Children’s books have appeared in a number of series for the same reason baseball cards have numbers on them. Once you’ve taken an interest in them, you should (so goes the marketing theory) want them ALL.
Of course, there are first of all what are properly termed Series Books in the world of children’s publishing: Nancy Drew, Trixie Belden, The Hardy Boys, Honey Bunch, Frank Merriwell, The Lone Ranger…. These are the books with a lead character, or group of characters, you kind of identify with and can’t get enough of. The trend has continued through The Baby Sitters’ Club, Pony Pals, Fancy Nancy, Dorrie, Amelia Bedelia, and other lead characters.
Some series were created with a special place–a ranch, a kingdom, a planet–and set adventures there, but centering on different members of a regular cast. Brian Jacques made an excellent series with his woodland adventurers, and the Wizard of Oz started a series that outlived its author.
But there are other ways to spin a series than through a character or setting. One is to publish stories which are unrelated but give them a unifying identity in packaging. Little Golden Books are a good example (you know you have an early one, by the way, if the spine is NOT golden. It took them a little while to come up with that marketing breakthrough.) There were endless series which identified themselves solely by the way they were supposed to make reader feel: the Sunny Series, the Happy Series, the merry Series. I haven’t looked, but I suspect there hasn’t yet been a Serious Series.
Some were labeled by what they DID. We have frequently sold books from the Slottie Series at the Book Fair. These came with a hard cardboard page at the back with pieces of the main character which could be pressed out and fitted together using the slots cut in the cardboard. (Hence the…oh, you got it.) There were also Waddle Books, which came with a very elaborate set of punchouts which enabled you to create versions of the heroes which would actually walk (or waddle) down a slanted ramp (also provided). If you have any of the original Waddle Books lying around, but especially the Wizard of Oz or Mickey Mouse versions, and no one has punched out all those parts, why, drop those off any time. (And pay no attention to that five-figure price behind the curtain.)
Format could also make a series, and we recently received a real winner. There have been Tall Books (tall and thin) and several companies made Shape Books (shaped like the hero) but probably the best known of this sort was the Big Little book: a small, square volume with lots of pages (half of them text and half pictures, in most cases.) These were popular, and can often be seen at the Book Fair.
But they experimented with a format for smaller children than were up to the excitement of Lassie or Batman. These were also square, and just as thick as a Big Little Book, but they were one fourth the height of the more famous series. These were the Chubby Little Books, and they are seldom seen. This is partly because they seemed less collectible at the time: most were collections of short stories without a central hero like Dick Tracy to appeal to the young collector. But the format was definitely against it: books that small with so many pages in the chubby little hands of their intended owners were doomed to scatter leaves more surely than an apple tree in October.
Our Sunny Book of Little Stories is damaged a bit along the spine, but the pages are tight, with covers unchewed by teething infants. You will find it on our Collectibles table. Five weeks to go.