CHILDREN’S LITERATURE A LAUNCHING POINT FOR WRITING TEAM AND THEIR CURIOUS DAUGHTER
By Pamela Y. Wiggins
Once upon a time, a little girl fell in love with books and inspired her parents to start a collection. While certainly no fairy tale, in a number of ways this story is a dream come true for husband and wife Noah Fleisher and Lauren Zittle, and their 10-year-old daughter Fiona.
KIDS & COLLECTING
Fleisher and Zittle authored Collecting Children’s Books: Art, Memories, Values (Krause, 2015) to share their passion with others. While Fleisher has daily exposure to some of the finest collectibles in the world as public relations director at Heritage Auctions, Zittle wasn’t really much of a collector until Fiona came along. Then mom dove head first into the swimming pool of colorful characters from children’s literature.
“I was a bookworm, and I really looked forward to sharing all those books I had loved with my daughter,” Zittle says. As a mom, she knows the benefits from reading at an early age include exercising the brain, doing better in school and improving concentration. As time passed, she noticed even broader benefits, such as empathy and a connection with the human experience.
“Our scoldings usually consist of telling her to stop reading so she can set the table,” Zittle happily shares. Fiona is a great kid and remarkable student, but she also shows an interest in the world around her – gleaned through reading about fascinating themes and interesting places she wouldn’t know otherwise.
Beyond introducing her daughter to children’s books – with the help of Fleisher, of course – Zittle gets what it means to be a collector now. Through this journey, she learned about the labor of love found in compiling a collection, and how it offers a keen connection to the past. Sharing a decade-by-decade overview of favorites and authors who stand out as the best of the best in Collecting Children’s Books reflects this newfound appreciation.
As a collectibles enthusiast, Fleisher believes collecting children’s books should be about buying what you love. As a collection grows, he advises narrowing the focus by looking at certain authors, themes or time periods – and the captivating book he wrote with his wife helps collectors do just that. While the book is written for adults, this advice is true for collectors of all ages.
Fleisher suggests taking the entire family to book and paper shows or bookshops specializing in collectibles. “I tend to default to people in the business when it comes to learning and guidance so book dealers are a good resource,” Fleisher says. “Many auction houses have book specialists on staff as well. And the Heritage archives online are a great place for research and looking through high-quality photos.”
Beyond all that Heritage offers at HA.com, Collecting Children’s Books recommends a number of resources found on the Web. Sites such as Abebooks.com and Alibris.com are recommended, along with other reputable book dealers and auctioneers who sell books. These can be tapped for research as well as shopping.
When buying children’s literature, whether guiding a young collector or for your own bookshelf, Fleisher and Zittle recommend paying close attention to the condition of covers. They should be clean and not faded. Spines should be in good shape, too, not broken or cracked. And if the book is supposed to have a dust jacket, make sure it is present, clean and original. Check pages for foxing (age-related spots or browning) and water damage, along with any that are torn or missing. These factors greatly impact the value of books.
They also encourage buyers to do pricing research before shopping to know what similar copies have sold for. When considering a signed or inscribed edition, make every effort to ensure that the signature is authentic before paying a premium for that perk.
“If you are not buying it in person, then ask these questions in advance,” the authors share in their text. “It will show you know what you are doing and make sure you are getting the best book for your money.” Shop online together with the kids you’re mentoring so they can learn these valuable lessons while building a collection, too.
Whether buying online or in person, don’t forget to look for edition and printing information within the book as well. The first printing of a first edition can be far more valuable than other copies that might look the same at first glance. “The edition information is always on the copyright page, listed toward the bottom,” note Fleisher and Zittle. Ask online sellers to forward a photo of the page to you so you can help a youngster decipher the information if needed. This all goes back to knowing what you’re buying before pulling the trigger.
Of course, after amassing a true collection, one looming question remains: Should you actually sit down and read those books with a youngster?
“It depends on the level of collecting and how much you spend on the books,” Fleisher adds. “The Oz books, for instance. There are lots of editions to choose from, and there are some good reading copies available out there.” If you spend thousands on a first edition, in other words, it would obviously be better left for occasional admiration rather than risk damaging it with repeated reading. There are, however, many books available in the $20 to $50 range that can serve both as collection books and readers.
Fiona has her own shelf of books that count as her collection, in fact, in addition to the ones Zittle has more purposely sought out as her collecting curiosity has been piqued. Other books the family owns have been read over and over again.
With some research, care and lots of shared fun discovering the wonder-filled world of children’s books, this family is truly living happily ever after. Through the magic of collecting, maybe yours can, too.
PAMELA Y. WIGGINS serves as the expert guide for antiques at About.com. Visit her at Antiques.About.com.