greatly enjoyed all of the Brains Benton books and the Troy Nesbit books.  The Power Boys are not as good, but they are entertaining mainly because there is so much wrong with them.

I tried some miscellaneous books from other publishers.  I tried two books by John Bellairs, since series book collectors frequently remark about how much they enjoy Bellairs.  I didn't like them that much, so I won't be reading any additional books by Bellairs.

I tried one book by Catherine Woolley, since several collectors love Woolley.  I didn't finish it.  The book reads like the average book I read as a child that is now of no interest to me.

While the Ken Holt series is just an average series to me, I decided to track down and find the Roger Baxter books, which were written by the Ken Holt authors.  I ended up liking Roger Baxter much more than I did the Ken Holt books.

As I find other kinds of books, I will also try some of them.  I don't want to make the mistake of ignoring books that could become favorites.  In particular, I will make sure that I try a few more Whitman books.  I once read a Ginny Gordon book and didn't particularly like it.  I will have to try again sometime soon, just in case my opinion has shifted.


Homeschool Mom said...

We (hubby and I ) love Whitman books, particularly the ones based on the television shows we loved as children. We have a shelf full of them in our library.

Molly G. said...

I really like the Donna Parker series- the "mystery" element is its weak point, but the stories are a wonderfule slice of 50s/60s life!

Claudia MB said...

I like the bold graphics and colors on many of the Whitman covers, like "Mod Squad" and the Donna Parker series. I agree about the quality, though. When I find a book in good condition, I wrap the cover in Contact paper to protect it.

Anonymous said...

Have you tried any of the Robin Kane books? I read one and it struck me as very similar to Trixie. I keep meaning to track down the rest of the series.

I have all the Donna Parkers and most of the Tuckers and Troy Nesbits, but they are not in great condition. There are also some standalones, like Trudy Phillips

Jennifer White said...

I may have read or tried to read a Robin Kane a long time ago, but I'm not sure. I tried a Donna Parker one time and didn't care for it. I'll have to sample one from each series sometime soon.